Friday, June 6, 2014

One Year Later and Six Weeks Out

A lot has changed this past year. The following entry has been inspired by my own progress and is meant to provide encouragement and resources to help you reach your own goals. What has worked for me may be different than what works for you. My goal was to compete in a bikini competition (and now I'm six weeks out from my second!). While you may not now, or ever, plan to compete, consider this information as "food for thought" and make it your own! Your recipe for success is a combination of consistency, commitment, and hard work along with varying amounts of cardio, strength training, rest, and fuel--based on your goals and your current fitness level. At the very least, I hope my story provokes thought and that those thoughts fire up action!

In April of 2013, I weighed approximately 170 lbs and was at 20.3% body fat, according to skinfold measurements. Currently, I weigh 159 and, when measured in February, my percent body fat was 12.8%.  I am 6 feet tall. Oh, and in 1998 I weighed 210 lbs. But that's another entry. ;) There is a 3-4% margin of error using skinfold measurements but, over time, these numbers can help you stay accountable and will provide substantial evidence of progress. If this is something you would like to have done, I would contact a local university as they sometimes need test subjects for various classes in the kinesiology department. Muscle is more dense than fat.  It does not weigh more!! A pound is a pound.  A pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. Therefore, it is possible that your waistline is getting smaller while the numbers on the scale don't budge. Rather than get discouraged, avoid relying on the scale and be sure to record circumference measurements as well. 

Up until April of 2013, my workouts consisted primarily of cardio and a lot of body weight exercises. I was doing plyometrics and HIIT, burning calories, but not building much strength. But trust me, I thought I was in good shape! It's important to note that back in February 2012, I had surgery for a herniated disc and ever since was "afraid" to begin strength training again. When a local gym reached out to me (Hard Pressed/Chicago, IL), I put my fears to the side and committed to meeting with them twice a week, for 30 minutes. While I didn't trust myself to lift weights, worried I would reinjure myself, I figured someone else would be able to coach me through it.
Thirty minutes doesn't sound like much, but it was 30 minutes of non-stop, butt-kicking, muscle-building, weight training. I specifically remember days my legs felt like they were up pushing against a concrete wall, rather than the leg press machine. It was that difficult. More than once, words I otherwise NEVER say were muttered under my breath. It more than "sucked." And I loved it. I had worked out for years, and included strength training fairly consistently, but never to this extent. According to Mayo Clinic strength training also helps you:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more efficiently. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
  • Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won't fatigue as easily. Building muscle also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Manage chronic conditions.Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
  • Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.
In November of 2013, I competed in my first bikini competition. I was thrilled to have accomplished something that I had wanted to do ever since I first got my hands on Oxygen Magazine and "graduated" from Women's Workout World to the Rec Center at Illinois State University. Trust me, this was "years" ago. ;) While I was in a class of about 20 competitors and did not place, the accomplishment itself was enough of a reward.

After the show, I continued working out at Hard Pressed until January 2014. At that time, I made the decision to train on my own--realizing that if I made so much progress with just two sessions of 30 minutes per week, how much could I achieve by lifting more often? While there's no doubt that a strength coach can and WILL push you beyond your limits, my time at Hard Pressed has inspired me to "reach" for that level of difficulty. A strength coach also ensures proper form, continual progress and is beneficial for countless reasons. I am beyond grateful for all of the strength coaches at Hard Pressed. They brought me through a major fitness plateau and provided the accountability I needed at the time. Currently, I spend about 40 minutes per lifting session, and aim for 4-5 days/week. Usually I emphasize upper body day (back and chest), leg day, and glutes day (yes, mine NEED a day of their own--spend more time on what needs the most improvement). Throughout the week I incorporate arms, shoulders and abs.  There are times I close my eyes during the last couple of reps because if someone is looking at my face, I don't wanna know!  My weekly cardio usually consists of teaching a spin class, two 30 minute sessions on the StepMill, and typically one or two HIIT/plyometric workouts. I also walk about 1.5 miles round trip to the train Monday through Friday. Walk more, take the stairs, move your body! It adds up. Remember, these are ingredients for my own recipe of progress and may or may not be what works for you. Use this information as a guideline, not a rule. I have posted various workout videos on my blog if you are new to fitness or wanting to add variety. Please contact me if you would like a customized program based on your goals and current fitness level. I am an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer and Intructor. I do not currently provide nutritional programs but could put you in touch with someone who does.

As an athlete, I am a firm believer that supplements will help improve the efficiency and intensity of your program. Throughout my transformation, I have supplemented with Cellucor whey and Cellucor BCAAs. Following my show in November, I began using Cellucor's best selling fat burners: Super HD and CLK. HD's fatty acid synthase inhibitors (camellia sinensis extract, tuber fleeceflower extract and Chinese mistletoe extract) can help the body to reduce fat storage. They are also responsible for appetite control...HD contains caffeine to reduce fatigue and help mobilize fat usage when taken 30 minutes or so before a workout. Rhodiola is another key ingredient (I used to take it alone before I knew about HD!). It improves mental energy, focus, etc. AND helps the body utilize fat (which pretty much everything in the product does! haha) It comes as a pill too, but I prefer the powder so I up my water intake...and it's a great replacement for coffee in the A.M. CLK is a non-stimulant weight loss aid that features clinical doses of four of the most highly regarded, highly publicized ingredients on the market today; CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), Raspberry Ketones, 7-Keto and Carnitine. I also take fish oils and a multivitamin. I continue taking these products daily. They are not magic pills; they are meant to compliment a fitness program and healthy diet.
Stay tuned for my post-competition, bikini-prep entry. It will provide a more in depth look at my training, nutrition and more (including a circuit workout you can do at home!). Questions, comments, feedback? Let me know.

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