Monday, August 27, 2012

An Experiment.

Last time we spoke, I was embarking on some changes with regards to my workout options and eating regimen, namely Les Mills Pump and the No S Diet. Just before signing off, I hinted at incorporating Insanity into the mix.

Well, I've followed through on that proposal and am still wondering what the heck I was thinking.

If you're not familiar with Insanity, I'd like to, once again, pass you on to the full review by Fit Bottomed Girls, as I still haven't tried all of the discs yet. In short: You MUST be AT LEAST an intermediate fitness level (though I'd even recommend advanced) before even considering this program. And even then, you might want to brush up on your HIIT training for a month or two beforehand.


So, moving on to this experiment of mine... I've always been intrigued by Insanity ever since I first heard about it. And after hearing my cousin rave about it and starting his second round of the program, I figured with my wedding coming up in September 2013, it wouldn't hurt to step up my training (oh, but it does hurt. A lot).

After the Insanity set arrived a few weeks ago (thanks eBay!), I was excited to start, but wasn't ready to abandon my still-new Les Mills Pump program. So, like any sane person, I decided to merge the two and do both programs at the same time.

Based on previous experience, it's not realistic for me to follow an X-day program exactly as written; I basically jumped into Les Mills Pump by skipping the first two discs and after trying Insanity alone for the first week, I decided to alternate programs each day. Knowing that Insanity doesn't use weights and is cardio-heavy, I figured (somehow) that it would be the perfect complement to all the lifting being done in the Pump workouts.


Pret-ty interesting so far. As I mentioned before, when I first tried Insanity, I followed the calendar as written for the first week, meaning I didn't do any Pump workouts during this time; just 6 days of Shaun T yelling at me through football and military drills.

Before I expand on the results, let me first say that Insanity is, HANDS DOWN, the hardest workout I've ever tried. Just making it through the Fit Test had me shakin' in my boots a bit. It's incredibly fast-paced (great for making the workout fly by, bad for not feeling like you're going to die) and forces you to work with your own body weight in ways you're probably not used to. I always know I've met my workout match when my nose starts running uncontrollably (gross) and I can't even finish saying the "f*****" in "mother-f*****."

That said, I'm enjoying the challenge. When sticking with familiar routines, it's easy for me to get complacent and not push myself out of my comfort zone. Insanity has not only pushed me out of my comfort zone, but has beaten that zone into a faded memory.

How Insanity impacted my Pump workouts:

-The first thing I noticed after zero Pump workouts for a week? Lifting was harder... At first. Although Insanity incorporates its fair share of resistance moves, I struggled more than I thought I would when I returned to Pump.

After doing both programs concurrently however, I have been able to increase my weight amounts during recent Pump workouts. I haven't even completed the first 3 weeks of Insanity workouts, so I'm not writing it off for resistance training yet; there's still some potential in there that I haven't unlocked.

-My endurance lowered slightly. Even though a lot of the Insanity discs are between 40 and 60 minutes, the time spent doing intense circuits is actually 20-30 minutes, tops. A LOT of time is spent warming up with some basic cardio moves (almost a workout on their own) and then you move on to some yoga-like stretching before actually getting "insane." This change in intensity duration made it tougher to give 100% during the 45-60 minute Pump workouts.

-My power increased like whoa. Although Insanity didn't necessarily help me lift heavier or longer, it definitely increased my speed and power during Pump moves like the Clean and Press. Prior to Insanity, I was always a little behind the Les Mills instructors during the legs & back track, where the Clean & Press and dead-rows are executed quickly. But after a few rounds of Insanity, I was able to bust those reps out like a machine.

Also, I think Insanity moves like football-runs and tuck/high jumps have strengthened my quads, giving me an extra boost during the leg and squat tracks during Pump.

How Les Mills Pump impacted my Insanity workouts:

-The lower-body training in the Pump workouts provides improved endurance during the Insanity workouts, especially during sprints, high-knees, butt-kicks, squat kicks, tuck jumps and basically every move that demands strong leg work.

-The upper-body Pump tracks are essential for helping me keep up with Insanity. In Insanity, you'll find yourself doing a lot of moves in plank/push-up position and it helps if you've got strong shoulders, chest muscles and biceps. Otherwise, you'll end up lying face-down on the floor for a good portion of the time.


All in all, even though Insanity is really testing my limits, I think combining it with Les Mills Pump is proving to be an ideal routine, in terms of improving multiple areas of fitness (agility, power, strength, speed and endurance).

I also lost an additional 1% body fat after one week of Insanity and 1.5 weeks of training with both programs (previously lost 3% body fat training with Les Mills Pump and less-intense cardio only). My diet has been far from perfect though, so with more consistent clean eating, I'm sure I could've lost more.

I'm still forever working on improving my eating habits, so a more thorough review of No-S and my progress with that to come later, in its own post.

Monday, July 30, 2012

My first podcast!

A while back, I was invited by Heather from Half Size Me for an interview about my experience with weight-loss. Well, I'm excited to say that the podcast is now up, so have a listen when you can!

Thanks again for the opportunity, Heather; I really enjoyed our discussion!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hows and Whats: No S and BodyPump at home!

Well, if you've read this blog with any sort of consistency, you've probably gathered that I have a bit of diet and exercise ADD. I can't let it bother me too much though, because I'm still in the ongoing phase of figuring out what works best for me, with regards to eating, working out and managing my weight. That said, let's see what I've been up to this month, shall we?

How I'm currently eating:

The No S Diet. I know, sounds like a fad, right? Those were my thoughts initially, until I scrolled through the website and saw how unbelievably simple it was: No Snacks, No Seconds and No Sweets, except on days that start with S. Three meals a day, five days a week. You can also make exception days as needed, for holidays and special occasions, so no need to ever feel guilty. And "No Sweets" is not to be confused with "No Sugar." It's not quite that strict, it's just a way of keeping consumption of Twinkies and the like down to a minimum.

I actually tried No S a while back, sometime in February/March and initially had good results. But once the numbers on the scale stopped moving, I panicked, stopped watching my diet altogether (this was around the same time we bought our house and moved), and eventually went back to what was familiar (calorie counting).

As you'll probably remember from my last post, I jumped on the SparkPeople wagon as part of returning to calorie counting. Well, once again, the numbers started to make me anxious, I would overeat, then overexercise and/or skip meals to try and keep my calories balanced. This was not fun, at all.

So far, No-S has made the most sense and has required the least amount of work and stress. I don't do well with Intuitive Eating; it sounds great on paper, but once I put it into practice, I find myself snacking more, thinking about food constantly and justifying not-so-healthy foods more often than I normally would. With No S, I have just the right amount of discipline and don't have to stress as much about indulging on the weekends, which is when I tend to crave treats anyway. It allows me to work with my desire to indulge, instead of constantly working against it.

I re-started No S at the beginning of this month, and so far, I'm doing well. And to prevent a relapse like last time, I'm reminding myself to have much more patience. The weight will come off slower than it would otherwise with excessive precise restriction, but I'll be more likely to keep the loss off.

It's been quite a relief; this is the closest I've felt to being a "normal" eater. I'm still eating healthy, balanced meals during the week and with each "free" weekend, I'm enjoying treats, but noticing I can be satisfied with less and less, as each weekend goes by. Some things just aren't as appealing as they once were, which leaves more room for better quality meals and desserts. But if I happen to cave into a slice of grocery-store birthday cake, it's still no big whoop.

I know it probably just sounds like another one of my phases, but I'm continuing to give it a genuine effort, as I'd like to finally settle into a way of eating that helps me achieve weight-loss (without hating myself) and can be maintained for the rest of my life.

I'm still using SparkPeople for support and to track my days of sticking with No-S. There's even a No-S Spark Team for additional discussion and encouragement.

If it's something you think you might be interested in, just reading the information on the website should be enough. I borrowed the book from the library and while it was a good read, it just went into more detail about the developing history of the snack industry (how we got fatter as they got richer), the effects of excessive sugar on the body (which, we can agree isn't good for anyone), and how seconds jack up our portion control and mess with our hunger/fullness cues. There's also a discussion board on the website, should you have any additional questions.

SO. That's where I'm at with eating. And it feels pretty damn good. But what makes me feel even better?

What I'm Currently Loving:

Les Mills Pump at-home workout system. Oh. My. God. In a word, obsessed. I tried a BodyPump class in-person ages ago and loved it, but the class schedule never worked for me, so it remained unrequited love... Until now!

When I heard there would be a BodyPump at-home system, I was skeptical. Will it be as challenging as the class? How broke will it make me? Will I get sick of it?

So far, YES, it is as challenging as the class! And as with any weight-training workout, you just need to continue to add weight to your bar to increase your fitness level. Great instructors with near-perfect cueing and the beat-driven music makes it easier to keep your reps consistent. Most challenging tracks for me so far? During the Pump & Shred disc, the lunges are pretty rough, as is the chest track. After doing what feels like a million chest presses, Joel makes you jump to the floor and bust out push-ups; ultimate muscle burnout!

Next, the cost. Always an area of concern, especially when considering big packaged deals from Beachbody. Luckily, you can try it for a trial period at a discounted price. Since I already own the smaller type of barbell that's used in the workouts, I just needed the DVDs, so off to eBay I went. I would definitely look into eBay as an option first and do some comparison shopping for the barbell; you might be able to save quite a bit of cash. It ended up being more than I usually spend on workout DVDs (I think my eBay deal came out to about $20/disc), but I was in a fitness rut and desperate to try something new that I could actually grow to love. And I definitely love it something fierce!

I've been doing 3-4 of the DVDs for about 3 weeks now and haven't gotten sick of it at all. I just love the pace and the challenge so much that I have to force myself to take rest or cross-training days! So far, my favorite disc is Pump & Shred. It's 45 minutes and leaves my muscles shaking and dripping with sweat every time. Pump & Burn is my next favorite, as it's about 30 minutes long and perfect for mornings where I'm short on time, but still want a challenge.

Results so far? I'm down almost 3% body fat! And I was able to increase my weight load this morning, so I know I'm getting stronger, which is awesome. My upper body is finally making progress! I can't say enough about how great I think this system is; to find something that gives awesome results AND is actually kinda fun is, well, pretty damn rare for me.

I'd like to do more of a detailed review, but a) I haven't tried all of the discs yet and b) Fit Bottomed Girls already did a pretty good job of hashing out the details.

All in all, I can say that July is shaping up to be one of the better months I've experienced in a while, in terms of eating habits and exercise. I'm much more at ease with food, thanks to No S and my body is loving the Pump workouts. Feeling both lean and strong at the same time is the ultimate confidence boost.

I plan to check in again within the next few weeks to follow up on my progress, both with No S and Pump. I also have the Insanity Workout System on order (thanks again, eBay!), so I'm looking forward to sharing that experience as well.

Hope everyone's summer is going well!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hows and Whats.

Haven't done one of these posts in a while, so here it goes!

How I'm Currently Sweating:

I checked this DVD out from the library over the weekend, and I must say, bravo Jillian! Although I'm quite the JM devotee, I haven't necessarily been buying her recent DVDs right away because some of them just haven't been a good fit for me. Luckily, the library has been pretty awesome about keeping their selection up-to-date, so I've been able to preview releases and save some money.

But this disc? Yeah, definitely buying it. There are three 20-minute workouts, each with its own focus (upper-body, lower-body, and abs). Each one gets my heart-rate up pretty fast, so I'm able to break a good sweat in a short amount of time. And since each workout is shorter, I've been doing two of them back-to-back because I friggin' love kickboxing and can say it's one of the few workouts I genuinely enjoy. On a day that I have more time, I'll try to do all three workouts at once.

The DVD is best suited for intermediate-to-advanced fitness levels. There is a separate tutorial though, so beginners looking for a challenge may find this useful. I say "may" because while it's helpful to learn some of the basic moves, the workouts are still pretty high-impact with very few modifications.

All three workouts include a fast-paced mix of punches and kicks. The upper-body segment uses dumbbells to perform moves like rows and shoulder presses. In the lower-body workout, lunges and squats are added. For abs, Jillian mixes in sit-ups, bicycle crunches and cardio moves like burpees and mountain climbers, which also work the stomach.

Even with the tutorial, the choreography is still tricky and fast-paced, with Jillian providing little-to-no time for you to learn each circuit, some of them more complicated than others. I think in general, kickboxing workouts are always a bit frustrating the first time through, for these reasons. But I know the more I do the DVD, the easier the choreography will become. It wasn't so bad that I couldn't keep moving, so that encouraged me to give it more than one try.

What I'm Currently Loving:

Oh, SparkPeople. Before I blab on and on about why I'm loving this site, I should probably provide some background info...

First of all, yes, I'm back to calorie-counting. Despite my best (and let's be frank, shitty) efforts to lose some regained weight, tracking the details of my intake is really the only tried-and-true method I've found to be successful.

That said, I wasn't always on the SparkPeople bandwagon. When I first started Weight Watchers all those years ago, I was simultaneously tracking calories as well on The Daily Plate (now known as Livestrong's MyPlate). I always preferred the Daily Plate because their tracker was just so much more simple to use and I always found myself feeling overwhelmed with the features on SparkPeople.

Well, now that I'm re-committing to weight-loss and because the popularity of SP has since grown, I decided it was time to give it another shot and fully embrace all of the site's features, beyond simply calorie-counting.

You see, when I lost those 90 pounds originally, I was a lot more engaged in a few online communities for extra support. I don't think it's a coincidence that when I chose to stop participating in those supportive communities, the weight started to come back on and I struggled to take it off again. So, off to SP I went. Right away, I started browsing the message boards, member blogs and available SparkTeams. Within my first week, I was contributing to discussions, signing up for team challenges and even added a few friends to help encourage each other and offer support during tough times.

I get it now. I get why this site is so successful and why so many people have joined. Yes, I have great friends, family, Doug and my dog Randal, but not everyone I know is willing to hear me blab about weight and food and exercise for 1-2 hours every day (ok, well maybe the dog will listen, but you know what I mean). That's just the truth. And it's not a bad thing, it just needs to be pointed out that being successful in weight-loss sometimes requires a special kind of support that only those trying to achieve the same goals can relate to. I'm sure this is "duh" information for some of you, but it's an aspect of progress I've been ignoring for far too long.

Anywho, the outcome from all of this? I'm down 5 pounds so far, I've reduced my weekend overeating significantly, I've participated in some good discussions and most of all, I haven't felt like I'm struggling because I'm reminded every time I log in to SP, I'm not alone. It's okay to admit you need cheerleaders along the way and it's equally gratifying to cheer on others as well. I was feeling like an absolute failure for gaining back some of the weight (a hard pill to swallow, lemme tell you), but instead of wallowing in my own despair and losing/gaining the same 10 pounds over and over again, I've found it much more productive to, as Bob Harper says, "trust the process," and open myself up to connect with others with similar goals and backgrounds.

And that, dear readers, is all I have to say about that. Here's to hoping my renewed commitment will translate into more blog updates! Hope everyone is having a great week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Long time, no bro.

I debated on posting today, seeing as I haven't updated this darn blog since friggin' January, but I suppose a periodic check-in couldn't hurt, eh?

Life's been good. Busy, but good. A couple of months ago, Doug and I bought our first house! Pretty exciting stuff. The process also included moving (groan) and now we're discovering the joy (and wrath) that is home repairs and projects. There's also been all sorts of babies and weddings to keep up with, between friends and family. Speaking of which, we're planning our own wedding for September of next year. Sounds like it's a long way off, but I know it'll be here before I know it.

Still settling into my job that I entered last October. Still studying for my personal trainer certification because my time management skills are crap, apparently. I am proud to say that I finally got back into study mode this week though. Here's to hoping certification comes my way this fall (or sooner)!

As for weight/fitness progress, well, that's been a bit of a mixed bag. Weight-wise, no real progress to speak of. The house-buying/moving process brought on a ton of stress which was followed by really crappy eating habits that lasted for at least a couple of months. Workouts became sporadic and when I did manage to fit them in, my mind (and motivation) was always somewhere else.
Lesson learned: Nothing good ever comes from trying to eat or drink away your worries.

Somehow though, I managed to improve my running performance. I'm finally back up to a 10:00 minute mile and trying to work my way down to 9:30. I was telling Doug last night that I would love to be able to run an 8:00 minute mile, but said it would never happen. His response was that it could happen. I paused to think about it and yeah, it could. If it's something I really want to do, it's just a matter of training properly and staying the course. There was a time where jogging for a few seconds felt like death, so I need to remind myself that I've come a long way since then.
Lesson learned: Ease out of self-doubt mode. Give anything a shot and realize your potential. Just thinking about it isn't enough.

Another change that's boosted my motivation a bit is this Four Week Basic Training program. I'm not sure why I was so eager to try it since it included quite a bit of my least favorite moves (burpees, mountain climbers, etc.), but I figured if I'm serious about changing the shape, composition and performance of my body, stepping out of my comfort zone is a requirement. I tried the week two workout yesterday and couldn't believe how sweaty and out of breath I was in such a short amount of time. I'm really eager to see my progress over the next few weeks!
Lesson learned: As Jackie Warner says, "Chase it, don't run from it." Your body is capable of doing some pretty amazing things.

Between basic training and running faster, a third goal I've set out for myself is being able to complete the BCx Boot Camp by Steve and Bonnie Pfiester, a.k.a., my two new favorite fitness gurus (Steve also designed the aforementioned basic training program).

I can't afford to be part of the CrossFit cult, so it's nice to find some free alternatives that I can do at home to increase my speed, strength, endurance and agility.

I'm glad I've finally set out some goals for myself besides "lose weight;" constantly setting new goals and challenging myself was what helped me drop 90 pounds a few years ago. But once my goals became generic or non-existent, that's when the weight started to come back on. Sure, I want to look good in my wedding dress, but being able to lift heavier, sprint faster and jump higher, are all at the top of my list. I want to experience life in athletic shape for longer than just a few months.
Lesson learned: If quality health and performance are the goals, the process never really ends. And it's not easy. Feed off the feeling of accomplishment.

What lessons have you learned when pursuing fitness and a healthy diet?

P.S.- Follow my Facebook page for regular updates on new recipes and workouts to try!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Yeah, we'll just pretend that didn't happen... Or will we?

They (still don't know who "They" are) say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Well, if that's the case, based on the past few months, I should be ready to compete in the Arnold.

Wait, what? Resisting a box of a dozen It's It ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store (not once, but twice) doesn't increase muscle mass? Oh. Well... Shit.

In that case, I guess I'll just re-affirm what's been said hundreds of times by hundreds of people in the past: Keeping off excess weight blows. I mean, I'm paraphrasing here, but am I right?

I breezed through the holidays like a champ. A champ who earned her title from competitive eating and drinking, that is. Do I regret gaining weight from November to January? Of course. Last I checked, I'm still an American woman with typical body issues. I'm also a woman who, on a less shallow level, recognizes the importance of eating clean and working out regularly to maintain adequate-to-superior health.

But did I have fun from November to January? I did, for the most part. My body became more accustomed than it should have to ingesting booze and cookies on a regular basis, but here I am, back to circuit training, eating roasted Brussels sprouts and browsing the Internet for new things I can bake with protein powder. Going through the motions, fitting back into my clothes and beating it into my head just about everyday that I'm the one who chose this path. For life. And giving up for good simply isn't an option.

Since I seem to get off on over-thinking things, I found myself blabbing my thoughts to Doug on the living room couch, like I always do. I guess that couch has become my therapy couch and Doug has become my therapist. My payment for his services? Bad jokes and stray curly hairs in the bathroom sink. FINALLY, something that doesn't put me further in debt.

During this particular blab-fest, of which I may/may not have been sober, I was venting about my frustrations with the whole eat-healthy-and-workout thing. Every few months, I feel a little burnt out from my routine. It happens. I work through it. I might rebel and blow off a workout and/or motorboat a [large] slice of cake. Or, I might go in the other direction and start baking desserts with mashed chickpeas (Note: After several attempts, I'm officially over this trend).

I declared two things: 1) Gaining weight is one of the easiest things people can do (generally speaking; I'm leaving out those who are naturally underweight and struggle to add mass) and 2) Getting up at 5 am to exercise isn't something I particularly like. In fact, 70% of the time, I despise it.

BUT...But, but, but. Here's the thing:

And it's not just about regret or guilt. Even deeper down, I know that in addition to getting off on over-thinking things, I also get off on pushing my level of physical fitness and discovering what my body is capable of achieving now that I'm no longer clinically obese. And if I come across something I can't physically achieve, well, just trying it out was pretty cool. I may or may not try it again tomorrow.

Since I'm returning from quite the lapse in posting, I struggled with what to talk about. All the cool shit I got for Christmas? Nah. A recipe I took from someone else or pictures of an omgAMAZING dinner I ate at some restaurant you'll never dine in? Meh. The latest fitness DVD I've tried? Well, this one I actually considered because there have been a few, but I'm pretty sure or Amazon will serve you well in this arena.

Just as I go through the motions of eating right and working out, I clearly went through the motions with blog posts. Instead, I decided to bring back a little honesty. A few curse words. Some pinches of criticism. A dash of me. I mean, after all, this is MY blog, so I should be permitted to fuel my ego with whatever content I want, yeah?

So where am I going with all of this? Fuck if I know. I suppose I'm trying to reintroduce fun in my life. But not necessarily the same kind of fun that helped me pack on the pounds from November to January. A less reckless form of fun. Exploring how many miles, how many sets and how many spoonfuls of Biscoff spread it takes to maintain a healthy flow, day after day after day, until I die. And thanks to the four (yes, 4) jars of Biscoff spread I won in a contest, I may find out sooner, rather than later, how a creamy concoction made with cookies correlates to death. The key word here is explore, folks. Not commit. Not obsess. I've committed to and obsessed over so many eating and workout plans over the years only to sorta hate myself along the way and give up. Rinse, repeat. What kind of crap is that? I'm tired, yo.

On a more serious note, I know that reading about others working through struggles can be a good thing. Not in a misery-loves-company kind of way and most certainly NOT in a Haha-I'm-better-than-you-at-life kind of way. But perhaps such musings can be helpful in a Wow-I'm-glad-I'm-not-the-only-one-feeling-like-this-and-now-I'm-hopeful-we-can-work-though-it-together kind of way. Ya dig? I sure hope so.