Monthly Archives: April 2011

A few Weight Room thoughts

So, I was in the weight room the other day (there is a surprise) and I saw a girl do a deadlift of just the Olympic bar (45 lbs) which is a pretty good workout for anyone, but I was surprised as she is quite an athletic girl. Then I saw her go and squat – frikken 135 lbs as a free weight (no Smith machine). My immediate thought was

This is not right.

There are some lifts where you will lift a lot more than others – show me someone who squats what they use to front raise and I will be utterly perplexed. But for each lift, there is a scale. From ‘beginner’ to ‘trained’ to ‘advanced’ to ‘wow, s/he is an anomaly of modern genetics’. You can find a scale for the bench press here for which you will need to go here and calculate your one rep max.

My feeling is, that you should not be right on ‘un-trained’ for one exercise and up at ‘advanced’ for another. There will be some variation, everyone will have some lifts they naturally excel at, but you should be around the same point for each exercise.

Lifts, especially compound lifts, involve a lot of muscle groups, it can be very damaging if you are not taking a whole body approach and developing all your muscles. Repeatedly working out on one lift does not develop all your supporting muscles and can be dangerous. In addition, if you do over develop one group of muscles, this will affect your everyday life – it will put your posture out of whack, cause compensatory posture, and cause you injury in the long term. You should actually get better muscle development if you mix up your exercises, even for a set muscle group. You will hit the fibers from slightly different angles, and so more of the muscle will develop. I recently realised all my bench presses were prone, and so started incline and decline presses. I have had to drop the weight for these, because these muscles are not as well developed – this is not a good thing. I would like all my chest muscles equally developed to keep a healthy, upright posture.

Plus I feel fitness should, at least at some level, be functional as in help your everyday life. There is nothing functional about ‘training to test’ and being able to complete only one awesome lift.

So, my first thought was “this girl has something seriuosly wrong with her training, if her deadlift is below untrained, but her squat passed advanced. Something is wrong and something is going to get hurt / damaged. Then I watched her closely: by ‘squat’ what she was actually doing was sliding her knees forward about 2 inches, dipping down about one and coming up  all very quickly. So, my second thought was all about the importance of form.

It is a lesson I learned myself recently. I have been listing for a little over a year now, and had no idea (until I recently found the online ‘standards’ charts) if I was doing ‘well’ for my weight and level of training or not. Then Jamie Eason posted one of her workouts, including reps and weights. I was surprised that she lifted a lot less than me.

Gratuitous picture of Jamie Eason, because I want to break up the text, and she is hot.

So, I dropped my weights, and suddenly things hurt that didn’t hurt before. I realised I was using the correct muscles and not compensating i.e. my bench press no longer involved my back, my squat actually taxed my abs, not my knees. Sacrificing some weight can really, really help with form, and it is impossible to underestimate how much benefit this can give you muscle growth. You know the deal with squats:

If it isn’t parallel or passed, it isn’t a squat.

If your knees go beyond your toes, it isn’t a squat.

No matter how much weight you rack up.

You should look like this when you squat, even with weight. You'll feel it if you do.

So, if your squats are a quick dip forward, if you are using momentum to rush through lifts, if your deadlifts (what?? You are not doing deadlifts? Shame on you) are not killing your glutes, step back, drop the weight and work on your form. Do it without weight, or minimal weight and then slowly add weight – your form should not change with the addition of more weight. It’s tough to remember, but you will see much better results.

The kitties are alright

They made it back from the vets fine. I think they will be fine – very sleepy and following me around (on wobbly legs) , but Bobby even ate something and Dinah sat on my lap for ages.

Yes. Dinah.

I want to get away from her life as Dylan, as it didn’t go very well. Look! New tags for them too, both to reflect the new first name, and their impending new last name – it is a surprise for Wes when he gets home 🙂

Bobby in dopey mode

Dinah blissed out

Thank you notes

So, I am lucky enough to already have a lot to thank people for – my bachelorette was perfect (and the topic of an upcoming post) and I got wonderful, wonderful gifts. So, now I got an excuse to trial out the ‘thank you’ notes I will be making. Given that I may need to make quite a lot, I wanted to keep them simple. Using my new stamp (which I could not resist as it was on sale in Michael’s for $2.99):

Wedding stamp

and black card (pre folded), hand made red paper, white card and two stamps I already owned (Butterflies… of course… they are inked on me… they are all over my study…. I wear them in my hair… Love the freedom they make me think about…)

Old stamps on white card, ready for cutting out

I just stuck them all together:

I liked the outcome in the end. So, this was for my two girls who went above and beyond with my bachelorette. But I also had lots of letters to write to say thank you for my gifts, so here is the paper I knocked up from some plain cream paper:

Thank you paper

Mmmmm…. excuses to be crafty 🙂

Sad update on the kitties

Dylan. Not a boy.

So, when I got my two kittens, the lady I rescued them from said that they were two healthy boys… needed some TLC but otherwise would be fine. I was planning to neuter them, but was in no rush as they are indoor cats, and have displayed no spraying  aggression behaviour yet. Bobby, apart from being a bit of a terror has done well. He has put on a good amount of weight and was is an affectionate little explorer.

Dylan struggled to settle down so well. He ‘escaped’ in the first week that I got him, and got stuck between an air conditioning vent and a wall for some 2 hours. He was extremely skittish after that, and took a good few months to settle down. He was less affectionate than Bobby, but sweet. He just remained very small. I wondered if Bobby was eating all the food, but as long as Dylan wasn’t meowing for food too much, or looking too thin, I really wasn’t too worried.

A few weeks ago he seemed to take a backwards step in behaviour – much, much more skittish, more scared of us, hiding all the time. But, I noticed, at least he was putting on some weight. A few nights ago I was watching him and thinking that he was such a pretty cat – very delicate features… very delicate bone structure… in fact, all his weight seemed to be in the stomach. Sigh. Cue a close anatomical inspection. The upshot of which was me thinking ‘Balls’. Because this cat does not have any. In fact, this cat, this young teenage male cat, is pregnant by her young teenage brother.

My plan was to get Bobby neutered ASAP and keep Dylan in until I could afford a spaying for her. However, my friend Ryan called the vet and I spoke to the vets and they just said the kittens were not likely to be viable. In a cat that young, with her brother as the father, the likelihoods were all for special needs kittens, if they were not still births, and a difficult birth for the Queen, which could well be fatal 😦 Plus, Alabama seriously does not need more unwanted kittens, especially not special needs ones.

So, poor Dylan. My friend Donna gave the money to get BOTH cats neutered / spayed and poor Dylan will have a termination at the same time. The only upside is the cats shots will come simultaneously, so, as long as they have some collars they can at least go outside (they have nipped outside when I am on the porch a few times and just love it). I am not too worried about Dylan – my experience with Russel and Ashley back home was that boy cats just take it in their stride. I am not sure how this will affect Dylan, but I guess all we can do is keep the back room for her, with a special bed and some treats and stay around her for her as much as possible while she recovers 😦

Russel and Ashley - now living with my Mum's yoga teacher!

The little kitt-ehs go in on Tuesday, so wish them luck. I would kinda be funny, and I found it so, until I thought about how sad this will be for them. I was sorta hoping Dylan would miraculously give birth and I would come home to a healthy cat and healthy kittens which I would magically find a home for. But, I know it is best this way really.

Atkins weeks 3&4

Not much to add here on the update – it remains the easiest diet I have done, and the quickest way for me to like my body, or at least, feel that it is ‘mine’ – I never quite feel myself when full of carbs. I have changed the update to a Friday as weight is more stable pre- than post- weekend. I drank a bucketload this weekend (probably 3 bottles of wine / champagne all in all), and ate some nachos, but otherwise stuck to it! Huzzah! Eating a lot of chicken salad, fish, bacon omeles every morning (mmmm… GREAT thing to wake up to) and burgers on salad (broke food) and of course protein pancakes in all their glorious varieties every night (hazelnut flavoured, chocolate flavoured, plain).

Summary per day: calories: 1,600; fat: 80g; carbs: 35g; Protein: 140g

Workouts per week: 2* heavy listing, 2 * zumba, 1 * kickboxing and 1 * 40 min lazy swim. No hiking or biking this weekend – boo.

Weight: -2.5 lbs!

To go to goal: 3 lbs (Huzzah)

PROS this week:

-Dead easy to eat out

-Atkins mocha shakes are possibly one of the tastiest things ever

-No hunger / sugar cravings

-Lots of energy for workouts

-Cheap meal possibilities in a pinch ($3 for 2 McDoubles (no bun, no cheese, no ketchup) and a salad)

-Relatively high calorie count (if I eat more carbs, dropping fat and keeping protein the same, I generally have to consume 1,300 kcals a day to consistently lose weight)

-Deadlifts / bench presses as strong as ever


-I guess I ‘cheated’ once with a few Nachos, meaning the diet is 100% ideal

A lil’ note on normality

So, some random thoughts on what is normal… or at least, what is healthy. You may take the two interchangeably throughout.

It is normal to have thighs that touch at the top when you stand.

Look: here is an airbrushed photo of under fit mega-fitness model Jamie Eason (whom I have lil’ bit of a girl crush on):

Her dedication is such that when she goes on holiday she packs a cooler full of healthy food, and eats out of it! Yet, in this posed, touched up picture her thighs almost touch. ‘Nuff said

It is normal to be able to ‘pinch an inch’ (approximately) of loose skin in your abdomen.

Remember when you used to cover books with wallpaper / wrapping paper for school, and if you did it while the book was open, the paper would rip when you shut it? Well… if your skin were 100% taught it would rip when you stood up. Blood and guts everywhere. Love that inch a little more now?

It is normal to have some cellulite – however thin you are, however ‘clean’ you eat, however far you run.

It is normal to look terrible in some photos, without it being an accurate reflection of your body shape / size.

It’s normal to be 3D

Some magazines, airbrush out the evidence that women are not as flat as a pancake (or a crepe for all those Americans used to delicious, fluffy, buttermilk nuggets of deliciousness… dripping in syrup… I digress). In real life, our lumps and bumps stick out. We’re not a 2D image.

It is normal to look your age, which is not the age you were 3 years ago.

Your shape, your proportions, your skin tone and tightness changes as you get older. Sure, it is all relative, but *you* will look different to how you did at 18, when you are 22, and how you did at 22 when you are 25 and so on. Much as Disney would like us all to believe we look like Miley Cyrus until our 32nd birthday when we wake up having morphed overnight into Amy Adams in Enchanted, which we will remain like until our first-born has their first-born, when we will suddenly look like Fa (Mulan’s grandmother) – sadly it isn’t so.

We slowly change bit by bit with age, and we can look beautiful at each age. So we might as well enjoy it while we can. You’ll probably look back and wish you had otherwise.

I am not saying that these things can’t be minimized, or even negated (some of them), but they are all normal, healthy and beautiful facts of life.

Having said that, I would also add:

It is normal to go hungry sometimes

Yup. It is. If you are close to a meal time, and hungry, it is OK not to eat. You probably won’t overstuff yourself, if you exercise some control. You’ll deal with the hunger just fine; modern diets are full of promises that ‘you’ll never go hungry’ or they are full of ‘free’ foods you can eat unlimited amounts of. There is no need to graze 24/7, and a little hunger might do you some good: shrink your stomach, increase your insulin sensitivity, mobilize some stored fat. If you are confronted with only unhealthy / undesirable eating options, sometimes it’s OK not to eat anything, and just wait.

It is normal to hate cardio.

Sorry, but this is not an excuse not to do it. If you have a sedentary life you need some exercise. It would be great if we all had a sport that we were passionate about and wanted to do all the time. But it won’t happen for some of us. Walking, biking, swimming endless lengths, the dreaded treadmill / elliptical, they get dull. Fast. You can minimise the boredom by varying the type of workout, but ultimately, if you are skipping your regular step class again because it is boring or unmotivating (like the Tae Bo video you bought, like the treadmill routine you started, like the walking to work thing that slipped by the wayside) that’s probably just a fact of life you need to suck up for your health. Heck, I LOVE Zumba, but 80% of the time, when I am hungry after a long day at work: the sofa is so much of a better option. I make a commitment to do it and do it anyway

It is normal to feel deprived

Most readers are probably surrounded by a cornucopia of delicious food options at every meal. If you are in the US the cheapest food is possibly some easiest to get and some of the most immediately palatable. You probably find it acceptable to drink a few glasses of wine / bottles of beer every night. You probably end up at some 3 / 4 semi-social work engagements where you are offered highly calorific, but tasty food. Salads can be boring. Grilled meat / fish and steamed veg can get boring. I love Atkins as a lifestyle, but believe me, I love cupcakes and gelato. We are taught now that we shouldn’t feel deprived. That the world is our oyster and we can and should, achieve everything we want. Every so often, if you want to be slimmer and more healthy, you are probably going to have to watch your colleagues eat pizza, and tuck into lettuce and grilled chicken. Sometimes, you’ll say no to the 20th slice of birthday cake you’ve been offered this month. And you’ll be the DD. Again, you won’t die. And you don’t have to do it all the time. Just, if a few pesky pounds are hanging around, if those lipids are not quite as you’d like them to be, this may help. And it is a lifetime decision.

It is normal to feel too busy / tired to cook and / or exercise.

But it is possible to find time. You may have to re-prioritise. I watch maybe 1 TV show a week. I don’t read as much as I’d like. Sundays I do a big shop and prepare some of the week’s food. Work around what you have to work with. Rope in friends / partners / children. Rope in short cuts (pre chopped veggies, fresh pasta sauce). Think about how you spend your time and what is most important to you.

Ultimately, I guess I have brought together two things I am have been thinking. I feel for people who hate their bodies, who wish they could change them, who are bombarded with media ideals of unrealistic (or highly demanding to achieve) body images to aspire to. But, I also see people who say ‘you’re so lucky you love the gym’ (I don’t) or who order the tastiest thing on the menu every time they eat out, but really want to lose weight. There is a halfway house: some discomfort, some deprivation, some missing out. Occasional indulgence. But then also, loving who you are as a result.

Favours boxes

OK, so nothing is going to be a surprise about my (first) wedding anymore, but I am too excited not to share everything 🙂 A little bit of bargain hunting and self assembly / creative putting together of cheap components,  gets you what I think are frankly awesome favours boxes for 15 cents a piece:

Good for butterfly / garden themes and great for putting personalized beans in.

March 2011

In March I… got engaged… planned almost a whole wedding… missed my Ma a heapload… discovered how true my friends and family here in the US are,… attended the AHA conference as an award finalist, climbed Mount Cheeha, took 2 vacations by visiting the Walls of Jericho and chilling in Mexico Beach… went back on Atkins…perfected my protein pancakes (and ate them everyday!)… got a good score on my K99… saw England win 2-0 against Wales (huzzah!)… celebrated David’s birthday with my first real Spanish paella… got an invited resubmission on my saturated fat paper… Good month 🙂

Married in June… remarried in September. Cheek.

So, I was a little heart broken that there would not be a proper wedding in England. It had to be legally done in the US, to make visa issues a whole lot easier, but Wes and I’s initial plan was to do the paperwork here, and almost forget about it. Go to England, have a whole big wedding, and only consider ourselves married then. Wes was really supportive of this plan, but my Ma:

really wanted to be in the US when I signed the paperwork. So did my best friend Clio:

So, then I began to prepare how I would look after them, and it became a ‘thing’ and I even more than that, realised there were a lot of people in the US that I wanted to celebrate this life-change moment with. Because I met Wes here, most of the people who have been through the highs and lows (yes, the lows) of the relationship have been here. And, making the commitment was very difficult for me, and my friend David was someone I spoke to a lot, and helped me prepare to do so… it really seemed wrong not to have him there at the union. So, it became a party and a celebration… then if people were here for that they could have a ceremony, and suddenly I was getting married in the US. Which was fine, but there are so many people in the UK who can’t make it out and I wanted a wedding with them.

Again, God has provided (I don’t know why I am always surprised). I went to church today and came out to wonderful, and very exciting news: the beautiful church opposite my parents’ house in Esher is free (in September at such short notice!) and the vicar there has agreed to do a full ceremony without costing us the Earth, and without knowing us beforehand. Afterwards, we will have a reception with speeches and a cake and everything at my parents house. And amazingly, my dearest Ma is co-ordinating this entire thing (I am not sure I have the energy to do it twice), and so like the spoilt princess I am – I get two weddings. Although we will live together and will obviously make changes after the US wedding, God will be brought into the union, and His blessing into it, in England. I fully accept it is only with God’s will that I will maintain a happy, lifelong commitment, and I won’t consider myself fully married until He is standing with us in England.

All my friends in Britain, please come and be part of my (extended) wedding 🙂 I am a very lucky, and very bean.