Tag Archives: exercise

Wish me luck on a new quest for a healthier lifestyle

When I started this blog, it was mostly about health – or at least dietary intake (which admittedly was not always healthy) and fitness training. I think I reached the pinnacle of my health in February 2012 – thanks to a stint with Amy Layne on the DAMY bikini body plan, I had developed a very healthy attitude towards my diet and fitness, I loved my body, I was lean and strong, I ate a good amount of both healthy (fruit, veg, whole grains, nuts) and unhealthy (alcohol, cupcakes) things, and I was fit enough to run and complete a tough mudder. Pretty good all around.

Tough Mudder game face

Tough Mudder game face

Then things slid – I moved to Houston, I got pregnant and due to polyhydramnios was taken off all exercise, I finished my 12 week DAMY program and did not sign back up, I had a baby, I accepted I was allergic to fruit, I became a faculty member at an R1 institution at the time of great funding crises, I became a working mother and acquired a stay at home husband, to whom I charged the family cooking. A million and one wonderful excuses that kept me from living a healthy lifestyle.

I don’t think I realized how far things had slid until Amy Layne (my old DAMY coach) facebooked me out of the blue and asked how I was. Good question Amy, good question. Amy works hard with her clients to look after their mental and physical selves. I worked hard with Amy on body acceptance, and healthy (normal?) eating attitudes: how to listen to my body, how to remove guilt, but focus on health, how to relax (I still have my Heavenly accupressure mat that she sent me!). And still I love my body, I have stayed away from my eating demons, I am happy. But. BUT. The physical side? Ummmm…. yeah…. A McDonalds EVERY day (seriously, I did this)? A maximum of 1 serving of fruit or veg a day? Liquid intake consisting of ONLY Diet Coke and coffee? Carbs made up almost exclusively of vanilla goldfish and Cadbury’s Fingers? Seriously, my diet was exactly that: sugary hits of nutrient depleted food. And exercise? Forget it… it was firmly on the ‘to do’ list, never on the ‘done’ list.

What could I tell Amy? That she had spent 12 weeks coaching me, and working with me, emailing me and helping me for no show? That although I attribute recovering so quickly after my hemorrhage to my body fitness she gave me, I had let it slide? Seriously – eeek! You don’t know Amy, she cares so deeply about her clients (hence she still emails them 2 years later), I knew she would be upset and I couldn’t do it.

So, that was my turning point…. my kick up the backside. My ‘I need to do something’. Sadly (or maybe not so sadly) I am no longer in a place (mentally or otherwise) where I feel I want to make sudden drastic overhauls to my lifestyle.  And anyway, working with Amy made me swear off radical quick fixes (I am looking at you Master Cleanse. *shudder*). And my years of living badly and surviving have also made me fearless in the face of cupcakes and fries, so it’s not like I can be motivated to cut them out completely. So, I am making slow, manageable changes. A vegetable smoothie for breakfast in the morning….

1/2 avocado 1/2 cucumber 1/2 bunch fresh spinach 1 c coconut water 3 tsbp Fage 2%

1/2 avocado
1/2 cucumber
1/2 bunch fresh spinach
1 c coconut water
3 tsbp Fage 2%

(anyone who has smoothie recipes that don’t involve fruit – please share!)

And at least 2 veggie snacks a day (carrots, peppers or tomatoes). I don’t care if my other snacks are indeed goldfish, I have to eat veggies twice a day. And I am aiming for one salad a day as well. Considering that my BMI is healthy, I figure that that takes care of my diet fairly well – how badly can I eat around that? (Hey, don’t answer that).

I am drinking a lot more water and a lot less Diet Coke (the jury is pretty out on whether this is good for you or not, but hey, surely it can’t hurt?). And exercise…. hmmmmm… well, I am getting out of the house every night and planning to run three times a week (kinda only making it once a week, but hey…). I have a million excuses reasons why my exercise plan is not going as it should, but I’ll save you from them. Suffice to say that for 40 minutes every evening I am least upright, outside, moving and not on the sofa eating chips.

Sam and Ellie benefit from the walking too

Sam and Ellie benefit from the walking too

Small steps, but please, wish me luck sticking to them! I am amazed at how I have changed from telling people they can do anything health related, to openly struggling to make the very basics of a healthy lifestyle mine. I want to get back to my ‘old self’ now that I am settled into Houston, motherhood, faculty life, home ownership and whatnot. I want to have a healthy lifestyle. I can do this, right?

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Goodbye second trimester….

Or, as this post could be called “In which Lekki gets on her soap box again”.

According to this handy little calculator (which is also very helpful at helping me pretend not to be a completely useless-mother-to be and thus be able to actually answer the question “how far along are you?”) my third trimester begins anywhere from August 4th – August 9th. I.e. soon. It has been a while since I last blogged about my pregnancy – but you can take this as a good thing: basically I have been having too much of a rip roaringly good time traveling to NYC, entertaining the bestie on her sojourn to Houston, and working hard. OK, maybe the last one is not so good… I have also not had too much to blog about: straight forward as this pregnancy has gone. I did have lots of growing bump pics, but then some evil-knevil stole my phone and took them away from me. I hope s/he gets some serious guilt when he sees a bunch of bump and ultrasound pics, now lost forever. But… that’s by the by… let’s see how we are doing:

So, I am *checks calculator* 26 weeks and 4 days… 3 months to go! The baby is viable (woo-hoo), so come on out FW (but not like, just yet, or anything). The bump is pretty good, I have gone from this:

End of the first trimester

to this:

20 weeks

To this:

End of second trimester – 27 weeks

with weight gain at a healthy 13 lbs (and rising!).

My comfort level is pretty good. Have had one or two issues: while walking in New York I got this ‘orrible shooting pain down my back through my butt to my knee that made it impossible to walk – in fact made it only possible to literally collapse, thank goodness for NYC cabs everywhere. Mmmmmm…. sciatica. An exercise-based management technique has helped no end. Oh, and I had a night of false labour last week, which is waaaaaaay earlier than expected. Which was terrifying as I DID NOT HAVE MEDICAL INSURANCE TO CHECK EVERYTHING WAS OK, which Republicans think is just fine, as insurance companies should be allowed to exclude ‘pre-existing conditions’. Cough. Basically I woke up in the middle of the night with lower back cramps that radiated to my lower belly. The pain was impressive, and no amount of rocking / ball sitting / walking / curling up and sobbing relieved it. A quick internet search (because, yes, when you have no medical care Google is your only friend) revealed that it was likely heightened by dehydration so I drank 60 oz of water, lay on my left side, and eventually it eased allowing me to sleep for brief 10 minute snatches in between loo trips, marred only by my reassessment of the decision to attempt a natural birth. As you can imagine, I was a rockstar at work the next day.

I have, however, found an OB / GYN. Which was not as easy as it sounds. You think it would be, as you are basically saying “hey, in the US, people massively overpay per person for worse health outcomes, because they are afraid of government interference… so I would like to have you paid vast amounts to not give me the most effective care. Please”. Piece of cake, right?  Nope, because I have had a ‘gap in care’ and so am ‘high risk’ and no one wants to take me. After yelling ‘so you are going to deal with my LACK of care, by denying me more care?’ and  ‘Just to get this straight: you think that I may have some uncontrolled health conditions that could make the birth complex, difficult and expensive. So instead of treating them early and turning a complex, difficult and expensive birth (which the state has to pay for legally, as it is ’emergency care’) into a simpler, easier, less expensive birth… you are going to let them run amok and so become a more complex, more difficult and more expensive birth?’. After receiving several affirmatives, the Women’s Healthcare Specialists of Houston took me on. Hoorah. But in the process of which, I had to do all sorts of promising and faxing of records and proving that I and little Firework, are, to the best of my knowledge, exceptionally healthy. Because you know, we eat right, sleep well, do regular exercise yada yada yada. The ob / gyns all opined that the only reason I had had such an easy pregnancy so far was because I was in, and had maintained, excellent athletic shape. Yeah… that exercise and athletic shape thing. So, in other news, I have got my ever expanding butt off the sofa for the first time in 9 weeks (where has the time gone??) and completed 2 yoga classes, one strength class and 2 ‘runs’.

When I say run, I mean going from 8.5 min miles to 10 min miles. And from 15K to 2.5K.

Post run sweatiness

Included for Walter’s confused expression; he is thinking “I didn’t know whales ran?!?”. Also ignore my terrible hair – there was pre-dye gook in it, and so it looks straw like and straw coloured.

And by ‘strength’ I mean lifting 10lb dumbells and then collapsing on the floor to oogle at John Stewart on my iPad.

John Stewart, lookin’ smokin’ and saying smart things… as he does.

But, it is a start. And Wes is working on the diet, sneaking vegetables into my meals and snacks without me protesting:

“Would you like a chip, Lekki?”

“Mmmm… yes please…. wait, this chip is surprisingly green and ungreasy and kale like”.

He made kale chips.

Wes’ kale chips – actually really delicious

Apart from the potential health hazard of the inherent shock at ‘the-McDonald’s-employees-miss-me-when-I-don’t-go-daily-Wesley’ making kale chips I am sure it is overall a good thing.

So… we have also been receiving awesome, awesome baby clothes and gifts. I absolutely LOVE everything everyone has bought for us.

Oh, and we have been doing the nursery (I was reminded of this as Holly managed to send babygros that matched the nursery perfectly. Cool.). Too early ye say? Well, probs not, as FW is due early Nov, I have a grant due mid-Oct, and am traveling for the last 3 weeks of Sept (work)… and possibly have another grant due mid Sept. So, working backwards, this means the nursery needs to be done by late August: 3 weeks’ time.  Thus we have a lovely grey nursery courtesy of my excellent paint-choosing skills, and Wesley’s excellent paint-applying skills

Dark, but soft, grey walls and our awesome changing table which was given to us!

and a sketch of a mural which I am going to attempt to paint. Yup, the girl who failed basic art at school is going to freestyle it on a wall.Results to come… (good or bad).

The nursery theme is clearly grey & white, with yellow and blue accents (to come) so we have these pics I made too:

Not sure if I want to redo these to make them tidier or not

Can’t wait to meet the little ‘un!

End of DAMY Bikini Body… on with Tough Mudder

DONE

I did it… 12 weeks on Bikini Body. 12 Thanksgiving-spanning, Department-lunch covering, three-time-of-the-month encompassing weeks. 12 weeks ago I squinted suspiciously at the impossibly-beautiful Amy Layne and debated whether she was another empty promise and short-lived lie. I sent her my $98. Best thing I ever did. Amy got me back ‘on track’, she taught me to care about overall food intake, not focus and obsess over individual macro- micro- whatevero- nutrients. I followed her workouts, stuck to her eating plan and watched myself change so much. For the first time, people really started commenting on how good I look. Not how slim (how skinny-fat), just how different, and how toned. AND, weirdly, for the first time I way relaxed about what I ate. I stopped dreading social occasions, I stopped fearing my own reactions to food. I think I have covered most of what I learned on this journey, but mostly it was;

-Never, ever resort to quick fixes

-Don’t obsess over the scales

-Stick to it through the ‘water weight days’

-Know that water weight days can last > 10 days in some (my) cases!

-Every time you “fall off the wagon”, just get right back on it, that SECOND. Not “tomorrow”; not “after the weekend” – right then.

-Make sure you do the exercises you HATE (hello squats). You probably hate them for a reason.

-Know that hungry before a meal is OK. Hungry all the time is not.

-Give up those artificial sweetners

-Chillax. Keep doing your best. Be proud of yourself for doing so.

40 mins; 1 weeks’ food to reheat and serve

The best practical tip that I learned was: Cook way in advance. Seriously. I would do a weekly shop, then make lietrally, 10 lunches and 10 dinners (5 for me, 5 for Wes). For example:a giant thing of whole wheat pasta with tuna and tomato; a tray of roasted veg and chicken, a large lasagne and tub of pre-cooked fajita mix. Then, portion out into single servings and store in the fridge. Wes and I could grab ‘n’ go as we liked, and it really only took ~40 mins to do the whole thing on a Sunday. Only one kitchen clean up too 🙂

And, I made my goal: a waist of 26″ without squeezing and pinching. I do have bikini-clad progress pics, but you have to email me for them as I fear future employers / students getting a gander 🙂 So you can have final stats instead:

Starting / after 2 weeks / after 4 weeks / after 6 weeks / after 12 weeks:

Weight: 143.5 lbs. / 138.5 / 135.5 / 137 / 134

Chest: 37 / 37 ” / 37 “ / 37″ / 37″ (good grief; no fecking change)

Waist: 30″ / 29″ / 28″ / 28″ / 26″ (wooooooo!)

Hips: 38″ / 37″ / 37″ / 37″ / 37″

What now? Well, a similar eating style + some wine in the evening, but slightly different workouts. Which leads me too:

Tough Mudder Training

So, for bikini body it has been all low weight, high rep ickiness. (I HATE that – let me move mountains, please!). Lots of interval workouts, and I did reach 15K (ever closer to my half marathon goal).

Now, I am switching it up, as my ADHD-like tendencies… OK, OK, my pure ADHD… does not allow me to stick at one plan too long. Here is a summary:

-Weights: 4 times a week, at a level where I fail on the 12th rep. Lots of ab work for the vanity.

-Interval training: Yes, OK, I will do it. At least 3 times a week. With lots of core work for the health.

-Running: Knee not coping so well. Twice a week: one long, one short run. With one elliptical session for the Chuck Bass ogling.

-Yoga: Twice a week, to help my fairly wrecked body. With one post-yoga glass of wine for the pain.

Finally. Pull up training. New (near impossible) goal: to be able to do a pull up (or four) by Tough Mudder. I’ll keep you posted. With videos for the voyeurism.

This week, I am entering the Lookout Mountain 10K. Kinda nervous about a full 10K on a trail… and how busy it will be. Also, I am in so much weight lifting / interval training pain at the moment, the thought of completing it is currently fairly inconceivable… but hey, this is just usual pre-race jitters, right? And, I have a new race to think about:

New Race!!

Woo-freakin’-Hoo. In January, I shall be running in the Canyonlands Half Marathon. Oh so pretty. Oh so damaging to my credit card. This is AWESOME news. But also quite scary. My goal? 2 hours 45. There. I said it. Wish me luck 🙂

Battle at Big Creek, Tough Mudder week 7 and reflections on some life choices

A section of Big Creek Trails

The earliest start yet took me to a new state for a trail run; at 3.30 am, the boy packed up some warm jumpers, two fired up puppies, a stash of snacks, and a grumpy ‘just started my TOTM and have cramps’ wife, and started the 3 hour drive to Roswell, Georgia for Xterra’s “Battle at Big Creek”. 8k (me) or 16k ( brave fools) as you wished. I arrived, glad the boy had allowed vast amounts of extra time (which I did not feel glad for at 3.30 am) as we had forgotten the change over from Central to Eastern time. But we made it fine, I got my neat little registration pack, some time to chill and warm away the Raynaud’s in the car, and time to be vaguely disconcerted that I had been registered as a 31 year old.

It was not in a state park this time, rather a “greenway” in a urban area. The trail was OK from a scenic point of view. It was fine, and it was great to be out among the changing trees, but there were no nice views and no sense of being it in endless nature (which is something I do in general love about trail running). It might not have been helped that our route missed the water. Whereas I am already planning the 2 hour drive to take my friends to hike the stunning Monte Sano in Huntsville, I am not especially planning a return trip here, although if passing, I would happily stop for a hike.

So, why did Xterra’s pick it? Well, post race, I read that they do it because of the challenge. It is one of Xterra’s hardest terrains, based on technical difficulties, steepness and condition of the trail. And Xterra’s are hardly known for mollycoddling their participants.

I knew at the start that 2 weeks wasn’t really enough to train for an 8k from 5k standard, but I am traveling much of the rest of this month so this was my only hope of getting a monthly race in. In the blistering cold (my tongue actually went numb) I enthusiastically started somewhere near the middle and slowly picked people off as I made my way to the front. It was uphill, but that was OK, as after my lesson from Monte Sano I had been doing some hill training and practicing on the undulating ground near my house. Undulating. Undulating. Not nearly 3 miles of pure climb that was so steep the trail had to wind its way up it, rather than take a direct path. Hmmmm. About 2 miles into it I was pretty miserable and thinking “I am either going to have to hate hills or train for them more”. I suspect it will be a mixture of both.

I got my head down, and at around 3 miles, started to get in the zone more and enjoy it. I picked people off one by one and felt pretty good about it. I ignored the aid stations and just pushed on, and could see around a few bends, so see that I was doing pretty well among the women – there were only maybe 5 or 6 in front of me, of which the 3 absolute spring chickens told me I was 2 nd or 3 rd in my age group. Time for a final push as I hit the last mile marker – and push I did. I sprinted for that finish line, passing one woman and making myself 2nd, which was a wonderful feeling. I gave it all, and at the last 400 meters I was overjoyed to see the end in sight. Just one more hairpin, which I negotiated with vigor… Until this happened

Ow

Yes it did hurt, although the cold saved me some of the immediate pain. I watched 2nd and 3rd place jump ahead of me

She nixed me to 3rd... fair and square

and even though I sprang up, my intended sprint to the finish line became a running hobble. Ah well, the disappointment of just losing out on a medal as 4th in my age group smarted more than the leg, to be honest.

Definitely a hobbling run

But as ever I learned a lot, and that is an important part of the process. More important than medals, right? Ahem. I learned

*Again, check the course, check the course, check the course. I actually couldn’t have gotten any more info for this one, but it did remind me of the value of knowing the course. I trained how to be able to sprint / run up brief-ish hills and recover on the way down, and the long climb just destroyed me.
*Find it more about the race. This was one of Xterras 3 national qualifier races, where runners who want to run in the Nationals have to place in all 3. So, the were more elite-recreational runners than the just recreational runners I encountered last time
*Better to eat before the race and not need it, than to need it half way around. I ate a light breakfast (200 kcals) at 5 and then ran at 8.30 because it was “just an 8k” and when I train I often do these fasted. But, I don’t train as hard as I race and the hills required extra input, so I could have done with more food
*Along those lines, eat carbs the night before. I tend to avoid all non vegetable carbs in the evening (bar the occasional glass of wine). This works fine for general training, especially as I do a lot of it in the evening as I get often stuck into my work with my morning coffee, whether I intended to or not. Somehow an oatmeal carb up in the morning isn’t quite as efficacious as evening pasta.
*Wear less! Because it was cold I wore a jumper to run. It was great for about 2 minutes, then I spent the next 5 minutes annoyed I was hot and the next 30 secs slowing down and stumbling because I was taking it off. Then the rest of the race struggling to keep it tied around my waist. Recreational Jumper = bad decision. Considering a long-sleeved sorts top for December runs.
* My iPod lies! It cheerfully yelled “1/2 way point”… And then about 6 mins later I came across the actual halfway point which was somewhat deflating. More annoyingly, it yelled ‘1 mile to go’ causing an all out of burst of speed that could only last a mile, when there were in fact about 1.8 miles left. Really deflating was hearing “Congratulations! Workout complete” and not even being able to see the finish line. As someone who does not love running, it is a mind game for me.

*Don’t fall. This may be the best tip of all.

So Tough Mudder training, week 7.

This may have been my best training week yet. I completed the full DAMY complement of workouts, felt great for all of them, and did some extra. I didn’t feel at all worn out, although as I am now in week 8, I am feeling some tiredness and really just doing the set schedule, not throwing anything else in. But, very happy with this week. It went a lil’ something like:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state – DONE

Saturday – Hill sprints, DAMY weights B – DONE

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills) – DONE

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B – DONE

Tues: Hill sprints; DAMY D (legs) – Changed; no hill sprints due to lack of sleep and an early meeting

Weds:  Functional training (plyos) – DONE

Thurs: Kickboxing (maybe; have a 5 mile (8K) race on Saturday so may be fixing to rest). – DONE. So glad I went, Gabe’s kickboxing is the best 😀

Week 8 plan

Friday – rest for race after a hard week

Saturday – 8 k + DAMY B

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: 5k interval run + DAMY A in the am (arms); DAMY D (legs)

Weds:  Yoga in the am,  Functional training (plyos) pm

Thurs: Kickboxing

And some life choices this week

I am sure you have all heard the industry “pick two of three” paradigm. Is is where you can pick two of these for any given project:

Cheap
Fast
Good

You just can’t have more than 3. So, if something is done cheaply and quickly, it isn’t gong to be done well. Conversely, if it is done well and quickly, then is going to cost a lot. I once turned to David and said “I have had an epiphany. Women cannot be smart, cute and healthy”. It takes some qualifying as I picked catchy words. By smart I meant very successful at work. By cute, I meant well turned out with good clothes with styled hair and neat make up. By healthy I meant regularly active and eating healthy, homemade food. So, if I am going to work long hours and go to the gym a lot, I am going to look a mess. By the time I have packed up all my lunch and filled my bag with that, I don’t have time to co ordinate a decent outfit and shoes or have space in my bag for make-up. I’ll be barefaced and chances are: in my trainers all day. David thought about it and said to me “I think what you are saying, Lekki, is that you can’t do everything in life”. Spot on.

Courtesy of PhDcomics.com

This has recently come back to me as work went crazy for the grant. The grant took up a lot of time, and pushed back my other work, so the crazy-busy schedule will continue while I make up for it. And the lack of evening eats into my weekends as I have to do the cleaning. Tidying, cooking etc has to be done then. Then I have my sport which I love, and also eats my time. I loved my race this weekend, and loved the uninterrupted 6 hours it gave me with my husband. Thing is, I also wanted to go to a friend’s house and watch the game. I knew if I did that, I would not get all my house stuff done, and I would not get as much work done. It hurt, but I declined. I realized I was making a choice. The house is at a stage where it could not be left without environmental protection coming and trying to save us from ourselves, but technically work could be. However – there would not be many serious repercussions if I delayed work a little. I don’t have any immediate deadlines, and my work for today is largely a job app, when I have a promising K award and 2 exciting interviews at places I would love to work on the horizon.

So why do the app? Because I need a back-up, sure. But also because it is for NIH which would be an enormously prestigious position. And one that really allowed to conduct my Science for the next 5 years in a very stimulating academic environment. So, my career is going very well at the moment, yes, and I have better than average career prospects. But I will fight to make my prospects elite. I really care about my latest project and I want every shot to be able to complete it, and to be able to complete it in the best environment possible. I don’t know where that is yet, and I suspect I will only find out through applications and visits and tang to people on visits.

So I guess I am says that I felt I made a decision on Saturday. To prioritize my career over my social life, even though my social life is very woeful at the moment and my career is great. I am surprised how easy this decision came and how well it say with me. We all make choices and we have to live with our choices. I think it helped me to sleep better and enjoy my choices knowing that I was making them, and why.

IMAGE credits

http://alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=136

http://vadlo.com/cartoons.php?id=241

DAMY Health week 5 & 6; Tough Mudder training week 6

Waaaaah. It has been a tough week on the old “slough off 15 of the 25 post American lbs in 12 weeks” attempt. But, while not making any great physical progress (in fact, there was somewhat of a back-slide), I made some good mental health progress. Huzzah.

So, weeks 5/6. Along with fighting an incredible amount of lethargy I was also dealing with insane hunger and sugar cravings.  Hunger that made me feel unfocused and dizzy. Hunger that left me unable to play table tennis for more than 30 mins (although it WAS dinner time, and I HAD just workout out for 50 minutes and I DID steal some points off my victorious hubby). I gave it a few days and then emailed Amy of DAMY Health, seeing as I was especially concerned about my drop in athletic performance. Wow, I thought I would just get some quick “21 tips to break hunger”, but she responded within 48 hours, making me list everything I was eating and all my workouts. She went through my meals & snacks one by one, and either OK-ed them, or fixed them. In essence we got: A LOT more protein (some 30 g or so), which makes sense as the weight training is up to 4 days a week, and if I lift… I lift pretty heavy. Not quite the ball buster days of yore, but not too shabby either. We also got way less sugar – she switched out my beloved frozen peas and put in green beans, zucchini and broccoli (yeach! I did not follow that last one!). Oh, and she doubled my lunchtime whole grain carbs, and pretty much ordered me to have a pre-bedtime snack (Oh, you want we to force down delicious delicious chocolate pudding or peanut butter on celery eh? Oh go on then…). Immediately I felt better and Amy emailed me both the following days to check in and make me write down my diet. Not bad for a one off $98.

My hunger immediately decreased. As I swapped a lot of the fruit for protein / WG combos I immediately craved less sugar. In fact, I was back to the miracle start of the beginning of DAMY where I was not literally counting down the seconds to each meal. Good stuff. My recovery also increased tonnes – I completed every workout on DAMY (and there are a lot, and they are tough. Think 4 weight sessions, one plyo session, 2 steady state sessions, 1 HIIT and 1 HIIT + plyo, OUCH) and even got my HIIT to be hill sprints (why? why do I do this to myself) and threw in an extra 12K. Banging. Did it all… loved it all… felt great.

Then, week 6 and weigh day came. 1.5 lbs more. Really? Really? I waited a day and weighed myself: same. Waited another day: .5 lb more? Life hates me. And no shift in inches. And if I was brave enough to post the progress pics I take for Amy… you’d see some lack of definition. Gah. But, DAMY made me define non weight related goals at the beginning of the program, and I focused on these instead. Some of these were:

-To stop the endless restrict-stuff myself cycle.

-To stop living my day by the scale. Bad scale day = bad day must end.

So, with that in mind, I just soldiered on with the corrected diet, smiled and tried not to let it get to me. I didn’t have any other ‘treats’ that week at all. When I emailed Amy with my weekly check-in I explained this to her, but said it could be water weight, and yay! I was sticking to my other goals and wasn’t life great and that’s the end of that.

Amy is not so cavalier with her clients. While yes, she was pleased that I seemed to be developing more stable, sustainable eating habits, she wants me to email her all my food from yesterday (on a Sunday! Sneaky!), and is upping the intensity of my workouts a little. I am supposed to break them into 2 and do cardio in the am and weights in the afternoon (or vice versa) rather than one long session. I also have to skip between weight reps to keep my heart rate up. Bleurgh. I was in a happy rut groove, which may explain the lack of progress 🙂 But, I am glad to be working with Amy. She is a cheerleader and very positive, but not going to take sloppiness for an answer (nor not eating all your fibrous veggies it would seem. Ick). I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

So… those stats. Boo. I look forward to better news next time (although next time is slap bang at time of the month, so it may take a few extra days…):

Starting / after 2 weeks / after 4 weeks / after 6 weeks:

Weight: 143.5 lbs. / 138.5 / 135.5 / 137

Chest: 37 / 37 ” / 37 “ / 37″

Waist: 30″ / 29″ / 28″ / 28″

Hips: 38″ / 37″ / 37″ / 37″

Onto Tough Mudder week 6

This was an awesome week of training. I completed everything, ran the furthest for me yet (ha!), recovered like a rockstar ready to get at it the next day, and generally loved it. I didn’t really dread any workouts, just the first steady state as I was saving my knees so did it on the elliptical.

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state – DONE

Saturday – 5K, DAMY weights B  – DONE

Sunday – Steady state 7 mile jog – DONE (7.5 hahahahaha)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B – DONE

Tues: REST – Changed, long jog completed.

Weds:  DAMY D (legs); interval A – done, hill sprints DONE. Y-e-e-e-e-e-s

Thurs: Kickboxing (this is a good proxy for DAMY’s 6th ‘functional’ workout – lots of core stuff). Oh, I missed this. Boo. Had too much work with a grant due to UAB the next day. Changed.

Week 7 plan:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state

Saturday – Hill sprints, DAMY weights B

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: Hill sprints; DAMY D (legs)

Weds:  Functional training (plyos)

Thurs: Kickboxing (maybe; have a 5 mile (8K) race on Saturday so may be fixing to rest).

I feel I am getting closer and closer to Tough Mudder fitness (sadly also to the race – eeeep). My core is getting a lot stronger, and I am completing more and more of the push ups (even when doing them immediately after lifting weights for shoulder training). My jogging / running is better and I am using the same weights for 15, rather than 12, reps. All I need to learn is those darned pull ups. Soon. Overall: super fitness progress (for a non-sporty person like me). And in 4 days time: Georgia trail race: wooooo 😀

My first trail race!

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Yesterday was my first trail race. It was in Huntsville, at Monte Sano state park. One of the reasons I decided to sign up to trail races was to get me to travel the local area and this was a wonderful indictment of that.  Monte Sano state park was breathtakingly beautiful. All my disappointment at the Samford campus was instantly repaid and more with joy at Monte Sano. It helped that the leaves were changing – fall colours in Alabama are incredible (as in other states, ‘tiz true). We were fairly elevated,  and indeed, elevated ourselves somewhat more on the course (ouch) but this lead to this incredible view.

View as I finished the run. Now there is motivation!

I *highly* recommend a visit there, and cannot wait to go back and hike.

So… the race. Well, despite proclaiming my intention to train for races, and not just throw them in my general running plan, I kinda failed. I managed only 1 trail run beforehand, which I took way too lightly and did not simulate race conditions for. I also did not check out the course: hence I was utterly unprepared for many very steep hills, and even a fair few steps.  But, OK, lesson learned.

I also learned to train ‘beyond’ your race. I had been running linger distances at ½ marathon pace, and for faster training, stuck to 5K. I think I would prefer going into a race used to running that pace for a slightly longer distance – I don’t know? Any runners got any thoughts on this?

That was not the only preparation mess up… we got up at the heinously early 4.30 am to get to Huntsville by 7.30 (allowing for gas stops, bathroom breaks and getting lost…). I prepared my usual oatmeal breakfast, but wolfed it at 5.30 am, leaving my hungry and chowing down on a larabar pre-race. I also, out of boredom, drank double my usual morning coffee, and instead of my fairly weak homemade stuff had the strong shop bought stuff, in double quantities. I also ‘didn’t feel’ like rehydrating. Let’s just say: unexpected fiber + a lot of caffeine + hard exercise does not make for a happy tummy on the trails. ‘Nuff said and lesson learned.

My only other mess-up was starting at the back, because I still think of myself as slow. There was a huge bottleneck, and I had to walk for about 3  minutes, before slowly picking off other runners to make my way to the front. I wish I had started near the front: running fast at the beginning and slowing down actually does not tire me out quickly on such a short distance, so next time up front I go.

Me cheerfully standing at the back. Fool.

That all being said, I came 3rd out of all the women, and very close to coming second:

End of the race - I was so close!

Why didn’t I come second? I felt it would be ‘mean’ and cheating’ to sprint past someone (I am actually a super quick sprinter, I just can‘t keep the speed up long) right at the finish line. The girl who tried (and failed – phew) to do that to me taught me otherwise. Placed, and should have done a little better.

Walter was so pleased to see me when I got back!

I loved the overall experience. I loved getting up and out and doing something with my Saturday.  I loved putting my all into a run. I loved seeing somewhere new and I loved placing. I also loved my free swag, which the race organizers where very generous with (T-shirts, drinking glasses, bananas etc). And my winning swag (super nice North face hat, plastic and aluminum water bottles, a medal and all sorts of samples of stuff).

Next? I considered an 8K in Atlanta, but it is 2 weeks away and (1) I can’t really train for it and (2) Alabama play LSU and my husband won’t come meaning much driving (3 hours) by myself and driving back sore and tired. So, I may well skip that, and just shoot for the 10K at lookout mountain in December.  Any takers?

 Tough Mudder training

Finally, my tough mudder training this week. It is going better.  I completed nearly all the DAMY workouts… and kept my long run in. That being said, I didn’t complete them all, and I think it was too much for weeks 5+ of DAMY to up the workouts, but slightly decrease the food. I also was utterly failing to recover – I would be sore for 4/5 days, rather ½ which I am used to. I think I need to support my recovery more. I am going to try to add glutamine supplementation, but I also noticed that when picking from the food lists, I am naturally picking a lot of the lower calorie options (what? I love apples!), so next week, I am going to try to choose higher calorie, permitted foods. Kinda scary, as I don’t want weightloss to stall too much, but if it means I can do more training, at better intensities, I think it will even out.

Tough Mudder training Week 5:

Thursday:  DAMY weights A, (DONE!)

Friday – REST (yuck) – (DONE)

Saturday – Steady state 6 mile jog – (DONE! 6.3 miles, if you’re asking )

Sunday – Steady state cross train (30 min trail run; 2 hour hike); weights DAMY B – CHANGED – no run, the hike was too early. But I did hike for 4 hours…

Monday: 30 min interval run; Weights DAMY D (legs) – CHANGED: Did my DAMY B weights. Then did Interval training, DAMY workout B. This is TOUGH. But worth it.

Tues: REST – CHANGED – DAMY D (legs). Hurt for days

Weds: Steady state (4 miles); DAMY C. – DONE on the hated track, no less… done barefoot too – I am seeing if I can learn to run barefoot so that I can get minimalist shoes.

Tough Mudder training Week 6 plan:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state

Saturday – 5K, DAMY weights B

Sunday – Steady state 7 mile jog

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: REST

Weds:  DAMY D (legs); interval A

Thurs: Kickboxing (this is a good proxy for DAMY’s 6th ‘functional’ workout – lots of core stuff).

So, I am getting better at completing all the workouts. I am hoping some 200 extra calories a day, mostly in the form of whole grains, will spur me on to complete this without deviating!

Just after I decided that I wasn't going to puke...

Less food… more life…?

Very interesting talk on caloric restriction in rhesus monkeys at the UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center yesterday from Dr. Rozalyn Anderson, Ph.D. an Assistant Professor, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

I am super busy at the moment, I am not going to whinge, but I’m in those very exciting last 2 weeks of a grant submission, while trying to get at least one faculty job application off my desk per week, and maintain my papers submission (i.e. not piss off the co-workers whom will write my letters of reference). I refer you to Stella for a nicely scholarly and full discussion of the lecture. I’ll just give you a precis of my take home messages, focusing on the more surprising findings:

When rhesus monkeys were on 25% caloric restriction (without malnutriton) from their ad libitum weight maintenance diet:

*Death from all cause mortality was signficiantly reduced, after a period of ~10 years

*Death from age-related mortality was even more significantly reduced across the whole lifespan

*Almost all forms of senescence were significantly delayed. Interestingly Dr. Anderson really delved into depth here, showing for example how muscle fibres did not show age-related changes

*Fat mass was significantly reduced

*Despite caloric restriction: lean body mass did not decline

*Organ size did decline, but only as expected for a smaller animal

*Despite caloric restriction: basal metabolic rate did not drop. The CR monkeys only saw a drop in the amount of energy used to perform activities, i.e. they became more efficient

*The CR monkeys looked amazing to the naked eye. Their fur remained thick, and so luscious – I was amazed. They made the non-CR monkeys look like they had been rescued from a situation of neglect.

I was very interested in the discussion afterwards. Two points, specifically:

*Dr Anderson was asked whether the macronutrient that was restricted (fat / carb / protein) made a difference. She said that in the absence of malnutrition, and excluding some disease-specific effects, no. Her informal observations was if you were either ~25% under, or 25% over your caloric needs, it didn’t matter much what you ate. If you were under: your body would adapt and use everything. If you were over: you were going to cause yourself trouble whatever you were overeating. My personal experience with the latter backs this up (overeating protein as a ‘free’ food). It is just if you are somewhere in the middle; eating around your caloric needs, that macronutrient balance might make a difference.

I wonder if this could partially explain why some people can eat fast food endlessly, and remain metabolically well? These tend to be slimmer people, so I could guess they were eating less than their caloric needs: at this point, it doesn’t matter what they are eating. Then take individuals who eat around their caloric needs from junk food, and are suffering metabolic dysfunction: is it because they are in the ‘somewhere in between’ zone where what you eat matters? If you are going to always eat poorer quality food or fast food, do you need to calorically restrict to remain healthy? I don’t know – pure anecdotal speculation (it’s my blog. I’m allowed 🙂 )

*She didn’t recommend this for humans. Stella touches on this: she says the psychological harm from restricting herself outweighs any physical benefit. This was Dr. Anderson’s point: do you want to take away a glass of wine after a hard day? Something yummy to eat to look forward to? I don’t agree with these views. I think we have come so far from what is good for us, in terms of exercise and eating, that drastic measures are needed. My example: I need ~19000 calories to ‘maintain’ , given my lean body mass (I lift), and general activity level (possibly slightly more since I have been regularly practising HIIT, but let us be conservative). Throw in my daily activity, and I burn, on average, 2,200 calories a day. I currently eat 1,300 a day. It sounds  small, but I eat a large breakfast (oatmeal), a filling snack (Banana and PB or Larabar, sometimes apple and nutella.. mmmmm….), lunch (carbs, protein, veg, sometimes fruit), snack (fruit + nuts or veg and hummus) and dinner (protein, lots of veg, salad and a good whollop of MUFA e.g. 1/2 an avocado). I have energy for all my workouts (when I am not suffering allergies, but that doesn’t count 😉 ).  I am clearly building muscle. I am rarely hungry. It’s easy. I only exercise 20 mins – 1 hour 5 times a week. And I am on a 40% restriction. I can add in some wine, or a beer (I don’t like beer), or I can ‘eat out’ (with appropriate portion sizes), or I could have some cake or chocolate ontop of all this… and still be on 25% restriction or less. It is not that hard for me. I am not sure when we started touting that this sort of behaviour was so wildly out of the norm, or so crazy, or so hard to follow. And I am not sure that helps people who feel they want to follow a different dietary lifestyle, but find it daunting.

Just a thought. Just a thought from someone who recently put on 25 lbs 🙂 Take it with a pinch of salt and do respond honestly, but please don’t flame me 🙂

The seminar is likely to be posted here soon.