Monday, December 31, 2012

A Toast to New Beginnings

The 950' vertical climb at Jamaica's Dunns River Falls was 
a piece of cake for this 40-something.
I have always considered myself an athlete. I was a three-sport child excelling in basketball, softball and soccer. I dabbled in track & field and spent many afternoons scrambling up trees or playing football with my big brother or my bff.

As an adult, distracted by marriage and motherhood, I floundered sport-less for nearly a decade until I discovered surfing at age 30. Still, despite traveling often in pursuit of perfect waves, I wasn't particularly strong or healthy. I was skinny fat, unable to complete a single unassisted pull-up or chin-up and had no idea what a deadlift even was. Almost exactly two years ago, I made a discovery that would change my life forever and start me on a new path of self-discovery that continues to teach me new lessons almost daily.

It was Martin Berkhan's Leangains website. I couldn't tell if it was a diet or a training regimen - or a little of both? Here was a way to lose fat, gain a tremendous amount of strength all while enjoying substantial meals consisting of many of the foods traditionally considered taboo in the fitness world. Was this the holy grail of fitness? The answer to that, for me anyway, was yes...and no.

While Martin outlines quite specifically the do's and don'ts of the Leangains way - required daily intermittent fasting, large meals, carb cycling, refeed days and heavy training - I've come to two realizations:

1. These are guidelines and the specifics will vary from individual to individual; and
2. Like all other training/diet protocols out there, Leangains is also subject to continued evolution as more information and science becomes available.

Though the specifics of weights and reps and permitted foods and fasting times may vary from person to person, what will not vary is the fact that Leangains is a mindset.

People are tired of dieting. We don't want to eat mini-meals all damned day. Most of us don't have three hours a day to spend working out. And when there's a special event, we want to enjoy our grandma's homemade pie or mom's famous sour-cream whipped potatoes without guilt.

We're also not aspiring Olympians or professional athletes. We're normal people, subject to the rampages of age and we want to be able to get out of a chair with ease when we're 80. We want to have the energy to play with our kids and grandkids. When we are able to take a vacation, we'd like to be able to walk, run and play when we reach our destination of choice. We want to be able to bend, stretch, lift, jump and get through our daily lives without physical limitations. I can honestly say, as I hit the 40th year of my life a couple of weeks ago, that I will always, in one way or another, follow the Leangains mindset because it will allow me to enjoy all of the above and so much more as I take on the next 40 years of my life.
Sometimes it's important to remember life is simply 
meant to be lived.
As 2013 quickly approaches I have to remind myself that I have only just started on the road to a lifetime of better health and fitness. While I do not yet have that coveted 6-pack, I have come to the realization that I am stronger than I was at 20. I am confident, healthy, energetic and I am ready to run, jump, leap, bound, swing and surf my way through this safari called life.

The term "Holy Grail" signifies the end-all-be-all of any desire, ambition or goal. In essence; the finish line. While Leangains has changed my life forever, I have come to realize that it was not the finish line at all - in fact, it was just the beginning.

Here's to a happy, healthy, blessed New Year of new beginnings for us all!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Benefits of Occasional Gluttony

I know I just posted yesterday, and don't get used to daily postings from me either, but

"<<<<<" This is how  this is how I felt today in the gym.

I think my 9-10 days off for vacation were just what I needed to recharge because I just couldn't get tired during my workout. I started with 10 1-minute sprint intervals /  2 min rest and followed with flat bench. I had recently been struggling with my bench because I stopped doing it regularly, but it still felt pretty light after 5 sets of 6-8 reps as I continued increasing the weight.

After bench, I did 12 bodyweight neutral-grip chin ups for the hell of it and they were easy - and I'm about 5 lbs heavier than I was pre-vacay. Go figure! Must have been all of that good food in New Orleans and on my cruise coupled with tons of R&R because I've been low carb since I got back five days ago and I feel amazing.

So I wanted to post to remind you all that rest and a bit of a refeed can be a GOOD thing. Don't be hard on yourself for your holiday indulgences. Think of them as a critical refueling to enable you to kick up your intensity as we head into 2013. As long as you're not a glutton often, you may find you're feeling stronger than ever when you get back on track.

Happy pre-New Year everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Habit at a Time

One of my FB friends posted this photo the other day and it got me thinking about daily habits. We all have dozens of habits that have been ingrained in us over the years; some good - rising early each day and making the bed, brushing our teeth, showering (optional but highly recommended), getting dressed (not optional), eating our veggies, etc. And there are the not so good habits: not getting enough sleep - which ultimately leads to bad habit #2, hitting snooze six times before getting out of bed, not returning phone calls or emails, arriving late to work, etc.

In addition to the daily habits related to our personal hygiene and grooming, what we put in our bodies every day and how much we move are also habits. Do you grab a muffin or donut on your way out the door in the morning or do you chug down a protein shake? Do you pack a healthy lunch or hit the drive thru at lunch? Do you opt for a cheap sugar rush from the vending machine when your energy wanes at 3 pm, or do you grab a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit to munch on?

Each of these things is a habit. Many, many, MANY of us currently have or have had in the past some terrible habits - including me. But I'm here to tell you that habits can be changed.

Make a list of what you would consider your bad habits. Here's my old list:

Never make the bed in the morning
Eat too many crunchy, salty snacks
Drink wine every night
Not focused in the gym and not consistent with exercise
Don't drink much water
Don't take fish oil
Watch WAY too much TV

I'm not sure when I started changing each individual habit, but I'm happy to say that I have changed every one of these habits for the better. Except for the making the bed one, I believe all the others changed when I started #1 Intermittent Fasting and #2 Lifting heavy weights on a consistent basis. I think it's amazing how many good habits trickle down from just one or two core habits. The more I focus on what I'm eating and when I'm eating it and how I'm training, the more I want the rest of my daily habits to support these efforts such as drinking more water, taking daily fish oil and natural supplements, watching less TV, and staying away from the snacks and the booze (for the most part).

If you have bad habits you'd like to work on, and let's be honest, you do; I suggest writing them down and choosing one or two core habits to focus on. As you get better and better at those, you may be surprised to find that other not-so-awesome habits start changing too.

One habit at a time, one day at a time, you can change.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Life, training, going carb-less and my love affair with Gummy Bears

It's been too long since my last post and, while I have a myriad of excuses, I'm not going to list them here. For all intensive purposes, I'm back.

What's going on in my life? Hmmmm. Lots actually. I'm still training, but have mixed things up to include some Kettelbell / bodyweight circuit type stuff as well as some heavy days with my old friends, The Big 3. As for diet, I still IF anywhere from 14-16 hours a day. It's just a habit now. I'm also taking a dip in the Carb Nite pool. For those of you not familiar with Carb Nite, it's a power diet protocol developed by a really smart dude - John Kiefer, known simply as "Kiefer." Seriously, the guy's a physicist and he's got a smokin' bod to boot. But his chiseled abs weren't handed to him. They've been sculpted by the years of trial-and-error that led to Carb Nite and his other gaining protocol, Carb Backloading.

For Carb Nite, you start with a 9.5 day ultra-low carb period where you eat literally as close to zero carbs as you can (not including fiber) along with protein and lots of fat. On the eve of the 10th day you indulge in high glycemic foods to cause a rapid insulin spike which causes all kinds of cool things to happen to your hormones and metabolism - not the least of which causes the annihilation of fat cells. After a 6-8 hour carb up period, you go back to ultra-low carb for anywhere from 5-7 days with at least one mandatory carb refeed weekly.

It's actually quite easy to eat this way. Once the brain fog and fatigue of Day 5 passed, I felt pretty good. I made it the entire prep period on basically no carbs and was rewarded with a fat free froyo sundae with banana and caramel syrup, a handful of Gummy Bears, three Rice Krispy treats, a half of a Domino's deep dish pizza and Oreos with a glass of milk before bed. Guess what, I woke up only 1 lb heavier and that's pretty much all water and whatever food was still in my system at the time. If you want to get the low down on Carb Nite, check out Kiefer's site,

I'm also job hunting, which sucks. But, on the flip side, my boyfriend and I are leaving for a much needed vacation in about a week. I. Can't. Wait.