Dear New Girl at the Gym

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This blog post is a re-blog from Erica Millard called “Dear New Girl at the Gym”. This post really resonated with me because I remember what it’s like to start your own fitness journey. So many girls pick up their teeny tiny dumbbells and take them into the small circuit room round the corner, performing their workout where less people are likely to see them. I know this because I used to do that all the time, when I was embarrassed at being painfully skinny and trying to lift weights. I figured I looked pathetic and wanted to train without being seen. Anything involving upper body weights I would hide in the side room, feeling so embarrassed doing bicep curls next to the ‘big boys’ and experienced gym goers when you could hardly even see there was a muscle there to be used!

Well how times have changed for me now. I have no hesitation in going up to the roided-up gym junkie and asking to jump in between his sets. Looking back, I realise that there was no reason to be embarrassed by the size of my weights or the size of my muscles (or lack thereof). Everyone has to start somewhere. The fact that you are there, in the gym, trying to do something about it is the biggest thing. Whether you’re doing it wrong, lifting little weights, or your fat is bouncing around on the beginning of your weight loss journey – no one at the gym is judging you. Hell, I admire those people in the gym. I honestly look at them and think good on you for getting started, because that is honestly the hardest part. Never be embarrassed by what the gym junkies think of you – trust me, they are far too focused on their own workout and checking themselves out in the mirror to judge (or even notice) you.

Check out Erica’s letter below:

Dear New Girl at the Gym,

You stand across from me in boot camp or on the treadmill next to me or a few bikes over in spin. I have never seen you before, but here you are. I can tell by the look on your face you are embarrassed. Embarrassed that you can’t do a pushup or don’t know how to adjust your bike or that you walk on the treadmill when the girl on the other side of you runs for a full hour at the speed of a cheetah. You look around and wonder what on earth you are doing here. You glance at me and I smile, but you look away pretending you didn’t see, because that would mean I noticed you. Maybe you are discouraged. Maybe you tell yourself this was a huge mistake and you’re going to ask for your money back. Maybe you wonder if I’m judging you.

I am not.

I want you to know how proud I am of you. You see, even though it might not seem like it, none of us are judging you. Why? Because so many of us were just like you. We know what it is like. We know how hard it is, especially in the beginning. Really we do. Maybe you woke up one day weighing forty pounds more than you did five years ago. I have been there. Maybe you stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office, had the nurse cluck her tongue, and then had the doctor say something like, “Now let’s talk about your weight.” I have been there. Maybe you recently had a baby, and you wonder if there will ever be a time when you don’t have to tuck your stomach into your pants. I have been there. Maybe you get half way through the warm up in a group fitness class and wonder if you are this out of breath now, is a full hour going to kill you? I have been there. Maybe money and time are tight and the idea of spending $30-$70 a month and an hour a day on yourself feels awfully selfish. I have been there. So many of us have.

You see us running or biking or lifting weights, and may feel discouraged or that we are judging you. Please, please, PLEASE know that we are not, because so many of us have been in your same shoes. You see us for what we are now, but many of us started out just like you, on a journey to find our best selves.

Please come back. I know it is hard, but it will get better, I promise.

And then you will wake up one day and wonder when you became that person. You know that person who can jog a few miles or do a whole spin class or even do boot camp without being sore the next day. And you will be the one, standing across the room, smiling at the new girl hoping she knows how lovely and wonderful and brave she is. Hoping she knows she is worth all the work. Because you are. You are so worth it. You deserve to be your healthiest self.

Now there might come a time and a place where someone will judge you, even someone at the gym. Maybe they make rude comments or give you that look. Maybe they have never known what it feels like to struggle with their weight. Maybe they have low self-esteem. Maybe they have never eaten an entire pan of brownies by themselves (I have) or an entire bag of Halloween candy before a single trick or treater came to their door (I have). Maybe they forgot what it was like to be the new girl. Please, don’t waste your time on them. You are on a journey to be your best self, and they don’t belong on your journey. Find people and a place where you can begin where you are.

Come back. You are so worth it.

http://ericamillard.com/?p=1566

Image: instagram.com/kayla_itsines

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PROGRESS UPDATE NO. 4 – “Rule your mind or it will rule you”

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I’m currently 3 weeks into my official comp prep and sitting just under 9 weeks out. The last few weeks have been the toughest yet, trying to stay disciplined through Christmas and New Years and finding myself having to make a lot more sacrifices to stay on track as it gets closer to game day. It’s been mentally challenging, and combined with the fact my latest body composition result was less than desirable left me feeling disheartened and questioning whether it’s all worth it.

My body composition test from last week showed I had lost muscle and gained fat. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it certainly wasn’t progress. Going backwards was disheartening, as I had spent the 3 weeks focused and strict, and yet I had no results to show for it. I had just spent the ‘silly season’ being so disciplined, not indulging in any of the treats littered across every table at home, at family events and in the staff room, and I was proud of myself for sticking it out. Yet I had still gone backwards. I thought perhaps just the smell of junk food can make you gain weight? (Disclaimer: I’m joking).

It got me thinking what’s the point in being so disciplined if you have nothing to show for it? Comp prep is hard work. It takes discipline and mental strength, and it really does consume your life even when you try not to let it. When you’re working that hard to achieve something, you want some results to show for it!

I usually don’t weigh myself or care about numbers – I just care about how I feel. I guess in a way competing forces you to care about numbers, but I decided that I should still focus on how I am FEELING. Although the results said I have lost muscle, I FEEL like I have put on size, particularly through my shoulders and back. In fact, a lot of my dresses no longer zip up over my back, and my jackets don’t fit over my shoulders! Perhaps the numbers didn’t reflect that, but they aren’t everything. The fit of my clothes is showing progress, and that’s what I need to focus on.

During the Christmas period I have certainly felt like I’m missing out by competing. I value balance in my life, and preparing for a comp is definitely not balanced. You can try and make it so, but as the comp gets closer it takes up more and more time making sure you’re always prepared, and you do have to start making sacrifices. Feeling like I’ve been lacking balance has really got me down recently, missing out on social events because there’s just too much temptation and not being able to go on holidays with friends because I would need to take all my meals. I must admit this is not a lifestyle that I desire permanently for myself or promote to anyone, as it does take the fun out of healthy living a bit. In saying that, it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a temporary means to achieve my goal. And for that reason, I’m going to stick it out even when the going gets tough.

Lacking motivation, I let my mind wander to why I started this journey. These are some of the reasons I started this journey:

  1. I wanted a challengeI wanted to push myself to the next level of fitness. I’m not competing to win, I’m competing against myself. I needed a goal – a time and a place by which I had to achieve something. Having an end date for me is the best way to really stick to something. It’s easy to say; “oh I’ll just start next week” or “one bad meal won’t hurt”, but when you have a short time limit, those things will make a difference. The fact I’m going to have to stand on stage in a bikini in front of a lot of people in a few weeks is daunting enough to keep me focused in that respect.
  2. I wanted to understand the discipline it takes for people to drastically change their body.I’m currently studying to be a Personal Trainer. I’ve had a few people say that “you don’t have to compete to be a PT”. Well yes, I’m aware of that. However, one thing I strongly believe is that you should never take advice from a PT who doesn’t practice what they preach. For example, would you take weight loss advice from an overweight trainer? If they can’t lose weight themselves, how are they going to get YOU to lose weight? Now I know I don’t need to lose weight, so I wanted to set myself a goal that required the same amount of discipline that an overweight client would need to lose weight. I wanted to really understand what clients go through. Losing 20kg is hard and takes discipline. Getting down to 10% body fat as a female is also hard and takes discipline. Sure it’s a different outcome, but the discipline and mental challenge behind it is all the same. I’ve achieved plenty of fitness goals in my training so far before competing, but pushing myself hard in the gym is easy for me – I love the feeling. I wanted to do something that I knew I would find really hard, and put myself in my future client’s shoes.

The biggest challenge in all of this is controlling my mind. Temptation is everywhere. I have to walk through the supermarket with tunnel vision to avoid the chocolates at the end of every aisle. I find myself craving things I wouldn’t usually even eat e.g… a tub of ice-cream would go down a treat! At the moment if it’s something sweet, I want to eat it. In my regular, balanced lifestyle (which I’m very much looking forward to returning to by the way) I eat a wide variety of healthy foods and find that I rarely crave junk foods. It’s funny how imposing more restriction on yourself just makes you want to rebel against it. You know the saying “you only want what you can’t have”? Well, turns out it doesn’t just apply to the opposite sex – it applies to food too! When I wasn’t competing, technically I could have eaten ice-cream any time I wanted… but I didn’t want to. Now, I would kill for some!

I guess the lesson I have learnt these past two weeks is when you’re feeling weak and feeling like giving up on your goal, REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED. Learn to control your mind, so it doesn’t control you. Your mind can either be your greatest asset or your greatest enemy. If you change the way you think and perceive things, you can change the way you feel and the energies you attract. My focus is not to look at my journey like I CAN’T have those naughty foods that my mind is telling me I want, but focus on the fact that if I stick to the process I CAN have that lean, muscular physique that I desire! For every negative thought, there is an equal and opposite POSITIVE one. Next time you catch yourself thinking in the negative, reverse it! I guarantee you will put out positive energies and attract positive outcomes because of it. 🙂 It’s all about ruling your mind, so that your mind doesn’t rule you!

With love,
B. xx

PROGRESS UPDATE NO. 2 – “You can have results or excuses – not both.”

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I just had my third body composition testing to see how far I’ve come in the last 4 weeks. This test marks the end of week 10. I’m starting to get tests closer together now so that if something isn’t working, we can change it. Going into this test I was feeling pretty deflated. I’ve been on the second phase of training for 4 weeks now and didn’t feel like I had changed. The only real changes I had noticed were a bit more size in my upper body and legs. If I had to guess, I would have thought my body fat percentage had gone up.

However the results of the test surprised me! The most exciting part is that I gained 2kg of lean muscle mass in the space of 4 weeks! The goal of this phase of training is moreso about building muscle than it is about losing fat. The weights are heavier and the reps lower. Being naturally small it is a fight for me to build muscle, so I couldn’t be happier that the training is working.  I also dropped 0.2% body fat during this phase. Although this isn’t huge, it’s good if I can still maintain my body fat level or lose a bit of fat as I build muscle, so losing 0.2% to bring me to 16% overall is a good result.  My coach was happy with this too. He is confident he will be able to get me lean easily and the most important thing is holding on to muscle mass.

I honestly thought my coach was going to ask me what the hell I’d been doing and why I hadn’t got any results this time around! I just didn’t feel different. This goes to show I need to have faith in the process – my body was responding the way it was supposed to, I just couldn’t see it. I know if I follow my coach’s instructions to a tee, I should get the results I’m after.

Dealing with setbacks 

The major set back I had this last week was coming down with a cold, losing my appetite and only really being able to stomach fresh fruit and veggies. I rarely get sick but I ran myself down after functioning on little sleep, working full time and maintaining my intensity of training. Having a cold made me crave sweet foods for a pick me up – mainly fresh fruits and soothing cold drinks for my sore throat. I prefer to rely on natural medicines when I get sick – like eating more vitamin c through oranges, carrots and berries, and taking manuka honey and green tea in order to remedy a cold. But unfortunately these things all contain sugar, which is not technically part of my comp prep diet. However I chose to put my health first and include more fresh fruit and manuka honey to try and kick the cold so I can get back into my training fast. I do believe in listening to my body, and wanted to give it the best chance to recover quickly. I’m feeling better for it and only had to take one extra rest day this week as a result.

Where to now… 

I’ve worked out that I’m sitting 18 weeks out from comp, and I’ve already been dieting for 10 weeks. I’ve still got so far to go, and it’s difficult to maintain motivation when your goal is not really in sight. I had a chat to my coach and he thinks I’ll need 12 weeks for my strict comp prep. So instead of dieting for 26 weeks in a row without a break (which would be the longest comp prep ever and not sustainable!), I’m going to get a week of ‘flexible dieting’ starting on November 30th. Essentially this is a week off from my diet so I can enjoy meals out a bit more. I won’t go completely nuts, but it will be nice to enjoy health foods like fruit smoothies, raw treats and protein bars that are not really part of my comp prep diet. I will still stick to my training regime during this time. I don’t find adhering to the training difficult, but dieting is very time consuming and can get a bit boring. It will be nice to have more variety in my foods for a week before knuckling down. Now that I have a date set for this in the foreseeable future, it should be easier to maintain discipline with something to look forward to in just 3 weeks time. 🙂

I’m looking forward to the last week on this phase of training. The goal is to keep gaining muscle mass while maintaining a low level of body fat! Bring on the gains! 😛

With love,
B. xx

Cardio – and why you DON’T need it.

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There is a common misconception – particularly amongst females – that you have to do more cardio if you want to lose weight. Coupled with the other big misconception that ‘lifting weights will make you bulky’ has led many females to turn into cardio bunnies who either won’t lift weights at all or only use light weights. Big mistake!

What if I told you steady state cardio can actually stop you from losing weight? It can, by the way. Over time, performing hours of steady-state cardio can actually cause your metabolism to slow down. The effect of this is doubled when combined with a low calorie diet. Unfortunately this seems to be the recipe of choice for most girls trying to lose weight – low calorie diet, high cardio program.

The worst part is that this will work at the start, lulling you into a false sense of security. Then your body will start to adapt to it and cause your metabolism to slow down. In order to keep getting results, you will have to keep increasing your cardio and decreasing your calories. That doesn’t sound very fun to me.

The good news is weight training actually increases your metabolism by building lean muscle mass. The more lean muscle mass you have, the greater your ability to metabolize fat. Long duration cardio can actually counteract these efforts by burning into the muscle mass you already have. So, dropping the hours of cardio for some shorter sessions of heavy lifting (whatever is heavy for you) will actually make you leaner. And don’t worry, unless you have crazy high levels of testosterone as a female, lifting weights WILL NOT MAKE YOU BULKY!

I’ll be honest, I used to do hours upon hours of cardio and wondered why I still couldn’t lose stubborn body fat, having always eaten relatively healthy and been highly active. I would try to eat less and run further, but I was burning myself out. Now, I have focused on reversing the metabolic damage I caused myself by focusing on lifting heavy weights in lower rep ranges. I NEVER do cardio, and I can EAT MORE food than I did before WHILE GETTING LEANER! That’s a lifestyle I want to live – a healthy, happy and fulfilling one rather than an extreme, restrictive and depriving one.

If you do cardio because you enjoy it, then that’s an exception. I still enjoy going for a walk with friends occasionally, but it’s more of a social thing than for exercise. The occasional run or walk won’t hinder your weight loss efforts, and some cardio may still have a place in your program particularly if you have a lot of weight to lose. But doing hours and hours of cardio will cause you nothing but pain and metabolic damage. It’s painful and ineffective, so why submit yourself to that?

The exception to this is of course HIIT (or high intensity interval training) cardio. This is where you alternate work-rest intervals to raise and lower your heart rate. You can do HIIT cardio on the treadmill, cross trainer, rower, or doing a circuit of body weight/weighted exercises (think burpees, kettlebell swings, push ups). HIIT has amazing fat-blasting potential and you only need to do it for 20 minutes to maximize its effects.

Check out this article for more on HIIT training and an example of how to do a HIIT workout:

http://www.builtlean.com/2010/06/04/high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-best-cardio-to-burn-fat/

Make the change today! You will thank me for it 🙂

With love,
B. xx