Apparently I was accidentally bulking

Confession time.

My nutrition has been, er let’s just call it “sub optimal” for a few weeks now.  And by “sub optimal” I mean wine and Chinese food and Easter candy like a boss.

Pretty much every morning I would wake up and say, “ok today is the day I get my shit together.  I can’t keep eating like this or else I’m going to start gaining weight,” but things would fall apart once I had a hard workout in the morning, arrived home starving for lunch, and raided the leftover takeout food containers.

Yeah, I know I should have just thrown the crap out and gotten it out of my house, but that’s such a waste, no?

So here’s the good news.  It’s not like I’ve done so much damage that I’m back to where I started.  I’m up a few pounds and feeling more fluffy than I have in months around my middle, but I’ve done a great job with meal prep this week and have actually given myself the tools for success.

What’s more, I’ve been working out like a freaking beast.  Other than taking a few days off last week to let my body recover from everything I’ve been putting it through, I’ve been extremely consistent and am seeing some darn heavy weight come off the ground on all of my lifts.

Today I took progress pictures just to gauge where I’m at, and honestly in part to make myself feel better that I haven’t completely ballooned up.  I mean, it’s not like I can actually see the jelly beans hanging off my thighs or anything.

But I noticed something surprising in my pics.

Whereas when I first started this weight loss journey, I was eating at a pretty solid calorie deficit to help my body to shed fat, over these past few weeks I’ve been eating at a pretty even calorie balance, and some days in surplus.

And let me tell you, I’ve got GAINZ.  Like for real.  My arms are looking jacked, and my booty is more HELLO than I’ve ever seen it.

Seeeee?

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 2.05.47 PM

So not all is lost with my junk food binge.  Yeah, it’s time to stop putting crap in my body and get my pie hole under control, but putting on a little muscle in the process was a surprising and not entirely unwelcome side effect.

How is your nutrition going lately readers?  Anyone want to be accountable with me and get yourself back on track?

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Repeat after me: It’s ok to take a rest day

rest day

My workouts have been awesome lately.  I’ve had several solid weeks of training, and have managed to fit in not only my runs in preparation for the upcoming half marathon I’ll be doing, but several rides, and weight training 5x per week.

My diet has been, uh, ok I guess, but given my activity level I’m getting away with eating a lot of things I normally wouldn’t and still maintaining my weight.  Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight can probably tell you, gaining it back is among one of my biggest fears, so I’m happy that I seem to be holding pretty steady.

Yesterday I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed just like every other day, but within about 10 minutes of getting out of bed my energy was zapped.

My entire body hurt.  I mean, I’ve been sore daily for the past several weeks and the level of ouch was about normal, but for some reason, yesterday it was hitting me particularly hard how sore I was.

And I was tiered.  Even after my usual cup of coffee in the morning I was still dragging, and just didn’t have it in me.

I made the executive decision to skip my morning Yoga class, and it was a good one.

By 3 o’clock I was ready for a nap, and my body told me without hesitation that I would not be riding that night.

I won’t lie, I tried to pep talk myself into it.

I mean, it’s only Wednesday.  I can’t skip a workout this early in the week.

And I ate rice with lunch.  RICE!  That’s carbs, I need to work that off, right?

And what about cross training?  I mean, riding my bike is great cross training for this run I’m doing and I don’t want to take a step backwards in my fitness, do I?

And oh my god, the CALORIES!  If I don’t workout how am I going to burn at least 500 calories over what I eat so I can continue losing weight?

So yeah, I’m more than a little crazy.  But after a few hours of playing this game with myself I finally said ENOUGH.

My body needed rest.  Even today, I’ve decided to postpone my long run for the week (9 miles) until tomorrow to give my body just a little more time to recover.

Sure, there’s a million reasons for me to train, but sometimes we also need to realize when our bodies are actually trying to tell us something.

There’s a definite difference between being lazy or unmotivated, and legitimately needing rest and recovery.  It took me awhile yesterday to realize and understand, I’m on the recovery end of that spectrum.

So the moral of the story for today, kittens, is that it’s ok to take a rest day.  Learn from my inner struggle and listen to your body.  It’s the best way to prevent getting burned out, prevent injury, and ensure that you love your training every day.

Anyone else have a hard time taking an unplanned day off?  How do you cope?

Barre 3 Class Review

Lately, I’m all about trying out new fitness classes.  I recently gave OrangeTheory a try, and absolutely loved it, so when I heard about a new Barre 3 studio opening just around the corner from my house I was intrigued.

When I saw they were offering free classes during their Grand Opening week, I decided I had to give it a try.

I recruited one of my femme fitness friends to sign up and come along for the ride as we decided to take on our first ever Barre class.  We had no idea what to expect, and the class was definitely a different animal than we were prepared for.

Read on for my full review about my Barre 3 experience.

What is Barre 3?

Barre 3 takes an approach to fitness that’s different than anything in my current workout repertoire.

According to their website:

Barre 3 is where ballet barre meets yoga and pilates

 

The low impact workout incorporates three main movement elements.  Large, dynamic movements, or “moving big” as they called in in class are used in the warm up and to help to release the lactic acid build up throughout the workout.  Isometric holds are seen throughout the workout, typically after long continuous sets, and they are designed to really fatigue your muscles and give you a bit of the shakes.  Finally, the most commonly seen element are the 1 inch movements for most every major body part.  These tiny contracts create heat and a “burn” in your muscles throughout the duration of the workout.

barre 3 props

All of these things are achieved with the help of some nifty equipment including very small weights, balls, and straps, not to mention popular dance music with a fun pounding beat.

The Studio

While the class didn’t exactly tickle my fancy, the studio itself rocked my world.

barre 3 studio

Not only was everything brand spankin’ new, but it was an aesthetically gorgeous design built to specifically cater to their female clientele.

The lobby was bright and welcoming with a child care alcove off to one side complete with games, toys, and staff to supervise.  They had a large merchandise area with more than one thing that was calling to my checkbook.

barre 3 merchandise

The storage area was thoughtfully designed with cubbies for shoes, socks, cell phones and keys on top of spacious benches for preparing for class.  The restrooms were spotless and well stocked with fun extras like body spray, hand lotion, tampons, towels and tampons.

The studio itself had barre’s on both sides, one wall of mirrors, and probably about 30 stations for participants.  Like the rest of the building, it was clean and tidy, and well organized.

The Class

The class itself began with a lengthy warm up.  For the first 10 minutes or so we concentrated on “moving big” to wake up our muscles, and added in some deep stretching.  The instructor did an exceptional job of moving around the room to ensure everyone could see her, giving modifications, and keeping the energy high.

After the warm up we went to the bar, and for the next 30 or so minutes we ran through a series of exercises comprised of isometric holds, 1 inch movements, and breaks to stretch out.

Following this piece we went down to the floor on mats for a 10 minute series of glute bridge work, and ended the class with around 10 minutes of ab work.

What I liked:

The class format was dynamic, moving quickly from one exercise to the next and doing a good job of giving us breaks and large movements to flush out our muscles before going to the next thing.

The music was fantastic, and more of what I would have expected in a traditional group exercise class.  I was actually kind of relieved that it wasn’t Yoga-esque music, as the tracks they were playing were really fun and current and motivational.

The instructor, Jenna, was great.  She was perky and fun, had no problems showing us modifications, and even at times did them herself.  She gave everyone as much individual attention as they needed to do the movements safely and effectively, which was great to see considering how many new exercisers were in the class.

Jenna

Jenna

What didn’t do it for me:

All that said, this workout wasn’t one I would ever do again.  While I can’t claim that I didn’t sweat (it was actually pouring off of me in buckets by the end of the workout), I didn’t feel particularly challenged in the workout.

The movements weren’t exactly easy, and while I certainly felt the burn during some of the isometric holds, I felt like there wasn’t much functional about the workout.  I will never, ever need to do 10 full minutes of hip thrusts in real life, and while it burned in the moment, my glutes and hamstrings are strong enough from other training and I had no soreness at all the next day.

In fact, once the workout was over I felt similar to what I might have felt like after a hard pilates class, but without the benefits of any deep stretching.

All of that said, I consider myself to be pretty fit.  I can see this class format being really welcoming for anyone who is new to exercise and like a group fitness environment.

The Cost

As a new studio, this Barre 3 location offered several new client specials and rates to help to build their membership.

They have both an unlimited membership option at between $55-$99 per month, depending on the length of your commitment.  They also offered class packages where you could buy 1-30 classes at a time for between $20 and $15 per class, depending on the number you purchased at once (i.e. 1 class is $10, a 30 class package is $450, or $15 per class).

To me, the pricing was on par with the quality of the studio, the area it’s located in, and the clientele that they cater to.

Conclusion

While this wasn’t a workout for me, Barre 3 is totally something everyone should try at least once.  It’s nothing like anything else out there, including yoga, pilates or even ballet itself, and is a completely unique fitness experience.

Be ready to sweat, wear your cutest leggings, and be prepared to do enough hip thrusts that you’ll get the giggles.

Ok, so maybe you won’t actually get the giggles, maybe that’s just the prepubescent boy who lives in my head and comes out at the most inappropriate moments.

 

With my girl, Jill, after class.

With my girl, Jill, after class.

 


All right readers, it’s your turn.  Have you ever tried Barre 3?  Was it for you?  What did you love about it?  And importantly, what should I try next? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

Muscle Ups Blew Up the Internet

Last night the Crossfit Open workout 15.3 was announced, and if you do Crossfit you probably already know, the world exploded.

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The workout is a 14 minute AMRAP beginning with 7 muscle ups and then moving to 50 wall balls and 100 double unders.  While traditionally the Open workouts have included this complex gymnastic movement, it has usually followed an easier, more accessible movement allowing the wide range of participants who sign up for the Open to at least receive some sort of score for the week.

Obviously, for 15.3 this isn’t the case, and people are seriously pissed.

Part of me understands, and even sympathizes with those who are saying that signing up for the Open is BS and a waste of money.  Heck, I don’t have muscle ups in my repertoire either.

But let’s be honest kids, they have shown up as a moment every single year since the inception of the Crossfit Open.  It’s not like we didn’t expect to see them.

And with the new scaled Open option available to participants this year, it’s not really any surprise that the Rx version of the workouts are more challenging than what we’ve seen in previous years, is it?

All of that said, I think there’s one very simple thing Crossfit could have done leading up to the Open to avoid all of controversy floating around on the interwebz right now.

Release workout standards prior to the Open while folks are registering.

If you look at other Crossfit competitions around the country, it’s a common practice to release workout standards leading up to the event for the Rx and Scaled divisions.  Not the workouts themselves mind you, but just a list of movements that participants should be both able and comfortable doing with weights they should easily be able to move in each category.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll even see the movements in a workout, but it gives participants an idea of what they should be able to do for each category.  Don’t have muscle ups, chest to bar pull ups, or heavy snatches or deadlifts?  Then sign up for the scaled category and you’ll be sure to be able to complete the movements as prescribed.

In the case of the Open, is this overkill?  Yeah, maybe.  Sure, the open is a worldwide competition that’s purpose is to whittle down tens of thousands of competitors into just the best of the best for the new regional competitions, so it’s a given that the workout are going to be designed to eliminate everyone but the best from getting high scores.

But to keep the raging masses happy, this is my advice to Crossfit.

So readers, how do you feel about 15.3?  Are you doing the Open this year?  Do you think having standards would have helped you know which category to sign up for?

Spicy Treadmill Hill Interval Workout

hamster wheel

Today I’m suffering from one heck of a sunburn after a charity ride this weekend.  Now that all my northern followers want to punch me in the face, I will continue to complain because I need to get in a little run today, which means doing it in the treadmill.  If there’s snow and ice where you live, my bet is you’ve become more than a little familiar with this torture device over the winter months.

If you’re like me, you might refer to these as “dreadmill” workouts.  I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t love running on my own personal hamster wheel at the gym.

To keep it spicy and interesting, I love this thirty minute hill interval workout below.  I’ve added in my own personal (and oh so eclectic) playlist based on the beats per minute that will match my running stride.

Feel free to use it, and if you don’t like the song suggestion check out this website to find another with the same beats to keep your heart rate up and your legs moving.  I’ve included songs from every different genre out there, so hopefully there’s something you love, and maybe even new inspiration for your playlist!

For the workout, the effort is based on an RPE, or a rate of perceived exertion.  This is based on a scale of 1-10, 1 being an easy peasy stroll through the mall and 10 being a level of effort you couldn’t hold for more than a few seconds.  You’ll notice I ramp it up and hit all the way up to an RPE of 9, so while puke isn’t eminent, it is possible.

I didn’t include the speed, as we’re all different at what pace we run (read slow as shit here), so  use the RPE as your guide, and be sure to use the incline to really give your legs and heart a spicy little workout.

Once you’ve given it a try, don’t forget to let me know what you think!  Leave  a comment, a favorite workout song, or post your own boredom busting treadmill routine for me to try.  I’m always looking fun new ways to shake it up!

 

Time

Effort

Incline

Song

0:00-3:00

Warm Up RPE 2

1%-3% (Increase 1% each minute during the warm up)

Maroon 5- Maps

3:00-7:00

Jog RPE 5

3%

Jeremiah- Down on Me

7:00-11:00

Hill Run RPE 8

5%

Taylor Swift-Shake it Off

11:00-15:00

Jog RPE 5

3%

T-Pain- Church

15:00-18:00

Recovery RPE 3

1%

Meghan Trainor- All About that Bass

18:00-22:00

Hill Walk RPE 7

8%

Luke Bryan- Country Girl Shake it For Me

22:00-24:30

Hill Run RPE 9

8%

Slipknot- Wait and Bleed

24:30-29:30

Hill Walk RPE 6

6%

The Who- Baba O’Reiley

29:30-32:00

Cool Down

1%

Kelly Clarkson- Stronger

Does it still count as running if turtles are lapping me?

Here’s a surprise.  I can run over 3 miles and not pewp my pants.  At least, that appears to be the case so far.

On Wednesday, this happened:

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Now, I’m not actually sure that it counts as running since I’ve seen little old ladies in my neighborhood power walk faster than a 14:20 mile, but whatever, I got it done.

It was beautiful and sunny and a day that couldn’t be missed, and I was grateful to spend so much of it outside.  Sweating.   And smiling.  But sweating none the less.

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Why am I doing all this running, you ask?  (Or maybe you didn’t, but hey you’re reading and I’m enlightening so go with it…)

Because this girl is officially signed up for the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Clearwater coming up on April 11th!

iron girl

While I haven’t been posting about it much, I’ve been diligently following Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training Program for novices, and am really starting to get excited for the race.

While nearly 7 miles didn’t feel good by any stretch, it felt possible.  And even the last mile or two I was still jogging with frequent walk breaks.  My legs were tiered, but not completely spent, and I am starting to build the confidence that I will be able to keep moving forward for over 13 miles.

With just over six weeks left until race day, this is where things get serious.  My long runs increase a mile every week, so the next few weeks have me peaking at the 10 mile mark.  I’m also supplementing heavily with cycling, which is amazing for cross training my cardiovascular system while giving my knees and ankles a break.

And, of course, I’m still weight training every day.

This is the first time in a long time that I’ve felt this strong and healthy. Here’s hoping before race day I also start feeling a bit fast.

My goal for this event is to finish in under 3:15 with a stretch goal of finishing in under 3.  The last time I did this event was in 2011 (good God has it been that long?!) and I finished in 3 hours and 47 seconds.  My cardio isn’t as strong this time around, but who knows what improvements 6 weeks will bring?

And let’s face it, I’m really just in it for the t-shirt and medal anyway.

iron girl medalAre any of my readers training for a spring race?  What are you running?  How is your training going?  Fill me in dudes and dudettes! 

5 Ways to Lose Fat, Not Muscle

fat-cartoon

All in all, weight loss is pretty simple.  Last week I talked about my top 10 weight loss tips, and as you can see, none of them require anything fancy to get the job done.

That said, there are a few key things that you can do in the gym, and out of it, to ensure that the weight that you’re dropping is actually the body fat you’re trying to lose, and not the muscle that will rev your metabolism and give you the lean look you’re going for.

1.  Don’t do too much cardio

Yes, cardio is an important component of overall fitness, but when it comes to fat loss, doing too much cardio can actually be counter productive.  Studies show that cardio workouts over 45 minutes can sometimes result in increased cortisol levels, muscle loss, overuse injuries, and decreased power output during your workouts.

For the best fat loss results, keep your cardio sessions shorter and intense.  High intensity interval training (or HIIT) is a great way to get in a hard as hell cardio workout in 20-30 minutes that will melt fat but not muscle.  Check out this treadmill workout for one of my favorites.

2.  Lift weights

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, lifting weights is CRUCIAL for fat and weight loss.  If you’re going to start somewhere, start with weights.  In this article by Fitness Rx for Women they site a research study that found that combining calorie restriction with cardiovascular exercise can result in your body using your muscle for energy instead of fat.  However, the same study said that by lifting weights your body would be able to maintain it’s lean muscle mass, and lose weight.

We all know that weight loss means you take in less calories than you use in a day, but without lifting weights it’s possible you will not lose fat.  Lift heavy, lift often.  When you only have time for a short workout, choose weights over cardio.  Your metabolism will thank you.

3.  Eat enough, and eat it in protein and veggies

Now that I’ve said to cut calories, I feel like it’s important to note that this isn’t an example of a scenario where a little is good and a lot is better.  Yes, you need to consume less than you burn on a daily basis, but do not take that to an extreme.  Rapid weight loss will not equal rapid fat loss, so it’s important you still eat enough to fuel your workouts and daily activities.  Get the majority of your nutrition from proteins, vegetables and healthy fats to help give your body the nutrients it needs to build muscle, and burn fat.

4.  Take a chill pill

It might surprise you to learn that being stressed can actually make it harder for your body to let go of your fat stores.  High stress levels can lead to an increase in the hormone cortisol.  While cortisol in normal levels is important to healthy functions within your body, when you get all jazzed out for days or weeks at a time and your levels spike it can create nasty side effects like elevated blood pressure, increased abdominal fat, reduced fat burning abilities, insulin resistance, and put you at cardiovascular risk.

Not all stress is controllable, but try practicing deep breathing, meditation or yoga to help your mind unwind.  Work through your stresses as best as you can, and most importantly, be sure to get enough sleep every night to help give your body and mind the time it needs to recharge and reboot.

5.  Stop being such a wine-o (or beer babe, or whatever your drink of choice is)

I really, truly attribute most of my weight loss to the fact that I cut back my alcohol consumption dramatically and now only have a drink (or two) once a week at most.

There’s a host of scientific reasons why that’s probably true, but here’s my version of it.  One, booze has a lot of calories.  Two, when you drink booze, french fries and pizza suddenly sound like an amazing idea.  Three, the day after drinking an entire bottle of booze you desperately need something greasy to make your stomach feel better.  And four, combined with all that nonsense, alcohol actually surpasses your metabolism in the process so not only are you consuming entirely too many calories, but your body is slowing down while you’re doing it.

I’m all for having treats and going out and having fun, but if you are like I was and drinking most nights of the week, cut it back and reap the rewards.


I am a cardio queen, so I still struggle the most with getting in my lifting on days I just don’t want to.  What about you readers?  What’s your biggest struggle in trying to lose fat?