Monday, August 8, 2016

Finishing Phase One of Nia Shanks's Beautiful Badass Strength Program - Challenge Notes

It's summertime! I haven't been posting. But I have been feeling fantastic through this summer. I got bored with my planned out fitness macrocycle, which gives me motivation to try to create one that's more interesting, but then my favorite fitness blogger released a six-month program that really called to me. I love Nia Shanks's no-bullshit approach to fitness, her encouragement to focus on the mental aspect of my journey, and her freaking workout programs. Her workouts are boss. The first month consisted of a four-day, upper/lower split, and holy shit I did it. I did sixteen strength workouts in four weeks! The phase one challenge was to focus on non aesthetic victories, which I thought I was pretty good at, but it's not always easy. I tried to stay mindful of my vanity - my desire to look at my body each and every time I pass a mirror or any reflective glass. Sometimes I'm looking at my body with joy and contentment, which is where I want to be. But sometimes I'm looking at it and screaming, "Why is that fat still there, Lisa?!?! Why don't you stop eating so much damn food and drinking so much damn beer so you can get SKINNY like you've always wanted?!?!" and that's not for me. That doesn't serve me. That won't be this Lisa.

Phase One helped me discover some pretty cool things:

  • I can lift a 30lb dumbbell over my head doing push presses! I can also safely lower it without disturbing a shoulder injury I experienced last fall.
  • I can do front squats! I can fold my arms and let the barbell sit on my shoulders and not choke!
  • Lifting regularly makes my job easier and more fun. I pushed a 1600 pound pallet from my warehouse to the next one over this morning, by myself. Yeah it was on a pallet jack but still... I'm telling you, it's amazing that my body can do this.
  • People sometimes like my point of view, even when it opposes the typical, "Pain is fat leaving your body! No excuses ever!" mentality. The Facebook group for this program has been so supportive, so friendly, and so fun. A month has gone by and no one has gotten into an argument over the merits of strength vs. cardio or white vs. brown carbs. This is glorious.
  • I still want to weigh myself sometimes, even though I've learned repeatedly that the amount I weigh does not at all correlate to how healthy I live and feel.
Phase Two switches us from a four-day split over to three total-body workouts per week. So I gain a day with no need to go to the gym, which is nice. There really wasn't much room in the first phase for me to do any of my favorite at-home cardio videos, like kickboxing, horribly choreographed but fun dancing, and more flowy yoga. We're encouraged to do thirty minutes of anything we consider ENJOYABLE or FUN on our days off from strength training. I'm definitely going to bust out Amy Bento's Rumble this week, and that's exciting!

The challenge from phase two is about nutrition, and I'm working this morning on trying to figure out which of her three tips to try to implement for the month. They're all great. The first one is to identify where things go off track with our eating habits. I already know that right around Thursday or Friday (hey, some weeks it's Tuesday), I stop giving as much fuck about what I'm putting into my body. The work week has me stressed, my meal plan only gets us through Thursday dinner, I want to drink. I've been taking some steps to combat this and am doing well on these.

The second tip is to only enjoy the "less than healthy" food that you TRULY ENJOY - don't snack on stuff just because it's around. I'm pretty good about this. I enjoy ice cream, cakes, cookies on occasion, and usually when we've prepared them at home with mostly whole foods. I'm good at saying no when I don't really want something. In most aspects of life, thankfully.

The third tip is to start over with a clean slate each time I "slip up" on these goals I'm already working. No beating myself up. No exercising it away. No dwelling. Just taking an honest look to investigate the why and how. I'm down with this one. I feel I generally need to focus on progressing from mindless eating to mindful eating. I might try to practice the chew meditation my therapist taught me a few times this month.

Anyways, I'm loving this program! Boss is out this week so I'm in charge of the shop and don't have much time, so dropping down to 3x/week at the gym is right on time woo!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Feeling Great Headed Into Microcycle 3

Hello, Becca!

My very dear friend told me the other day that she liked my last blog post. I was like, "Whoa! How did you know I posted?" Nobody reads my blog, and I don't do shit to promote it. I just like to write here sometimes. My blogs pop into her RSS feed though! So I do know that I have one devoted reader. She has a really cool Etsy shop - HERE is a link.

So, I can't really express how insanely amazing I've been feeling lately. Things in every aspect of my life have been smooth sailing. My marriage has never been better. My husband told me the other day that since I went off of oral contraceptives a little over a month ago (no, we are not trying to conceive), my moods and demeanor have been so pleasant and easygoing. We were both terrified that the hormonal adjustments would wreak havoc on my moods and sanity. I have a history of, well, just being kind of crazy sometimes. As a teenager, I tried at least three different types of birth control before finding one that didn't worsen my PMS symptoms - particularly, making me batshit insane for at least two weeks out of every month. I mean, I was a teenage girl. Teenage girls are batshit insane half the time. Also, I had terrifyingly painful cramps before and during my period, diagnosed as dysmenorrhea. It was a struggle to find the right pill for this chick. Once I found one that didn't send me into a tornado of bitchy, screaming in agony, throwing chairs at my parents insanity - I stuck with it. For eighteen years. More than half my life. Thus, I was afraid that stopping would lead to some of the issues from my past. I can't say that some issues won't pop up, because it's only been a month and a half of adjustment so far, but holy hell this is great! The only negative effect I've noticed is that the first couple of weeks, my face went from dry to oilslicked, but it kind of evened itself out.

Mindfulness has been easier to come by lately, too! It's been a while since I've been meditating this regularly, about five days out of the week. The things in my life that are not going swimmingly right now, like issues at work, dealing with tenants when I really just want to be alone in the evenings, worries about the financial future, etc... these things are existing in the same manner that they were before, but I am relating to them differently. I'm doing really well with knowing what I can change and what I cannot - and how to respond with compassion to the things that I cannot help. I'm doing metta, or lovingkindness meditation at least once each week, and that seems to have helped reduce some of my general annoyances during work and my commute (such a feat! I even let people in my lane sometimes!).

And fitness - wow. I'm still continuing on with my lower intensity program design, which I thought would be torturous, but it's great! I'm actually meeting all my planned goals for strength, cardio, mind/body, and nutrition each week. I promised myself I'd buy some new sneakers if I met all my goals in April, and I freaking did it! So now I have to guy new sneakers which should be exciting, but I'm dreading it. My last pair of Asics was incredible and lasted half a year, but then I bought the same style, same size from Amazon - and they hurt my feet. I've dealt with it since November and worn the hell out of them, so it's time for new shoes regardless... but I don't want to choose a new brand. Brand loyalty is so comforting because, hey! no decisions to make. I need to just head to the outlets in Williamsburg on my own one day and try on several pairs from several stores. I have weird, smelly, ugly foot issues so other peoples' reviews on Amazon don't do much good. I gotta walk in 'em before I commit this time.

Moving into week 5 of my self-designed program, here are the general goals:
- Strength - complete 3 strength sessions per week (exercises listed below)
- Cardio - increase weekly Session RPE to 380 (from 350 last week) and weekly minutes to 100 total, coming from at least three different sessions
- Mind/Body - log at least two hours total per week (can be yoga or meditation) and finish Chapter One of a Yoga Anatomy book I've been "reading" for over a year haha.
- Nutrition - keep at least ONE freaking weekend day (Fri, Sat, or Sun) free of alcohol and sodas. I usually don't like restrictive goals (I prefer something like, "add a bowl of greens daily" because yay adding food), but I would like to see myself be a little more mindful on the weekends, and have my actions mirror my intentions for my self-care. At this point, I usually stop at The Office on my way home from work Friday for my Legend Brown, pick up a 12 pack before getting home, and sometimes pick up more beer or wine on Saturday because we've already killed the 12 pack. I freaking love beer.

Here are the strength exercises I've come up with for this third microcyle. I'm moving from the stability/mobility training into movement training, and aiming to really solidify my form on some basic movements before I add weight back to my routine. Focus has shifted from endurance to general fitness, so there are less sets and slightly longer rests, but still high reps.

The five basic movements that we make are bending/lifting, pushing, pulling, single leg movements (like walking - yeah, we shift from foot to foot... walking is so much more complex than we think about!), and rotational movements. I tried to include some exercises to address all categories.

Microcycle Three Strength Routine:
- Bodyweight squats 2x15
- Single leg kick extensions 2x15
- Forward lunge 1x15
- Triceps dips 2x15
- Band lat pulldowns 2x15
- Pushups 2x15
- Band side crunches 2x15
- Plank tucks 2x15

Some notes:
- I only included one set of lunges because I freaking hate lunges. However, after finishing up the moves on Monday, I felt great and threw in another set of ten lunges because I wanted to! I flippin' wanted to!
- I tried using one chair for my tricep dips on Monday but felt some shoulder discomfort, so I did a set of tricep extensions with the band instead. This afternoon, I plan to grab a second chair and do the dips between them. Such a tough exercise but so strengthening!
- I can still only do three perfect pushups, but I finish the set with incline pushups using our kitchen table.
- Plank tucks are what I call it when I hold plank and alternate slowly moving one knee towards the opposite elbow - kind of like really slow, focused mountain climbers.

I hope anyone reading has a phenomenal May!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Scapulothoracic Stability and Glenohumeral Mobility

Microcycle Two in my personal journey to re-establish foundational stability and mobility is focused on stabilizing the scapula and thoracic spine, enhancing mobility in the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint, building better knee stability, and increasing ankle mobility. This is in line with the progressions taught in the ACE Personal Trainer manual to use with complete beginners to fitness. I'm experimenting with these workouts to see how challenging they seem, how easy they are to show up for, and to ensure that I've got my foundation strong and balanced.

One of my favorite benefits of regular physical activity is that it brings a heightened awareness about my body and the way it moves, my mental disposition towards fitness, and my strengths and weaknesses in all areas of my life. It increases mindfulness, which is a goal I'm always working towards. I've practiced mindfulness training for six years now, but it's still so easy to not think about it for a few days and then suddenly end up with a shoulder injury because I was thinking about fireflies while doing barbell overhead presses. Or suddenly snap at my husband for bringing home girl scout cookies, when I could easily just NOT EAT THEM and am actually just snapping because my hormones are so, so, so annoying right now.

Working through the first microcyle at the beginning of this month, I struggled with guilt for "not doing enough." Jesus freaking christ. I'm doing enough. I actually wrote a workout plan and am testing it out to possibly use with future clients. I woke up at 3:30am nine times during those two weeks to complete a strength workout or just to get some yoga and meditation time. Bird dogs, dead bugs, bridges, and planks are really great exercises for strengthening my core. Still, guilt. So lame. I tried to be mindful of it, give the feeling attention, but not validate the feeling. Because it's invalid. I am enough.

This week, however, I strayed from my well-designed, minimalist program to try a sandbell class after work on Tuesday. I had already done my strength workout before work and had a pretty strenUous day in the warehouse, but I'm itching to do more group fitness classes for the camaraderie. Part of it was the guilt reminding me that only six months ago I was deadlifting and squatting, so why shouldn't I be able to throw around a 6lb sandbell even though I'd already done a strength workout that day?

I am so, so, SO FREAKING SORE! I definitely overdid it. Soreness is to be expected with a new modality, but this almost has me unable to walk. My DOMS is always the worst on day 2 following the workout, and this time it has worsened into day 3. I'm foam rolling, doing some dynamic stretching, and taking it easy, but whoo-whee! I've learned that a) when my plan is to take it easy for four weeks, take it easy and b) I enjoy group exercise fitness, but I need to learn to work at my own pace and ability rather than try to keep up with the rest of the class. Alternate some reps when I need to. Stop trying to be every god damned thing in every god damned area of my life.

The soreness led me to skip my second strength workout in this microcyle, and honestly, I plan on doing it after work today, but I know myself. Myself wants to stop at the bar and get a cold beer on her way home from work today, because myself has has another pretty rough week at work. Myself will only be adding onto the Pile O' Guilt, but that's going to be okay.

Anyways, here are the exercises from my Microcycle Two. The focus is on endurance for these joints and smaller muscles, so I'm completing each high-rep set with less than thirty seconds rest between them. I'm doing this three times a week on alternating days.

2x20 - Band shoulder stacking (holding onto the ends of an anchored resistance band while stacking my shoulders back and down, really focusing on the isolation)
2x20 - Incline pushups off my kitchen table
3x15 - Band internal shoulder rotations
3x15 - Band external shoulder rotations
2x20 - Thoracic openers from quadruped position
3x15 - Chair squat
2x20 - Ankles rock back and forth
2x20 - Bird dogs
3x15 - Dead bugs
3x45seconds - Planks

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

2016 Update

I don't have any excuses available for why I haven't blogged in over a year. So I won't provide any. Jump to the update!

I earned my ACE Personal Trainer certification last month, which provided the CECs (continuing education credits) to renew my Group Fitness Instructor certification. Both are good through spring 2018! This is so exciting to me! I might not even use the certifications to earn money or provide services, but I will definitely use the information in my own fitness and health programming. I think it's a good thing to push myself to continue to learn new things, especially new things with tests that I can take to prove to myself that I'm comprehending the information. And prove to myself that I'm not worthless, stupid, or pointlessly taking up space on this planet.

Major fitness goals this year are to quit smoking (Jesus freaking Christ, smoking is against everything I have become) and to do a pull-up. I also included in my macrocycle goals that I'd like to be able to bust out ten real push-ups on the floor. I've done several weight training programs, but push-ups remain my nemesis. Currently I can do three or four before I use an incline to crank out the rest (I read in New Rules of Lifting that this is more effective in training for pushing movements than doing push-ups on my knees.).

Married life is still fantastic. We're both still balancing our demanding jobs and commutes with precious hours of time together in the evenings and on weekends. I wish we could travel more this year, but we're still blessed. We have a camping trip to Asheville, NC planned in May and will be flying to Denver to visit my sister-in-law at the end of the summer. I've never been to either city before, and both are well-known for having amazing beer, so I'm pretty stoked on our destinations for 2018. I'm just pouty because I want to plan a cruise. Which is ridiculous, because I couldn't see straight while driving for a week after my cruise last fall, and I'm always just pushing away the thoughts about how lame crew life must be and all the waste being dumped at sea. 

There are still a lot of areas in life where my actions are not matching up with my values and intentions. But that's okay, because I see the same thing in every single person I know. We're all doing the best we can in each moment.