Friday, July 1, 2011

2011 Ultimate Blog Challenge

I've been busy at work and decided to wait to update my blogs until the 2011 Ultimate Blog Challenge started. Today is the day. I'm waiting for my confirmation e-mail and instructions. Can't wait to start blogging again!

You can find the challenge here:

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Little Break, Kind of

I recently started a new job and expected to not be around for a week or so while I got used to things. However, I didn't expect such a HUGE change in my schedule! For the first week I was getting up between 3:45 and 4 am. Yes, AM. As in "in the morning," before the sun rises. It reminded me a lot of days I had spent training while I was in the Army. Running mile after mile watching the sunrise.

Fortunately, I did not have to run mile after mile. I do walk, though. A lot. My first few days I walked between 7.5 and 9 miles during my work shift. These ranged from seven-and-a-half to 8 hour shifts, so I am averaging about a mile per hour. I am working at Safeway in the Deli. Now, I expected to walk maybe 3 to 4 miles during a full eight-hour shift. But 9 miles? I would have prepared for that.

As it is, I am completely pooped. Worn out. Beat down. My eating got completely off track as I started looking for sugary "boosts" to get me through the day. Needless to say I gained almost 5 pounds since I started work. I have not lifted weights during this time either. I am just too worn out.

Thankfully, my body is beginning to adjust and I am getting back on track with my eating. In the past two or three days I have lost 4 of the 5 pounds I gained and my measurements are all almost back to where they were. Now comes the conundrum - do I continue to lose weight or stay where I'm at? I had actually planned on gaining a couple of pounds because I was feeling too skinny, but now that my weight shot up, I am happily on my way back to where I was.

I have never been at this body fat percentage before, and it is taking a lot to adjust to seeing myself in the mirror. While I hope to start picking up the weights again soon, I have no idea where my journey is headed right now. How does one decide what their "goal" really is? I guess for me I will just keep taking measurements and keep taking pictures. I can't tell when I look in the mirror, but a picture is very revealing.

I may not be weight lifting at the moment, but at least I made my 50 Miles in May goal for my group. I have no doubt I will make that goal for the group in June as well. Or twice that.

Happy Workouts!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Getting Back on Track

We've all been there. Sugary sweets at the office, tempting smells from a nearby bakery, the promise from friends, co-workers, and family that one bite "won't hurt." But one bite is never just one bite. Soon we are taking another and another, and before we know it half the bag of chips is gone, or the entire piece of cake, or we are reaching for the bread basket. Again.

So what do we do? It's easy to get discouraged, frustrated, and even cry when we realize we've "blown it" again. But the truth is, you haven't blown it. You've made your decision, and now it's time to make a new one. Don't let a slip-up turn into a tidal wave of bad decisions. A piece of cake or cookie is not an excuse to blow the rest of the day and go on an eating binge. Take a deep breath, throw away the rest of whatever you're eating (if there's any left), wash the plate, and resolve to get back on track immediately.

It can be helpful to drink a glass of water and go on a 5-minute walk. During this short time, think about why you ate what you did. Are you feeling deprived? Have you gotten closer to your goals and feel like you deserve a reward? Were you hungry because you forgot your snack? Or did you cave in to peer pressure? Whatever the reason, resolve to find a better solution next time. Figure out when you need to work something that's a little more indulgent into your schedule. Deprivation can lead to over-indulgence later, so finding the right balance for you and your lifestyle is key. Find other rewards for your acheivements, and make sure you are planning all of your meals in advance and have snacks on hand.

It is very important to not change your exercise routine or try to "exercise out" all of the calories. Also, do not try to starve yourself later because of a slip-up. These are both symptoms of eating disorders and can lead to a lot of issues. Just get back on track and go from where you are.

This past week I have been ill from a stomach virus. The first few days I could barely eat anything. I pretty much went off my plan, although I was able to keep around my Net Carb levels for several days. The past couple of days, though, my eating has gotten out of control. I think one sugary snack led to another and another. Even though the scale is not punishing me, I know that these things aren't good for my body, so I have to resolve to do better. Starting now.

It happens to all of us. What we have to remember is that it's not our past that defines us. It is who we are and what decisions we are making right now that determine who we will become. It's time to get on the path we want to be on. At any point we can change directions and get back on track. Small changes lead to bigger ones, so start now. Today I'm going to make sure I get more than my minimum number of veggies in. What are you going to do?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

It's Not Just about Losing Weight

I'm a big fan of gaining muscle and trying to lose fat. It is not just about the number on the scale. So this past week when I got a stomach illness I was really upset about the amount of weight I was losing. Obviously, it would mostly be muscle. My nutrition was definitely not up to par, but when you are really sick and can't keep much in you, what can you do?

I had several people e-mail me to compliment me on my weight loss this week, even though I stated in my journal several times that I was ill and that this was not a healthy way to lose.

One woman wrote me and stated, "Wow - I wish I could get the stomach flu - I bet I could lose some serious pounds!"

This is one of the most unhealthy attitudes I've come across in a while. Being so obsessed about the number on the scale that you would like to get ill? Not a good idea.

So please remember, a healthy weight loss averages out to 1-2 pounds a week, preferably of fat loss. Getting ill is NOT a good way to lose. As for me, I was finally able to exercise this evening - fingers crossed that I don't relapse. I expect the scale to move back up, and that's just fine by me. :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just Eat Already!

One of the first things I look at when someone complains that they are not losing weight or asks for exercise advice is how much they are eating. It seems that of the many misconceptions running rampant out there that starving yourself to lose weight is high on many people's lists. Listen: starving yourself DOES NOT work. It just doesn't. When people try to put themselves into a fake starvation mode, their bodies hold on to every ounce that they possibly can. What people end up losing is muscle, connective tissue, and organ tissue. How could anyone think this is good or healthy?

What you want to lose is fat. Sure, most people will end up losing a litte bit of muscle when they go on a diet. However, I have found that on the Atkins plan I lose mostly fat. When I added weight lifting back into my schedule, I put on 5 pounds of lean muscle mass in just over a month. By taking your measurements and plugging them into a site such as this one: you can track the important things like lean muscle mass and body fat percentage. In 2 1/2 months on Atkins I lost 21 pounds of fat, gained 5 pounds of lean muscle mass, lost over 10% body fat, and over 19 inches! No scale will tell you all that. Incidentally, the scale says I've lost 16 pounds and 6% body fat. It is wrong.

So how do you lose all this fat? You have to get enough calories. For women, this means 1500 minimum a day and more if you are exercising. I am often between 1700-1900 calories, but recently bumped up to 2,000 and am still losing. Men can get a minimum of 1800 and 2000-2200 when they start exercising. I know plenty of weight lifters who push closer to the 3000 calorie level, but that's something you should build up to and evaluate over time.

Under no circumstance should you eat under 1200 calories a day. This does all kinds of nasty things to your body. Unfortunately, many women eat under 1,000 calories a day, and have support groups to congratulate themselves for starving. If you listen to them and read their posts, however, they all complain about not losing weight, feeling tired, and many of them feeling depressed. If they would only eat more healthy food not only would they see the weight start to drop off, they would have energy and feel great!

If you are eating less than 1500 calories a day and aren't losing weight, try eating more. After all, what you are doing isn't working. So what do you have to lose?

Happy Workouts!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Carrying Weights when Walking and Arm Workouts

Yesterday I received a question about how to tone the arms. The person mentioned they have been carrying 2 1/2 pound weights while walking. Here is my response:

I actually don't recommend carrying any weight when you are walking - it can throw off your alignment and cause lower back pain. It was a big deal for a few years back in the 80's or 90's, but it's really not a good idea at all. If you want to carry weight while walking (which isn't necessary), buy a weighted vest. You can get one specifically designed for walking for about $20.

If you do the indoor Leslie Sansone walking videos, she uses weights sometimes, but I haven't seen them so I don't know what to say about that. Honestly, that's more marching than walking, so it's probably okay.

However, it is usually more effective to do your walking, do some HIIT during it, and keep your weight lifting seperate.

As far as upper arm exercises, I would recommend investing in some 5 and 7 or 8 pound dumbbells for bicep curls, hammer curls, and Cohen curls. You want to be fatigued between 6-8 reps. Start with 2-3 sets of any one exercise.

For triceps, do skullcrushers (lying overhead tricep extensions), standing tricep extensions, and chair dips (you use your body weight for chair dips). Most likely you will use a lower weight for triceps than you do with biceps, but you still want to be fatigued around 6-8 reps.

You can do up to 12-15 reps, but you don't want to do any more than that. The key is to make sure the weight is heavy enough that you can NOT do more than that. For some of my exercises I do 8 reps, for some I do 12. But that's pretty much the most I do, as far as weight lifting goes.

You should also do shoulder raises to the side, at a 45-degree angle, and straight forward. These can be done with 2.5-3 pound weights. I like to do 15, with a total of 5 at each of the angles. So I do side, 45, straight, 45, side, etc, until I've hit them all. I only do this once as my shoulders pop easier than any other muscle. If yours don't, 2 sets may be helpful.

All of these exercises can be googled, and there will be videos of them. You need to lift the heaviest weights you can to get results. This is the ONLY thing that will give people the "toned" look they want. There are also some examples of these and other exercises here:
Check under Exercise Schedule for a great beginner's program!

Of course you will eventually have to address all of the upper body to get a great physique, and include exercises for the chest and back. But this question specifically addressed the arms. :)

Happy Workouts!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pick up the Weights, Drop the Cardio

I opened my Oxygen magazine this morning and saw Jamie Eason's SoapBox article. Not surprisingly, I have the same gripes she does. First of all, there is definitely a polarity in most gyms. The weight room is full of men while the cardio area is often filled with women. I can't believe how many women continue to say that they "don't want to bulk up" so they stay away from the weights. Without weight lifting, you will never get the "toned" body that you want! Not only that, but overdoing cardio will actually burn the muscle you do have, causing that "skinny fat" look that is not pretty at all.

Of course, your nutrition and what you put into your body is even more important than working out. Some people say it's 80% nutrition. While I no longer agree with Clean Eating and have switched over to an Atkins low-carb lifestyle, I do agree that nutrition is the most important aspect of your training. After I lost over 100 pounds I still felt skinny fat, even though I was a size 6. Now I have finally lost some of that fat, even though my weight is a little higher. This is to be expected because muscle weighs more than fat.

Oh, and here's to debunking another rumour: YES, muscle does weigh more than fat. At some point, someone started arguing that "a pound is a pound, so a pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of fat." While it's true that a pound of anything does weigh the same as a pound of anything else, this is a completely illogical and ridiculous argument. If it had any validity it would actually wipe out the need for science and chemistry, and every single material in our known Universe would weigh the same as every other material. Obviously, this isn't the case, so let's just drop this silly "argument" already.

Here is a copy of my article on Why the Scale is a Big Fat Liar:
Most people weigh themselves weekly (if not daily). I would advise also taking your measurements when you weigh in as well. Why? Because once you start working out, that dumb old scale may stop moving so much. What you have to get your head wrapped around is this: it is OKAY if the scale isn't moving too much, if your measurements are going down! Don't get stuck about the scale. Not losing weight (according to the scale) is NOT a good reason to stop exercising. Let me tell you why:

Muscle is denser and weighs more than fat. As you exercise, you will be losing fat and adding muscle. This will cause your inches to go down because a pound of muscle takes up SO much less space than a pound of fat. If you were to put the same size of muscle beside the exact same size of fat, the muscle would weigh about 18% more than the fat! And that can translate to different numbers on the scale.

1 liter (approx a quart) of muscle weighs 1.06 kg (1006 g).
1 liter of fat weighs 0.9 kg (900 g). 1.06 kg is MORE THAN 0.9 kg. Incidentally, 1 liter of water usually weighs about 1.0 kg, so muscle weighs more than fat AND water! (Who knew?)

For us Americans, that translates to the following:
1 gallon of muscle weighs approximately 8.85 pounds (or 4.0125 kg). 1 gallon of fat weighs about 7.51 pounds (or 3.407 kg).

So just imagine carrying two of those gallon milk (or water) containers around from the grocery store. As you empty the one of fat and add muscle to it, it's going to get a little heavier. You have to empty more fat to see the numbers go down on the scale.

Hope that makes sense to everyone. I just don't want you to worry (or stop exercising!) if the scale isn't moving. Once you start losing inches, the scale WILL eventually catch up. This is easiest to see if you are also calculating your lean body mass and body fat percentage. Don't get discouraged! Exercising is great, and lifting weights will help you for years down the road in ways you don't even know about yet!

I hope that helps clear up things a bit. I'm not completely against cardio - in fact, I made it my focus this past month because I was lagging. However, it must be balanced by heavy lifting in order to see the gains you want.