Trextotigress Tidbits- Beauty in the World Edition

Happy Easter! Whether you went to church to celebrate that He is Risen, ate too many chocolate eggs from the Easter Bunny, spent time with family and friends or a combination of all these things or none of these things, however you celebrated I truly hope it was wonderful.

IMG_1582I did pretty well with my eating, and enjoyed a few indulgences in moderation. I got a good chuckle from this email a friend sent me, and I also saw posted on Facebook:

chocolate+easter+bunny+my+butt+hurts+funny+picturesource

Maybe this should be a guideline for eating chocolate bunnies in moderation, eat only the butt and ears. I am not really one to take on these challenges (such as no sugar, no bread, no dairy, no caffeine, no alcohol) but find that cutting back as opposed to cutting out is still the best choice of action for me. Just can’t resist those hot cross buns! I admire those who can do those challenges though. What mental strength!

Andy and I continued with our 5K training for the Walk of Life race and fortunately the weather was nice and mild. I say fortunately because two weeks ago we had a snowstorm! Actually, snow falling in April is not uncommon in these parts. It has happened before. Thankfully, it was only about 2-3 inches of accumulation, and the high temperatures the following day quickly melted the white stuff away.

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Now that the weather is warming up, I find my palate is evolving with the season. Instead of comfort foods, such a heavy, meaty stews, Mac and cheese and other variety of pasta, I’m craving thirst quenchers in the way of fresh salads and fruit in season. You can’t beat a mango plucked straight from my Aunty’s neighbor’s tree in Belize, but the imports sold here typically by way of Ixtapa, Mexico have been sweet and juicy.

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I have been making some colourful fruit platters to snack on:

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Life in the gym is going very well. I have been increasing the weight on my squats, bench presses and bicep curls. The pull up progress is still stalled, but I continue to work at it, too stubborn to throw in the proverbial towel. My sister Fran is joining me at the gym for a chest and tricep workout tomorrow.

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IMG_1562I am also enjoying the simple joys of the new season. Seeing the growth of buds, promise of flowers and “happier” faces out and about is what Spring is all about. This Macy Gray song always reminds me of children in green pastures, baskets in hand, searching for Easter eggs. It also makes me feel refreshed and renewed, ready to embrace the warm weather.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qX7ZsxD3Ik

 

It’s Easter Monday tomorrow and I am off.  The sun is shining and the birds are singing. It is five o’clock and not dark out. Time to get outside and enjoy all that is beautiful.

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Thinking Beyond the Tans and Baby Oil

A couple of days ago  I noticed a lady in her early to mid 50′s watching me at the gym as I finished a few reps of bench presses. We were both in the free weight area of the facility and she was performing bicep curls. After I finished my final rep of my final set, she asked, “you want to be the um…how you call dis? The body trainer eh?” I thought for a few seconds, bodytrainer....bodytrainer and replied, “Ohhhh! Bodybuilder. Do I want to be a bodybuilder?” I asked, pointing to myself. “No, no. Just trying to get in better shape.”  The lady went on to say that she mostly sees me in the free weight area. We work out at generally the same time and usually in the same area and have exchanged friendly smiles and nods, but no conversation had ensued until this day. We beat the nine to five crew, so sometimes it’s just the two of us.  I explained that I love free weights and the results from lifting, but a bodybuilder is serious about their regime and lifestyle. Someone who trains and eats like a bodybuilder, usually has hopes of looking somewhere along these lines if they don’t already. I Googled this picture on my phone of one of my fitness idols, the gorgeous Gladys Portuguese and showed it to the lady:

Beauty and brawn. Gladys Porteguese

Gladys Portuguese

Photo source

“She’s a bodybuilder and they live a very strict, unique lifestyle,” I smiled. I wasn’t sure if she understood, as her English seemed a tad limited, but oh yes, she did.
“No candy, no booze, no living!” she exclaimed, throwing up her expressive hands.
“Exactly!” I replied as we both started laughing out loud, high fiving each other.
“I no like so much muscle,” she said, vigorously shaking her finger. “I just want to….to.” She scratched her temple with a pensive look on her face, “I want to take off my flabs.”
“Oh me too,” I replied, pinching at my tricep skin, causing further bouts laughter.
“The trainer she tells me do the weights, so I do the weights,” she said. We parted ways, with a “see you tomorrow.” (same time, same place.)

On my walk home from the gym that evening, I wondered about this. What is a bodybuilder? Is it someone who competes on centre stage? Someone with an oiled up body and deep copper tan? Has an x amount of body fat and x amount of muscles mass? Eats six small meals a day, consisting primarily of protein? Is it that muscled up lunker at the local gym, grunting out with each rep? Does she look like Rachel Mclish or he like Flex Wheeler?

Do I have to look like this before I can consider myself a bodybuilder?

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I bench press, bicep curl, squat and dead lift until my legs are dead.  I do all those things and more, but I don’t and realistically will never look that way. Although, I gotta tell ya, paying the $1.29 to superimpose my face in that body sure was worth it. I would never even consider calling myself a bodybuilder, because I thought it was all those things listed above and more. A physique and lifestyle that is different from my own. Then I came across an article in Bodybuilding.com answering the question What is a Bodybuilder? The author goes on to state that it can be anyone who is making a conscious effort to improve their bodies. Here is the last paragraph of his article:

So next time you hear the term “bodybuilder”, hopefully you won’t limit your thoughts to bottles of baby oil and posing briefs. The concept of the bodybuilder is much deeper and far-reaching than that. And if you look closely, you’ll see that bodybuilders are everywhere.

Simply put, a bodybuilder builds a better body.

So then, maybe I am a bodybuilder, along with the lady I see regularly on the weight room floor at 3:45pm almost daily. Yes, we are trying to reduce our flab, but yes, we pump iron. We are trying to build our bodies.  We are both making a conscious effort to do so. I can’t wait to see her again. I’m going to smile and say, “M’am we are bodybuilders!” We may not be oiled up and tanned, with a tapered, V-shaped upper body and bulging calves ready to execute poses on a stage. We may not look remotely close to Mrs. Jean Claude VanDamme (aka Gladys Portuguese).  We may not bulk or lunk or eat steak and egg whites for breakfast, but my golly, we are ladies who lift and we should own that. (Hey, I’ve heard that weight training builds confidence too.)  We “bodybuilders” need to stick together.

Paragraph Source: to read the full article click here.

She’s Got the Power!

My sister-in-law Ninette who is a certified personal trainer has guest posted on my blog before, offering tips on healthy living and being active. I had to have her back when she told me some exciting news. She has taken her training up to a whole new level by entering the ultimate competition of strength, the powerlifting competition. What I truly love about her is her modesty. She is an accomplished athlete, with incredible strength, yet so very humble about her achievements. Ninette was kind enough to return to trextotigress to talk about her journey to powerlifting and current training goals by answering a few questions.

Me: Hi Ninette. You have always been an active person. How did you make the transition from weight training/body building to powerlifting?

Ninette: I’ve been a trainer at several gyms in the city before I started to work at Fortis Fitness in 2008.  Sean Kelly opened his gym a few months before I came on board.  As a novice powerlifter himself, he was passionate about sharing the message of training differently than that of the conventional fitness industry;  the use of isolating machines and too much focus on aesthetics instead of building strong, functional muscles.   He wanted to build a training facility completely different from the typical “Good Life” and he soon filled his gym with only qualified, knowledgeable trainers and clients from professional athletes, competitive powerlifters, and Olympic lifters as well as those who practiced CrossFit.  His enthusiasm was contagious.  I quickly embraced powerlifting.

Ninette working on her squats.

Ninette working on her squats.

Me: Wow! I love the idea of focusing on strength rather just the aesthetics. What is powerlifting in a nut shell?

Ninette:  Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of three attempts at maximal weight on three lifts: squatbench press, and deadlift.  There are different weight categories and in some meets age categories as well.  Once all three lifts are completed your scores are added up and the contestant who has lifted the most is given first place.  Most people enter these competitions to compete with themselves; they want to challenge themselves to keep getting stronger.  It’s a way to set strength and fitness goals not necessarily to win.

Me: That’s great! Setting personal goals to challenge and push yourself. Tell us more about the three core movements.

Ninette: The three lifts are the squat, the bench press, and the dead lift.  To get stronger in these lifts, one would train variations of these movements.  For example to improve your squat you may do box squats for speed or belt squats to improve the lower part of your squat.  A strong back is essential for power in your bench press so pull ups,  and any type of rows would help as well as any shoulder/military press.  Training the hip hinge movement would help both your squat and dead lift.

Me: How are you training to prepare for the competition?

Ninette:  I train 4 x per week.  Day 1 I do dead lifts and a back workout, Day 2 I would focus on my squat and bench press and Day 3 and 4 is dedicated to a full body workout consisting of assistance exercises (assistance exercises are any exercises that are not one of the main strength training lifts; so for example I would do dips or bicep curls.)  On Days 1 and 2,  I would do up to 8 sets of up to 80% of my 1RM.  So although the prime focus is just 2 main exercises, the intensity is high.  On Day 3 and 4 the workload is high and the intensity is lower. I actually run 5 km on 2 days of the week as well. It keeps my body weight down. Lol!  Hey, a girl still has to look good! ;)

Me: I agree! Tell us about your diet in order to sustain this type of training.

Ninette: To maintain strength, a diet with enough protein and some carbs are necessary.  If you completely eliminate carbohydrates, your strength is compromised.  Remember, you are judged by how much weight you can possibly lift, and not by how ripped and cut your muscles look.

Me: I see. So bulk is an important component. And lastly, for anyone who is interested in learning more about the sport, is there a link or website you can provide us with?

Ninette: There are two federations that hold meets in Canada for powerlifting;  the OPA http://ontariopowerlifting.org and the CPU http://www.powerlifting.ca  so for anyone interested in competing, these two sites would provide you information on upcoming meets.

Me: Thanks Ninette. You are really such a strong inspiration in my life. I know I will be there to cheer you on all the way!

Ninette works on her deadlifts:

 

To learn more about Ninette Cruz-Longsworth visit http://www.noexcusesfitness.ca

 

 

 

 

 

If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…

I think we have come a long way in realistic images of how women should look than when I was growing up. Curves, hips and big booties were never celebrated when I was coming of age. With today’s women in the public eye such as Beyoncé Knowles, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez, who’s curves are coveted on magazine covers and in music videos, you are no longer considered fat if you’re not a size zero. Thinking back to when I was in my teens, there was no such women in the public eye who showed off their curves and did so beaming with pride. I felt awkward, unattractive and over-weight at times. Perhaps if there were these such TV personas who are not pencil thin, then I would not have felt so out of place. I will never forget when Tyra Banks was lambasted in the media for a noticeable weight gain as she frolicked on a Caribbean beach in her bikini and committed the crime of having cellulite on a model body. She later declared to hell with today’s expectations of what a woman should look like. She wailed emotionally on her talk show, “if you don’t like how I look, you can kiss my fat a#*!” Tyra Banks has cellulite like me? You mean that perfect air-brushed image I saw in vogue as an impressionable, naive youth wasn’t really her? I truly wish I knew that back in the day. Lady Gaga gained weight last year from her mother’s hearty Italian home cooking when she was having a sabbatical from being a super star. She found her weight gain a refreshing and welcome change and declared so on all her social media feeds, dancing in a skin-tight body suit, heavier thighs for all to see. That never would have happened twenty years ago. So with all this progress, why do we continue to be so critical of ourselves?

My gym locker room is a place of lively banter among members. There is laughter, recipe exchange, talk of intense classes and all too often self-depreciation. We are always so generous with our verbal encouragement to others, but rarely to ourselves. Some do not even know how to take a compliment and will disagree with the compliment and further point out their flaws! Perhaps people may not want to compliment themselves for fear of seeming a braggart. Keeping this in mind, it’s not necessary to go to the opposite end of the stick and beat ourselves up with the stick. These are just a few examples of what I have overheard in the locker room:

- “The only thing that keeps my thighs from rubbing together is zero carbs and spin class.”
- “My butt is starting to drop to the back of my knees”
-” I’ve gotta lose this muffin top. It’s beyond disgusting now”
– “Ur, I hate my hair, my nose, my back fat”

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As well as various comments about our own stretch marks and orange peel skin on our thighs, I have heard the cruelty go on and on. I doubt all this negative self-talk goes on in the male locker rooms. Listen, we all have humps, bumps or lovely lady lumps somewhere on our bodies, especially those of us who are not 20 anymore (or 30 for that matter) any longer, but let’s not belittle ourselves over said humps, bumps and cellulite lumps. It certainly is not going to help the matter. I for one am guilty as charged of being verbally mean to myself. Just last week, Andy and I were going out to dinner and I cruelly insulted my thighs in my new jeans. I felt defeated and as though I had nothing flattering to wear. I was in a mood! Keep in mind it was that time of month, and I was feeling especially blah. Andy has no time for my self pity and puts me right back in place. (That’s what I love about him. He’s a straight shooter.) He will say, “how about thanking God that you have two legs to stand on.” That puts things right into perspective, believe me. I have said many times I will stop this verbal self-destruction and be grateful for what God has blessed me with, but every once in a while I regress back to my old ways. I know there will always be things about ourselves we would rather change, but there must be a more productive and kind way to communicate this. How about, “I think I should strengthen my mid section, and cut back on certain foods” instead of, “my muffin top is beyond disgusting.”  Or “I could stand to lose a few inches off my thighs, but I’m still happy with all my progress” instead of “my thighs look so ginormous in these jeans.”

So ladies, remember the age-old golden rule, if you don’t have anything nice to say, say nothing at all. Build others up of course, but let us not forget to do the same for ourselves in the process.

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(Signage courtesy of Women’s Fitness Clubs of Canada.)

Plan for Your Success

I was gathering up my belongings in the gym locker room after my workout, when I saw a woman I once attended Insanity class with. She paid me a nice compliment and said she noticed how fit I look. I’ll take that!  I commented her on how much weight she has lost and how great she looked. She then went on to tell me that she has lost 22 pounds. I asked her how she did it, the intense sweat-fest that is Insanity aside. She said if she could advice anyone on losing weight, the most effective tip that she could offer would be cutting back on portion sizes. As we parted ways, and she hurried off to reserve her bike in the spin studio, I wondered, what would be my most effective tip to offer someone to meet their fitness goals? Time spent being physically active, as well as what you are eating is imperative for success. I think my most important tip would be prep your meals in advance. Plan for success. Just think about it. If we want to do well on an exam what do we do? We plan for success. We study, we review our notes, we prepare. I approach clean eating in the same manner. I make a list for the grocery store and stick to it, thinking of all the fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy and lean meats I need to succeed. If I am making salmon, asparagus and sweet potato for dinner, that is what I buy. The same can be said for lunches. Usually on Sunday nights, I will make a large batch of something to divide into containers for the week. It may be turkey chili, spaghetti squash or a thin crust pizza. My vegetables and fruit are cut up and divided in containers each night. My yogurt or boiled egg whites are in containers ready to go the next day. Does it seem like a lot of work? Yes, it can be, but once you get into the habit of food prepping it only becomes easier.  Most importantly, it may very well prevent you from lining up at the nearest fast food joint. This is not only beneficial to your waist line, but also to your wallet.

IMG_1532IMG_1535IMG_1540Bi9qWuRIMAAGz2CIMG_1539And tomorrow’s lunch and snacks are good to go!

IMG_1541What would be your ultimate success tip for fitness progression?

Losing Weight Post Baby- A Guest Post

Since it’s a new month and a new season, I figure that people may be reassessing goals or perhaps initiating new ones. I thought why not start April with a story of inspiration? I asked my friend Roxanne to guest post about her quest to get back into shape and lose weight post baby. Roxanne will also touch on her experience with Weight Watchers. So without further adieu, I’ll let Roxanne take it away. (Please note that Roxanne refers to me as “Michelle” in this post. That is my middle name that all my close friends and family call me.)

Roxanne’s Weight Loss Journey Post Baby:

In hindsight, 5 weeks of forced bed-rest during my pregnancy was NOT a good thing.

Initially I was bummed out- then I had an epiphany…that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for my WHOLE LIFE; to lay in bed, watch tv and eat to wild abandonment!
Chinese food? Why Not? Swiss Chalet does PASTA now?! Bring it on!
I had been told by many women that pregnancy weight would melt off by breastfeeding. So though I ended my pregnancy at 165 pounds…up from 130..I wasn’t worried.
 
Unfortunately it turned out I was unable to breastfeed as my son had a milk allergy.
I found myself….3 months postpartum with thighs, a stomach and a butt I didn’t recognize.
 
I decided to join my local gym- Women’s Fitness. I had been there a couple of times before as a guest of Michelle (Tigress). It was close to my home, offered a variety of classes, babysitting and a full slew of strength training machines specifically designed and sized for women. (and who wants to see hot men when you’re fat??) I had gym memberships before though I was never a fan. Going to the gym had always been work for me- mentally. This time I needed to structure a workout schedule that would allow me to go in the evenings once my son was put to bed….and still give me time to unwind at home- I decided on a max of 1 hour a day, 3 to 4 days a week. My workout routine incorporated cardio and strength training through weights. I chose Tabata- I had been introduced to this at the gym where I worked before maternity leave. I knew the combination of high intensity exercise for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest would be manageable to start plus still provide the fat burn I needed. I started to do the 30 minute Tabata class on Wednesdays. One faithful day I did the Tuesday class instead. At the 30 minute mark I noticed the instructor was not slowing down- in fact it seemed like she was ramping the workout up! I was tasting blood at this point. Turns out I was in the 1 hour Tabata class by mistake! I’m glad I did it by accident because I would never do that on purpose.
 
I now do the 1 hour class regularly. It’s not a walk in the park but I feel like I’ve really put in work by the end. In addition to classes such as Tabata and Muscle Mix, I also work out on my own some days- 30 minutes of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training or 1 day of an hour cardio or 1 day of strength training. To keep myself motivated and on track I’ve started doing my 30 minutes or 1 hour on the treadmill while watching my favourite Primetime shows. No excuses! I seem to be the only one laughing on the treadmill at my gym!
Being motivated to go to the gym and also to push myself is not easy, BUT I definitely FEEL better, more fit and less tired.
 
Despite all of that, after a month the weight wasn’t budging. I was 151 pounds. Getting on the scale at the gym after 4 weeks and seeing the numbers really made me angry.
The problem was, being home all day, with a baby, during the ‘Polar Vortex’- I was eating the same way I had while on bed rest. I realized I had to give Weight Watchers a go. I had joined Weight Watchers back in 2009 and lost 15 pounds. It was great- and as a result I gained Lifetime Membership. There were things I really liked; the garden vegetable soup and homemade blueberry muffins were really tasty! In addition to being able to eat foods I really liked and seeing everything I ate by tracking, the Weight Watchers concept is working for me because the weekly weigh ins ‘shame me’ into keeping on track. I have 26 points a day, plus  49 extra points to play with each week which allow me to indulge. All of this still allows weight loss. Going over that= no weight loss. I could not bear the shame of standing on the scale looking at the Weight Watcher employee and weighing the same each week. Back in 2009 each person would wait in line to be weighed. You could hear the Weight Watchers employee say “Good for you!” and also the quiet murmurs of “It’s ok stay the course”. Ugh.
I joined the local meeting at my local grocery store 4 weeks ago Weight Watchers has changed since 2009- at that time fruits were assigned a points value. Now fruits are  zero points! I walk with fruits as snacks everywhere I go. Easy filling food that don’t ‘cost’ me anything.
 
So far slow and steady is winning the race for me. In 4 weeks I am now 145 pounds. I feel better and I finally fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans! The jeans ARE tight, but hey they fit!
My baby is now 6 months old. I feel more like myself and I know I will lose the rest of my weight over the next 6 months once I stay the course.
I’m going to celebrate with strawberries and Zumba!

 

Roxanne in 2012, pre-pregnancy working out at the employee gym:
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A glowing Roxanne at her baby shower and then five months later with baby Caleb for a before pic:
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I hope to check in with Roxanne in approximately two months down the road to see how her progress is going and if she has started celebrating yet with strawberries and Zumba.
Thanks for sharing, Roxy!

At the Core of the Matter

I think that most of us know the importance of having a strong core, especially those who have made fitness a part of their lifestyle.  I used to read about planking in many health and fitness magazines, articles, blogs and online workouts, but would conveniently plan to avoid this exercise because I found it to be too hard. I would essentially just stick to variations of stomach crunches and sit ups, and sure my mid-section would look flat, but it wouldn’t feel strong.  My back still curved as I did bench presses; it would swing and sway as I did heavy bicep curls. This ill form of not keeping a straight back when lifting would inevitably lead to injury I began to realize, and it would get in the way of lifting heavier. Little did I know that having a stable and strong core directly affects performance and correct form.  I consulted with a trainer at the gym about building a strong abdominal region, and she advised that nothing works better than the good old plank. That was months ago, and I decided from that day on to keep on planking, no matter how hard it was for me. I increased my planking time from 20 seconds to just shy of two minutes and have experienced gains such as:

  • better breathing and less hunching over when fatigued during jogging
  • holding better form when bicep curling (I only rock and sway now when dancing.)
  • keeping a straight back on the bench when chest pressing and putting less stress and pressure on my lower back.
  • better form when doing pull-ups and no longer curve my spine to help pull my weight up.
  • aesthetically, better over all posture. ( I bet ya’ Quasimodo didn’t plank. All that ringing of the bell tower must have put a terrible strain on his back.)
  • burpees, push-ups and mountain climbers became easier as my mid section became stronger.

My Get a Better Stronger Core and Feel Better Workout:

Super set:
hold a plank for 30 seconds
do 30 Russian twists or hold a v-sit position for 30 seconds.
I repeat this 3 times, resting between each super set

Or I just hold a plank for 2 minutes.

IMG_1528IMG_1527Is there an exercise you once avoided like the plague, but are doing it now and reaping the rewards of feeling stronger and performing better?