About Me

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Creating my ideal figure, one workout and one meal at a time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Metabolic Cooking

My nutritionist Dave (and his lovely co-conspirator, Karine) will be releasing their new cookbook in a few days. It's called Metabolic Cooking.  I was fortunate enough to be a test subject for their new recipes, and they asked me to do a testimonial for them.  Obviously, I was happy to oblige!  They did help me lose 30lbs after all!  lol You can view my testimonial here:

And if you're looking for some healthy tips and recipes* that will help get you in killer shape, I highly recommend you view the rest of their site:

*recipes will be posted after the book is released

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Steady State vs HIIT cardio

In the 80s it became a widely popular concept to do long cardio sessions at moderate intensity, which was thought to be the "fat burning zone".  The idea was that the longer one was in the "fat burning zone", the more fat they would lose.

As the occasional sighting of that god-awful big-haired perm will prove, some people are still stuck in the 80s.  While there are many benefits to doing long steady-state cardio (it'll still burn calories, and it'll improve your endurance), science is finding more and more evidence to support the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) techniques for maximum fat loss. 

Here is the reasoning: Our bodies are extremely efficient at conserving energy, and are always in search of ways to do so.  When you do cardio at the same pace for a given amount of time (say, 15-45 minutes), the body starts to adapt and finds the easiest way to keep on doing that activity while expending the least amount of energy.  This means that while you are still burning calories, it is no longer the maximum amount you could be burning.  With HIIT however, the idea is to switch up the intensity of your cardio (either through speed, incline, or resistance) every couple of minutes.  This keeps your body guessing, and by doing that, you force it to work extremely hard in order to keep up with the changes you're throwing at at.  Not only that, but your body will continue burning fat for hours after you're finished, due to increased EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which is higher with HIIT than it is with steady-state.  One of the benefits of HIIT is that they are usually relatively short sessions.  You can burn the same number of calories doing 15 minutes of HIIT as you can in 30 minutes doing steady state cardio.  For many people, the time aspect alone is a great enough motivator to switch to intervals! 

Now, this is not to say that steady-state is bad!  As I mentioned, there are still many benefits to doing this, and if you're an endurance runner/athlete, you have to incorporate it into your training.  But if we're talking about fat loss, then the surest way to get the most bang for your buck is to use HIIT.   

You can do HIIT anywhere, any time, using any equipment.  If you're an outdoor runner, incorporate some sprints into your workouts, or pick a hilly route.  If you run on the treadmill, play with the incline or speed (or both) on your machine.  If you use the stationary bike or elliptical, change up the resistance.  You can also play with the rest:work ratio.  In my example, the ratio is 4:1, but as you get fitter you could start doing 2:1, or even 1:1.  There are many different types of HIIT training, and I encourage you to look up some sample programs on the internet or in magazines; there are lots to choose from. 

Example of HIIT (using running):
5 min - warmup 
2 min - run at moderate pace 
30 sec - sprint with all you've got! 
*repeat 4-6 times 
5 min - cooldown 

If you've never tried HIIT, then I wouldn't recommend switching your steady-state for it altogether.  Try incorporating it into your program once a week, and work your way up to 3-4 days.  And don't start with long sessions either - they're meant to be short!  15 minutes (not including warmup or cooldown) is plenty for a beginner! Try it today! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good Food, Good Friends

Behold, the Thai Spicy Pork Soup from Clean Eating Magazine.  Ingredients include mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, low-sodium chicken broth, coconut milk, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, ginger, pork, buckwheat noodles, and slices of lime for garnish.  It was a little sweet, but overall very satisfying :)

In other news, this weekend John and I went to Montreal to celebrate the birthday of one of my dearest friends (the birthday boy is the one in the middle).  Just a little taste of my "outside life" lol.  And below that are pictures of the breakfast I had on Friday morning; the sweet potato dish from Oh She Glows


Friday, March 18, 2011

I gotta feelin' that today's gonna be a good day...

What a great day so far!  I woke up a bit earlier than I have been lately so I could go downstairs and get my third workout of the week in before I leave for Montreal for the weekend.  Sometimes when I travel I bring my gym stuff and will either go for a run, or find a gym nearby to work out at.  But I knew this weekend I would be in no mood to exercise, so I figured I'd better get it all in now!

It is so handy having a little gym in one's apartment complex!  Especially one that opens at 5am.  And they recently added a bunch of free weights, so now I can always get in a half decent workout when I'm in a pinch (like today). 

I kicked off my workout with 30 minutes of cardio, keeping my HR between 140-170 bpm.  I then dove straight into the weights for a full-body workout.  I'd done my upper body one day this week, and legs on the other day, so a full-body seemed like a good way to keep the balance.  Alot of people only do 1 leg workout in a week because there aren't as many muscles to train.  Or because their legs don't need alot of work.  But I try to aim for 2 each week because my legs are my trouble spots :S  It may take me a while, but I am bound and determined to someday get my legs to look like this:
Emily Stirling.... drool.  Some of the best legs in the biz, if you ask me.

Now where was I?  Oh yes, full-body workout.  I didn't really have a plan going into this workout.  My chest, quads, hams, and core were still a bit sore from earlier in the week, so I knew I'd be focussing on other body parts more.  I also know that I'll be wearing a shoulder/back/arm-bearing top tonight at the club, so wanted to target those spots as well.  I did 4 supersets of back and shoulder exercises (2 exercises each); 4 supersets of plie squats, adductor (what, lifts?), and calf raises; and 3 supersets of tricep pushups, hammer curls, calf presses, and crunches. 

My muscles were nice and warm and tight after this!  I definitely worked up an appetite for breakfast.  And it just so happened that last night I had prepared an amazing breakfast for John and me.  I knew I'd be starving when I got in, so it was something that just needed to be re-heated.  John was kind enough to scramble up some egg whites to go with this otherwise vegetarian dish: http://ohsheglows.com/2011/02/22/sweet-potato-oatmeal-breakfast-casserole/

Oh.My.Gosh.  Like having dessert for breakfast.  This is definitely a must-try.

What a way to kick off an amazing weekend!  I can't wait to see what the rest of the day has in store :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Le Sick Le Sucks!

I woke up today with that familiar feeling: a tingle in my throat felt when I swallow which is always always my first indication of a cold/sickness/infection coming on.

My sensei always told me that the best thing to do to a cold is to sweat it out.... so sweat I do.  Upon my realization, I headed straight downstairs for some cardio.

Exercise is fantastic for the immune system.  Going to a gym can be risky because of all the germs floating around (seriously, how often do you think those dumbbells get cleaned?).  But I personally found a marked difference in the number of times I got sick in a year when I started exercising.  I used to get sick maybe 5-6 times, and now that number is down to 2-3 (one summer, and one winter cold).

If nothing else, it usually helps to clear the sinuses and headache, and distract your body from those muscle aches and pains.  I've known a few people who claim that the workouts they do when they're sick are amongst the best workouts they have.  You just push yourself a little bit harder to kick the hell out of that cold!!

So we'll see.  I took some Vitamin C today, hit the gym after work, ate at least 8 servings of fruit and vegetables, and made sure to get some sunlight.  I don't expect to cure this cold altogether, but hopefully all these efforts will help to minimize the damage.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All charged up

It's always amazing to me how quickly the body falls out of shape, but then how quickly it gets back into things again too.

I had my first real workout yesterday after a week-long hiatus (I did a couple hot yoga classes, but that was about it).  I took the week off because I had been working out like a crazy person for 7 weeks straight, and my leg was starting to hurt just to walk on it!  If that's not a clear indication to slow down, I'm not sure what is.

As luxurious as taking a week off from the gym sounds, by the end I was definitely ready to get back into things. My back was hurting from all the inactivity, I was bloated (nothing aids digestion quite as effectively as cardio), and my metabolism slowed right down.  And do you ever notice that you want to eat crappier food when you're not working out?  I'm fairly cautious about what I eat both before and right after a workout, so without that there to moderate my eating, things can unravel quickly!

Anyways, I always like to ease back into things after I've taken a break - even if it's just been a week.  So I did 20 minutes on the bike, a full-body workout with moderate weights, 25 minutes on the elliptical, then finished up with some stretching.  It. Felt. Great!  Can't wait to get back into the gym with a new routine and some fresh muscles :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seafood Corn Chowder

Have I mentioned that I love Clean Eating Magazine?  I was craving seafood, but wanted something more exciting than baked tilapia (I'm all tilapia-d out!) so turned to my favourite recipe resource for help.  I was not disappointed by this recipe.  Not pictured are the little corn muffins I made to accompany the meal.  John usually assumes the role of corn-bread maker, being that he is from the south (Florida).  But today I gave it a shot, and added some jalapeno peppers, corn (you'd think corn break already includes this, but it does not), and grated cheese.  Turned out perfectly!

Before: Hopefully the print is large/clear enough to read.
After: I added cheese to my finished product :P

In other news, I got a massage today for the first time in years, and man did it feel good.  Alot of athletes incorporate massage therapy into their training/recovery plan, and I can certainly see why.  I just got a regular deep tissue swedish massage today, but I think I'd like to try acupuncture/massage the next time.  Does anybody have any experiences with acupuncture they'd like to share?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pancake Tuesday

Sometimes being a Catholic has its advantages!  Every year before lent, we have one last day of gluttony - one last hoorah, before the 40 days of sacrifice begin.  Pancake Tuesday (or, Mardi Gras as the french would say, meaning Fat Tuesday) is that day, and it is today!  Growing up my mom always made crepes for dinner on Pancake Tuesday, usually with some chicken and mushroom soup for sauce (you'd be surprised at all the things she could use mushroom soup on! lol)  So this year I decided to try something similar. For an appetizer, I made crepes stuffed with smoked salmon, capers, red onion, and dill cream cheese.  Yumm!!!!  Then for the main course I stuffed the crepes with chicken, mushrooms, onion, bacon (I know, I know), peas, asparagus, and broccoli, and topped it all off with mushroom Alfredo sauce.  Double yumm!!!  Though I have to name the salmon crepe tonight's winner.  Sorry, no pics :(  Mom also used to make dessert crepes stuffed with fruit, drizzled with either chocolate or maple syrop.  But by the time I was done with all those savoury crepes today, I didn't have any more room for dessert!

It's traditional during lent to give something up for 40 days, though some people like to start something instead.  Some examples of giving something up include: restricting tv watching, no alcohol, no cursing; examples of starting something include: starting to run, paying someone a compliment every day, and getting 8hrs of sleep every night.

I decided to do both this year.  For lent, I will give up all refined sugars, and will start to name one thing I like about myself every day.

Today, my positive thing is my nails.  Lol, it may sound silly, but I really like the shape of my nails!  They suit the shape of my fingers perfectly.  My mom used to make me cut them to play the piano, and I always hated doing it.  So now they are long, strong, and feminine and are currently painted aquamarine.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First week off the diet

I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't been indulging in some crappy food this week, but I've also had some really delicious meals too.  Here's a recap:

Thursday Dinner
While perusing the prepared food section of the Health Food Store I discovered one of their newest items - a Vegan Brown Rice Sandwich.  Basically, it's a regular tofu sandwich with brown sticky rice for a bun.  I thought it was a bit bland so added a bit of roasted red pepper mustard, but on  the whole, the sandwich had a really cool texture, and was very filling!  Also pictured is a side of curried peas and collard greens.

Friday Breakfast
Also from the Health Food Store were these Spelt wraps, which I used to create a Breakfast Burrito (egg whites, peppers, onion, garlic, black beans, and salsa).  Now, I really enjoyed the taste of the spelt, but I found once I warmed it up it fell apart really easily.  I gave it another go today with a cold wrap, and it held together much better.

Saturday Lunch
Apparently I've been on a collard kick this week, because for lunch yesterday I tried one of Clean Eating Magazine's newest recipes: Spicy Collard Chips.  Wash and cut 1 bunch collard greens into 2" pieces.  Mix them up with 1tbs lemon juice, sea salt, 2tbs olive oil, pinch cayenne pepper, and 1/4c grated parmesan.  Spread in a single layer on a parchment-lined cookie sheet, and bake at 300 F for about 18 minutes, until crispy.  They were AMAZING!  I highly recommend this recipe to anyone who wants the chip taste without the calories.  Definitely a must try.  Also pictured is a small (dinner roll) ham sandwich with hummus, cheese, and veggies.

Yup, meals like these don't make me miss the diet AT ALL!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Re-assess, Regroup, Refocus

Disclaimer: This is a long one! 

In my last post I mentioned that I'd been having some trouble getting into the swing of things this time around.  This has been bothering me for quite a while now.  It's been a real internal struggle because on the one hand: I'm not a quitter.  I can be passionately, stubbornly devoted to projects, people/relationships, and ideas.... as long as I deem them to be valuable, special, or important to me.  And that last part is really the key here. Because on the other hand: I can also be blunt, cold, and indifferent towards things I don't care to do, and have left jobs, school, and even some people with little more than a nod goodbye.  So a part of me has been saying "Nobody is FORCING you to do this.  You can stop any time you want - it won't be the end of the world" and another part has been saying "You have to finish what you started.  You promised yourself you would do this.  Just suck it up and get to work!" 

The real "Aha" moment came when a good friend of mine, Leslie (who is a personal trainer, marathon runner, figure competitor, volleyball coach, and I'm sure much much more) told me to ask myself "How badly do I want to do this competition; how dedicated am I?"  And if the answers aren't "REALLY BADLY" and "110%", then I should not do it.   

The very nature of this sport demands 100% commitment All. The. Time.  Bodybuilding is a science, and if all of the components (training, nutrition and rest) are not combined exactly right, it will show.  If you are on-stage with another girl who looks almost identical to you, but whose lats are just slightly bigger, or who is just a bit leaner than you are.... judges can see that.  Those extra reps that she did but you didn't do; the constant dips into peanut butter that you indulged in but she didn't...... will not go unnoticed.  There is no such thing as "luck" in this sport.  I'm sure most of you reading this will think this is crazy person talk and say that I'm an extremist lol.  But go read one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's books, and you will soon see that this is just the tip of the iceberg haha. 

I digress.  I realized that I have not been fully committed to the process.  The fact that I was even considering quitting serves as evidence of this.  Sure, we all have moments of questioning, but not once in my last contest prep did I ever consider not finishing.  And that's the difference.   So I've made the decision not to do the UFE on May 14th.  Instead, I'll be competing in the IDFA/SAF show here in Ottawa on July 16th.  So I'm not so much "quitting" as I am just pushing things back.  

I'm on strict instruction by Dave to stay at 125lbs until the end of April, when I will start dieting again.  This will give me roughly two months to rest up, re-fuel my body, and refocus my mind to prepare for the contest prep.  I think my biggest problem this time around has been lack of motivation.  And not that all the reasons listed on my "Inspiration" page aren't enough.... but last time, I was out to prove something; I was out to prove to myself and to others that I could do this.  Now, I already know I can do it - I have the trophies to prove it!  So I'm really going to have to look inwards and ask myself why I want to do it again, what I have to gain from another competition, and what I'm doing this for.  Then, I've just got to hold on to whatever those reasons are and let them carry me through until July.   

My dad once told me that sometimes it can take more strength to stop doing something, than it does to start or continue doing it.  I hope I haven't let anybody down in making this decision.  But I'm fully confident that for me, it was the right decision to make. 

So onwards and upwards to IDFA on July 16th!  I'll continue posting even during my "down time" because, surprisingly, it's just as difficult to maintain one's weight as it is to lose it!  This will also give me an opportunity to share some of my more creative workouts and meals with you all :)   

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

11 weeks out

Oops, so much for weekly updates.  It's been tough getting going this time around, and to be honest, my weight hasn't changed that much in the last few weeks.  This is me today at 125lbs ----------------->

Honestly, I'm getting frustrated and a little discouraged.  I'm seeing progress (about 1lb per week) but when I compare where I am now to where I was at this point last time, I'm behind by about 7lbs :S  

<----------This was me in August at 11 weeks out

Part of me wants to just give up; I'm mentally drained. But, I know there's still time, and if I can lose 2lbs per week from here on out, I'll be plenty ready by show day.  So, I guess I've just gotta dig deep, be completely 110% perfect on my diet, and keep working hard. 

Last summer when I had days like these, I would go for a walk in the park, hug a tree (yes, I hug trees), and ask the Earth Mother for strength.  This time though, I'm lucky enough to have an extra special person up there looking out for me..... my dad.  So dad, if you're listening, I could really use one of your pep talks right about now.  You know, the ones where you tell me you're proud of me regardless, and you know I have what it takes to succeed. The one where you tell me I need to buckle down and just do it. 

Oh, and dad?  Can I have some money?