Thursday, 25 February 2016

It never gets just get stronger!!

I’m conscious my last few posts have been a little ‘moany’ as I’ve documented my struggles as I’ve got to grips with dieting. However it’s important for me that I have talked about the lows as so often on the internet you just see the ‘after’ photos where people are looking and feeling awesome or people sugar-coat things to make situations sound much better or easier than what they are. And the reality is that’s not always the case with anything in life.
Granted I’m not one for posting sad or miserable things on my Instagram or Facebook page so generally what you’ll see on there is me having fun, doing nice things, spreading the love and enjoying life. But that doesn’t mean I always feel that way or that my life is perfect; because it’s not. Anyway, I digress slightly but essentially what I’m trying to say is that from the start I said I would document my highs and my lows so unfortunately the last few weeks it’s been more lows than highs so that’s what I’ve wrote about.
Tonight however this is a positive and happy post (wahoooo!!). After having a very bad week physically and mentally last week when I was ill I picked myself back up and with an amended diet plan, adjusted macros, an altered training programme and a bunch of additional supplements in my diet I started this week positive, focused and determined.
Some of this as silly as it sounds is simply because I’m now being allowed a cheat meal on a weekend. Mentally I feel more in control knowing I can look forward to that on a weekend. And I also knew I had to at least give my new diet a go even though it has involved a calorie drop and the week before I was absolutely against that as I felt so rubbish; I’m not one that will quit before I’ve even started.
So as of Monday this week I’ve been on 1150 kcals per day and this involves having the same meals each day to level my body out. Breakfast is eggs and blueberries; lunch is chicken and veggies, dinner is chicken, sweet potato and green beans and then my mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks are rice cakes with peanut butter and tuna with cucumber. Also after training I have a protein shake and caramel snack-a-jacks (my favourite time of the day haha). I’m not going to lie it’s a bit dull but I can eat regularly and apart from a little hunger here and there, it’s actually not too depleting.
In terms of macronutrients, up until this week I’ve been having higher carbs and lower fats. We wanted to try this for a few weeks to see how my body reacted. Overall we’ve figured out that this just does not suit my body. I felt bloated, ‘soft’ in my appearance and up and down with my energy levels. Some people’s bodies react better to high fats and my PT thought this might be the case with me after watching my body change over the previous weeks and months so we decided to give this a go.
Even in just a few days I can feel a huge difference with it. My body feels leaner and tighter; I have more consistent energy levels and just overall feel much better in myself. Because I’m on reduced calories we’ve added quite a lot of branch chain amino acids and glutamine into my diet through supplements and these are helping massively too.
A shot from tonight's training session...getting more definition in my back
Despite hating the diet previously I’ve always loved my training. It’s my release. It’s my time for me and it’s my break from the world. However a couple of weeks ago I found myself not looking forward to training as my body felt so weak that I just couldn’t face going. I knew at that point something had to change as I wasn’t prepared to risk losing my love for training. I normally do Bootcamp on a Wednesday morning which is a killer of a class. But now I’m also doing 3 additional mornings of fasted cardio per week as well as 3-4 weight training sessions and then a high intensity cardio based circuit on a weekend my body just wasn’t recovering enough. So we decided to drop the Bootcamp. I really miss the class already as we have a bit of a Bootcamp family going on as we all go every week and you become friendly with the others in the group. I have to admit it disappointed me a little yesterday when I was leaving the gym just as Bootcamp was starting (we’ve replaced it for 30 minutes steady state fasted cardio instead) and I could see everyone warming up as I left. But it’s got to be done and my body has felt so much better for it. It was just too much of an attack on my nervous system without allowing for adequate recovery so it was massively impacting on my performance.
So yes I know I’m only 4 days into this new programme and it is early days but already mentally I feel a massive difference and that for me is gold. Up until now I’ve not felt completely happy with how things were going, I didn’t feel in control (which anyone who knows me knows I’m a self-confessed control freak) and it just didn’t feel right. This time it does. Something just feels different and I feel happier and like it’s more sustainable for the time period I’m doing it.
I’m also mega excited for my cheat on Saturday night. I’m going away for the night so I’ll be good all day on Saturday and then on the evening we’re booked into a gorgeous pub in the Yorkshire Dales that serves up delicious home cooked food and no doubt an array of yummy homemade desserts too (heaven). So I will be partaking in a cheat, whilst ensuring I don’t go too overboard (don’t worry Michael the 1800 kcals will not be exceeded). And in preparation I’ll be doing a high intensity workout on Saturday morning that will keep my fat burning for a while and we’ll be no doubt getting out and about enjoying the Yorkshire countryside over a few walks so that should burn off the extra calories.
It’s been a tough few weeks for me, tougher than I ever imagined dieting would be. But I’ve hopefully come through the other side now. It’s trial and error. Finding what works with your body and what doesn’t quite work. But if you’re in a similar position to what I was, no matter what your goals are, where you’re a bit disillusioned and fed up with things and frustrated just stick at it. Even if that means changing things up a little either with your diet or with your training; just stick with it. It’s not easy and it drives you crazy sometimes but as my PT said to me at the end of my session tonight ‘in order to get what you’ve never had you’ve got to do something you’ve never done’
Another one from tonight
Enjoy your weekend guys…

Sunday, 21 February 2016

What do I do when I fancy something a bit naughty?

…I sit and think about how bad I need something sweet in my life, and then I leave my apartment, get in my car, drive to Krispy Kreme and devour a dozen donuts…….
….just kidding (well very occasionally I do – maybe not a dozen but 2 or 3 haha) although that’s exactly what I feel like doing most of the time. But obviously that’s not an option so I revert to one of my three alternatives:
1)    Focus on my cheat at the weekend
2)    Find a healthy alternative
3)    MAN UP!
So I’ll approach each of the above in order:
1)    Focus on my cheat at the weekend
This is something new that’s been re-introduced into my life as of this last week. Since January my diet hasn’t supposed to involve any cheats; 100% clean. And I’ve stuck at this in the main but I’m not going to lie occasionally I have had something a bit naughty either a pizza or some chocolate. And I’d craved them so bad and it was frustrating the hell out of me having nothing bad especially when my diet was quite plain during the week too.
I talked about the ‘mind f**k’ stage a couple of weeks ago and last week was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I picked up a bit of a virus a couple of weeks ago (I think from the Winter Warrior event I did which I wrote about on here) and for the week after my body felt a bit weak and depleted and that’s when I really felt I hit the ‘mind f**k’ stage. By the following weekend the virus had fully taken hold and I was sofa bound for 3 days. Off work sick. Unable to train. I had a lot of time to think about things and I’d known in the days leading up to the weekend that my body didn’t feel right. For the first time in a long time I actually didn’t want to go train because I felt so weak that I just dreaded putting my body through a weights session. I felt depleted and I felt miserable and as much as I tried pushing through my training I knew I was going to get sick.
Now don’t get me wrong everyone gets sick now and again and you deal with it. Normally I’m a pretty good patient and dose myself up on meds and I’m good to continue with business as usual. But last weekend my body just said NO. It would usually drive me crazy being laid up indoors all day but it didn’t as my body just craved some rest. And I ate ‘normally’ for a few days and my body just devoured every bit of food I was feeding it. You can’t help picking up a virus but I knew that my body had struggled to deal with it so much more than normal because of my excessive training and because I wasn’t feeding it enough. It sounds stupid but I felt so guilty for what I’d put my body through and so I knew I had to just rest it for a few days and give it what it needed.
You know your own body more than anybody else and you know when something just doesn’t feel right and that’s exactly how I felt. I’d started to get to a point where I wasn’t looking forward to training, where I absolutely despised my diet, I didn’t want to go socialise with certain people because it would be too difficult, I was moody and I was struggling to maintain concentration. Here I was doing all this stuff that was supposed to make me look and feel amazing and instead I felt so bad on myself.
I’ve gone a bit off topic anyway but because of all this I knew I had to change something that I was doing. It came at a time when I was supposed to be hitting my next calorie drop and that just seemed so unthinkable to me when I was feeling as rubbish as what I did. So I had a chat with my PT and decided that I would give the new diet a go but I would need to have a cheat meal planned in on a weekend that would keep me focused and also give my body a bit more of what it needs and allow it to re-feed up again after a tough week of training and dieting.
Mentally I feel much happier with this already. For someone who is a self-confessed foodie and loves all things sweet and fattening I’ve found it so much harder than I ever thought with not having any cheats. So once I was back on track last week I stuck to my diet but also looked forward to my cheat on the weekend and that kept me going. And after enjoying that last night I now feel 100% able to stick to the diet for another week. And my body feels good. I’ve trained hard the last few days to earn my cheat and my body feels better for it.
So it’s important you make your diet achievable and sustainable. Don’t completely deprive yourself as you will get fed up and you won’t stick to it. As soon as you cave a little you’ll find you go crazy with the naughty food as happened to me when I was ill. Enjoying a lasagne to get some homemade goodness in my body soon developed into having a garlic bread with it and crème eggs to follow. Which I know isn’t the worst thing in the world but I was just having it for the sake because my body wanted it whereas if I know I’m having a weekly cheat I’ll plan that properly and only get what I need and be satisfied with that.
It keeps you on track. It keeps you motivated. And there’s actually a lot of research out there that supports the theory of a weekly cheat meal to ‘re-set’ your body and keep your metabolism guessing.
2)    Find a healthy alternative
There are some good healthy alternatives out there which can satisfy that sweet tooth. A couple of my go-to ones are protein pancakes or the chocolate mug cake. I said I would share my recipes for these so here they are:
Protein Pancakes
1 scoop unflavoured protein powder
1 egg
1 banana
1 teaspoon chia seeds
Directions: Blend all the ingredients together, heat up some coconut oil in a pan and then add the pancake mixture and cook on each side. Top with some blueberries, raspberries and some Agave natural sweetener.

Chocolate Mug Cake
(taken from fitness guru Becky Lomas @strongisthenewskinny94 on Instagram)
1 egg
2 teaspoons truvia
2 teaspoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons cacao
Almond/coconut milk
Directions: Mix all the above ingredients together in a mug. Microwave for about 1 minute or until all mixture is blended and looks a bit like a cake. Tip out onto a plate and drizzle with some healthy chocolate sauce (mix some honey and cacao to create this).
These are my two favourite options as they actually do taste naughty. Many of the alternative healthy options I’ve tried (and believe me I have tried lots over the years!) just taste awful. They taste dry, flavourless and definitely do not taste anything like the real deal. So give these a go and see what you think.
3)    MAN UP!
Sometimes it’s just as simple as this. Man up!! Dieting is hard and it can suck at times. But you’re doing it for a reason. You’re doing it with a goal in mind. You’re doing it to be a better version of you and sometimes you just gotta put on your big girl boots and suck it up. It WILL all be worth it; that’s what I tell myself every single day.
It’s all about the mental strength and getting in a good shape says so much about you as a person because it’s one thing in life that no one else can do for you. You can have help and support but ultimately it comes down to you. You have to be the one that gets your ass out of bed to go train. You have to be the one that turns down the chocolate when it’s getting passed around the office. You have to be the one that resists putting a bag of sweets in the shopping trolley even when no one else would ever find out about it. But you’re also going to be the one that has an amazing sense of satisfaction when you reach your goal. That develops a mental resilience when things can be tough. That looks smoking hot when you step out poolside on holiday. You can have results or excuses. You can’t have both!!  Have a good week guys!!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Welcome to the mind f**k stage...

I’m just over 5 weeks into dieting now so I thought I’d write a bit of an update on where I’m at physically and mentally.
Week 1 I hit the ground running and felt on top of the world. My body reacted very well to the change in diet and I saw an immediate improvement in my performance in the gym. I think it’s fair to say though if any part of me thought that this whole process was fairly easy after that first week I was about to be brought back down to earth with a bang in weeks 2 and 3. The cravings kicked in, I got a bit run-down so picked up a virus which knocked me off my training plan for a couple of days and the euphoria from week 1 had well and truly worn off.
Those weeks were difficult, not helped by the child-like attitude I seemed to develop during that time also which I talked about in another post but sure enough going into week 4 I’d picked myself back up and got my game face back on. And in all honesty the last 2 weeks I’ve found much easier. My cravings dropped off and the initial hunger I’d felt from reducing my calories soon started to taper too. My body was certainly getting used to the new nutritional plan I was subjecting it to and all was well with the world again.
Getting that greens goodness into my body!
Then crash! Yesterday arrived and along with it my first mini-meltdown. As with most meltdowns you get them when you least expect it and in the most unlikely of places so at 07:15 leaving the gym after fasted cardio there I was questioning anything and everything, having a total panic. I’d done my 20 minutes cardio but my body felt depleted, I felt weak, I felt tired and most importantly I did not feel lean. I knew I was 7 weeks out from my photo shoot and I felt I was a long way off where I wanted to be, with the weeks ticking down and D-day looming closer. I didn’t feel in total control of the situation anymore.
Some of this I think was psychological after my routine was thrown out the few days previous. I weight trained the previous Thursday, Friday was just my fasted cardio morning and then Saturday I did Winter Warrior when I’d normally have a heavy weights session, Sunday was a light active recovery session and Monday I had to rest for the day as I had a 14 hour working day in London. Normally Monday would involve fasted cardio and a PT session to set my week up but I obviously had to miss both of those. So mentally I felt off my plan and I’d had my cheat night on the Friday night too where I’d over-indulged (albeit deservedly). Everything combined and I just did not feel good in myself nor did I feel I was where I want to be given the sacrifices I’d made so far.
I’ve been finding such fluctuations in my body which I think is what I’ve been struggling to deal with. One day I look in the mirror and feel like I’m getting shredded and the next day I feel like I’ve taken 1 step forward and 2 steps back despite sticking to the diet and training. And it’s been the same with my weight. I’ve never been too concerned with what the scales say as I know when you start building muscle that weighs more than the same volume of fat. But this time round I’ve been cutting calories to drop the weight a bit in order to get lean so it’s slightly demotivating when you step on the scales one day to see a loss and the next day you step on and you’ve gone back up.
On one of my 'good' days after fasted cardio...there's some abs in there somewhere
So I left the gym a bit upset with myself and life, questioning whether I’ve got what it takes to hit the goals I want. Questioning whether I can cope with everything I’m trying to juggle. The first 4 weeks I’d seen good progress and then over the last week I just hit a brick wall.
Luckily I had a PT session last night so I decided to wait until then to speak to Michael about everything to avoid me sending some crazy, emotional text at 8am probably making very little sense and simply just freaking out about everything.
So I arrived at the gym last night for my PT session feeling a little more calm than the morning and this is where I’m so glad I’ve got such an experienced and supportive trainer. Michael immediately put me at ease and clearly what I was experiencing many others do while going through this process and he put it simply; “Welcome to the mind f**k stage” You can certainly say that again.
He immediately recognised what was happening physically and mentally and throughout our session over the next hour we developed a plan. It’s totally normal to hit plateau stages during such intense diets and that’s just where we need to change things around a little. And as I’ve come to learn with Michael’s guidance it’s all about learning what works for my body and what doesn’t and some of that is trial and error. It was reassuring to hear that I’d come a long way in the 4 weeks so far and that with 7 weeks still left until the photo shoot we had plenty of time to mix things up a bit to get me back on track.
Taken during last week's back and chest workout.
I have to admit I had totally underestimated the mental impact that such intense dieting has on you. And for anyone who’s reading this who hasn’t done such an intense diet you probably think it sounds a bit dramatic but it’s honestly so true. It pushes you to your limits mentally and it’s a time where you find out who you really are and what you’re made of. Hormonally as well, especially for women, diet has a massive impact on you. Again something I didn’t think that much about beforehand but I’d experienced huge hormonal fluctuations over the last 4 weeks.
It’s hard as well when you’re balancing all this with everyday life. For those full-time athletes it’s easier for them when this can be their only focus in life. They have the luxury of time to be able to spend doing what they need to do whether that be training, meal preparation, sleeping or resting. It’s hard going when you’ve got a career too. Tonight I am physically and mentally exhausted. After a 14 hour working day on Monday including travel to and from London, I was up at 05:30 yesterday and again today to get my fasted cardio in before work and then I go to work and do everything I need to do which is stressful in itself especially at the moment and then last night I weight trained as well. Thankfully tonight I can just rest and get an early night. My sleep has also not been as good the last few nights and I can tell it’s from the stress of everything, waking up at midnight paranoid I’ve slept through my 05:30 alarm and having to physically calm myself down to get back to sleep and relax my body. I’m certainly looking forward to a quiet, chilled out weekend that’s for sure.
Michael has been awesome about it all and has spent time today drawing me up a new diet plan to follow from this week to see how my body reacts to that. It involves another calorie drop which I’ll no doubt find challenging for the first week or so but I’m confident I’ll manage it with the good support network around me. We’re also starting to build some amino acids into my diet too as because I’m on reduced calories we don’t want to risk my muscle mass dropping.
My mind is focused and I feel much more in control of my thoughts and emotions in regard to my diet than I did 2 weeks ago despite yesterday’s episode, which is progress in itself. I’m embracing each and every step of the journey even if some of them are extremely challenging. I’m learning so much about myself both physically and mentally and whilst it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done in life I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Let the mind f**k continue. Onwards and upwards.
In the zone...I got this!!

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Winter Warrior 2016

Yesterday I took part in my first event of 2016. Winter Warrior down at Donington Park in the East Midlands. Wow; what a fun day we had.
I signed up to this a few weeks ago (Winter Warrior 2016) with a group from my gym as a bit of a mini-challenge but more so just to have some fun and enjoy the experience. I do question myself a little bit when I say ‘enjoy the experience’ as I found myself bear-crawling through mud and wading through the filthiest waist-deep water I’ve ever seen but I can’t lie; I absolutely loved it.
Personally, my training and events that I do are a bit of a release for me. I work hard all week in a high pressured job where I do have to look presentable all the time and act in a professional manner. And I have a lot of responsibility for my age. So yesterday it was nice to just be able to throw on my gear, get out in the wind and rain, roll about in some mud for an hour and just act like a 20-something year old for a change. Yep I’m officially crazy.
The course was 5km with 37 obstacles along the way ranging from balance beams, monkey bars, climbing up hills with ropes, jumping walls and going down slides. And you can always rely on the good old British weather to make the event just that bit more fun as the rain poured down, the wind lashed in our faces and temperatures dropped near to freezing. It made it all the more fun though; I mean who wants to do that course in lovely warm sunshine hey?
Our day started at 9am with a meet up at the gym (and a quick pre-event weigh in for me) and then we made our way down the M1 to Donington.
Scared and excited on our way...
It was all systems go when we arrived getting kitted up, numbered up and of course the obligatory selfies before we set off. Our group was in the 11:30 heat so the previous runners had definitely made sure the course was nice and mashed up for us when we set off.
Numbered up and ready to go
Group shot
There were about 8 of us in our group with a range of ages and abilities. I’d definitely recommend doing events like these in a group if you’re thinking of doing one. It makes it so much more fun and you help each other through the obstacles. And once we’d set off and got into the spirit of things you soon forget about the cold and you have no option but to just throw yourself into it…literally. It took us around an hour to get through the course and I don’t think I’ve quite got rid of all the mud I picked up along the way despite 4 showers since we got home. I’m still finding it…and some new bruises in questionable places this evening.
Muddied up but still smiling
For anyone who’s thinking about doing something similar I’d say to go for it. The course itself wasn’t that difficult, especially with some help from your friends along the way and sometimes it’s nice to just throw caution to the wind and get out there and have some fun.
One quote has always stuck in my head since I heard it and I try and remind myself of it every now and again in between the chores of daily life which of course you’ve just got to do sometimes…
“When you stop doing things for fun then you might as well be dead”
Not everything always has to have a purpose and this is something I’m learning to appreciate in life. Sometimes you can just do things because they’re fun to do for that moment, you don’t need any other reason.
Hope you’ve all had great weekends.