Archive | April, 2013

Relieving Back Tension: A Balanced Routine

27 Apr

HELLLLOOOOOO everyone!!

Before I even get into writing about what this post is regarding, I just have to share this picture of a non-dairy ice cream purchase I made today:

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It is was awesome. While it lasted.

Okay. Back on topic.

(NOTE: I am actually half drunk, so please forgive me if something went unexplained throughout this blog post. It’s Friday night and I bought myself a special wine glass for $1 at Wal-Mart. I had to kill the whole bottle…don’t judge me.)

I have been talking about doing a lower back tension relief article/video for a couple of weeks and I have finally gotten around to it. I am posting the video first, so that I can break down each exercise in order.

All of these stretches will help you to:

  1. Relieve tension
  2. Relieve back DOMS
  3. Increase flexibility
  4. Increase circulation

DISCLAIMER:

PLEASE keep in mind to go at your OWN pace. If for some reason you are not flexible enough to do the ranges of motion that I have done in this video, adjust it to your own experience level. Do NOT try to rush these stretches.

I sped these up somewhat, but you should generally hold each stretch for about 30 seconds to reap the full benefits. This routine can be done once all the way through, or twice, or however many times you want to do it.

Again, go at your own pace and adjust the stretches when and where needed to suit your own individual fitness level.

ONE LAST THING: BREATHING

Remember to breathe DEEP during each stretch. Breathe in through your nose, and exhale lightly through your mouth. Breathe through your stomach and not your chest, attempting to deepen each breath. This will really help you relax your muscles further.

A glass of red wine helps too. ūüėČ

So without further ado, here is the video. Please excuse my nappy appearance.

STRETCH #1: The Cat/Cow Pose

Not sure what cows have to do with this pose but whatever.

In this pose, you will start on all fours. On the inhale, you will curve your spine down (hyperextending), and at the same time raise your head and chest. Really open up through the chest and take in a deep breath.

On the exhale, you’re going to think of pulling your belly into your spine and rounding the back. The neck and head follow and are dropped towards the floor as you get a nice stretch through the upper back. Repeat.

STRETCH #2: Child’s Pose

This stretch is extremely relaxing for the spine. You will be sitting back through your hips onto your bent knees, and reaching forward through the finger tips to loosen up your upper back. The head and neck stay down. After feeling a good stretch in the upper back, completely relax your upper back and arms and allow yourself to sit nicely into the stretch. Again, breathe deep. With ever exhale you should feel yourself relaxing even further.

STRETCH #3: Cobra

Pressing through your palms, raise your chest high into the air, focusing on keeping your feet straight and your hips on the floor as much as possible. Raise yourself only as high as you can to get a great stretch in the lower back and hip flexors.

STRETCH #4: Downward Facing Dog

From the Cobra stretch, come up onto your toes and press your hips back and up into the air. If a close stance is hard, try keeping your feet wider apart and focus on slowly working your feet in closer together until you can keep them close with your heels pressed into the ground.

Doing some extra¬†shoulder stretching and mobility work as well as hamstring stretching prior to this will really help you to nail this pose more. (NOTE: I actually didn’t get a chance to before I did this video so my back wasn’t as straight as it normally is, but you get the idea.)

Try to make sure you are not wearing see-through leggings while doing this stretch. Or on second thought, never mind that. You sexy beasts, you.

STRETCH #5: Lying Hip Flexor Stretch

I don’t actually know what this one is called. But it’s good.

Sitting on your feet, lay back as far as you can, preferably with your shoulders flat against the floor. If your hip flexors are still too tight to do this, you can also rest on your palms or elbows until you can work yourself down to the floor. Breathe deep.

STRETCH #6: Back Bend

Place your hands by your ears about shoulder-width apart, feet flat on the floor. From this position, press into your palms and your heels at the same time to raise your body in the air. Go as high as you can and hold.

Pushing your head further through your arms and towards your glutes will help you to get an even deeper stretch.

Be careful when coming out of this stretch. Walk your feet out slowly and lower yourself to the ground in a controlled manner.

STRETCH #7: Knee Pulls

Bend one leg, and have the other extended. Grasp the bent leg behind the knee and pull it as close as you can to your body. Stay relaxed, breathe deep, and just allow yourself to really stretch out your lower back. Repeat on the other leg, and then grasp both legs behind the knees and pull yourself into a ball, breathing and relaxing your spine. Release slowly.

RECOMMENDATIONS

As said before, I recommend holding each stretch (except for the cat/cow pose) for at least 30 seconds. This routine can be repeated as many times as you’d like. I usually do it 2-3 times and it works like a charm.

EXERCISE ADAPTIONS

If you need help figuring out how to make a certain pose/stretch easier, just let me know in the comments and I will help you out. Stretching is all about working at your own pace. You never want to rush or try to stretch in a way that you know you are not capable of. This puts you at a big risk for injury, which is exactly OPPOSITE of what we are trying to accomplish!!

I hope this post helps and gives some of you with tight backs and idea of what to do for loosening up, improving your flexibility, and relieving tightness. I also hope my explanations were understandable enough. If not, let me know!

Train safe – and, as the yogi’s say: “Namaste!!”

King Cobra pose

King Cobra pose

Revamping Mental Focus: Keeping Your Eyes On The Prize

19 Apr
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Herp derp.

After setting a PR for myself on squats today, I took some time to sit back and think about my updates in relation to my performance.

Is my sharing of goals and PR’s actually negatively impacting my performance at competitions?

When one sets goals and tells the world about them, you feel a sort of obligation to hold up to those standards and goals. Because if you don’t, even though the only one you are¬†actually disappointing is yourself, you feel like others are too. And that is not good for confidence at all. If anything, it is what causes you to want to throw in the towel.

(Note: This¬†doesn’t only apply to¬†lifting. This can also hold true with physique goals as well.)

However, keeping goals and PR’s made around meet time¬†hush-hush¬†is a good way to keep focused and bring your best to the platform without feeling like you have an obligation to yourself and others to perform at a certain level. You must honor your body and you must also honor your current experience and capability¬†level.

We are seeking progress – not perfection!

Squats especially have always been a very challenging lift for me. And though I feel great when I share PR’s with people, I am coming to find that having over-confidence in a weak area can actually hurt you this close to a competition.

If you glide through the last 6-8 weeks leading up to your competition sharing PR’s and being over-zealous, it can sometimes make you too confident and unrealistic come meet day.

Though confidence is a great thing, we must be humble as well. That way, should something go wrong for whatever reason, you are not severely dissapointed. And you also don’t look like a huge asshat for telling everyone that you were going to dominate yet didn’t come close.

Don’t be “that guy”. Or girl. (Admittedly, I have been and am rather¬†embarrassed by¬†it.)

It’s easy to get excited when your training starts going your way. You’re seeing big leaps in progress and it feels good to be getting somewhere. But you must remember that by becoming too excited over small feats obtained on the way to a bigger goal can really set you back both mentally and physically. While you should believe in yourself and your abilities, you should also keep in mind that you still have a long way to go, and we are constantly learning and growing. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

We already tend to over-analyze a lot when it comes to training. Sometimes when we don’t get exactly what we expected on meet day, we tend to think there was something wrong with the way we were training. Most of the time it’s a mental thing. And yes, you can definitely burn yourself out prior to competing with over-confidence.

The trick here is to focus on what happens on the platform – not what happens off of it.

“What we do in the gym means shit if we can’t bring the package to the platform.” – my wise fiance

 

Be happy for the progress you are making, but don’t let it cloud your vision!!

So that being said, I will be keeping PR’s to myself for now to help me stay more focused leading up to this meet. Though I unfortunately already posted what I wanted to hit at this competition, in the future those goals will be kept to myself as well.

I will still be posting how I feel with my workouts, and once the meet is over I will go back to posting regular training updates. But for now, eyes on the prize, comrades!!

—————–

What helps you mentally prepare and stay focused for a competition or physique transformation?

Do I Even Lift?

17 Apr

Hey.

(For some reason wordpress isn’t allowing me to add pictures/vids today? Sad panda.)

So I’ve been away from the blog for a few days, namely due to fuckery going on with work and such. I’ve just been preoccupied. Training has still commenced though.

I’ve been eating like mad the last few days to make sure I am nice and fueled up to max squats tomorrow. The idea is scary and exciting at the same time, since I will be on my own, and I am used to maxing with a team or at least another person. But I’m confident it’ll go well.

In other training news, I’ve decided to put my interest and curiosity for yoga to the test. As of today, I am committing myself to daily practice so that I can get my moves down.

No, I can’t do crazy shit yet. But I would like to.

The challenge here is making sure that it doesn’t interfere with my powerlifting. But having spoken with some strong ladies (Jen Comas Keck, Marisa Inda, etc.), it seems that as long as I am not on the extreme side of the yoga spectrum, I shouldn’t be having a problem.

The main concern I have, and it seems to be fairly relevant from what I’ve seen/read, is that my lower body muscle (and fat too, who am I kidding!) is likely to interfere a little since it’s rather unbalanced. It is definitely harder for a chick with muscular legs to do Ashtanga than it is for a 100 lb. dainty girl. But either way, the call for more upper body strength has been made, and I am definitely up to the challenge.

My goal: to be able to do a scorpion pose by the end of the year. Which means, I first have to learn how to do a handstand. Fuck.

And, get over the fear of landing on my head and becoming paralyzed. But I’ll try to stay positive.

Unrelated diet blurb:

As a vegan powerlifter, I have gotten, and am bound to get questions about my protein intake and whether or not I think it affects my strength training. That’s when I have to say that protein is of little concern to me as of late. Eating less of it has not negatively impacted my training. What DOES negatively impact my training is:

  • poor sleep habits
  • not eating enough
  • poor warm-ups
  • stress
  • anxiety

So what does a daily diet in the life of a vegan powerlifter look like?

Well. I eat a lot of salad (come at me, junk food fanatics). But I also eat a lot of starch and fruit. For example, these were my meals today (amounts are only estimates, as I do not weigh or measure):

  1. 80-100g of raw oats with 2.5 tbsp. of peanut butter, 1.5 cups of almond milk, 1 whole banana, cinnamon, and a mix of brown sugar/splenda
  2. 1 can of chickpeas (the 800ml one; maybe 2.5 cups?) mixed with kale, 1 tbsp. EVOO, lemon, and romaine lettuce
  3. 4 oranges, protein shake (Vega Sport)

And I guess I have another 1-2 meals left to consume. Later I will probably have another shake, lots of veggies, and maybe some rice/lentils. This is on a day off, so you would subtract whatever I’d normally have as a post-training meal as well.

I will say it again, since some people just don’t get it. I don’t know how many calories I eat. I’m guessing anywhere from 2000-2500 on a given day. I don’t track, I just listen to my body. I usually have the bulk of my starchy carbs in the morning/early afternoon, and try to stick to beans/legumes/veggies for the rest of the day, only because this is the way I found my weight stays most consistent in the mornings (and I only track this because I have a competition coming up soon)

I drink typically two protein shakes a day, and this is by far the priciest thing on my menu. But, I’d say it’s needed especially with the heavy training that I do.

In addition to all my food I also take vitamin B and vitamin D daily. I take an iron tab maybe once or twice a week ONLY IF for whatever reason I am not eating a lot of dark leafy vegetables. I’m out of flax oil but that will also be added in once I can get some more.

THIS WEEK’S PR:

250 lb. SPEED deadlifts, 6×2. I am really excited about my deadlift progress on The Cube Method. Can’t wait to max next week!!

Squat Progress!!

11 Apr

Nearing the end of my first run with The Cube (from Brandon Lilly). This is week 7. So far, I have definitely been noticing improvements in:

  • endurance
  • training recovery/volume tolerance
  • strength
  • fat loss

I’ve been eating quite a bit without tracking and have managed to remain quite lean and haven’t really gone up in weight. I dare say I seem to have even leaned up some more. High volume is doing my body good!!

I also switched up my squat form slightly. Brought my feet in slightly and also turned my toes a little more forward so I am squatting less like a duck, hah. It’s working much better and my knees are tracking properly. Much more power out of the bottom, and a more upright position.

WEEK 7, DAY #3:

Squats:

bar x bunch

95×5

115×3

145×1

165×1

185x5x2

More Squats:

205×1

215×1

225×2

Pause Squats: (Full 3-second pause at the bottom of each rep)

145×3

165×1

185x5x5 (PR in weight and reps)

Hack Squats:

25’s – 4×20¬†(alternating high/wide stance and close stance)

Very Light Good-Mornings:

75×12

85×12

95×12

NOTES:

Pause squats were especially good today. Felt like lowering the weight after my first set with 185 then decided I didn’t want to be a pussy and kept the weight the same, haha. That’s 40 lbs. more than 2 weeks ago!! Pretty sweet jump I’d say.

Was so dead after hack squats that I kind of skipped the DB straight-leg DL’s I was supposed to do. It was also causing me to run a bit late with work so I cut it after the good-mornings.

 

Vid of my pause squats:

 

And something extra to brighten your day and give you a laugh:

Insecurity: The Bread and Butter of The “Fitness”, Beauty, and Fashion Industry

10 Apr

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They say you will be your best self. Your most confident self. You will be light as a feather. Sexier. More successful.

But at what cost?

It’s difficult enough for us to believe in ourselves and exude confidence without someone else shoving their unrealistic and money-driven viewpoints down our throats like cough medicine for a sick baby. We are told that no matter what we do to better ourselves, we always need to do more. Our best is never enough.

There is a pill, powder, clothing article, shoe, cream, and drink for every one of our “imperfections”. Something to hide behind. Something that tricks ourselves into believing that we are improving something.

But improving what exactly?

Every appearance-targeted industry knows that there is no such thing as perfection. But they will always tell you that there is. Or at the very least, convince you that you need what they have to offer in order to feel good about yourself, or to look better. They will feed lies to you until you are sitting in front of a pile full of things to hide yourself, wondering where your parents went wrong and what your mom must have been smoking when they made you.

Listen to me. Beauty comes from the inside. Call it cliche if you will. But the only way to feel good about yourself on the outside is to feel good about yourself on the inside. At the end of the day, confidence comes from self-acceptance. Striving for improvement is one thing, but striving to be different due to a lack of appreciation for the person you are is nothing short of destructive.

Stop putting money into the pockets of those who tell you that you aren’t good enough. Save it for building upon the things that lift your spirits and strengthen your self-confidence.

FILL IN THE BLANK: I could afford to cut __________ out of my life to help me focus on what is really important.

Go!!

Cube Week 7, Day 1

9 Apr

Yesterday’s training…max benching later today!!

Deadlifts:

135×5

175×3

205×1

225×1

235×1

250×2

Snatch-Grip Deadlifts (Mid-shin):

175x2x15

Squats (ATG!!)

135×12

140×12

145×12

Leg Press:

270×10

360x4x10 (bottomed out; switching between wide and narrow stance)

Hyperextensions;

BW x 30

 

NOTES:

Good day. Deadlifts felt ridiculously easy. Can’t wait to see what I can pull in a few weeks ūüôā

Appreciating Strong Women

5 Apr

This is dedicated solely to strong, empowered women.

This post was inspired by Vanessa Gale’s original post from her brilliant blog (she has a couple of different entries related to this). Her post/blog can be found by clicking the link below:

Femme Friday

Sub to her blog. She’s awesome.

NOTE: I do not know the names of every one of these lovely ladies, but I will try to add their names if I do know them.

Enjoy and share!!

——

Marzena Karpinska:

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Sin Leung

Sin Leung

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9aba74b1c4dcca5269c4762b503dadd7

9d0127acf6ba0a963601b9c624239fa9

6f4efdee6924d2870f2ce955320ff261

Cara Heads:

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73e882a19f8987daf52679e67eff5ee3

440e9e27b73fc292626194b11f8b9c3c

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Jen Comas Keck

Jen Comas Keck

Molly Galbraith

Molly Galbraith

Alyssa Smith:

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09271352af9004fbe6e6da02b4aa51ef

b7cd6222c7ad8e68fd121e0b780f61ca

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Lidia Valentin

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julia ladewski

Julia Ladewski

Krista Scott Dixon

Krista Scott Dixon

Mari Asp

Mari Asp

Kara Bohigian Smith

Kara Bohigian Smith

Natty Freed

Natty Freed

Samantha Wright

Samantha Wright

Sarah Backman

Sarah Backman

Suzanne Hartwig Gary

Suzanne Hartwig Gary

Becky Rich

Becky Rich

Suzi

Suzi

Talia VanDoran

Talia VanDoran

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Kelsea Koenreich:

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Wanda Sander

Wanda Sander

Nicole Gray

Nicole Gray

Vanessa Gale

Vanessa Gale

Marissa Inda: