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Week #8, Day #1 – Officially 11 weeks out!

17 Mar

So, it’s official…

I’M DOING MY FIRST EVER AMERICAN MEET IN JUNE!!

Whoop!

It’ll be the APF Senior Nationals from the 6th-8th. I’m so pumped. It’ll have been a full year since I have been on the platform for anything but taking photos, so I’m really pumped to compete again.

Mock meet coming up in 2 weeks, and then just prep work from there. Schwab has me progressing every week, so I have no doubt I will put up some better numbers this time around!

Was a bit rushed during today’s training, but had a good session nonetheless. It was supposed to be MUCH lower volume than this…but sometimes I don’t know when to quit on leg days. :/ Saved my ab work for tomorrow’s session.

Box Squats (parallel):

WU: 5 min. incline walking, x-band walks, glute bridges

bar x bunch

95×5

135×3

165×1

205×1

230×1

245×3

255×3

Leg Press:

(3 second descent, explode up)

270×10

360×10 (x2)

450×10

540×10 (x2)

Leg Curls:

(done till failure, with partial reps at end)

80×15 + 5 partials

80×10 + 5 partials (x3)

Leg Extensions:

I don’t remember what I did here. Just a lot of crazy strips sets and partial reps until I wanted to shoot myself in the head.

Squatting With Cookie Monster: Part 1

5 Sep

wallpaper_de_cookie_monster_by_melyssa222-d533sp7

As many of you probably already know, my little 2007 Toshiba is finally giving up the ghost.

Last night when I got home from work (11pm), I sat down to write this post and it began to freeze up every time I tried to open a webpage. This computer freezes with pretty much everything other than word document.

So I was stuck writing a post on form, with no video to refer to like I said. Go figure.

Now, I am writing this after having watched the video on my phone, and I am hoping it is as accurate as possible (since watching it multiple times can really eat up the data). A part of me hopes that the laptop will finally just crash, so I have a justified reason for throwing it against the wall. The other part of me is scared that it will, because then…well…I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything.

Anyway.

The main purpose of this post is to go over some common form errors in the squat, and how to fix them. I thought the best way of demonstrating would be to use the video of someone who possesses some of these technical issues. A reader/subscriber named Chris (whom I met in Detroit) happily lent me the use of his videos. Thank you, Chris!

MeWithCookieMonster

At first I was going to diagnose Chris’s deadlift, but then had recently been getting more requests for something on squats, so I thought we’d start with that first.

Keep in mind, this is for educational and improvement purposes only. Chris was nice enough to allow me to use his videos as demonstration, so I ask that you view them in such as well. We can all learn something here.

Chris – I hope this post is helpful to you! Please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email if you have other questions!

THE VIDEO:

0741344]

THE SET-UP

One very important thing to keep in mind when you want to get tight and stay tight from the beginning of a squat, is to not rush the set-up.

When Chris gets under the bar, his shoulders aren’t locked back and down properly. His upper back is not tight enough, so when he un-racks the bar, he is already at a disadvantage. Remember that there is no hurry for performing your squat. I realize that some of you may not especially like getting under the bar, and just kind of want to get things over with. But don’t rush that part of the set-up.

Go slow to get under the bar. Don’t be a sloth. But make your set-up mechanical if you must. Set your hands. Draw your shoulder blades back and down. Lock everything into position. Without losing tightness in your back, bring yourself under the bar, and lift your chest up. Bury the bar into your traps, look up, take a deep breath, and stand straight up.

Always let the weight settle for a moment before walking out.

THE DESCENT/ASCENT

One thing that I do like, is that he stays in his heels the whole time, and begins the descent with his hips.

However, this is something I see in a lot of other squatters as well – you have to remember to arch your back, and use your glutes.

In this video, he only has 135 on the bar, so it’s a pretty easy weight for him. Had the bar been loaded more, his back would likely take a big hit from the way it is positioned.

(NOTE: Chris mentioned to me that he has tight IT bands and hips, which would definitely make sense given the way his back is positioned. Another indicator of very tight hips is the inability to arch during a bench press. I will give some mobility/warm-up ideas at the end of this article that can be used by anyone who is having a difficult time getting and keeping an arch in the back.)

The arch is important because it allows your back to be fully contracted during the movement. With no arch, the likeliness for becoming loose in the low back when the weight gets heavy is much higher.

Having an arch will also allow you to engage your glutes more, and really sit back into the squat.

If you cannot feel your glutes totally contracted on the lock-out, and if you cannot feel them moving on the ascent, that means they aren’t fired correctly, and chances are, you’re not using them much at all.

The glutes are the LARGEST muscles in your body. And the strongest. To not incorporate them in a squat wouldn’t make sense. But it goes to show that sometimes, staying in your heels does not always indicate that you are using your glutes and hamstrings. The squat in this video is still very much quad-dominant.

While the weight is in his heels, much of the lock-out power is coming from his quads/knees.

Which brings me to saying, DON’T LOCK OUT WITH THE KNEES!

You literally have to think of humping the air at the top, and squeezing your glutes as tight as you can. This is made easier once the glutes have been properly activated prior to squatting.

As a final pointer, always remember to keep the knees OUT. Force them to the sides. If you find that this is difficult, maybe try changing your stance up. Your knees may not be properly tracking with the feet. You can find out what foot width and toe point is best for you when you get into a bodyweight squat. If the knees track in line with the feet, you’re good to go.

ANOTHER BIG THING: Breathing

It’s important to breathe through the stomach when performing squats. The tendency is to take a deep breath through the chest (while thinking “chest up), but this limits the amount of oxygen, and also the length of time you have holding it. If you have to grind through a heavy squat, you want to make sure you don’t pass out from lack of oxygen (since you are holding your breath during this time).

Always remember to breathe deep at the beginning of each rep, contract your abs, and hold the breath throughout the movement. One exception is letting out a little air with a “tsss” sort of sound to release pressure on the way up, or when you get stuck (hope that makes sense). This way you are ensuring that you don’t pass out from the pressure build-up.

Don’t let out all your air at the top, because this can also pre-exhaust you. Breathe normally, and always take air before you descend. Otherwise you can get loose at the bottom, since you’re like a deflated balloon at that point.

STRETCHING, ACTIVATON AND MOBILITY WORK

Much of the issues with having a quad-dominant squat can be solved with frequent stretching, mobility, and activation work.

Before squatting, try to take your time warming up. The following exercises are fantastic for activating the glutes, and getting to know what it feels like to really squeeze the glutes throughout the movement:

  • Banded clamshells
  • Banded good-mornings
  • X-band walks
  • Single-leg glute bridges
  • Glute thrusts (between two benches)

For reference, Bret Contreras has some excellent videos and material on youtube if you want some ideas for different exercises. My general recommendation is 1-3 sets of 15-25 reps per exercise.

Yes, per exercise.

I take my glute warm-ups quite seriously these days.

As for mobility work, this is the video I refer to constantly when it comes to warming up my hips:

I’d say at least 5-10 minutes of hip mobility drills is necessary pre-squatting. I also recommend 10 minutes of mobility work first thing in the morning for you plywood folks.

“What about foam rolling?”

Foam rolling is okay. Most people can afford to skip it, and save it for after squats. Use it if you are quite sore or stiff. But don’t over-do it.

ALL static stretching should be left for after you are finished squatting.
If you have flexibility issues, make sure to stretch for a minimum of 10 minutes post-training.

As a final side-note with warm-ups, please…for the love of everything good in this world…STOP FOAM ROLLING YOUR IT BANDS!!

I know. Shocking.

I advocated it in the past. Lots of fitness gurus advocate it. But my RMT would chop my head off if he ever saw me doing it again.

The reason being, your IT bands are just that…bands. They are not muscles. When you do soft tissue work on a muscle, it breaks up scar tissue and helps loosen up the stiff muscles. However, when you try to do soft tissue work on your IT band with a foam roller, you are only compressing the band even further, causing more tightness and more pain in your hips. The IT band needs to be stretched, not compressed.

If you are suffering from very tight IT bands, please keep this in mind. As tempting as it is when they are sore, don’t massage them or roll them with a PVC/rumble roller. Stretch them out.

Thank you!!

(NOTE: Sorry I have to cut this is a little short. I’d love to go off on a tangent, but I have to get to work.

If anyone has further questions, I’d be more than happy to answer them in the comments section below. Give me your thoughts, and I’ll see what I can do with em!)

Baby Got Back: Lats Edition

1 Jul

My sincerest apologies, comrades. This particular post isn’t about derrieres.

What a shame.

Instead, we are here to talk about the other “back” – your lats.

A strong, developed back equates stronger lifts and better posture, as well as helping you to develop that beloved “V-taper” that so many seek. And for those women who do not have a natural hourglass figure, building up the lats (as well as the shoulders) can help give the appearance of one.

In other words, a well-developed back is sexy as hell.

bb3

What some people (women mostly) don’t realize however, is that they are training their back wrong. These are the same people that have been exercising for awhile and doing everything to get their backs to grow and develop a better shape, but have either plateaued or just can’t figure out what it is they aren’t doing right.

Let’s just take genetics completely out of the picture for now and talk about the average person. ANYONE can build a prize-winning back if they understand some basic mechanics and have the desire to bust their asses a little harder.

A little bit of throwback for you: There was a time when I had quite an average-looking back for a girl. Skinny fat, barely any muscle at all. Within a year though, I managed to add quite a bit of size to my back, and within 3.5 years have had people asking me how to develop theirs more.

Four years of back progress. 2009-2013.

Four years of back progress. 2009-2013.

So if your back is troubling you, I’m here to help.

Sections of this article (in the following order) will be:

  • Muscle activation and engagement
  • Mobility work
  • Rep ranges, weight, and other specifics
  • Exercise list
  • Program planning

SECTION #1: WHY MUSCLE ACTIVATION?

Just like any other muscle, activating the muscles of the upper back prior to training is important for ensuring that you are working them to their full potential. Since your arms act as straps with all back exercises, the tendency is to put too much focus on the arms pulling the weight rather than the muscles in your back pulling the weight.

If you observe someone doing a pull-up or a chin-up for the first time, you will notice that all the force appears to be generating from their shoulders, biceps, and forearms. Thus reducing the power of the movement, causing excess stress to the tendons and ligaments, and excluding the focus muscle group from the exercise.

To properly perform a pullup or chin-up, the lats need to be activated and engaged. Sinking the neck and head into the shoulder blades and allowing your shoulders to shrug at the bottom is not only a good way to get injured, but also once again takes the back quite a bit out of the movement.

pull-ups

The muscles in the back are built through pulling movements. So what happens when your back is not engaged in the exercise? Your arms do all the work. Which is why many people complain that their arms give out before their back does.

Remember that with back exercises, you are trying to work the back. The arms should play a part (obviously), but should not be the focus muscle group.

POINT A: ACTIVATION AND ENGAGEMENT

The muscles in the upper back are activated by a few things: light stretching, contractions, and mobility work (more on that in the next section). Engaging the muscles after all warm-ups have been completed is mostly limited to something called your “mind-to-muscle connection”.

The MTMC This is something I first learned from Kai Greene during the beginning of my journey into weightliting. Putting direct mental focus on the muscle you are working in the movement, ESPECIALLY when you are training a muscle group that directly affects other muscle groups (deadlifts, rows, squats, pullups, etc.), is the key to proper engagement of said muscle.

Kai Greene - 09 - www.Musclebase.Blogspot.com

Just like the example I gave earlier with the pullups, it’s very easy to forget what you are trying to train when other muscle groups are involved to complete the movement.

Another example: If you are doing a deadlift, forgetting that the legs generate most of the power in the movement is a recipe for back rounding and a poor lock-out. It also places a lot of unnecessary stress on your back, when your legs could be doing so much of the movement if you had them properly engaged.

No leg involvement here.

No leg involvement here.

Activation in and of itself is simply not enough. You MUST visualize the muscle before AND during the movement. When you are doing rows, do not think of pulling the arms back. Think of retracting and contracting your lats/shoulder blades to pull the weight. This places nearly all the focus on your back, with your arms just there to hold the weight.

That is what you want.

So remember: Visualize, visualize, visualize. Think to yourself “lats”. Remind yourself that you need to be feeling them during the movement. If your back is sore the next day and your arms are not too different, you’ll know that you have engaged your muscles properly.

SECTION #2: MOBILITY/ACTIVATION EXERCISES

All mobility and activation work should be done prior to your upper body sessions. It’s extremely important to make this a regular part of your training program to ensure you are breaking down scar tissue, improving circulation, activating your muscles, and improving flexibility – all of which helps to prevent injury and leads to more weight being lifted, and thus, more muscle being built.

NOTE: Please keep in mind that these are warm-up exercises. Take things slow and work at your own pace, according to your individual flexibility and mobility.

First exercise: Wall Slides

Pic source: T-nation

Pic source: T-nation

Helps to:

  • Improve posture
  • Activate the muscles in the upper back
  • Improve scapular and shoulder mobility
  • Strengthen external rotators
  1. Start by contracting your shoulder blades and standing up against a wall.
  2. Bring your arms to about parallel at a 90 degree angle, keeping your rear delts, head, forearms, and the backs of your hands on the wall.
  3. Focusing on keeping your arms, back, and head against the wall through the whole movement, slowly raise your arms as high as you can until you reach a point of moderately uncomfortable resistance. Hold for a few seconds, and then lower back to starting position.
  4. Repeat several times, and try to raise your arms a little higher every time.

Exercise #2: Scapular Push-Ups

Serratus-2Helps to:

  • Stabilize the shoulders
  • Strengthen the serratus anterior
  1. Begin by assuming a regular full push-up position, hands a little wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Keeping your arms and the rest of your body straight, slowly lower your chest by sinking in with your shoulder blades. You should feel a light contraction at the bottom.
  3. Hold for a moment, and then raise yourself back up to starting position and repeat.

Exercise #3: Band Pull-Aparts

Pic source: T-Nation

Pic source: T-Nation

Helps to:

  • Teach proper scapular contration
  • Strengthen external rotators
  • Stretch the pec minors (very important for improving shoulder mobility)
  • Activate the muscles in the upper back
  1. Hold a band or rubber tube with straight arms, a wide grip, and arm’s length out. Keep the band at eye-level.
  2. Slowly pull apart the band out and down, contracting your shoulder blades at the same time. Focus on your rear delts and traps. They should be contracted hard in this position.
  3. Bring back to start and repeat.

SECTION #3: REP RANGES, WEIGHT, AND OTHER SPECIFICS

So now that we have covered the grand importantness (new word) of muscle activation, mobility work, and engagement, we can go over some fun stuff.

Like how you should be lifting and stuff.

I’ll give you a hint: it starts with H, and ends with Y.

If you’re a smart cookie, you will have guessed HEAVY. If not, you probably need this article more than anyone.

The back is built through HEAVY lifting. Just like your legs, your back is working all day. In order to properly stimulate growth, you need to overload the muscles. This is done through heavy weight training, and lower reps.

If there is one man in bodybuilding that I have the utmost respect for, it’s Dorian Yates. His style of training and work ethic is absolutely incomparable. Nobody has denser muscle than he did. His trick? Heavy weights, lower reps. Some forced reps.

uVVJ4

This is how you build a thick, dense, powerful back. Leave high rep ranges out of the picture if your goal is putting on some serious muscle density in this area. The lats especially respond well to lower rep ranges and heavy weight.

The lats also respond remarkably well to forced rep work, including “cheating” reps. Using a little bit of momentum to get in a couple more reps is a long-kept “secret” from the great bodybuilders in the old times. Arnold believed that cheating reps with bicep curls was the key to big biceps. And just the same, cheating reps every now and then with your heavy back workouts can be the key to making those wings explode.

Forced reps cause serious overload to the muscles, and in turn help to build more muscle. Luckily, cheating reps with back exercises are relatively safe so long as you aren’t throwing yourself halfway across the gym.

All of that being said, I generally recommend that people stick to the 5-8 rep range for back work, with about 4 working sets per exercise.  Keep the volume high and the weight heavy, with some forced/cheating reps thrown in once a week for some extra overload.

Now, when I say heavy weight, I mean HEAVY. You should not be able to get up to 8 reps easily unless you are doing a warm-up. If you’re not prepared to make some seriously contorted faces, you’re probably not prepared to grow a bigger back.

SIDE NOTE: GRIP

Want to touch on something else that is also extremely important for muscle activation and engagement throughout the movement. The way you grip the bars/handles is very important.

If you are grabbing with your thumb wrapped around the bar/handle, you are already involving your arms too much in the movement. In order to really place the focus on your back and away from your tendons/arms, start adopting a thumbless grip for all of your back exercises.

pullup_grip_out

This not only engages your back more, it also improves your grip strength. If you find that your grip is failing before anything else however, feel free to use straps. They are a wonderful tool for pulling movements.

SECTION #4: EXERCISE LIST

My top favorite back exercises (in no particular order):

  1. Rack Pulls (below knee, or knee level)
  2. Deadlifts (Snatch-grip for more trap/upper back emphasis)
  3. Face Pulls
  4. Seated Close-Grip Rows
  5. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
  6. Kroc Rows
  7. Close-Grip Lat Pulldowns
  8. Corner Rows

NOTE: I never do wide-grip pulldowns. Why? Because I find that it is damaging to the shoulders. I always suggest a medium grip, close grip being the most preferable. Very little shoulder involvement and less chance for rotator cuff injury.

SECTION #5: PROGRAM PLANNING RECOMMENDATIONS

I’d love to put together a sample plan, but time restrictions will not allow me to at this time.

However, I have a few recommendations for you when putting together a program.

  1. Start with compound movements FIRST. Make these the heaviest. Always start with things such as rack pulls or deadlifts, and keep the reps low and the weight high.
  2. Do not go to failure every workout. Keep the weight heavy for your exercises, but try not to always work to failure. This can work against you. Leave an extra rep or two in the tank.
  3. Warm up for 10 minutes prior to each upper body workout.
  4. Stretch after every session. Every. Session. Pec minors, rotators, upper back, lower back, triceps, biceps.
  5. VISUALIZE! Can’t stress enough how important this part is.

FINAL NOTE:

If you are doing everything I have recommended, and STILL cannot seem to add any muscle, I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that you are eating like a 15 year old girl. So yeah. Eat more.

Happy training!!

Meow.

Meow.

Brandon Lilly’s “Cube Method” Review

18 Jun

images

Okay, so before I get into the juicy details of this program, I need to share some good (related) news!!

Brandon Lilly and the Animal Pak crew teamed up in May to do a promo. Brandon was going to pick 5 people to act as a test group for a revised version of his program, and also get to log all of the Animal products as well for FREE!!

Anyway, I entered in not expecting much, but lo and behold, I was chosen to be a part of the test group.

SO EXCITED!!

That being said, I am still going to be working with Alyssa Smith once this 10-week program with Brandon is up. We still have big plans for my training, and hopefully I am going to get something big out of this run with The Cube as well.

And, I am also hoping Animal came out with smaller T-shirt sizes. If not I might have to go with the bro cut-off method so I don’t feel like I am wearing a dress.

So. THE CUBE.

What can I say about said cube? Well, before giving my personal take/opinion on the program, I will tell you a little bit of how it is set-up and what the basic idea is first.

The Cube Method is loosely based around Westside principles, or conjugate periodization. This quote is straight from Brandon Lilly’s blog:

My waves are 3 weeks for squat bench and deadlift and they are modeled like this.

Week 1-Max Effort
Week 2-Dynamic Effort
Week 3-Repetition Method

I call it “Cube Training” as when its mapped out it looks like a cube. I never lift heavy on two lifts in a week. If I dead heavy, my bench is dynamic, and my squat is for reps, and as the weeks rotate the effort is rotated also. In the form of a cube.
Here’s the setup:

WEEK                  1     2     3
Deads-                  1     2     3
Bench-                  2     3     1
Squats-                  3    1      2

Sundays are always a bodybuilding day. Just pick a few exercises to focus on weak points, and I always include Military Presses, and leg presses as I like keeping my quads, and shoulders strong.This method has worked extremely well for me, in preventing burnout, and building excitement for my heavy days. Any muscular deficiencies addressed on Sunday.

 

A lot of people find that doing less max effort work can help them recover better, rather than some people who still do two ME days per week.

I am still trying to find out whether doing ME work once a week or twice a week is better for me. Definitely need to experiment more with this before I can really tell.

Now, I will admit I have never read the book. I purchased individualized training with Brandon Lilly, so he wrote something up different for me and my personal goals. I haven’t gotten around to reading it, but if you are looking to get more in-depth about the program, I suggest purchasing it and reading through it.

All in all I had a whole lot of fun with this program. Since I love bodybuilding-style training as well, it stayed interesting since this program includes quite a bit of accessory work.

PHYSIQUE CHANGES:

As far as physique changes go, I definitely got leaner, but seemed to stay the same weight. Strange. Maybe a little bit of a recomp went on? I was definitely eating lots more than usual, and I owe that to the high volume. Definitely responded well to it.

FINAL NOTES:

This is something that you need to run more than just once, I think, to get the full benefits from. Which is why I am very excited to be working again with Brandon to see what kind of further improvements I can make.

I also can’t give a full run-down of my strength gains, seeing as there were quite a few things that went wrong (i.e. my diet) that was likely preventing me from improving as much as I could have. But that’s behind now, onto bigger things!

Cliffs:

  • This is a very high volume program.
  • You will get tired.
  • You might bleed.
  • You will weep at the sight of stairs.
  • You will profit.

 

Do it.

——————————

For more info on The Cube Method:

Juggernaut Strength Systems – Store

Brandon Lilly Official FB Page

 

 

2013 CPF Nationals: Meet Write-Up (Plus Some Dietary Changes)

10 Jun
Two fiddy.

Two fiddy. Lookit dem hamstrings!

So, before I get into the other parts of this post, let me tell you a little bit about my meet this weekend.

It sucked.

Balls.

Srs.

I got my squat opener which was actually really easy (250) but bombed 275 twice. A weight that normally I would have been able to get.

I got my bench opener and second attempt (126) but bombed on 137.

My deadlift opener got misunderstood. Was supposed to open at 265 lbs. and instead accidentally pulled 285. Bombed 303 since it didn’t even move off the ground. Gave up my third attempt since I knew it wasn’t going anywhere.

Well, at least I hit depth, haha!!

Well, at least I hit depth, haha!!

So that means I totaled at 659…which is over 50 lbs. LESS than what I totaled in December.

Uh…brutal?!?!

But, as I’ve said before, no meet is really a “bad” meet so long as you learned something. To be honest, I really learned a LOT this time around through trial and error. These things namely:

  1. The Cube Method, while an amazing program, might not have worked as well for me as I would have liked. I generally respond the best to frequent high intensity training (near 1RM’s), and having the ultra volume and lower percentages kind of threw me off a little. (I will be writing a full review of The Cube later this week)
  2. Nutrition is king. As is hydration.
  3. I need to sleep more.
  4. I need to stretch a little less.
  5. I need to think LESS when I lift.
  6. I need to not try and change things close to a meet because it throws me off big time.

The main things I want to touch on are: changing things up, nutrition, and thinking less.

IMG_4504

CHANGE:

I had the brilliant (or not so brilliant) idea of squatting differently at the meet than I have been at the gym all these months. I brought my stance out and took the bar a bit lower on my delts. Needless to say, this was a stupid idea.

NEVER change things up so close to a meet! I tell people this ALL the time but sometimes fail to follow my own advice. Stick with whatever you have been doing. The off-season is the time to make changes…not the platform.

THINKING LESS

I have a hard time shutting off my brain sometimes. It tends to just keep buzzing, and I focus too much on technicalities and stressing over lifts instead of just doing them the way I know how to.  Funny that I still have problems with this, but I guess it takes awhile to get over.

I find that I just end up gassing myself out from over-thinking, and by the time I’m lifting I’m thinking “Oh god, oh god, oh god…oh fuck..”

So uh…time to re-learn how to get into my zone. This is something I really need to work on this off-season.

Think. Think. Think. I am not Pooh Bear.

Think. Think. Think. I am not Pooh Bear.

NUTRITION

This is going to be a bit weird. And long.

I know that I started this blog as a vegan. And many of you know that I have been vegan since around the beginning of the year, so almost a solid 6 months.

Initially, I felt fantastic. But I have slowly but surely started to notice some issues arising. A few of them are:

  1. Drops in energy
  2. Poor digestion
  3. Drops in strength (illustrated at this meet)
  4. Drops in appetite
  5. Mood swings
  6. Foot tendonitis (what the actual fuck?)
  7. Reappearing elbow tendonitis, and knee pain

Now, before the vegan police start attacking me for thinking these things were caused from my switch to veganism, I encourage you to hear me out.

I am a strength athlete. To me, lifting is one of the most important things in my life. It is my passion, my hobby, and my sport. Given that, I need to make sure I am doing what is absolutely best for my health and performance.

Of course, I was a vegan for ethical reasons. So I obviously want to do my best to cause the least amount of harm I can, while still keeping an eye on my health and strength.

My energy was great the first few months. But It started to plummet about two months ago. I have a very bad appetite as is, but I find myself never wanting to eat at all as a vegan. Not to mention, the amount of food I have to eat in a day to reach my protein goals is atrociously high for me, given that I get extremely full off of a bowl of rice and beans. Buying vegan protein powder was also expensive as hell since I went through a tub in under 2 weeks.

My mood swings have been nuts. My hair is more dry, my nails are brittle, I have tendonitis in places I’ve never had before, and my joints feel worse and stiffer than they ever have. I attribute this to me possibly not being able to properly absorb the omega 3’s I was getting from flax oil.

I mean, when I used to consume fish oil, my joint issues disappeared almost completely. My body responded much better to it.

Not to mention – my digestion is TERRIBLE. After the first two months of being vegan, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t gassy/bloated/stomach-pained.

(Maybe TMI?)

And most importantly – my drop in strength at this meet was quite a big indicator to me that perhaps I needed a change.

…which is why I have made the decision to start re-introducing fish and eggs into my diet again.

Eep!

The eggs I used to get in the past were from a friend. Her parents own a farm and all the animals are extremely well-cared-for. I have absolutely no desire to consume dairy, beef, pork, lamb, chicken, or any other kind of mammal/bird. So long as my eggs are well-sourced from happy chickens, I am rather sure they won’t be missing them too much.

Call me a speciesist if you will. I try not to be. I honestly do try my very best to do what I can to cause the least amount of harm. I love animals. But I only have one life, and one opportunity to achieve my dreams. And if that means that I have to sacrifice some integrity for some extra protein, then so be it.

It wasn’t easy to make the decision, but again, my health comes first and foremost.

I can’t express enough thanks to those who have been by my side through my transition from omnivore to vegan, and then again to omnivore. I know that they are true friends since they have supported me no matter which path I decide to take.

Thank you for your support, beautiful. Bestest friend. <3

Thank you for coming out to see me, hunny bunny! ❤

To me, what’s important is that I am doing my best to still limit the amount of damage I am doing on the animals and the environment, and that I still accept and support 150% those who still follow a strict vegan diet. I salute them, actually. They have found ways to make it work in ways that I could not.

I also understand that this is a travesty to some people, and for that I apologize. In some ways I feel like I am a failure, but in other ways I feel like I am a winner for choosing what is best for my body and performance as an athlete.

I’m sorry if that makes me a bad person. But it’s just the way it has to be.

Please, if you have something negative to say, keep it to yourself. I don’t actually give a shit. 

All in all, this was a very positive learning experience, and a great experiment. Thank you everyone, once again, for your endless support! This off-season I am going to be working with a good friend and guru of mine, Alyssa Smith (ya know, the beast that squatted 425!). She’s gonna help me get strong again. 😉

And for your daily dose of cuteness: My favouritest kid in the whole world (5 years old; left) deadlifting 5 lbs. OVER her bodyweight for the first time!

Mommy teaching.

Mommy teaching.

Way to go, Samara!!

Way to go, Samara!!

Her and her new friend decided to team up.

Her and her new friend decided to team up.

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Too flippin cute.

Derp.

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!!

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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!!