Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Progress Report: 4 Weeks Out to West Coast Classic

Last Saturday was four weeks out to West Coast Classic. Prep has been improving since my last update. My physique has been taking shape and my muscles are looking fuller. Figure athletes compete at 10-13% body fat level. Currently I am around 20%. My trainer has adjusted my nutrition plan and cardio split for the next four weeks. So in four weeks, I will either be backstage in my suit or I will be ready two weeks ahead of schedule for the San Jose Show. Either way, it's a win-win situation.

{double front biceps}

To document my progress, Sobrina and I ventured out to take photos of me in my new favorite dress. The dress was an expensive Target buy for $22 and worth it. Its cut is flattering to my developing figure physique. The spaghetti strap halter style cut of the bodice accentuate my delts, which after weeks of training hard are finally beginning to pop. The above the knee length of the skirt is just short enough to reveal developed calves (especially in heels) and quads. Visible progress has been motivating.

{finally full looking delts!}

{I do love my calluses.}

{match.com worthy?}

Happy training,

Where Are My Lats?

Our Monday workout was calisthenics, everyone's favorite --NOT! :P We paired off and between the two of us, we did 600 reps of whatever combination of push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and slam ball that we decided on. While resting between exercises, I noticed Chris' back while she was doing her pull-ups. She's been changing her lifestyle - focusing on eating cleaner in addition to keeping up with her workout routine. The results have been visible in her strength, endurance, and physique.

When I gave her kudos on her lats, she asked, "Where are my lats again?" So Chris, below is a quick diagram of your back muscles.

{it's not a perfect trace but should give you an idea
of where the major muscles are. Rhomboid arrows aren't long
enough - they peek from underneath the traps. Too tired to re-edit...}

For anyone who wants more detail or clarity, see the image below :)

{photo courtesy of backblitz.com}

The workout wasn't as difficult to get through as I had expected. We were all hurting from CrossFit Total the day before and pushed through. Push-ups were difficult for me to get through, so I racked up reps with dips.

{Dean, Huong, and Mike's "hunger pain"}

{Amy advocating hydration during workouts.}

Happy (belated) Memorial Day,
Sunday, May 29, 2011

CrossFit Total: Ultimate Functional Strength Test

This morning we tested our functional strength with my favorite CrossFit WOD, CrossFit Total. CrossFit Total is your one rep max (1-RM) of three lifts: back squat, deadlift and shoulder press. If you were training at "the box" (what CrossFitters refer to their gym as), you'd get three attempts per lift. For our workout, we did warm-up lifts and then began with our max reps.

{warming up with 155# on my first attempt}

I hear the phrase "functional training" often around gyms. The formal definition seems to vary and generally refers to exercises that build strength and stability for everyday movements through enhancing the coordination of muscle groups and of your muscular and nervous systems. Whereas non-functional exercises focus on one range of movement or the isolation of a specific muscle group. Most machines at the gym would be considered non-functional.

{using a stool can help you gauge when you
have reached full squat form}

Squats are a popular and important functional movement. The movement transferred into real life would be the ability to get up and down from a seat or lifting a heavy box. It engages muscles ranging from your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even core. Strengthening these muscle groups through squats build strength more efficiently since the muscles will need to work together in the movement than if you were to build the muscles individually (through leg extensions, ham curls, sit-ups, butt blasters).

It's always good to vary your workouts. Mixing in functional movements with non-functional movements is a good way to keep your muscles engaged and guessing.

{lifting isn't always pretty :)
digging deep for my 2nd attempt 1-RM 75#}

{AT racking her weights for her deadlift}

{deadlifting 125# was just a warm-up for her}

{mike - my biggest competition today,
I hate getting beat by boys}

{Deb for her second deadlift attempt.}

{our Totals}

I PR'd for Back Squat 180#, Shoulder Press 85#, Deadlift 210#! I wasn't the only one who PR'd. I think everyone PR'd in at least two of their lifts. It was a good morning! Consistent training and cleaning up our diets is working! I will say that I was fatigued when I pulled the 210#. I started to round my back. I'll feel it tomorrow. Should take my own advice to not sacrifice form!

My goals for future CFT's are to squat twice my body weight, deadlift my body weight and a half, and press 100#.

Dream big and train hard,
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Brighten Your Day

It's true -- bright colors brighten my day.
Over the years, I've read multiple articles in women's fitness magazines about how wearing colored clothes to the gym can help boost your mood and even increase motivation at the gym. I also recall color psych studies with findings along those lines from my undergrad psych days. But as a skeptic, I didn't think anything of it, until I wore my first non-black gym shirt to the gym. My black monochrome gym fatigues haven't been the same. Now when I open my gym bag and am greeted by bright pink, bold purple or blue tops, my eyes perk up and my mind starts focusing on the training at hand. Reinvigorate your gym uniform and see if it reinvigorates you. Btw, you definitely don't have to break the bank to try it.

Here's where you can find pieces to brighten your day:

{photos from target.com}

Target's C9 selection has come a long way. The line used to be boring and unflattering. Over the years, the gear has evolved to keep up with the stylish times and its quality to withstand wash after wash. I'm a fan of C9 sports bras and cotton workout tanks. I usually stock up on the bras and tanks when they go on sale every couple of months.

{photos from nike.com}

Nike isn't just for the almighty athlete anymore. Over the last two or three years, it's been expanding its line to appeal to more of the "casual" athlete. To me that means, lower prices. Every season Nike's been coming out with new color combinations (some too gaudy for me). The clothes fit well and are durable. Prices for the casual line range from comparable to slightly more expensive than C9.

{photos from lululemon.com}

Walking through Lululemon is always fun. The clothes are bright and simple. As you may know, I am a huge fan of Lululemon pants, shirts, and sports bras. Wash after wash, they hold their color, elasticity and shape. Although pretty to admire, the sport bra tank tops can be extremely tight fitting and sometimes unflattering. Because of the price, I consider Lululemon clothes an "investment".

Here are 3 things that have been brightening my week:

{laundry day = assortment of happiness for the week}

{swatch choices for my suit in order of preference}

{not bright, but interesting coloring -- thought I had dirt
on my legs, then realized it was bruises from the dog}

Happy training,
Sunday, May 22, 2011

What is P90x?

P90x--we've all seen the infomercials and some of us have seen great results from users. When P90x came out, my curiosity was piqued. I was curious about the training regime because it required minimal gym equipment. Shortly after P90x came out, Insanity also came out. I opted to purchase Insanity for its intense cardio training over purchasing another weight lifting routine. My P90x curiosity was never satisfied though, until today...

{housesitting has its perks}

I did two P90x workouts today: "Legs and Back" and "Plyometrics." I did glutes yesterday, so thought legs would be a good way to balance out my lower body. Plyometrics, I heard, was the toughest routine to get through.

{equipment required were bands or a pull-up bar and
weights were optional}

Work-out Reviews

Legs & Back: In short, the routine was a circuit series of various lunges and squats with various pull-ups (wide-grip, reverse wide-grip, close grip, etc.) worked in between. I expected the workout to be lots of heavy lifting. I was slightly disappointed that it was mostly lunges and hand weights were used to increase intensity. Because the exercises were performed in a circuit, my heart rate stayed high, and I got a good sweat from it.

Plyometrics: This work-out is as easy or as tough as you want it to be. The series included common plyo moves like jump squats and jump lunges. I was introduced to jumping jack squats and leap frog squat walks. The sequencing of moves kept the work-out moving along. As with most work-out videos, there's modifications to increase and to lower intensity. If you keep up with the instructor, you definitely get your heart rate going. 3/4 of the way through my quads were burning and my heart was pumping. This is one that I'd do again to change up my cardio routine.

Beginner or intermediate exercisers would get the most benefit out of the series. The routines keep your heart rate up and introduce you to workout routines. Based on the two workouts I did, I'd recommend the series to those with limited gym access or those looking to tone muscles or have the primary goal of fat loss.

Happy training,
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Last Session of Fit Camp in Pictures

Our last Fit Camp session was a test of mental strength. Could we push through the muscle fatigue, had we properly fueled and recovered per our prescribed nutrition plans, and could we make it through The Filthy 60?

{my trainer massaged our aching muscles}

That's is right, not the Filthy 50, but 60

Box jumps, 24 inch box
Jumping pull-ups
Kettlebell swings, 1 pood
Walking Lunges, 60 steps
Knees to elbows
Push press, 45#
Back extensions
Wall ball shots
Double unders

Of all the above listed exercises, burpees were the toughest to get through. Burpees are intense on the cardiovascular system. If you want to push your workout to the next level, incorporate sets of burpees in between lifts or into your circuit routine.

How to do a burpee
(thank you Wikipedia)

Burpees are performed in 5 steps

Begin in a standing position.

Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground.

Kick your feet back while lowering yourself without a push-up.
{nothing's more romantic than a fitness weekend
together & couple's burpees!}

Return you feet to the squat position while straightening your arms.

Leap as high as possible from the squat position with your arms overhead.
(I believe proper CrossFit protocol is to clap over head when you jump.)
{great job honey!}

Most Weight Lost Winner: Dean!

{11lbs lost during Fit Camp, go Dean!}

{flexing his biceps, notice anything?}

Happy training,
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sessions on Sunday in Pictures

Sunday was about endurance. We trained shoulders in the AM and immediately headed for a steep two or three hour hike at Alum Rock Park. We had a three hour break and came back to the gym for legs and a mobility and stretching session with Tom Rankin.
{I had camera issues on Sunday, so was only able to get limited pictures with my iPhone.}

{of course climbing hills for hours on end wasn't enough.
we took turns every mile wearing the 15# vest.}

{dean at the top of what we think is the real Alum Rock.}

{huong: what is in your lunch?}

{Huong: good, no cheating this weekend.
she didn't really say those things :) }

In addition to the vest, we carried our lunches on the hike and had a picnic at the peak. The rain clouds cleared and the hailing stopped for just enough time for us to enjoy the view of San Jose. Trust me, it was beautiful. Although I wasn't able to get a picture of the view, I did get a good shot of this...

{banana slug that we saw on our way out of the park}

{light at the end of the tunnel, stretching with Tom}

Happy Training,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sessions on Saturday in Pictures

What better way to spend a Saturday than running a track and workin' out your upper body :) The track part I could do without and so I did (only because I had training for work) but the rest of it we were game for.

{what fitness camp is complete without the nutrition talk?}

Once you leave the house, it's rare to easily find clean meals and snacks at work, at the mall, or even at the gym snack bar. The only way to guarantee that you'll have what you need for your nutrition plan is to bring it with you, hence, the Tupperware.

Twice a week, I set aside time to make enough food for at least three days worth of meals. I leave them in a large container and pack the meals either the night before or in the morning. I used to pack individual means and then freeze them on a weekly basis but that started taking up too much freezer space.

Packing a healthy meal for lunch or snacks throughout the day is recommending for anyone who wants a readily available alternative to the company kitchen's chips and cookies snack selection.

{intently listening about how to prepare
meals ahead of time and how to properly store them}

{Huong keeping enthusiasm up during money maker wod.}

{after rounds of running the prowler, huong was up
for a challenge}

{then chris...}

{and me... made it off the line!}

{dean upped the ante with two kettlebells}

{another successful day under our belts!}

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Session 1 = Calisthenics + Tabata

On Friday, I woke up excited to get my day started so I could get to 5:30p already. Because at 5:30p, I was going to drop everything and try to do this work-life balance thing that I keep hearing about and be on my way to Session 1 of Fit Camp!

The session started with the weigh-in, measuring our body fat, and reviewing our goals for the weekend with our trainer. We were instructed to give only 60% today so we could ease into the weekend. Although today was calisthenics (not my favorite kind of training), I had fun because it was tabata style!

{practicing my side pose with my lovely trainer}

"Tabata" anything is a great way to challenge your cardio and muscle endurance. The basic definition of Tabata is pick an exercise, do work for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and then repeat 8 times aka for 4 minutes. To get through tabata the first few times, definitely pace your reps through the intervals, so you can do about the same amount of reps, if not more, with each interval. Lactic acid, jelly arms and legs, increased heart rate are going to creep in the last half of the intervals. Until you build up the endurance, keep a steady pace.

{Dean is hardcore. He's competed in CrossFit Games.}

Our workout:

pull-ups with the band

women v. men - most slam balls in 4 minutes, 6#
(women won, 240-196! so that's 400m less for tomorrow morning's track workout)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Warm Weather Workouts!

Here in California, the weather is starting to warm-up (to the 70's during the day and evening). This weather gets me thinking about boot camp workouts!

I'm a huge advocate of outdoor and "boot camp" style training. They've actually become a fad in the nearby city of Campbell. Campbell has a well-maintained rec center that is complete with grassy fields and a paved track. When it's sunny out, it's littered with participants from at least five different boot camps - ranging from all women to co-ed to daddy and baby camps.

Outdoor boot camps are great for anyone. They are usually more affordable than personal training or group training in a gym (around here, the avg price per session ranges from $15-$20). Most exercises are done at your own pace, utilize your body weight, and can be modified to adjust to your current fitness level. Training with a motivated group or at least with people enduring similar pain is also a good way to build your support system.

May 13th - May 16th, my trainer is hosting "Spring Fit Camp." It's four days of fun and varied training sessions (track and boot camp workouts, CrossFit, gym training, and sparring sessions). She also puts participants on a nutrition plan. The nutrition plan starts on Friday morning and the actual training begins Friday evening. Three training sessions on Saturday and three on Sunday. Day four is a weigh-in Monday evening and one last training session.

{Coaches Wendy & Huong from last year's boot camp}

Here are a few moves that you can add to your outdoor workout:

{planks and push ups}

{side bridges and oblique crunches}

{alternating lunges}

{don't know what theses are called - person on the ground grabs the standing person's ankles and in a controlled fashion brings her legs up as the standing person pushes them down}

{and of course, mountain climbers for warming up or increasing heart rate in between other exercises}

Happy training,