Thursday, September 4, 2014

Plan B Workouts

I can say that I've been working out 4 to 5 days a week over the last month. Go me! I can't say that I have been making it to an actual gym for each workout. I avoid driving in major thunderstorms when possible and I've been car-less a couple days a week. My lazy self would have normally written these days off, but this last month, I have discovered the power of at-home workouts on good ol' YouTube to supplement my lifting workouts. Having a plan B for workouts has helped me stay on track.

Here are a few finds on YouTube:

Superhero Fitness TV with Keaira LaShae - Many, many moons ago, I attempted to live my dream of being a hip hop dancer. After the first session at a hip hop dance studio, I realized it would only be a dream. I am not ashamed to admit that I have no rhythm and coordination when it comes to moving my limbs while doing 8 or even 4 counts. Keaira LaShae is a high energy choreographer, singer, and trainer who has fun and intense dance/hip-hip workouts. She demonstrates beginner, intermediate and advanced modifications for her workouts and is feeling the burn with you. My two favorite Keaira workouts are hip hop tabata and 90's throwback dance workouts which I usually do back to back.

For the yogis, YouTube is a haven for yoga workouts. Every time I feel like I need a good stretch, I think, "yoga is a good idea". Every time I start a yoga class or a video, I am thinking, "this is so boring. I can't do this entire class." Of all the types of yoga out there, I prefer Vinyasa yoga over the others because it's a constant flow of movements. If you are interested in yoga, I recommend yoga with Adriene or with Tim. I did 20 minutes of yoga from their Vinyasa videos to stretch out, and they are excellent with explaining the movements as they go.

Befit channel has tons of videos, including all of Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shreds and yoga videos. It's a great resource for beginner workouts or for a change of pace. I tried one of the extreme workouts on the channel and it reminded me of a P90x or Insanity workout. There's a lot of fast movements that aren't fully being explained, so unless you have some workout experience, don't injure yourself trying to keep up with the fast talking host.

FitnessBlender is an awesome channel. It has great at-home workouts for almost anything you want. I recommend this for at-home HIIT or boot-camp type workouts and for exploring new workouts. I stumbled upon the channel when looking for a barre workout. Barre was all the rage in the Bay Area, and I wanted to check it out. After doing the workout, barre isn't for me. I don't like doing a ton of sumo air squats with no weights, it wasn't enough of a challenge for me and most of the moves were tough on my knees. It was fun to try it though.

Next time, you want to make an excuse to not workout or go to the gym, check out these channels for inspiration and motivation. Try a new workout without leaving your home. How awesome is that! Granted  most of these workouts won't replace a good hypertrophy lifting session, but it will help you stay active and burn calories... better than watching HGTV during your gym time :)

Happy training,
Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#IIFYM #flexibledieting... What Are You Talking About?

About a year ago...

Scrolling, scrolling through Instagram, stop..."#IIFYM, #flexibledieting, ... #sciencebitch ... WTH are these hashtags?" Further hashtag searches led me to pictures of ice cream, cheese-topped proteins, and carbs (and I mean hundreds of grams of carbs) being eaten by incredibly lean and muscular people. My mind was blown. Who were these people and why I hadn't I heard of this sooner? The thoughts that followed consisted of skepticism.. this has to be some sort of marketing ploy, this is a fad diet....After a search on the internets, I learned that the crux of the diet is to eat to meet your daily macronutrients (carbs, protein, and fats) and fiber. You decide what to eat to fulfill your macros. Simple enough. My interest was piqued.

I soon started reading about how IFBB athlete Ava Cowan was doing a macro-based prep and so was my friend Kristy (NPC Physique athlete). These two ladies have physiques that I have been admiring for years. I needed to learn more. What about the non-competitor, would flexible dieting be sustainable? Short answer, yes.

I calculated my own macro plan based on an article I read by Sohee Lee. I maintained my a great off-season weight by gaining 10-15 pounds the first 8-weeks post show. I was eating at restaurants again and enjoying desserts. Macros was working.

Fast forward to maybe 6 months

My diet was improving. What hadn't changed was my habit of binge eating. I needed to teach myself that it was okay to eat what I wanted because it fit into my macros and to not eat as much as possible before I got caught, lol. I enlisted the help of Metabolic Evolution to help me with calculating my macros. The plan helped me get back on track. My nutrition coach helped me better understand how to build an efficient metabolism. Learning sustainable eating habits is not a race. It's a learning journey and a slow and sustainable process.

Present day

After quitting my job to move, I was a bit loose on my macros. Adjusting to this life change and the month of manual labor doing house projects was enough for me to handle. No biggie. Life happens. It's not the end of the world. It happened and now that I am adjusted here, I can work on my goals of increasing strength and decreasing body fat, along with optimizing my macros for lifting and non-lifting days.

Here are my recommended reads and resources if you are interested in IIFYM nutrition plans:
  • "How to Count Your Macros" ebook by Sohee Lee - The article I read a year ago turned into a great ebook with more details and examples on how to calculate a macros plan for yourself. The book is straightforward and practical. Bonus - Sohee responded to my tweet about reading her book! She told me to tweet her if I had any questions... how awesome is that?
  • "3 Keys to Dialing in Your Macronutrients" - Informative article on about how to calculate macros for your body type.
  • "IIFYM v. Clean Eating" - Video by Dr. Layne Norton on his opinion of IIFYM and clean eating. Dr. Norton, in my opinion, is one of the pioneers of flexible dieting and breaks down flexible dieting, metabolic damage, etc. with science.
  • "Diet Doesn't Need to Mean Denial" Article on by Sohee Lee that breaks flexible dieting myths.
I am an advocate of flexible dieting because with macro guidelines I have the most flexibility to go out and eat a restaurants or social events without feeling guilty. I haven't been dropping pounds like I did with a strict clean eating plan, but that's ok. My long-term goal is to have a sustainable fat loss. Long-term health is what is more important to me than fitting into a smaller dress size next month.

Flexible dieting is not a "quick fix" to fat loss or gaining lean muscle. It may take a couple weeks to adjust your macros to meet your goals. You are the one who has to stick to the plan, so do your research and figure out what will work for your journey.

Any thoughts on IIFYM v. Clean Eating or recommended reads about nutrition?

Happy training,

Monday, August 25, 2014

When Is Your Next Show?

I got asked this question practically weekly after my last show in June 2013. Sometimes it was followed with an "oh, you really lost your muscles" or "are you even training". Eh, I am not one to let these remarks or questions bother me because having competed for over three years, I know my body and the prep/non-prep cycle. I wanted to answer the question with basically what is in this post, but I knew it would take a long time to explain my total thought process about competing again and really people just wanted to hear about how crazy prep is.

After my June show, I was happy that I competed because 1.) I got to wear that expensive a$$ figure suit that I bought the year before and 2.) I met my long-time goal of doing a figure show! Who cares about a second to last place finish? I didn't. I was just happy to be doing quarter turns instead of model turns.

June 2013 NPC LA Figure Show with my awesome teammates
After the June show, I did a post-mortem of the experience to figure out how I could have done this prep better. The post-mortem lead me to a few conclusions:
  1. There definitely has to be a more flexible way to prep.
  2. I want to be stronger. I want to get back to 1- max rep glory days.
  3. I cannot function on a strict meal plan because off season, I have a difficult time maintaining weight and social and work functions are difficult to manage. More knowledge on nutrition is needed.
  4. I do not want to spend half of my nights lifting, doing second round of cardio and doing food prep because now I have a significant other to think about.
  5. I cannot put my significant other through the hangry prep experience again. Seriously. Although I warned my significant other of the strict guidelines for prep, I don't think he was prepared for how it actually played out in real life, nor did he know what he was in for travelling to LA with three hangry competitors.
Knowledge is power so over the past year, I've been reading, learning, and testing out new methods to expand my tool set.  Hence the break from competing or even thinking about competing until I do what I need to do.

To answer the question, "when is your next show?," I don't know. It will be when I am ready. Remember competing is a big time and mental commitment, compete when you are ready and to meet your own goals. Arm yourself with knowledge and a great support network.

Happy training,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Colorado Travel Tips: Hiking Maxwell Falls

Beautiful Sunday afternoon! Maxwell Falls Trail is in the Forest ahead.
Each weekend there's a line of parked cars along the side of a main two-way road in our neighborhood. If you follow the line of cars, it leads you to the overflowing Lower Maxwell Falls parking lot. According to my neighbors, this trail has only recently gained popularity. Scott and I have been meaning to make our way over the Falls. The house projects have been taking up our free time on the weekends.

This weekend was an unexpected two days of pure blue skies and sunshine. Plus we completed our house projects on Saturday! Sunday = perfect day for a hike :) Our neighbor offered to be our guide on the hike.

If you plan on hiking Maxwell Falls, here's a few tips:
  • Middle trailhead is unmarked and is about two miles further up the road from the Lower Maxwell Falls entrance. This is the best place to find parking.
Saw this mushroom on the way to the car.
  • The trails are a worn out and washed out in some areas because of the heavy foot traffic and recent storms. Pay attention to the trail to make sure you stay on it.
  • If you start from the middle trailhead, you can go left to an awesome lookout point on a huge boulder. If you go right on the trail, it is an easy 15 minutes to the waterfall.
Lookout Point
  • If you are doing the entire loop from the Middle Trailhead, start by going left. There's less uphill and you can finish off the loop with the Falls. The entire loop is about 1 hour and 30 minutes. According to my HR monitor, I burned approximately 650 calories on the hike.
Scott in front of the Falls. The best view of the Falls is by this wooden marker.
  • Check the weather forecast the morning before you go. A sunny morning is not predictive of a clear afternoon. You don't want to be stuck in the forest during a lightening storm.
  • There's rattlesnakes in the Forest. We heard a couple of them as we were walking through. Stay on the trail!  
Happy hiking!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Your Glutes Are Going to Love This Workout

I am forever building my glutes. Glutes are a tough muscle group  me to isolate. When I do cable kickbacks, I tend to engage my lower back. I am working on my deep squat form to engage my glutes more, but until I perfect it, my quads and hams seem to be doing the majority of the work.

My last glutes day has been my best glutes workout to date. The next day my muscle soreness was 90% isolated to my glutes! Victory!

{The Workout}
  • Deep leg press 5x5 {bring your knees as close as possible to your chest before you press up}
  • Stiff-legged deadlift 5x5 {very slight bend in the knees to minimize engaging my lower back}
  • Single leg press 4x8-10
  • Good mornings 4x8-10 {very important to keep your core tight to prevent your back from rounding}
  • Abductors 4x12
  • Glute/hamstring extension 3x10 {keep your back flat and squeeze your glutes and hams to slowly lower and raise yourself, contract glutes for one count at the top}
Give it a try and let me know what you think. Any glute-centric workouts that you recommend?

Happy training,
Monday, July 28, 2014

Dear Colorado, This weather...

Dear Colorado,

What the heck is up with this weather? I was told by multiple sources that this beautiful state has the most days of sunshine and to expect toasty summers. I've been here since mid-June and ... the sunshine is technically true. of the mornings I am greeted by blue skies and sun shining through all the windows.
Good morning!
My dreams of paddle boarding on the lake, daily afternoon hikes, riding my bicycle into town, and sipping coffee on the downtown boardwalk are crushed on a daily basis with the unpredictable weather. I never know when or what kind of weather the skies will be transitioning into ... thunder, lightening, or even hail. The retaining wall took an extra week because working hours were cut short due to thunderstorms. Colorado, I am disappointed that I can't enjoy the full extend of the great outdoors this summer.

Them dark clouds though.
Hail could suddenly come down. Better hope your car is under covered parking.
I know, I know, I am just being selfish because the rain really brings down the fire danger and "hail sales" at the nearby car dealerships (unheard of in California, lol). This is my first summer as a "Coloradan", so I am just hoping that this "monsoon" summer (as the news reporters are calling the torrential downpours) is not "normal". This reminds me of that phrase, you know, when you get caught doing something, it's always the first time you did it. Although I am skeptical that this weather is not normal, I am hopeful for a "normal"snowy winter. So Colorado, next time I bring up weather, I hope it's to sing your praises on how beautiful the snowcapped range looks :)


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My First High Altitude Baked Cake

Having lived at sea level for my entire life, I never gave a second thought to those "high altitude" instructions on cake mixes. Now as an informed adult, I have learned that altitude makes a difference and not adjusting your recipe correctly can lead to flat, dry, or over-proofed cakes and breads.

Thanks to the internets, I found an easy-to-follow scientific explanation here. There's a lot of good stuff in the explanation. The coolest factoid from the article is at higher elevation, flavors tend to be less pronounced because there are fewer moisture molecules to carry aroma to the nose. What?! Isn't that interesting?

Here's the applied science summary: 
  • Make your batter strong so that it doesn't collapse by using less sugar, adding an extra egg, or by adding more flour. 
    • Fats and sugar weaken gluten structure in flour at high altitude.
  • Acidity helps the cake firm up faster in the oven and helps hold in moisture when it is being used with baking soda, so replace regular milk with buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt (high acidity). 
  • To make your cake not dry, if you cake recipe calls for a liquid, add in extra liquid.
How I adjusted the banana cake recipe
  • Decreased sugar by 1/2 cup - I usually do this anyways because the bananas are usually sweet enough. 
  • Added one extra whole egg 
  • Decreased shortening by 1/4 cup
  • Used 5 bananas  - I usually do this anyways. I prefer a stronger banana flavor.
  • Didn't sift my flour as much as I usually do to add in extra flour. 

Next time, I may add an extra yolk in the cake to see if that will help bind it together better and use a little less sugar to see if that helps the cake be a little denser. Otherwise, I'd say it was a success!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Colorado Life - The First Week

I have been in Colorado for a week now. It hasn't fully sunk in yet that I am becoming a Coloradan resident because, to be honest, I have only left the house for grocery, Home Depot, and Super Walmart trips for living and building essentials. Right now, it kind of feels like I am on vacation, lol. Until I find my next career opportunity, I am going to make the most of this transition time.

Having been to the major attractions (listed above) in town and having met a few of the neighbors, Colorado versus California living has interesting differences.

One fashion trend here that I am taking a liking to is camo errthang. Seriously, you can get tasteful camo bikinis, camisoles, hats or any clothing for that matter. In the Bay, I usually saw camo gear.... well, unless it was a seasonal cropped top at Forever 21, I never saw camo fashions so readily available.

Excellent assortment of camo bikinis at the local Big R.
Camo Coors hat - great deal at the local Super Walmart, only $7!

Instead of telling you whether the good local eats are, the neighbors tell you to carry bear spray when you walk your dogs. After S. told me that he spotted a bear running downhill from a neighbors house, I went ahead and ordered a canister of bear spray. It was waiting for me when I arrived here :)
Frontiersman Bear Spray was the highest rated one on It even came with a handy holster!
One thing that I was looking forward to was letting the dogs roam free on the deck and in an enclosed yard. According to the wildlife education brochures that came with the keys to this place, it is not advisable to leave your pets unsupervised, even in the day time. Coyotes and mountain lion in the area can snatch them or lure them out of the fenced areas. Who knew that house dogs wouldn't have survival instincts against mountain predators?
Excellent reads for living with animals in the mountains.
Rex loves eating the pine needles and laying in the sun on the deck. Too bad I can't leave him out there all day when I go work.
Mountain living tips are welcomed in the comments section.

- Nat