The Blog

Positively Motivated: A Blog on Mindset

Social media is an amazing thing. Sure it has its dark side, but as of late I have been seeing a lot of good from outlets such as my Instagram and Facebook feeds (FYI I don’t have Twitter, and I’ve lost pretty well all use for SnapChat). One really cool thing is I’m seeing a lot of people tag me in things having to do with various styles of training, such as Olympic lifting, Crossfit, running outdoors, swimming, etc. I’m taking it that people are responding to my new variety, keep-your-body-guessing style of training, and I’m LOVING it!! People are also messaging me things like: “I ran 10 km today, and I totally thought of you” or “I wasn’t going to train today, but then I read your post- thank you.” You have no idea how much those messages make me smile 🙂

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The number one question I get asked every single week is “Lindsay, how do you stay so motivated?” While I am not perfect and definitely have my sluggish moments, my answer is simply: mindset. Before we talk about that, we need to explore your original source of motivation. Motivation can come and go with so much as a whiff of a cheeseburger. Fickle in nature, extrinsic motivation is as flaky as your Grandma’s pie crust (damn, I must be hungry 😉 ). Extrinsic motivation refers to a reward or inducement provided by an external person or entity to compel a person to act. The reward could be the cheeseburger, it could be a paycheque or monetary prize, or even a promotion. Take any of those initiatives away, and the goal becomes less desirable. Intrinsic motivation is the most effective personal motivator. Intrinsic motivation is a person’s inherent or inborn motivation that does not need outside influence to make things happen. This is a goal or something you as the individual wants to achieve out of pure interests sake, without expecting any sort of reward other than the achievement itself. Try to think to the last time you had a goal/task you wanted to achieve and you were intrinsically motivated. This type of motivation does require some soul-searching.

Once you have identified your goal, and more importantly- your ‘why’ for what you wish to achieve, the next piece of the puzzle is your mindset. Having a strong, healthy, positive mindset is what will keep you in the game and help make that goal a reality. As motivated as one may be, the path to success is never smooth. The following are 3 tools I currently use in everyday life to help maintain a strong mindset:

1) Be Grateful

If you follow me at all on social media, you’ll know I refer to gratitude A LOT. Recently I shared that I began journalling every night 5 things I am grateful for. This has been an amazing exercise! It takes about 5 mins and it gets me to think about my day and all the good that was in it. It also makes me realize the things I am most grateful for are my relationships with others and how they make me feel/I them.

Another way to show gratitude is get in the habit of replacing the term “I have to” with “I get to“. Speaking from experience in my line of work (in health care), you’d be surprised on how many everyday activities you might view as a chore or routine that others would give ANYTHING for if they had the ability.

Example: Instead of “I have to go to the gym today after work” say “I get to go exercise after work”. How fortunate that A) you have the physical ability to exercise and move your body; and B) that you are working!! Those are both great things! Nobody has to do anything, but everything we do serves a purpose and we should feel grateful for what have, not dwell on the have-nots.

2) Believe

Ashley Horner: fitness model, entrepreneur, Reebok athlete, mother of 3 #lifegoals

Ashley Horner: fitness model, entrepreneur, Reebok athlete, mother of 3 #lifegoals

Relating back to extrinsic motivation, many of us are in all honesty motivated originally by an external source. One might be look up to a certain athlete, or CEO, or media mogul- but our inspirations do often stem from someone or something. I often catch myself wanting to do and achieve more because I see others with greater life obstacles succeeding. This is inspiring to me because I have seen it can be done. Nothing is truly impossible. We all go through tough times, as have many role models before us.  If your extrinsic motivation has to be “I can do this because I know _____ did”-  then so be it. Better yet- you can be your own source of motivation. If you can think of the most challenging obstacle you have ever faced and realize that you got through that, you will likely succeed at overcoming another.

3) Focus on the Good

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We all have our bad days. The truth is, more often than not we have a bad ‘moment’ and tend to dwell on it for the rest of the day. I have been a victim of this many times, and it’s crippling. We all go through tough times, as have many role models before us. To me, staying negative about something is a set back- you are losing time. In the amount of time spent dwelling on what went wrong, someone who had it worse than you has picked up and moved on. As crazy or corny as it seems, when times get challenging I say this to myself: “I will NOT let this beat me.” I am a competitor at life!! It works almost every single time. Tying in with tool #1, try to remember your ‘haves’ or ‘get tos’ not your ‘have nots’.

All 3 of these tools have helped me get through some tough challenges in my day-to-day life, but I am not perfect. I do have my less-than-positive moments, but when I feel myself slipping I refer to all 3 of these points listed. There’s winning a competition, reaching a weight-loss goal, or achieving that promotion- any goal reached will have its bumps and hiccups along the wayStaying motivated is not easy, but your motivation is only as strong as your mindset.

Am I doing Crossfit?

Once again, it has been some time since I have last posted here on my site… face palm. I will say it has been a productive 4 months: I have been putting many steady hours at the hospital, and also had my first out of country trip to Mexico with My Champ in early December. Come to think of it, things have been pretty non-stop since our return! Busy is a good problem to have, in my opinion. A busy life is a full life 🙂

The last physical venture I had written about was my Spartan Super race I ran in September. Naturally, coming off that race led me to wanting to challenge myself even more. Preparing for the Spartan in conjunction with my endurance training for my triathlon races was an eye-opener. There were both strengths and deficits that became evident. The strengths: I had decent muscular endurance and a fairly efficient ability to recover; the deficits: I had lost a lot of strength (mainly upper body) and my physical skills were very limited. Since I desire to be as rounded an athlete as possible, I had to change that.

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Katrin Davidsdottir of Iceland

For just about a year, I had been following the sport of Crossfit under the radar. I began following the likes of Katrin Davidsdottir (current Crossfit champ of the World, ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’), as well as several other professional athletes under the Crossfit umbrella. Inspiring doesn’t even come close to describing what these athletes are capable of. I watched a lot of YouTube on the sport, and as mentioned in another blog- the documentary “The Fittest on Earth” helped fuel my urge to finally participate/train in such a way.

What is Crossfit?

The sport of Crossfit was founded in 2000 by Greg Glassman, and is defined as a strength and conditioning program of constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity across broad time and modal domains (1). An individual’s ‘fitness’ is measured by work capacity across broad time and modal domains. Individuals train often by taking classes at Crossfit affiliate gyms, also known as ‘boxes’. Classes are usually structured about 1 hour in length, including warm-up, skill development, followed by a circuit/workout of the day or ‘WOD’. Performance on each WOD is scored (ie. the amount of repetitions, rounds, or time performed) to encourage competition and to track progress. Over time, one can objectively measure their level of fitness based on the progress of their scores and even by comparison to others within their box or even in competition. According to Greg Glassman: “Crossfit is not a specialized fitness program, but a deliberate attempt to optimize physical competence in each of 10 recognized fitness domains”(2). The 10 fitness domains include:

  1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Strength
  4. Flexibility
  5. Power
  6. Speed
  7. Coordination
  8. Agility
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy

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    Samantha Briggs: 2013 Crossfit Games Champion and decorated triathlete/duathlete

Displaying some sort of skill in each of these domains makes one a complete, rounded athlete: excelling at each of them is the elusive goal in becoming the ultimate athlete. Sounds rather daunting, doesn’t it? On the flip side, I do believe that is the draw: to test one’s physical fitness in every was possible. Call me crazy, but the idea of being constantly challenged physically, really excites me. I knew the more I read up on the sport, the more videos I watched, the more WODs I attempted (thanks, Crossfit.com!) I knew I wanted to join a Crossfit affiliate to supplement my training.

Something New

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At SPARK Sport Conditioning: Oct. 2016

The sport of Crossfit is actually huge in the United States and all over the world (over 13,000 boxes and counting); and it is showing substantial popularity here in my hometown of Edmonton, AB. A few friends and acquaintances suggested their boxes to me, but it was SPARK Sport Conditioning that I fell in love with. The main reason was the quality of everything: the facility, the coaches, the people, and the expected quality of performance. There is a negative stigma that many have towards the concept of Crossfit. Many feel there is a great risk for injury having individuals who are beginners with little or improper instruction performing complex movements/lifts at an accelerated rate. I did not get that sense at all at SPARK. I can say from my own experience, as well as watching the coaches interactions with others- that they take great care in ensuring proper form is executed.  I will say that my background in weightlifting and sports has helped me progress at an accelerated rate. Witnessing other athletes from all walks of life attempt and excel at each WOD is so motivating and inspiring. SPARK’s positive environment and focus on quality have made me feel right at home.

What I love most about training Crossfit is the variety: you are always training a different skill, and the variety of workouts are limitless. You are constantly keeping your body guessing. Examples of equipment used in a Crossfit box/workout:

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  • Barbells
  • Dumbbells
  • Gymnastics rings
  • Pull-up bars
  • Jump ropes
  • Kettle bells
  • Medicine balls
  • Plyo boxes
  • Rowing machines

One item that you will NOT find in a Crossfit gym/box that you would commonly see in every other gym: a mirror. That’s right. Unless you are in the bathroom, you will not find a single mirror on the workout floor. GASP- no mirror??? How will you ever check your form, make sure you’re doing it right; how will you ever capture that perfect post-pump selfie?? My sarcasm is to prove a point: the mirror is NOT necessary to the purpose of your workout. You are encouraged to learn to FEEL when your form is on point; and actually, following your form in a mirror can lead to improper form (often due to head direction, and following a moving target). Your purpose for your workout has zero to do with how you look, but how you PERFORM. Your success is measured not from the subjectivity of your appearance, but instead objectively measured by the weight, time, and repetitions the task is executed. Something new, right? That is what made me fall in love with this training the most.  Ever since coming off the fitness competition scene, this is the very thing I have been looking for to switch my focus. Not looks, but performance, strength, skill. It’s a much healthier, tangible way to measure my fitness- my success.

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Body confidence: Feb. 2nd, 2017

Ever since implementing Crossfit-style training into my regimine (about twice/week) I have gained confidence and a new passion for my training. My aerobic capacity has increased in each discipline for my triathlon training- particularly in my swim. The aesthetic results are the icing on the cake. I have an increased metabolism, and my clothes are fitting me as though I’ve been dieting. The truth is, the better and stronger I feel, the better I want to fuel my body; the better I fuel my body, the better I perform. Everything just keeps getting… better. To answer the question of this title, the answer is ‘yes’. I can’t wait to unlock some of my undiscovered physical potential.

“What’s the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?” – John Green, American author, YouTube video blogger, and historian (3)

“Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else.  It’s the ache in your lungs, the burning in your legs and the voice inside you that yells, ‘I can’t.’ But you do not listen.  You just push harder.  Then you hear that voice fade away and start to whisper, ‘I can.’ That’s the moment you discover that the person you thought you were is not a match for the person you really are.” – Author Unknown (3)

 

Citation

1. Glassman, Greg. “Understanding CrossFit” (PDF). The CrossFit Journal. Retrieved 20 February 2017.

2. Shugart, Chris (November 4, 2008). “The Truth About CrossFit”. Testosterone Muscle.

3. 50 Inspirational Quotes for Crossfitters. https://www.boxrox.com/50-inspirational-quotes-crossfitters/. Retrieved 20 February, 2017.

Sacrifice Like Lambs

I have been inspired to write this piece with both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. This is not for my own personal benefit, but rather quite the opposite. Now that the competition season is beginning to wind down, I would like to address a few matters of concern.

The sport of bodybuilding is evolving- as every other sport tends to do. Skilled sports such as hockey, baseball, football and the like are always looking for better and better from their athletes. Faster, stronger, more agile- supply and demand commands better to keep it interesting. However with bodybuilding, as the name implies, we are looking for BIGGER, harder, ‘freakier’. My issue is not with the father category that is bodybuilding: my issue is what’s happening to the other categories that fall under the bodybuilding umbrella. Figure, bikini, men’s physique and even the women’s physique division have been changing drastically in the past 3 years- from an observational standpoint. While I could go on about each individual category, I’d like to focus the attention on to the category dearest to my heart: figure.

2016 Figure Olympia

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Nicole Wilkins’ Figure Olympia 2009

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Nicole Wilkins’ Figure Olympia 2013

 

For those of you that don’t know, the Olympia is the equivalent to the Superbowl for bodybuilding. The very best athletes from all over the World in each respective category gather every September in Las Vegas to compete for the title of the best in their division. This year in figure, Latorya Watts won for the second year in a row. She has a very beautiful physique. In previous years, the Olympia had crowned Nicole Wilkins 4 times- almost setting the standard for the desired ‘figure look’ in years 2009, 2011, 2013-2014. While Nicole is a fantastic role model and positive influence on women of all ages- it is very obvious the changes that have been made to her physique. After last year’s Olympia, the IFBB (International Bodybuilding Federation- the sports governing body) released a statement stating that they would be looking for a more ‘down-sized’ look in the sport of figure, meaning less muscle and softer conditioning.  After seeing the athletes that made the top 3, it is apparent that this wasn’t the case.

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Figure Olympia 2016 top five, from left to right: Swann de la Rosa (5th); Cydney Gillon (3rd); Latorya Watts (1st); Candice Lewis (3rd); Nicole Wilkins (4th)

 

The uproar that this has caused, and why it matters, is the message it sends to the sport at the amateur level… Which brings me to my next area of concern.

 

 

 

 

Regional and National Level Competition

In Canada, bodybuilding is governed under the CBBF: Canadian Bodybuilding Federation. The CBBF is to carry out their judging of athletes as close to the protocol as the IFBB states. The system is not perfect. As much as one can try to standardize and structure judging, all areas of bodybuilding are ultimately subjective. Historically, judging at the National level in figure has typically been a harder, more muscular look than what you’d normally see in the IFBB. Why- you ask? It’s just the way it’s been. I have noticed this past year at the regional level the more ‘downsized’ look was rewarded in figure. This was good: as this is what the IFBB said was expected, right? I know of many figure athletes headed into Nationals happy with the new protocol- only to be met with the same judging from years past, leaving many of them feeling defeated. They want you big, hard, and full- yet still ‘feminine’, if you can manage that.

2014 CBBF Figure Nationals

2014 CBBF Figure Nationals

I’m here to state a hard truth- some of you who know the sport well will not even flinch, the rest of you are in for a surprise: it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve what the judges are asking of these women COMPLETELY NATURAL. Even with the very best genetics on your side, we as women are not meant to have that amount of muscle with a body fat percentage below 13% and still hold onto what makes us feminine: plain and simple. There are a vast amount of competitors that have made their peace with the fact that they will have to resort to extremes- such as steroids and diuretics to achieve the approval of that panel of judges. Unless you compete in a drug-tested division, it’s pretty commonplace. In fact, every category under the umbrella of bodybuilding in every level of competition has athletes resorting to these extremes (yes, even bikini). There are of course those exceptional few that may be 100% clean, but they exist in small quantities.

What disheartens me the most is just HOW extreme things have become: women taking steriods that they haven’t even researched the long-terms effects on; causing irreparable damage to their bodies (voice changes, thickening jaw-lines, loss of menstrual-cycles, infertility, etc.). Women blindly taking whatever their coach thinks may/may not help them place higher at a show where they are on stage for 10 mins, tops. Girls wearing waist shapers almost 24/7 to atrophy their midsections to create freakishly exaggerated proportions like it’s the 1800s. Hours upon hours of cardio while on limited food for months on end: only creating a sort of ‘food-phobia’ for regular meals once their show is over and done with, and even exercise bulimia. Not everyone will have an eating disorder after competing, but I can guarantee you will have an element of body dysmorphia.

 

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2011 CBBF Figure Nationals top 3: (from left) Emily Zelinka (2nd); Michelle Krack (1st); myself (3rd)

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2013 CBBF Figure Nationals top 3: myself (2nd); Emily Zelinka (1st); Tamen Ewasiuk (nee Stuve)(3rd)

I went into this sport originally for the physical and mental challenge of bringing my body to its utmost physical peak; and I feel I did do that. I remained informed and educated on each and every method I put my body through, and my doctor was completely in the loop. I drew the line when I saw just how extreme things would have to get in order to achieve that ‘pro’ status. I knew my health, my life, my family, my appearance- who I’d want to see in the mirror each day was so much more important than all that. I have a hard time calling these shows ‘fitness competitions’ anymore: they should be called ‘Sacrifice Competitions’. The more extreme the judging becomes, the more extremes these ladies will resort to- sacrificing like lambs to the judges that are herding them. If you are one of those individuals that can compete simply for the love of the stage, kudos to you. I for one can’t see putting your body, your free time, your finances, your loved ones through all that each year for simple ‘fun’. I can think of 100 other things to do that are fun, that do not sacrifice all those things. But then, it’s not always about winning. I do not mean for this to sound like I’m ‘hating’ on the sport of figure, but rather as an advisory for those who may not know what they are getting themselves into. If you are reading this and you are either just beginning or are in the midst of your journey- please ask yourself your WHY. Follow your heart, it is usually right 😉

So Ya Wanna Be A Spartan?

The summer of 2016 has been an eventful one for Lindsay Lee Orange. 2 triathlons (placing 3rd in each-yay!), Femsport in July, and on Sept. 3rd I completed my first-ever Spartan Race. Not just any Spartan: the SUPER! Many people usually enter in the 5 km, or ‘sprint’ distance for their first Spartan. I was advised by several others that as a runner I would find the sprint distance ‘too easy’. The Spartan Super-distance is 12+ kms, with 27 obstacles. The farthest I had ever ran in recent years is 10 kms, so I had my work cut out for me. I thought I’d share my personal experience in both training and completing my first Spartan. Some of you can take this blog as a useful tool if you are truly interesting in entering in a race yourself, or simply as good reading material: the choice is yours 😉

 

Set your goal

For the last 4 years I had pondered the idea of doing a Spartan. It wasn’t until I had competed in Femsport (an all-female strength-agility competition) that I truly felt I was primed and ready to take on the challenge. Since I had been training for my triathlon races all summer, I knew my cardiovascular ability was at an all-time high. I was told the 5 km would be a ‘cake walk’ based on my endurance level; so I went ahead and registered for the Super. Coming off my triathlon race on August 7th, I had 4 weeks to try to bring up my strength and agility as much as possible for the Sept. 3rd race.

 

Training

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There are many people that will enter in a Spartan without any type of formal training. While this is entirely possible, it would depend on the individual’s existing physical condition/athletic background upon entering the race. Also, if your goal is to do fairly WELL- I do advise conditioning yourself accordingly:

Running

The most basic, but most necessary training you will need. Whether your race is 5 km, 12+ km, or 20 km (that would be a ‘Beast’ distance): you need to be able to run AT LEAST that distance. The race is not just running: you are faced with obstacle after obstacle, many of which are much more physically demanding than actual running. And for every failed/incomplete obstacle, your penalty is 30 burpees. Yep. 30. It’s no cake walk. And that brings me to my next tip:

Practice Burpees

Nobody likes burpees. They are hard, they are exhausting, and no matter your pace doing them, they are going to kill your Spartan time. For those of you that don’t know what a ‘burpee’ is: Google it. They’re no joke. But let me tell you after 4 weeks of practicing drill after drill involving burpees, I was beginning to get pretty lean- especially in my midsection! Here are a couple of drills I did to help me prepare:

1) Indoor Drill (with treadmill)

*4-5 min warm-up, at 4.0 mph, incline at 1.0%

Sprint 30 sec at 9.0 mph, incline at 7.0%

Walk 30 sec at 4.0 mph, incline at 15.0%

15 burpees

x 8 rounds

2) Outdoor Run Drill

For every mile (1.6 km), stop, drop and complete 30 burpees

*I would complete this drill on my 5 mile runs (8 kms)

As brutal as these drills are, the idea is to bring up your physical conditioning so that if you miss many obstacles you are physically prepared to finish the entire race regardless.

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Strength Training

This is an area that I feel many endurance athletes overlook, in general. Although you most likely won’t know exactly which obstacles you will be faced with, I can tell you you will need to be able to pull your own body weight (several times), climb over walls/fortresses, and be made to lift some challenging weight. Working on my grip strength was a big one for me. I worked on my strength training 2-3 days/week involving exercises like:

  • conventional deadlifts
  • seated rows
  • pull-ups
  • farmer carries up/down stairs
  • planks/core strength
  • wrist curls

It helps having My Champ as the awesome trainer he is, to advise me on all of those. Lift, pull, carry as heavy as possible (while maintaining proper form) to ensure you will be ready for ANYTHING!

OCR (Obstacle Course Race) Training

At Femsport I was fortunate to learn there is an outdoor-fitness club called ‘River City Fitness’ that offers training specifically for individuals entering in obstacle course races (Spartans, Tough Mudders, Rugged Maniacs, etc.). I was only able to go once in my 4 weeks of prep, but I found it super helpful!! It was a good way to train for the ‘unexpected’, I found. The group was super friendly, very positive- much like the people you will meet at your race! I had a great time. Check out their website: www.rivercityfitness.ca if you are in the Edmonton, AB area.

Nutrition

image-91If you have been following me for a while, you already know that I’m a pretty huge advocate for eating well. I found with training for triathlons it was important for me to keep my carbohydrate intake fairly high to sustain my energy for the long distances. For Spartan training, I made adjustments to cater to the strength demands, high-intensity and endurance training, as well as efficient recovery. While everyone is different, I found that my body works best with a 40/30/30 ratio (carbs/protein/fat). I stuck to whole foods during the week, while allowing myself a couple of ‘free’ meals on the weekend- like pizza with My Champ or apple pie with my family. During the week my diet consists of foods such as:

  • oats
  • egg whites/whole eggs
  • sweet potato
  • whole-wheat wraps
  • avocados
  • nut butters
  • yogurt (plain, either 0% or 2%)
  • reduced-fat cheese
  • chicken
  • fish
  • bananas
  • apples
  • berries
  • salads/veggies
  • protein powder
  • almond milk
  • protein powder

As you can see, tons of variety! I keep track of all my food intake on an app such as MyFitnessPal.

What to wear

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This I had to resort to the Internet myself for info- I was completely lost. So I am here to help! First off: invest in a GOOD pair of trail shoes. It is worth the money. It is so important for your overall run and joint health to consider this. Yes, your shoes will get crazy-muddy during the race- but good quality shoes can be put through the wash! Good as new. I went online and bought myself a pair of Reebok ‘All Terrain Thrill’ shoes, and they were great. There are many other good brands out there, but do go out and get a pair. Make sure you have ample time to break them in before your race as well. In addition to good quality shoes, I do strongly advise you to either tape your ankles/wear ankle braces for your race. The terrain is extremely uneven and slippery: the LAST thing you want is a blown ankle. My Champ taped me up using Pro Wrap and stick tape and my ankles were injury-free.

image-97Every site I visited stated ‘less is more’ for clothing. This is totally sound advice as you will be trudging through several mud bogs as well as walking/swimming through bodies of water (rivers, maybe a lake) so you don’t want to be wearing anything that will weigh you down when wet. I ended up wearing a thin tank and 3/4 length lululemon pants (to cover my knees) in 13C weather, and it was perfect. I wore gloves, but I did have to take them off for most things about halfway through as they became far too muddy to help me any. I still say they are worth bringing if you like using them.Because my race was going to be quite long, I invested in a hydration backpack from MEC to get me through. I say it was money well spent. Those packs are super lightweight, and it also held my energy gels for ‘just in case’ I felt my blood sugar crash.

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Pack: a towel, crappy clothes to change into (even that pressure hose at the end doesn’t get all that mud off), face/baby wipes, garbage bags, snacks, your ID, and money for the beer gardens!! And your smile- the whole thing is seriously so much damn fun. You get oh so muddy, but you’ll love it. You will amaze yourself when you reach that finish line, and find out what you are truly made of 😉

 

 

Spartan Race

My Ascent: The Journey Continues

It has (again) been some time since I have been on my site. I hope I haven’t lost too many of you! I actually have no idea who is on here or what my numbers are like. This site is first and foremost a platform for me to spew out my thoughts, ideals, my routine (or lack thereof) and the occasional recipe that I think is worth sharing 😉

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Since I have a good minute, I thought I’d share my current plans for the upcoming month and my feelings on what’s to come in subsequent months. This upcoming Sunday, August 7th I will be competing in the St. Albert Triathlon. It is a sprint distance (750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run)- I was hoping to experience at least one Olympic distance tri (double the distances of a sprint) this summer, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Following the triathlon I had completed in May I felt the need to maintain all that preparation and conditioning for AT LEAST one more race.

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Performing 50 18″ box jumps for time. I completed mine in 1:16, a PR

On July 23rd, 2016 I had competed in an event called ‘Femsport’ in Fort Saskatchewan (a suburb of Edmonton, AB) which is a strength and agility competition. The events included: an obstacle course (which ended in pushing a 3/4-tonne truck 50 ft.); a kettle bell relay; 50 box-jumps for time; 125 lb tire-pull; 300 lb tractor tire flips. It was quite the day! Over 100 female athletes were participating, so the biggest challenge was much of the all-or-nothing, full tilt-to-rest effort all day long. Although I completed each event (even got some personal bests!) I was by no means good enough to podium. I was not discouraged or disappointed by this- the exact opposite! These women were SO motivating, so inspiring. Some of them were quite young (a couple of 19 year olds) and some more seasoned (including a 60 year old cancer survivor). What I took from this event was I needed to be more prepared. I had only given myself a few weeks to practice the skills, being in between triathlon races and vacations.

The night before my Femsport competition I watched ‘The Fittest on Earth’: a documentary that follows several of the world’s top Crossfit athletes competing in the 2015 Crossfit Games. If you ever need some kind of physical motivation or fitness inspiration, I highly recommend watching it (find it on Netflix). Currently, I won’t comment on whether or not Crossfit is my next venture, but I am absolutely enamored with the passion, dedication, and positivity from the sport and it’s athletes. I like the idea of having a variety of events/skills that you have to excel in, combining both strength and cardiovascular abilities. I like that what is expected of you seems impossible at first, but then with the right amount of heart and work ethic you find out it can be done.

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Experiencing Femsport motivated me to enter in yet another event: the Reebok Spartan Super Race, September 3rd, held in Red Deer, AB. It is a 12+ km race involving a variety of obstacles along the way. I have wanted to do a Spartan for a couple years now, and I thought no time like the present. Although I have very much enjoyed preparing for my triathlons, Femsport made me realize I have the potential for so much more.

***WARNING: SELF-CONFIDENT COMMENTS ABOUT TO ENSUE 😉 ***

Many have mentioned how ‘busy’ I have been this summer with my events and my races. It is no accident. Last fall I was feeling very lost in regards to my training. I had no focus. When a girlfriend had challenged me to enter in my first triathlon this past January, I had no idea it would ignite such a hidden spark inside of me. In my years competing in Figure, I had reached what I would call my ‘aesthetic  peak’. In all the preps I had done, I always knew by my cardio capacity, performance and recovery I was built for endurance; I also knew I was decently strong. I feel at the age of 33, I am approaching my ‘performance peak’. I have NEVER been in this kind of shape. The distances I have hit, the times I have beaten, the strength I possess, my ability to recover: I am surprising myself each and every week. I am a woman in her 30s who is simply just GOING FOR IT. Putting the work in, and continuing to see results is incredibly rewarding and motivating.

So to summarize, I am basically still searching for my ‘niche’. I simply enjoy training, but training with a purpose is so much more rewarding for me. The idea of a race/competition just adds gasoline to my fire. It makes me nervous, but mostly it makes me excited. As long as I continue to feel those butterflies, as long as I continue to enjoy the process and continue to improve- I will continue to challenge myself in as many ways possible 🙂

“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine 

Spartan Race

 

 

Be All In: Key Points for Success

Some time has passed since my last blog entry, and much has happened in the land of ‘Orangezilla’. The loss of my maternal grandmother and coping with that consumed much of my heart and mind; then simultaneously handling affairs while My Champ was away in Sweden for the IFMA World Muay Thai Championships. I was both busy and preoccupied. My number one way to deal with adversity: I get to  WORK!!

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The 2016 Coronation Triathlon took place this past Sunday, May 29th here in Edmonton, AB. I could not have asked for a better day! The weather conditions were perfect, and I was decently rested and fuelled to go. I had followed some carb loading guidelines My Champ had advised before he left, and I will say it totally worked! I had tons of energy to last the entire race, and zero crash. A family friend (an experienced triathlete) who was also taking part in the race had asked me if I had a goal in mind. I had told him based on my best training times, and estimating my transitions (from swimming, to biking, to running) I was hoping to finish around the 2 hour mark. He replied: “This is a tough course. And this being your first triathlon, if you finish in 2 hours, you won’t be making many friends!” He wasn’t trying to doubt me or be rude: he was simply preparing me for possibly falling short of my goal. I simply smiled and shrugged it off. He had never seen me train or race. He is also unaware of my competitive spirit. Instead of feeling discouraged by the comment, I thought to myself “just watch me.”

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My sprint to the finish

As mentioned, I had loads of energy throughout the race. The discipline I feared most, the bike, turned out to be the easiest. I realized just how effective my training was as I passed other cyclists, uphill. For the run I had enough gas in the tank to sprint to the finish line, welcomed by the cheers of my family and friends as well as total strangers. I handed in my time chip, and instantly looked up my time (results were posted immediately). I finished the race at 1 hour, 51 minutes!!! Not only that, but I place 3rd in my age category! As I type this I smile because not only did I beat my goal, but I shocked other seasoned athletes- including my family friend. That particular ‘shock value’ is priceless 🙂

Now that I’ve had several days to reflect on the success of the past weekend, I’ve thought about how I go about approaching each and every challenge. When I put my mind to something I definitely have an ‘all in’ approach. These are the five key points (I have found) to achieving success, in any challenge/goal:

  1. Be VisualImage (78)

    A goal needs to have a timeline: write that date down. You can choose to keep this goal/date/event private in a journal or in your phone; or you can make it public by posting it on social media. Either way, once it’s out there you’re accountable. Week by week write down your training schedule, your meals, your measurements, etc. to keep track of your progress.

  2. Check your ego at the door

    Image (81)Realize that when encountering a new challenge, you won’t be highly skilled right off the bat. Believe me, this one is HARD for me! As long as you allow yourself sufficient time for improvement, you WILL get there. Everyone has to start somewhere. As cliche as that sounds, take it from the girl that could barely ride her road bike 2 months before her race!

  3. Surround yourself with those that are better than you

    This ties in with the point above: accept that you are a student of your craft, and prepare yourself to LEARN. Join training groups, enlist a coach, allow yourself to be a sponge from those who are more skilled or have more experience. I independently joined both swim and bike groups that both respectively had some very skilled athletes. It was scary, it was intimidating: but I learned so much from both. It was all the more rewarding watching myself improve in the midst of such talented company.

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    My friend and seasoned triathlete Carlene, post-race

  4. Don’t cut corners

    You know the saying ‘hard work pays off’? Well just like how all your hard work will be evident on race/event day, so will it if you half-assed your preparation. Leave nothing to chance. Train hard, practice perfect, take in the proper nutrition, and you will NOT be disappointed with the results.

  5. Know your ‘why’

    Image (79)Last but not least, I feel this is the most important point of all. Many of us will have moments where we stop and think ‘why am I doing this?’ And we’re right to do so. But the ‘why’ has to be good enough in order to keep going. My ‘why’ is almost always to prove something to myself. It never has to do with anyone else. Your why can be anything at all: just keep in mind that it should be something related to your self-love and respect in the end.

    Why be all in? Why be so intense? Why do anything at all, if you can’t give your best… That’s my question 😉

My Life, Enriched

 

“Life is about making an impact, not making an income.” – Kevin Kruse

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The week after getting back from my (much needed) personal holiday in Phoenix, AZ I got doing some reflecting. On my trip I had celebrated my 33rd birthday with my Mom, whom I’m incredibly close with. We made the trip up to the Grand Canyon, and it was spectacular. Witnessing one of the Wonders of the World can really make you pause. In the past I used to dread my birthday. I think as I was getting older, I started to become more and more disappointed that I didn’t achieve certain milestones within the time-frame I envisioned. My expectations weren’t necessarily unrealistic: I wanted to have all my kids by the time I was 30; have my own house; and I thought I’d be married by now. Not unrealistic, but… these are not things one can feasibly control. Control. That’s me- and also a huge part of the problem.

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I can honestly say that this was the first year that all those thoughts and feelings of failed expectations and disappointment stopped. Maybe it was the help of the Canyon; maybe it was a little bit of added maturity. As I drove home from a belated birthday dinner with my girlfriend last week, I made some positive affirmations:

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  • I am 33 years old, and in perfect health
  • I am in a loving relationship where I am respected and cared for
  • I have a steady career in nursing and am able to provide for myself and my partner
  • I have a supportive family that always has my back on every pursuit I embark upon
  • I have a small, but solid group of girlfriends whom I can trust with my life, and share mutual respect for
  • Each and every day I am reminded (via social media) the impact my sharing my goals and experiences have positively influenced someone else

Image (77)Each of these affirmations… priceless. All of the above listed have been earned by hard work, respect, and love. The things in life that are priceless are also irreplaceable. I see a lot of people posting pics of mansions, sports cars, watches, purses that cost more than my pay check- hash tagging “life goals”. Really though?? I definitely enjoy the finer things in life, but I can tell you fancy, lavish items won’t bring you happiness. Money can make certain things a little easier, but not necessarily happier. Some of the most miserable people I have met seem to put the most emphasis on ‘things’. I have seen people have more than enough money to last twice their lifetime, but in the end it didn’t buy them their health.

I am by no means what you would call a ‘rich girl’: I work a shift work job that has an salary cap on income; I live in a modest townhouse (which I am proud to be the owner of) with basic furniture and decor; I drive a Ford SUV, but it’s reliable and doesn’t cost a mint to repair; I look for deals on groceries where I can get them. BUT I can tell you that I have a life that is EN-riched with quality friends, family, and more experiences than I ever thought that I would have- even at my age. I could not have predicted a life more full, or to be more proud of. So many of us fixate on what isn’t there. Once we stop and see what IS there, life is actually pretty amazing. One your very last day, think of who and what would be there: that is your legacy <3

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Triathlon Training: My Journey… So Far!

When I started this blog site, I intended to have a ‘fitness’ category to share with you some of my favorite training exercises/moves. Should the demand present itself, I still may do that- but my training has DRASTICALLY changed since this site’s start date! For the past 2.5 months my training has been solely catered towards preparing for my very first triathlon race, May 29th. Since I’m just over the half way mark of my 16 week training, I thought I’d share with you how it’s all going so far!

 

Weight Training

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Although I have been weight training for years, this area has had to change the most and was the hardest for me to wrap my head around. I’m used to weight training about 5x/week, and high-volume sessions at that. I am now weight training twice a week, and all movements are strictly for strength and mobility purposes. The exercises I perform were recommended to me by My Champ (functional trainer extraordinaire and kinesiologist 😉 ) and are designed to make me more efficient in my swim, bike and run. My routines currently looks like this:

Routine #1

Plyo Rudiments (Jumping forward/backwards/lateral; recruiting leg muscles from only below the knee)- 3 sets of 6, each direction

Front Squats: 3:2:1 second tempo; 4 sets of 5 reps

Conventional deadlifts: 3 sets of 6 reps

T-Y-I raises (laying on a bench, 5 lb dumbbells in each hand: Ts- rear flyes; Ys- extending arms out and forward; Is- extending arms forward at eye-level, fluttering weights as quick as possible for 10 seconds total): 10 reps; 10 reps; 10 seconds

Nordic Curls: kneeling on a foam roller with heels secured, lowering your upper body towards the floor, and back up again (like an eccentric leg curl); 3 sets of 6 reps

Routine #2

Plyo Rudiments (same as above, plus A-skips)- 3 sets of 6, each direction

Front Squats: 4 sets of 5 reps, max weight

Bent Over Barbell Rows: 2 second iso-hold- 4 sets of 8 reps

Pull-ups (bodyweight): 4 set of 8, or until failure

Strict Press (Standing barbell press): 4 sets of 8 reps

 

Swimming

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This has been a major focus of mine since the very beginning. For those of you that don’t know, a triathlon consists of the three disciplines: swimming, biking, and running- in that exact order. In my opinion swimming is the most physically taxing out of all 3. I’m willing to bet this is also why it’s the shortest distance component of the race 😉 For this race in particular, I’m to complete a 1000 meter swim (a standard distance is 1500 m). At least once a week I attend swim practice at the Kinsmen (a fitness facility here in Edmonton), and then at least once, if not twice more I swim train on my own time. The swim practice is where I have a coach that offers me suggestions on my technique as well as what  distances I should be hitting at a certain point in my training. Even if I only gain 1-2 pointers from this man each week, he has been very helpful in guiding me thus far. Every time I go to practice I am reminded of just how hard I have to PUSH IT. At this point in my training my goal is to swim well over my required 1000 m, and hit at least 2000 m if not 2500 m so the my endurance is up to snuff. So far I can complete 800 m non-stop without issue. 2 months ago I could only complete 400 m non-stop and would be completely gassed at the end!

 

Biking

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This is the discipline that is TERRIFYING to me! Ok, look- I CAN bike. The thing is, prior to accepting this challenge of a triathlon I had only ever ridden a mountain bike. A road bike fits and feels very different. Road bikes are extremely light in weight, with very skinny, narrow tires- and the seat sits incredibly high. They are 100% built for speed, NOT comfort. While I practiced several times on my road bike through the winter in my house on the trainer (a device that holds the bike stationary so you can ‘ride’ it), but getting on top a moving, high-seated bike is something else! 2 weeks ago my girlfriend and I took our bikes out for their first ride of the pavement. It took me about 10 minutes just to leave the parking lot!! It was extremely difficult and awkward for me to get on top of the seat, with the bike moving, and pedal. The seat felt a little too high for my short legs (although I’m 5’8″, I’m all torso) and I was feeling unsafe. I went back to the shop and got them to lower the seat a bit for me. I am going to give it a few weeks of getting used to, then go back when I feel I can confidently raise it again. Until then, I am only riding flat routes at the moment- I can’t quite imagine heading down a steep hill in such a top-heavy position! I plan on concentrating more and more on this as it’s currently an obvious weakness. The bike component of a triathlon is a very important discipline as it’s the longest distance of the race, and the area you can make up for the most amount of time.

 

Running

This is the area I have been most confident in all along, and that remains so. I’ve considered myself a runner for almost half my life. Even though I feel running is my best asset, I am still diligently preparing for this component at least twice a week. I am concentrating on building my distances, and purposely training tired. “Brick Training” is a method triathletes use to prepare for their multi-discipline sport. A brick either involves a run, bike, then a run again; in my case I will perform a bike, then a run directly following. I will do this once a week. It is a great way to give yourself a sense of performing the race if you will. Now that spring is here to stay, I plan on doing more conditioning drills outside such as running hills to bring up my strength even more for race day. The longest distance I’ve hit thus far was 10.5 km; I don’t require practicing much farther in distance as the running component of my race is 8 km.

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In summary, I am thoroughly enjoy my training and all the variety that is involved. As my distances increase each week, the rest of my life gets a little busier as more time is required to train. Although I am seeing great improvements each week, there a still parts that really scare me! The transition from the swim to the bike worries me some: the equilibrium change of swimming then getting out the pool onto a high-seated bike is very daunting to me. I’ve heard stories of people crashing in to one another, spilling their bikes… but hey, I guess they all lived to tell about it, right?! 6 more weeks until go-time… time to stifle that fear 😉

 

Event: Coronation Triathlon, May 29th, 2016; Edmonton AB

Swim: 800 m; Bike: 26 km; Run: 8 km

Goal time: 2 hrs, 15 min

 

 

Diets Shouldn’t Have Finish Lines

This past week I got asked by a coworker if I had heard of a certain nutrition plan (I won’t name names of programs here). I genuinely hadn’t, and then proceeded to ask her what was entailed. She mentioned something about so many shakes, and a meal service. She said it was an 8 week plan, and she just really wanted to get her weight down quickly- even though she admitted she understood losing weight slower was better in the long term. I could tell by the look on her face she knew I wasn’t going to be on board with her plan. I simply responded: “Could you maintain this ‘program’ for the next 20 years?” Her answer: “Well, no…”

People ask me questions about fad diets/quick fix nutrition plans almost as often as they ask me how they can spot-reduce fat (how do I get rid of my underarm fat; how do I tone my legs; I just want a six-pack, etc.). The only painful part for me is that I know they know the answer. It’s like they’re hoping their bogus weight loss plan might be ‘it’- the one diet program that will actually work! But here’s the ugly truth: there ARE NO quick fixes. Sorry, but you know it, I sure as hell know it, and unless you can maintain whatever program realistically FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE that weight is only going to come back and then some. I have not met one single person who lost a ton of weight at a quick rate (without surgery) and didn’t gain it all back.

Competition diets are very similar. Most people lose a significant amount of weight (most of it being body fat) at a fairly acute rate. Many many competitors, usually female, then strive to achieve that same leanness year-round. First of all, we as women are not meant function with body fat so low we have striations in our shoulders and veins in our lower abs. I mean, you could try- but I will say long term it’s not possible ‘naturally.’ Many of these competitors forget all that they gave up nutrition-wise to get in that condition. This is a huge part of the problem. Any diet that restricts entire food groups (unless you’re celiac/lactose intolerant) WILL NOT WORK in the long term. Our bodies need macro and micronutrients from various sources of food to achieve optimal health- but that is a whole other lengthy blog 😉

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A quick selfie before shooting with BodyRock TV last spring. I did a series of shoots over the course of 3 months which I was able to maintain shoot-shape for.

It’s taken me a long time to come to this. By ‘this’ I mean coming off 6 years of competing in fitness- all of which involved yo-yoing between 20-30 lbs (which is better than most), going from a super-restrictive competition diet to free-for-all ‘off-seasons’, I feel I have FINALLY arrived at knowing very well what my body needs to maintain itself. And herein lies my point: all of this takes time. I’m sorry, but I really wish I could say I had the magic ticket to get everyone lean, right away, and maintain it forever. It’s just not like that. If you truly are passionate about a fit lifestyle, about bettering yourself, living your BEST possible life then you have to be willing to put in the effort. I’m not talking effort for 8, 12, or 16 weeks- I’m talking for ALWAYS. If I sound preachy, it’s because I live and breath this. It is a huge compliment to be told by someone they want a body like mine, but make no mistake- I work for it EVERY single day. I am not lucky, and it’s not genetics. It is a testament of my passion and willingness to live this lifestyle, and my work ethic. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get there 🙂

How I Fell in Love with Bodybuilding

Friday nights are usually reserved for ‘quality time’ for My Champ and I. 9 out of 10 times this usually involves watching something on Netflix. This past Friday I had suggested we watch ‘Pumping Iron’.  For those of you that don’t know, Pumping Iron was documentary-style film made in 1975 showcasing the then-bizarre world of bodybuilding. The film’s main star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was the highlight featured as he was in preparation for his 6th Mr. Olympia win in Pretoria, South Africa. He was then, and arguably still is the most famous bodybuilder in the world. This was My Champ’s first time seeing the film, and likely my 6th or 7th. It still gives me goosebumps when I watch it.

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I still have the copy 🙂

Growing up in my childhood home, my bedroom had this very large bookshelf. My parents kept many of the family photo albums and cherished books in this shelf. I distinctly remember being about 10 years old, and snooping in the section of the shelf where the books were kept. There I found my Dad’s copy of the 1977 version ARNOLD: The Education of a Bodybuilder. I flipped through the pages in complete awe. I loved how muscles looked! Although I knew absolutely nothing about bodybuilding in my tender youth, I knew that Arnold had quite the aesthetically pleasing physique. The attraction was not of a sexual nature, but more of a keen interest and admiration in how one could transform their body in such a way. Not only was I impressed with his appearance, I also became intrigued with the information provided regarding exercise and nutrition. Though there have been many changes to what constitutes a ‘proper’ bodybuilding diet over the years, it was obvious that to look like a beast you would have to eat and train like one! Even today (as I still have the copy in my possession) I admire the confident, no-bullshit approach Arnold had toward his craft. In order to be the best, you have believe you are the best: feed yourself with the best, train with the best, practice the best, sleep the best, always question ways you can be BETTER. I believe this applies to anyone and everyone trying to get ahead in life, no matter the goal.

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Love me some Madge

It was around this same point in time that I also became infatuated with Madonna. For a female singer/actress, the girl was RIPPED! I actually remember watching one of her music videos while my cousin was baby-sitting me, and I uttered “I want to look like that when I grow up.” Sure, Madonna has done some things in her past that are maybe questionable for a young girl to view her as a role model- but the impact she had on me as a confident, strong, independent female was huge. She was fierce. She was intimidating. I just remember loving the flow of the muscles in her arms: the visible delts, the separation of biceps, the veins in her forearms… I wanted all that. I loved that she made no secret that her appearance took much discipline through diet and training.

Many people have celebrity heroes from their childhood, and mine were Arnold and Madonna. So I guess it makes sense that I would eventually fall into the world of bodybuilding and fitness. I knew I’d never be a model for Vogue or Elle, but I knew in my heart I had what it took to be a fitness competitor. It was my desire, my passion, my everything to pursue the sport I grew up admiring. And although I’m not being displayed on a stage anymore, I’m still very much all about challenging myself to my absolute physical limits. Everyone has a ‘why’ as to how they started, and it’s important to always remember what that ‘why’ is. Keep going, because truly anything is possible 😉

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