Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Product Review of Sorts: Fivefingers

For the past several weeks, I have been looking into getting a new pair of cross-trainers (new in the sense that I had been using running shoes, and since I'm flat-footed, that extra padding had been taking a toll on my knees during some workouts). After comparing numerous brands and looking at even more online reviews and discussion boards, I decided on a pair of the Vibram Fivefingers. They FINALLY came in the mail on Tuesday, so I've been using them since then, and I have to say, I completely agree with all the hype!

Did I forget to mention they are obnoxiously bright?
Tuesday, I only did about 15 minutes on the StairMaster with them, and it didn't feel too much different than with my normal shoes, except just less of a sole. Followed that up with a bis and tris workout, during which I really couldn't tell if there was any difference, solely because I was lying on the benches for most of my routine. However, yesterday I got the full Fivefingers experience. After a lengthy conversation with my trainer, we decided I should take a completely different approach for cardio. This means HIIT (high intensity interval training) a few times a week, and only about 45 minutes each day. However, he also suggested I only do cardio (in general) 3-4 times a week yeah right Kevin, you know I want more cardio than that!

But anyway, back to the Fivefingers--so after my conversation with Kevin, I decided to try a HIIT workout on the treadmill. The five minute warmup was a breeze, and the intervals themselves were not bad either! I was kinda surprised--normally I get extremely bored on the treadmill, but the combination of my new kicks and constantly keeping track of the time helped it fly by (almost literally). The Fivefingers were so lightweight, and in a sense empowering. They were a little bit noisier, in that you can hear me padding along on the treadmill (but that's what headphones are for anyway, right?), but they were EXTREMELY comfortable. Also, I've heard that it takes a while to get used to them, so ease into them to prevent extremely sore calves. Of course, I didn't remember until I was more than halfway through HIIT that yesterday was a leg day. My initial thoughts: You have to be kidding me, I'm going to be dead tomorrow; Maybe I can convince Kevin that I should do shoulders today and legs next time. Yeah, the convincing didn't work. It was still a leg day.
Similar to my HIIT workout, but think 30s sprints
 and 60s recovery.

After getting off the treadmill, I made sure to stretch really well, but all-in-all, I was glad it was time for legs. One of the reasons I made the Vibram purchase was because I had heard they were extremely good for lifting because the lack of normal running shoe padding is actually beneficial. Without the excess sole material, you are closer to the floor, aiding with natural balance and stability (and of course strengthening everything). The leg workout was definitely interesting--it actually went really well, but there are a few things I have to get used to in my new kicks. Squats were fine--I actually did feel more stable without the normal running shoes. Same thing with lunges, except I could feel my toes expanding and contracting in the Fivefingers. Calves, however, are definitely something I need to get used to in these things. It was somewhat hard to do calf lifts because the toes are isolated, and instead of having a closed toe box with which to lift, you have to make sure all of your toes are correctly placed.

At the end of the night: slightly sore, yet a completely fulfilling workout, thanks to the Vibrams.
Today: slow to walk up stairs, and lucky me, I had to walk down 4 flights of them to get to a class today.
<3 my Vibram Fivefingers Bikilas
Oh, and I'm giving up the lazy elliptical for the treadmill!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Slacker Weekend

Do you ever have those weekends where you just DO NOT have time to get to the gym? That was me this weekend (with the exception of today). Class and work on Friday kept me from getting in a workout, and yesterday, a visit with my dad and more work kept me away from the gym. These "slacker weekends" are not planned, but sometimes are just unavoidable. On the one hand, I get very frustrated and feel guilty for missing lifting AND cardio. On the other hand, sometimes it does feel nice to have that little break, and I usually come back into things feeling well rested and stronger. But still, there's that lingering thought in the back of my head--I have 17 weeks before my competition. I am probably behind on nutrition, and I definitely do not need to fall behind in my workouts. Again, frustration.

This is what I do when not at the gym--hang out with Archie!
I do have to admit though, for as much as I was kicking myself the past 2 days for not being able to find time to get a workout in, I felt good when I got to the gym today. I only managed about 20 minutes of cardio (feeling a little lazy--unacceptable, I know), but today was a back day, so I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. Lucky for me, Kevin switched up my workout a bit, so no dead lifts, which if you recall from last week, MURDERED my back. Replaced those with sumo squats, and let me tell you something, my form DEFINITELY improved (if you compare to my form during dead lifts). We got in a few other exercises too, but I didn't leave with my back feeling as battered as it normally does. Improvements--yay!

Melissa & Me: Halloween Weekend 2010
(My arms are looking a lot stronger now)
Now, given all I've just said about missing workouts for two days, here's the shocker. I got home after grocery shopping straight from the gym, and when I went to weigh in, I'd actually lost 2 pounds from the last time I weighed in (now about 15 more to go!!). Granted, that was last weekend, but let's just say I'd indulged in a few drinks this weekend, so I wasn't expecting a decrease. How awesome is that?! Granted, I have been eating pretty healthy, so it's not just some crazy anomaly. Feels pretty darn good! Lately, I've been trying to read up on the nutrition plan I need to follow and see how much cardio I should be doing compared to lifting. It's surprisingly hard to find good information on the subject, and in addition, bookstores don't sell figure competition training guide books (why did I even think they would??). I've found a few sites here and there,  but one of my main sources of info is other training blogs. Here's to hoping I find something (or at least find information on sodium-restricted nutrition, the protein isn't my problem)!

Now hopefully I can convince Melissa (my self-proclaimed "biggest fan" and one of my best friends) to take a study break this week and help me take some progress pictures! I don't have true before pictures, but better late than never!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gold's Owns My Heart This Year

Valentine's day was yesterday. For most grotesquely "cute" couples people, this is a special day filled with love, candy, cookies, big meals, and hugs. Where did I spend my day (or night)? Gold's. That's right, I spent 2 hours toiling away at the gym--cardio and lifting. Let me tell you something, you can really tell who it single dedicated by going to the gym on Valentine's day and seeing who all of the regulars is actually there. Surprisingly, a decent number. And even more surprising was the regulars that weren't there (trust me, it's more of a shock than I'm making it sound).

Okay, getting a little off track here, but I promise there is a method to my madness. Obviously, the point of this February holiday is to go broke buying pricey meals and unnecessary items express love, normally for someone else. But let's be honest, why not love yourself first and foremost? It's definitely easier to love yourself, better yet to even put up with yourself. So alas, I found myself in my workout shorts and Under Armour tee at 8pm.

Now yesterday was an interesting day because, due to time commitments, I hadn't done cardio all weekend and hadn't lifted since Thursday. And of course, it was a dreaded leg day. I say dreaded, but I don't necessarily know if I mean it. On the one hand, I love squats, as odd as that sounds. It's empowering to know that I'm able to control all that weight and it leaves me with that feel-good burn. On the other hand, I am not a fan of what I refer to as the "box leg lifts" (who knows what they are actually called though). I should explain--during this exercise, there stands before me a box a little less than waist high. I'm supposed to, with a dumbbell in each hand, place one foot on the box and, without momentum, push myself up using just my leg, so I'm balancing ON ONE FOOT on the box. Once up, I am then supposed to extend the other leg out behind me. Let me remind you, I am not too good with the whole balance thing. Sounds like torture right?

This guy's got it easy, the box I use
 is taller! Note to self: Google calls
these dumbbell box step-ups.
Fortunately, last night was not one of those "box" days. In actuality, I almost feel like I could have pushed myself harder, used more weight. But then again, there's that pesky debate of more reps with less weight, or less reps with more weight?? To each their own. On a brighter note, I do think that the 4 day break from lifting has helped me recuperate. Last week around this time, I was tired, frustrated, and disheartened, AND IT WAS ONLY TUESDAY!! This week, I'm feeling strong--shoulders are less tense/sore/painful (and today was a shoulder day, so I would know if I was still hurting), and I generally feel in a better mood about things. Unfortunately, I already have to take a midweek break tomorrow to head home to Virginia Beach for the night, but I'm planning on getting a guest pass at my mom's gym and at least doing cardio and abs.

I've realized I'm starting to get tired more easily, so very soon (aka next week I think) I will be getting to bed earlier than the 12:10 it is now. Until then, I have homework for myself in regards to the competition--checking out this site provided to me by Kaylie and learning all I need to do to prepare. All in the shortened time frame too. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Growing Frustrations and Change of Date

As you probably noticed from my last post, my week has proven to be a very hectic one. Add to that the fact that I have been struggling though a few workouts and you get one very frustrated Liz. Add to that a mischievous 4-month old puppy and the frustration continues to build.

I've been trying to get back on track with nutrition, which wasn't so great this weekend, given the Super Bowl and all it entailed (though I am proud I stuck to one two drinks over the entire course of the game--4 hours sounds about right). So far, so good, though yesterday I left the gym at 10pm FAMISHED and ate the majority of a bag of baby carrots and half a small container of hummus. Oops. Though in my defense, Tuesdays and Thursdays are my long days, so it's hard to get full meals in, especially dinner. Then this morning, I realize I'm out of eggs and had to improvise a decent breakfast. All these little small things are adding up.

This is how my form should look...
These past two days, my weight training has just seemed harder than usual, and I don't know what to attribute it to. Monday was a back day, and if you've been reading for a while, you will know that I detest am not a fan of back days. For the most part, it is deadlifts that kill me, and of course Monday was no exception. Except that it was, in the sense that I could not continue at the weight we moved up to. I'm still confused and frustrated by it--it's not like I pulled something, but my lower back started hurting. I know I don't have the best form with deadlifts as it is, and I know I need to work on it, but it was just PATHETIC. And of course, that being the beginning of my workout, I was slightly disheartened for the rest of it. Now, the only thing I can think of that could possibly contribute to that would be that I did 40 minutes of cardio THEN zumba before training. Maybe it's overkill (though zumba doesn't prove to be much of a cardio workout for me...and I'm still utterly uncoordinated)?

Yesterday wasn't as terrible: I got to the gym after my internship and my training wasn't until 9:30. This gave me an hour and a half to do cardio, though I normally still to about an hour each day. I was trying to fill this time, so I managed 30 minutes of HIIT on the elliptical with a short cooldown and 2 interval workouts on the StairMaster--20 minutes and 15 minutes. Followed by stretching (which I need to do more of!!). Unfortunately, I only had time to do bis last night (tris will be fit in with another workout tonight). I'm pretty sure I was testing my body during the highest weight of my ascending sets of bicep curls. Talk about being close to tears (I'll get to that later). But all-in-all, it was a mediocre better workout than the day before. I only say that because I feel like I'm pushing too hard, then with my next exercise, I allow myself to go down in weight and don't push myself enough. Talk about a yo-yo effect!

Now, this would all be normal be okay, if my competition was still in July, but my competition got pushed back to early-August. However, the May competition by the same association also got pushed early/mid-June. This gave me something to think about--August was NEVER in my time frame (in fact, way far out), and my ideal time frame was late-May into June. The May competition, the Annapolis Cup, was a no-go because it was right around graduation, and I know I would need a bit of time around then. The Potomac Cup, the one I had decided on, was still outside my time frame, but one of my only choices, and I received good feedback from it, so I had decided on that one. Well now, I am faced with a June show and an August show, and guess which one I'm choosing? June. Sunday, June 12, 2011, to be exact, in Annapolis, MD. This has cut about 6 weeks off my training time, and I already feel behind.

I don't have time to be frustrated, I don't have time to fail at things like deadlifts. And yet, I feel like I'm just doing a lot of failing right now, and I can't help that it gets to me. Yesterday I got home from the gym and went to take my puppy outside to potty. I walked into my room to a shredded book on the floor and the netting-stuff on the underside of my box spring hanging from its frame. I couldn't help it, I had to cry just a little. It's the last thing I wanted to come home to, and now I feel like I'm failing at raising my puppy properly not to mention I now need to find a way to fix my box spring. Hopefully this is just a phase--a sleep-deprived phase that will soon pass. I may need to repeat this a few times today: This too shall pass.

P.S. Feel free to check out the page for my competition, now the 31st Annual Annapolis Cup.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Manic Monday

So I'm about 5 weeks into the new year and although nutrition isn't quite up to par (darn you, college and weekend festivities!), I'm doing really well with my training. Unfortunately, this week was a little bit off for me--I took off 3 days instead of the normal one lonely day without lifting. However, that's not to say that I've made improvements--I can now squat MORE than my body weight--woohoo, and my arms are shaping up nicely! If you've heard me vent before this week, you know I'm usually saying that my triceps need major work because I think they "hang," if you will. I know, I know, you all disagree and look at me in disgust just telling me to get over it because I look "tiny". Lies!

Well anyway, my training is smooth sailing right now, just gotta kick up the nutrition factor. However, to give you a feel of how my crazy/intense my weeks are, here is my sample schedule (aka my actual schedule this week). If it weren't for iCal, I would be a goner.

11-2: Class
2-6: Atmosphere Lab
6:45-7:40 Cardio
7:40-8:40: Zumba
9-10: Weight training (back)

8-12:30: LOFT
2-3:15: Class
3:35-7:30: Meteorology Internship
8-9: Cardio
9-10: Training (bis & tris)

11-2: Class
3:00-7:30: Internship
8-9: Cardio**
9-10: Training (legs)**
**or vice versa

9:30-10:30: Cardio
10:35-11:35: Zumba Gold
2-3:15: Class
3:35-7:30 Internship
7-10: Sorority rush event

11-2: Class
2:30-3:30: Cardio
3:30-4:30: Training on my own
6-9: LOFT

TBA: Cardio
TBA: Training
2:30-6:30: Ann Taylor
5:30-8:30 Sorority Rush event

As you can see, my schedule leaves me little time to myself and less time to sleep. I even have some overlap with events! Eek! Most of the time, I put training before everything, but my sorority is going through our rush process, so some I have to put that first this week. I'm still trying to figure out my balancing act, but I think so far it is going fairly well. I have yet to succumb to falling asleep in class :)

My week looks to be a good one, so I hope you all have a good week as well. Also, how about that Super Bowl? Anyone a little bummed about the commercials? The lack of key plays? I personally found the game a bit boring (although I don't have a huge allegiance to either team), but the night certainly proved to be entertaining!