The Only Constant Is…

Change.

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything of substance (assuming what I usually post is substance, that is). My blogging sabbatical has been for a myriad of reasons, two of which I’ll touch on here since they’re relevant to fitness and health/wellness. Away we go!

1. Life got crazy

In September, Matt and I closed on our house, which we bought in mint condition from the original owner…who built it in 1957.  From September 25 until December 1, we spent every waking non-working moment at the house doing demolition, construction, overseeing contractors, and -finally- doing clean-up, moving, and spending way too much money on things I didn’t even know existed. Our to-do list is never-ending, but one thing we’ve made major headway with is our home gym!

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It’s pretty modest right now, but we’ve got a great open space in the finished half our basement that we plan to use for our Olympic bar/plates, squat rack, and a treadmill. We still have gym memberships, so we aren’t totally relying on the home gym, but I’ve discovered some really amazing home workout programs that are doing the trick.

2. I shook things up

I mean I really shook things up.

In October 2013, I ran the Chicago Marathon. I followed a pretty intense training program last summer that was designed to increase my speed/improve my time without increasing my training dramatically. I busted my ass running sprints at the local track on Mondays, doing tempo runs on Thursdays, and doing long runs on Saturdays. I started working with a nutrition coach to get my eating in order, and found out that I was not eating enough calories or enough high quality food to support my training. I set out to work through some of my food issues, and imagined coming out the other side a super-lean athlete.

Much to my dismay, I finished my marathon in October feeling chubby and still very much at odds with my body and with food. I saw the photos taken of me that weekend, and I decided that something needed to change – there was no way that I was overeating when I was training at such a high intensity, so why did I feel so crappy and not look like the athlete I felt that I was?

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After the marathon, I started doing some research in the hopes that I’d find some guidance on how to change my body. I stumbled upon a ton of resources, which can be summarized as:

  • work smarter, not harder
  • less cardio
  • more weights
  • eat more

As a caveat, not all of these would apply to everyone. If you’re currently sedentary, for example, doing less cardio definitely isn’t to your benefit ;) But if you’re overtrained, underfed, and living in the body of a formerly obese person (so basically, if you’re me) this seems to be the gold standard for body recomposition.

Enter: Kiki and Lucia, the lovely ladies behind EatMore2WeighLess. To save you from a 5000 word blog post, I won’t wax on for too long about this, but if you suspect that your metabolism is damaged, sluggish, or adapted to a low calorie diet OR if you’ve been training at a high intensity for months and months and are finding that you have to do more and more cardio and eat less calories to see the scale move, you need to make this site your best friend. Like, now!

So the punchline. From November until the beginning of March, I decreased my cardio to 2 sessions a week (an interval-style spin class, for example) and my weight training to 4 days/week with light cardio (treadmill walking for example) on those days if I felt so inclined. I used a calculator to determine my total daily energy expenditure increased my calories to match the number that popped out. It’s important that I mention here that I also started following If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) to get a sense of how much protein and fat and how many carbs I should be eating to reach my goals. In a nutshell, this meant that I got to eat WAY more  carbs than I was used to, but also more protein (tough unless you’re  veteran bodybuilder). Through IIFYM, I got to eat all the tasty foods I’d considered off limits for years (and would consequently binge on) as long as I was getting my vitamins and minerals and hitting my ‘prescribed’ macronutrient ratio. This is not for everyone, but it’s been a dream for me

It’s not all sunshine and roses from here, though; I gained about 8-10 lbs in the 4 months that I ate at this increased level, and that felt pretty awful even though it’s completely normal and to be expected whenever you increase your calories significantly in a short period of time.

However, I also saw incredible improvements in the gym, and watched as many of my food issues dissipated. It was truly an incredible journey. If you’ve ever restricted/dieted for an extended period of time and find that you can’t trust yourself around food, are obsessed with food, or are binge eating, please consider feeding your body appropriately.

Feel free to email (dnhfitness@gmail.com) me and I’m happy to chat with you about this, because I really believe it’s a game changer :)

So now, I’m trying to lose some of the weight I gained during my ‘reset’ in time for summer (which ‘they’ claim is coming, but I’m skeptical). I feel like there’s so much to say about these past few months, so I can post more on how I’m approaching weight loss, or on anything else you might be interested in, if you let me know what you’d like to see :)

I’m glad to be back, and hope I can get into a consistent schedule again! Thanks for sticking around.

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Best Workout Songs of 2013 – Part 2: Running

Welcome to Part 2 of my recap of 2013’s best songs for working out. This post will be focused on my favourite songs from this past year for running.

I covered my picks for strength training here, so head over and check those out if you haven’t yet :) There’s way more awesome music on that list than this one, because for some reason I can run to my strength training songs but can’t strength train as “well” to my running songs.

Feds Watching – 2 Chainz

Black Skinhead – Kanye West

Wit Me – T.I.

F*ckwitmeyouknowigotit – Jay Z. ft Rick Ross

All Night – Icona Pop

Counting Stars – OneRepublic

Summertime Sadness Remix – Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais

I Want Crazy- Hunter Hayes

The Other Side – Jason Derulo

Holy Grain – Jay Z. ft. Justin Timberlake

Wake Me Up – Avicii

Hey Brother – Avicii

Fire – Big Sean

Timber – PItbull ft. Kesha

How I Feel – Flo Rida

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Best Workout Songs of 2013 – Part I: Strength Training

This post doesn’t need much introduction, since anyone who’s been reading my blog since I started it knows that workout music is just about my favourite thing to post about, and when I take a little LOA from the blog, I usually return with a playlist to get back into the swing of things.

I didn’t find myself too taken with a lot of the music that was released in 2013, in the sense that I didn’t run out (well I guess no one really runs anywhere to buy music anymore) and buy full albums. I did, however, become obsessed with a few songs, and I’m still listening to many of my discoveries from earlier this year daily…which is a good sign.

I decide to split these songs into different posts based on how I “use” them most often – weight lifting, running/cycling, or other cardio. Oh, and a warning: I listened to an awful lot of hip hop/rap this year. Not sure why.

And on that note, away we go.

Best Songs from 2013 for Strength Training

Power Trip – J. Cole

Swimming Pools – Kendrick Lamar

Wicked Games – The Weeknd

Type of Way – Rich Homie Quan

Memories Back Then – T.I. ft. B.O.B. & Kendrick Lamar

Royals – Lorde

Clappers – Wale Ft. Nicki Minaj & Juicy J. (Side note: I’m particularly ashamed of this one)

Hold On We’re Going Home – Drake

Before I Ever Met You – Banks

Blood On The Leaves – Kanye West

Bounce It – Juicy J.

Not Giving In – Rudimental (Not a 2013 song, but I just discovered it this year and I’m obsessed!)

Paranoid – Ty Dolla $ign ft. B.O.B.

All I Want – B.O.B.

Netflix – 2 Chainz ft. Fergie

She Knows – J. Cole

Switch Up – Big Sean ft. Common

Rhyme or Reason – Eminem

Black Unicorn – 2 Chainz

My Body – Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly

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Sugar-Free Coco-Nutty ‘Granola’

It crept on fairly slowly. It started out as a handful here and a handful there – at the office or at Matt’s house. With yogurt, with milk, or just shoveled in my mouth. Then it became an obsession, and a quest to find one that was the most crunchy, sweet-but-not-too-sweet, and complimentary to plain Greek yogurt.

And now, months later, I confess: I’m addicted to granola. A few months ago my colleague shared with me the delight that is Nature’s Path Peanut Butter Granola.

I became obsessed, in a twisted way. I recognized that I ‘couldn’t be trusted to keep a box of granola that tasty in my apartment, but I wanted to incorporate it into my life because what, friends, is a granola-less life? I bought a couple boxes, ate more than I’d prefer (well, than my pants would prefer) and then decided that the solution to taming my granola beast was to buy less tasty granola – you know, the stuff that’s pretty much just rollled oats with some honey or maple and some dried fruit. That solution was a flop because, while I didn’t actually feel tempted at all by the new granola, I didn’t really want to eat it, either.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a granola at home that I could make in a smaller batch and control the ingredients (namely sugar). Some googling left me salivating over Sarah Wilson’s Sugar-Free Coco-Nutty Granola, from the  “I Quit Sugar Cookbook“. The short and simple ingredient list and total ease of preparation is what appealed to me most about this recipe. I picked up the ingredients on the weekend, and away I went.

Coco-Nutty Granola

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(adapted from Sarah Wilson’s “I Quit Sugar Cookbook)

Makes 10 servings of 41g each

  • 4-5 tablespoons coconut oil (or butter), melted (I used 5 but next time I’ll use 4)
  • 3 cups coconut flakes (I got unsweetened & toasted from the bulk section at Herb & Spice here in Ottawa)
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 cups almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, and brazil nuts (I soaked all of these overnight and then laid them on a baking sheet for about 8 hours to dry)
  • stevia to taste (I used about 6 drops of liquid stevia drops)
  • 1/8tsp salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, spread evenly on baking paper on a tray and bake until golden, turning halfway. This took about 30-35 minutes in my oven.

When golden remove and cool immediately.

 

 

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And We’re Back…with fitness podcasts!

Friends! I apologize for falling off the face of the earth for a couple of months. Without going into too much detail that no one cares about, I bought a house that is being renovated almost top-to-bottom so to say I’ve been busy is an understatement.

I also just got back from running my second marathon, in Chicago. I’m sad to say I didn’t make my goal time (4:45) despite busting my butt doing track repeats and tempo runs and blah blah blah. I’m disappointed, but this race felt 10x better than the last. And in my defence, my Garmin said I finished in 4:55, but I forgot that I’d paused that bad boy for 10 minutes while I waited in a port-a-potty line.

On the plus side, I discovered some really amazing ways to pass the time during the last couple months of marathon training. I’ve always been a huge music-lover, especially when I work out. I didn’t train as much with my running buddy this year, though, which meant waaaay more alone time with just my ipod. I have a select few songs I can listen to ad nauseam, but beyond those I have a really short attention span and get sick of songs really quickly. Sometime back in August, I discovered some really great fitness/health podcasts and I’ve been loving listening to them on my runs. I actually alternated about 1/2 hour of music with a podcast for the entire 5 hours of my marathon on Sunday.

1. Evil Sugar Radio

This is really great health podcast based on dispelling the myths and dogmas that plague the weight-loss/fitness/health/wellness world today. If you’re trying to lose weight, have lost weight, or are just wanting to get fit, you’ve probably contemplated going low carb/gluten-free/vegan/paleo at some point in your journey, and it’s worth giving these guys a listen before making any choices regarding your health/fitness. I struggle with implementing some of their philosophies in my own life, but that just makes me want to keep listening and learn more.

2. Impruvism Radio

If you’re a research junkie like me, you’ll love this podcast. The founder, Armi Legge, runs a website called Impruvism, which is designed to help “obsessive and highly motivated people simplify their health, fitness, and productivity.” I love to run and I love to learn – particularly about health and fitness – so to be able to kill two birds with one stone is fantastic!

3. Full Disclosure Fitness Podcast

When I first listened to this podcast, I was a bit put off; something jut didn’t click like with some other podcasts, but I persevered. I’m not a huge fan of the episodes of this show where the host talks for the full hour(ish), but I do really enjoy his interviews with fitness professionals and I’ve discovered some really interesting people this way.

4. Good Life Project

If you feel a bit uninspired by the daily grind and need some inspiration to make a change (or just change your perspective), you will love this show. A few years ago, I read a book called Career Renegade, by Jonathan Fields. I really enjoyed his story and writing style, so I was pumped to find out he’d started a new project interviewing people who have made amazing careers doing what they love. I started out watching the videos (and I still do when I get the change) of these interviews, but have recently made the switch to podcasts so I can listen while I walk to work, or while I’m working on something a bit more mindless during the day. Who doesn’t need some inspiration now and then?

Enjoy! I’d love to hear about any wonderful podcasts I’ve missed :)

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My 3 Biggest Weight Loss Mistakes

Weight loss is such an individual process – what works for one person won’t work for another, and sometimes you try something once without luck and then on the second go around, something just clicks. Having lost 80lbs, gained it all back (plus 20 pounds), and then lost it all again, I’ve run the gamut as far as weight loss tips and tricks goes. Finally, I’ve come out the other side and a little bit wiser, if I do say so myself. They say hindsight is 20/20 and I’d have to agree; I’d like to save you some time during your weight loss journey and offer some words of wisdom about the process that just might make the whole thing a little more pleasant. I’m going to share some mistakes I made that I’m hoping I can spare you from making, too!

Mistake #1: Using Self-Loathing As Motivation

Both times that I really committed to losing weight, it was because I simply couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I hated my body more than anything, and I was furious at myself for being fat. When I decided once (ok twice) and for all to lose weight, it was just because I literally couldn’t stand another day in my body.

All this might sound great, since it did result in me losing the weight. Four years removed from this process, though, I realize that I could have saved myself a lot of agony, tears, and frustration if I just approached weight loss from a place of self-love rather than self-hate. Of course, it’s hard to fake loving yourself when you really don’t feel the feelings, but it is somewhat easier to reframe weight loss as an act of self-care rather than an effort to distance yourself from a person you hate.

The reason I wish I had realized this sooner is that weight-loss is one of the greatest – and maybe only – experiments you’ll ever get to conduct on yourself. You get to try out different types of foods, different exercises, and making different choices, and you can adjust based on the results that you see. When I was 245 lbs and trying to lose weight, any day that the scale wasn’t down just a smidge was a total failure and a reflection on my self-worth….not the feedback that it really is. When you respect yourself and your decision to lose weight, you are able to semi-objectively gauge your results and use what you see to inform the decisions you make next.

Mistake #2: Cutting Too Many Calories Off The Bat

I never took the time to track my baseline calories when I started my weight-loss journey, so I really have no idea how much I was eating to get me to 245lbs. When I decided to drop the weight, I immediately cut my calories down to 1400 and then to 1200 and eventually, as low as 1000. I saw great results…until the numbers on the scale stopped dropping.

The body is such an incredible, adaptive, intelligent machine. If you cut yourself, it begins to heal almost immediately. If you do an exercise a few times, your body remembers and makes it a little easier for you each time. Weight loss is similar – your body learns to do what it needs to do on a certain number of calories a day, whether that number is 5000 (in which case it may be doing what it needs and then storing the rest, hence weight gain) or 800 (where you might be able to get by with basic functions but things like sleep, digestion, and complex thoughts might be compromised). When you decrease your calories dramatically from the start, your body will learn to operate efficiently using only that many calories. This means that once your body learns to run well on 1400 calories a day, for example, you will need to reduce again in order to get the weight loss going again. Rinse and repeat until you’re eating 700 calories a day and wondering why you can’t lose weight.

My advice? When you decide to lose weight, track your calories without modification for a few week and weekend days to see what your baseline is. Once you’ve established how much you’ve been eating to weigh what you do, begin by subtracting 250ish calories a day and monitor how your body reacts. Continue dropping in small decrements as needed – if I were doing it all again, I wouldn’t drop in intervals greater than 75 calories per day. Just saying ;)

Mistake #3: Only Doing Cardio

It’s not news that the key to incorporating exercise into your weight-loss program is to do both cardio and strength training. Still, when you’re 100lbs overweight and desperate to lose the weight as soon as possible, you tell yourself “I’ll just do some cardio to shake the first 20 or so pounds and then I’ll start lifting weights.” Then you see your weight dropping and you start to equate cardio with burning calories, which of course mean weight loss, right?

The problem here is both physiological and aesthetic. When you do only cardio, you start to compromise your lean muscle, which is what part of what keeps you running after your grandkids at 80 years old rather that wheeling yourself from the bingo table to your knitting club. You also end up with that ‘skinny fat’ you hear people talking about (unless genetically you are designed to hold muscle, which may be the case…lucky duck!), rather than looking lean and fit. To top it off, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate…which means you burn more calories doing your day to day things than if you were the same weight but mostly fat.

So there you have it. The 3 weight loss mistakes I would NOT make again if I could do it all over again.

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Current Favourites

I’m a little (ok a lot) late sharing my favourites for June, and I’ve contemplated just not posting them. But then you would be missing out on the splendor of the products I want to share with you! So without small talk (we’re in a time crunch here, people), here are the things I’m loving lately…not just in June ;)

1. My Marathon Training Plan

Source: Furman Institute.

I do plan to do a full update on this at some point if anyone is interested, but the Coles Notes version is that I love this plan. It involves running 3 days/week, with cross-training replacing the ‘junk’ miles (running for the sake of accumulating mileage) that is a part of most plans.  I chose this plan for my second marathon because I’m hoping to improve my time and that’s exactly what this program is designed to do. As such, all the runs on this plan are deliberate; by that, I mean that they each serve a very specific purpose. As someone who finds it hard on my body to run two days in a row, this plan has been a godsend. And along with that…

2. My Garmin 405

I’ve had my Garmin for about a year and a half, and until I started following the FIRST plan I didn’t use it to even a fraction of its full capacity. By the miracle of technology, I’ve been able to upload all of my workouts down to the second (track repeats and all). I just push the button and go! Love it. These are pricey but if you’re trying to meet a specific running goal, it’s a fantastic tool to have in your belt.

3. Natural Calm Magnesium Supplement

[Source: Natural Calm]

This stuff is amazing! I heard about it through word of mouth, gawked at the price tag (it will run you around $30 for the smallest size), but decided to give it a shot. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insomnia, migraines, joint pain, anxiety, digestive issues, and the list goes on. Since I started taking 3/4 tbsp of Natural Calm in the morning and again half an hour before bed, I’ve noticed that I’ve been sleeping better, much more relaxed, and my headaches have been AWOL. It also does wonders for digestion (but I won’t get into that ;) ). I make mine into a slush by blending the powder with a little water, a ton (like a whole tray) of ice cubes and a little stevia.

4. Songza

I’m sure this is old news to you all, but in case you haven’t discovered Songza yet, get on that bandwagon! Essentially, it offers you playlists to choose from based on day of the week, time of day, and mood. I’ve discovered SO much good music through Songza and listening to it while I work and work out has made the time fly by.
A few of my favourite playlists are:

  • Blogged 50
  • Hip Hop/R&B Pool Party
  • Indie Apartment Party
  • Frat-Rap House Party

5. Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer

[Source: Hourglass Mineral Veil Primer]

I have combination skin, meaning that most of my face is normal but my nose and forehead tends to get very oily. I’ve tried a million different primers but always found that during the summer, my makeup would slide off my face. Last year, on a whim, I followed the advice of one of the Sephora makeup artists and picked up this Hourglass primer. No regrets here! This primer is amazing and will keep your makeup on all day, whether your skin is oily or combination like mine.

6. How to Have Your Cake and Your Skinny Jeans Too – Josie Spinardi

[Source: http://www.amazon.com/Have-Your-Skinny-Jeans-ebook/dp/B00B9JKNBC%5D

I happened upon this book after reading a half-dozen other books along the “eat like a naturally thin person” vein. Although all the books have been brilliant in their own way, this one is far and away my favourite so far. Josie touches on all the areas that the other books discuss, but provides a practical, hands-on approach to changing your relationship with food, while the others are based more in theory. Plus, Josie is adorable and so down to earth and approachable.

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