Moving Iron: What Heavy Lifting Has Taught Me

Before I even start writing: I have been consistently lifting heavy for TWO. WEEKS. It is definitely not enough time to become any sort of expert nor put on considerable muscle. It is, however, enough for me to make some new realizations about my own life, my priorities, and what health truly means to me.

1. Eat to nourish yourself. When I was running all the time, and always trying to up my mileage, food was fuel, but I didn’t see it to be so important. It always seemed like fasted morning long runs were the “right” thing to do, and snacks/mid-run fueling were unnecessary.  And because long distance running, while incredibly healthy, really just burns calories, I didn’t feel like the way I ate mattered that much. I ate generally well and enough not to lose weight (I actually gained it while half training) but wasn’t focused on nutrients. 

earlsI used my exercise to justify my eating, rather than the reverse.

Now that I am actively trying to gain muscle (I found two new bumps in my back that I am calling muscle, hooray!), I am 110% laser focused on getting enough nutrition. Even though I was DEFINITELY not restricting while training for my half marathon, I will not deny that if I added up my calories to be a little lower than they probably should have been, I wouldn’t have been upset. Now, I do not obsessively count my calories but I do make sure that they are ALWAYS at or above maintenance. Considering I just had leg day yesterday, I wasn’t too concerned about my hunger cues. 😉 Muscles will not grow on 2500 calories of ice cream, though, so I honestly feel the importance of quality protein, carbohydrates, and fats, as well as micronutrients in greens and vegetables. When I was running all the time, my vegetable intake consisted of seventeen cups of carrots per day and a pound of fruit. Now, green smoothies are making a comeback and I love it.

smoothie

Basically, now that I am lifting heavy, I want to accentuate my efforts in the gym with my efforts in the kitchen. And hey, if that merits a 10pm grilled cheese on brioche post-dinner, I’m cool with that. 😉

2. It’s not about the calories. Long distance running is a MASSIVE calorie burner, no doubt about it. Run for an hour and three slices of pizza wouldn’t even have an impact. An hour of weight lifting, especially factoring in rest between sets, doesn’t even compare. But I find myself addicted to going to the gym purely for the feeling of accomplishment. The endorphins, the pride, and the desire to improve are what keep me coming back for more. I do it for my health, not for the numbers.

original This is how I feel about burning calories/carbs/etc.

3. Every part of you toughens up. I used to laugh at people using lifting gloves. Now, the blisters on my princess hands make me understand. Hey, if I have ugly runner’s feet, I might as well have ugly lifter’s hands too!

4. Huge respect for others. Before I started lifting, I might have looked at a girl with muscles and thought it was cool that she did strength work. I was shocked and amazed by the workouts elite runners do to run at such a high level, but for some reason I thought that consistent strength training = ripped body, no questions asked. I had no idea the intense amount of effort and dedication required to make even a tiny bit of progress. Now, when I see a ripped girl doing exercises in the gym, I make a mental note to try them for myself – learning from people who know more than you is invaluable!

If you had talked to me a month ago, right after finishing my half marathon, I would have told you I despised strength training and if I could run and only every day I’d be the happiest girl on earth. It’s funny how things can so quickly change, hey?

Have you/do you lift?

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Starting from Zero

For my entire life, I’ve been athletic. I had my first pairs of skis on at age four, was racing by five, and spent the next ten years of my life competitively racing and training nearly 20 hours per week, every week. Hot on the heels of that, I jumped onto a competitive soccer team where I remained until I finished with organized sports and transitioned to running/working out.

I’ve honestly never experienced what so many people go through starting their journey to healthy living. I’ve never had to fight to run more than a few minutes, or felt my body crumble underneath me when I tried to squat. I’ve never been a superwoman olympic athlete, but I’ve never felt out of shape, either.

Until now.

Now, I know that I am not technically out of shape. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve ran, but I’m lifting weights and definitely fit. Do you want to know something interesting, though? If you never train a certain area, you will never be strong at it! Funny how that works, hey?

Case in point: I’m slooooowly working on my upper body strength, and can now bench 40lbs for 3 x 8 reps. Maybe not spectacular to you but I am PROUD. Yesterday, though, I tried to do dumbbell flyes (use your back muscles), and guess how heavy my dumbbells were?

Seven. Pounds.

baby-weights

I felt like this.

It’s safe to say I have negative back muscles. I’m in shape though! But I have never trained my back, ever. I honestly thought it was just pointless. I only wanted to work out my arms and abs, because I thought that all that mattered was what was aesthetically pleasing.

The fact that I now think back muscles are the most gorgeous thing EVER are beside the point. 

The actual point is, I’m starting from zero! I have to swallow my pride and realize that I cannot take anything for granted. I have strong legs because I’ve spent my entire life training them. I cannot expect to magically have a strong back just because I did pullups yesterday.

I_love_magic

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely work hard for everything that I have in life. I spent 90% of grade twelve studying to get into university, regularly woke up at 5am to fit in training runs for my half marathon, and do not expect to be successful without putting in the work.

But…putting in the work kind of sucks when it’s so small compared to others. I know…the comparison trap. I don’t get down on myself for squatting 50lbs when I see bloggers that do triple that. I think that’s because it’s at least something. If you have something to work with, it’s so much easier to build upon and make progress. But starting from zero…it’s HARD.

I will be starting from zero come September: Moving to a brand new city where I know absolutely no one. I guess it’s better to get used to that feeling earlier rather than later. Because even though it may be easier to make progress after you’ve already gotten somewhere, building yourself up from nothing will be so much more gratifying. It’s like the thrill of speeding up from 80kmph to 120kmph, or 0 to 120. You may end up in the same place, but the true exhilaration comes from the unexpected.

When have you had to start from zero? How did you deal with it? 

Acting Out of Fear.

Seriously – if you try to get me to do even simple math in my head I will start sweating and hyperventilating and tell you that 2 x 2 is the log of 8. It’s not. It’s 4.

I JUST FINISHED MY LAST EXAM!!! If you couldn’t tell already it was math. If you couldn’t tell already I despise math. BUT I only guessed on one question so I am considering that a wild success. I’ll let you know in a month if that’s still the case.

exam-lolJust too accurate. 

But let’s not talk about numbers. HIGH. SCHOOL. IS. OUT. Never again will I walk through that door – and I am 100% thrilled about it. High school was not a miserable experience for me but it definitely wasn’t wonderful either. A combination of courses just not meant for me, mean teachers and typical drama sort of put a damper on things.

But no more! In less than 45 minutes I am finally registering for my first year of university. Holy man alive I cannot even believe that. I have driven myself absolutely insane over whether or not I want to take the media studies program but ultimately I decided that I will. If nessecary, I can switch out for my second year far more easily than the reverse!

The reasons that I was doubting my decision are as follows:

a) Less-than-perfect schedule: The standard timetable is a little awkward and for my first semester I have some 2-3 hour gaps between classes. Instead of worrying about what to do, and being scared that I will be a wandering loner, I am saying HELLO lunch dates, mid-day runs and cram-sessions.

tired-halfThat sexy ponytail needs its Vancouver debut.

b) Unknown courses: Hello, my name is Emma and I am Type AAA. I need to know EXACTLY what I am getting myself into, the timeline of events and how many words per second each individual present will utter. I’m not sure if I am going to like some of the courses (computer science being one of them) but I am MOVING TO VANCOUVER, a city I have never been, all by myself. If I choose not to do something because I am scared of the unknown then I have no chance at life.

vancouver

c) Winter break homework: Yep, I have one full-year course with 20% of my grade being a “literary review” over winter break. I have no idea what that even means and it’s definitely annoying but HEY: this past winter break I studied for three diploma exams so I’m pretty sure I can handle one assignment.

Looking back on those reasons, they are pretty gosh darn trivial. I’m so glad that I decided to write it down and think logically. The really hard decisions are when both options are good. For me, regardless of which schedule I took, I would still be furthering my education, learning about myself and having FUN! Who cares when my classes are? If school was the #1 priority I would be going to university in my hometown. Choosing this type of schedule is forcing me to go outside my comfort zone, accept that I cannot control everything in my life and plan it to be 120% perfect and just live. While stomping on fear.

SUPER EXCITING New Goals!

So, it is currently 8:56pm on a Sunday night and while my apparently cooler-than-me mother is off at concert, I’m chilling out on my bed. I could be bored/annoyed but instead I am bursting with happiness. 🙂

Reason #1: Remember when I was stressing out about my french oral exam? I GOT 95 PERCENT! Holy mother alive I honestly thought the teacher was lying to make me feel better when she said I spoke very well. And then on the written composition, listening comprehension and multiple choice I got between 88-89%! Given how much I have fallen in love with the French language this makes me so so so happy that I am actually getting better at it. I have a chance to live in France after all!!

life

Which, speaking of, I have made a decision…I am moving to France. I have it all planned out – I’m going to spend four months there taking a French course and soaking up the culture, study abroad in England for eight months then do the same thing again in France for four more months before heading back home! And then once I get my degree and make seventeen million dollars a year I will return to buy a villa in France. 🙂

france

Reason #2: #themgainzbro. Yep, I’ve been cheating on running. I have been talking lately about how I have been struggling to go on longer runs, and now I realize that was a sign that I needed to take a break from running. So now it’s ALL about the heavy lifting! It’s too funny actually, I used to absolutely DESPISE weight lifting but now I literally want to go every single day! Finding a new goal of building muscle has totally renewed my passion for fitness and healthy living and I am SO EXCITED to finally have muscles.

Although…I could do without being sore for SEVEN DAYS after leg day. At least I can walk now.

shinee-shuffleOnly about 0.001% as coordinated. Plus a lot more tripping. 

In other news: I still have one diploma exam left and omg it’s just so painful. I try to study trigonometry but every time I see a graph I just cringe. 39 more hours until FREEDOM. Less than that when you’re reading this.

In other other news: I still have every single intention to run the Boston Marathon. That is an unwavering dream of mine and will occur at some point in my life. But I’m not even eighteen yet – I’ve got 100 more years of hardcore fitness ahead of me. 😉

Do new goals invigorate you? I WANT TO SQUAT.

Thinking Out Loud: My Intro Needs an Intro.

So this intro is really an into TO the intro, if that makes any sense at all.

It’s THINKING OUT LOUD day which means that all my thoughts get to be ordered all nice and neat and pretend to be logical. 🙂

Thinking-Out-Loud2

Thanks for hosting, Amanda!

1. So that intro. I didn’t post yesterday, and I’ve been missing more Wednesdays than I want to. I used to be SO in the habit of WIAW, but I’m sort of…not right now. Don’t get me wrong, I still love reading everyone else’s posts, but I just feel like mine are kind of pointless. I don’t take a picture of every single thing I eat (and there is a lot of fridge snacking around here), so the comparison trap scares me, plus my meals have just been pretty boring lately.

sandwichCheese sandwiches 4 lyfe. 

That will hopefully change once school is out but I need to come up with something else to do on Wednesdays!

2. Two. More. Exams. And one is ten minutes long – it’s a French oral exam, though, so pray for me. But maybe you should save your prayers for the math diploma on Tuesday worth 50% of my grade…I haven’t started studying yet…yeah do that.

3. Remember how I said my meals weren’t exciting? I LIED!! Well actually I didn’t, but my sandwich yesterday was BOMB.COM. I haven’t posted a recipe in approximately 8.7 years but I am thinking I will have to publish a sandwich recipe for this because it was divine.

4. I attempted to do speedwork. Note: attempted. I think my first interval was around a 6:30 pace(?!) and then I completely died and slowly jogged for the rest of ~1.5 miles. Yeah not breaking any records any time soon, apparently. 😉

national-running-day

5. Something I’m terrified to attempt: overnight oats. Please don’t judge me but I literally have six empty nut butter jars in my fridge “waiting” for overnight oats. I’m really weird about only wanting to eat “non-portable food” at home aka hot meals, so I just never feel like cold oats. But…yeah this is getting ridiculous.

6. I wish I had one post per thought today. You guys have no idea how much I have started off writing for each of these points…and then I realize that this will end up being 2000 words long if I continue so I censor myself but DANG I like talking to you guys! And talking in general…

7. Leg day. Don’t try to catch a bus after it. That is all I have to say about that.

heels

8. Apparently my French isn’t as stellar as I thought it was. I was singing this one line from a song in my head and was 200% CONVINCED it was “le pain de sejour” which means “bread from abroad”. Turns out it is actually “les graines du futur” which looks like it means “bread from the future?” Either way a) I suck at listening to French and b) that country has some wacky bread.

9. I need a hot dog STAT. Everywhere I look walking around there is a delicious vendor selling hot dogs but it always ends up being right after lunch/right before a planned dinner/right after dinner so I never get one. Painful I tell ya.

10. It has been three days since I had espresso. Not okay with this. Off to change it. 🙂

It’s been three days since you…_________?

Obesity A Disability?

In the summer of 2013, obesity was officially classified as a disease by the American Medical Association.

I may not agree with that decision 100%, but the possible positives of it are plain to see- better, more accessible treatment and hope to improve the health of the nation.

74% of the United States of America is overweight or obese. That leaves one quarter of a country classified as “healthy”.

Yes, this statistic is often considered controversial because it uses the BMI scale, which does not take muscle mass into account. Realistically speaking, however, there are a VERY small number of individuals that get to a 30 on the BMI scale thanks to sheer muscle mass alone (ahem, Shaquille O’Neal)

shaq2[source.]

When 74% of a country is deemed unhealthy, drastic measures need to be taken. I get that. And to some extent, I even agree with calling it a disease. Obesity is influenced by so many factors, not just overeating. People have dysfunctional thyroids, autoimmune disorders, digestive complications and a thousand other possibilities that all come into play to result in an overweight individual.

What I cannot agree with is considering it a disability independent of any other medical issues (source). This means that all those unavoidable medical complications affecting the ability to maintain a healthy weight are NOT CONSIDERED. This would basically be saying that overeating is a disability. 

This decision is (claimed to be) an attempt to eradicate/diminish weight-related discrimination. I would never support an individual not being hired to work solely because their employer thinks obesity is ugly. That is absolutely not okay with me. What people need to consider, however, are the traits associated with obesity. Independent of a medical issue, chronic overeating can be a sign of inability to handle emotions, commitment issues, low self-esteem, etc. Would you want to hire an individual like that?

Of course, those things cannot be proven in an interview, so even I would have a difficult time accepting them as a valid reasons to deny someone a career.

What about health-related careers? My mom works in a hospital, and while visiting her, I have seen many a morbidly obese individual giving speeches to heart attack patients about cardiac health.

Um, excuse me? This is total hypocrisy, not to mention wildly diminishing these patients’ chance of success –  the person that is telling them to eat more vegetables and move more clearly doesn’t think it important enough to do it themselves, so why should they?

Let’s not forget the person huffing and puffing as they walk with the necessary appliances to save a patient in CARDIAC ARREST. Or the police officer that fails to catch a criminal because he is out of shape.

These are situations where the worker’s obesity can 100% result in someone else’s DEATH. Do you truly want to fight for one person to have a career that could kill others?

On another note, companies are difficult to build, and reputations even more so. I know that personally, if I spent ten years creating a healthy living brand/magazine that I was proud of, I would want all those representing my company to be role models of a healthy lifestyle, whatever that may be for them. It wouldn’t be about looking “skinny”, though of course I wouldn’t want to hire a ton of overweight people – what credibility would I have if I did?

On the surface, the reasons for classifying obesity as a disease seem OK – who doesn’t want more fairness in the world? But digging deeper shows us that helping them can result in more harm to others.

Weigh in: Should obesity be classified as a disability? 

Sources

Obesity a disease: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262226.php

Overweight percentage in USA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity_in_the_United_States

Shaquille O’Neal BMI: http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/03/08/athlete-study-exposes-flaw-bmi-obesity-measure/

Instant Gratification

I realized on my run this morning that I have a fundamental NEED for instant gratification.

In other words, I’m a glutton for punishment. While I absolutely loved training for my half marathon, and racing it will go down as one of the best experiences of my life, I’m having a hard time falling in love with long distance running.

Of course I love the end of a long run – the couple of miles when you know for a fact you are actually going to finish are quite fun. The lazing around for hours without feeling the slightest bit guilty is phenomenal, and let’s not forget the MASSIVE amounts of food.

earls-fig-briePost twelve mile run.

wafflesAnd the weekend after at Under the Highwheel

But the rest of it? Meh. If I (or most mere mortals) am going to 10+ miles, it should definitely feel easy for the first few. Personally, if I am tired at mile 3 of a 12 mile run, I don’t have a lot of hope for my success.

But what if I want to be tired at mile 3? What if the second I start running I want to feel that adrenaline coursing through my veins, feel my legs burning and flying simultaneously?

It’s greedy, I know. But I have realized that for something to feel worthwhile to me, I need INSTANT gratification. Not an hour later, or a day, or weeks/months. I need it NOW.

sheldon-cooper-yes

It’s not a great thing and it’s not something that I’m particularly proud of. I have said before that I had an extremely hard time caring about school near the end of the year because it just didn’t seem worth it. And the exams that I’m taking right now – I basically have to study my head off for weeks, endure three extremely stressful hours and then forget about them entirely for a month until I find out my results.

Not lovin’ it.

It’s not even just school/running! Has anyone else tried a new face cleanser, still had a zit the next day and then deemed it useless? Or read the first chapter of twenty books and then thrown them aside?

Or is that just me…awkward.

hermione-awkward

So what am I even saying? I’m not here to preach and say “That’s life, folks”. But if it’s in any way possible for me to not sound like a hypocrite, it kind of is. And the rewards of patiently waiting are usually a LOT better than the quick way out.

Case in point: I felt proud when I ran a 5k in under 23 minutes, 2+ minutes off my PR. But I felt like a freaking ROCKSTAR for a WEEK after running a half marathon.

HALF MARATHON

Because the 3 months of patient training + 2 hours of steady running = a feeling I will never forget for the rest of my life.

At the end of the day: I need to be patient. I should go for a long run and stop obsessively checking if my marks have been updated (they haven’t).

Do you need/want instant gratification? How do you deal with it?