Sunday, December 28, 2014

Birds Eye View: Landing My First Bar Muscle Up.

BIG news on the fitness front!! Got my very first bar muscle up last weekend. I had been working on bar muscle ups for a few months but had recently put this goal on the back burner because I was not making progress. Everyone said I was strong enough to do them, but I doubted them because why else could I not get up there, dangit. Then one of my friends at the gym told me he was training to get his bar muscle ups

Instantly my competitive spirit began to rush motivating blood through me. Shortly after that,  I told him that I wanted to see who could get the first muscle up. Game on! I think a lot of times you put a big goal out into the universe and you get sent exactly what you need.

What I needed was three things:

Scott. The Man.
1) One on one training - which came in the form of Crossfit Masters Games winner Scott Olson
2) Motivation to get me pumped up - like the contest I established with my friend. It could be competing in an event. There was a girl who had never done ring muscle ups, who did a big Crossfit competition and got her first muscle up, just like that.
3) Physical exhaustion to silence my over-thinking mind - I got my first muscle ups post max front squat+ heavy clean and jerks. It was after a grueling 2-hour workout that Scott Olson looked at my red, sweaty face and asked if I wanted to work on getting a muscle up. While I thought, "I'm physically pooped" there was no way I would turn down the opportunity. My first attempt with Scott, I got up there. I was shocked and elated.

The top of a muscle up - perch position

If you don't know what a muscle up is- its where you hang from a bar (a pull up bar would do) and pull yourself to the top. The skills it uses are pull ups and dips but with explosive power. You want to end up where a gymnast would perch right before a big move on the uneven bars.  Here are some of the most helpful instructional videos I watched to help me get up to the bar.

A video with one of my fav people: Matt Chan teaching efficiency tips

And when it comes to learning the technique, here's where your volume needs to be focused:
  • Pull ups - Kipping and strict pull ups. I did the biggest kip of my life to get my muscle up but you also need to have the strength of strict pull ups
  • Toes to bar  (kipping)- Strength and explosive power in your hips, to "pop" you to the top
  • Hollow holds - Gymnastics style hollow holds. Hold for 45 seconds and repeat 3 times. You want massive core strength.
  • Chest to bar pull ups - After you are good at chest to bar pull ups, then work on pulling your hips to the bar. 
  • Ring dips - You need a lot of upper body strength - dips are super charged muscle builders

The most efficient (and darn right beautiful) muscle ups I've ever seen:

Mmmm Kay, When you know you are strong enough and are ready to tackle the bar muscle up - here are the most important tricks to remember:

  1. Stand back a little ways from the bar so you can jump into it. I stood back about 4 feet, but you might need more if you are taller
  2. Give the biggest, most powerful kip of your life
  3. Pull your hips up to the bar - you want to be parallel to the floor as much as you can
  4. Keep your arms straight as much as you can to maintain your strength. Bent arms will work but you might end up burning out faster and you are very likely to end up having chicken wing arms to get you up there
  5. After you kip out, you will pull back and then do the fastest sit up of your life to sit over the bar. Try not to use your tummy too much because you can get injured that way but when first starting off, just do what ever it takes!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Funniest Workout Fail Moments + A Brief Yoga Pants Comparison Guide

Someone very wise at my gym told me that wearing yoga pants is like walking around naked. Yes, indeed. This notion is both frightening and powerful depending on the day. So yoga pants have the potential to be really sexy or they can be what makes you want to run and hide out in the locker room. In fact, once I was at the gym, noticing that my yoga pants were indeed see-through and hid for a good 10 minutes in the gym to gather my courage back. This guide I hope will help you avoid that very thing from happening.

Yoga Pants Comparison

Lululemon is hands down my five star for figure flattery and functionality. While uber Pricey ($90 yoga pants) I am a believer that you get what you pay for. A fellow shopper once told me she had the same pair of Lululemon yoga pants for 16 years. I was immediately appalled and impressed. She is my mental justification every time I shop there. My booty is dedicated 100% to Lulu. They figured out where to put seams to make your rear look smoking hot. I trust their workmanship and I have never been let down. Plus the store offers free alterations on pants and tops. Their customer service is also out of this world.

Athleta - Athleta to me is like comparing a Jeep to a Porsche. Both are mighty fine vehicles to drive but one is made for manly functional rompings and one is mostly good to look at. Athleta yoga pants are great for around the house but I just don't trust them like I do Lululemon. Although, Athleta ads make me want to be rich to buy their whole store, but that's where the dream stops. Sadly, I must report failure in most pairs of their good- looking on a model yoga pants. Here's why: Every time I wear one of them I end up with Athleta assalt:

1) Sweaty butt streak down my crack- which is normal because I sweat a lot doing hot yoga and intense workouts but what I don't like is that it's visible to everyone. My butt sweat should be my business. Humph.

2) Saggy crotch. Jumping during my workouts is a given and I expect a minimal amount of downward pant-sliding, true. But Athleta gives me saggy crotch sans jumping. Now that's just rude. I don't like grabbing my pants to pull them up, it looks awkward.

3) Tight on my calfs. One Athleta pair of yoga pants requires a mini prayer every time I put them on. I am forced to ask that my Johansen-calf (monster calf muscles) will not break through the seams during a workout. Hasn't happened so far but keep my calf muscles in your thoughts.

Yoga pants to not try: Nike brand. They are made with cheap material that are heavily see-through and they never did my body any favors. Plus, the material is not made for sweat or longevity. Lululemon and Athleta nailed that part as their clothing is quick drying and their stuff lasts a long time.

Honorable mentions:  

Heard good things about Gap brand. I was told they recently changed their crotch to a new design which tends to lean toward camel toe. Ouch. So go for the old gusset. But I personally have no
experience with this brand.

Ideology- I have a pair that I wore to my first Tough Mudder and even soaked in mud, they stood the test. My biggest worry was that they would fall down with the extra weight of thick mud. However, they didn't fail me so I give them fist bumps for that. Unfortunately, they are one pair that I noticed are see-through at the gym. Just minimally but enough to make me want to wear long shirts with them.  Also, When I wore them to the gym for the first time I ran into my hubby and asked what he thought. He said, "those pants are PERFECT for a mud race." That's his nice way of saying they weren't worthy of the gym. At least he was honest, they aren't sexy, they are functional.

Biggest Workout Fail Moments so far (More to Come I'm sure!)

1st workout fail moment:  Happened when doing jumps over a barbell at my gym. I was nervous about doing this move because it requires you to make it over each jump, even when your legs are burning. I surprised myself by making the first round of 35-40 jumps then I surprised myself again when I realized my pants had fallen extremely low during the process. Like, really low. It had me walking into the corner to pull them back up & quit exposing myself. I knew when I was jumping they were falling but I had no idea how far they could go. This is where I learned an important lesson - go a size smaller if you're going to be working out like an animal. You want them tight. This is part of why yoga pants make you look naked.

Workout Fail #2:  We were doing speed tire flips where one person flips the tire & then the next person in line flips it immediately after them. We were being timed as a team. It was my turn and I was amped up and nervous that I wouldn't be able to flip it. When it was my turn, I used so much force that I blew a HUGE amount of snot, and buggers out of my nose, which rolled into my mouth. I hadn't yet flipped the tire yet though, so instead of wiping the gnarlyness away, I opted to lift on and finish the tire flip. It was sexy.

Workout Fail #3: Did a massive amount of burpees at the gym. Didn't think anything of it until I caught my reflection post workout in the locker room. Yes, my panties had bunched up like a tail and were sticking out of my workout pants. I looked like a non-sexy bunny rabbit with a black poof tail. Sometimes I think mirrors are a mistake.

Got any embarrassing moments of your own? Damn I hope so. Would LOVE to hear them!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rudolf's Tips fo Keeping Your Weight Loss Goals Locked In

A few days ago, our family rode a magic carousal together, and my face was lit up like a Christmas tree the entire ride. I think I had more fun than both kids combined. What I told my 3-year old was a magical carousal, turned out to be just that for me. After we hopped off our horses, a man said Merry Christmas to me and I almost cried with joy. It was the first time someone told me Merry Christmas this year without me saying it first. Small victories are magic.

Do you feel amazing during the holidays or does Christmas have the opposite effect?  Sometimes, the expectation of the joy tends to land you on the grinch's front porch, frowning. Hopefully, you can let yourself feel some Christmas cheer, even a little bit! Either way, Christmas joy or not, just because it's the holidays, doesn't mean your weight loss goals go away. In fact, the holidays are when you see lots of friends and family and I think you want to feel your best more than ever? Here are some reindeer tid bits I wanted to share:

1) Be Silly. Play. On thanksgiving night, I played an aggressive game of duck, duck goose with all the kids. There was running, laughing, head bonks, falling- exactly what my body ordered. Kids are so helpful to get you off your tuckuss - the ultimate example of how our bodies could always be fulfilled with movement. Fall in love with movement too, and you will smile as big as kids do, because movement is what we were made for. Stagnation is lame, besides Facebook doesn't need anymore support.

2) It's About Your Feelings.  Feelings are powerful motivators.  If you feel fat, you will act it. If you are wearing sweat pants, haven't washed your hair and you are having a "meh" day, you're more likely to be OK with plunging face first into the ice cream. Now, erase that frump idea and change it to being dressed up and feeling sexy. When you feel like a hottie, you are much less likely to eat cake by (big) spoon full. Make sure your feelings are in line to help you make right choices. The important part is living with that feeling inside your head and holding on to it. Do whatever if takes to feel good and feel like you are losing weight. It takes drastic action sometimes. It might mean you have to eat light salads for a day or do a 16-hour fast. It takes drastic, ridgid action sometimes to get the ball rolling. Or maybe you have to go run ten miles, to feel skinny and empty; just do it. Because when you feel thin, you act thin. That's why it's easy to keep losing weight once you start. What's really tough is getting started losing weight when you feel yuck about yourself. Wayne Dyer wrote a book called WISHES FULFILLED where he dives into this topic with gusto. I listened to his audio book for free from the library. If you want the shortcut version you could try his meditation CD.

Kitchen is closed. Go drink tea or water instead.
3) If you are in the kitchen, you will be more likely to eat.
"Close the kitchen" down between meals, scream it out if you have to, "the kitchen is closed!" Avoid the kitchen when you feel strong negative emotions. I have an issue with eating my emotions: loneliness, fear, feeling overwhelmed, boredom- those emotions inside my body make me want to eat sweets. You don't want to do that because it means you are not really living, instead you are just hiding. It's no way to live. If you feel uneasy, don't eat. Food, like alcohol and drugs - can be used abusively. Stop using food, instead get outside and walk- clear your head, even if its cold-as balls. Or go lay down and listen to some subliminal messages for overeating, even take deep breaths like you haven't breathed in years. Feel your emotions with something other than food. We don't all feel incredible all the time, but we don't have to try to make tough emotions go away. The emotions are suppose to be felt, feel them. An article about sugar. Read this for help also.

4) Nix the Nibbles with Oil Pulling:
If you are the cook - or you can't close the kitchen down, I recommend oil pulling. This is beneficial if you have a problem with your hand putting food into your mouth while cooking. I realized oil pulling is the best way to prevent me from nibbling. It requires that you swoosh coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes; you can't talk while you do it, which means you can't munch either. This does not work if you are entertaining guests obviously but I do it with my kids and tell them ahead of time that "mommy can't talk right now." (grinning while I write this)

5) Water burns fat.  If you can chug down a gallon of water a day, you will notice amazing benefits; like no headaches, less cravings for food, no puffiness and lots more energy. I felt changes from day one and I saw HUGE visual differences in 3 days. During this, I got to eat all my normal foods. Do this after dessert or even just to get rid of bloating from eating random foods that don't agree with your digestive tract. You really just need water. I did this water challenge for two weeks. But the most important part was just water.  Plus, a water detox is cheap, it's almost free. I recommend buying a gallon of spring water from the store ($1) and you can reuse the bottle or buy several to keep you going. Measurable goals like this make a big difference. Remember, water flushes out fat. Soda makes you fat, it's simple if you let it be.

This is why you can't lose weight

I hope this helps for your Holiday season, even if you don't make any changes, just sit with some of the ideas for now. Maybe you aren't ready to make changes yet, and that's OK. Maybe you just needed a few more tools in your arsenal and now this article gave them to you- woo hoo! Either way, Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays. I wish you all the best in your journey. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Programming Your Workouts - Custom Fit Fitness

People at my gym have asked about the tattoo on my left wrist. When I show them that it's just pen mark, I have to explain that it's my workout written out. Usually the night before I go to the gym, I plan out what I'm going to work on and create a workout for myself. Right before I leave for the gym, I write down the workout on my wrist- if I don't think I can remember the whole thing. This is programming your workout (though you don't have to write yours on your wrist.)  And I'm about to help you program your workouts, focusing on functionality, simplicity and and frequency.

One day a week needs to HURT. One of my favorite things is to turn my face bright red and leave the gym dripping in sweat. Hense, I created a "Red Face Friday" contract with my body. This means that on Fridays, I do whatever is necessary to make my face red during and after my workout. Since speed usually does the trick- then sprints, burpees and intensity are part of my Friday workout prescription. Pushing past barriers no matter what your mindset or circumstances, creates mental toughness. There is no optional Red Face Friday for me, I just know I have to do it.

Work Your Weakness: The most obvious benefit to programming your workouts for yourself, is that you can attack your weaknesses head on. For instance, my weaknesses, which are posted on my fridge, are double unders and muscle ups. It's up to me (and only me) to add those into my workouts and get them off my weakness list.  I am not saying it's easy by any means, it requires work, but the rewards are huge. Working your weaknesses will improve other areas of your fitness through skill transfer. This means if you can improve one weakness, your hard work will show itself somewhere else in another move.

Add Variance (Pretty) Please: Who wants to have the same hair style for 40 years, Hell No. Life is about change and flow, Life is a river, it's not the rock. Variance instills the unconditional love of working out, because nothing stays the same so you are constantly drawn back in. There's a yoga class at my gym that I loved going to but once I memorized the program and realized we were doing exactly the same moves, in the same order, every week - I lost interest. Design your workout to use different machines and do different moves, even if it takes planning and feels a little uncomfortable. What's easy is hopping on the same cardio machine and doing the same workout every time you hit the gym. But that bores me. Routine bores most of us...eventually, but it is comfortable. Remember, comfort and growth are mortal enemies. If you want to be comfortable in the gym, that's fine; do that for a while until you are ready to blossom. When you're ready to see physical changes that will knock your socks off, get yourself out of a gym routine.

Frequency: If you need a little assistance, a cheat sheet from Crossfit which helps if you are looking to improve ALL areas of fitness: Cardio, Strength and Skill simultaneously. It essentially means that your week would be working out 3 days on, then 1 day off, and then repeat. This works best for you die hards because it pushes your body to it's peak ability by the 3rd day. By the 4th day, you would not be able to give it 100% so that becomes a rest day. Others like me who need to split their mornings equally between fitness and family time have to change it up. My workout schedule is more like M-W-F for morning solo workouts. I like to think of the other days as rest days but I'm not actually resting. Usually on the other days the intensity is less or I'm playing racquetball without training.

Keep it simple. Sure, you can bring your fitness magazine and start doing all the strange moves the beautiful models are doing. But I only ask that you make sure to focus on the functional movements. Two of my fitness besties are squats and push ups which are super functional and have unlimited variations. What are functional moves? Every time you go to the bathroom, you are squatting - so that makes squats functional. When you lean over to pick up something, you are deadlifting, so deadlifting is functional. Functional is your friend that keeps you from getting hurt in the real world. Because you shouldn't have a heart attack from snow shoveling, and you shouldn't break your back when you lift something heavy. Your body should be treated well by lifting heavy things and by teaching how to move properly.

Programming help from Crossfit's methodology:

Crossfit Modalities:
G = Gymnastics/bodyweight
M= Metabolic Conditioning

W= Weightlifting

G. Body Weight/Gymnastics:         

Squats - pistol squats or two legged
Pull-ups - assisted, strict, kipping, butterfly, with weight belt
Push-ups -diamond, wide grip, decline, on your knees, one handed
Dips - on a box, on rings, assisted
Handstands - against the wall, free standing, facing wall
Sit-ups/ V- Ups/toes to bar/knees to elbow
Jumps - broad, vertical, box
Lunges - with weight plate, with barbell, frontwards/backwards, with kettlebells
Hollow holds - hand in air or hands by your side
Planks - high/low

M. Plus one of these:

Run - sprints, intervals, slow, fast
Bike -  sprints, intervals, slow, fast
Row - sprints, intervals, slow, fast
Jump Rope - double/single, running, backwards

W. Then work on one of these:

Deadlifts - sumo, deficit, Romanian, snatch grip
Cleans - hang, power, squat
Presses - push, bench
Squats - front, back, overhead
Snatch - power, squat
Clean and Jerk - barbell or kettlebell
Kettlebells - swings, snatches, around the world

For some sample workouts, go here or here. Otherwise, start getting creative with the lists above.
W+M one day, then M alone one day, then G + W + M one day. It's endless.

Hope that helps! Best of luck in your programming and don't forget to add in your weaknesses. Feel free to Red-Face-Friday with me, company is always welcome!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Post Holiday Party Mayhem...Recovery & Prevention

The curve balls of life. Just when you are feeling like you're on track and taking good care of yourself, eating an ideal diet and thinking maybe you are going to keep your slim figure, a punch to the gut comes. Welcome The Holidays, and the Christmas cheer, food galore, delicious sugar desserts then spiked egg nog to lower your standards of eating. 'Tis the Season.

This little guy never had a chance
Someone told me recently that Tiger moms eat their first born litter tiger cubs. They eat them in order to build up their strength. Did you just lose a little respect for tigers? Me too. The idea of a Mom Tiger eating children tigers DOES make me feel  less guilty about all the dessert I consumed this past weekend; see - at least I didn't eat any babies.

This Saturday night, I decided to throw in the towel and have some cocktails; lemon drop martinis and Crown Royal were calling my name. Fast forward to 5 drinks later, I found myself with the remnants of chocolate cake and ice cream on my plate. And then shortly after that, creme brulee and chocolate pieces were thrown on top like a pretty little insulin bow in my gut.

Our dog Carmen, less than enthusiastic about becoming our reindeer
And oh did I pay the price the next day. All day yesterday had me feeling like a fallen mistletoe that had been ran over by a reindeer. Santa was watching and he was not happy my food and beverage choices. Here's what hindsight has enlightened me with:

Holiday Party Basics:

  1. Before you go out, agree on the number of drinks (2-3 is a respected number). Don't be 'THAT GUY or GAL' who drank before they arrived and is super touchy-feely in front of their co workers AND their spouse.
  2. Get your sweat on before you 'hit the streets.' There's a reason that people were crowding the gym up on Thanksgiving morning, get your burn on before you feast
  3. Move. The worst you can do after too much food is be stationary. Go for a walk, even just to the bathroom a couple times. Movement works towards lowering insulin. Remember insulin is your enemy when it comes to fat loss.
  4. Live a little. If skipping dessert is an option, do it IF you can be happy by it. If you are going to feel deprived then eat the (damn) dessert. Anytime I feel angry about missing out on foods, I usually end up making up for it later by eating more of something else, so you might as well enjoy the moment with everyone. Really enjoy it by eating small bites and eating slowly
  5. The next morning consider doing some detox and eating lots of salads to get your fiber and nutrients
  6. By all means, enjoy the holidays and don't eat any baby tigers, mmmkay. Thanks.

My fav ugly sweater with shoulder pads. It's not for sale, people

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hold on For Dear Life, Grip Strength 101 To The Rescue

You learn the importance of grip strength real fast when you are hanging from a pull up bar. It seems your big muscles have no problem keeping you up on the bar but it's your (damn) hands that can't seem to hold you up there. Where's the glue when you need it. Sigh. Us ladies have less grip strength than men, this could be a bummer but we also have lighter bodies to pull, so it's all good here, no evil thoughts.

Why you want to improve your Grip Strength:

  1. Lift heavier weights - Ever do deadlifts? I bet you do. Want to go heavier? Me too.
  2. More trust for yourself when hanging 
  3. Because what good are strong biceps if you can't hold anything up. duh.
  4. Strong is beautiful. Strong AND functional is sexy ** Blogger's Favorite **
  5. Does a 75% increase in performance entice you? So says Aush Chatman, in this article 
Sexy? Um, Over the line.

Grip Strength Builders:

Your grip is the strongest when it's in a fist. The further from that fist your fingers go, the further from strength your grip goes. When your hands are holding a basketball, there's less grip than if you were holding a key. Now that we are on the same page, feel free to think of me as you incorporate these into your workout. (Big confident smile here.)  

1. Hang a towel from a pull up bar. Hang it so it's wrapped like a rope (or make things easier & use a rope) My gym has lots of towels but no hanging ropes, so I make do. Next, pull yourself up, if you can. If you can't pull up all the way, just pull. Put as much weight on there as you can. Hang for time, 10 seconds to start and increase it as you do multiple sets.

2. Arm wrestling. You will need a partner but I bet this could be fun. Grip on and send me a vid of this. The world needs more arm wrestling. If we could solve the problems with politicians and terrorists by a good arm wrestle, I would be a happy girl.

3. Wrap a towel to any medium: kettlebell, dumbell, barbell and train with that. The harder it is to grip, the better. It just means when you take the towel away, it will be that much easier. Just don't do anything crazy like lift the weight overhead. Farmers carries would be ideal for this, as would deadlifts. 
4. Avoid the mixed grip when deadlifting. I wrote this and a tear fell from my eye, I love mixed grip. Switching the direction of your hands doesn't do any favors for training your hands. The mixed grip is great for super heavy, so save it for your PR's. 
5. Squeeze a tennis ball. This is so easy you can do it while watching The Walking Dead. Hold it every time a zombie comes on screen. 

6. Push ups on your finger tips - I do love push ups of all variations, this one is a good one to add to your collection

7. Hang from the pull up bar on one hand - Keep a straight face if you can. 

Grip on.