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How To Look Hot In Your Halloween Costume (on short notice!)

Halloween is upon us and believe it or not, you still have time to trim down a little to look your best in your costume. You could absolutely lose a few pounds (or kilos) in the next 3 weeks and look that little bit better – in let’s be honest – what is usually a skimpy costume for us women!

Whether you eat and exercise meticulously, or if you’ve been slacking on your diet and nutrition, the solution to looking better is both simple and similar.

1. Add in a small amount of cardio.
This is the perfect time to add in some steady state cardio if you haven’t been doing any. Steady state cardio just means cardio that is done at the same pace or tempo for the entire duration. Your body tends to adapt to this quickly and you have to do more and more to see the same result, but our goal date to look hot is about 3 weeks away, so add 15 – 20 minutes of cardio to whatever you’re already doing. You don’t have time to adapt to this adjustment.

2. Adjust your diet.
Maybe you eat a “perfect” diet day in day out. Maybe you have been more relaxed as of late. But making a small adjustment over the next 20 days will give your results a major boost.

If your carbs are already quite low, then you may want to just lower your calories by 200 per day.

Conversely, if your carb intake is over about 175g per day, then lowering them by 50g in the lead up to Halloween will make a big difference.


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Sticking to this regimen strictly with only one off-plan (i.e: cheat) meal through the week is important. These adjustments only create small deficits which are very easily blown to smithereens by mindless snacking. On the other hand, because they are such minor adjustments, you’re much more likely to stick to them because they aren’t such a huge sacrifice from however you’re accustomed to eating.

3. Drink lots of water!
3 – 4 litres per day is ideal. Water helps flush out toxins and also helps our bodies release their water reserves AND makes our skin look fabulous. Win + win all round.

I have gone as a horror nurse to a recent hospital themed party (pictured at left… I ended up wearing a longer red dress underneath that because I decided it was way too short to leave the house in, the back view was practically naked *blush*) and a belly dancer in years passed. Do you have a costume picked out for this years Halloween already?

Mine is a skeleton costume pictured in the banner below, it’s en route as we speak! Short again, what was I thinking?!! I will probably wear black leggings or at least completely opaque stockings, doh! It’s actually quite challenging to find anything really spunky and fun that isn’t super short. Thems the breaks!

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August Updates!

It is the middle of August and I’m squarely in the middle of my time away. I don’t know when, if ever, I will be lucky enough to take so much time away again. It’s such a blessing and I’m so glad I decided to take 10 weeks away, as opposed to the 4 or 5 I initially planned for this year. If you’re ever in doubt about how much time to take away, always err on the side of more, more, MORE! You’ll never regret it.

So far I have seen Paris, sailed the islands of Croatia and caught buses across Bosnia, through Mostar & Sarajevo, straight to my very much loved Belgrade. I also went to the 53rd annual Trumpet Festival in Guča last week and had the absolute time of my life (again!). I attended last year for the first time, not really knowing what to expect, and it was just a delirious frenzy of singing, dancing, laughing and brass band madness. Truly a salve for the soul.

Fitness??? My trip has been pretty active. Lots of swimming, dancing, walking for hours per day at times, kayaking in Dubrovnik. I did sign up for a gym in Belgrade when I arrived, and I’m happy to report my lifts haven’t suffered much at all at this point. I just can’t really load the bar heavy enough for triples or less because I don’t have chalk. I can’t hold the bar for reps without chalk after 80kg, and it’s so humid and sweaty here right now that the bar slides down my back during squats.

It is what it is and it’s better than nothing, eh? At least I won’t have to start from scratch when I’m back in Sydney!

I have big plans for this site and for my formal return to personal training and three ebooks in the works… two of which are major projects and one mini ebook, heheh.

I’m actually really excited about returning to Sydney and getting started on it all! 1 month to go!

Here is a collage from my trip 🙂

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Clockwise from top left: part of our Guča 2013 family; sailing into Hvar, Croatia; mum & I at the Louvre in Paris; enjoying the sun and sea in Split, Croatia.

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Gym adventures in Split: the prequel!

I’m sitting in a really hot common room in a hostel in Split writing this!

I’m about to embark on my mission to find a gym and get some lifting in. I think it’ll make me feel good. I had a great nights sleep and I’m ready to go!

I just spent a week in Paris which was amazing! I walked for hours and hours and hours every single day. My diet strategy has just been to eat when I’m hungry and have whatever I like in a reasonable portion. Walking for so many hours each day burns an extraordinary amount of calories so it almost doesn’t matter what I eat as long as I don’t get too crazy with it!

So I had tarts and macarons and terrines and croissants and crepes… just not big portions and I probably only averaged 2 meals a day. We also had a steady supply of boiled eggs we carried around with us and those are really filling! I ate bananas, but not much other fruit because it was so outrageously expensive! Peaches and nectarines averaged about 5 – 7 euros a kilo, and I was just going to flip out if I spent that much on a bunch of tasteless nectarines, so I didn’t risk it.

As an example, I bought 3 peaches here in Croatia when I arrived yesterday and paid about 1 euro and they were absolutely spectacular and sweet!

It was also smart to deload while in Paris because I walked all over that city and I didn’t even see a HINT of a gym anywhere! However, Parisians seem very active. They all walk everywhere and ride bicycles, so they are hardly sloppy and sedentary.

Here are my tips for eating while on holiday:

1. Eat whatever you like, however have only ONE reasonable portion (i.e: not large and out-of-control portions).

2. If it isn’t an active holiday, meaning you aren’t walking for hours, swimming or hiking, and it’s longer than 5 days, then you definitely need to make time to work out and move your body. There is always something you can do. Almost all hotels and resorts have gyms, and you can use dumb bells to get a really solid freeweight workout in. You can go for a walk or a jog. You can do bodyweight exercises. Move your body. Your body loves to move! Being on holiday isn’t an excuse to neglect yourself.

3. Items like nuts and boiled eggs and fresh fruit can offer you tasty, filling and healthy snacks.

4. Of course you have to live life and have fun, but part of maintaining a balanced approach is also maintaining the healthy part of that balance. It doesn’t all just go out the window because you’re on holiday. So if you’ve been drinking and eating crap for the last 2 days, for the next day or two you should be ordering salads and lean protein and veges and drinking a much water as possible.

I’ll definitely be back to let you know how my gym adventures in Split went! I plan to lift today and then in about 2 days time. I left on my holiday with a 105kg deadlift and a 95kg squat, so as long as I can maintain within 90% of that, I’ll be happy (I return to Australia in mid September).

ETA: I guess lifting in Split is just not going to happen. Bummer.

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Fit & Glam Training Update #2

Today is exactly 2 weeks til I fly out to Paris, and I’m on track with my fitness goals, though to be honest, while I am “getting it done”, I am struggling a bit mentally. I guess I go through what I jokingly refer to as a “fitness existential crisis” every few months and I’m having a mini one of those now!

So what do I mean by a “fitness existential crisis”? I mean I get into this mood where I question the WHY of everything. WHY should I do what I do? WHY do I care about my fitness? WHY can’t I be like other girls and just do yoga and jump on the elliptical and call it a day? WHY do I care about my strength? Why is this important to me? What’s the freaking meaning of life?

WHY WHY WHY?!!!

And the answers are always the same. Because I love lifting. Because I know better. Because I can. Because pushing myself exhilarates me and makes me feel alive. Because I want to be better. Because it’s awesome. Because I’m awesome.

And because why not?

So, this week I am hitting 100kg deads for reps, but struggling with my crappy attitude and wondering WHY. Why why why. Although, I think from time to time, it’s important to ask yourself why you do the things you do and to assess your motivations. What’s that old adage about an unexamined life is not worth living? Yeah, that. Plus I already feel better having answered myself above. I feel like ‘yeah man! that is why!!!”…

Some pics of me in my beautiful home city from the last week or so. And "that" quote from Socrates :)

Some pics of me in my beautiful home city from the last week or so. And “that” quote from Socrates 🙂

A note on cardio. I am up to an hour a day which is my self-imposed maximum. I started about 2 weeks ago with 40 minutes, 6 days a week, bumped it up to 45 minutes last week and now I’m doing 60 minutes until I leave (exactly 2 weeks from today).

My usual level of cardio activity is 2 – 3 HIIT sessions and 1 – 2 run/jogs for x amount of time. Meaning, if I’m enjoying my run that day, I might stay out for an hour. If it’s really sucking and I’m hating it, I’ll stick it out for 20 miinutes. I don’t torture myself with any of it. My main tool for maintaining or changing my appearance is my diet. The cardio is always, whether I’m doing more or less of it, incidental.

My thought process behind an hour of cardio per day is that it’s a shock to my body, it’s a lot of activity that I don’t usually partake in for a short period of time (one month). So results and little to no adaptation. When your body adapts to your current activity, it means you’ve gotten fitter. If your goal is, for example to become a better runner, that’s great! Bazinga! But if your goal is to burn calories and trim down, then adaptation is not what you want. To overcome adaptation, you have to increase either time or intensity to get the same bang for your buck.

You should read my post about how you get more bang for your buck lifting weights from a few weeks back to get a better understanding of how and why steady state cardio is far from the most efficient tool for changing your body. But it is a tool, and an effective one if used thoughtfully.

Why do you do what you do? Why do you lift?

How much cardio do you do every week?

Tell me in the comments!

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Life Lessons Learned From Weightlifting

My favourite is that all things are possible. Yes, that is what weightlifting has taught me. Things you may think are unimaginable now, are in fact, possible.

I am a dreamer and a die-hard romantic. Some will say I have my head in the clouds (or shoved somewhere else!), but I say, those who don’t believe in magic will never find it. That’s a Roald Dahl-ism for you. What does this have to do with weightlifting? Well, I also used to be an extremely negative person. I have done a lot of work on myself over the years to change that mindset and change how I think about myself and the world. Weightlifting has been intrinsic to that.

I started lifting with my ex-husband who was a US Marine, on a military base in Southern Maryland. It was 2002. Before that I had done random BodyPump classes and lots and lots of cardio. As much as I could stand, really! I just didn’t know any better. Lifting with my ex-husband was the turning point. The gym on base was easily 95% male and I used to just follow him around the weight room like a scared little mouse, and he would hand me weights and say “do this!” and I would do it, sometimes asking “whats this for?”… truthfully we used to squabble a lot because i thought he made me do too much upperbody, hehe. I just wanted to “tone up” my legs! We did lots of isolation work and machines and we did squats on the Smith Machine. Which I absolutely do not recommend at all. But again, it’s a progression and a learning process and neither one of us knew any better back then. He’s the one that put the idea in my head in those very first lifting sessions that I needed to be able to squat my bodyweight at a bare minimum. And I would like to thank him for that! So that was always a clear goal for me from day dot. Squatting my own body weight seemed like a lot, but I figured if that was just considered “good” and not “awesome”, I could probably get there with a bit of work.

I very clearly remember ending a lifting session with him with tons of dumb bells strewn all over the floor. We had to pick them up, which we did. The ones left over were his “big” ones. He would do overhead presses with 40lbs dumb bells (about 20kg), he asked me if that was too big for me to help put back in the rack. I decided to give it a go.

I could barely pick the damn thing up with both hands! My back was all bent out of shape trying to haul this thing to the rack and there was no way in hell I could get it high enough to actually stick in the rack! My husband came to save me and took it off my hands and re-racked it.

In my head, since that day, 40lbs was the beginning of the “off-limits” dumb bells. In the States anyway, everything smaller than 40lbs is also physically a lot smaller. The 40-pounders are the first set of “really big” heavy weights. The ones that for a long time I just thought I would never, ever have a use for. Not for upperbody work, anyway. The ones that are exclusively the domain of the boys.

Fast forward to 2009 and I have been divorced for 2 years and lifting on my own for 5, working as a personal trainer full time in San Francisco for about a year and a half. I discovered lifting purely for strength in 2007 and I LOVED IT! I read the training log of an IFBB Pro, and saw a video where she did dumb bell chest presses with 80lb in each hand. Yes, I fully understood that this woman was almost certainly using male hormones which will greatly increase your strength, but it still blew my mind. It never occurred to me that anything like that was even possible. I decided to focus on my chest presses to see what I could do.

I was so impressed with myself when I graduated to the 30lb dumb bells. I almost never even saw other girls using 15’s. Even more ecstatic when I got to the 35’s. I stayed with those for a long, long time, the barrier in my mind unquestioned. When I got to 10 reps and realized I could definitely do one or two more… I realized there was nowhere to go but the big, bad, manly 40’s!!!

One dude in the gym that day stopped dead in his tracks to see what the hell I was gonna do with those 40’s (because girls don’t use 40’s for anything! duh!) and when he saw me press them, he looked stone-cold flabbergasted. One of the regulars applauded me and called me a bad ass. I felt like a bad ass! I felt indescribably fucking awesome! To this day, definitely one of my favourite and most profound moments in the gym, ever.

Those same weights where once had almost pinned me to the floor in an upside down U-shape… I was gonna press one in each hand, for at least 5 or 6 reps! I cannot emphasise enough how much, for so many years, the 40lbs dumb bells were a marker of my physical limits for me. This was a really big deal.

And that my friends is just the beginning of how weightlifting proved to me that anything is possible.

I love how when you learn a new movement, sometimes you can’t even remotely do it correctly, and then you slowly coax your body into optimal flexibility and motor control until you can execute it with competence, and hey, maybe even textbook precision. This process can take as little as a week, or maybe it takes many months or even years. But you chip away at it, with discipline and consistency and passion then, over time, you get there and you can do this cool feat of physical excellence that once upon a time WAS impossible for you.

And you’re fundamentally BETTER for it. Your body is stronger, you’re more controlled, co-ordinated, you’re more flexible, focused. There is a beautiful zen to weightlifting that I have not found anywhere else. It feels powerful and peaceful all at once.

The weights also never lie to you. You can either lift them, or you cannot. The deadlift is probably the best example of this, because you cannot fake it in any way. You either got the bar off the floor that day, or you did not. No bullshit. I love it. .

I love working on a lift over many, many months and some days, the only progress you can count is just ONE EXTRA REP in the entire set for that week, or maybe you didn’t progress at all and you had a really shit session and only did the same or LESS than what you managed last week, and you gotta suck it up and eat humble pie and kick rocks til next week… and you persevere. You come back the next week, humbled, but ready to give it another go. weightlifting also teaches you to think outside the box. Because what serious weightlifter hasn’t hit a plateau at some point when following a tried and true program and had to think of a new plan of action, or maybe even take the weight back down for a week or two, work in a different rep range, choose a different strategy and bounce back? Yep, there’s that humble pie again. It’s character building. It’s taught me to be methodical. It’s taught me to try, try and try again. It’s taught me not to care what other people think. I don’t give a flying fuck if you don’t know what I’m doing or you think I don’t know what I’m doing. I certainly do know what I’m doing, and even if I’m lam at it today, I’ll be awesome at it tomorrow! And I definitely don’t give two shits if you think it’s “weird” that a girl lifts or cares about her strength. I care so little that I am not even going to formulate a response to it. Hows that?

Weightlifting has taught me all the best lessons I’ve learnt in life. It certainly isn’t just picking up heavy things, putting them down and counting the reps. Nope. No. Not at all.

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One day, we’re going to weightlift in Paris… or not?

I’m going to Paris for the first time this July!

I’m spending one week there and while my priority is definitely seeing and experiencing Paris, I did want to get in at least one workout so I could maintain my lifts. Training breaks in the past have slowed down my progress tremendously – essentially you do a lot of hard work for many months, building up your lifts and then you move countries like I did (1st training break, February – March 2012)  or travel for several months (2nd training break, July – September 2012) and… you have to start all over again.

I have conservatively worked out that I should be squatting 100kg and deadlifting about 110kg by the time I leave for Europe in early July. Hopefully 5kg more on each, but I will be satisfied with those numbers. I have not been bench pressing since Christmas due to a shoulder injury (my shoulder is better now, thanks for asking). Those numbers are not too bad, but without the training breaks, I’d likely have 25 – 50kg more on each lift by now. It’s not just the time off that you’re missing, its also the time you’re using to get back to your old PR/PB levels that you could have been using to push through old personal bests.  Frankly, I have worked really hard and consistently and it makes me want to cry and kick rocks if I consider having to “start again” and build back up.  Hence, I wanted to get a workout in while in Paris! It is imperative.

It turns out the gyms that do exist in Paris are ultra luxe, super expensive and kinda goofy, with old guys in jumpsuits walking on treadmills and smoking.

There is a Crossfit Louvre, but the site is all in French! I’d love to squat and deadlift and then do the WOD! I wonder if they’d go for that? 🙂

The worst case scenario is that I will plan a deload week with no strength training, and just wait to train when I get to Split, Croatia. According to a fellow Aussie on Tour, they have cool gyms there. A search of “gym split croatia” in Google concurs. I may also check out Le Meridien in Split!

I am still optimistic about a workout in Paris.  There must be some serious lifters in jolie Paris? Oui? Non? Aidez-moi s’il vous plaît!