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Go Hard or Go Home! Kettlebell Workout.

I love doing “met cons” for fat loss. In conjunction with a solid diet, doing rounds of relatively light, fast and sometimes ballistic resistance and bodyweight movements really gets the ball rolling in the right direction.

“Met Con” is just short for Metabolic Conditioning.

Metabolic conditioning can truthfully be almost anything, however it does take a bit of knowledge and know-how to design an effective one. You can use dumb bells, barbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, your trx, you can use bodyweight only, you can do sprints or other traditional cardio in between. Rests are other variables you can also play with.

Most people are talking about high intensity, interval, anaerobic work when they talk about doing “met cons”, but technically speaking, metabolic conditioning work is really about optimising performance within specific energy pathways. So while most people talk about doing  some type of a “metcon”, a “metabolic finisher” or just plain old HIIT with weights, they’re talking about doing a form of HIIT and they’ll tell you that DUH?!! I’m doing it for fat loss, dummy… why else? Another reason you may be doing some type of metabolic conditioning is to improve performance in a particular energy pathway of the body, whether its your short bursts of all out effort (the phosphagen pathway), intermediate (the glycolyctic pathway) or aerobic/oxidative pathways.

Metabolic conditioning work has a wide scope and versatility depending on how smart your program design is based on your objectives 🙂

Me? I do them primarily for fat loss and because sometimes they make me feel bad ass, haha. (In my opinion, if your workout doesn’t make you feel like you are awesome and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, then it’s no fun and probably not worth doing. This is why you’ll never catch me doing zumba, lol.) This type of training gives you a lot of bang for your buck, you’re finished in under 30 minutes and you get results fast. Adding metcons and HIIT to your program will get the fat off FAST AND GOOD… provided you are eating for fat loss. Remember, there is no fat loss workout without a fat loss DIET. You cannot outtrain a bad diet, EVER! Even with metcons. Metcons are not magic.

I try to program mine so I’m not doing any movements that interfere with my big lifts on subsequent days. So, for example, if the day after my metcon day I’m going to be doing deadlifts, then I’m not going to do glute-ham raises or heavy kettlebell swings the day before. I’ll keep everything a bit lighter and faster. It also may be prudent when writing a metcon circuit to alternate body parts, so if you’ve just done some lower body work, the next exercise you might want to choose would be for the upperbody, like push ups, for example.

Here is a kettlebell workout of mine from last week. I used a 16kg kettlebell and it kicked my butt. I did 3 rounds. This week, I did 4 rounds and also 5 cleans instead of 3 and 12 swings instead of 10.

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You always have to do just a little bit more so you can say that you are better than you were before. Always. That’s one of the workout rules I live by, whether I’m doing traditional lifting, metcons or going for a run outside. Be fundamentally, inarguably better than you were last week. And if I can’t manage even 1 more rep, then I’ll rest… and do a whole extra set.

I hope you try out my kettlebell workout, let me know how you go in the comments!

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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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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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Time poor? Lift weights!

Most of the time, when women decide they want to lose weight, they decide they’re going to start a cardio program of some sort. That usually  means going to the gym to jump on the elliptical for 30 minutes a day, or hitting the pavement and running a few kilometers.

Traditional, steady-state cardiovascular training for weight loss and physique transformation is an exercise of diminishing returns for a variety of reasons.

The simplest, most concise way to explain why, is that to continue seeing results, you need to continually increase the time you’re putting in to get the same effect.

Who has time for ever more exercise in this day and age? We are all so freaking busy! I love exercising and I struggle to find the time to do everything, so I can’t imagine how this would work for me if I didn’t love it so much, or if I just had to continually increase my time commitment to keep getting results. That would suck.

If that were the case, I might decide it wasn’t worth it, I didn’t have enough time and that it was too hard…

Our bodies are designed to adapt to the stresses we place upon them. It’s how we have survived through the ages and the mechanism under which in modern life we improve our “fitness”. We subject our bodies to a measure of controlled stress, making an activity “challenging”, and your body adapts to meet that stress, thusly making it “fitter” for the activity at hand. Right? That’s essentially what “fitness” and “getting fitter” entails.

And our bodies and metabolic systems adapt frighteningly well to steady state cardiovascular activities. Meaning that within a few weeks, your body will burn fewer calories doing the same cardio workout, because it has adapted and become more efficient at completing the task at hand. This is why the same workout gets easier and easier after a few weeks — it actually is easier, your body is more efficient at it.

So what happens when you get to upwards of 45 minutes of cardio activity daily? Where do you go from there? 1 hour every day? 2 hours? What next?

This is where lifting weights comes in to shake things up!

Lifting weights is a much sounder foundation upon which to base your fitness and weight loss program.

Lifting weights builds metabolically active tissue, which helps you burn more fat and improve metabolism, even at rest.

Lifting weights will help shape a killer bikini bod. Especially if you include movements like squats and lunges and deadlifts of all variations. Cardio alone cannot do this. Cardio alone will make you a smaller version of the shape you already are.

Lifting weights circuit style can give you the double whammy of an anaerobic and aerobic workout – in plain language, you can reap the benefits of lifting weights and cardio in one super efficient work out.

You can always increase the intensity of your lifting program in variety of ways (thereby avoiding plateaus), that don’t increase your time commitment to your program. You can lift heavier weights, change your rep scheme, use super and giant sets (i:e doing exercises back to back), change the exercises you are doing… and that’s just scratching the surface of possibilities.

There is always the humorous adage in the weightlifting community about cardio that goes:
do you do cardio no i lift weights faster

As you can see, for the time poor woman who works out with weightloss and/or other aesthetic goals in mind, lifting weights is the clear winner for reaping virtually limitless results.

Don’t get me wrong, cardiovascular exercise is not the worst thing in the world by any stretch, in fact, cardiovascular exercise is great when used properly and not excessively as a tool for yes, weight loss, better health, or heck just enjoyment! If you love running or you love doing your spin class 2 times a week, keep doing it! Just make sure you continue to have ways in which you can keep the workout challenging and never, ever overdo your cardio training because you think it’s the key to unlock your best physique. It isn’t.

Your best physique = sound diet + good lifting routine + consistency!

And yes, a little cardio, always challenging, never, ever overdone or excessive in any way.

Are you more of a weights or a cardio girl? How much cardio do you do each week?

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My Love/Hate Relationship With Running

OK, OK… it’s been more of a just hate-hate relationship. But I do it anyway and… *whispers*… sometimes I even like it!

Do you have to run to be fit? No.

You can jump rope for cardio, you can ride a bike, you can rollerblade, you can do metcons, you can walk. You don’t have to run if you really don’t want to. Running is not the holy grail of fitness like some people make it out to be.

Then why do I run? Well, endurance running or even jogging, has been a mental and physical challenge for me of epic proprortions for me throughout my life. I would call it a battle. I have battled with running all my life.  And when I wage a battle, I want to win.

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I think it’s important to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and challenge yourself in as many ways as possible and practicable. I always feel like jogging or running kicks my butt. Even now when I feel that I’m reasonably good at it, I’m always puffed out and sweating heavily at the end. That feels good. I like that feeling. That feeling makes me feel alive!

In addition to that, every successful running session I complete is a win against a personal childhood bogeyman of sorts, and you just can’t beat that for making you feel great, each and every time.

As a child, I was diagnosed with asthma and given a puffer. Then the puffer was mysteriously taken away, but I always struggled with any running based activity. I developed a huge aversion to doing it – it was associated with extreme physical struggle, shame, embarrassment. The teachers would always make us run around the school and I would always fall behnd and my lungs would burn and I’d get an unbearable stitch and struggle to catch my breath and inevitably have to stop and… I’d be last again. I grew up thinking it was just something I couldn’t do. I grew up thinking I wasn’t sporty, that I was terrible at sport. Pretty much everyone I know these days would be astonished to hear anything like that being said about me, because its so contradictory to everything I am and everything I’m about, but yes. I really believed that and so did most people around me, until I got to high school and dabbled in soccer and basketball… and found I was actually REALLY GOOD at sport. I was a natural at both those sports and always one of the most valuable players on any team I played with.

FML Running! ARGH!

But I still hated running if it wasn’t up and down the soccer field or basketball court, and I did realise at this point it was more of a mental block than a real physical incapability. Or so I thought. I just didn’t know what to do about it, because every time I tried to “just run”, my lungs would burn, I would huff and puff, my legs felt like lead and sooner or later, I would have to stop, no matter how “determined” I was to just push through. I never lasted more than a few minutes at best. It was disheartening, to say the least.

Over the years, I tried taking up running again and again. My ex-husband tried to get me to run with him. His approach was to get all Marine Corp drill instructor on me, which I would resent since it lacked any finesse and did not account for the fact that it was really actually the hardest possible physical activity for me. I really was trying my hardest AND… I didn’t give a flying fuck about being as tough as a Marine. So yeah, FAIL. I tried following the Couch to 5k a few times and while I DID get to a 5k pace within a 30 minute run time (an arbitrary personal goal), every single minute, no… second was HARD and a test of mental and physical grit… and running never really got any easier on that program for me, I was just determined to do the damn thing no matter what – which is’t always the smartest or most awesome or admirable thing, regardless of what many fitness-y douches and pseudo-experts  will try to tell you. Once I got to my 30 minutes of solid, torturous running… I always dropped the program like a hot potato. I can’t impress upon you enough how every second totally SUCKED and physically hurt, and by this time I was reasonably fit and quite used to pushing through things I may not have been very good at initially, but just building my skills and focusing and following a program and get steadily better. I did get steadily better at running, but my progress was slower than outlined and while my endurance improved, every second was still a physical ordeal. You just can’t make yourself continue with something that feels that awful, and in my opinion, if it feels that bad something is wrong and you shouldn’t force it. I am a huge advocate of listening to your body. Always listen to your body.

The real turning point for me was about two years ago when I adopted a gluten-free diet. I was working as a personal trainer in New York City and I got another bug up my ass about being more “well-rounded” in my fitness. I mean, I always lift. Never in my life am I ever not lifting or needing to be motivated to move some heavy ass weights around. Sometimes I might be taking  dance or gymnastics classes, or martial arts classes… but I’m always, always, always lifting weights. So, at this time in 2011, I decided I should be more well-rounded and I somehow decided that meant I was gonna take another stab at “that damn running thing” and this time, I wasn’t going to stop doing it when I got to 30 minutes. I was gonna grit my teeth and go to my happy place and think happy thoughts while I ran week in and week out. Because I needed to be well-rounded and I hated that running was still this bogey-man activity for me. Maybe this time it would be different. Maybe I was just being a whiney bitch before? These are the things I was thinking. I mean, sure there is a lot of ego there too, I just really hate admitting that there is something I’m not god at or cut out for and that maybe I just can’t do it, especially anything physical. In my mind I need to be good at everything and tough enough for anything. It’s a conceit, certainly, but it makes me tenacious too. It’s a mentality that’s helped keep me fit and ever fitter and stronger, year after year.

To my surprise, this time, running, my deep-seated childhood nemesis and bogey-man of all bogey-men… was not that bad. Not even from the first run. I mean, sure, you take up a physical activity that you don’t normally do and its not a piece of cake. You aren’t adapted to it, it’s going to take an effort, but this wasn’t the lung burning, huffing puffing torture that I remembered from my previous attempts at making running a part of my routine. It took a little effort to continue and wasn’t easy, but it didn’t feel terrible like it had in the past. I got to 30 minutes within about 2 weeks instead of 6 – 8 weeks like I had in the past. I was astounded… and pleased. I even kind of liked some of my runs. It was a revelation.

What I believe was the catalyst for the big change in my running abilities was my now gluten-free diet. It’s one of the many profound and fundamental changes i’ve noticed in the way my body works and just one of the break-throughs I’ve made since eliminating wheat from my diet. I believe it’s probably connected with inflammation somehow inhibiting lung capacity, but of course, it’s hard to tell and hard to prove exactly what and how going gluten-free has helped my body to perform better. I’m working on something I’m calling My Gluten-Free Manifesto that I plan to publish on the site in a few weeks. Going gluten-free has been an enormous breakthrough for me in numerous ways.

How I Think I Look When I RunAnd I’ve been running ever since. Happily ever after!

I don’t love it. I love lifting. I love plyometrics. I don’t love running. But sometimes I really enjoy my runs.I find I strangely love running in humidity and I love running up hill – those have usually been my most memorable runs. I’ve always loved sprinting, whether on a track, up a hill or on a treadmill. No ones ever had to twist my arm to get some interval training or HIIT done.

I always get a lot of satisfaction out of completing a run because it was such an achilles heel for me pretty much my entire life – and such a source of embarrassment in childhood, always being puffed out first, always with a painful stitch and searing lungs – and now suddenly, it isn’t hard anymore and I didn’t give up and I conquered it. There is a lot of satisfaction in that.

So now that I run once or twice a week, do I think everyone should run? Nah. Do it if you like it. Do it if you don’t like it, but you get a kick out of it in some way, because you like the way it makes you feel, because you want to build your cardiovascular abilities, because you don’t need anything but your running shoes to get out there and get something physical done and work up a sweat for a few k’s. But this is my running story and this is why this die hard weightlifter does a steady state run once or twice a week.