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The Non-Diet: How to diet without feeling like you’re on a diet?

The key to long term weight loss and maintaining a body you’re really happy with is finding a diet strategy that is sustainable long term and that doesn’t make you feel deprived. I think I’ve found that.

I’ve abandoned all the bodybuilder nonsense… ridiculously high protein, 6 meals a day. Nope. Doesn’t work for me, and besides which, I’m not a bodybuilder.

It’s plant-based, but I’m also not a vegetarian. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of eggs, cheese, fish and occasionally, meat.

It’s mostly low carb, but there are elements of carb-cycling, calorie-cycling, most days are low carb, some days I spike my carbs (i.e. eat more of them) and spike my calories. Truth be told, I forget to have a “cheat day”, because I literally never feel deprived and I really enjoy my food. I don’t worry too much about fats, I just try to make sure they come from healthy sources and I watch my overall calorie count for the day.

If I’m going to a restaurant or to grab ice cream with my girlfriends, I just eat a lot less during the rest of that day, to accommodate the restaurant meal or the ice cream. It’s really that simple.

What I’m doing is trying to mould this all together into a diet concept that people can follow, because its really working for me and I just feel like I’m cruising and its great. I’ve lost 3.5 inches (8.89cms!) since January 1st from my navel and 2.25 inches (5.72cms) from my hips!

I work out not less than 4 days a week, and only do 6 days a week if I really feel like it, if I’m just loving training and moving, then I go out and train that day.

My exercise regime includes traditional weight lifting, big lifts, full body movements along with jogging, HIIT and interval training. And the occasional yoga class.

I’ll be talking more about this in further posts and sharing my strategies with you. The beauty of this diet to me is that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Nothing is off limits.

What’s the best diet you’ve ever been on?

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Fit & Glamorous Mission Statement

Hi! First post. I’m planning to use this space as a fitness and travel log. I’m not going to overthink it and just write 3+ times per week.

For those that don’t know me, I’m Ana. I’ve been working in the corporate world for the last few years, but I was a personal trainer for a long time (5 years) and I even competed once upon a time. I still love fitness and nutrition, and I plan to talk about my every day fitness and share my approach with you via semi-daily fitness logs and articles.

I also have a great passion for travelling and have probably my most epic year of travel booked and I plan to share that with you too! I’ll be living abroad in Italy and also have plans to visit Russia, Africa; I’ll be sailing the Greek Islands in August with a girlfriend and who knows what last minute trips will pop up in that time. I’ve been to 23 countries so far, which amongst hardcore travellers is NOTHING, however I don’t really like “ticking the box” style travel, where visiting a place is just about spending a day there and then saying you’ve been there (although I do relish a new prominent stamp in my passport, haha). Ticking boxes isn’t what it’s really about to me, and I also really like going back to places I love. For me, travel is about absorbing the culture of a place, learning about the people there and their history and reconciling all of that into a better knowledge and understanding of the world. An inherently beautiful and epic undertaking.

You can read about a place and look at pictures all day, but until you go there and breathe the air, talk to the locals and immerse yourself in the experience of the place, you can’t possibly understand it. And even that, I would say, is fairly superficial. The deepest understanding comes from living in a place and doing every day things just as a local does. Then you’ll truly begin to understand their passions, frustrations and why things are the way they are there.

I’m going to play it by ear, but I intend to post OFTEN and casual, conversational style posts in order to develop the habit of posting here. Topics also might veer off into spirituality, art, music, fashion, beauty products… I hope you enjoy it!

 

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Moving Forward, One Foot in Front of the Other

It’s been practically a solid month since I posted anything here. I have so many great post ideas, but I guess I’ve been having a mini crisis on how to proceed in 2014. 

My plan was to return to personal training in the new year and this blog was going to be an adjunct to that. But I’ve realised, once and for all, I don’t want to work in a gym again. I just really, really don’t. 

Being a personal trainer can be great, and for a long time I loved it! I truly loved my job, even with all the ups and downs. But then, I didn’t. The things I didn’t love about it was the constant focus and pressure on sales and gym management BS in general, the ridiculous hours and wearing black lycra and sports shoes all day every day. Those were the main things. And to be passionate about fitness, to be involved in fitness, you don’t have to work in a gym. My blog, this one you’re reading right here, can be my fitness outlet. I am much more interested in reaching a wider audience, writing, getting the right information out there, promoting healthy body image, self-love and positive ideas and producing media than I am in teaching more planks, push ups and body weight squats. Hey, I’m not knocking it as a useful and positive thing. People need trainers to teach them that stuff and its important and useful. I just don’t find it challenging and engaging anymore, and don’t wish to return to something I’ve already done for a long time and that doesn’t excite and challenge me. I want something new. 

So what have I been doing since my last post? Honestly, worrying about how to proceed, which gym do I want to work at? Trying to talk myself into feeling great about personal training again. Because people constantly tell me how its such a waste that I don’t do that work anymore, because I’m so good at it, because I’m so passionate about fitness, because I’m… well, you get the picture. It’s all very flattering and gratifying to hear. I do appreciate it tremendously because fitness is such a huge part of my life and being a personal trainer was how I defined myself for a long time. It was so important to me to be a really good one, not a bullshit one, too. But I can help people and share my passion in other ways, you don’t have to work in a gym to do that!

I’m hoping to have one other article posted up by today, in fact I have about 5 that are 70% complete and more or less ready to go. I’m really excited about 2014. What are some of the things you would like to see me write about? Let me know in the comments. Merry Christmas!

 

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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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Using Good Mornings in your training

No, it’s not just a cheerful salutation for the start of your day! It’s also a highly valuable and under-utilized lift! I love Good Mornings. They’re a hip-hinging, fundamental movement in the family of the squat and the deadlift that strengthens and works the entire posterior chain (more or less all the muscles in your back, bottom and back of legs in layman’s terms).

I love getting my newest clients to do Good Mornings with either no weight or just a wooden stick – it’s great for teaching the hip hinge, popping out the butt, keeping the natural curve of the lower back with your head up, shoulders pinned back. Lessons transferable to all free weight exercises. Plus, it’s a great dynamic warm-up stretch of the hamstrings. You don’t need any weight to feel the stretch.

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The Good Morning from start to finish – Source: Wikipedia.

I’ve recently incorporated heavy Good Mornings into my routine to help with my squat. When I hit my maxes, my upper back has been giving out first on failed lifts. Hinging your torso with a heavy weight on your shoulders can help you develop the strength to keep your torso aligned under a heavy load. I’ve been doing them after my deadlifts or on separate day (never too close to squat day). At Westside Barbell, they do heavy Good Mornings week in, week out and I probably will do so too.

Using lighter loads can also help target the hamstrings more – with heavier loads on this exercise, the glutes get called in to “help” with the load and take the focus away from the hammies. I find few things make my hamstrings ache as much as 3 x 10+ “light” Good Mornings! I’d choose a light Good Morning in my program over a machine hamstring isolation exercise any day of the week.

The Posterior Chain

The Posterior Chain

If you’ve never done a Good Morning before, I would strongly recommend you start out with just a broomstick or no load at all – just practice the movement, focus on keeping your torso as straight as possible, bottom slightly tucked out and moving/hinging forward only at the hip. Then move up to the lightest barbell you can find and always, only use loads where you can complete every rep with good form, namely in this exercise, where you can maintain the natural curve in your lumbar spine (i.e: your low back), chest up, shoulders back and blades tightly packed. There is such a thing as a rounded back Good Morning, but it isn’t something I ever utilize or recommend.

The muscles worked in the Good Morning are the full length of the erector spinae, the glutes and hamstrings, amongst other “core” musculature. The Good Morning is probably the most underrated “core” exercise – you show me someone who can demonstrate a heavy Good Morning with a full range-of-motion and I’ll show you a trainee with a rock solid “core”.

  • Start with your feet about shoulder width apart.
  • Place the barbell on your back. You may need a rack to help you get it into place if the load is too heavy for you to lift up and over onto your back. For the love of God! Set up the safety rails! Especially on heavier sets. They should be set up at the lowest point of your range of motion, about an inch/few cm’s below, so you can easily bail if needed.
  • Stick your butt out, keep your torso straight, chest up, shoulders back and bend at the hips. Your knees should be slightly bent, not locked out or straight.
  • The “correct” range of motion is as far as your flexibility allows with good form. So it’s different for everyone. As soon as you start rounding your back, you should stop. A wider range of motion comes with practicing the movement and working on your mobility consistently.

Have you done Good Mornings before?

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Fit & Glam Weekend Metcon

This is a workout I did on Saturday. It’s certainly “advanced”, the overhead squat is a terrifically difficult movement to master, and the kettlebell work isn’t appropriate for a beginner. I used an olympic barbell only – feel free to add weight to the bar if that is too easy for you, you can also regress it to a women’s bar or a lighter preloaded bar, or even a single dumb bell (a single dumb bell overhead squat is how I learned the movement) if necessary. You can even use just the training/warm-up stick if you have one. They aren’t easy.

Don’t use your max OHS weight – it should probably at about 50% of your actual or estimated 1RM. Err on the side of the bar being lighter than necessary. Remember that it’s a difficult and taxing movement to execute regardless of the weight on the bar, and you still have relatively heavy kettlebell snatches and swings to get through.

You can also sub out the overhead squats for 15 – 20 goblet squats.

Use a weight where you can use proper form at all times. Take as little rest or no rest until the end. if you need to stop, STOP, catch your breath and then keep pushing on til you get to the end.

Since I’m trying to look my best for my European trip, I did some long intervals on the treadmill and some steady-state cardio on the stair mill to round out my workout. And some kettlebell tabatas.

This is a good workout for someone wanting to improve their overall power and endurance and is definitely a great fat loss workout. So you could do it with some additional cardio as I did, or even as a “finisher” in place of traditional cardio after your other lifts.

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Comment and let me know how you go when you try it!

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Training Update & the Warrior Dash!

I’ll be honest with my little handful of blog readers – I’ve been struggling with some writer’s block!

I’ve decided to do a weekly training recap that I’m going to put together with some links to articles that I think are a worthy read.

Last weekend, I entered my first mud run and did the Warrior Dash. It was super fun! I didn’t do any specific training for it. I lift heavy week in, week out, do 1 – 2 steady state cardio sessions each week and 2 – 3 metabolic conditioning workouts more or less as a routine. It’s a part of my lifestyle.

I have been very curious about the Tough Spartan Warrior thingamidoodies for awhile now, so I entered on a whim only about 2 – 3 weeks prior to the event, and just got a little more consistent with my jogging, etc. Which didn’t really help that much, because I had a pretty crappy running day. I’ll be honest, I struggled with the running, I didn’t have one of those days where you glide on by and feel like you can run forever AT ALL. But the good news is, I got through it. I found the obstacles easy, but I’m mildly afraid of heights and terrified of slipping and breaking my head, and quite often you’re 6, 8, 10 feet in the air with nothing and no one to save you should you misstep, so that slowed me down a lot.

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I also lost my shoe! LOL! It’s OK, they were old and ready for the bin any how. I just couldn’t dig my left shoe out of the final mud pit to save my life and thought “eff it” and left it there. My recommendation would be to buy some really cheap shoes from Payless or Kmart with decent grip so that a) you aren’t so terrified of slipping like I was, since my 3-year-old Nike Cortez had no grip on them b) so you can happily just chuck them out at the end of your mud run because my shoes were TRASHED beyond a simple hosedown… I’d loathe to put them anywhere in my car. Gross. Just chuck ‘em.

Last week’s squats were truncated by the Warrrior Dash. I usually squat on either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning, but I took Thursday and Friday as rest days and squatted to 6 – 10 reps on Wednesday instead.

I feel really good about the way I look now, even though it’s not my best since I’ve been carrying a lot of water through my hips/abdomen due to, you know, “TOM”. Was that TMI? Too bad! So sad! Hehe.

I’ve actually avoided taking measurements and pictures because I think it sets off unhealthy OCD qualities in me and furthermore, I’m not competing. I’m just trying to look my best for my trip in 4 weeks. People are asking me if I’m losing weight on an almost daily basis, so I know I’m doing the right things and heading in the right direction.

I like me and I love my body! I don’t need to scrutinize pictures of my bottom in stark light side-by-side to see if I’m getting “results”… that to me comes from a paranoid, nitpicky, neurotic place, where I feel unworthy and anxious about myself and my appearance. It’s not a behaviour I wish to perpetuate and has nothing to do with real health and fitness. My ass is just fine, thank you! 🙂

A post I am working on is one about how there is no point in being too hard on yourself and “body-shaming” yourself into shape because, first of all, most of the time it doesn’t work. That’s just NOT how we humans change our behaviour in the long term. We change via POSITIVE reinforcement, not being beaten over the head with negative messages about ourselves and our bodies. And second of all, is even if you do achieve your fitness goals by being severe and hard on yourself, engaing in harsh self-talk, doing “whatever it takes”, drastic and sudden “cold turkey” shifts in behaviour and body shaming ourselves or others… well, usually there is a severe physical rebound to such harsh strategies, but moreover, no matter how long your “results” last… you will never enjoy them as long as you hate yourself. You will never enjoy being fit and looking amazing, if your motivation comes from a place of self-loathing and self-flagellation. It has to come from self-love, healthy mind and self-esteem and a good appreciation for how strong, amazing and resilient our bodies truly are!

What is it that you love the most about YOUR body? What’s the coolest thing you did in the gym this week? Tell me in the comments!