Ramblings and Ruminations

Accountability

I’ve been planning on writing this post for ages – in fact I can’t believe I haven’t got round to it earlier!

And I guess this is particularly relevant at this time of year as well with some of you preparing for comps and some of you potentially struggling with new years resolutions or even struggling with post comp weight regain.

The questions are how do you know you’re on track? How do you stay on track? What do you do to keep yourself accountable?

Accountability is something that I believe is incredibly important to me achieving my goals – although I have to ability to stay rigidly focused on a particular outcome for a long period of time with no accountability except to myself – Kilimanjaro for example was a year long odyssey.
Generally I find it very easy to stay focused once I have made a decision, by the time I hit stage this year it will have been 2 long years of staying focused on that goal through whatever has been thrown at me – that’s a long time in anyone’s book, but every now and then I do wobble – its human nature. Of course I’ve had my fair share of wobbles in the last year or so and its in those moments when being held accountable becomes so important – it never hurts to have that extra something/someone else to hold you to a higher standard, to keep you responsible for your own actions and point out your bullshit for what it is.

So what do I do to keep myself accountable?

Well, when I was having my ‘annus horribilis’ in 2011 and I was struggling with lack of goals and motivation, the way I kept on track with my fitness was to hire a personal trainer – I couldn’t afford a trainer really, but I was so determined not to go backwards in my fitness having worked so hard to regain it, that a trainer became essential to that goal. At the time I needed someone who would call me out or pull me up and not let me get away with weak excuses – and it kept me on track for the few months that I was wobbling for. Soon enough I didn’t need that ‘big brother’ approach, because new goals appeared which set motivation and focus back into overdrive…and we know how that ended! J

With training at the moment although my motivation is sky high and I have no trouble at all getting to the gym, I purposefully cycle 10km out of my way every day to train at Richmond.

Why?

Several reasons – get a bit of extra work into my legs to keep them nice and hard, it’s a good gym and of course Aiden is there, which means I might get a sneaky spot for an extra heavy set if he’s between clients, but most importantly I won’t be able get away with a slack session or poor form. Even when its not a scheduled session, I know he has eyes in the back of his head, and he can see round corners…as I found out when doing some of my rehab sloppily! I only need to be barked at from across the gym once to learn that, but should I happen to forget that lesson then I’m sure I would be called to count very quickly again!

Right now, I don’t need the ‘big brother’ approach…but the possibility of it being activated certainly keeps me on my toes.

My diet has been really good all year – not perfect, but on the whole I’m very pleased with how I’ve kept myself in excellent condition even when I wasn’t able to train.

How did I do this?

I log my diet (almost) daily in calorieking – I know that sounds a bit anal, but its become habit so its not a big deal, and besides I actually find it quite fascinating – keeps my inner geek happy watching my macro splits change, working out whether I should up my daily calories, deciding if I should throw in a high fat or high carb day and whether that naughty cake has blown my daily limits.

I’ve also just given Aiden the login details…

Why?

Accountability!

I don’t need to have him be able to check out my diet, I’ve got nothing to hide, its full disclosure – good, bad and ugly. I even log my total monster blow out Friday breakfasts. J

Sure I could log anything I wanted to make it appear perfect – but whats the point? He trusts me and the only person I would be cheating is myself. I don’t know if/when he’ll check up on me, there’s that unknown factor – but in general he won’t find anything to complain about and who knows, with an objective perspective, he might spot something that I’m doing/not doing that could be beneficial – it’s a possibility. And since he’s got a hell of a lot more experience than me at muscle building nutrition, if he does have something to say, you can be sure I’ll be paying attention.

What else do I do? dexa scans – every 8 weeks. I decided I don’t want to blow out too much in order to avoid having to diet for half a year – I wanted to stay within 10% of comp weight, but then with muscle atrophy and now muscle gain my lean body mass has fluctuated quite significantly. Dexa scans tell me far more than a set of unreliable scales ever can and in general I think I’ve just about managed this. I have another dexa in 2 weeks, and I was at 18.5% body fat at the last one, so although I haven’t been deliberately trying to lose fat, I think I have leaned up a little whilst getting heavier on the scales – I’m hoping this is a good sign and it would be nice if I was sitting at around 17.5% this time. We’ll see – but I’ll use the results to decide what I do next with my diet, and the one after that I’ll use to gauge when I should start comp prep (can’t believe I’m already talking about comp prep!!! Yikes! The next 7 months is going to FLY!)

Training diary! Yes, I even keep one of these now. I didn’t use to, but since I’ve started I can really see the value and again it has now become habit. Every week I try and make progress – if I did 5 reps at a particular weight, the following week I try to do 10 -12 reps at that weight or if I didn’t get to failure at a particular weight, I up the weight at the next workout. On days when I’m not training with Aiden, this book has become my brain – if it’s written down in black or blue then it is how it is. It doesn’t lie and if I don’t match up to it at the next workout then I know I’ve been slack. And being slack is a missed opportunity to make progress. The book is my judge, jury and accuser! So I know if I‘m guilty!

So I measure, gauge, log, assess, question and tweak everything – constantly. Its how I measure progress, its how I know if I’m on track.

Now I’m not suggesting that you need to do any of this – it might all sound like a lot of hard work and that’s fine, it works for me.

But I bring you back to the original questions…if you’re not getting the results you want, you might want to check in and ask yourself

Are you being accountable?

🙂

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2012 That was the year that was

And what a year!

You know it is only 13 months ago that I started this blog and re-reading my intro I was full of hopes and had goals to really have a go at building on the success of my novice season. Even though I knew I was in trouble with my shoulders, I guess I was very much in denial, I was hoping somehow that they would just start working again and everything would be ok.

But it wasn’t to be. Everything I hoped for, planned for with regards to training and competing just didn’t happen and instead the worst case scenario did – double shoulder surgery.

And it didn’t stop there.

Torn hamstring tendons in both legs, torn elbow tendons in my left elbow – both sides, and degenerating hip inflammation soon put paid to any thoughts of not only competing but even being able walk or do the simplest of tasks like getting dressed, eating, sitting, standing all became a blur of pain. For months and endless months my life revolved around physios, chiro, doctors, sports doctors, acupuncture, needling and laser treatment – needles, blood injections, cortisone injections, xrays, mri’s, ultrasounds…and none of it seemed to be working, and none of the so called experts seemed to have any answers.

It was frustrating, and tough – I remember sitting on the tram in March with tears pouring silently down my face having had 2 blood injections into both sides of my elbow, blood injections into my right hamstring tendon, double cortisone into my left hamstring tendon and double cortisone into both hips – all in the space of 2 days.

That was the lowest point I think, the situation seemed hopeless, I was doing every thing I knew how to do, seeing every expert I could find, getting every test or treatment done to fix up my battered body, but it just wasn’t working.

And by April I had doctors ordering me not to even get out of bed if I could possibly avoid it. Everything stopped at that point. I almost lost hope. It was as close I have come to quitting – I  mean what was the point, why was I even bothering to fight it. I became apathetic about everything, merely going through the motions of existing – I couldn’t train, I couldn’t compete, I had nothing to work towards so what was the point of anything?

I think apathy has to be the worst place you can be – every other negative emotion – fear, depression, anger, overwhelm, grief are strong emotions because deep down there is something triggering that emotion that you do actually care about.

With apathy you just don’t care, you can’t even be bothered to care, its too hard.

I gave up, I stopped fighting. I didn’t care anymore.

And once I stopped fighting, I finally allowed myself to accept what was.

My body was telling me to stop. Just stop. It needed a break – I’ve been pushing myself incredibly hard physically for 2 years ever since I’d decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, and the only way it could force me to take a break was by breaking down so much that I couldn’t do anything physical at all.

It might sound strange to you the way I talk about my body as if it is in isolation to me – but to me my physical body is just one part of a whole that is composed of many parts, mostly non physical. But whatever is going on in the non physical parts are usually manifested in the physical as injuries or illness…a kind of last resort attempt to get me to pay attention to something that I’m neglecting.

My first body talk session with Greg Dolman in May was a revelation!

And it worked in a funny sort of way. Competing is an intense experience, you become so focused on yourself and what you have to do to get onto stage, you can get lost in it, and I guess I had allowed competing to become the sole focus of my life – which is why I fought so hard against the concept of not being able to compete and why I was so upset about not being able to train and seeing my goals for the year disappear down the drain. But it was only when I finally did give up, stop fighting and look outside the gym walls that I allowed other things to happen.

You see, when you’re stuck in a problem, all you see and all you focus on is the problem. And in focusing solely on the problem you close off your ability to find solutions.

How many of you have found yourself worrying endlessly in the middle of the night about something that is bothering you? how many of you have found that when something distracts you for long enough away from whatever it is that is bothering you, you suddenly find the solution or at least a more acceptable alternative?

Writing,  photopgraphy, starting up the magazine – with my focus on creativity and exploration of new ideas, I guess I became softer and less driven (sort of – starting up a magazine is hardly the easiest thing to do!)  and by moving my focus away from my body being the problem, it stopped being the problem…and started to find its own solutions.

In May I quite my job cold because I hated it so much – so then I had to worry about how I was going to live, in  June I was flat out trying to work out how to turn Figure & Physique from a dream into a reality, so it took a while before I noticed things were getting better.

I started back in the gym once a week in June more to just get some movement back, by July I could sustain 2 very light training sessions a week – enough of me was working that we could do an upper body shake out and a lower body shake out – no bench pressing or lifting overhead though at all and anything that recruited my anterior delts was completely out.

Rehab, lots and lots of rehab work and pilates was mainly what I was doing, and each training session was an exercise in delicacy – feeling out what I could and couldn’t do. By this point both myself and Aiden were fearful of pushing too hard too soon – each session was more a matter of ‘should’ we try something as opposed to last year when it was ‘just do it – and make it harder!’. Every time I winced or said ‘ouch’, we’d instantly stop or drop the weight back to something much lighter (bit difficult when its only 1kg in the 1st place!)

To say I wrapped myself in cotton wool would be an understatement!

But it has worked. Through July and August I made significant improvement, to the point were we were using weights heavy enough to get muscle soreness – how good was it to feel just muscle soreness! And then of course, with heavier weights muscle memory kicked in – I didn’t believe that there was such a thing, but all of a sudden every week my body had changed somehow – I think even Aiden was surprised just how well my body has responded and bounced back.

With improvement comes hope, hope that it will continue, hope that I don’t relapse. With improvement also comes optimism and possibility – will I be able to keep this going and make it back onto stage. Its a long road, will I be able to keep my head together and stay focused on the bigger goal?

By September I could sustain a full 5 day split – and I upped my sessions with Aiden to 3 a week in order to maximise my progress as much as I dared and by November I upped my sessions with Aiden to 4 a week because my improvement seemed to be gaining in pace.

My last dexa scan 3 weeks ago revealed that I have managed to restore the muscle I lost and am back to the same lean muscle mass as last year, which was very exciting news. Now I just have to build on that, try to add as much as I can in the next 10 months.

I have to say that I’m loving my training, I appreciate it so much more having had it taken away from me – there is still an edge of caution to our sessions, each time I wince or say ‘ouch’, still elicits an immediate halt to whatever we were doing until we work out whether it was a real issue or just me being a princess, each warm up set is done more carefully with a stop to assess whether its ok to continue on to a full set.

But weekly there are changes and the Possibilites are exciting…

as long as my body holds together!

Every year, just before New Year, I usually find myself some quiet time where I can do some writing.  I write about the year that has just been, I write about the year to come, I write down a list of goals and things I want to achieve/see/do, I write about how or why I did or didn’t achieve the previous years goals.

This years writing is going to be interesting as I haven’t achieved a single thing I set out to do at the beginning of the year!

Am I upset about that?

Not on your life!

because I have achieved so much more than I could ever have imagined. By taking the time away from the gym I have allowed other opportunities to appear and have fully taken advantage of them – who know where they could lead? I certainly intend to keep pursuing them to find out!

I thought last year was probably the most crazy, unsettling, biggest rollercoaster of a year, but this year is also very strong contender and next year…?

Well, who knows..but there’s an international stage or two in the plan thats for sure!

Have a Great Christmas, stay well, enjoy yourself, take some time off to relax, reflect, review and then refocus on what you’re going to achieve where you’re going to take yourself in 2013.

🙂

I choose health

I’m up very late for me – 11:30pm on a saturday night which is not late at all really I suppose – I went to see Batman Rises and then I cycled home from Richmond down Burnley Street, across Bridge Road and along Swan St back to Southbank. Its such a beautiful night – cold and clear which I love and as I cycle, I can relax, and go inside and enjoy the feeling of my body feeling strong and working well again. I can feel my mind to wander off where it chooses as I gaze around at the passing buildings, people and events – its sort of like an out of body experience because I feel somehow detached from it all an outsider looking in, wondering what it all means. There filters into my bubble an awareness of a constant background noise. Not the cars – there wasn’t much traffic, but sounds of people laughing and music – loud music and karaoke. I see people lining up to get into pubs, bars or spilling out of them – more than a little worse for wear trying to stand upright as they search for a vacant cab…

and it occurred to me just how much my life has changed.

I used to do all that, I used to be one of those people up to the wee small hours on a Friday or Saturday night, and I’ve definitely stumbled (been kicked out!) out of my fair share of pubs/clubs/bars in my time, that used to be a big part of my life. I used to think nothing of stumbling home through the city at 2am blind drunk then waking up the next day feeling like total crap until I’d had the full bacon-n-eggs-n-everything-on-it-with-extra-hash-browns and about 3 cups of tea.

but not any more.

I got a rude shock when I had that assessment that put me in the obese category. Obese was for other people – that didn’t apply to me, it wasn’t possible – I was a fit sporty person, obese was for people who didn’t play 3 hours of tennis a week or go to the gym twice a week and cycle everywhere…

I was in denial, big time – but size 16 jeans on someone as short as me tell a story that can’t be denied..

A few other factors – like hitting 40, ending a 10 year relationship all brought alot of things sharply into focus, one of the main things being what was my lifestyle doing to my health…

nothing good thats for sure!

And I started to look at those around me…family and friends that I was hanging out with some common themes emerged – heart disease, angina, high blood pressure, overweight…

I didn’t like what I saw. I realised that I was taking my health for granted – just because I never got sick I thought I was in excellent health…but the size 16 jeans still weren’t lying.

and I realised that if I wanted things to be different, if I didn’t want to be fat, frumpy and 40, I was going to have to place some value on my health. And  I did – I made a decision to make it my number 1 priority and that meant some things had to change. I couldn’t stand the idea of me NOT being the fit sporty person I assumed I was. So I decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, for which I needed to get fit…which I did – with a vengence.

Every day for 9 months I cycled 5k to the gym then did 20 mins on the stepper on the hardest setting I could put it on with 10kg of weights in my backpack, 20 mins intervals on the spin bike with a 30s, 20s, 10s hill, sprint, rest split followed by 20mins row – this was before work. Then at lunch time I loaded up the terrorist jacket with its 10kg of sand and climbed the office building fire stairs – 38 floors, 4 times – 5200 steps…then cycled 5km home

every.single.day.

And I changed my diet – cut out bread, rice, pasta and potatoes during the week – weekends different matter but I did not cut out alcohol.

Still, the weight came off – and as it did I noticed that I naturally didn’t feel like going out to bars/clubs as much anymore – I didn’t want to do that anymore. As I got leaner and felt cleaner I became more sensitive to things that don’t make me feel good – and as I stopped eating or drinking those things, I just found that I didn’t want to be in situations or with people that did those behaviours that I was no longer identifying with…some people can’t deal with others changes and it was becoming increasingly clear that my former circle of friends didn’t understand or support me in my changes  – I was no longer that person they could call up for a few beers at the drop of a hat and they couldn’t deal with that.

Sometimes when you make big changes for yourself, the reaction of others can be surprising – you really find out who is there for you and who isn’t – and sometimes you have to accept the fact that some people can’t deal with the new you, maybe it highlights their own insecurities or failings, I don’t know – sometimes you just have to let them go. Its hard, but when you let go of the old you make way for the new and so I have found.

My new life is so different. I chose health above all other things, and even when the rest of my life fell apart I did not let it slide – it can be too easy to let that happen when your life gets tough, but think of it – if you don’t have your health what have you got?  and besides, I’d worked too bloody hard to get my health back to let it go again!

I chose health over my former group of friends, and it has created space in my life for new friends who are also in the same space. For that I’m entirely grateful.

I chose health above all else and I’m glad I did – its led me to some amazing things – like standing on top of Africa and standing on stage in a sparkly bikini with a shiny trophy in my hands and meeting many wonderful people.

So cycling along Swan St, on the outside looking in at everyone enjoying themselves, I am comfortable with my choices – I’ve been there and done that and now I’ve moved on. I still enjoy an occasional beer or glass of wine, but generally if I go out to a bar I’m more likely to have a black coffee or herbal tea or breakfast or lunch – and thats fine, I’m comfortable with that too.

I choose health.

For those of you who think its too hard, or too late for you – it isn’t, take a good hard look at the priority and value you place on your health, take a look at those around you do you like what you see? then make the changes today, its never too late to reclaim your health, you just have to get started.