GPP

The 6 week focus

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Starting today, I am challenging myself to 6 clean eating, workout challenging, water guzzling weeks. It’s time to FOCUS. The holidays are over (and let’s face it—have been for some time). Spring will be here before we know it. And my bad habits aren’t magically getting any better.

Why 6 weeks? It’s long enough to kick into high gear and see results without leaving you wondering, “When is this going to end!?!” It’s also a good amount of time to establish some healthy principles that can be continued even after the challenge has ended.

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My goals for the next 6 weeks include:

  • tracking my food every day
  • following a 40/30/30 macro split
  • drinking a gallon of water every day
  • 5 days a week of scaled GPP workouts
  • completing a 6 week cycle of GPP’s Shaping Bias
  • HIIT cardio workouts 2x a week

Where did the motivation for this come from? I have been eating like crap, not working out consistently, and just generally feeling blah. I KNOW that working out regularly, clean eating, and drinking lots of water makes me feel good. But it sure can be hard to get back at it when you’ve been off track for a bit, can’t it?

I’ll be sharing my progress with you, along with my meals and some workouts.

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Knowing when to cry Uncle

If you asked my husband, he would tell you that I choose to learn everything the hard way. It’s a trait of mine that drives him crazy.

One of the reasons GPP appealed to me when I first discovered it via Janetha’s blog almost two years ago was I was tired of being injured. As a runner, cross training and strength training bored me to tears and I’d do anything I could think of to avoid it. Combine that with my overzealousness and I dealt with my fair share of injuries and often needed to take time off to heal. I think I was injured just as often as I was healthy.

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Since starting GPP in May 2012, I’ve not been injured once. Not once. I attribute this change to a lot off cross/strength training (I’m not sure I would call myself a runner anymore) and learning when my body’s telling me to back off.

Where am I going with this?

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I got a new pair of Reebok Your Flex cross training shoes for Christmas. They’re pink, lightweight, and have a smaller toe-to-heel drop than my previous Nike Free Runs. I love them. But, in typical Maria-fashion, I got a little too excited to start using them and went at Hellth Week full-force this week in my new shoes, giving my calves little time to adapt to the lower heel drop.

I knew better.

I might have gotten away with it if every workout this week hadn’t involved some type of explosive movement. But Monday’s high knees, Tuesday’s burpees, Wednesdays side-step kettlebell swings, and yesterday’s box jumps caught up to me. My calves were extremely sore Tuesday and Wednesday, but seemed to be close to normal yesterday, minus a little tightness during a tough leg workout. I woke up this morning expecting to be so sore from yesterday’s shenanigans. But, surprisingly, I wasn’t sore at all. I thought I had somehow outsmarted Hellth Week and was about to emerge a Champion.

I was wrong. So wrong.

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Today’s workout involved burpees and pushups. I hate burpees, but was psyched to see it was only a 25-minute workout. Most of the workouts this week have had me going for 45+ minutes, which is pretty rare for GPP. As I began the workout, I noticed a weird pull in my right calf. I shook it off and kept moving, though. After a few more rounds, the pull had become a throbbing sensation, so I decided to forego the hop at the top of the burpee, in an attempt to complete the workout. A few more rounds, minus the hop, went by but my right cal continued to throb. Which immediately told me it was time to say, “Uncle” and stop for the day.

I’ve extended the life of injuries so many times by letting my pride get in the way. It pains me to start something and not see it all the way through. It eats at my very core. But I’ve learned, the hard way of course, that it’s a lot more painful to take weeks and weeks off because my stubbornness and pride caused me to keep going when my body was giving me clear signs to stop.

Even though I’m pissed I didn’t finish that workout, I know at the end of the day GPP isn’t about RX-ing every (or any) workout. It’s about being fit and healthy enough to do all the other stuff in life outside  of the gym. And sometimes that requires knowing your own limits and crying, “Uncle.”

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I’m taking it easy for the rest of the day and RICE-ing (rest, ice, compression, elevation) in hopes of finishing out Hellth Week tomorrow with the rest of my GPPeeps.

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I’m sure these guys won’t mind the extra cuddles.

Head vs. Heart

Happy Hump Day, or, as it is known in my neck of the woods, middle of Hellth Week. 3 days of GPP’s Hellth Week down, 3 to go!

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The first few days of Hellth Week were extremely cold, but nevertheless I’ve been trucking on.

What’s Hellth week? Hellth Week is a week-long challenge where GPP throws its roughest, toughest workouts at you. There’s generally no programming behind this week, unlike normal GPP workouts. Hellth Week is designed to push you hard and help you tighten up ship on any bad habits that have slipped into your routine—we’re specifically targeting added sugar this go around.

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Hellth week (my second) has been tough for me. I took a workout break for a few weeks around the Holidays and just really got back into the swing of things last week. To jump head first into this challenge has, of course, been physically taxing. My legs are so sore.

But I’m surprised by how mentally challenging I’ve found the week to be. It’s me vs. me as my heart and head battle it out. My heart wants to persevere and stand strong. My head wants to quit. The two have been fighting it out during every single workout this week, with today’s being the worst.

Two rounds into today’s 10 round workout I wanted nothing more than to turn around and run (okay, maybe more like slow walk) home. But I kept moving by letting my head talk me into just completing 8 rounds. “That will be good enough,” my head told my heart. I completed all 10 rounds and let my heart give a nice, big “F You!” to my head.

You know what’s good enough? My best. And nothing less.

Truthfully I’ve been pretty afraid throughout Hellth Week, so far. Afraid of failing. Afraid of being the  slowest. Afraid of working out in the cold.

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My good friend Annie has taken to using this saying a lot lately. I didn’t think about it too much until this week, but it’s really been resonating with my soul as my head and heart collide.

Afraid to fail? How about getting out of the way of succeeding. Afraid of being the slowest? Applaud yourself for completing what you set out to do, no matter how long it took you. Afraid of the cold? Warm your muscles up before starting the workout to prevent injury and count your blessings you have the space to workout.

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Assume the best and only the best for yourself. Why automatically fear the negatives? All that negativity and fear do not put you in a place of success and motivation—they just drag you down. Choose to meditate on thoughts that will lift you up, even when you feel like the challenge ahead of you is impossible.

My goal for the second half of Hellth Week is to stay positive and assume the best. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m up for the challenge.

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I’ve also been working on foam rolling and stretching every day. Flexibility, in general, is one area of physical fitness that I am weak. I don’t have a lot of patience to sit around and stretch. I’ve been doing it before bed each night and I think it’s made a big difference in keeping the soreness level lower than it otherwise would be.

I’ll check in at the end of the week and let you know how it all panned out.

Struggling with motivation

Happy New Year! The Holidays went by pretty fast this year, with all the busyness of moving home and all just a week before Christmas. It’s hard to believe the first weekend of 2014 is about to begin and I’ll be turning 27 this year. 27 used to seem so old to me. These days 27 doesn’t feel so old… I still feel like a teenager most days.

Sometimes I act like a teenager ,too.

Since moving home, I’ve really been struggling to find and keep motivation. I never thought I was the kind of person who cared for working out with others—it’s okay sometimes, but I prefer going solo in the gym. However, I’ve noticed my motivation to go out into the cold garage gym on my own is pretty low… I guess even though I don’t necessarily want to be working out with someone else, it’s nice to have some company around. Someone to commiserate with, perhaps?

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I could have used someone to commiserate with today because GPP’s Daily Workout kicked my ass so hard that I threw in the towel.

After moving back home, I took a few weeks off from seriously working out (I did exercise a time or two, but it was wishy-washy at best). That time off, along with all the sweets and junk has caught up to me and I feel like I’m hitting a wall with all my workouts this week.

Truthfully, I think I’m just aggravated that I’m not coming back guns a blazing after doing so well in the Skin In The Game challenge I completed before Thanksgiving. I’ve been on a bit of a downward slope since that challenge ended.

At first I justified my worsening eating habits by “needing” to eat through our fridge and pantry before moving out of our apartment. And now that we are home I’ve used the holidays, as well as our families as an excuse. Neither mine nor Jeremy’s families are healthy eaters. His parents (whom we live with) eat out a lot and even when they do cook it is often things I wouldn’t normally eat.

Luckily, our living space has its own kitchen, so all of the excuses involving our families are really lame. And need to stop. My poor eating has been a result of my own choices—not saying “no thanks” when we have something planned for dinner, but Jeremy’s parents want to go out, not choosing healthier options most of the time when we do choose to go out, and mindlessly eating way too much sugar.

It’s funny. GPP Challenges seem to come along right when I need them. I really needed the accountability that the Skin In The Game Challenge gave me. And it helped a ton! Next week GPP is hosting it’s annual Hellth Week. (Yes, that is the correct spelling.) A week of tough as shit workouts to not only kick your ass, but help you recommit to your health.

In conjunction with Hellth Week, GPP is also hosting a Sugar Challenge. No added sugar (natural or artificial) at all next week. Time to detox.

Hopefully somewhere in the midst of Hellth Week and kicking the sugar I’ll rediscover my motivation.

Stay tuned.

Hiding out in Kentucky

Hey guys! It’s been over a month since my last blog post because as soon as we returned to Michigan after spending Thanksgiving with our families, it was time to pack! Jeremy and I had two weeks to organize and pack up our entire apartment before moving back to Kentucky (until Jeremy finds a post-Masters job). But really, Jeremy was studying, completing projects, and writing papers during this time… so I did 95% of the packing and dismantling of furniture.

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Thankfully, we were able to get everything into our U-Haul and got moved home without any incidence. Since returning back to Kentucky over a week ago, we’ve just been settling in and getting ourselves sorted. We’re currently living with my husband’s mother and father until we have a better idea of what our future holds.

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I purchased an Olympic weight set a few weeks ago off Craigslist for a great price and we moved it back with us. My father-in-law has been kind enough to allow me to use the garage for my workouts. I can do about 90% of the GPP stuff I want to do—just need to build/buy a squat rack. The garage is chilly at the beginning of the workout, but usually by the time I’m done I’ve ditched my over shirt and end up in a tank top.

I’m sure it will get colder as the months go on, but I feel blessed to have the space to lift weights after living in Japan for 3 years and having almost no room and definitely no heavy weights.

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The job search will begin soon (probably after the Holidays), but in the meantime, I’m continuing to do some freelance work for the gym I previously worked for, as well as wanting to begin some private personal and group training. I also have some CECs I’m working on finishing up to complete my personal training recertification in January 2014. I can’t believe I’ve already been certified for two years.

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And in case you’re wondering, the dogs are doing wonderful. They’re quite comfortable and enjoying the slightly warmer weather in Kentucky. It’s great to be able to get back to walking them daily, too, now that we have the time.

Skin In the Game Challenge Recap

On October 7 I started an Optimal Health Challenge with GPP Fitness. I’d hit a slump in my training and was feeling pretty blah. I was getting in most of my workouts, but eating pretty crappy and just kind of drifting along with no goal. GPP’s Skin In the Game Challenge was just what I needed to re-light the fire under my ass.

You can see more about the challenge and “rules” by clicking the above link.

Participants were asked to create at least 3 goals (one for physical health, one for nutrition, and one for lifestyle health) and decide how much “skin” ($$$) they wanted to put on the line and risk losing if they did not reach their goals.

My goals were:

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I didn’t set any goals based on numbers or weight loss because I wanted this challenge to be a stepping-stone for a healthier lifestyle in general, not a quick fix of some sort. Also, I am a healthy weight and any weight lost is for merely vanity. Basically, I just needed some consistency in my life, especially with food.

I decided to take progress photos along the way, instead of focusing on a number on the scale.

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September 30, 2013 – a few days before the challenge began

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Mid-October 2013

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Early November 2013

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Late November 2013

At first, I attempted to follow GPP’s Burst Cycle diet as it is written, but very quickly realized it was not enough calories or nutrition for my active lifestyle. I felt like crap for the first few days and had absolutely no energy.

I ended up modifying the BCD to fit my needs, cycling three days “on” with very clean eats and sticking to a 40/30/30 macro split, and one day “off” as a burst day, where I ate mostly clean, but indulged in whatever I’d been craving without worrying too much about macros. My diet sort of ended up being a combo of Burst Cycle and IIFYM.

A few weeks into The Challenge I realized how much I was loving the more muscular physique I was starting to develop. I wanted more! My focus shifted and I began to concentrate on building strength and muscle, which meant I needed to eat more! I continued the BCD pattern of 3 days “on” and 1 day “off” and stuck to the 40/30/30 macro split, but increased my calories to fit my goal.

Did I Achieve My Goals?
Yes! I put $50.00 on the line and will be getting $40.00 of it back. (Every time you went off plan you could pay a penance of $2.00. All money collected from failed goals and penances are going to a food bank.)

I achieved 5 workouts a week every week of the challenge. There were 51 days in the challenge and I paid penance for 5 of them, meaning I stayed on track 90% of the time. I’d say 90% is pretty darn consistent. My husband has been very, very busy with Grad school, so it was nice to make sure we were spending quality time together regularly no matter how busy we both were. And finally, my ability to wake up at the same time each morning improved.

Was it worth it?
Absolutely! There was a $25.00 buy-in for the challenge and then whatever Skin you wanted to put on the line (and hopefully get back!).

The one thing I really wanted to get out of this challenge was consistency. I’ve always struggled with over-indulging in the things that should be treats and not focusing enough on clean eating. Moderation has never been something I was able to make work because I didn’t understand how to balance treats and clean eats. Rotating the 3 days “on” with 1 day “off” helped me to understand how treats in moderation looks and feels in practice.

I also started to feel really strong and see a lot of progress in my arm and back muscles.

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What will I take away?
I plan to continue with the general principles of the BCD and IIFYM mixture I’ve been using, along with calorie counting. It works for me and I love the way I feel with this “diet.”

I will also continue with my 5 days a week of GPP workouts. GPP recently released a Shaping Bias (Bodybuilding) protocol that I am considering adding to my programming. I really enjoy heavy weight lifting and find it very motivating and I just want to keep going with that.

My focus will continue to remain on staying healthy and getting stronger—not on a specific number on the scale.

Life As of Late

Five months, the last time I really blogged, is a long time, all things considered. And yet, I feel like almost no time has passed and nothing of much importance has happened.

But I guess it isn’t completely true to say nothing has happened in those five months, so let’s catch up to where I am today.

 Work
Friday, I ended my employment as the Service Director of the gym I’ve been working at since last September. I’m extremely thankful to have had this year of learning and growth and insight in the fitness industry. I do plan to continue working in the industry, but not on the management side of things—my focus moving forward is to put my personal training, GPP training, and spinning certifications to good use and begin building my client base.

As of this moment, I am still working from home a bit and teaching my spinning class until mid-December.

Home
My husband, Jeremy, and I realized only a few months after moving to Michigan that this probably wouldn’t be where we’d settle long term. There’s lots of reasons for that, but I can’t deny a big one is the weather! The winter is just a bit too cold and too snowy for our Kentucky blood. 

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Jeremy will graduate next month from the University of Michigan with his masters and we’re jetting out of town and back home to live with his parents for a bit while we both work on figuring out our next step and finding long-term employment. It will definitely be weird to not be “on our own” after so many years of living away from home, but I think it’s the right thing to do for now.

Fitness
I haven’t done much running since the 5K I PRed at in July. I went out to Utah later that month and attended a weekend-long certification for GPP that really sparked a fire within me to continue pushing myself hard with their programming. I have seen such great results and feel so good following their workouts, which makes it really easy to be passionate about GPP. I’ve also gained a lot of muscle and strength in the last few months thanks to learning a lot about how to fuel my body better.

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I’m currently wrapping up a Skin In the Game Optimal Health Challenge with GPP that ends next Wednesday. I’ll be sure to recap after it ends and tell you more about my experience.

Dogs
Link and Magus are doing great! 

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They really have become quite the two-some. Most days they play and play together until one, or both, pass out or a nap.

Magus joined our family in June of this year and he’s really settled in well and holds his own. I think he’s pretty content and living the good life (if I may say so myself).

Blogging
I’ve been a stay-at-home dog mom (hah!) for less than a week and I’m already going nuts inside. I hate boredom and not feeling productive more than almost anything. So, it seems it’s time to start writing a little bit more and get the crazy outside of my head.