Doing it my way

For as long as I can remember I have always done things my way. In fact when I die the one song I would like played is “I did it my way” by Frank Sinatra. I love Frank and the old Crooners. My oldest daughter says I am inconsistent. My husband thinks I am contrary. My siblings don’t say much. They just accept.

When I was five years old I loved the name Linda. I wanted it to be my name. When the neighbourhood kids got together and played make believe games, I was always Linda. One day another little girl called it first. She was Linda. There couldn’t be two for some strange childhood reason. It was accepted. And she did call it. There was nothing I could do. So I went home. I wasn’t mad. I didn’t throw a fit. I just sat out that day and played alone. Throughout my life I have walked a separate solitary path. It isn’t lonely. I’m not trying to be obstinate or weird. I just like to do things my way. The reason my marriage works is because he accepts this and allows me the freedom to be myself.

Two years ago I realized I had allowed myself to get too heavy. It wasn’t an esthetic thing , rather it was affecting me physically. Hiking the west coast trail took its toll on my body. Not only is it physically demanding, I was carrying a 45 pound backpack. I pulled my achilles on the second last day and it seemed to take a great deal of time to heal. It was time to lose some weight. Of course saying it and doing it are two different things. It took me a couple of months to get my game on. I absolutely hate cardio of any kind but I realized I needed to incorporate it into my life somehow. I jogged when I was young but I never enjoyed it. Swimming was boring and frankly I’m not that good at it. My gym has a ton of classes so I tried Zumba. It was wonderful. The first instructor I met was Sam. Her background as a dancer made her classes less aerobic and more fun. The music she used was right up my alley. I was in love. I was the girl at the back who had no clue and just moved around a lot. Sam’s main rule was to try and move in the same direction as the others so no one was run over. I had some dance experience. Tap class in elementary. Ballroom and modern dance in university. Performing with Calgary Youth Singers in their Second Chants division (The old people). I’m not a natural but I’m not a klutz. I learned the basics as time went on and I loved it. Sam kept the lights low for a night club feel and I knew this was my thing. When I caught glimpses of myself in the mirror I was always so surprised. I was a big girl. Through the years I hadn’t really noticed. Britt says I am the opposite of an anorexic. When I look in the mirror I think I look awesome. I see a skinny chick. Zumba classes changed that. All of a sudden I was surrounded by huge mirrors that showed me a less than flattering picture of myself. I still thought in my mind that it was the mirrors. A sort of gym conspiracy. Plus, the snug work out clothes showed every bump and roll as we gyrated our way around the room.

A year went by and I lost a few pounds. I was having fun and I had competed in a Femsport competition. I felt great. The problem is, I need goals. Something to work towards. Tami had the solution for that. How about a bikini competition? What could I say? I’m in. I had a year to prepare. Did I really think I could do it? Of course! I could get up on a stage in a tiny bikini and 5 inch heels. Would I look good doing it? Well, probably not but I would still do it. So I just had to get started. I pored over everything I could find on the subject. That was when I began to have my doubts about this bikini thing. It seemed crazy. Eight percent body fat? Are you completely loony? The training. The cardio. The food. The food was ridiculous. I couldn’t do it. Girls posted before and after pictures that were incredibly impressive. Then I would read their stories. Crazy stuff about emotions and being prepared for no life for three months. Strict controlled diets. Suddenly I was not too sure about this next challenge. Although the names and pictures changed, the journey seemed very consistent. What follows is what I learned from the google…

How long does it take to prep for a bikini competition? Twelve to twenty weeks depending on your initial fitness level. Well, I was pretty muscular but way too fat so I thought a year was a good idea. Except the competition is in November and I made the decision in December so… I had 46 weeks from the time I made the decision. But it was Christmas. It was cold out. I had been feeling kind of ick and people around me had the flu so, January. Definitely January. There was a big New Years challenge at my Gym so I signed up for that. January thirtieth. I was 174 pounds and 35.4% body fat. I had a goal and I was going to get there if it killed me. I should say that it had taken me a year to lose 6 pounds. I now had 39 weeks. It turns out that the time period between decision making and commitment is 7 weeks. Anyways, I was off. I have been physically active all of my life but the one thing I have always loved is weight training. I have had personal trainers off and on through the years and they do keep you in line. There is an accountability. They force you to change things up and move forward and they also constantly correct your form. After a few months of Zumba I increased the yoga as well. It is also a love of mine. Soon I was at Zumba three or four times a week and Yoga almost every day. I hired a trainer. He isn’t a specialized trainer although his girlfriend competes in bikini competitions. Easy peasy right? Nope. These people do some weird ass stuff.

My trainer and I had a rocky start but we have come to a state of peaceful coexistence. Initially we disagreed on almost everything from work out routines to diet. The feud ended when I suggested we would do things my way since I was paying him. He agreed. I understand that there are industry standards and accepted practices when training for various fitness competitions but some I can’t get behind. For one, I don’t do cardio. I’m not sure I even know what the word means. It makes me think of breathing hard and sweating. Running. Now it would seem to encapsulate anything from skipping to burpees, running to stair climbing. Then there is HIIT. High intensity interval training which I call “holy shit my heart is going to explode”. All of this translates into fat burning exercises. That’s not my thing. Oh don’t get me wrong. There was an abundance of fat to burn. I just thought nice long walks every day would be more up my alley. Zumba classes were fun and I did sweat some but its not really up there for my trainer. Ultimately we ( or I ) agreed walking was a great idea. We are both happy. I am not sweating and running around doing things I hate but I am losing fat and inches albeit slowly.

The google girls have really opened my eyes. These are the lovely ladies who have shared their journey to the bikini stage on line. They have guts and an incredible work ethic and I admire them. It is hard to put yourself out there for the world to read. Posting pictures just opens you up to all of the nasty that can be found in a comment bar. What I did notice through it all was the amount of time they spent training as well as the type of training. The initial training phase seems to involve increasing stamina or endurance. Lots of sets with high reps. Quite often the emphasis is on drop sets where you do fewer reps with each set as you increase the weight. Or you can start with higher weight and fewer reps and drop weight and increase reps. My head hurts writing this so I can imagine how you must feel. Anyways, they also tend to split workouts by body parts over a period of 5 days. There is a lot of focus on butts and abs as well as shoulders. Initially they do small amounts of cardio as it is believed to cause a loss in muscle, which defeats the purpose of weight training. This would be more of a time for toning. Interval or high intensity training is more anaerobic so that is used to build muscle as you try to lose fat. This is where you get your heart pumping as well. Eventually they need to increase muscle size and reps decrease somewhat to accommodate that aspect in training. A lot more compound moves to fill you out a bit as well as supersets to make you sweat a bit. Until finally the whole thing culminates into a period of dietary restriction to lose as much fat as possible in order to lean out for the competition and show your body in its best light.

Doesn’t really sound bad in my very brief overview but the time needed just for training and working out and classes, is insane. These people may be in the gym for hours almost every single day. On their off days they still do cardio. It seemed non stop. So I went with what I already knew from years gone by. I walk every day. Some short walks around the neighbourhood and two or three days in the river valley. That one is three and a half miles. I also walk when I golf and carry my clubs. For me these are just enjoyable times. Once every two weeks I do a big long walk downtown where there is a huge staircase leading from the river up to a community on the hill. At all hours of the day people are there training by running up and down these stairs. I go up and down and up again and then head for home. It takes around four hours total and I admire a lot of gardens along the way. The stairs get you breathing hard but for a short period. I will use the rowing machine every couple of weeks in the gym. For some reason I’ve always liked that. And my old fave is Zumba which I only do twice a week. None of this is set into a specific time period. I pretty much set my day once I get up and have a coffee. I decide what my day will be like based on how I am feeling.

In the gym I have set the split at four workouts a week with the body split into three groups. I workout alone three days and once with my trainer. I have never enjoyed full body workouts. They are just too tiring for me. The google girls seem to do butt and leg separately but I do lower body as one workout. The second workout is back and biceps together and the third workout is shoulder with chest and triceps. I limit my workouts to one hour. I feel if I am there longer than that I am either overtraining or wasting time. With this split I do a different body part each week with my trainer. So I do lower body one day, the next day I do chest/shoulders and triceps. I wait one day then do back and biceps. Then I do lower body with the trainer. The next week shifts. So I start with chest, then back and third lower body. The fourth workout is with the trainer and it is chest. Etcetera… He does things that are different or corrects form or even just does heavy heavy days which I love. He is funny though. He forgets about my yoga. One day he had me stretching, legs straight out and reaching towards my toes. In yoga this is a forward fold and you always keep your back straight. No rounding to reach farther as it then takes the pressure off. He kept saying to me “you can do better than that!” I got a little frustrated and sat up and told him it was as far as I could go. Finally I realized he wanted me to let my back go so I did. My hands reached my feet and my chest was resting on my thighs. When we are taught to do things in one discipline it is hard to go against that form. I felt I was cheating and yet he was happy. Crazy right?

I write everything down in a notebook and I also write comments on the day. What weights were used and how it felt. I give everything a rating out of ten. I create the workout before I leave for the gym and modify while I am there. Sometimes I just don’t feel it so I lighten up the weights. Other days I abandon the workout altogether and focus on one thing. It all depends on how I am feeling. The google girls dedicate time to abs as well and I just can’t. I hate ab work. But this is where yoga comes in. Each class I attend has a different instructor. They all have their own styles. Gary is all about balance so we spend most of the class on one leg. Truly helps those little helper muscles. The stabilizers. Terra loves to hold poses forever. You feel like you are going to pass out but it is an incredible anaerobic workout. Rob is all about functional yoga. For your every day life. Stretches and asanas which help destress your body after hours of desk sitting. A couple other gals are more about moving through routines slowly and focusing on the meditative aspect of yoga. I try to time my workouts so I can attend a yoga class afterwards. It also substitutes for stretching. The benefits for your mental state are also incredible. In my opinion I get enough ab work in yoga. Once I lose more belly fat we will see if I am right. Currently my abs are well insulated against the world.

I think the biggest problem I had was the food. I love to eat. As I age my body just doesn’t need as many calories. We have all heard about the weight gain that comes after age forty. Well, it is a thing. It creeps up on you and boom…you move up a size or two. So when I eat I want as much satisfaction as I can get from the calories. No froo froo no bake low cal cheesecake for me. If I don’t feel sick after cheesecake it wasn’t rich enough. I don’t have to eat the whole thing but I won’t substitute. So, the google gals all eat a ton of protein. And they spend three months avoiding wonderful magical treats. The latest keto diet craze does seem to help people lose weight and the body building world has always maintained you need tons of protein to build muscle but… Here’s the thing. First off, I have a form of kidney disease. Medullary sponge kidney. I have cysts in my kidneys. Small particles get trapped in the cysts and in time build into kidney stones. I have passed dozens of stones. I have had lithotripsy done seven times. That is where they use ultrasound waves to blast large stones. I have had surgery done twice on the left kidney and the right kidney has ruptured once. Massive amounts of protein destroy people like me. Second, like I said I love food so if I have to limit calories that food better taste awesome. My trainer also wanted me to eat more protein. What is it with trainers and protein. Supplements, BCAA’s, protein powders. How about I just eat? I like whole foods. And flavour. Plus I just am not a fan of too much meat. I don’t feel good when I eat beef. Some textures gag me. I prefer veggie burgers. Harvey’s has had veggie burgers since forever. Long before it became a trend. I get one of theirs loaded up and it is magical. I love bacon but I don’t think it is classified as meat. Rene’ says there is no healthy amount of bacon. Its just bad. And it tastes so good. So I eat my eggs, the whole egg. Not egg whites alone. Geez. I also don’t eat egg whites with oatmeal because that is just gross. We eat beans and lentils in lots of dishes. Quinoa. That’s a protein power punch. And I love it. I like fish and yogurt. I admit I love my carbs. I really don’t care if they won’t help with my “program”. They taste good. And macro’s. That is a thing. Making sure you eat the correct percentages of fat, protein and carbs. People weigh their food. They eat rice cakes. And whey powder. I put whey in my shakes but it is the liquid whey I pour off of my home made yogurt after it cools. I was gestational diabetic when I was young so I am more concerned with eating in a way that keeps my blood sugar in check. I drink around ten to twelve glasses of water a day which is not in keeping with the Google gals or my trainer. I do know though from years of experience that it is what I need to keep my kidneys healthy.

So we are 6 weeks out from this competition and I am not even close to being ready. It has taken me 20 months to lose 24 pounds just living my life. I haven’t given up anything food wise. When I met the girls for lunch a couple of weeks ago, I had a margarita. Since I was only having one I made it a double. I know the logic doesn’t add up however I continue to justify my ways. The google girls feel deprived and in the long run they are happy because the results show. I can honestly say I am not deprived. And the results will show. Hahaha!!! Fortunately I love savoury treats so I don’t eat an excessive amount of sugary foods. Unfortunately salty foods are bad for my kidneys. Fortunately that in itself helps me to cut back on salty treats. And salt in general. I still have quite a few pounds to lose and my body fat percentage is now just at a normal range of 22%. The good news is that over time my lean body mass has increased and my body fat has decreased significantly. Most importantly my dry lean mass has increased. So I am doing something right. I have not sacrificed muscle in the quest to lose fat.

Now my niece is one heck of a motivated girl. I have no doubt she is going to kick it big time and truly rock this competition. As for me, well I certainly will not. In the end though I have learned some very important things. The drastic measures people go through are because of the time constraints they place on themselves. The body builders in the past spent years developing their bodies and competed every seldom. Today everyone wants to get there now, if not yesterday. Drastic measures are needed. I believe slow and steady wins the race. Secondly, there is something to be said for old lady strength. I have done some form of resistance training for almost fourty years. I am strong. This strength has helped to stave off bone loss as I have aged. This will serve me well as I pass through my sixties, seventies and hopefully my eighties. Loss of balance and loss of bone density are two very huge issues for seniors today. Doing physical competitions like femsport or bikini competitions are personal measurements for me. Does my lifestyle alone enable me to compete? Yes. Will I win? No. Ultimately I have come to realize that having a goal is great but what you do to reach that goal has to be in some way sustainable. Incorporating healthy habits into your life is a way to stay healthy into your golden years. No one really thinks about it when they are young. Old age catches up. This has been quite an eye opening two years for me. I have always felt in my mind that I am twenty six. My oldest daughter will be turning forty on her next birthday. I may have to admit my age as it is quite obvious in my face. But inside I can try to stay young. Healthy. I will get on stage in six weeks. I will be soft and look somewhat out of place. But I will wear a bikini on stage with five inch heels. I will try not to trip and I will enjoy every minute of the day. And then? Who knows. That crazy niece of mine will have something up her sleeve. I guess I will just keep following her around. Of course, I will do it my way.

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