Monday, April 25, 2011

Yeager Bombs and a Clarification on Cardio

As I type this post, I'm sitting here in a lot of really, really AWESOME pain.  Why is muscular pain "awesome" to me?  It means progress.  It means my muscle fibers have been torn apart from a grueling workout, and are being rebuilt, thicker and stronger than before.  It means my off-season muffin top is being replaced by a 6-pack (I hope).  It means bitches at the OCB show on 10/29 betta watch OUT for my shoulders and my high, round glutes. 

About 1.5-2 months ago I decided to take a hiatus from competitive dieting, hence the blog; this was NOT, however, a hiatus from competing.  I just need some time to satisfy my tastebuds with some good, healthy eats, and to not feel like I'm married to my food scale every day.  I think I've done a GREAT job at eating clean, non-prep foods.  I've been snacking on things like apples and cheese, bananas and peanut butter, greek yogurt with berries and granola, veggies with dip/hummus, turkey sandwiches on whole wheat with loads of veggies.............I'm really enjoying myself, and I've even lost a few pounds.  Sometimes, we competitors get caught up in our diets.  We feel like if we deviate AT ALL from our plan, our physiques are going to hell and we won't be stage-ready in 8 months.  C'mon - that's retarded.  That's why I needed a break - I felt my mind going to places that, as a rational, educated woman, it shouldn't.

But, with all things, I get bored easily, and I really got the itch to get back up on the stage in my strippa heels within a matter of weeks.  So I found myself wandering around the gym, trying to decide what to do.  Should I lift heavy?  Should I do MET work to get my sex-ay on for the summer?  Should I hire a trainer again?  What to do, what to do.  And that's when I remembered why I got into this whole mess in the first place: I had a group of 3 awesome girls and 1 badass trainer, and we had FUN.  We laughed, we joked, we cried, we bitched and complained when we got hungry.  I competed for ME.  I didn't compete for a trophy, or for a piece of paper that said I was a "Pro" in a really politically f**ked up federation, or for some BS endorsement deal with a sleazy supplement company who wanted to use me to push their ridiculous, non-scientifically approved products. 

Re-enter Leigh Ann Yeager, my fearless friend and "pitbull in pigtails" trainer.  Leigh Ann has known me now for about 2 years.  For 1 of those years she trained me; for the other, she watched me go through hell.  I coasted while under her guidance.  I ate a lot (ya like whole bags of doughnuts for breakfast??), cardio wasn't a word that was even whispered until 3 weeks out, and I was never dehydrated.  I never even looked at a diuretic or a fat burner, and I never injected any weird shit into my ass.  If there is 1 person who knows my body better than I (aside from Jim, obviously), it is Ms. Yeager.  She knows what it likes, what it "craves," what it needs in order to excel.  And more importantly, she knows my BRAIN.  She GETS me, and I cannot tell you how important it is to have a trainer who gets you, inside and out.  I thrive with Leigh Ann.  I decided to train with LA again for those reasons, and I think it also makes sense to have a trainer who can SEE you, every day, live and in the flesh.  And I also really like LA - I consider her to be a very dear friend, and it's just nice to be able to work with a pal.

Also in the mix are about 7-8 other hoochies who have embarked upon the figure trail with me.  Lauren Isgett, Ashley Farrar, Katy Hull, Nicole Mason, Amy Fisher, Jessica Brantley, and maaaaybe 1 other brave soul.  These girls are straight up badass.  There is no other word I can use to describe them.  They work hard, they sweat, they grunt, they lift heavy.  And they don't wear makeup to the gym - we ain't there to impress people, we're there to do work.  I am SO happy to have these women by my side, and together, we are the YEAGER BOMBS!!  We worked out for the 1st time yesterday, and man was that fun.  To have all of them by my side, pushing me to go faster, was awesome.  It reminded me of exactly WHY I got into this last year.  Even though we're on stage by ourselves, I consider this to be a team sport.  At the end of our hour, we were sweaty, totally breathless, and in a heap on the floor; I would not have it any other way.  The future is bright for the Yeager Bombs, and I'm really looking forward to our journey together.

Now a clarification on cardio.  I posted a few weeks ago why I think cardio is stupid, and that raised a few eyebrows.  I feel the need to explain myself a little bit, because I think my message was taken a bit out of context.  I am not 100% totally anti-cardio.  What I AM 100% opposed to are people who do 7, 8, 9, 10+ hours of endurance cardio (ie long duration, sustained heart rate) a week, or people who hop on the elliptical with a book and plod away for 3hrs at a time.  The spin classes that I teach are 60 minutes in duration, and only 30 minutes of that is actually spent cycling.  For the other 30, we're lifting.  And the 30 minutes that I teach on the bike include nothing but heavy hills and intervals: NO ENDURANCE.  I do this for a reason: I don't want anyone in my classes getting skinny fat.  The RIGHT kind of cardio is a great supplement to any healthy program.  I'm not saying you shouldn't go out for a jog with your dog when the weather is gorgeous: I'm just saying that you shouldn't do that EVERY day and it shouldn't be the ONLY thing you do to keep your physique in check.  It's the WRONG kind of cardio that I'm opposed to: steady-state, monotonous, long, endurance, fat-storing cardio.  And there's tons of research to back me up on this, so suck it, cardio freaks.  I hate to rain on your parade, but if you want to look better naked, pick up the weights. 

Let's take an example, shall we??  Yesterday, with the Yeager Bombs, LA put us through this vomit-inducing cardio circuit (really, my french toast was in my throat), that involved 0 traditional cardio.  What it did involve was a lot of plyo, a lot of moving, and weights.  1 circuit consisted of 20 split jumps (10/leg), 10 burpees (5 w/a pushup, 5 w/out), and 20 front lunge w/a palms in shoulder press (10/leg).  Looks easy on paper, right??  Holy shitballs was that hard.  I was out of breath after just 1 set.  My heart rate was EASILY in the 170s for the entire 10 minutes that we worked.  To get the same heart rate elevation and calorie burn with cardio, I'd have to work twice as hard and twice as long.  I'd rather get my crap done in 10 minutes as opposed to 30.  And some more numbers to really drive the nail in the cardio coffin: when I ran my half marathon I weighed 130lbs, was a size 4-6, and was sitting at about 25-27% body fat.  After lifting for a year, I now weigh close to 150, am still wearing a size 4-6, but have reduced my body fat to around 15% in an off season.  Those numbers don't lie, folks.  20lb weight gain, same size clothes, lower body fat.  You do the math. 

I hope this clears things up.  If you're sitting at home reading this and saying "I take 7 spin classes a week, why can't I get rid of my muffin top??" or "I run 30 miles a week, why is my ass dumpy?" I hope I've answered your question.  Cardio is a supplement to a workout program, but it should not be the ONLY part of your workout program.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Beef - It's What's NOT For Dinnuh

I recently made 2 meals that were delish; neither meal included beef OR chicken.  The 1st was a pork recipe and the 2nd was a shrimp recipe (could sub scallops for the shrimp if you wanted).  These 2 recipes were taken from Giada de Laurentiis' "Everyday Italian," and the other was taken from Cooking Light magazine, respectively.  But I modified both of them somewhat, to my tastes, AND to make them a smidge healthier.  Happy eating!!

Pork Chops with Fennel and Caper Sauce - Serves 4 - off season and maybe the beginning of prep
1/4 c olive oil
4 boneless, skinless pork chops (should be at least 2 inches thick)
3/4t salt, plus more for seasoning
3/4t fresh ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
2 fennel bulbs with fronds, thinly sliced
2 large shallots, thinly sliced (not chopped!!)
1/3c chopped flat leaf parsley, plus 1/3 c for seasoning
1/2c dry white wine
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 lemon, zested
2 T capers, drained

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil over high heat.  Season chops w/salt and pepper.  Add pork to pan and brown on both sides for 4 mins/side.  Remove the pork from the pan and cover loosely w/foil.   Set aside.

Add fennel, shallots, and 1/3 c parsley to the pan and cook over medium heat until they start to brown - about 5 minutes.  Add wine and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomatoes and stir.  Add pork back into the pan, nestling the chops between the fennel and tomatoes.  Cook for approximately 12-15 minutes until the fennel is tender and the chops are done.

Place the pork on a serving dish.  To finish the sauce, add the lemon zest, 1/3 c parsley, capers, and salt/pepper.  Stir to combine and serve over pork.

Lemon Pepper Shrimp Scampi - Serves 4 - off season
1 c uncooked whole wheat orzo
2 T chopped fresh parsley
1/2 t salt
7 t unsalted butter, divided (I used Smart Balance Light here to save some cals/fat.  I also used less than 7t)
1 1/2 lb peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp
2 t minced garlic (I used 3-4 cloves)
2 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t black pepper

Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Drain.  Place orzo in medium bowl.  Stir in parsley and 1/4 t salt; cover and keep warm.

While orzo cooks, melt 1 T butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4t salt.  Add half of the shrimp to the pan; saute 2 mins or until almost done.  Transfer shrimp to a plate.  Melt 1 t butter in the pan and add the remaining shrimp; saute 2 mins or until almost done.  Transfer to plate (essentially, you work in 2 batches here).

Melt the remaining 1 T butter in the pan.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Stir in shrimp, lemon juice, and pepper; cook 1 minute or until shrimp are done. 

* I served the orzo with my char-grilled asparagus.  I could see this recipe being good w/peas in it, or even fresh spinach.  You could also sub out scallops for shrimp.  I topped each serving with fresh goat cheese and let it sit and melt on top of the hot rice.  2 of my girlfriends sprinkled on fat free feta and also enjoyed it, so either cheese is good on top :)

Finished pork chops


leftover orzo for lunch

Monday, April 4, 2011

Purse Chicken

Before I stepped foot on stage with my strippah heels, I was a frequent traveler.  My job took me to different cities across the continental United States  (in case you're wondering, the worst city in America is Shreveport, LA).  I've been to almost all 50 states; so has my purse chicken.  It's not glamorous, by any means, to whip out a plastic baggie full of room temp tilapia and green beans and eat it on an airplane next to others..........but you gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to getting ready for the stage.  Airports can be tough when it comes to finding healthy eats, so I found that brining my own food was always the best defense against the grease and fat-laden airport options.  Don't get me wrong: I'd do naughty things to Cinnabon from time to time, but that type of food will kill you if you have physique goals.  Now that I'm in an off season and not needing to worry about every bite of food affecting my physique, I've discovered a way to travel sanely without having to eat purse chicken around poor, unsuspecting travelers. 

First, I'd just like to say, that it IS possible to eat clean on the road, whether you are a "normal" person or a figure competitor.  I have a lot of friends who try to use the travel excuse as a reason for why they can't adhere to their diets.  I call bullshit, and I'll call them on it every single time.  The methods that I'll discuss throughout this post can be applied to BOTH competitors and regular people, so after you read this, there should be no reason that you can't eat healthy while visiting your in laws next weekend.  Now holidays and special trips to tropical or exotic locations are an exception to the rule: it is my personal opinion that when taking these types of trips, you should indulge a bit and not worry about what you're eating; you can't get fat in a day (trust me, I've tried).  When you're around family/friends who aren't in the competitive world, just go with the flow.  When I go home for Christmas I go to the grocery store and get things like greek yogurt, salad, soups, rice cakes, ground turkey, pre-cooked chicken, tuna; I eat that in whatever portions I choose during the day (the food scale stays in NC while I'm in Boston), and then eat one of my mom's home-cooked meals with my family at night.  My mom cooks healthy, but it is technically "off plan"; I don't care.  If it means I can be normal with them and not get weird looks, then I'm all for it.  And when the day comes that Jim makes an honest woman out of me and we go on our honeymoon, you better believe I'm going to be eating and drinking.  There are some things that are way more important than worrying about every calorie that goes into your face - and to me that's family.  Choose your battles, folks.  Remember - we're trying to be NORMAL here.  And don't feel guilty for indulging.  If you're clean most of the time and you bust your ass in the gym, you earn a little free noshing from time to time.  It's life!!

Rule #1: Preparation
This is perhaps the #1 rule for both travel and regular, everyday life when it comes to eating healthy.  You have to be prepared: the fridge/pantry need to be stocked with healthy options (not shit!) so that you can grab and go.  And, another personal belief: if 1 person in the house is dieting, so must all of its members.  I am so tired of husbands and kids sabatoging their wives' attempts at losing weight and staying healthy.  Support your family members, please.  If you want ice cream, go out and get a damn ice cream cone instead of keeping 8 gallons in the house.  That's an accident waiting to happen: women cannot stay away from sweets, period.  So just do us a favor and get them out of the damn house!  My house is full of fruits, veggies, whole wheat grains, nuts, healthy soups, lots of things that used to have a face (meat!!), and fat free dairy options.  I have no cookies, no cake, no ice cream, no juices, no NOTHING that could potentially sabatoge my efforts at staying lean. In an off season on the weekends, I throw a mixture of carbs, proteins, and fats into my bag and go.  No need to weigh or measure - I just eat a protein and either a carb or a fat and a veggie at each meal and call it a day.  And as long as I have something healthy within reach, I won't get fat. 

The 2nd part of the preparation equation is food prep.  This is perhaps the most difficult part for EVERYONE: spending a few hours in the kitchen 1-2 times a week can be a daunting process, especially when kids are added into the equation.  I don't have kids, so I can't at all even begin to imagine what that's like.  But what I do have are a full time job and other personal training obligations that keep me away from my house from 830am until 10pm on most nights.  So when I get home, I have about 2 hours before I go to bed, and in those 2 hrs I have to try to prep food, pay bills, do laundry, clean the house, take care of the dog, and make sure the place hasn't burned down while I was gone.  I also have to work on client diets and workout programs.  So, no, I don't have a whiny kid pulling on my shirt, but I do have limited time.  So here's what I usually do: I split up my food prep into 2  separate nights: 1 is for meats, 1 is for veggies/grains.  Monday is my meat night, and I cook my turkey, chicken, tuna/fish, etc.  Thurs is my veggie night, and I prep all of my asparagus, green beans, polenta, sweet potatoes, pasta, rice, etc.  When I'm in an off season and cooking dinner every night, this becomes less of an issue.  In an off season I'll usually just have a veggie night so that I can add veggies to my daytime snacks with ease. 

So, how does this all play into travel?  At the bottom, you'll see pics of what my suitcase looks like when I go out of town while prepping.  That's right - baggies and tupperware full of my food.  Is it glamorous?  No.  Is it necessary: yes!  About 2 nights before my trip I'd start by washing all my tupperware and rationing out my meats.  1 night before I add my veggies/starches and separate the tupperware/baggies into days and label each item so that I know what's what when I'm fishing through my suitcase.  I never check bags, which I highly recommend when you're traveling with food, otherwise you'll end up with a huge mess.  AND your food will always be available to you.  All in all, it would take about 3 hrs of total time to portion, pack, and secure all of my food.  Lots of time, lots of preparation, but it ensured 100% compliance.  I never missed a meal, and I never had to deviated.  Ever. 

In an off season, and for normal people, just pack essentials that will make it through security: rice cakes, nuts, protein bars, some fruit, maybe a bit of protein powder or some pre-cooked chicken to hold you over until you land.  Most airports have places where you can buy raw nuts and fruit, so you might not even need to pack those.  And Starbucks is like a healthy oasis for me.  They have oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, fruit/cheese platters, veggie/hummus platters, etc.  Between Starbucks and packing a few healthy snacks, you can make it through the airport without compromising your waistline. 

Rule #2: The grocery store is your friend
Another option is finding a grocery store when you land.  I used to do this ALL THE TIME.  I'd just pack my meats and sweet potatoes, and then I'd find a grocery store and buy microwaveable veggies and brown rice, lettuce, and fruit. You can even find pre-cooked chicken or grab some deli turkey or tuna pouches for quick protein sources.  If you're staying with friends, prepping healthy food at their house shouldn't be a big deal at all.  If you're staying in a hotel, call ahead and see if they have microwaves and mini fridges that they'll bring up to your room.  They usually charge for it, but it's worth it.  I used to always stay in hotels that had mini-suites in them, and some of them even come with full kitchens, so I could cook all my food there.  It was such a stress-reliever.  I would just pack my food scale and some empty tupperware and then buy EVERYTHING when I got to a grocery store.  Easy as pie. 

Rule #3: Realize that you're going to have to suck it up
This is a big one for me.  Stop the excuses, stop the whining, stop the BS, and just DO it.  I will never, ever, ever tell you that eating/prepping like this is easy or cute.  It's hard work, it requires commitment and dedication on your part, and it also requires you to sacrifice both your time and some junk food.  But here's the thing: at the end of the day, if you really do want to improve your physique and eat healthier, you'll make necessary adjustments.  If it's not worth it to you to prepare, then that honestly means you're not 100% dedicated to your physique goals.  You might think you are, but you're not.  People ask me all the time why I compete, and why I choose to deprive myself of ice cream every day.  It's just that: a choice.  I actively decided that I wanted to do this for myself, and my goals outweigh my love for ice cream.  Ice cream will ALWAYS be there: competitions, my youth, and my bangin' metabolism won't.  So, for now, I choose to do this, and because I'm focused and dedicated, I'm able to pass a plate full of cookies without even being tempted to grab one.  Would 1 bite hurt?  Nah.  But what is that going to solve?  It's not going to satisfy any craving or fill me up, so why bother?  Make the choice, stick to it, don't BS, and you'll be successful.  And stop making excuses, already!

Ya like tupperware??

2 days of clothes AND food in the carry-on