Menopause, Muscles And Middle Age

As a writer I often have multiple ideas bouncing through my head at any given time. I have random papers with ideas, thoughts, or titles scratched out on them. I do have a writing…uh “journal”.  Journal might be the wrong word… it’s like my writing BRAIN.

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Don’t judge me.  A writers brain can kinda look like this at any given time 😉

 

It has research notes, future blog ideas, and tons of random, misplaced words all over pages that no one would get but me.

Uh…hey… sometimes I don’t even remember what they’re either 😛

The bad thing is when I’m out on the road…bike or running… which can be some of my most creative thinking times… and an idea comes to me. I have nothing to write it on so it kinda becomes my mantra till I finish so I don’t forget it.

If I’m fortunate enough to have a title come first, that gets written down to be saved for the body to come and fill it out.

Todays topic has been a slow work in process. I’ve read and scratched out research notes and tried to compare the best sensible ideas and now… hopefully… put it into a readable format.

Todays topic is one that still mystifies me as to why, in this day and age, with the “anything goes” attitude, why it’s still so “hush hush”.

Oh the topic for today? Menopause.

menopause

**Gasp**    I know. I’m going there.

I am a pretty open straight forward person and am not put off by much. To me, it’s simply one more natural part of life.

Well, for women that is. Yet even in todays “whatever goes” world this is still treated in hushed silence with an overarching attitude that says this topic should only be quietly discussed behind closed doors… and certainly not around… men.

Guys, you can bow out now if you want. Or read. I’m pretty sure you have some woman in your life that will experience this.  Maybe you’ll glean something useful.

How did I get started on this topic ? It’s certainly something I personally haven’t given much thought too. I mean, I know at some point it will happen. I’m just to busy living life to think much about it.

However, I’ve had a few women reach out to me asking for help/ideas… how did I deal with it etc. etc.

I’d also see posts or hear conversations with women who were quite a bit younger than me complaining of “the change” and complaining of symptoms ( peri menopause, the years preceeding menopause.)

The thing is I had nothing to offer.  I haven’t gone through it and I seemingly haven’t struggled with horrible symptoms leading up TO the big event.

Based on some things I’d read, and things my doctor had said, I was curious if my lifestyle had an impact on this.

Did a healthy diet, an appropriate weight, and regular vigorous exercise contribute to not dealing with so many of these issues that bothered women?

Obviously, I was curious and began to read and explore this thought. Perhaps, if there was truth to this, women weren’t helpless victims to symptoms but would actually have some measure of possible control over them.

Ok but first.

There’s a lot out there on this topic. I’ve tried to wade through hocus pocus stuff, weird fixes, overall “off beat” ideas, and just bring something simple and easy to digest for the average woman reading.

This is about managing symptoms women deal with, not stopping or preventing menopause.

As stated earlier, this is a natural part of life. It’s largely genetic as to when it occurs in every woman. Other factors can come into play as well as to when it occurs.  The median range in the U.S. for women to experience menopause is 51.  Although there is also an age range of 48-55.  A woman is considered menopausal when she has gone a full 12 months with no periods.

It turns out doing research, and weighing that against my own experiences, that there are things we can do to help with those annoying and sometimes, difficult symptoms.

First, a quick biology lesson.  Menopause is when a woman’s body stops producing female hormones, estrogen and progesterone and monthly cycles cease.

Peri menopause refers to the years leading up to menopause. It is during this time that women can have symptoms or problems associated with declining hormones.

When you have low estrogen ( because it’s not adequately produced) it can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes, rare periods, anxiety, bone loss, insulin resistance, and elevation of bad cholesterol.  Moodiness, low sex drive, changes in skin and hair are also other things that are reported.

Women also complain of weight gain and a slowing metabolism but that can possibly be connected to a lifestyle of inactivity.

So are there ways to keep our super power longer? Estrogen IS our super power. Are there ways to help our bodies produce it longer? Ways to supplement it naturally?

There are definitely things that a woman can be proactive in doing that can possibly help her during this time. It just requires some adjustments to her lifestyle and choices she makes.

What have I learned ?

Exercise IS important!

in fact I believe hugely important. Aside from the obvious benefits of helping maintain weight or losing it there are a plethora of other things to consider.

Exercise helps reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can help with moods and aches and pains, all common complaints of post menopausal women.

Exercise also contributes to good blood flow through the body. Regular exercise keeps blood flowing and the immune system normal. Proper body function through exercise increases the bodies hormone production naturally.   Estrogen production levels are kept normal for longer than usual.

This is important as imbalanced hormones are behind most symptoms.

Physically active women experience less stress, anxiety, and depression during this time.

Due to a decrease in estrogen women can also lose muscle mass, which can also mean a loss of strength.

Post menopausal women are also at an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

This is believed to be due to the loss of estradiol during perimenopause and at the onset of menopause. Estradiol may have antioxidant properties, and the loss of this can be why oxidative stress levels rise in postmenopausal women and can ultimately lead to cardiovascular disease.

Women who are more active experience a decrease in oxidative stress due to increase in enzymatic antioxidant levels. While this might be true, it is still important to remember that problems with heart health could also be tied to the stress that many women experience around menopause due to lack of sleep, lack of understanding, and a lack of a solid support system. Regardless, training for a healthy heart is so important.

The recommended amount of cardio exercise each week is at least 150 minutes.

Action plan:

If you don’t currently exercise consider what you might enjoy doing and begin to pursue it. If anything, start getting out for daily vigorous walks. And I don’t mean walking like you’re with grandma on a Sunday afternoon. Move quickly. Move your arms. You should really be putting some effort into it.

Add some type of strength training/weight bearing exercise to strengthen and build bones and prevent muscle loss. Women post menopause can expect to lose 2-3% of bone density in a year and physically inactive people can expect to lose 3-5% of their muscle mass after 30.  A healthy diet and exercise can help the slowing of bone mineral density. Running, walking, jumping rope, lifting weights etc are all good examples to strengthen bones and muscles.

older woman muscles

Engage a friend to get on board with you for accountability and encouragement.

Strive for 5-6 days a week of at least 30 minutes. This would easily meet the recommended 150 minutes.  Ideally, in time, you will want to increase your activity level.

Maintain a healthy weight.

All of us have a weight range that is healthy for us. Know what yours is. Being overweight or obese can not only lead to irregular ovulation but it also greatly contributes to hot flashes, the main complaint for many women.

And of course the obvious. Being over weight can lead to a host of health problems you’d rather not deal with.

Action plan:

take a critical look at how you eat and what you eat. Be aware of what your portions are. Most people greatly over estimate portion sizes of food. Aim for healthy foods as the maintain stay of your diet. Don’t be overly restrictive or it could lead to binging.

It might be helpful to record every single thing you eat for a week to see what your daily nutrition looks like. Be honest. This isn’t to beat yourself up over, rather to have as an honest tool to help you.   Use that as a guide to make improvements.

A weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week is reasonable and sustainable. Just approach it in a slow and steady manner. It’s not a track and field event to knock weight off fast.

A before picture will give you a good visual months down the road to compare your efforts to as well as taking your measurements.

Don’t smoke or drink.

ok well in general it’s just my thought that you shouldn’t do these things.  I view neither as a positive or healthy thing for the body.

However, we’re all different.

If you do drink be aware that alcohol can be a major trigger for hot flashes and can increase symptoms as the body is less tolerant to it.  Not only that, alcohol is often high in sugar and calorie content contributing to weight gain.

Smoking. Not only is it horrible for your heart and lungs and contributes to aging, consider these other things:

Women who smoke have signifigantly higher levels of infertility, difficult cycles, and early menopause.

Smoking can also increase natural menopause by 1-2 years regardless of genetics or race.

Heavy or habitual smokers may hit menopause before they are 50.

Smokers may also have more hot flashes as they transition.

Action Plan:

Smoking and drinking can not only cause adverse health effects, but it can also wreak havoc on you during peri and menopause years. Consider reducing or limiting your intake of both, or quitting all together.

Nutrition:

I could camp for awhile on this topic and just tell you how important I think it is.  Not only to your health overall but in these years of transition for your body.

A good daily “diet” not only makes you feel better, it helps with how you look, helps you to lose or maintain weight, and can help with symptoms of peri menopause.

Do you know there are foods called photo estrogens? Photo estrogen foods can stimulate natural hormone production.

Phytoestrogens are created by plants. They are not the same estrogen created by humans. Rather they are a form of xenoestrogens, which means even though they are different, they do have the ability to imitate some effects of human estrogen when in our body.

During peri-menopause some doctors recommend an increase in photo estrogen foods to counteract hormonal imbalances women begin to experience.

Antioxidant foods prevent  premature aging . Since menopause is a sign of overall aging consuming antioxidant foods can delay menopause too.

Eating a diet rich in antioxidants and photo estrogens can contribute to overall better health and help stimulate natural hormone production.

Some foods to consider are:

Soy, celery, parsley, beets, apples, mushrooms, brussel sprouts,  seaweed, squash, olives, pears, plums, tomatoes, barley, wheat germ,  yams, and  black eyed peas.

Soy can also help with the reduction of bone loss during peri menopause.

Vitamin D (sunlight exposure) mimics properties of estrogen. Also, make sure you get plenty of calcium as well to help your bones 🙂

Antioxidant foods to consider are:

Red, purple and blue grapes, blueberries, red berries, nuts, dark green veggies, sweet potatoes and orange vegetables, tea, whole grains and fish.

Adequate protein is also extremely important to build and repair muscles. Make sure each meal contains at least 30% to combat hunger, prevent blood sugar spikes, and contribute to muscle growth.

Eating a healthy diet,  and eating minimal junk/sugar/high fat/sugar drinks/fast foods can go a long way to helping you feel and look good and contribute to your overall health.

Finally, it is important that you have open communication with your doctor to discuss issues or difficulties you may be having.  Some women with severe symptoms will do HRT ( Hormone Replacement Therapy) there has been much said about this in recent years so do your homework and decide if you can ride through some things or if it’s something critical to your living well that you do HRT.

Be proactive :

Lose weight. Make exercise a daily part of your life. Reduce or quit smoking. Reduce or quit drinking alcohol. Make an effort to eat healthy, nutritionally balanced foods, incorporating plenty of antioxidants and photo estrogen foods in what you eat.

In summary…  menopause is a part of life.  Women need to be prepared and not just wait for symptoms to occur. Taking care of yourself now will have long term benefits, before and after menopause, allowing you to live strong and healthy in the last third of your life.

 

 

 

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Motivation And Muscles

The question came at me again. I get a lot of questions but this one comes up often….

“How do I get abs?”

Realistically we ALL have them.  The strong muscle structure that supports our back and inner organs come as standard equipment on all human bodies.

I know what the well intending person means.

How do I get defined abs? ones that show and pop ?

This really depends on your goal, what you’re wanting to achieve. For many people on their weigh loss journey, just losing fat off of their belly is all they want. Less around the waist, nothing rolling over the top making that awkward “muffin top”. Less around the middle is better for your health even if you don’t care if you ever see a defined ab muscle.

Excess fat around the belly can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.

Aesthetics aside… losing it off your middle is in your best health interest.

But… what if you do care and want to see those clear cut and chiseled ab muscles ? or  muscles of any kind?

You ready ?

It takes work, dropping enough body fat and having a wicked eye towards your nutrition.

Muscles are simply not visible with to much fat.

There’s this little saying that ab’s are made in the kitchen and it’s true. What and how you eat definitely comes into play in the muscle game, especially with your abs.

And what you eat is crucial to dropping fat while striving to maintain muscle mass.

But in the process of losing weight it’s important that you are building muscle.

If you diet down without building a solid foundation of strength and dense muscle tissue you’ll end up “skinny fat” ( it means you are under lean, your body has less muscle than fat) , weak and unhealthy.

What does that mean for someone wanting to have muscles that show up ? It means even if you are packing some extra weight, you are working on building muscle. It means you have a good strength training plan to build muscle mass while you work at cutting fat… so when you’ve slowly and steadily dropped that… you will have a muscle base to show up.

No matter how thin you get, if you haven’t built the core muscles in your abs you won’t have the results you are wanting. In fact if you haven’t built muscle anywhere, it won’t be there when you drop the fat.

I have been my own sort of experiment these past few years. I see magazine pictures of people like “before/after” but I don’t know them. I don’t really even know how they got to where they are today. But I do know myself and understand what it’s taken to get me where I am and the fact it’s taken time to achieve it, and I know it will take more time and discipline to further myself.

 

Jan '10 tummy
Fall 2010

 

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Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014

 

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After a long ride earlier this year

 

 

You have to understand, I am a fairly ordinary woman who has done this on her own with no coaches, trainers or anyone else. I work hard, read a lot, use things I think are helpful for me, reject what I don’t think is helpful and I’ve continued to move forward a little at a time.

Do I want to be stronger ? Yes. Do I know I can have better muscles and definition? Yes. Do I understand because of where I am now it will take more disciplined work and time?

Of course I do. I’m ok with that since I know it’s a process.

The same goes for you. You won’t have visible results without a strong foundation. You will need significant muscle mass before you see abs and  work before you see other muscles.

But hey, remember in the process, you are getting stronger for living your life and that is a total bonus 🙂

What about you? Do you seek a strong, muscled or what people refer to as a “toned” look? Is that a goal? Or are you happy just being strong enough to cart the groceries in with less trips to the car ? 😉

 

 

That Whole Age Thing Again

live your life

If you’ve followed me awhile you know I’m big on wanting people to be empowered. I also believe when you start challenging yourself and pushing into new things it empowers and strengthens you, builds a new confidence in you.

I also don’t find age to be an excuse to not tackle new things, to try new adventures, or to improve and strengthen  your body.

I will admit… I have a hard time controlling my face when I hear things that make me twitch.

For instance… when people start talking about how getting old means things fall apart and you have aches and pains and health issues….ok.. but this…dang it… that PRINT does seem to be getting smaller haha…

Anyway, I really try not to let my face get… that look…. on it. The “Oh, pleassssseee” look.

In a world that is more and more sedentary and people view purposeful movement as some kind of fresh hell and don’t want to be made uncomfortable, we are seeing a bigger more wide spread issue of obesity and health issues, you can add those aging aches and pains to that too.

Exercise, done right, can be uncomfortable. It’s easy to come up with excuses or reasons not to… we don’t want to get out of our comfort zone.

Listen up… I’ve preached on this before…our bodies need movement for health and wellness.

Even if you don’t care if you ever see a defined muscle on your body or you want to look like you came off a fitness magazine… your body needs exercise for good health.

People as they age get aches, pains and can’t do things because their bodies haven’t had to do a lot of intentional physical activity…..basically … you use it or lose it. If you don’t do things to build and strengthen muscles, how will you be able to do harder tasks as you age ? Not even the hard ones, but those that should be easy be feel hard.

Yeah, I get it. When you start off you DO feel old and tired haha. Seriously, though, what really happens is you realize you’re out of shape and it’s frustrating. You don’t like the winded, feeling tired, achy, feeling that goes along with it. You wonder if it’s worth it.

But if you’re smart… you keep at it… small little steps at a time…day by day… until those activities don’t leave you feeling like the old lady on the life alert commercials who needs assistance getting up.

Is it really easier? or has your body beautifully adapted to the demands being put on it and….gasp… gotten a little stronger ?

Empowered with your growing strength and abilities, you push on for a little more.

Purposefully working and strengthening your body is, and should be, a life long process.

I’ll share with you a story I saw on the news today. Stories on running, fitness etc (obviously) always catch my attention.

So when the story was announced about a weight lifting grandma, well yeah I wanted to see it. I honestly thought it was going to be about a woman that I follow who is 73 and in better physical shape than woman half or less of her age. She looks incredible. She credits her looks to… surprise…good nutrition, a positive attitude, and staying physically active(she is a body builder)

However, today wasn’t about her. It was about a 78 year old woman who, well, honestly did look like the picture perfect “grandmother”.

Silver hair, glasses, average build, she was in basic knit capris and a t shirt…. deadlifting 225 lbs.! I don’t even deadlift that much yet! Yet there she was slinging it up and down like nothing. The cool thing? Her husband said it was just something “she picked up and started doing recently, and it really surprised him” haha I bet it did!

That means, no matter where you are in life, you can get out there and get started and begin to improve and help yourself right where you are.

Listen I know and understand lots of people have  (health issues or problems) to deal with.  Learn to modify activities to meet your needs and work within that area. My husband had major back surgery years ago and deals with pain that can come and go. My dad had knee replacement and has aches that come with that. Just learn to work where you are and do what you can do.

Don’t let “age” be a crutch to keep you from having and building a stronger body. A strong body lets you be active and energetic for living your life fully =)

new goal

Muscles Are For Girls

weight

I’m a wee bit competitive.  Ok, well depending on who you ask, perhaps I’m a lot competitive.

That’s not a bad thing, right? I’m a fierce competitor against myself and when my sons were younger and we had those side yard football brawls my middle son and I could either make a fierce team, or we were angling to take each other out as opponents 😉

That being said, when I’m around guys and they start talking about muscles and flexing their arms, I need to stop flexing mine 😛

I mean, why can’t I do show and tell along with them ?  ** note to self: don’t flex when you have more muscles… and you’re a girl….**

Seriously though… muscles are for girls.

In the beginning of my fitness journey, that never really crossed my mind. In the beginning it was all about losing that fat.

I guess I never pondered much the idea that there were muscles hiding out under the fat. Or that once it started to go away, I’d see those muscles that had been growing and changing.

But then one day I realized I could see definition in my arms, legs and other parts of my body. It’s taken time.

I often have women ask me what do I do or how can they get arms like mine? It’s usually said in a teasing way but they are serious.

I simply tell them I practice lifting heavy things.

I am kinda surprised how many women still worry that if they lift some weights they will be transformed into some kind of bulging hulk.

Listen, you won’t spend enough time lifting, and lifting heavy, or consuming the large amounts of food needed to get to that point.

You can get shaped, lean looking, and that illusive “toned” word that gets thrown around.

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Funny, but kinda true….

I was telling someone the other day when the whole arm convo was going on… go get weights that you can curl about 6-8 times before you can’t curl them again. Those are heavy enough for you to start with.

Forget those dinky little 2 lb pink weights… I’m not even sure why they were made. And even 5 lbs…forget it. Your grocery bags you carry in weigh more than that. The idea is to work and tax your muscles forcing them to grow and change.

Find your starting point and work from there. In the picture below is how I’ve progressed along the way…. and looking back… if I knew what I know now… those 5 lbs wouldn’t be there. Missing in the lineup are my 8 lb weights as a part of the group.

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Slow, steady progress over time….

 

 

These are my free weights I work with…35 being the one I primarily use. It’s hard for me, don’t get me wrong. It’s work. And that’s ok. The 15lb ones I use when I’m doing high reps. ( for the record I’m just showing one of each… they all have mates 😉

Now when I work with the bar I lift a lot heavier for things like squats, deadlifts, overhead presses and moves like that. I also have a bench that I do chest and leg work on.

I do strength training a couple times a week.. nothing crazy. Of course my other athletic activities have definitely contributed to muscle building. Running and cycling have really built my legs.

Alright, but other than muscles shaping our bodies, what about practical ways we use them ?

That strength you build is essential to the tasks you take on every day. Lifting, carrying, moving, pushing, whatever it is, you need to be strong for those tasks.  The practice of lifting heavy things prepares you for your daily life.

During Christmas, I had to carry my nearly 40 lb grandson blocks to the Christmas parade we were going to because we had to park a distance away from parade. I was easily able to carry him. Why? that weight was something I was accustomed to handling… I had practiced it enough that it was easy for me.

Ok besides the daily practical part… having strong “toned” ( and muscle is what gives you that look)  arms is high on the list for many women.

How to go about it? First, understand it takes time. You can see in photos below how my arms have progressed… but it’s within a span of several years…

 

 

April '10 arms
Aww…. baby arms.

 

 

Aug '10 (2)
Losing fat, finally getting some definition.

 

 

Sept '11
Finally… can I compete with these things ? 😉

 

 

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Second photo taken from Runners World photo shoot 2012
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Yeah that’s my arm they used in the cover story for the 2012 Body Issue
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2014
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Dec 2014
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Sweat time… Oct 2015

 

 

 

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And working out a few days ago…no flex in this pic ;)… Feb 2016

 

OK…so you know it takes time. Go get yourself some weights, start slow, but make sure they are heavy enough to make you work hard.

Oxygen magazine online has some great exercises with helpful tips and proper form photos for doing various arm exercises.

** oh and on a side note. You can use all kinds of things at home as weights if you can’t/don’t want to buy any. Milk jugs filled with sand work great…fill to the limit of what you can “lift”.

Spend a few days a week consistently working your arms and you’ll never consider buying clothes to cover them up again 😉

Learning To Embrace Yourself

Last week while I was being busy droning around the house doing those varied and multiple tasks that need to be tended to, I heard a story come on one of those entertainment shows that happened to be on, ( let it be noted my tv “viewing” is more often listening while I’m doing something else haha)

Anyway, it was a story about Kate Gosselin, and how she had this incredible bikini body. You may or may not remember her claim to fame was being pregnant with eight babies at once, which then turned into a reality show for awhile. Honestly, I have no idea what she’s up to now…other than rocking it on a beach somewhere in her bikini.

So I did watch with some fascination and agreed, yes, she looked awesome. But then, hey, couldn’t every mom who’s given birth if they had a team of plastic surgeons nipping, tucking, shaping, lifting and “enhancing”?

Please, hear me out.

I’m not being snarky. I’m not bashing. I firmly believe that women need to build each other up and not tear down based on insecurities. I admire women and my goal is always to be encouraging and supportive.

I just don’t know that it’s a real honest assessment… like she’s busted her butt forever and got that  body… to hold that out to the average woman as something she can achieve.

I’m sure she works out… I mean… I don’t know for a fact… but it’s a strong probability.  I just don’t know it’s fair to hold that image out to women like “hey, after all those babies she can look like this and you should/can too!”

I mean, that’s Hollywood and unrealistic expectations for the rest of the world, right ?

We don’t have 24 hour personal trainers.

We can’t afford plastic surgery even if we might want to.

We don’t have personal chefs or nutritionists that plan and cook our meals.

We don’t have time to devote half our day to our bodies.

We work, have kids to chase down, homes we have to take care of and all that goes with it,  projects to do, meals to cook, etc. etc.

And somewhere, in the midst of all that, we try and carve out a little time to take care of ourselves ( hopefully you do)

And I hope, you have a positive, loving attitude about that body of yours. It makes me sad when women ( and maybe guys do this too) are critical and harsh with themselves.

Supposed “flaws” are singled out. Comparisons made to other peoples bodies. Self-defeating talk. Magazines with airbrushed seemingly “flawless” bodies that can leave us feeling inadequate.

Why are we so critical with ourselves? And why do we often miss how self-defeating that is.

No. Most of us will never be shaped, enhanced, or lifted to fix our “flaws”.

But hey listen up, there’s nothing wrong with you and it’s ok to embrace yourself as you are.

Working to lose weight? Be kind and patient with yourself as you move through the process of becoming a stronger, healthier, more fit you.

Maybe you’re at the weight you want to be but you’ve been working on that “thing” ( seriously will that loose skin EVER tighten up ??)

Perhaps you look in the mirror and hate your ( fill in the blank).

Stop it.

Learn to embrace you and love yourself. Understand some things will never change.. be ok with that. Know that many things CAN change… you need to determine if you want to work for it to make it happen.

My body has changed dramatically from my mid20’s when I was having babies, to my 30-40’s, to now.

Physically, I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been. I’m stronger, pack more muscle, and can do more athletically than when I was younger. I love that.

I’ve also carried to term, three beautiful sons.  My body miraculously housed and then delivered big, strong, healthy boys. No matter what exercise I do, I will still have marks from carrying them and skin that isn’t perfectly tight.

My turning point was a few years ago when I just decided to own every aspect of myself, and that meant not worrying so much about my perceived “flaws” and focusing overall on having a strong, healthy and fit body.

I did rock a bikini at the beach. I was more confident and proud of those muscles in my tummy that I had built than skin that wasn’t entirely “perfect”…. but even now I’d have to say…by whose standards would that be determined… “perfect”?

I simply learned to embrace myself… no excuses or pardon needed for anything.

There is a tremendous amount of freedom when you do that, learn to embrace yourself, and be truly comfy in your own skin.

Now I’m not saying you should dive into a bikini if you’re not comfortable with that… be you…  always be who you are…. but don’t hide behind something because you think you have to.

Don’t make apologies for yourself. Don’t look at yourself as flawed.

Embrace the beauty of who you uniquely are…. and hey…. we might not look as reshaped as Kate… but if you wanna rock that bikini…. go for it 😉

 

 

 

Body Recomposition

Ohhhh she’s using big words today haha 😉

In yesterdays post I mentioned seeing my doctor and that it was one of my two weigh-ins that I typically do in a year.

The cool thing ? It really only ever bounces around a couple pounds in either direction… especially depending on where I am in my training.  I am less concerned today about those numbers than I’ve been in  my life. Mainly ’cause I’ve learned there’s way more going on in my body besides what those numbers spit up.

Oh, at one point I was like any other woman when I was needing to lose. I consulted the scale for proof of my efforts for the week. If I’m honest ( and I know you do this too) you do everything the exact way… for me… early morning.. no clothes…hold my breathe… pray for good numbers… like you’re a prize in Vegas or something…..

As I lost weight and eventually got to a place I was comfortable with I became less concerned , not careless, I had just developed a plan that worked for me to keep me in the place I liked. If my small clothes continued to fit comfortably I knew I was where I needed to be.  My exercise was strong, steady, and a sustainable habit so that helped keep me there too.

Those beginning years of my health and fitness journey I was focused on weight loss, learning better nutrition and getting my exercise where it needed to be.

** Ok, and hang with me here. I am my own guinea pig, I have no other person to use as an illustration, although I wanna hear from you guys if you have something to say on this or where you are in process. **

In time though, something interesting began to happen. As my body fat dropped, muscles began to be more obvious that had been hiding under it.

My body started to take on a different shape…leaner… more cut and defined. It wouldn’t be till many years later that I’d learn about something called  “body recomposition”.

Basically, it means the way the body is composed. So… recomposition is a restructuring of the body and what’s in it.

In physical fitness it usually means the amount of fat mass and lean muscle mass. Fat mass is literally, all fat in your body. Lean muscle mass means all the other stuff 😉 after long periods of ( nutrition, exercise and  fat loss) you can “recompose” your body ending up with more lean muscle mass than fat. I think it’s a pretty good trade off for hard work, right ?

You WANT more muscle than fat. First of all,  for your health, it looks nicer, and finally it metabolically burns about 6 calories per pound at rest, compared to the 2 calories a pound of fat burns.

It can dramatically change your appearance…  and it can also sneak up on you. At least, it’s how it felt to me. None of that was on my mind when I began my journey.

When I hear women say they want to get “toned”, they really mean, they want some muscle because the muscle is what gives shape and that taut look. This happens when body fat drops and muscles that are being built become visible.

It’s a process of intentionally eating well and lifting heavy things, building muscle, and losing body fat that leads to these changes.

.You are essentially, trading fat for more muscle. ** Please note: you can’t turn fat into muscle or muscle into fat. They are complete separate things. **

It’s a slow process that can take years. I think it’s really important when I talk to (women) but it’s the same for men too, I didn’t build this overnight, no one does.  I consider it still an ongoing work in progress.

The danger today is that people want fast, instant gratification on things like weight loss and body change but the reality is, it takes time! I’ve been at it for 7 years now. Remember, in the beginning, I was out to just lose weight. When my body started looking so different from what I was doing, it became an interesting science project to press on with 😉

It’s also interesting to note that in the past couple years, my weight has stayed pretty much within a couple pounds in either direction, yet amazing changes still were taking place. Muscle made me look leaner even though the numbers didn’t drop. I’m no longer really assessed with a BMI but more on body fat percentage. In December I had gotten to about 13%.

Now you….tell me where you are on your own fitness journeys. Have you had body changes after years of persistence? Has it been worth the effort ? What have you learned ?

And finally, I’ll add some photos from the past few years so you can see the changes……

April '10 arms
Dec 2010… one of my first pics to do… I thought I was rocking some serious arms 😉
Jan '10 tummy
Jan 2010….I’m really pretty happy with myself at this point. I’ve been on my journey for 3 years. You can tell my tummy has a little definition but still more than enough body fat… hiding my deeper ab muscles.
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Fall of 2011.. leaner… but abs still have a ways to go….
Jan '11
Here come those arms… Jan 2011….way less fat allowing muscle cuts to show
Sept '11
Sept 2011…. a bigger change….
evolving arms 2010/2013
evolving arms 2010/2013
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My other professional pic taken for Runners World… this one didn’t get used…this is Sept 2012… the belly has leaned out… some definition showing up
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Dec 2014… the front =)
Dec 2014
Dec 2014 back looking pretty defined
Dec 2014
Dec 2014… abs… =)
Leg pic
Dec 2014…. strong legs…lots of muscle

Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014
Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014