Thursday, 29 December 2011

2011 is coming to an end and I am reflecting on the year and my fitness journey which only began in 2009. After waiting eight weeks for my drug test results (I was randomly selected for doping control in Serbia) and some administration time, my IFBB Pro card finally arrived in the post this morning.

I thought I would feel excited and of course I am excited but with that excitement was a little bit of fear. No turning back now. I have booked my flights, I have the application for my first pro show in my hand. Looking in the mirror, I don't look the best I've ever looked, being just after Christmas. You find yourself asking the question 'Can I really do this?'

I remember being backstage in Athens waiting to perform at a Latin Festival, dancing for a Salsa group called Diablo at the same event as Marc Anthony and thinking  'What am I doing here??'.  The dance group were twice European Team Salsa Champions, all proper dancers. I thought to myself  'I am not a trained dancer, why can't I stay at home and watch TV like everyone else, why do I put myself through this?'  Anyway we did the show, I was scared to death, but we did it. Credit to the great dancers and great choreographer (Laith Sami).  Now when getting on stage for a contest, I look back and I take some of that feeling and think 'Yes you know what? I can do this.'

Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back in life but what is the worst that can happen? There is no reality without perceived reality. By doing one thing you open the door to the next and you can always take something from it. Even if it is to understand what is for you and what is not for you. So many talented people do not realise their potential, I don't know whether it is due to lack of resources or lack of dedication but someone once told me 'you don't have to be the best dancer in the world, success is 10% talent and 90% dedication.' I said I don't want to do this dance (ballroom Latin) if I can't be the best and that is what she said to me. Looking back now I did give up that dance out fear, I started dancing at 18 and I saw these young kids dancing better than me and I was scared I could never be good. One of my biggest regrets in life to date. But on the plus side I found Lambada and I learnt to dance a beautiful dance and met so many people in different countries. All you need is the will and the belief.... but also the flexibility of mind to be able to roll with the waves.

2012 ~ Do the things you are most scared of.

Friday, 2 December 2011

How important is weight training and diet?

I am asked this question a lot so I thought it would be something I should write about…

In the beginning, training for me was primarily a way to keep in shape as a dancer (my main problem was fat around the middle and the dreaded love handles).  I didn't really know how to eat well, I just thought to myself ‘Okay, I'm 25 years old (this was a few years ago) and things aren't as good as they used to be so I better get down the gym, get on the cross trainer and do a few leg machines’ Sound familiar?  I then thought ‘Okay, cut down on the chocolate bars and wine’ and yes I lost a bit of body fat.  I have always been a UK size 8 so I never can proclaim to be slimmer of the year or anything so if I weigh the same, wear the same clothes as before what's the big deal?   Why do I now train 5-6 days a week? I now train mainly for aesthetics as I compete but in the process I am much fitter and healthier too.

The way I see it is, if I'm going to train for weight loss or for fitness, I might as well do exercises that make me look better in the process not just become a slimmer version of myself.  By this I mean, for example, I use cardio equipment that engage the glutes and shape the legs, not just long distance running or the cross trainer for general fat loss.  I weight train to specifically target weak areas and don't do exercises that will give me a shape I am not happy with such as big traps or a thick waist.  Weight training is a great way to lose body fat also.

I did not understand diet before I started studying to be a PT and researching training methods for contest, which was a problem because I just imagined you could eat what you liked providing the calories were worked off.  Someone actually posted something interesting on my wall about diet basically indicating that they also believed a person could eat what they chose to as long as they burn it off i.e. the calories in calories out theory… a bit like the weight watcher points system…   For me this is not right.  Eating a good diet is not just about being slim and getting away with it, it is not about cheating myself so I can eat a ‘Big Mac’ a day and still be within my calories for the day.  Would that make me healthy?  Will I have the energy to train consistently week in week out and not get ill? Will I look very nice? I think you know the answer.
Before training with weights, my only form of exercise was dance (cardio) and I used to eat a diet which was basically a ‘free for all’, I would eat whatever I wanted and never even thought about it.  I would incorporate curries, chocolate, cakes, sweets, fried foods, wine etc and whilst I didn’t really eat a great deal, I did have three meals a day and probably I burnt off pretty much what I was eating through dancing but the point is this, I still had body fat around the middle but was a size eight.

This for me clearly indicates the type of training you do and the macro nutrient breakdown of a diet does matter.  Eating regular small meals made up of the right balance of carbs, protein and fats for your body type and energy output can enable you to have the right amount of energy to workout, be healthy, kick the metabolism into gear and be healthy all at the same time. I am still a size 8 in clothes but my body fat is around 8-10% lower than it was before I started my new way of training and eating and I weigh roughly the same, maybe a few pounds less and I do not have love handles.
I believe that eating a low GI diet is important for managing belly fat.  Carbohydrates with a lower glycocemic index break down at a slower rate during digestion and release glucose at a slower rate into the bloodstream therefore having less impact on insulin levels in the body. Abdominal obesity has been linked to high blood insulin levels.  In short, if someone were eat high GI meals, the pancreas would rapidly release insulin in an attempt to regulate and lower blood sugar levels.  Insulin acts to convert blood sugar to a type of fat called triglycerides, studies have linked triglycerides to increased fat stores around the abdomen.  Also, a  crash in blood sugar levels, which usually happens after the body has released too much insulin after the consumption of a high GI meal, can also cause sugar cravings.  This is why it is import to eat regularly to avoid craving sweet things…   This being said I do enjoy a cheat meal once or twice a week, I believe if you eat well most of the time then the odd cheat will not have an adverse effect on the body, in fact it has been said that the occasional insulin spike can be good for the metabolism.
Training and diet go hand in hand, you cannot really do one without the other, the foods you eat will fuel your workouts and help shape your body.  If you train but do not eat the right foods, your body will not drop body fat, build lean tissue and you may cause injuries through being overweight and placing uneven strain on the body.
A good weight training programme that is designed with short rest intervals and multi joint exercises is far better than cardio alone for fat loss and using a combination of weight training and cardio will help you become stronger, increase stamina and endurance and if you choose the right type of exercises you can actually shape your body in the process.   

So next time you are in the gym consider what is it you are actually doing and whether the exercises are going to help you achieve the look you want and next time you reach for your food, consider what it is you are eating and what you are doing to your body.