I gave up smoking in November and my weight soared to almost the heaviest I've ever been; granted some people might make snide comments about the fact that I'm still 'tiny' etc, but for me, I am big. Everyone knows their own body better than anyone else, and for me, this is too heavy. My thighs rub together when I walk, I have stomach flab & love handles that hang over the top of my trousers, and none of my clothes fit. The most annoying part of it is, I was eating a much lower calorie diet than I ever had and still gained weight. I say this because people have suggested that maybe I was eating without realising, to curb my nicotine cravings. Definitely not the case at all. I was keeping a food diary and using an electronic cigarette for the cravings.
I started buying bigger clothes to 'tide me over' but that is just a temporary measure that ended up lasting for far too long. Maybe my age, my metabolism crashing (nicotine is a stimulant, much like caffeine - it helps you to burn fat) and eating a terrible diet all my life has finally caught up with me. I mourned for a while and carried on as usual, but have finally got my head in the right place. I've been incredibly lucky all my life (please don't think I'm boasting - it's just the truth) because I've eaten a disgusting fatty diet, drunk LOADS of alcohol, done no exercise and generally been a lazy, eat-everything-in-sight kinda person. And it never really showed. I was very lean, had fairly good muscle tone and had no real issues. I can't complain too much, because I've got away with this lifestyle for a very long time; my body is only just saying 'fuck off, I'm not dealing with this shit anymore!', after 28 years of it.
The point I'm getting at is, having a goal (weight loss, achieving a nicer body) is really going to help my motivation in the gym, which in turn will help my agonising joint problems. But it needs to be consistent, like with all things related to your body. I need to make this a lifestyle choice and not just a diet/occasional gym session to help with my pain. Like most people, I got to a stage last year where my pain had eased quite considerably. So instead of maintaining what I was doing, I started slacking off and ended up hurting again. What a fucking idiot, right? Yep, I hold my hands up to that one and admit that I am a TOTAL FUCKING MORON. It's human nature; most people can relate to reaching their goal weight, whether it's through Slimming World/Weightwatchers or alone. And as a reward, you treat yourself to a crap meal. Great, if it's just one. But once you've got out of the 'diet' mindset you so staunchly followed, it's so easy to think "I'm thin now, I can treat myself", which often escalates without you realising it. This is the same situation with training for a medical problem, like I have been doing. "My back feels a lot better & I want to go shoe shopping. I'll skip the gym and go tomorrow". You guessed it, tomorrow becomes next week and before you know it, you're going once a fortnight & starting to regress.
The key to getting back on track is to not beat yourself up about the setbacks. Everyone does it; you've eaten shit food all day/not been to the gym all week and decide you'll carry on the same way for the rest of the week and start again on Monday. Why do we do this?? What's so special about Monday? The answer is 'nothing'! It's just a way of procrastinating and being a lazy bastard. And I am the biggest lazy bastard around! Sometimes your mind is your worst enemy, you end up talking yourself out of doing the right thing and believing the ridiculous excuses you're making!
Enjoying what you do/eat really helps, but it takes time to find out what suits you. For example, I really hate pressing day at the gym. I find it so boring that I would rather stay at home. To combat this, Terry incorporates my shoulder workouts into my leg day to stop me getting the hump ;) another thing I find helpful for getting my upper body workout in without being miserable about it, is to occasionally go to strongman event training with the boys at the weekend. As much as I hate pressing, trying to press a log or a dumbbell is so much more fun. Why? Because it's fucking cool! Strongmen do it, and it looks great in pictures or videos! Sounds stupid, but it really is good fun going to the gym with a bunch of large men & trying to do what they're going (albeit with baby weights). I have found I can push myself much harder without even realising it.
Since Terry has started getting Olympic coaching, he has thrown a few different exercises into my gym sessions to see how I fare. Being hypermobile is actually a positive thing for weightlifters, so it made sense for me to try a few different movements. It turns out that because of my bendy elbows, I can front squat with the proper technique; generally people will cross their arms across their chest to hold the bar in place due to flexibility/muscle mass issues when front squatting; you can get better at it with training & practice, but because I have such 'over-the-top' flexibility in my elbows (and no muscle mass!!), I could do it straight away. The first time being hypermobile has ever been useful! I've worked up to a 40kg front squat really comfortably, but I find after about 4 sets, my wrists really hurt so I switch to back squats again. Both ways hurt my wrists (this is normal - it's an unusual movement for a regular person, but your body will get used to it with regular training) but in different places. So I'm finding it to be a really useful thing for leg day; my legs want to do more, but my wrists can't stand it - so mixing front & back squats really fixes the problem for me.
I realise I've waffled on for quite a while now, so I'll summarise my typical leg/pressing day in case anyone else will find it it useful/interesting:
Front and/or back squats: warm up with the bar (20kg reg bar/25kg on monolift) 1 set of 5 reps
Increase weight each time for 4 sets of 5 reps (you will know what weights work for you)
2 reps of heavy weight for 2 sets
Medicine ball - squat, fast up into a press 10 reps, 3 sets
Dumbbell press - 5 reps on each arm, separately (10 total, obv) for 3 sets. Heavy enough to be challenging, not too heavy to make you cheat to get the reps.
GHR (glute ham raise) - 10 reps, 3 sets. I have Terry standing close enough so I can grab him if I get stuck at the bottom - it's good for the brain knowing you have someone to rescue you if you fail; which you don't tend to do knowing someone's there for you :)
Leg extensions - 3 sets of 8 reps on a fairly heavy weight (so that it's difficult, not impossible)
Stretching & foam roller. Essential!
There are a lot of factors that can change how much you do at the gym. For example, I did today's session on an empty stomach (other than a Maxi Force energy/carb drink), in 31C heat (that's 88F for any Americans reading) and my stomach feeling a bit dodgy (hence no breakfast). If it was cooler & I'd eaten a good breakfast, I would've pushed it more. But I still managed to get PB's on everything I did. That's the beauty of lifting weights; you can probably get a PB every session! An extra rep, extra weight on the bar etc. So every session you can come away feeling you've achieved something. Even a 2kg increase in weight is still an improvement on last time. Terry told me I had squatted really well today and of course, me being the negative person that I am, came back with "well it's not like I lifted anything impressive". He explained that I comfortably (back) squatted my bodyweight for 2 sets of 2 reps on an empty stomach, in hot weather and after complaining that my back was really hurting this morning. Having someone there to put things into perspective like that is really important for someone negative like myself! I always think about what other people can do & feel like I'm useless in comparison. And as Terry often says: you're not a powerlifter, bodybuilder, strongwoman, or even a normal person. You're a person who has avoided exercise your whole life and you have a chronic soft tissue & joint disorder that makes most things harder.
And that's when I realise I spend too much time around competitive athletes and realise my attitude is completely skewed! My aim is not to be the strongest, it's to keep out of a wheelchair for as long as possible! I need to remind myself of this! But when your husband and close friends are incredibly strong & winning records/competitions for being strong, you get a warped view on the world. Maybe I would benefit from training with someone normal once in a while, just to keep things in perspective! ;)
Finally, the training side of things is going great. I'm motivated to get stronger to help my painful joints/muscles & am going to the gym regularly - I just need to do the same in the kitchen to get double progress! I had a really good week of eating (chicken, eggs, brown rice, salad, broccoli etc) and lost weight almost immediately but I've slipped back a bit. The key to success is preparation! I go to work empty handed, I end up eating junk. But I guess if you want results, you need to be more strict and spend the time making your own food. I hope I'll get it right soon, going to Worlds Strongest Man where most of the wives & girlfriends are fitness/bikini/figure competitors is slightly daunting when you look like a cake eating competitor yourself ;) if I manage to get in better shape by then, I'll be brave and post my before and after pictures. And hopefully others will see that they're not the only ones struggling to fight the flab :)
The thank you section
As always, I couldn't do any of this without the selfless acts of others.
Terry Hollands - my husband, my best friend, my personal trainer, my chef, my biggest supporter (figuratively and literally)! As I often say, without him I'd still be bedridden, stoned on painkillers and would be out of a job. He regularly gives up his time even though he's in training for WSM, just to help me get better. <3
Jay Hughes - taking time out of his busy schedule, dieting & training to work me hard in the gym when Terry isn't about. Giving me diet tips, using 'tough love' & not bullshitting me, measuring my body fat & being a supportive friend! All of this while feeling like shit and cranky because he's in the last 6 weeks of his bodybuilding prep. My bestest homey :)
Emmy Louise/Bulks Power & Strength Gym - letting me train at her gym, being supportive, giving advice, providing amazing equipment in a clean & fun environment, and generally just being a great friend! An inspiration for all women that lift, a tiny 5ft powerhouse with abs of steel!
Clayton Nicholson - mainly for dancing with me (and Manbear haha), making me laugh & driving me home when I'm drunk ;) but also the invaluable advice & support given at the gym. A man that would drop everything just to help out a friend in need.
MyProtein - for sending me some bits to try out! Protein cookie, an amazing quick fix when I was too knackered to make something after the gym; tastes great too, unlike some other brands that have that gritty, chalky taste & dryness blurghhh. Preworkout drink (Pulse V4) that perked me up after a long shift at work & also had a great taste, BCAA's used for during training which also had a great flavour and 100% natural peanut butter that I gave to Terry as I can't eat nuts, but he assured me that it was great mixed into his protein shakes & also on granary bread. Tastes like normal peanut butter, but without the shit that's bad for you added in.
Sorry for the long winded blog, it's been a while and I've had a lot to say - but I hope it hasn't been too boring & if anyone has any questions or success stories about any of the topics, feel free to get in touch :)
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Instagram: Lauren Hollands/lorenzomingus
Smell ya later....! :)
P.S. look at this cool gym top that my friend Daniel Yeates got me! Haha so apt!