Why you shouldn’t measure success by the scales

Do you attribute success at work purely based on how frequently you receive a pay raise? 

I very much doubt it.

And why don’t you? 

Well, for many reasons… There are a lot of factors that contribute to a pay raise, many of which are beyond your direct control. For example – How well is the economy doing? How financially secure is the industry you are employed in? How is pay structured at your organization? Of course, your performance at work contributes to a pay raise, but it contributes not dictates. Let’s pretend that these four factors are the only criteria in determining your pay raise, you are only in direct control of 25% – a quarter of them. So if you don’t receive a pay raise weekly (and if you do, let me know – I want your job!) how do you go through your career feeling successful? In many ways: solving problems; helping people; educating; learning something new; generating income; collaborating…. The list is endless. Sure, some days might be ‘unsuccessful’ but we don’t define our successes purely on the number of dollars on our paycheck, and rightly so. 

With that in mind, in health and fitness, why do we measure all our success on what the scales say? Like a paycheck, it gives us a definitive number and something we can both measure and compare, but we seem fixated that the scale is the only measure of success. I too am guilty of this. Until recently, if the scale showed me a value higher than the previous week, I would be devastated. So devastated that I would cancel plans and it would completely wreck my confidence, a mindset that is neither helpful nor healthy. 

Firstly, scale weight is forever fluctuating and is influenced by so many factors.  Secondly, there is SO much more to health and fitness than the scale. Are you feeling better? Do you have more energy? Is your skin clearer and more radiant? Are you stronger? Are you more flexible? Are you sleeping better? Has your body changed shape? Do your clothes fit better? Are people commenting that you seem happier?  Are you eating more?

If you are able to answer ‘yes’ to any of these questions but the number on the scale isn’t what you desire to see, does this make you unsuccessful? Of course not. Just like success at work, success in health and fitness is not defined by purely one outcome. 

In the picture below, I weigh 6lbs more on the right. In which picture do I look better? In which picture am I stronger? In which picture am I eating 1000kcal extra per day? And most importantly, in which picture am I happier? The picture on the right.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x


Advertisements

Training in the UK and USA; The Difference of Home and Heart

In 2009, I signed up for Cardiff half marathon (more was coerced into it when I had had a few vodkas!) and I loved the feeling of seeing my body change, as well as becoming visibly fitter. I loved doing the half marathon and completed 2 more in Cardiff subsequently. In 2011, my boyfriend of the time persuaded me to join this new low cost gym. I gave him my debit card details and told him to sign me up, as I am guilty of ‘bookmarking’ such things and then never following through! We signed up for a Friday evening class, with a very enthusiastic but friendly trainer and we loved it! I became a bit of a class attending-aholic, and loved the atmosphere and the friendliness of the personal trainers and the post workout endorphins.

After several months, I decided to approach the personal trainer I had met on my first day for private training sessions. When he first took me into the weights room, I thought he was nuts and I refused to go in there unless personally escorted! I can’t pretend I enjoyed my first few experiences of using real weights as opposed to lurid coloured dumbbells that look like cat toys. I didn’t like the feeling that I was stepping into testosterone territory and the looks that I received from men about being there. I also am a neat freak and seeing weights littering the floor was incredibly off putting.

Seeing my body change and becoming noticeably stronger was empowering and eventually I plucked up the courage to follow a training plan that involved me entering the weights room 4 – 5 times a week. I still felt uncomfortable within the weights room as manners and gym etiquette were often non-existent. Being an average height female, I felt incredibly little and lacked confidence to ask people how many sets they had left, so would often spend many minutes waiting for various pieces of equipment. Despite this, I became friendly with some of the other personal trainers in the gym – I think they enjoyed interacting with a ‘girl who lifts’ – and they would always help me out in getting squat racks!

By the time I left the UK (July, 2015), the proportion of women lifting weights in the gym was significantly higher than when I started. It was so much more comforting to see more females in the weights room and I made some great friendships with these girls too!

My first time walking into the weights room at the gym in Florida I am a member of, I was instantly both inspired and intimidated. For a gym that is not overly large, it was pretty busy, exceptionally tidy and the ratio of personal trainers to gym-goers was high! All around me were people working out of all ages, with both men and women lifting weights and working out hard. There is a 55-year-old woman in my gym that can do 3 sets of 6 reps weighted dips; a 70-year-old man who can do 5 pull ups and a 10-year-old child who can do 10 banded pull ups.

After about two weeks of working out there, personal trainers began to approach me – not with the ulterior motive of trying to persuade me to pay for their services – but because they were interested in who I was. With it being a relatively small gym, it was evident that having a sense of community was important to them and I soon realised that this was important to the other members too. The emphasis on fitness where I live is incredibly high. It is not only the norm to work-out, it is expected. Whenever I go into the gym, I see the same people day in, day out. Over the year, I have developed some lovely friendships with personal trainers and gym goers alike. People think nothing of coming over to me whilst I am exercising to chat about their day; correct my form or spot me. They shout at me for encouragement, ask me to demonstrate certain exercises, give me a kick up the backside when I need it and generally bring a smile to my face.

I recently visited the UK for a couple of weeks and trained in my old gym. I think of it as ‘home’ and it will always bring back such lovely memories as that was the place that I fell in love with lifting weights. But, similarly to moving away from home, I was incredibly excited to get back to my Floridian gym. Whilst perceptions of women lifting weights has undeniably changed in the UK; training in Florida is about so much more than that. It has been my safe place, my source of inspiration, friendship and has a massive place in my heart.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Bodybuilding: Beyond the aesthetics 

If you would have told me ten years ago that I would be living and breathing a bodybuilding lifestyle, I would have completely and utterly thought you were joking. I remember the first time I had a protein shake about 5 years ago, I sipped it so carefully in fear that gulping too fast would result in me looking like Popeye’s counterpart. Fast forward to now and I not only consume whey isolate daily, but also use BCAAs; creatine monohydrate; l-glutamine and Karbolyn as well as a variety of vitamin tablets. And do I look like Popeye? No… I am far too tanned. 

I have talked previously about how I got into fitness, but how I got into bodybuilding is a wholly more personal journey. Whilst I prepped for my photoshoot, I also emigrated to Tampa, Florida from Cardiff, Wales. It was not a decision I made lightly, but with all my immediate family having emigrated several years previously, I felt I was at a point in my life where I either forever remain in the UK or make the move across the pond. I had visited Tampa numerous times before and although I was prepared for the transition to be difficult, I hadn’t quite appreciated how difficult I would find the move. Going from one country to another – adapting to a new culture; new language nuances; different driving experiences; different climate etc. was a whole lot more intimidating than I ever imagined. I have never liked standing out and never liked feeling different, I have always wanted to be part of the crowd. As you can imagine, living in the States completely left me out of my comfort zone – having an ‘accent’ makes you stand out immediately, whether you like it or not. My job and my relationship with my boyfriend was also far from what I had imagined. Having ‘prep’ gave me a focus. It gave me a goal. It gave me a reason to get out of bed and feel successful. I gave that prep my everything, ignoring criticism from far and wide. When I did my photoshoot, it felt so surreal but it also felt extremely satisfying. I had succeeded and most importantly I had proved to myself my discipline, focus, drive and passion. How can you not love something that gives you those feelings and that gratification? 

Yes, bodybuilding is about looking good, but for the people who liken it to vanity and narcissism, they couldn’t be further from the truth. In a world today where many people seem to feel entitled, a bodybuilder’s body cannot be given. It is earned and is a testament to many, many hours of preparation; dedication; resilience; discipline and passion.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x 

A Fruit Loop in a world of Cheerios – How to add value without any talent

Most things that we do on a daily basis are monotonous and routine. Routine brings comfort and security, everyone copes better with routine. But monotony? This brings boredom and a sense of self dissatisfaction, making us blend in to everyone else around us. We become run of the mill Cheerios, (without the cheer)! Why be a Cheerio when you can add value through a few simple conscious decisions? Come on, be a Fruit Loop.

1. Be polite. Manners go a very long way; people are sporadic and inconsistent with when they deploy a ‘please’ or a ‘thank you’. Consistently being polite gets remembered and makes people a lot more likely to help you or be receptive of what you have to say.

2. Be on time. Sort of linked to manners, but showing up late is never a good thing. It creates the impression that you don’t attribute much value to that person’s time and/or suggests you are incredibly disorganized. You don’t want to be that person who gets told to meet at a wholly different time to everyone else as you have a reputation for tardiness.

3. Be enthusiastic. Don’t mistake this for ‘gushing’ as this can be perceived as fake. Instead; smile, listen and acknowledge what is being said to you and reiterate what you have heard in your response. That way you are demonstrating that you have been an active, rather than a passive listener.

4. Demonstrate tenacious work ethic. Let your actions do the talking. If there is an aspect of something you don’t like doing then either don’t do it, or get so good at it that you won’t have to do it in the future. In the process you may learn to love it. 

5. Have a good attitude. Attitude is everything and is something I need to work at. I am guilty of approaching some things thinking I can’t do it and then get really disheartened when I can’t do it. Is it any wonder? Your body will do whatever your mind tells it. If your mind isn’t in the game, then neither is your body.

6. Be willing to learn. Don’t make yourself seem superior. No one is too good to learn something new and there is nothing more off-putting than someone who has an over inflated ego. Be open to learn from anyone and everyone, you have no idea what you may learn or who you may meet along the process.

7. Be passionate. My Mum and I were talking about passion yesterday, and in fact, it was this attribute that made me write this blog post. It doesn’t matter what your passion is, but being passionate about something makes you exude enthusiasm, positivity and knowledge. All these things make you desirable to spend time with. When I lost my passion for teaching, I became incredibly self-conscious and aware that I wasn’t much fun to be around. Someone who is passionate personifies being ‘alive’.

8. Going above and beyond. Seeking out ways of going beyond the bare minimum really will set you apart. Whether this be taking on new responsibilities at work; cooking a surprise meal for a friend; sending an ‘I love you’ message just because or doing an extra set when you could have easily left the gym. All of these are just a few examples of going above and beyond.

Although all of these traits require zero talent, they do require 100% conscious commitment. I constantly strive to achieve these in all aspects of my life as I feel it makes me both a much kinder and a much more successful person. Some of these come more easily to me than others. I am great at being on time, being polite and going above and beyond. I am less good at some of the others, but I sure don’t want to be a plain Cheerio and will continue striving to be the fruitiest loop of all.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

10 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Workouts

  1. Know your triggers for what makes you feel like you have had a successful workout. For me, if I am not sweating at the end of my workout, I don’t feel like it has been intense enough. Once you know how you rate your success, you can work with it. For example, rarely am I dripping with sweat after I have trained shoulders, so I incorporate a little circuit at the end of my workout to elevate my heart rate and induce some sweat!
  2. Fuel yourself. Ensure you are sufficiently fuelled for your workout. It is your time to make the most of the calories you have eaten and put them to use. Don’t starve yourself before exercising, but equally don’t gorge either. A balanced meal of protein and carbohydrates 2 – 3 hours before is my perfect pre-workout fuel.
  3. Activate your glutes. Whatever you are training, activate your glutes. Most of us spend a large proportion of our day sitting down on our glutes – they can get lazy! Bodyweight exercises with a resistance band are perfect to start off your workout and activate your glutes. My favourite glute activation exercises are; fire hydrants, glute bridges, curtsy lunges and abductor movement on a bench using the band. You can find plenty more online!
  4. Make yourself a playlist. Ensure that your music is what you are wanting to listen to so you are not spending your rest periods searching for a motivating track. This will help keep your rest periods short and focused.
  5. Change up your workouts! Don’t do the same thing all the time; my workout plans change monthly. This keeps me from being bored and also ensures I am progressing by having a wide array of exercises.
  6. Utilize a variety of training methods. I personally am better at endurance type training as opposed to anything with power and speed. Sets with lots of reps work with my style and I feel more in my comfort zone with these, but I also do train with heavier weights for fewer reps too. This enables me to develop strength and
  7. Leave your ego at the door. Gyms are a great place for meeting people with a wealth of knowledge. If someone approaches you to suggest improvements to your form or offer suggestions, take it as a compliment. They wouldn’t bother if they didn’t think you were worth their time.
  8. Watch other people. Now I don’t mean outright ogle at people exercising, but take note of what you like about what other people are doing in the gym and how they look. Personally, I am always in awe of peoples’ hamstrings and calves and often watch what they do to exercise these muscle groups. Utilize other peoples’ expertise to your advantage!
  9. Be at the gym because you want to be. We all get days that we aren’t motivated, but if you are heading to the gym to relieve guilt or to compensate something you ate, you are there for the wrong reasons. You will not be focused on your workout if you are concentrating on your guilt.
  10. Enjoy it. This sort of leads on from the last point, but it is the most important one of all. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, change it. Exercise is for life, create habits that you enjoy!

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Food is fuel; home or away

Food is going nowhere. Simple. It is this realisation that has completely transformed my attitude to eating. I have decided to consume food that FUELS me; FUELS my ambition and FUELS my day-to-day life. I love the odd bit of chocolate, and have learned to only consume what my macros allow, and ONLY what my macros allow. I know that when I wake up the next day, I can still eat more of that chocolate. And the next day. And the next day. By only eating what fits my macros, I never wake up feeling guilty, nor go to the gym to “burn off” a meal. I go to the gym because I love it and because I want to improve.

Do I have to eat egg whites almost every day? Absolutely not. But do I want to? Yes. Do I want to eat catered food? Absolutely not. But in some cases do I have to? Sadly, yes. Being in the world of business, I have to travel. Business trips are not renowned for their freedom, either time wise or nutrition wise, with lots of events being mass catered. I have now been on two business trips and managed to stick predominantly to nutrient dense foods which fuel me, not guilt me. In order to do so, you have to plan. Below was what I packed for one of my trips; containers of veggies, salmon/tuna sachets, oats, green teas, protein bars and sachets of nut butters. I also took with me my supplements, all weighed out. 20160709_221420

On my most recent trip, I worked 15 hour days on my feet with no handbags allowed. So I bought a fanny pack and packed in some protein bars, nuts, whey, nut butter and salmon/tuna sachets. I used my stash as emergency snacks but also as an accompaniment to supplement the available food. I kept oats in my hotel room and soaked them to create overnight oats.

A perk of travelling on business trips can also be the food. I have also eaten some delicious mass catered food and carefully selected my options: 20160712_113437

Living a bodybuilding lifestyle IS possible whilst travelling, but you have to plan. I have not been able to stick to my macros completely, but I have managed to fuel my body. I eat a very high carbohydrate, low fat diet 4 times a week and so had to forego some carbohydrates while away. I was insistent to eat as cleanly as possible, because as well as fuelling my workouts, my days were gruelling, and would I have been so cheerful and efficient if I was succumbing to the never-ending pizza and deep fried twinkies? Absolutely not. Whatever the day holds, food is fuel. Food is not something to be consumed and later feel guilty about or need to “burn off”. What I have embarked on is a lifestyle and I don’t see why business trips and healthy eating can’t coincide.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Spanish style smoked paprika, chicken and butterbean stew

With summer in full fledge, what better way to celebrate than with a siesta and a fiesta of flavour? This warming stew can easily feed the whole family or provide lunches/dinners for the week too. I paired mine with sweet potato topped with cinnamon and smoked paprika as a post workout meal, but would also work well with rice or chopped, panfried chorizo for a lower carb, higher fat alternative.

stew

Serves 4

Nutritional Information per portion; 302kcal, 32g protein, 32.7g carbs, 3g fat

Ingredients

  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp fresh, chopped rosemary
  • 2 large zucchinis/courgettes, sliced
  • 5 large handfuls of kale
  • 1 can of butterbeans, drained
  • 16oz chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 can of Trader Joes fire roasted chopped tomatoes (other brands are fine, but I would suggest adding a tsp of chopped chilli/lazy chilli if using plain chopped tomatoes)
  • 1/2 can of water (use the tomato can)

Method

  1. In a large non-stick pan, add the onion, garlic, half of the paprika and rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes, over a medium heat, until the onion is soft. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is sealed.
  2. Add the other tbsp of paprika and ensure the chicken is fully coated. Add the zucchini and kale and cook for approximately 10 minutes, or until the courgettes/zucchini has softened and the kale has wilted.
  3. Add in the butterbeans, tomatoes and water and simmer the stew until it has ‘knitted together’ and the sauce is nice and thick.
  4. Serve immediately and enjoy your Spanish taste of summer!