TWIR #86: Ugh. Not Again.

On the heels of posting about taking a break from cardio and diving more deeply into strength training, I went and injured myself. I could blame the kettlebell cleans, but it’s more accurate to blame myself for not paying attention to form. My type of injury can be aggravated in a split second, and aggravate it I have. Ugh. Have I mentioned before that I’m tired of this nagging injury? Oh, I have? Well, I’m going to do it again anyways. All that to say, there may be some light spinning in my future after all. Blech.

Activity: planned rest day + walking
Relevant Stats: 13 km walked + one giant piece of cake + 1/2 a bottle of wine + 1 (bunless) burger
Observations: We did a ton of walking. We walked to the farmer’s market, where we bought the best potatoes I have ever tasted in my entire life. We then walked 10 blocks in the opposite direction of our house, only to turn around and walk home. And then we went out to do more walking in the afternoon. If you think I’m trying to justify my excessive carb and sugar binge, you are right. Though I know nothing justifies it, I have to try for my own emotional well-being.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: neverending rain
Observations: Oh my god, the rain. never. stopped. It was a torrential downpour from start to finish and I lost any will whatsoever to even drive to the gym. After lounging around all morning, we at least successfully left the house for a few hours, which is much more than I thought I was going to accomplish while I was in the midst of rain-induced despair and lethargy earlier in the morning.

Activity: spin + running intervals
Relevant Stats: 20 min. spin + 10 min. running intervals
Observations: This was my cardio workout that broke the camel’s back. After 20 minutes on the spin bike, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to run but found that equally awful. I gave up after a half hour, convinced that me and cardio are destined to never be friends again.

Activity:  personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min.
Observations: I should know better than to go into my training sessions thinking they won’t be that bad.  Not only did I have to push the prowler, but I had to tow the prowler too. And then she made me chest press push the prowler. That was the point at which I started to pout and complain. I mean, how does she expect my arms to do anything after she makes me chest press push that damn prowler?

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: I had no intentions for this to be such a short workout, but the kettlebell cleans did me in. I swear to you that my body fell apart just at the moment I was thinking how much I have learned to love strength training and how I was excited to diversify my strength workouts. Obviously, my giddiness distracted me enough to lose my form. I guess that’s what I get for being excited about exercise. My SI issues have tended to bounce back pretty quickly these days so I was optimistic the flair up wouldn’t last long. Sadly, that was not the case this time around. There’s nothing quite like having to sleep with pillows propped under your legs to take the stress off your SI. Sigh.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: as much walking as I could fit into a work day
Observations: I consider it growth when I make wise decisions like deferring a workout to let my SI stabilize a bit. I consider it even wiser when I actually make an appointment with my physiotherapist instead of just hoping that things improve on their own. I did both today. And although that means I’ll end up with a sad roster of workouts this week, it might also mean my SI starts feeling better sooner rather than later.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: I wasn’t sure if a workout was in the cards this morning. The old SI was feeling quite stiff this morning to say the least, but I am trying to use motion and exercise intelligently to help my recovery.  I decided to try the gym but to quit immediately if things got worse. The good news is that 30 minutes of light strength work with a focus on controlled, basic movements seemed to do no harm! Hurrah! Now I just have to survive the weekend without any further steps backward.

Speaking of the weekend, is anyone else thrilled that it’s Friday? I am! I’m especially excited because a) I’m going to see one of my favourite bands and b) I am getting a dulce de leche donut from my favourite bakery tomorrow. All week I have been daydreaming of this donut and I’ve decided that Saturdays are my days for indulgence. Bring on the wine! Bring on the donuts! Bring on the sugar-induced lethargy! That’s what weekends are for.

Happy Friday y’all.


Mid-Week Tangent: Cake-ploration Returns! (sooner than anticipated)

Well, my hiatus from cake-ploration turned out to be shorter than expected. I have to admit, diving back into devouring giant slabs of cake was not an altogether wise decision, especially when combining cake consumption with half a bottle of red wine, and most especially when all of this occurred on the tail end of 10 days without sugar or carbs.  I can only assume that going from one extreme (no carbs/no sugar/no fun) to another (all the wine and all the cake) might have impacted my fair assessment of this cake, but I am reviewing it nonetheless. As it turns out, this cake-ploration has developed into quite the little passion project of mine, and I simply cannot stay away from it, even when I know full  well that my body may rebel as a result.

Let’s talk about the cake, though. On Saturday, which I had already decided was going to be a cheat day, because honestly life without sugar and carbs is not a life I want to live seven days a week, I hemmed and hawed about what was worth cheating for. Ice cream? No. A donut? No. Straight chocolate? Nah. Nothing was sounding good to me. Then I thought about cake, more specifically, moist cake with layer upon layer of thick frosting. Yes, now that sounded more like it.

I was trying to think of where I could go to find a slice of cake that might be worthy of a cheat, and I had a revelatory moment in which a bakery I visited only once, and probably ten years ago, sprung to my memory as if out of nowhere: Sweet Obsessions. Suitably named for this project, I thought. The picture of their chocolate and bittersweet chocolate buttercream cake sealed the deal.  We were driving twenty minutes. For cake. Don’t let yourself consider the carbon footprint associated with my cake-ploration.

The sheer volume of frosting was so promising…

First and foremost, I must say kudos to all of the moist chocolate cakes I’ve had throughout this quest. I’ve never been one to care about the cake itself, but I have to say that if I’ve learned one thing from cake-ploration, it’s to appreciate the actual cake component. This cake was solid, as in tasty and dense without being heavy and moist without being soggy.

The frosting, as always, was the greatest disappointment. After ten days without sugar, I expected the sweetness to overwhelm me like the return of a long-lost friend. It did not. In fact, it barely registered on my sweetness scale. If i’m going to cheat with cake, I want it to smack me in the face with overpowering sugar-coma-inducing sweetness. I suspect it was either swiss meringue buttercream or italian buttercream and I cannot stress enough (even though I’ve already mentioned it many, many times) that these are not suitable forms of buttercream!!!  Where is my saccharine, classic american buttercream, damn it!

Once again, cake perfection eludes me. I’m particularly discouraged after this latest cake-ploration because I broke a perfectly good sugar-free streak for a cake that was, let’s face it, perfectly fine, but not at all my definition of a perfect cake. I still hang on to hope that one day I will find that perfect combination. For this week, though, I admit defeat.

Training Tuesdays: cardio and I might be on a break

If you read with any regularity, you know that my workouts used to be 95% cardio-based with just a sprinkle of strength training for good measure. I was a runner and hiker, first and foremost, and anything else was basically just a way to fill a gap in my workout schedule when neither running nor hiking was a possibility for that day. Oh, how the tides have turned.

These days, I am lucky if I fit in 3 mediocre cardio sessions per week, all of which have been relegated to the spin bike. I find myself talking about how I need to get my cardiovascular endurance back, how I see it as a sign of my overall fitness. I say it wistfully, recalling my former cardio glory while simultaneously wondering how I will ever get it back.  Admittedly, every time I’ve tried to get back into the cardio game, I’ve been left feeling discouraged, disappointed, and woefully unfit. This even though I’m lifting more, lifting heavier, and finding myself significantly stronger.  Still, despite these gains in other areas, I’ve always felt this underlying need to reassert myself as a cardio queen.

I’ve been wondering lately if all this longing for days of cardio past is wasted energy. Perhaps it’s time to focus instead of my continued gains in strength training. It’s what I most often feel like doing these days. It’s what makes my body feel best. It can also be one hell of a challenging workout.  I used to run so much because I felt it was the only way to stay fit. Well, when running causes your body to fall apart (only a slight exaggeration), you have to start to reconsider whether it’s worthwhile. When cardio, in general, makes you dread and curse every second of your workout, maybe it’s time to admit that it’s not what you need right now.

I’m wondering if it’s time for cardio and I to go on a little break, you know, like Ross-and-Rachel-from Friends style.*  I’m not sure how long it’ll last. Maybe we’ll get back together in the end. But for now, cardio just doesn’t feel right anymore. Sorry, cardio, I’m just not that into you right now.

*If there’s anyone out there who actually doesn’t know what I’m referring to, I couldn’t resist sharing this gem.

Monday Musings: on pumpkin

It’s Fall. It’s almost American Thanksgiving. On the internet, pumpkin recipes are aplenty, and in every store I go to, there seems to be a new variation on pumpkin or pumpkin spice that I am horrified to encounter. I hear a lot of people get very excited for PSL season, and return of pumpkin-flavoured everything.

And then there is me.

I have never had a pumpkin spice latte. I haven’t eaten a slice of pumpkin pie since I was old enough to finally muster the courage to just say no. It’s been two years since I bought a can of pumpkin to use in anything.  I’ve certainly never made my own pumpkin filling from a legit pumpkin.  In other words, I am clearly not the target demographic for pumpkin lovers’ products.

But I’m also not a pumpkin hater by any means, aside from pumpkin pie, which I loathe and which I wholeheartedly believe is an abomination of the pie community.  Other than pumpkin pie, though, I have no major beef with pumpkin. It’s…fine. I have no issue with pumpkin pie spices. In fact, bring on the clove! But in the season of pumpkin-flavoured-everything, there are precisely two ways in which I can consume pumpkin with enthusiasm:

1. a rich, dense pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust

2. the Starbucks pumpkin scone, which, to be fair, has nothing to do with the pumpkin scone itself and everything to do with the fact that it’s bathed in a thick layer of glaze. And glaze for breakfast is A-ok in my books.

Everything else, in my opinion, is superfluous pumpkin. I know that many out there will vehemently disagree, and that is fine, because this is just my view and I am not here to persuade. Eat your pumpkin pie and PSLs and pumpkin cheerios and pumpkin Oreos and pumpkin craft beer and pumpkin chips. They’re out there just for you and your unabashed love for all things pumpkin. I’ll just sit over here quietly and patiently waiting for pumpkin-spiced-everything season to end and peppermint bark season to begin.

TWIR #84: cold + keto = bad workouts (again)

It’s been another doozy of a week. Between this ketogenic eating and constantly feeling on the verge of cold or flu, I can’t say it’s been the best week for workouts. Fingers crossed I win the fight against whatever bug is hanging out in my system. I have to believe that at the very least the keto diet has kept me from moving into full-blown flu by keeping sugar out of my system. Did you know every teaspoon of sugar you consume supposedly suppresses your immune system for up to six hours? I don’t know if it’s actually true, but I do know that the last time I was sick, my symptoms worsened dramatically after eating a giant block of chocolate cake. You do the math. Enough about sugar, let’s get on to workouts.

Activity: planned rest day
Relevant Stats: lunch plans + date night + potluck dinner shopping
Observations: I barely survived Saturday morning. Between the haze of sugar-and-carb-free exhaustion and trying to decide on appliances for our new home, I was at my wit’s end.  Thankfully the afternoon and evening were better. Biggest accomplishment: no cheating on keto diet despite dinner out and my boyfriend buying a bottle of wine for his cheat day. Just to be clear, he didn’t drink the entire bottle in one day, although personally I have been known to do that.

Activity: unplanned rest day
Relevant Stats: Hamapalooza!!!!!!
Observations: I had the best of intentions of doing my usual weekend park workout, but I had absolutely no fuel in the tank to do it. I’m sure you all think I’m exaggerating, but I found it exhausting just to go on a 4 km walk on mostly flat ground.  Running was not going to happen. Also, in case you’re wondering what Hamapalooza is, it’s an entire potluck dinner party built around the roasting of a bone-in spiral ham. To some that will sound like a dream, to others a nightmare. All I can say is that my Fall calendar revolves around this dinner party and it did not disappoint. I cheated with one perogy (they were home-made! come on!), a roasted parsnip and three glasses of sangria. I do not regret any of it, particularly the sangria, because my friend makes the best sangria on the planet. Don’t even try to tell me you know someone who makes better sangria. It’s not possible.

Activity: sad outdoor strength workout
Relevant Stats: 30 min.
Observations: Once again, my morning energy was not high enough to even contemplate a legit workout. We went for a long walk and I was content to leave it at that…until the late afternoon when I felt overly guilty for taking three rest days. I decided to do my park workout in the afternoon. This plan had two major flaws: 1) my SI had inexplicably started aching again and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to run (I wasn’t–I made it about 20 steps before having to turn around) and 2) a hell storm of rain and wind descended on me the second I stepped outside. I had to settle for a sad outdoor workout, on the small portion of our back deck that is covered. All things considered, I did good for the lack of space and equipment, but it wasn’t a hard-core workout by any means. This is precisely why I knew it was no good that my muscles were super sore Monday night…

Activity: personal training session
Relevant Stats: 60 min./lower intensity
Observations: …and, of course, I woke up Tuesday with ultra sore muscles and an inkling of a sore throat and about five times more exhausted than from the keto diet alone. Damnit. My trainer took pity on me, probably because I looked on the verge of collapsing at any moment, and made our workout way easier than usual. I knew things were not good when even an easy workout felt impossible. I have no idea how I made it through the rest of Tuesday. I was in bed by 8 pm and knocked out eleven hours of sleep.

Activity: spin warmup + strength
Relevant Stats: 5 min spin + 25 min strength
Observations: After eleven hours of sleep you’d think I’d be raring to go. I was not. I contemplated staying home from work but aside from being monumentally tired and having a bit of a scratchy throat, it didn’t seem necessary. And of course, even after writing about not going to the gym when you’re sick, I did just that. At least I vigorously wiped down my equipment. The workout sucked beyond imagination. Even on the lamest of tensions, my legs would not spin those pedals. I gave up and opted for an equally lame strength workout which felt just as impossible as Tuesday’s training session even though it was ten times easier. Damn you, cold and flu season!

Activity: spin + core
Relevant Stats: 30 min. spin (light) + 5 min. core
Observations: In efforts to bolster my workouts, I broke my keto diet and had oatmeal for breakfast. Hallelujah! Although I still feel like I’m fighting something, my workout was better. I lasted a half hour on the bike, which felt like a massive victory, even though I was using about 1/2-3/4 of my usual tension. I suspect this had nothing to do with the oatmeal, though. I’d put my money on the placebo effect, especially since I ate the world’s smallest serving of oats and only ate them about 25 minutes before my workout.

Activity: strength training
Relevant Stats: 40 min.
Observations: I told myself today was going to be better. And it was. I mean, my head still feels a bit foggy from my cold and I definitely am still tiring more easily, but today felt better overall. I even upped my back squat weight by another ten pounds and forced myself to push the evil prowler with the usual weight! I think tripling down on my vitamin C and getting extra sleep have helped me continue to function this week.  Also, I had more oatmeal today. I am not entirely convinced that I’m eating enough carbs for it to make any difference whatsoever, but I’m doing it anyway. For the record, I am also still way too excited about oatmeal.

There we have it, another week down. I’m looking forward to a weekend of NO PLANS. My original goal for no sugar/no carb was two weeks so this weekend brings that to a close. I have no desire to dive head first into any carbs at this point, nor sugar really, so we’ll see if I cheat just for the sake of cheating, or whether I hold strong until I really, really, really want that dulce de leche donut.

Happy weekend, y’all.

Mid-Week Tangent: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of my (brief) experiment with Ketogenic Eating

I am no stranger to elimination diets.  Back in my 20s, I used to do cleanses 1-2 times per year, not the kind where you don’t eat at all and just drink strange lemon-water-Tabasco concoctions, but rather the kind where you eliminate sugars, refined foods, alcohol, coffee, dairy and anything else that we typically consider enjoyable foods.  I was vegan for a year and a half, largely in efforts to naturally promote adrenal balance. I’ve given up sugar and carbs for extended periods simply in efforts to curb a raging sweet tooth. I lay all of this out because I think it’s important context for what I’m about to say about my experiment with ketogenic eating, or at least because I feel the need to ensure that I don’t come off as a lazy whiner who can’t tolerate the smallest ounce of dietary deprivation.

Also important to note is that it’s been a week and a half since starting ketogenic eating, which is not at all long enough to see any major effects by all accounts of ketosis. That said, my own personal philosophy is that, beyond a week, one should generally start to see some benefits and feel some improvements after undertaking a significant shift to his or her diet. Enough with the prefaces, here’s my take:

The Good

–Less hunger: Okay, there were a few days when I felt constantly hungry but since Saturday I have felt more satisfied with less.

–You can eat a lot of fun things: Cheese! Bacon! Whole avocados! Drown your salad in olive-oil based vinaigrettes! You can do it all with keto living. Hell, you can even put butter in your coffee (though I never developed a taste for that). It’s a free for all in the high-fat department and, at times, that felt quite liberating.

–No sugar cravings: Part of the reason I picked keto vs. Whole 30 or paleo or other low-carb approaches is that I’d heard the sugar cravings weren’t as bad. They were not. From day one, I haven’t cared at all about sugar and still don’t. Not once have I been tempted by dessert. For me, this is an absolute miracle.

–It’s less restrictive than many of its low carb counterparts: I found it easier to eat in restaurants, in particular. The ability to eat some dairy products definitely helped with presenting more food options and, in general, it was relative easy to adjust normal recipes to a keto recipe. Of course, this depends on what your “normal” recipes are.

–My digestion improved: 10 days, zero bloating. That’s all I have to say.

The Bad

–It’s extra work to grocery shop and meal plan: Although I do believe it’s easier to adjust this plan to a regular lifestyle than some other low-carb diets, it still takes extra thought and care to read ingredients and meal plan. We meal plan every week anyway, so it wasn’t a far departure from our normal life, but if you don’t meal plan on the regular, this will be a pain in the ass.

–You really need to track your macros to do this right: I will straight up tell you I did not closely track my fats, proteins and carbs. Ain’t nobody got time for tracking. And don’t even get me started on testing ketones in blood or urine. I just wanted to cut back on sugar for a while. I don’t want to feel like I’m visiting a medical lab every day. Long and the short of it, without tracking you can’t be guaranteed you’re in ketosis and that’s just too much work for the likes of me.

The Ugly

–The energy lull is real, y’all: Seriously, like I said, I’ve done elimination diets at least a dozen times in my life. Normally, my energy dips for a few days but nothing like this. I have been an energy-less sack of sadness for the entire 10 days and it feels like there’s no end in sight. Seriously, I have never felt so exhausted in my entire life.

–Workouts SUCK: I wrote at length about this yesterday. I don’t care what all the science says, carbs are life when it comes to workouts. I’ve never experienced this type of muscle fatigue. Ever.

–Bulletproof Coffee: You’re supposed to be full from fat-laden coffee? Until lunch? I don’t think so. The best I did was make it about three hours until I was starving.  I also very strongly beg to differ that butter in your coffee is a revelation. It is butter. In your coffee.

The Verdict

I just don’t think it’s worth it. As I said in my extensive prefacing, I ultimately feel like any elimination diet should yield faster improvements. My personal benchmark is that you should start to feel better, not worse, after one full week. Keto just didn’t deliver on this for me.  I’ve had much better results just cutting sugar and 95% of grains.

An even bigger issue is that it’s just not sustainable for me (and I’d argue for any human who enjoys things like wine, beer, chocolate, or ice cream).  I can stick to these types of things for two months max, before some sort of event (helloooooo Christmas!) rears its ugly head and draws me back to the dark side of indulgence. Really, its moderation that’s the ideal state for me, and maybe one day I’ll actually get the hang of it. Until then, I’m going to stay off sugar for a while longer, but I am most definitely having some oatmeal tomorrow morning.

Training Tuesdays: working out without carbs

Look, there are tons of legit nutritionists and experts who’ve written at length about how your body can perform without carbohydrates. I’m not going to attempt to counter their assertions, which I’m sure are scientifically backed, with what is essentially just my own experience. But damn it, this is my blog and I am still going to tell you about my experience. I’m just going to preface everything I write by saying a) I’m not attempting to refute science and b) my experience is  100% uninformed by science.

I’m going to do a whole post on my very brief experience with the ketogenic diet, but for today I’m just going to focus on how low carb eating has impacted my workouts for the last week and a half. Let me just say in no uncertain terms: my workouts have sucked since I gave up carbs (!!!!). There is no point in mincing my words. Let me bombard you with my list of negative workout experiences:

–inability to lift my usual weights without my muscles feeling like they’ve spontaneously atrophied
–inability to sprint or hill climb at my usual spin bike tensions without feeling like I’m trying to push my bike against the weight of the world
–workout dread (i.e. inability to muster the will to workout out of the fear of just how bad the workout will be)
–zero energy for intense cardio activities like running (I’m talking feeling winded and fatigued after, like, one minute)

As you can see, it’s been a crap week for activity. Spare me all the research that shows that this is just a phase, or that it’s because I’m not eating enough fats to fuel my workouts. I have read all the articles about how it takes time for your body to adjust to ketosis and to properly fuel your workouts with fat. I don’t care what the reason is, I care about the result, and the result is that my workouts have been abysmal since I gave up my sweet, sweet carbs.

I fondly recall my relatively peppy carb-fuelled workouts from a mere week a half ago and dream of their return. At this stage, I don’t want ice cream or cake. I don’t even want pasta. I just want some bloody oatmeal, which is arguably the saddest of the carbs.  I’ve tried to rationalize eating oats because they’re low on the glycemic index, but I know full well that they are still not acceptable on the ketogenic plan.  So I do not eat them, and instead suffer another day of crappy workouts.

Perhaps I am just too impatient for this diet. Or perhaps my body just needs some damn carbs to muster up the strength for a legitimate workout.  Either way I look at, the best possible answer seems to be: eat some carbs.*

*Although I’m not sure how much longer I’ll stick with ketogenic eating, truthfully I am not throwing in the towel quite yet. This post is mostly tongue in cheek…but I really would like a bowl of oatmeal…and the fact that oatmeal is the carb on my mind really does make me sad.