Tag Archives: cardio

1 Week, 5 Days…

As I sit with a cup of coffee to write this, I am waiting to hear my coach’s response to the update I sent last night.  Today is day 3 of a three day refeed period after being somewhat low carb for a week.  By “somewhat”, I mean my carbs were around 100 grams per day.  “Low” carb is relative.  I know many competitors wouldn’t think 100 grams is “low”.  Is for me.  I think I’ve talked about it before, but I don’t change my food selection much during these refeed, or diet deload, periods.  I will add in a little more bread, add in some healthy fats, and a little more fruit, too.  I keep the foods the same and increase portion sizes.  Usually.  But I screwed up the first day of this one and had to have TWO bedtime carb feeds.  I always eat right before I sleep, but while my mouth was happy a double feed, my tummy was not.

To be frank – I have come to dislike refeeds.  They were great last winter, but the last couple – and this one in particular – have been difficult.  Set aside the psychological stress of doing something counter-intuitive this close to stage, but I feel beat up by them physically.  My energy levels drop (???), moods swing,  and I feel metabolically beat the heck up.   I expect the next week will be really low-carb.  The first day will suck.  But once my body adjusts, I will feel hungry, but more stable.

I’m leaner now than I’ve ever been.  It’s a weird feeling.  I don’t really like it.  There is more loose skin now than I’ve had before.  Coach and I have already set an off-season goal of staying leaner permanently.  I don’t see a problem with that.  I’ve been hitting PRs in the gym all through this prep.  Asked to not check max lifts last week when I was supposed to because I just didn’t see the point.  Keep the goal the goal – and setting PRs two weeks before a bodybuilding competition was not my goal.  I know myself – if my strength drops, I get frustrated.  No point in risking a mental gymnastics session.

My days have been busy, even though I’m not working.  Lifting, cardio, posing practice, food prep, helping Hubby with projects, walking Tippy, and housework.  Some forced relaxing with reading.  A few naps.   Yesterday, I set up our recumbent bike in the living room so I could do some cardio at home.  It’s not the greatest calorie burn, but it is something I can do while hanging out here.

Not sure how much time I will have to blog between now and the show.  It has taken me days to make myself sit and write this much.  In a few minutes, I need to head to the gym.   I do post daily on Instagram and share it to the Facebook page.  If you want to follow my journey during the last few days, it might be best to follow over there.

Ok – gotta run.  Tippy is laying on the couch next to me and I just spotted a tick attached to his leg.  Need to do a little “dog mom” stuff and then it’s gym time.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Cardio, Competing, Contest Prep, Life

My 10 Tips for Fat Loss

Any one of these tips could be another post, but I wanted to put together a list for how to start a program with a little bit of explanation.

1)      Collect current data about your food intake.  You need an honest appraisal of what is happening now.   Eat normally, but log it for a full week, at least. (I’ve been logging for most of the last 4 ½  years.)  You will need to measure and weigh some things.  Get a digital scale to make this chore easier.  I’ve used a digital scale every day since I started and I’ve never used an expensive one.  Use an online food log to have access to extensive data base. It takes a few weeks to get things set up, but if you eat the same foods over the week, it becomes a matter of clicking frequent foods instead of searching.

2)      Come up with a good estimate of how many calories you burn in a 24 hour period.  I remember that “ah-ha” moment when I realized that I’m burning calories all the time, not just when I exercise.  The cardio machines at a gym will give an estimated burn, but in my experience, they can overestimate quite a bit.  There are calculators online, too.    If you can make an investment, there are gadgets that you wear that will give better estimates based on your personal activity over the entire day.  I use a Bodybugg.  I have friends who use a Fitbit.  I rationalized the purchase by comparing it to the medical costs I had at the time for my high blood pressure meds and an ER visit to rule out a heart attack.

3)      Make a food plan based on what you do now.  For safe fat loss and a sustainable, lifestyle change, keep the calorie deficit between 300 and 1000 calories.  In other words, it is my recommendation that you burn no more than 1000 calories than you intake each day.  But there is a minimum number of calories you need to eat for a healthy metabolism.  The USDA’s recommendations for minimum calorie intake levels are 1600 calories for women and 2000 calories for men.  If your intake is already at a minimum and you still need to increase a deficit, do it with moderate exercise.  The metabolism is not a linear equation where the bigger the deficit, the more fat you lose.  To over simplify a complicated process, your body will adapt so when it is not getting enough calories, it will use as few calories as possible to maintain functions and store what little is left over as body fat.  It may even breakdown muscle for additional energy.   This is why people who don’t eat a lot can maintain their scale weight, or even gain scale weight. Over time, body composition changes so that there is more fat and less muscle at the same weight.  This is what is meant by “skinny fat”.  Metabolism is not designed for looks – it’s about staying alive.  Through repeated attempts at weight loss by calorie restriction, many people have trained their bodies to maintain their weight eating less.  It’s really important to get that baseline intake information I discussed in Tip #1 so you can determine if you have slowed your metabolism a little bit.  If you are a woman maintaining your weight at 1000 calories, jumping right up to the recommended minimum of 1600 would cause fat gain.

4)      Make food substitutions gradually.  It is not practical for most people to completely overhaul everything in the kitchen.  Food prep becomes a new routine that will change how you spend your time – and that means “life” will need to be adjusted.  That takes time.  It took me months to figure out a system that worked for me.  If there are other people in the house, their favorite foods may be trigger foods for you.  I’ve been there.  I practiced telling myself repeatedly that “I control what I eat.”  Self-discipline really is an emotional muscle that needs to be strengthened.  And it is hard.  That’s OK.  Hard doesn’t mean impossible.  Each time you don’t cave to a temptation, it gets easier.  Especially when you focus more on how you “feel” instead of how you “look”.

5)      Train with weights.  There are several reasons why resistance training needs to be part of the program for fat loss.  Resistance training preserves muscle and builds bone mass.   To change the appearance of the body, the muscles need to be developed.  One of the most common questions I get is about how I dealt with loose skin.  First, I lost my weight very slowly and that helped minimize it.  But I also filled spaces with muscle – especially in my arms.  A full body program done twice a week, that uses multi-joint exercises, like body weight squats, is a good way to start.

6)      Don’t overdo cardio.  There is an abundance of research out there about cardio.  Personally, long sessions of cardio elevate my cortisol levels.  Cortisol is a hormone similar to adrenaline.  I believe I’ve had a cortisol problem for a long time and it contributed to my weight gain and health decline that led up to that “before” picture.  When my cortisol levels are up, I feel very anxious without a reason and I have trouble falling asleep.  My body stores fat quickly during those times.  Cardio is one of those variables that will start a lot of discussion.  I know what the research says, what works for me, what doesn’t, and that is exactly what I believe everyone needs to know for themselves.  But when I started, I knew nothing.  I had no idea that the cardio I was doing contributed to the anxiety I felt about the process.

7)      Sleep.    The body needs to rest to recover from the stress of the day.  Add in exercise and a moderate calorie restriction and there is more stress on the body.  Lack of sleep will elevate cortisol levels, too. Drink water!  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.

8)      Drink water.  I instruct my clients to drink a gallon a day, knowing that’s a goal, not necessarily a reality.  The body uses water to process nutrients, lubricate joints, maintain healthy blood pressure – well, just about everything.  I know some say it helps them feel full, but that’s not my experience.  When I’m hungry, I’m HUNGRY.  For food.

9)      Keep it simple.  Avoid the urge to over-plan and under-do, despite all the information I’ve just thrown at you.  Your program does not have to be perfect.  As you learn more, you’ll adjust things.  You have to have movement.  You need more food your body recognizes (whole foods) and less food designed to make you want to buy more of it (processed foods).  When asked, I tell people that most of my food is grown by God – a very simple description of vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, nuts, olive oil, and limited grains for personal digestive reasons.

10)   Be patient.  Permanent changes happen slowly.  You are changing your life one cell at a time.  A scale measures total body weight – that is mostly water, by the way.  It’s easy to feel impatient when looking at a transformation picture because the eye just goes back forth between the two versions of that person.  But note the dates.  Took me three years to get from “before” to the first “after”.  It helped me psychologically to accept that this was the LAST time I was going to lose most of these fat pounds and my life was going to be different from that point on.  I know I’m happier, excited to get up every day, and my life is likely to be longer because I decided to finally do this thing and not quit.


References & Resources




© Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tammy White and Lifting My Spirits with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Filed under Cortisol, Life, Weight Loss

Thanksgiving, A Happy Anniversary, Versa Gripps, A Sad Anniversary, and a Training Update

Today is Thanksgiving.  I’ve wanted to write all week, but have been slammed for time, so this morning, I’m thankful to have a peaceful day with the Hubby.  We don’t live near our family, so we usually have a low-key day together.  I make this as easy as possible.  Turkey is in the oven, sweet potatoes will go in a dutch oven, roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts, feta cheese, and dried cranberries, a box of stuffing because homemade tastes too good and there is too much of it, and two pieces of frozen pecan pie.  Not a whole pie – two people and a whole pie?  There is no need for that.  We will be going to a movie and I will be eating movie popcorn.  That’s my treat.

My favorite part is that it’s a free day – no appointments, do no work at all.  OK, I’m doing a couple loads of laundry and a little cooking.  But that’s no biggie.  Hubby and I just hang out and relax.  Monday will be our 18th anniversary.   Love this guy!!!

My second favorite part of Thanksgiving is that my favorite bodybuilding food goes on sale.  I stock up.  Sweet potatoes, which I eat every day and they normally cost about $1 a pound, have been $o.32/lb this week!  I have about two months stocked up.  We’ll keep them in the cold garage since we don’t have a basement or root cellar.  Or I’ll cook and freeze them.  I don’t usually buy whole turkeys during the rest of the year – I prefer chicken breasts.  But the cheapest chicken I can get is about $2/lb and turkeys this week were $0.55/lb.  Sure, that includes the bones  and skin that will be tossed, but I think I’m still saving a little bit a coin.  I bought four of those birds this week.  I have one in the  oven right now, and three more in reserve.  We don’t have a big freezer, so I’ll have to cook them up and freeze the meat over the next few weeks.



So just when I think I’m ahead financially, all proud of myself for my frugal food purchases, I talked myself into ordering a pair of Versa Gripps.  Oh well.  I’ve wanted a pair for over a year.  Hubby helped rationalize it by saying that it’s a tool for what I do.  Yes, I guess it is.  Ordered these green ones…


The other day, I posted a little something about my mom on Facebook.  She died 23 years ago this week.  A high school friend made a comment about how the picture I posted of her from when I was two years old looked like my posing picture from my first show.  I never saw it before.  So I put them side-by-side.  Wow.  I know she would be proud of what I’ve accomplished because she raised me to be independent and strong.   I’m not sure how she would feel about posing suit on stage part, though.  I was thinking of her when I did that show.  Love you, Mom!!!



Yikes!  I haven’t written about my program in almost a month.

New Goals

I am making some changes I’m excited about.  First, I’m about 95% sure I won’t be competing again until summer 2015.  After the show last June, I realized that since I’ve only been lifting for three years, I need a smart and long off season.  I’m not a beginner anymore, so those newbie gains are finished.  If I’m not smart about this, I’ll stall.  And despite my age (I’ll be 52 in February), I think I can make a good run at being competitive.  I didn’t do much with this body athletically my whole life, so even though it’s slightly ‘vintage’, it’s basically new in the package.  After a few months of contemplation, I’ve decided to branch out and pull some new people onto “Team Tammy”.  Not going to get into the details, but I’m learning a lot and feel confident that the next 18 months are going to be kind of amazing.  Hubby is 100% supportive.

Yesterday, I had this CRAZY idea of declaring a goal of being the oldest competitor on an Olympia stage.  I’m not ruling out the Natural Olympia – that’s actually a lot easier to do than the other – but I’m talking about an Olympia stage in an open class, not a Masters class.  Hell, I think I’m Grand Masters now…I don’t want to be competitive for my age.  I want to be competitive, period.  Doc said I have to get a colonoscopy now that I’m over 50.  I looked her right in the eye and said “I’m not over 50.”  I think I have issues.  Hahahaha!

New Program

There was a two week deload after four weeks on that German Volume Training (GVT) protocol.  Nothing much to report there.  I did pretty much the same thing, just fewer sets.  I liked the GVT, but now that I’m a few weeks away from it, I’m cool with not doing it again.  It did what it was supposed to do, I think.  There was a big psychological component to that training for me – it wasn’t strongman training.  After 8 weeks of that, I needed to do something completely different.

This week, I started a strength/hypertrophy split.  It’s not exactly like the PHAT routine Uber Beast Mode did, but it’s very similar. Everything is being hit twice a week.  The week looks like this…

  • Lower Body – heavy/low reps
  • Upper – heavy/low reps
  • Cardio Only
  • Lower – moderately heavy/8-12 reps
  • Chest/Back – hypertrophy work
  • Shoulders/Arms – hypertrophy work
  • Cardio Only
  • Full Rest Day

I change up the exercises quite a bit.  I have this thing about that.  I think it’s called “boredom”.  I’ll justify it with concepts like “muscle confusion”, but it’s really just boredom.  When I play gym, it’s like going to a buffet.  I keep my big moves – deadlifts and squats, but I switch up everything else.  Take overhead presses, for example.  Sometimes I like barbell, other times dumbbells, but then there is that Hammer Smith machine, too – that’s fun.  Then there is sitting vs. standing.  So many toys!  So little time!

New Diet

Well, not really.  Just doing a little cut right now.  My weight has been stable since the strongman, but I did gain body fat.  I’m cutting for about a month to drop down about 5 pounds.  The plan is the same smart plan so many others follow – stay less then 15 pounds over stage weight in the off season so contest prep isn’t so hard on the body.  I’m not too far off.  Got about 18 pounds up, but I’ve gained some muscle, too, so it’s more about dropping the body fat percentage down.  This has been an interesting cut, though.  I can tell there is more lean mass because it feels like I’m eating less than I am.  The calorie total is right around 1850 and I’m HUNGRY.  It’s all good.  It’s temporary.  Probably be done with it sometime in January.

Sadly, a cut includes cardio.  Booooo!  Just two or three times a week. I can suck it up and do a few cardios a week.  For fun, I decided to calibrate my BodyBugg to the step mill’s calorie counter because the step mill lets you enter your weight for that calculation.  You would think it would be close, right?  Not exactly…



Sorry for the length.  Sometimes I have a topic and other times, like today, I just want to share what’s going on.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope your day is wonderful.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Cardio, Competing, German Volume Training, Life, Nutrition

Videos of Workouts this Week

I thought it might be a time saver to do make videos instead of writing.  But my videos have been boring.  Just me talking to my iPhone.  Last week, I got an iPad mini  and bought the iMovie app.  Pretty nifty little app.  I wanted to have the capability of using multiple clips so I could make more videos of my actual workouts.  These are the first two videos I made with my new tech toy.

I was in my home office doing the voice over for this one and I needed to be quiet.  That’s why I sound like I’m doing commentary at a golf match.


Did bleachers this morning – 30 minutes.  Back and forth the entire set of bleachers a few times.  Big steps up the seats and quick steps up the stairs.  I wasn’t moving very fast.  I think I should have been playing a faster song.  I did download the William Tell Overture after we saw the Lone Ranger movie the other day.  I should have played that.  I would have galloped up those stairs.  Hahahaha!


Filed under Cardio, My Lifting Log, Strong Woman Training, Videos, Workouts

8 Days Left – So Far, So Very Good

I’m almost a week out from my second show, and surprisingly, I’m not miserable. I give all the credit to my coach. My calories have remained between 1700-1900 a day, I’m still lifting heavy, and I’m not supposed to do a ton of cardio. AND, I’m leaning out. He played with my macros a bit a few weeks ago and limited food choices a bit to start cutting water gradually.   As a result, I’m losing water and scale weight every day. It’s amazing.

Sure, things will change pretty soon. Like tomorrow. Peak week is coming. I’m excited to see what happens.

The suit arrived this week!! I love it.


I belong to two gyms – it’s handy when you workout as much as I do. I get bored. I like having other places to go. This other gym has a nice cardio room that works very well for posing practice. I’ve been heading over there every morning. I pose or practice my routine for 45 minutes to an hour and then I do a HIIT cardio. I like bleachers, but I can’t do them every day. Very hard on my hip flexors. Today, I did hill sprints for the first time. It was not a very steep hill, but it was still a challenging workout for me.

I’m thinking about using that other gym for lifting this week, too.  I loved lifting at my home gym until recently.  The vibe has changed.  I used to be motivated by the number of bodybuilders around me.  Most aren’t there anymore.  There are plenty of figure and bikini competitors who are prepping for the same show I am, but they are doing it… a lot differently.  Without getting into specifics, let’s just say the place is getting too small.  Maybe I need to find out where the bodybuilders went and go there.

I’m frustrated with my posing ability.  I’m not smooth.  I look awkward.  I did a little YouTube research and found some new balance exercises to do.  I really wish I had more time during the school year to work on posing.  I intend to, but my days are so long already.  I’m sure this isn’t not an unsolvable problem.  I just didn’t have a plan.  I hope I can close the gap between where I am and where I want to be in the next week.  Probably have to plan to make most improvements over the next couple of days.  I don’t want to be too worried about it when I’m carb depleted and then water depleted.  At that point, it’s just a matter of rehearsal.

Ok – I’m beat.  Need to wrap this up, cook more fish, and head to bed.


Filed under Cardio, Competing, Videos

Bleachers – Video Blog

Made this video after my bleacher workout this morning. I love bleachers!


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Videos, Weight Loss, Workouts

2 Weeks Left

Since I last posted, the school year finished and we had a graduation. I wonder what it’s like to just end a school year and go home? We always have a dramatic ending which provides a sense of closure, but it’s also sad for me. Many of my seniors are kids I’ve known for years. I’ve seen them every day for at least an hour – but a few manage to find their way back into my classroom for more than one hour a day. I fall in love with these kids every year, I’m so proud of them when they graduate, but my heart always breaks a little, too.

So I’ve been a little emotional the last couple of days. I’m nervous about this show. I don’t mind that there are people coming to watch – the audience at these things is always supportive. I’m nervous that I won’t look as lean as I wanted to look. Or that I won’t pose well. I’m annoyed with everything I have to do for the show – except lifting.   The “peripherals” I call them – are distracting.  Hair, makeup, suit, tanning, nails…ugh.  I don’t do anything of that stuff in my real life.  And I’m bored with my food – haven’t had a cheat meal since February. I’m very disciplined, but that’s a really looooong time. I was doing OK until a few weeks ago.  Broke down this week and got some flavoring for water, otherwise known as “chemical shit storm” in clean eating circles.

But you know what? It’s all part of the process. I eat a lot of food for someone who is “dieting”. Coach is smart. He’s been adjusting macros based on what he sees happening with me and I’m steadily losing weight – every day – on almost 2000 calories a day and not a lot of cardio. Maybe 30-40 minutes a day tops. Usually HIIT cardio, but some steady state when my hips and legs are feeling a little beat up.

From what I see in the mirror today, I’m on track.  I am losing a little weight everyday.  I’m sure it’s mostly water, but the plan is that my body is burning a little fat, too.

I’ve already started making plans for this next off-season, which begins with the first meal after this show. I’ll have a reasonable cheat meal – won’t go overboard. And then I’m going to start a reverse diet immediately the next day. I will eat exactly the same way that Coach has me eating this coming week. I will slowly increase carbs a little bit at a time and watch what my body does with them. As I increase the carbs, I’ll decrease cardio. My goal is to be eating like a 15-year old ectomorphic boy, maintaining a healthy weight with body fat percentage around 20% by Thanksgiving. I’m convinced ANYTHING is possible with the right nutrition. Anything.

I wanted to write a little bit about body image. As my competition gets closer, I’ve struggled with this same demon again. I know I compare myself to others a little bit, but mostly, I compare what I see in the mirror to what I see in my head. I’m not there – yet. I don’t know how to explain this in a way that doesn’t sound vain. How I look is not about being attractive or slim or whatever – how I look is the result of my efforts.  The food prep, the precision of serving sizes, the amount of water I drink, the number of sets, reps, running bleachers most mornings – all of it is designed to achieve a specific thing. I’m sculpting something from the inside out. I’m closer to what’s in my head this year than I was last year, and I’m proud of that. But I get impatient. I had a little mental break yesterday during my leg workout with coach. He reframed things for me. After only three years of training, I’m preparing to compete with whoever shows up and it’s probably women who have been doing this a lot longer and they are probably younger. Some may not be ‘natural’ either, even in my division. If I can stand there and look legit, I’ll be happy.

Part of the body image issue is learning to accept and then ignore the things that make me nuts – like the loose skin. People ask me about this all the time. I do have a little. One of the reasons I wanted to do the reverse diet was so that I might be able to stay a little leaner during this off season to see if my skin would tighten up just a tiny bit. But I don’t have so much that I can’t pose around it.  Pretty, huh?  Not a view most people see, but everyone who has lost more than a little weight looks at something like the “Abs Laying” every day.   It’s like my old 2X sized t-shirts – just a little too baggy for my body now.  But it doesn’t serve any purpose to hyper focus on it.  Just stand up and keep going.


Here are the pictures Coach wanted a couple days ago.  Yup.  I’m in my underwear.  But honestly, my underwear has more coverage than my posing suit.  Body image – I’ve gotten comfortable in my skin, even if doesn’t fit me that well any more.

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Filed under Competing, My Lifting Log, Nutrition