Monday, 9 April 2012

USN Body and Lifestyle 12 week Challenge Update #1


This blog entry is just really more of a training update rather than anything else. If I try and include my restaurant/social/food pics from the past couple of months I'll be here for ages. So instead, here's what I've been up to over the past 4 weeks training-wise.

As this is just what I've recorded on my iFitness app it may not be the most interesting read, so you can bypass all the weights stuff and skip to the bottom for a quick update on other parts of my challenge if you like ;-)

If you choose to stick with the training please note that the first part isn't massively exciting as I was just still building my strength back up (as I had 3 months off between October 2011 and February 2012) so wasn't too interested in pushing myself - all that has changed as you'll see if you persevere ;-)

I'm going to try and take some pics this weekend (if I get the chance - depends on how Easter plans go as we are hosting again this year and will have a *very* full house!) to do a comparison as it's been 4 weeks already (eeek!!).

Training Log (USN 12 Week challenge started on 7/03/2012)

08/03/2012 - Triceps & Biceps

Dumbbell Hammer Curl - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 12 reps
Dumbbell Triceps Extension - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 12 reps
Dumbbell Zottman Curl (love this move) - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 12 reps
Cable Triceps Pulldown - 11.25kg - 3 x 12 reps

Plank - 2 x 60 secs
Sit-ups (full) - 2 x 20
Bicycle kicks - 2 x 10

09/03/2012 - cardio (mostly)

Rowing - 2,000m
Cycling - 10 mins

Assisted Pull-up - 35kg - 3 x 10 reps

12/03/2012 - Chest & Back

Dumbbell Chest Press - 2 x 12.5kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell one arm row - 12.5kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell Pullover - 12.5kg - 3 x 12 reps
Dumbbell bent over flyes - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell incline flyes - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps

13/03/2012 - Legs

Cycling - 15mins
Barbell Squat - 30kg - 2 x 10 reps - 20kg - 1 x 20 reps
Swiss-ball split squat - 3 x 10 reps
Deadlift - 50kg - 2 x 10 reps - 40kg - 1 x 10 reps - 30kg - 1 x 10 reps

14/03/2012 - Cardio & Abs

Rowing - 2,010m
Cycling - 10mins

Next I did the following exercises twice in a circuit
Sit-ups (full) x 20
Hip thrust/reverse crunches/pulse up x 20
Plank - 60 secs
Side crunch x 20 (each side)
Vertical toe-touches with 2kg medicine ball - x 20

15/03/2012 - Shoulders & Rotator Cuff

(this session is always the longest of my split session as I sustained a shoulder injury years ago while training for triathlon so I manage it by strengthening my delts and the muscles around, seems to work well!)

Dumbbell Shoulder Press - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell Upright Rows - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 2 x 4kg - 3 x 10 reps
Cable Rotator Cuff - External - 3.75kg - 3 x 10 reps
Cable Rotator Cuff - Internal - 3.75kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell Scaption - 2 x 4kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell Standing Scarecrow - 2 x 4kg - 3 x 10 reps


The exercises above from 12th - 15th March were performed at a local Fitness First gym as my work gym was being 'renovated' (which meant that they moved a few machines round and painted the walls white!!). During this time I think I did a bit too much on my ankle (which is still recovering post-ankle arthroscopy) and it really let me know about it. I started to have a horrid pain in the area where I'd had the bone and cartilage removed, and actually started to panic that I'd damaged the area! Given that I've already had the same operation twice and can't have it again, this would have been pretty catastrophic! :-(

My problem is that I get so over-excited as I love to train, I just need to rein myself in from time to time and be more aware of my (current) physical limitations!

Fortunately after about a week it started to calm down and I've not done any cardio since - or heavier weighted squats/deadlifts - and it hardly hurts at all now... phew!

Anyway, onto my next training day:

17/03/2012 - Triceps & Biceps

The following workout was performed at home in my bedroom. I don't have a lot in the way of fitness equipment (adjustable dumbbells, TRX, resistance bands, Kettlebell, Hula Hoop...!) but what I have, counts! :-)

Dumbbell Hammer Curl - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 12 reps
Dumbbell Triceps Extension - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 12 reps
Dumbbell Zottman Curl - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 12 reps
Resistance Band Triceps Pulldown - ??kg - 3 x 15 reps

21/03/2012 - Chest & Back

This training session saw me tweak my current way of training.

I decided that I'd too long ignored the fact that "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got", and then wondered why I never really made any gains in my training when it comes to strength and fat loss.

So, I decided to increase my reps on the last set of each exercise - to the point of failure - and see how I got on with that :-)

This was probably one of the best training decisions I've ever made! It was only a small change this session but it continued into my next session, and then the next, and the results have been very surprising.

I think it's a psychological thing - if you always know you're only going to do 10/12 reps then you start to feel 'tired' as you approach the last one... if however you know in your mind you're going to push it past that point then you leave your body guessing right?

That's my philosophy anyway ;-)

Dumbbell Chest Press - 2 x 12.5kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 12 reps
Dumbbell one arm row - 12.5kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell Pullover - 12.5kg - 3 x 12 reps
Dumbbell bent over flyes - 2 x 7kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell incline flyes - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps

TRX Back Rows - 3 x 10
TRX Chest Press - 3 x 10

22/03/2012 - Abs & lower blody

Today's session was abs (and a little lower body) workout with my TRX during lunch in my work gym.

I did some TRX hamstring curls, I'm finding these difficult to master but can feel it the next day!

Also did some one legged/bulgarian split squats with my TRX.

Then I moved onto my abs and did some TRX Tucks, these are great, I really feel it in my lower abs the next day! Trying to perfect my pike but it's proving tricky!

Next I did the following exercises twice in a circuit (next time I'm hoping to do 3 sets!)
full sit-ups x 20
hip thrust/reverse crunches x 20
plank - 60 secs
side crunch x 20
vertical toe-touches with 2kg medicine ball - x 20

was quite worn out after that, but happy!

26/03/2012 - Shoulder and Rotator Cuff Workout

Dumbbell Shoulder Press - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps
Dumbbell Upright Rows - 2 x 9kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 19 reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 2 x 4kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Cable Rotator Cuff - External - 3.75kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 13 reps
Cable Rotator Cuff - Internal - 3.75kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell Scaption - 2 x 4kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell Standing Scarecrow - 2 x 4kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 15 reps

27/03/2012 - Abs workout

TRX Pikes - only managed 5 of those!

Then did 3 circuits of :

Plank - 60 seconds
Pulse Up - 20 reps
Side Crunch - 2 reps each side
Sit up (full) 20 reps
TRX tucks - 10 reps
Medicine Ball toe-touch - 20 reps

28/03/2012 - Triceps & Biceps

For this session I really thought I'd try and push it on the last set...

Dumbbell Hammer Curl - 2 x 7kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell Triceps Extension - 2 x 7kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 16 reps
Dumbbell Zottman Curl - 2 x 7kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 18 reps
Cable Triceps Pull-down - 13.75kg - 10 reps, 13.75kg - 10 reps, 11.25kg - 13 reps

Then I thought I'd finish it/myself off with some elevated leg bench dips... 1st set managed 10, second 8... called it a day then!

I think that session proved that I might need to think about upping my weights!

30/03/2012 - Chest & Back

Dumbbell Bench Press - 2 x 12.5kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 14 reps
Dumbbell One-Arm Row - 12.5kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 20 reps
Dumbbell Pullover - 12.5kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 20 reps
Seated Dumbbell Reverse Fly - 2 x 7kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 12 reps
Incline Dumbbell Fly - 2 x 9kg - 1 x 10 reps, 1 x 12 reps, 1 x 20 reps

Again, as with the arms session I think that I might be able to raise my weights a bit in some areas

01/04/2012 - quick gym visit

My boyfriend and I were off out to meet friends for pre-cinema dinner, we went to see the Hunger Games, t'was excellent, my son was very impressed which is difficult when a) you're trying to please a teenager who b) has read the whole series! He said it's the most true-to-book film he's seen though so that's a plus.

Anyway, I'd just joined my local gym again (I usually train at home or at my teeny work gym) so just wanted to check it out briefly.

The have a big frame with some TRXes so did a few one-leg squats and full squats and also some kettlebell swings with a 12kg bell (same weight as I have at home).

Didn't actually feel like I'd done much as I was literally there for 15 minutes - if that - but my hamstrings were aching quite a bit on Monday and Tuesday!

02/04/2012 - Shoulder and Rotator Cuff Workout

I did this workout in my new local gym - it felt great to train with other people (men, obviously!), but I wasn't feeling that energised and this workout felt *much* harder than usual.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press - 2 x 9kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 11 reps
Dumbbell Upright Rows - 2 x 9kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell Lateral Raise - 2 x 4kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 18 reps
Cable Rotator Cuff - External - 3.75kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 11 reps
Cable Rotator Cuff - Internal - 3.75kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 20 reps
Dumbbell Scaption - 2 x 4kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell Standing Scarecrow - 2 x 4kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 13 reps

03/04/2012 - High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

I devised a little routine for myself that I wanted to try out. I'd recently bought a gymboss

...and some new Vibram TrekSport FiveFingers thought I'd put them both through their paces!

I programmed my gymboss to give me 20 seconds of work time followed by 10 seconds of rest and did the following workout:

1) Steam Train - one side
2) Steam Train - other side
3) Prisoner Squat
4) Weighted chop - one side
5) Weighted Chop - other side
6) Push-ups (full)
7) Push Press
8) Plank

I did that workout 4 times in total... BOY was I red and sweaty by the end!!

For the weighted chop and push press I used 2 x 3kg weights for the first 2 rounds and 2 x 5kg for the last 2 as 3kg felt a little too light. 5kg felt a bit too heavy (especially towards the end!) so I'll be using 4kg next time I do the routine. It's important to use light weights for the chop especially so you can swing at speed.

for the push-ups I did 10 the first time, 9 the second and third and then 11 push-ups for the last set... was quite pleased with that :-)

Today I ache, all over, especially in places I don't normally - like my traps, and my hamstrings and quads are letting me know that I worked them. The push-press is of of the BEST exercise I've found for working your hamstrings if like me you can't squat heavy or use a leg press (I severely buggerd up my back with one of those a year or so ago! :-( )

04/04/2012 - Triceps & Biceps

woweeee! That was one helluva workout!!

So, as promised in my earlier post I put my weights up... I was planning to just go up by 1kg but the dumbbells at my work gym only increase in 2kg increments so the next one up from my usual 7kg was 9! That may not seem a lot but it certainly felt it!

Here's what I did:

Dumbbell Hammer Curl - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps
(the first set left my red faced and breathing heavily!)
Dumbbell Triceps Extension - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps
(this was the most difficult in terms of technique as it's a wobbly move at the best of times - had to work hard to stabilise my arm as I was doing it)
Dumbbell Zottman Curl - 2 x 9kg - 3 x 10 reps
(another tricky one in terms of technique as I do these standing up so had to make sure I wasn't rocking the weight up... i.e. cheating!)
Cable Triceps Pull-down - 11.25kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 15 reps
(can probably put this weight up next time I do it)

Then, like last time I thought I'd stick my legs up on a reebok step and do some elevated leg bench dips... very impressed that I managed 3 sets of 10 when my triceps felt so tight I thought they would explode!!

05/04/2012 - HIIT & Abs

I did my routine again, this time with 4kg weights for the weighted chop and push-press. I think that's the perfect weight (for me) for this routine as it's not too light but light enough to swing around at speed!

1) Steam Train - one side
2) Steam Train - other side
3) Prisoner Squat
4) Weighted chop - one side
5) Weighted Chop - other side
6) Push-ups (full)
7) Push Press
8) Plank

Then did 3 circuits of :

Plank - 60 seconds
Pulse Up - 20 reps
Side Crunch - 2 reps each side
Sit up (full) 20 reps
TRX tucks - 10 reps
Medicine Ball toe-touch - 20 reps

06/04/2012 - Chest & Back

Ahhh, Good Friday... and indeed it was exercise-wise!

Joe and I went to our local gym for an hour or so before it closed.

The weights were a little different to the limited selection I have at work. I usually use 2 12.5kg weights for bench press, one-arm rows etc but they didn't have that particular weight there. They also didn't have 13kg and I didn't fancy going up to 14kg on the chest press just yet so went down to 12kg and did more reps instead (maybe next time I'll be a bit braver ;-) ), I put my weight up for other lifts though... and I think I could have gone even heavier on the flyes!

Dumbbell Bench Press - 2 x 12kg - 2 x 12 reps, 1 x 15 reps
Dumbbell One-Arm Row - 16kg - 1 x 8 reps (that was a little heavy for me just now!) - 14kg 1 x 10 reps, 1 x 14 reps
Dumbbell Pullover - 14kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 12 reps
Seated Dumbbell Reverse Fly - 2 x 7kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 12 reps (I still struggle to use heavier weights or do more reps with this exercise but I'm sure I'm not alone there!)
Incline Dumbbell Fly - 2 x 10kg - 2 x 10 reps, 1 x 12 reps

Then I hopped on the assisted pull-up machine to see if I could do any after that workout.

I was very chuffed as last time I used one I had to use a 35kg counterweight, but on Friday I used 26kg and was able to do 3 sets of 10 without too much difficulty - and this at the end of my workout! Next time I plan to use a lighter weight and gradually take it away so I'm not using a counterweight at all.

That's one of my goals for this year... They are, in the following order:

1) Win the USN Body & Fitness Challenge and get sponsored by USN!
2) Do (at least) 10 pull-ups, unassisted!
3) I also want to discover my six-pack and reveal it. I'm pretty sure it's in there somewhere, just hiding away from me ;-)

I'm feeling pretty inspired for goal #3 due to a certain lady called Andreia Brazier who competed in the inaugural Miami Pro Championships last weekend.

I think Andreia is pretty much a one-off, she manages to combine outstanding beauty...

with rock-hard physique!!

She is clearly incredibly strong and sculpted...

...but also very feminine too!

Unsurprisingly, Andreia won her category and is now the Miami Pro Muscle Model champion!

Like I said, a one-off. I don't think I've ever seen such a great example of 'the perfect package' before: supermodel good looks teamed up with a chiselled body which is obviously the product of years of training and eating well, finished off with some fantastic show preparation and presentation skills. All perfectly balanced and all incredibly impressive, I'm so inspired right now! :-)

You can find Andreia on facebook here: "Andreia Brazier Physique Model", and follow her progress as she prepares for her next show and shares diet and exercise information too.

If you're interested in being trained by the woman herself, or her husband Tom Brazier who helped sculpt her into the masterpiece you see before you, here is a link to the website of their Personal Training company "Total Body Conditioning":

Okay, well enough about my new inspirational role model for 2012 and beyond, and back to my update...


My diet has been pretty good over the past few weeks, the only pitfalls have been going out to restaurants (which I do a lot!) and alcohol calories. What I've been doing is not drinking at home in the evenings - which is pretty novel for me as I usually have a glass of red wine with my dinner...and then another afterwards... and perhaps another after that!! I do think that alcohol hampers my fat loss and realistically I should be ensuring that every calorie I put in my body is going to be put to good use - as alcohol cannot be stored, the body has to work to burn it off before it can make good use of any other nutrients, so it seems counterproductive to drink too much of it :-)

I have been drinking at least one 100% whey protein shake a day, usually just after or while I'm in the gym at lunch training. I've found that they're also very beneficial to me if I've got a sweet craving (which doesn't happen very often as I don't eat very high carb), they're definitely helping with my willpower and muscle building!

I've also been using Xédra-Cut XT Capsimax.. I'm not sure if it's contributed to my fat loss but it's certainly helped with my energy levels! I was a bit worried about taking them as I gave up caffeine last year and only drink at most one cup of full-caf a day (the rest of the day I'm a big decaf drinker). I was concerned I'd get the jitters but it hasn't happened so far so that's good :-)

Challenge Progress

My weight has been very up and down so far. I lost 5lbs in the first week, then put it back on by week 3. However, I have been monitoring my progress using my Tanita body fat composition monitor, the body fat % it records is a lot higher than any other monitor I've used, but the segmentalisation is very interesting as it breaks down your body parts into sections (and records the data to memory card) so you can see changes in your fat vs lean muscle weight in each arm/leg, torso etc on a week on week basis.

I've dropped body fat and increased my lean muscle weight. I've also lost inches from my body (sooooo glad to be monitoring my progress with a tape measure as well!), including an impressive 3" from my waist! I'm still to see any real loss off my thighs, but given that I've increased the muscles within them I'm not too upset - especially as because I'm pear-shaped they're the last place I lose fat from!

I am most pleased by my increase in strength and, to be honest, the desire to get stronger seems to be surpassing my wish to lose weight. I've been training so hard lately and I can tell that any excess calories have been converted to muscle and not fat, and I'm having a whale of a time in the gym!

The only thing I regret is not being able to any explosive work. Because of my ankle I can't run, sprint, jump, hop, skip etc... all activities that I used to love and knew helped me to rev up my body's fat burning ability! What I miss most is boxercise, but whereas I could join in the boxing side of it, I couldn't do any of the circuits - shuttle runs, burpees, star-jumps etc so it wouldn't be much point taking half a class!

So instead I'm going to continue with my non-impact HIIT exercises and see if I can plan a few more routines as I'm enjoying those 4 minute blasts of exercise! I got Joe to do 3 sets of my routine after our gym visit on Good Friday and he was pretty knackered afterwards... his hamstrings still ache from the push-press and that was 3 days ago that he did it! *evil grin*

I think I'm going to attack this challenge wit a 3 pronged attack:

Weeks 1-4: Focus on Training - Getting my body used to weight training again
Weeks 5-8: Focus on Strength - Improving on the gains I've made and increasing the intensity/reps/weight as much as possible whilst concentrating on eating well
Weeks 9-12: Focus on Diet & Fat Loss - Less attention to getting stronger and more geared towards maintaining my current level of strength and eating and exercising in a way to lose weight (whilst not sacrificing too much muscle!)

That's the plan anyway ;-)

Wish me luck!

Tara x

P.S. it is now almost 8pm on Easter Monday (I started this blog entry on Friday!), and I didn't get round to taking any progress pictures, so will have to do so next weekend (after I've worked my butt off burning all this chocolate and red wine that's been free-flowing this weekend! ;-) )

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Time for an update, and a new challenge!

Well, hello!

I think it's probably about time I abandoned the idea of bringing my blog up-to-date on last year's fun and frolics, and accepted the fact that if it happens, it's not going to for a while... after all, I've only got so far as March 2011!

One of the main issues - and any twitter followers will attest to this - is that I take a *lot* of photos, a lot of the time. I have hundreds and hundreds of pics from last year (I'm a firm believer in the 'take at least 10 pics and one will be a beauty!' philosophy when it comes to photography!), so sorting the wheat from the chaff, organising these into any semblance of order, uploading the best pics and then trying to remember what it was that I was doing at the time (and then coming up with some sort of witty observation) takes a lot of time!

So I think I should probably just abandon all recaps for the time being and do that moving-forward thing :-) So, here goes *deep breath*, after all, what use is a blog if you're not updating it with recent events?!

So, what's new in Tara's World I hear you ask? (you *are* asking that I hope ;-) ). Well, just before I launch into my latest challenge info, here's a brief outline of what's been happening these past few months:

Some of you might remember that I had ankle surgery last year in January? Well, long story short, it didn't work. So I had the second bout of surgery on 31st October 2011. The jury's still out on whether that has worked because I'm still in an awful lot of pain right now. That's the problem with ankles, they're located right at the end of your body so therefore take your entire weight every time you put your feet down!

I had my surgery end of October and then rested for a month... and then for another month... and then another... oh dear... I pretty much lost my 'exercise mojo' and found it incredibly difficult to rediscover it! I basically had three months of zero weight training (I've been almost zero cardio for over a year now!) but finally managed - with help from some incredibly supportive twitter friends - to motivate myself enough one day to pick up the dumbbells again.

I was thrilled to discover that not only could I still lift the same weight, I could also lift it for as long! I was not so thrilled to discover that it then took me almost a week to recover sufficiently from this session to be able to attempt another, but hey ho!

And now, with the training back on track it's time to combat the bulge. yes, I've put on a fair amount of weight and pretty much none of that will be muscle :-( It's been a combination of eating and drinking too much. I don't eat rubbish food so it's not that I've been eating the wrong kind, only too much of it!! Christmas was a lot of fun, as was New Year, Valentines Day, and every other excuse to celebrate so far this year!

So yes, I've overdone it and I've been finding it incredibly difficult to lose the weight, it honestly feels like the older I get the harder it is! I'm certain I'm not alone in this, but that only offers very slight comfort.

I generally find that the only way to kickstart me into serious action is to enter some crazy competition or contest (only crazy in that I rarely give myself enough time to prepare!!), so you can imagine my joy when I was nosing through the USN faceook page and saw they were running a challenge! Love a challenge me ;-)

Just look at the fantastic prizes on offer:

Main prizes: (Female and Male Category)
• Become a USN Ambassador (for 1 year)
• £6,000 Cash
• USN Products sponsorship for 1 year to the value of £2,000
• 6 Personal Training sessions with a USN Hero
• DW Gym membership for a year
• Trainers and Bag provided by DW Fitness
• Thule G2 2 Bike Carrier

Even the runner-up prizes are pretty darn spectacular!

Finalists Receive:
• Product sponsorship for 1 year to the value of £1,200
• 10 x bag & £50 voucher provided by DW Fitness
• Thule ProRide Bike Carrier

After seeing the excellent results that past competitors had obtained, I was very keen to enter the challenge myself pretty much straight away, but first I needed to clear up a few matters. The training and nutrition advice offered on the USN site is very comprehensive and informative, and a great place to start if you're looking for some exercise and nutrition pointers, but it doesn't fall in with how I like (and am able) to do things.

For example, most days I practice Intermittent Fasting and therefore don't eat until the middle of the day. I've never been great with eating breakfast - and indeed have found that if I eat first thing I get even hungrier as the morning progresses! - so this style of eating suits me down to the ground and feels more natural. Unless I get hungry mid-morning, I tend to only eat 2 meals a day (although this will probably increase in line with my training frequency and intensity), but these meals are quite large ones. The thought of switching to 5/6 smaller less satisfying meals, just didn't appeal (though I know that works really well for other people), and I've learned that there's no metabolic advantage to eating smaller meals more frequently.

Because I follow Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint way of eating, I also eat quite a high fat (and protein) diet, which is relatively low in carbohydrate as a result. This too suits me so I didn't want to have to change this if it were going to jeopardise my chances in the competition - I also didn't want to lie about my eating habits on my blog just to conform.

Lastly - as my ankle is still quite sore I can't do any impact work, which means no running, skipping, boxercise, sprints, jumps, burpees... fun stuff basically!

I emailed the organisers with my concerns and was told that was absolutely fine and the exercise and nutrition guides were there as just that - guides - phew!! USN are very flexible with how you go about the challenge, the only stipulation of course being that they'd like you to try out their products during the 12 week window to prove that they have a positive effect. Fair enough! Quid pro quo and all that jazz :-)

Which leads me onto my second set of concerns. I haven't used protein shakes for a while as I stopped drinking cow's milk last year and now I find that if I have anything that has it in I get an awfully upset stomach - the same goes for cheese, cream etc (though not so much with hard cheese). I'm okay with goat and sheep's cheese though bizarrely!

Anyway, since introducing protein shakes back into my diet seemed a sensible move, I thought I'd better try out some sample packs before investing in a tub. I was quite happy to drink whey protein if my stomach allowed - it's not frowned upon in a Primal diet - however, I wasn't going to enter the competition and *then* discover that USN products went straight through me as it wouldn't make any sense to continue the challenge then.

I'd tried USN's Pure Protein shake in the past (strawberry flavour) which was delicious but unfortunately didn't agree with me (I think this was due to my being sensitive to Calcium caseinate). However, I was advised that their 100% Whey shake might be gentler on my stomach because of the high quality whey isolate used and also the fact that they add the enzyme Lactase to the powder. Lactase is present in raw/unpasteurised milk and actually pretty much neutralises Lactose making it easier to digest.

So I ordered one of each of the flavours available in sample size and... hurrah...! I can drink them without upsetting my stomach. They're also pretty flippin tasty which is obviously an added bonus ;-) !

I took my 'before' pic - eughh. That was unpleasant, it's a shame that the camera never lies! Still, I suppose it'll be something I can look back on and be pleased with how far I've come once I've completed the challenge.

I'm planning to do more than one challenge this year. You can pretty much do back-to-back (though obviously not overlapping) 12 week challenges as you can enter as many times as you like and the competition runs all year. My goal is to lose as much fat as possible this time round and then spend the rest of the year perfecting and sculpting what I have - while building some serious strength. My mission is to be able to do 10 unassisted pull-ups and have a (visible!) six-pack by the end of 2012 :-)

I started on 7th March, so almost 2 weeks in. I've already lost about 5lbs and some inches too... These inches have come off my waist and hips and not my legs... quelle surprise! However, I did lose an inch off my butt in the first week which I'm pretty thrilled about... saying that, I could afford to lose a *lot* more inches from there but hopefully that'll start soon!

Unfortunately last week I managed to aggravate my ankle, probably overdoing it in the gym, so I've had to reign in my training and limit it to *just* upper body for now until it starts to feel less sore... plus lots of ice ice baby.... lesson learnt! I know that my ankle problem puts me at a disadvantage against other competitors as, for me, I find that a combination of diet and high intensity exercise is the perfect prescription for fat loss. For some it may just be the diet that does it, or a bit more activity in their day, but I need both to shift the stubborn body fat! I'm hoping to work round that though and come up with some novel ways of revving up my heart rate without impacting on my ankle... will keep you posted as to how that goes!

So that's it for now, weigh-in tomorrow or Thursday depending on how much time I have in the morning. I'm not hopeful that I'll have lost much this week as you always lose tonnes in the first week of any new diet and exercise plan. Plus I had a pretty epic weekend which I hope to update you on (although not so much in the way of pictures as I unfortunately appear to have lost my camera which I am absolutely gutted about :'-( )

So long for now

Tara x

Monday, 23 January 2012

The year so far in pictures - March 2011

Hi again, okay, so I've not done too well in updating you with what happened last year!

But anyway, here's another month of memories and pictures for you, this time from March 2011.

Tuesday 1st - Appointment with ankle surgeon
During the weekend I was rotating my foot when I heard a 'crack' followed by quite a sharp pain so I called the London Foot & Ankle Centre and arranged to go and see someone. My usual surgeon was on holiday so I saw another in his place. He couldn't find anything immediately wrong with it and was concerned that I was still using crutches so told me to try and wean myself off them and walk about a bit more.

Friday 4th - Birthday Fail
I had been invited to a 45th birthday of a lovely lady from my running club. I'd been to her 40th which was an absolute blast so was really looking forward to this.

I decided to wear a skirt and some long boots I have. Unfortunately the boots have a very slight heel, less than an inch, but this was enough to put my ankle in an awkward position and by the time I'd walked to my nearest train station my ankle had seized up and I couldn't walk any further. I had to call my son and get him to meet me at a bus stop with my crutches and trainers so I could hobble back. That was the end of my night. Gutted :-(

Wednesday 9th - First Aid training
I was chosen to be a first aider at work and so went on a 3 day course with the British Red Cross

The course was fantastic and covered so many emergency situations. I felt, and still feel, confident that I could deal with most things thrown at me if necessary.

The people on the course were really nice too, aside from an arrogant twit who had been on the course before and was only there because it had been a good few years since he did and therefore needed to re-train. He really thought he knew everything and even refused to participate in some group activities!

He came unstuck right at the end though which made me giggle. We all were tested individually and assessed on how we coped in fake emergency situations. One of us was a 'victim' and the other was the first aider. I ended up being the 'victim' for Mr Know-it-all... who forgot *so* much, even basic stuff, despite his confidence/arrogance. He passed in the end, we all did, but I think he might have learned a few lessons from that. Then again...

Also on that day, by a massive coincidence/twist of fate, my son managed to go over on his ankle while playing football and as good as break it! Luckily Joe was able to go meet him at hospital as if I'd left the course I'd have failed it... rubbish timing! I say 'good as break it' because as his bones are still strong and young it tore but didn't snap. He was very lucky in that respect but it still meant it needed to be treated like a break and so he had his leg in plaster and was non-weight bearing as a result. Guess who inherited my crutches?!

Thursday 17th - St Patrick's Day party at our Local
No pictures from this, probably just as well hehe...

Friday 18th - Drinks with friends/arm-wrestling madness
One of Joe's school friends moved to Canada in 2010 with work and was over visiting for a week so we all went for drinks at LVPO Bar. I'm not actually sure why we picked that bar, I think we had a table and drinks promised to us.

The night started off civilly enough, but somehow we got onto the subject of arm wrestling and it all went downhill from there.

I arm-wrestled the ladies... and won (phew!), couldn't beat the blokes though... oh the shame ;-)

We had a winner amongst the boys... amazingly... my very own boyfriend! Don't get me wrong, I know he's pretty strong but he's also quite lean and a lot smaller than some of the other blokes so I didn't expect him to beat all of them!

Go Joe! ;-)

I also took a few pictures of myself that night before coming out as I liked how my shoulders were looking :-)

Saturday 19th - British Grand Prix @ Excel

I took Joe along with me to the IFBB British Grand Prix and Fitness Expo. It was a lot smaller than the Bodypower Expo I'd been to the year before but it was still worth a visit.

we were amused to discover *more* arm-wrestling to be seen!

I met one of my fitness heroes, Carly Thornton :-)

And also bumped into the lovely Frankie Boers on the Udo's stand.

I also met up with a couple of friends Faye and Christina

and obviously had ample opportunity to perv on hunky men (while Joe was looking elsewhere of course! ;-) )

Wednesday 23rd - Donating Blood

On Wednesday Joe and I went to give blood and I was presented with this rather lovely cupcake!

(I was still eating wheat at the time so enjoyed it with gusto!)

Saturday 26th - Jen's surprise 30th

My friend's 30th was approaching and her boyfriend had organised a surprise bash for her.

He did really well keeping it a secret from her, we all hid out in a bar restaurant near where she'd been eating a meal and then surprised her as she walked through the door, she had no idea what was going on!

Well done Tom :-)

The night started off respectively enough...

Here's the birthday girl herself :-)

unfortunately somebody thought Jager Bombs would be a good idea....

and it all went rapidly downhill from there!

cue much silliness ;-)

Fun night :-)

Sunday 27th - Bell's Palsy

The day after Jen's 30th we were travelling home with Joe's parents (we stayed at theirs as the party was in Essex which is where they live) when my son called me.

He was on the bus travelling back from the friend whose house he'd stay at the night before.

I'd spoken to him several times the night before, and also that morning before we set off to come home and he'd not let on that anything was wrong. When he called from the bus though he said "Mum, there's something wrong with my face" and then went on to describe how he couldn't close his eye or mouth properly.

Obviously my first fear was that he'd had a stroke, but from what I'd heard/read about Bell's Palsy in the past I realised it was more likely to be that.

When I got home and saw him my heart leapt into my throat, I don't know how I managed to not burst into tears in front of him.

His face was frozen on one side, it was as if he'd had botox on one side of his face!

He said he thought it happened the day before as he was on his way to the bus stop to go to his friend's. He said he remembered looking up at the sun and not being able to blink properly against it, but didn't think much of it. He said it got worse as the night went on.

Obviously I was really annoyed at him for not telling me straight away, but also angry at his friend's parents for not alerting us too - they must have seen that half of his face didn't work?!

Anyway, we took him to A&E, I think we were in there for about 7 hours, they needed to confirm that it hadn't been a Stroke... or Brain Attack I should say, 'Stroke' is really a bad word to use as it implies something innocuous - you 'stroke' a cat! It was quite clear that this was an issue with his facial muscle though as his forehead was frozen and he couldn't raise his eyebrow or wrinkle it - with a Brain Attack apparently it doesn't affect your forehead.

This was all my son needed, he was on crutches as it was because of almost breaking his ankle a few weeks before so this really was the icing on the cake :-(

Unfortunately there's nothing much that Doctors can really do for Bell's Palsy and there is generally no reason why it would have happened in the first place!

I think it might have been stress-related. My son was finding it hard using crutches to travel all the way to school (we live a very long way from his school) and was also having to attend rehearsals after school for the play he was in.

We don't know though.

We also didn't know how long it would take for him to recover, or if he would.

I did an awful lot of online research, even discovered that George Clooney had had Bell's Palsy himself when he was around the same age as my son.

Unfortunately for George his lasted for quite a few months and make him the subject of ridicule amongst his peers. He has said that it made him stronger and you can imagine how those twits who teased him about it feel now!!

My son was put on a course of steroids and given eye-drops and gel. The latter two were very important as he couldn't blink at all and we we were concerned that his eye could get damaged if he dried out. The gel he put on just as he was going to sleep to provide a protective film over his eyes while he slept.

I also did a bit of research and learned that circulation can affect the recovery of the cranial nerve so I put him on a course of high strength vitamin B, fish oils and Ginkgo Biloba.

Thankfully my son's condition cleared up within about four weeks. I took pictures of him every week during this time so we could compare how far his recovery had come.

here's him smiling:

and here is him attempting to wrinkle his forehead:

By week four he was totally symmetrical again :-)

Also in March...

I started designing how our tiny garden might end up and looking for a gardener:

That's all that I have in pictures for March.

Til next time...


Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The year so far in pictures - February 2011

Hello again!

Well, as I've got this entry all finished I might as well post it with January's very brief update ;-)

Here's what I got up to in February (from what I can piece together!). Another quiet month but I was still recovering from ankle surgery so not entirely surprising :-)

Friday 4th - Bright Club
If you've not been to a Bright Club at the Bloomsbury Theatre I cannot recommend it highly enough. Think stand up comedy meets science lecture with some random music and singing thrown in and you're almost close :-)

Last February's theme was Life. Had a spectacular night, so entertaining and such amazing value for money!

Monday 14th - Valentine's Day

I did rather well this Valentine's day! Not only did I get these glorious flowers:

I also got a new Kindle!

We can get a bit humbuggy about going out on Valentine's day, mainly due to the silly prices restaurants charge for a meal that would cost a lot less any other day!

However, this year we decided to give the local trade a shot and visit a bar we'd not been to despite living in the area for almost a year! We chose Green & Blue on Lordship Lane and we weren't disappointed. The place has a lovely look and feel, very rustic :-) You can purchase wine by the bottle to drink or take away and they have a fabulous deli section too.

We started our meal with a lovely soup.

and then moved onto a shared platter which was just gorgeous :-)

The wine wasn't bad either ;-)

Friday 25th - NME Gig - Foo Fighters

You'd hope that for your first ever gig it'd be something memorable right? Well my son's first gig was the oustanding Foo Fighters playing at Wembley Arena so I think that probably ticks that box!

All three of us went :-)

...and we rocked out in the standing section despite my being still on crutches!

Here are some gratuitous Dave Grohl pics for no particular reason :-)

Also, during the month, we went to a leaving party at a friend's house on the 19th and I met up with a friend for dinner at The Thai restaurant in Parson's Green which is a lovely little place, if a tad out of the way for me! Would definitely recommend it though and I'm baffled as to why I don't have any food pics, how strange!

And that's the end of that short month!