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