Originally Published on June 9, 2015 at www.theconfidentcanuck.com
The subtle vibration on my right wrist stirs me out of a deep sleep. The blinking alarm announces that it's 6:00am and ready to rise on the black strap of my FitBit Charge HR that I wear religiously - day and night. The faint light from outside begins to dimly permeate the dark room with rays of golden sunlight, as my night eyes try to adjust.
"Can I just skip it?" I think to myself. "What's one day?"
Pushing my negative and self-destructive thoughts aside, I quietly trudge out of bed attempting not to wake my husband and rummage through my hoards of clothes to get ready. Nike Pro Training shorts - check. Sports bra - check. Colourful activewear tank - check. Hoodie to seal in my warmth for the drive - check. Headphones - check. Wristbands - check. Running shoes - check. Water with BCAA's and supplements - check.
As the initial drowsiness wears off, a sense of excitement and anticipation forms. No one enjoys fasted cardio, but the surge of energy to kick start my day and the sense of accomplishment first thing in the morning is incomparable. This journey, this commitment that I've made, is binding in my eyes. I plunged in head first, sipped the metaphorical Koolaid and radically transformed my life ever since.
Now, 6 months later of 6-7 workouts per week, 8 liters of water daily, regimented macro meal plan, balancing work, home and fitness life, I have just completed competing at the OPA Ontario Championships at a Provincial level this past weekend with a top ten finish after having place second for my category at my bikini debut in Mississauga a month before.
Let me tell you, the validation stemming from the heavy silver medal placed around my tanned, lean body as my arms were raised victoriously was a feeling like never imagined. That being said, the hardware is secondary to the lifestyle changes and knowledge gained that will persist and help to improve my quality of life for years to come.
PART 1 - THE BEGINNING
I’ve been involved in physical activities from a young age. As a child, I preferred volleyball and soccer as my sports of choice and my parents allowed me to dabble in dance and trampoline lessons. With a flair for the arts, I soon focused more of my attention on singing, performing and writing as hobbies but as a child growing up in the 90’s, I was fortunate to not be sucked into digital vacuum and still played outside – riding bikes, going for hikes, building forts, canoeing, and the likes.
Until I reached my early twenties, I had no concept of healthy food. I thought, as many others still do, that if a label read listed key words like “fat free”, “no sugar”, or “healthy”, that I was doing my body good. It’s funny looking back at my consumption of junk food and my typical meals and wincing at the lack of nutritional elements that ultimately lead me to have to make a change.
My body’s metabolism was on point. I was rail thin until I hit my mid-teens, and even at that, I would hardly gain weight. But I was soft, no muscle mass, no strength, and endurance. How do I know this? Well, first off I would get winded at the thought of running for more than a sprint, my body acted like a sponge and cellulite was started to peak onto my frame, the pants got tighter, and I’m embarrassed to say – I couldn’t even do one push up, let alone one on my knees!
Enough was enough, I had moved to Petawawa to make a big life change and had no friends. I was working at a radio station at the time in sales and I ended up meeting a fitness trainer, Kendra, who was in the process of running bootcamps. We talked about advertising, but at the end of the day, I was more interested in joining her to try and get a sort of regime in place that was sustainable. I came out, attempted the workout, almost passed out, was beat by women twice my age and realized – yup, this is what I needed! Little did I know at the time, but this “bootcamp” was actually a CrossFit workout and shortly after joining Kendra, she opened up CrossFit Poise (which she has operated for nearly 5 years). My love for fitness was ignited! I made new friends, I sparked the competitive nature that had always been brewing inside of me, and I worked my butt off for the next two and a half years.
One component was missing for me, however. My lack of knowledge and conflicting ideas of nutrition/diet, what to consume and when, really hindered my overall progress. I gained strength, I lost weight, but I plateaued before I was able to attain my goals due to the fact that I was eating poorly, or at least, not to help peak my performance.
I ended up moving back to Ottawa, met my husband who was also a fitness fanatic and former pro baseball pitcher, and kind of relaxed on my training.
PART 2 – WHAT CHANGED IT ALL
Cancer. Need I say more? When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2013, I was taken aback. Not as much surprised as I had been feeling “off” for the last two years prior to being diagnosed and my family had experienced illness on both sides. However, the sudden realization that life was more fragile than initially perceived altered my outlook on life. Soon after my surgery, I began to pursue endeavors that I was passionate about and focused hard on take life “by the balls” (pardon my French).
I opened a local chapter of the international non-profit, I Am That Girl, with whom I had interned as an editorial columnist for a year in the past. It allowed me to network with strong female characters and help to empower them while they, in turn, had the same effect on me. I gained a contract with the Senate of Canada to publish three ebooks on UN Resolution 1325: Women, Peace and Security which allowed me to add a significant accomplishment to my resume and to be paid to write (which is not an easy task, let me tell you that). Most importantly, I married the man of my dreams and we moved into a beautiful house to start this next chapter of our lives.
Even with all of those accomplishments, there was a component missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it just yet…
PART 3 - THE FIRST SHOW EXPERIENCE
My husband works sales for a prominent company dealing in facility services and uniforms alongside his good friend, Nathan. Nate and Craig are similar in many regards when it comes to intent and values in life, as well as personality. I could tell from the start that the innate bond they forged would develop into a lasting relationship.
Nathan is an accomplished personal trainer with 14 years of dedicated training and competitions under his belt. He is nationally qualified and a part of a larger network of trainers, Physique Doctor, as well as his own personal training enterprise, Smashfit.ca. When he was set to compete in Ottawa on November 2014, crossing from physique to his debut in bodybuilding, Craig and I ensured that we were there to cheer him on front and centre in the audience.
WOW! What an experience! Granted, it’s not for everyone, but the level of dedication to the craft or these men and women to get themselves in this peak condition was astounding. Nate worked his magic (his body) and perfected his posing and walked away with 3rd place, qualifying for provincials in Bodybuilding.
After the show, we were discussing what it takes to compete and he told me flat out that I would be a great candidate to do this – BUT – I would need to make the FULL commitment. It hadn’t crossed my mind until that time but it started to get me thinking. And those nagging thoughts would not dissipate.
PART 4 – THE ‘AHA’ MOMENT
Less than a month after witnessing the show, and after summoning the courage to look in the mirror and tell myself enough was enough, I committed to begin my own training. If I had the ability to face cancer and defeat it, to overcome the many obstacles thrown at me over the course of my life and still come out on top, there was no way that I would stand in my own way of my goals.
It was a mind over matter circumstance, and my strength of mind and determination to succeed superseded my lingering doubts.
“What if I fail?” I thought, at first. “What if I let everyone down?”
The journey, I learned, was not about other people or seeking their validation. If I worked hard, if I gave it my absolute utmost dedication and unwavering diligence, there was no failing. To fail means, by definition, to be unsuccessful in achieving one's goal. My goal was to become a healthier version of myself and do something I have never done before. It was a win-win situation!
On November 27, 2014, I took my first progress pictures in my body glove bikini and sent them to my trainer. This was the starting point, the beginning of a half year transformation.
PART 5 – DIET & SUPPLEMENTS
Many people (falsely) assume that cardio alone, or lifting weights alone, or diet alone, can get you that physique you want. It’s a combination of the three that really help you to dial into your body, produce the gains you desire, lean out, and achieve your desired physique. Sorry to break it to you but doing abs for 20 minutes every day without a proper diet will not help you slim the midsection.
My struggle was by far the food. My body was accustomed to processed foods, higher intake of sugars, starches, dairy, and little to no set feeding schedule. I ate when I was hungry – as many of us do – and if I was busy, I would neglect my needs or grab something quick and premade. It was convenient, and I didn’t make the time to meal prep.
My world was rocked when we introduced my macro meal plan and my body did not know how to react. I went through a ‘sugar detox’ where my cravings were intense and visceral, but gradually subsided as time and routine took control. For the first few months, I was allowed a cheat day where I could put ‘myfitnesspal’ aside, not count my calories, and refeed my body some of the junk it craved. The first few cheat days, I went way overboard and discovered that my body had an adverse reaction to what I was putting in it. Bloating, distention, aches and even illness ensued and I become more aware with each cheat why healthy eating was the way to go.
I cut out all dairy – yup, even cheese. I cut out all my starchy white, sugar loaded foods like breads, pastas, potatoes (save for sweet potatoes), and replaced with complex carbs that fueled me and didn’t get converted straight to fat or spike my insulin. My staples were brown rice, steel cut oats, sweet potatoes, quinoa (at times) and rice cakes. If I wanted fruit, I opted for berries or apples only and eventually cut those out as well about two months prior to show time.
Lean meats like chicken, turkey, bison, extra lean ground beef, and egg whites were my go to protein sources. Healthy fats were predominantly organic peanut butter OR Nuts N’ More High Protein Peanut Spread (if you haven’t tried, do it!), avocado, and grapeseed oil.
I had vegetables of all varieties to keep things interesting but stuck mostly to leafy greens like kale, spinach, chard, or vitamin-rich, antioxidant vegetables like asparagus, Brussel sprouts and broccoli.
Different diets will work for different bodies, and as such as adjusted my macros to reflect my needs and my preferences. Meal prep started to take on a new excitement as I learned to shake up the recipes and create variety across the 6-7 meals I consumed daily. Eating every 2-3 hours became the new norm and I trained my body to curb my unhealthy cravings (for the most part).