Inner Pulse Fitness

You Are Meant to Thrive!

Ashtanga Musings: Daily Practice and Weight Loss

by Jacqueline

This is my favourite time of morning.  Early morning rituals of cat-feeding, coffee-brewing, yoga practice and meditation are complete.  The kitten watches me curl up on the couch with the laptop and does a fabulous run-and-leap from across the room onto my lap for our next ritual of sitting down together as I study, read, or journal.  She sleeps, of course.  And I contort myself around her to reach the keyboard without disturbing her.  This small bliss.  

Photo on 7-25-14 at 11.30 AM

The recent decision to establish a morning yoga practice came after deciding to establish a morning and evening meditation ritual to manage chronic stress.  The tradition of yoga, after all, aims to liberate the mind from the body for meditation with the understanding that if you are healthy and flexible, you are less distracted from meditation by discomfort in the body.  Ashtanga Vinyasa appeals most to me for this purpose because one builds on the same sequence over time.   In routine, there is no guess-work, no thinking.  This effect being congruent with my goals for meditation, I’ve started a daily practice following the primary series.  

This morning was Day 5.

Already I am noticing significant change in both the body and the mind.  The body is gradually opening up in places that have been frozen for years.  From practice to practice, this opening is creating a neurological pattern that is ‘remembered’ in the tissues and carried in from one day to the next.  I notice structural differences, as if my body is re-programming my movement patterns.  I notice changes within the ligaments, specifically within my knees, lumbar spine, shoulders and wrists.  Residual pain in the areas of past trauma remind me to go slowly into these new postures, to follow the breath.  

Ashtanga is not a workout.  

It is a spiritual practice.  I didn’t know this until now.  The mistake I have always made with yoga is treating it like a workout and scheduling it as part of a weekly routine.  I did yoga so that I could run/hike/dance/etc.   In this week, however, I witness the ways in which yoga aids in opening the energy gateways of the body that, indeed, optimize healing among other strengthening and toning effects.  Yoga, in many ways, must stand apart from “fitness workouts” to which I often, masochistically subject my body.  

Perusing the internet to investigate others’ integrations of a daily Ashtanga practice, I see a common thread reflecting my own concerns with weigh and body image:  will I lose weight?  Will this practice give me the body that I want?  This morning, after five days of daily practice, I come to understand yoga differently.  I’m willing to let this obsession with achieving the most perfectly fit body pass.  My new aim is balance.  To do yoga without aggravating injury, I need to counterbalance with stability/strength-training.  And to counterbalance the shortening effects of strength-training, I need to practice cardiovascular/endurance training.  

Suddenly, my priorities are dynamically inverted!  

The weight-loss is coming.  I’m maintaining 8 lbs down, with the goal of dropping 4-6 lbs more while maintaining muscle mass.  This doesn’t sound like much, but its always the final 5 lbs that are the most difficult to permanently shift.  Typically, what is needed to make this shift is a permanent lifestyle change.  Really, what I’m aiming to reduce is the fluctuation in weight that comes with falling ‘out of balance’ at intervals, usually with exams.  I’m addressing this with diet, and I’m also addressing this with twice-daily meditation.  Ah, the cycle!  …And yoga, bringing unity to the whole.  

Blessings, beloved…

Namasté 

Oh la la, Asparagus!!!

by Jacqueline

‘Tis the season! Fresh from the Farm today! (Strawberries still coming)…

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Slightly ‘steamed’ (just heated in water, not to boiling), tossed in Basalmic vinegar and EVOO

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Delicieux!

(Should have purchased two bunches!!)

Kettle-bell Workout A

by Jacqueline

In this video, I am completing a thirty minute foundational workout with kettle bells.  My goal is to complete as many rounds as possible (ARAP) within thirty minutes (30min) of the following three exercises: DLx10, GSx5, SWx12-15. I am not rushing through this as if it was a HIIT workout.  Because I am manipulating heavy weight with my body, I am taking the time to set up and execute each exercise with the best possible form.I am making this video not only to share with you the principles of a foundational exercise regime, but also because it provides me feedback on my own form.

I recommend that most women start with a 35lb kettle bell. For most men, 45lbs is a good ‘beginner’ weight. If you have experienced back injury, significant surgery, or chronic pain in your body, begin with a 25lb kettle bell. Your goal is to execute these moves in perfect form with a weight heavy enough to stimulate new neuromuscular connection.

In this video, I am using a 45lb kettle bell for both the DL and the Sq (because I have a 6 week foundation with those movements in the gym). And I’m using a 25lb kettle bell for the swings (because movement is new to me). I will be advancing that weight to 35lbs once I have mastered the movement with 25lbs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Not Your Spinach Omelette

by Jacqueline

Seaweed and Cheddar Omelette (roommate approved!)

 This is another one of those amazing taste combinations.  The seaweed tends to be a little salty, but as it is sea-salt, it is a preferable source of sodium and iodine.  American’s consume a diet high in sodium, and yet many have iodine deficiencies.  Unlike table salt or preservative salts, sea-salt contains iodine.  The seaweed does not overcook as easily as spinach, and is as rich in vitamins while lending a superb flavour.  I eat this omelette nearly every day, either for breakfast or as a meal before heading to the gym.  

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Ingredients:

1 TBSP Olive Oil (grease pan)
2 Eggs (fresh, local, or grass-fed)
1 TBSP Drinking Water
Grated Organic White Cheddar or Vegan Cheddar
Dried Seaweed (Nori or Wakame)

(Folding skills not included)

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Instructions:

(1) Heat olive oil in a skillet on med/high heat

(2) Whisk the eggs together with a fork until smooth; add 1 TBSP water, and continue whisking until frothy

(3) Pour egg mixture evenly into the skillet

(4) Add seaweed and cheddar

(5) Egg is ready to be folded when the top is no longer (or just barely) runny

(6) Flip every 30 seconds for 1-2 minutes until cooked;

(7) Serve and enjoy!  

 

The Screaming “O”: Orange and Kale Protein Smoothie

by Jacqueline

Yes, well.  It’s that good.

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Ingredients:

2 Scoops Protein Powder (fruit flavour)
1 Cup Unsweetened  Vanilla Almond Milk
1 TBSP Bee Pollen
1 Banana (frozen)
1 cup Chopped Kale (frozen)
1 Orange

Today, I’m hard at work editing a fitness video that should be up in the next day or two.  So engrossed was I in this process that I forgot to eat! Suddenly, it is the middle of the afternoon, and I have to eat something before I dash off to the gym lest I pass out either during or after (during would be embarrassing, and after I have class and cannot afford a sugar crash).

What to do, what to eat?

So I threw this together, not really expecting much, pulling the ingredients from what was at hand.  Man, did it knock my socks off!  It is so delicious, I  had to share immediately.

 OMGosh you guys! You’ve gotta try this!

The texture is perfectly creamy and smooth from the milk, banana, and protein powder.  Not the usual protein grit.   And there is something that happens with the taste of the orange and vanilla together that makes this smoothie orgasmic.

(For a vegan alternative, choose a vegan protein powder.  Personally, I choose whey over soy, which is less healthful to women’s bodies).

Peace and Love…

‘Orange You Glad’ Spiced Soup

by Jacqueline

Sip to your health with this warming dose of beta-carotene.  Turmeric for the capillaries in your lungs, homemade broth for the mineralization of bone; this soup is medicine, but it tastes like pumpkin spice!

Ingredients:

1 Qt  Homemade Bone (or Vegetable) Broth
1 Qt Drinking Water

1 large (or 2 Small) Sweet Potato
3 Large Carrots

1Tbsp each of The Healing Trinity
(Cumin, Curry and Turmeric)

 

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Dice Vegetables into Large Chunks

Add Broth + Water + Veggies to Pot

Add 1 Tbsp each Turmeric, Cumin and Curry

 

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Simmer on High for 2-3 Hours

When Vegetables are Soft, Ladle into Blender

Purée until Smooth

 

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Serve Warm or Chilled

(Thank you, Eileen, for sharing this Recipe!)

 

Ruby Kraut: Homemade Probiotic

by Jacqueline

This tasty pro-biotic super-food aids in digestion and can be added to supplement a variety of soups and salads.  Make two jars, and give one to a friend!

  Ingredients:

1/2 Head Red Cabbage
3 Large Carrots
3 Tbsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Fennel Seed
2 Tbsp Coriander Seed
2-3 Cups Drinking Water (room temp)

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(1) Chop cabbage and carrots;
Mix and add to mason jars

 

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(2) To each jar add:

1 Tbsp each Coriander and Fennel Seed
Add 1+1/2 Tbsp Sea Salt
Fill nearly to top with Water

 

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(3) Apply lid and gently agitate until contents are thoroughly mixed

 

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(4) Store jars in dark and warmth;
Enjoy in 5-10 days!

 

As IF! The Fasting Fad of 2014 (Intro)

by Jacqueline

Intermittent Fasting

I heard the first buzz about intermittent fasting last year with a weight-lifting buddy who wanted to loose weight.  Specifically, he wanted to lose weight without changing his bachelor, bar foods diet of unrestricted calories, rich in creamy trans fats.  I did some light research on this program so that I could hold up my own in our next conversation.  I found that the program promoted skipping meals and/or periodic days of eating and fasting, all while working out three times a week in an intense muscle gain’s program.  Listening to my friend, however, IF seemed primarily an excuse to binge on unhealthy foods between alternating periods of starvation with the goal of burning fat quickly.  This’ll wreak havoc his metabolism, I thought.

Admittedly, I am inclined to automatically disregard the newest, baddest, fastest fad to arise out of the fields of health and fitness science as mere fluff.  Eat for your blood type; eat raw; eat cooked; eat according to your hypothetical pre-historic ancestors; don’t eat fat… or sugar… or carbs.  And now, don’t eat?  Add ‘fasting’ to the list of diet buzzwords marketed to exploit the uninformed:

‘Low-calorie’ (i.e. watered down nutrients);
‘Low-fat’ (i.e. additional sugar or salt);
‘Sugar-free’ (i.e. saturated with aspartame and artificial sweeteners);
‘Enriched’ (i.e. subjected to bleaching process that kills all naturally occurring micro-nutrients);
‘All-natural’ (i.e. GMOs are natural, right? Organic, then?)

American Food Culture?

In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver writes that Americans, more than any other people, lack a food culture, which teaches us how to eat.  Rather, our pop food-culture supports unhealthy and unconscious consumption of trans fats, sugars and stimulants in foods that lack adequate nutrition.  As obese as Americans are, we are also chronically mal-nourished and sick.  We lack a standard of cultural values promoting a healthy and positive relationship with food.  Thus, many Americans have a dis-ordered perspective surrounding food.  Food is an ‘issue’.

Female curves are healthy and natural.  A woman’s body is biologically predisposed to gain and maintain stores of fat during her childbearing years.  Yet, the images of women that are marketed to women are images of death, deprivation and lackAs a woman, in a culture that glamorizes and fetishizes the skeletal frame of the deprived feminine form, I do not want to hear another masculine, white-coat authority telling people with already toxic views of food, to starve!

We are already starving.

And our culture being what it is (though neither good, nor bad), we want to lose weight FAST!  However, a healthy body does not support rapid fat loss.  In fact, a clever little mechanism in the brain prevents rapid weight loss by signaling the body to maintain its fat stores even more conservatively.  This ‘starvation response’ is a negative feedback mechanism that not only cools the fire of the body’s metabolism; it can also trigger binging behavior.  At a primal level, the brain is signaling:  It’s life or death, baby. Eat!

Our bodies contain a natural threshold of tolerance for change.  If this threshold is surpassed—for instance, if harmful bacteria invade the body and cause infection—the body’s feedback loops create a stress response to stimulate the return of balance—inflammation/fever to increase the circulation of white ‘fighter’ blood cells.   A healthy body is resilient: a sapling able to bend with the wind survives the hurricane.  Continual stress, however, will decrease the body’s ability to achieve and maintain homeostasis.

Thus, unhealthy eating habits are those habits, which most upset our internal balance.  This is why fast food is so harmful to us.  It takes great reservoirs of energy for the body to metabolize and digest all of the fats, sugars, and sodium for which we receive little nutrition to sustain us.  We eat, and crash.  But this is a response to sugar.  We have not been fed.  Similarly, skipping breakfast triggers our bodies to gain weight.  We are starving all day, and so we binge at night.  Then, when we are not hungry the next morning, we starve, again, all day.

As with the fight-or-flight response, the logic of the starvation response is to preserve life; it is futile to argue against it.  The reptilian brain will win, every time.  If it does not win, it is only your survival in jeopardy.  Therefore, the goal of any weight loss program should be slow, consistent loss, over time.

A long time.

A lifetime.

Then, I heard something so profound that it has shaped my thinking about fasting ever since…  (Next article in progress)

This Is Why I Lift (Part 1)

by Jacqueline

Girl before a Mirror, Pablo Picasso

For the past three years, I have been recovering from a traumatic accident, which injured my spine, neck, skull and shoulder.  More devastating than the accident, however, was the lost feeling of strength and ability I had in my body.  I was now, dis-abled. Broken.  Perhaps permanently.  Because I was not able to workout with my usual level of intensity without causing pain and prolonging the effects of the injury, I began to struggle with managing my weight through diet.  Increasingly, I became obsessed with staying small.

I discovered pro-ana after reading one woman’s successful journey to a size zero through fasting and diet (this source is now lost in google ordering of cyberspace).  Fasting is a way of life among the pro-ana community.  There are multitudes of diets from which to choose which oscillate one’s daily caloric intake from 500 calories, to 300, to none throughout the week.  Expert fasters fast for days and weeks at a time in an effort not only to deprive oneself, but also to feel a sense of otherworldly accomplishment.

Like many women following the pro-ana lifestyle, my blood sugar and metabolism went haywire as I began to cycle between periods of hyper-controlled fasting and uncontrolled chocolate binging.  I became frequently ill and increasingly stressed.  My PMS symptoms were off-the charts (which signified an increasing hormonal imbalance).  Worse, I lacked the energy, strength and will to do anything.  Ultimately, these increased feelings of weakness and in-ability in a body already dis-abled by injury drove me toward recovery.

Luckily, I was not a successful anorexic.  I do, however, have an eating disorder.

Eating-disordered thinking

Pro-ana is a world where cycles of distortion, deprivation and disgust with one’s Self are vacant thrones crowned with power.  Food was the sun in the centre of my increasingly dis-ordered thinking.  All of my thoughts focused on food: the lack of food, the control of food, the denial of food, the calories in food, the craving for food, the failure of food.

Now, after a year of intense work, this thinking sleeps quietly below the surface of awareness.  Sometimes, I even forget that it is there.  I remember it, however, when in times of increased stress, it leaps upward, distorting my perception of my body and self.  It is triggered by a thought, perhaps  memory or illusion, brought on by the holidays, illness, or sneaky comments uttered around my weight or how much is or is not on my plate.  It is triggered by exams, when I need to control everything, and by the loss of routine.

In the yoga sutras, Patanjali names this type of thought vikalpa, false imagination or distortion.  I looked in the mirror and perceived only the ripples on the surface.  I am fat.

anorexia-mirror

Truly, I am the awareness of the ripples

Increasingly, a core of values, which support my goal of health and wellness, protects me.  Instead of feeding my power into a gaping lack, I crown the belief that I am capable of recovering all of my strength, and more.  I am strong, capable, healthy and beautiful.  Most of all, I am unafraid of occupying not only my own skin, but also the density of muscle, fat (yes!) and bone.

I am a force!

I take up space!.

This is why I lift


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Love and Blessings…

Three Months 5×5 Foundation

by Jacqueline

Happy New Year, everyone!

I finally made it to the gym today for my first strength workout in 2014.  I’m still recovering from the cold-from-hell, and am still a bit weak.  I pushed myself, but I was also acutely aware of (1) proper form and (2) driving up with power.

These are my weights for today:

Squat:  85lbs, 5×2; 75lbs, 5×3

Deadlift:  85lbs, 5×5

Chest Press:  55lbs 5×3; 65lbs 5×2

Back Extension:  3×10

I love lifting weights.  I cannot describe to you the wonderful feeling of strength, balance, and power that lifting creates in my body.  In his documentary, “Pumping Iron”, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a classic quote describing the euphoric effects of  ‘the pump’.  While I, personally, have not achieved this climactic effect in the gym, ‘the pump’ of pressing through that final rep of that final set makes a girl feel damn invincible.  It grounds me.  It fuels me.  It lifts my soul.

I’ve been following this foundational program for the past month, three times each week.  While also working the chest, and quadriceps, the compound movements of this workout primarily strengthens the posterior chain (and therefore, your back, and all of the muscles protecting your spine).  When I began in December, I began with the following weights:

SQ:  55lbs 5×5

DL:  50lbs  5×5

BP: 40lbs  5×5

BE:  BW (3×10)

Quite a difference!  And I’m so happy that today, even on a ‘weak’/recovery day, there is significant improvement in not only the lifting weights, but also in form.  Four weeks ago, I couldn’t even squat properly.  It took about a week to correct the form to squatting to parallel.  And today, I squatted past parallel to a low bench.  There are still weaknesses and mobility issues that need work; however, overall, my form is significantly more even and aligned.  Weights did that!  Lifting weights changes your neuromuscular  connection to movement.

Even though I am doing the same workout each time, I am never bored with this workout.  Each day is different; I notice what my body needs and I am able to adapt the program.  There was one day last week that I really didn’t feel like lifting.  I went into the gym anyway, and instead of completing the 5×5 program, I did each exercises with the bar (45lbs) for three sets of then (3×10).  Obviously, this is a completely different workout.  I did not gain much strength or mass.  Instead, I worked up a nice sweat, while practicing excellent precise form.  I left the gym feeling totally rejuvenated.

I have not gained weight.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve lost about 2-3 lbs as well as a full percentage point of body fat (this is now a off due to recent week-long illness–not recommended).  Surprise, surprise, I am not becoming overly bulky or overly muscular (despite the fact that this is a ‘gains’ program).  I am more muscular, but not in an unfeminine way.

I have made no significant changes to my diet other than possibly eating more!  I eat 2-300 calories at regular intervals throughout the day, and specifically after a workout.  I learned that I must eat after a lifting workout; otherwise, I experience a major crash and become very overwhelmed (grouchy and tearful) and mentally foggy (grr).  I also eat a very big breakfast of eggs and tahini toast every morning; sometimes I eat two breakfasts, hobbit-style.  And I highly recommend it.

Because I am so pleased with this past month’s results, I will be continuing this program for the recommended three months foundational period before transitioning to the full Phase 1 of Reg Park’s 5×5 Workout Program (eventually there will be a link here).

Over the course of the next two months, I will spend some time with you focusing on nutrition, safe and proper lifting form, and how to generate hip power through torque.  I will also post about my workouts as a reference source for other women seeking to start a 5×5 lifting program for strength.  There will be before/after pics, etc.

Until next time, I leave you with the following Arnold wisdom:

Milk is for babies.  When you grow up, you have to drink beer!

Cheers!

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