Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How I Started a Fitness Program that Worked for Me

Left: July 2016 (I never would have tried kayaking if I hadn't started working out and building muscle!)
Right: May 2017
For a month, I've been planning on writing about how I started working out and it just got away from me. As it's the last day in May and today I'm going to do my first 3RM (the max I can lift for 3 repetitions) test on squat and bench press, it seemed like it was perfect time.

Last May, I had been on Weight Watchers for three months and lost 29 pounds. I was walking almost every day and in a place where I felt like I could start working out. If I would have tried earlier, I probably would have failed. I had been inactive for too long and trying to fix my diet and exercise all at once would have been overwhelming.

With my diet on track and my activity level increased, I was ready.

To be successful, I decided to get a personal trainer to help me. My gym offers a free consultation to have a program designed for you and I did that first, but even with that I wasn't ready to be on my own. Without confidence about what to do, I knew I wouldn't actually go and workout. I got along well with the trainer who did the consultation, so I asked him if he would train me.

A personality match is very important when selecting a trainer. Yes, they need to be knowledgeable and work on your level, but if you don't enjoy your time or they don't motivate you to work your hardest ... it's not worth it.

I lucked out with Eric. He never made me feel like the fat slob that I was or made me feel weak or inadequate. I was uncoordinated, clueless and that was okay. Plus, he's a Game of Thrones fan, so that gave us something to talk about!

Working out with Eric provided two things for me that I needed: accountability and the fundamentals. Once or twice a week, I had a strength training session. I looked forward to it and never once did I think of cancelling or not showing up. I wanted to be fit enough to handle the grueling physical aspects of San Diego Comic-Con and with the walking and training sessions I achieved that goal. I had the best con ever.  

Without the planned sessions, I probably wouldn't have lasted a week at the gym. Why? No accountability, but also I didn't know what the heck I was doing. I knew I didn't want to use the machines. Those aren't fun and they aren't as effective at strength training as using free weights and other movements.

Eric taught me the fundamentals, even if I didn't realize it until months later. With what I learned from him, I was able to start working out on my own and developed a habit of going to the gym after work. I didn't even think about it. I just went. That makes it so much easier to achieve your goals. No motivation needed when you have the momentum of habit on your side (which can just as easily turn against you-- pint of ice cream a night? Same momentum of habit there...).

The movements I started learning a year ago helped me build a foundation that I use today for barbell training. The most important was the squat. A year ago, I didn't understand how critical squatting is to our overall health and movement as we age  and really only truly figured it out this year.

I started with box squats and TRX squats. It makes me smile to think how difficult those were for me a year ago given where I am now. Even funnier is that I called box squats, "sitdowns." Hey, I was doing step ups, so why wouldn't they be called "sitdowns." My naivety was astounding, but that's how most people are when they walk into a gym. It's nothing to be ashamed about, but embraced. Walking in the door is a huge step in and of itself.

I tried to lose weight and work out many times over the years and never succeeded until this time. Part of the reason is that there aren't many resources available to help the out-of -shape, inactive person to get started. Most video workouts or classes are too difficult and that becomes frustrating. There are a bazillion programs you can follow online, but those also aren't designed for someone with zero experience and just starting out.

We are set up to fail.

For me, I found success by getting a trainer to teach me the fundamentals and to hold me accountable which made it more difficult to quit. Not that I wanted to because I got the bug. I loved it, so then working out became a way of life for me. If you have the resources, get a trainer. A good trainer with whom you have a good rapport. It makes a world of difference. If not, try small group strength training. It's cheaper, but you still have the attention and availability of a trainer to answer questions and help you.

This was what worked for me when I started. I transitioned to a new trainer at the same gym after a few months when Eric left the fitness center. This change triggered a new phase of my training which sparked a fire inside me that has pushed me to where I am today with lifting heavy shit! I'll write about that another time.

Something I hope to do this year is to collaborate to create a training resource for people who are overweight, out of shape and want to get started with strength training. There's not enough good information out there for people who want to get started. In the meantime, I hope my story helps at least one person in their own journey to a healthy lifestyle.

Be the best you that you can be. Do better! Be better!

And, thank you to Eric for getting me started on the right fitness path!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Overcoming Self-Doubt

It's amazing how your outlook can shift so drastically from one day to another. In this case, it was for the better!!

Yesterday wasn't my best day. I was drowning in self-doubt about aspects of the path I'm on. And today, my perspective has returned to my normal positive attitude. Sometimes it just takes someone offering a few words of encouragement or straight talk to bring you off the edge. 

While those words helped me yesterday, today reinforced it!

I've lost 90 lbs so far. At the doctor today, I got my goal weight and have 35 more pounds to go. I have a feeling these 35 will be more difficult than the first 90, but I'm up for the challenge! The end of this phase of my journey is in sight.

I've been struggling with my squat form over the last few weeks. I got some great coaching over the weekend and put it into action today. While I still have work to do, I did much better than I was earlier this month. And I achieved a new personal record of 5 reps at 175# (previously my #1RM). It's not easy to see progress day-to-day, so it was nice to get this signal that my hard work and programming is paying off.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Success: Finding What Works

How have I done it? I've lost 85 pounds and especially recently gotten leaner and fitter. I get asked this often and depending on how it's asked or the day my answer changes. 

I've written some about how I started and this is more about how I've been able to maintain my momentum and continue to progress. 

Having the right mindset is important, but even more it's about having the right plan that works for you and is sustainable.

On the food side, quick fixes, fads, and restrictive diets may work for a short time, but no one can maintain those for the long haul. Success comes when you change how you approach food and eating. What works for me is that no food is off limits. I eat mac & cheese, pizza, chips, even desserts every week, but when I eat these foods I eat one serving and chose healthier versions than I would have before. I use Weight Watchers points, but the same can be done by counting calories or macros too. And be careful about your daily tracking. It's not just overeating that's problematic. Undereating is also detrimental to weight loss, especially if you are working to build muscle at the same time.

On the fitness side, I found that having an established training program has been instrumental to my recent success. 5 days a week I know exactly what I'm going to do when I walk into the gym. I'm lucky to have a customized program for 4 days a week that's focused on my fitness goals and once a week I take a TRX class which I love. I supplement those with walking, foam rolling and now yoga. 

I also built a comprehensive support structure of people throughout this to help me with their knowledge, and those who push and motivate me through the good and bad times. Over the last couple months, I've worked to support others as much as possible which has done me as much, if not more, good.

I've thanked you each personally throughout my journey and want you to know I appreciate you all every day!!! I wouldn't be where I am now without you. 

I hope this helps others to find their path to a healthier and happier life! Reach out if I can be of any assistance or support.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Finding Inspiration

Today was a refreshing day of reminders and inspiration. First @meggovick's post (see below) and when I was at the gym this memory came up on Facebook from 3 yrs ago.

The photo on the left is from the set of Dallas in 2014. The right I took today while working out. From bourbon to water! After the set visit we went to the JR Ewing Bourbon launch party. It was crowded and I was so uncomfortable there. It was fun, but the new me would be so much more comfortable in that situation. I needed a reminder of "why" and I got 2 amazing reasons today. 

85 pounds gone, fitter, healthier and happier. And I'm not finished.

Two of my least favorite things are selfies and department store dressing rooms. I don't even like clothes shopping because it's immediately exhausting to find out that whatever department store you are in doesn't carry your size and you're not dragging your smaller friends through the plus sizes (which is ALWAYS next to maternity). And then you get to tell a customer service person how many clothes you've picked out and they get to inventory how many you're too fat for when you bring them back. It's a nightmare. On my first day of @gotribefit, @juliana_gotribe told me to write down my goals. Not just weight numbers but full sentences of why I wanted to make a serious life change. My No. 1? Being able to walk into Target and buy clothes from the "regular" women's section at the front of the store. Not plus size, not the t-shirts, just...regular clothes. Today, after 5 months and 40-ish pounds, I walked into Target in size 20 jeans pulled on a size 16 from the front of the store. These are those pants. It's not a sausage fit. It's a comfortable, "these are my pants" fit. I haven't been a size 16 since I was a sophomore in high school. For the first time in, well, ever I can cry happy tears in a dressing room. (I still suck at selfies, but deal with my face because this is important) # I've been trying to be more like @carlajday and post about points in my journey that aren't that great. The past six weeks have been really rough for me with stress at work etc etc. The pounds haven't come off as easy and there are Girl Scout cookies EVERYWHERE. There have been weekends where I spend more time in bed than anything else and it suuuucks, but it's important to remind yourself of progress and look at what you've accomplished even if you haven't reached the ultimate goal yet. So thanks to @ohdarlinggirl for (kindly) pushing me to Target and just trying some stuff on. It's two sizes, which doesn't seem that much, but it's an eye opening experience to see how far I've come since starting this whole thing. Crazy stuff is possible friends. #gotribefit #talesfromthedressingroom
A post shared by Megan Vick (@meggovick) on

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Keep On!

Been kinda a blah week at times. I've been asked a lot recently about how I got motivated to workout initially and stay motivated, so I thought I'd write a series of articles about it. 

For the most part, it's been easy for me. I had a goal when I started to be fit enough to handle the grueling days of San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) last July. I achieved that goal and I really haven't had any major goals since then. I've faced challenges at times, but making consistent improvements is a huge motivator.

This week, I had my first real crisis of will since I started last May. I faced it and persevered. When you don't want to do something you know is good for you, sometimes you have to push through. Keep on! Put one foot in front of the other (even through tears) until you want to do it or you finish.

It's not magic. You just have to want it more than you don't most of the time. Momentum will help push you through the rest of the time. And if you have a lazy day or a lack of will, do it anyway. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Scale Lies...

The scale lies.... okay, not really. But, it's not the whole story or the most important one. 

Today I bought two pairs of workout pants (long and capri) in a size large and a medium belt. Large and medium, what!?!? And, yes, they fit.

I haven't really published my weight here before, but why not since I share just about every other embarrassing thing there is to know about me online. (Almost everything!)

So as of this morning, I weigh 203 pounds. According to the scale, there's no way I should be in a size large pant or medium belt. Why do they fit? Working out!

The last time I weighed this little (yes, little!), I wore a couple sizes bigger and was definitely fluffier (or flabbier if you prefer). Building muscle makes a huge difference.

Why am I writing this? Because I often hear people on a weight loss journey stress about the scale not moving when they start strength training and they get frustrated. It's not about the scale, it's about your changing body and health. Take measurements, notice changes in the fit of your clothes, notice bones showing where they were hidden in marshmallow fluff before...

Don't give up or stop working out or lifting weights. Ride the ebbs and flows of the scale because in the end, it's oh so worth it. A large pant! A medium belt! It's a miracle that I've literally worked my ass off for... I need to work the glutes a bit more to fill out the pants!

When I first started working out, the scale didn't move much for just over a month. And then it started to go down again. Recently, I started lifting heavier and the same thing happened. Eventually, the body catches up.

My silly tip for the day brought to you by my awesome new pants! Time to put them on and pump some iron as some people say

(I apologize for my craziness, it's been a very odd week....)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

One Year Anniversary!

One year! Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of standing on the scale for my first weigh in of this journey. All that I've accomplished doesn't seem real at all. 

I didn't take before pictures or measurements and I regret it. (Do it!) Perhaps that would help me better acknowledge and remember my past self. Yesterday, I pulled out a pair of pants I wore to work a year ago and put them on. Wow. 

That was the eye-opening that I needed. The girl who wore those pants is not only many inches smaller now, she's a different person. Happier. Stronger. Nothing can stop this new me from reaching my goals. Nothing. There's no going back.

Where will I be in another year? No idea, there aren't any limits. Maybe I'll even do the salmon ladder 

Where am I now? 

Down 82 pounds
From size 24 to 12 pants
Ribcage (band) 10 inches smaller
 Able to walk over 5 miles
Walk 2 miles under 15 min/mile
Deadlift 175# (barbell)
Deadlift 200# (trapbar)
Squat 175#
Bench Press 125#
Hip Thrust 185#

I couldn't have done this alone. Thank you to the key individuals who helped me get here. You know who you are. My gratitude to infinity. 

To my family, friends, co-workers, social network… thank you for your comments, notes, and overall encouragement. You motivated me to continue and helped get me over hurdles when they popped up.

What's next? Everything!