September Clean Eats Sweeps: Week 4

The clean eating challenge I took part in over the month of September has ended and I feel much better than I did on September 1. I lost three pounds overall and one inch!

I’m quite happy with those results since I wasn’t incredibly strict with myself and didn’t eat 100% clean. I had gluten free bread a couple of times, still topped my salad with goat cheese and nibbled on swiss cheese too. Cutting out alcohol made the biggest difference for me. I eat pretty well most of the time, but those empty calories in booze really add up.

I think abstaining from alcohol in the last two weeks and exercising in the last week of the challenge helped melt away those last couple of pounds.

Even though I’m a certified fitness instructor, I don’t really enjoy exercise in the traditional sense. Burpies and push ups and lunges are not my favourite thing to do but an opportunity came up to try out a free bootcamp class with the other ladies competing in the challenge. I decided to go for it, even though I was scared.

I have a decent fitness level from hooping, but bootcamp is always humbling for me. As soon as I got there, we asked the teacher if she would go easy on us. She basically replied no, as this was the last class of the series. Oh shit.

I somehow survived class though, pushing myself through countless lunges, squats, presses and sprints knowing that my body could do everything it was my mind I had to convince. I was slower than everyone else but still managed to get everything done. My legs nearly collapsed at the end of the class, but I did it!

I didn’t hurt the next day, but two days after I could barely walk or sit. I tried to keep moving so I didn’t get too tight but didn’t have a whole lotta luck.

I decided to go to a hot yoga class led by my favourite instructor on the third day after bootcamp because I felt like I could move with a little less pain again. I love this particular teacher’s classes because they are fun and challenging with the perfect amount of yogic philosophy.

We always do crazy advanced poses that I try to get through and in this class we happened to be working on opening our hips which was great since my quads and hamstrings were so tight from bootcamp still. I felt great after and when I weighed myself the next morning I was down to 132 pounds. I think hot yoga helped me burn some fat and let me sweat out some excess water weight.

The challenge is done but eating clean just seems like a habit now that I’ll continue. It took me all of my 20’s to get here, but I want to continue honouring my body and take care of it as best I can. My 30th birthday is now under two weeks away and I can safely say that when I wake up on October 18, I will feel pretty awesome!

September Clean Eats Sweeps: Week 2

Week 2 was an interesting challenge for clean eating because I was planning on spending the weekend at the cabin. My habits are pretty healthy during the week when I’m on my regular schedule. The issue is that not being on my regular schedule requires a lot of pre planning.

I had a work meeting on Monday night where dinner was provided. As my gluten, lactose & onion free option I was given a sandwich with deli meat on a gluten free bun. Not very clean, but my only option given I hadn’t planned ahead. Sometimes food allergies are so much work, it’s annoying to have to think about pre planning meals beyond that. I knew a weekend at the cabin would be a challenge, not only in terms of food but also for alcohol consumption. A typical weekend at the cabin includes chips, hot dogs, cookies or chocolate and lots of wine. That certainly would not be acceptable this trip! I’m quite proud of myself for bringing ground chicken lettuce wraps, hummus & veggies, fruit and seaweed snacks for my meals. My big treat was cashew butter and banana’s. One of my favourite healthy snacks. Mostly though, I’m proud of not bringing any booze! I did have two of my husbands ciders and a mango margarita on Saturday, but that was it for the whole weekend. I allowed myself those drinks partly because I was getting a bit cranky from the lack of sugar I was consuming and partly because it was my last visit to the cabin this summer and the weather was beautiful. and I don’t need to completely punish myself. I spent some time hooping, playing badminton, throwing a football around and walking dogs so that must have done something to combat the extra calories too.

I think that the hardest part of clean eating is the planning. It’s so much easier to make pre-packaged food or grab fast food but I know I feel so much better when I eat clean. Even though I haven’t been 100% clean so far, I’m happy with where I am because September has been busy so far and I’m not in the position to devote all of my time preparing food. I’m doing what I can and still living my life too, and I’m OK with that. I’m  back at 135 pounds, so down a half pound since last week and that is also OK. These next two weeks, I am really going to challenge myself – no alcohol at all and if I do have a meeting where non-clean food will be served, I will make a better effort to bring my own food.

Fascinating Fascia

I don’t know when this happened, but fitness and biomechanics have become interesting enough to me that I willingly chose to spend an entire weekend learning more about how the body moves at Fit Rendezvous, an annual conference through the Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA).  I learned so much I want to share, but what I found most interesting was all the new research that is coming out about fascia!

What really stuck out to me from the conference is that the fitness industry is moving away from a focus on flexibility and towards a focus on mobility. This means rather than bending yourself into pretzel like positions, it is more important to keep your joints mobile and experience full range of motion through them. Mobile people are healthy people, long into life. What struck me even more, is that hoopers and other prop spinners are regularly doing movement that allows full range of motion in many joints. We’re on the cutting edge of fitness and most of us probably don’t even realize it!

I attended a fantastic session on fascia from Michol Dalcourt that was quite fascia-nating (hehehe).   While ever expanding, my scientific background is quite limited, so this is the coles-notes version of the session. Michol proposed that new research is showing that it’s not just muscles that move the body, it’s also fascia and skin. What is fascia you ask? Well, it’s the connective tissue that forms a structural support matrix around our organs, muscles, joints, bones and nerve fibres. Now, why is this new research important? Because, the way people have been training their bodies is based on the concept that only muscles move the body, so repetitive motions of specialized muscles are all we need to be strong. If fascia and skin also play a part, the body should be trained differently and that means adding more mobility, functional fitness and rhythmical movements in your daily activities and fitness regimen. This will build strong fascia and as Michol says, will turn off the muscles so they don’t have to do all the work and will actually provide more stability in our bodies.

The body does not act in isolation. This is important in understanding fascia. It is also important to understand that fascia is constantly growing.

Healthy fascia looks like a spiderweb

Healthy fascia looks like a spiderweb

When we are moving a lot, it grows in a healthy fashion and looks like a spiderweb. When we’re sedentary and even when we’re sleeping, it turns into a glue like substance which does not provide the proper support the body needs for movement. This causes muscles to always be on and can create imbalances in the body as well. The best way to combat this is to move and stretch. I’m such a strong proponent of movement already, this is just more proof about its power to be healthy and happy.

Hoopers and other prop spinners are adding mobility and functional fitness into their lives all the time. Every time a hooper does a lift off the body, we’re likely promoting full range of movement in our scapula (shoulder blade). If we’re hooping around our waist (in both currents) we’re getting a full range of movement in our hips and the list goes on and on. One caveat Michol talked about was that to build a strong web of fascia, there must be different loads (weight/resistance etc.) with different speeds and different angles. I would say that an average hooper would be able to meet most of these criteria in an average hoop session if a wide variety of on and off body tricks and were performed along with jumps and varying speeds of movement. With that being said, to gain the most benefit in terms of building fascia, it would be beneficial to try a heavier hoop to ensure that there is enough load (weight). I actually tried this during a hoop session after the workshop. Off body moves didn’t feel quite as fluid as they do with my 5/8″ polypro hoop, but it felt good to challenge myself with a heavy hoop, especially knowing the benefit I was getting from this practice. I value being fit, but do not enjoy traditional workouts so knowing that hooping can do even more for my body is so exciting! Check out this video of the ViPR in action. This is a piece of equipment Michol created to help bring functional fitness into people’s lives and this rhythmical movement demonstration looks a lot like a prop spinner in flow. The big movements also reminded of our warm ups in Baxter’s Hoop Path workshops. He encourages big movements in our joints to heat up the body, but I wonder if he knows that he’s helping create strong fascia too?

Movement is not the only way to train and optimize fascia. Hydration and nutrition also play a role. Hydration of fascia is important for this system because the vast majority of its structure is water. The more hydrated the fascia is, the stronger it becomes. Water absorption occurs through an osmotic process which occurs with movement, so drinking water and sitting on the couch all day will not allow for proper hydration. Nutrition is also important for strong fascia. Fascia is a protein made up mostly of collagen. Foods rich in glycosaminoglycans (like home made meat broth) will naturally support collagen production. Chronic inflammation and congestion, on the other hand, will produce collagenase and cause fascia to deteriorate. Two major causes of fascial deterioration are sugar and vegetable oil. To combat this, it is important to eat anti-inflammatory foods, something I talked about when I was following the anti-inflammatory diet.

There are lots of ways to build a healthy system of fascia and I think it’s so cool that with a few tweaks to our practice, hoopers and prop spinners can build a healthy fascial system. You probably didn’t need it, but now you have one more reason to spin all the things!