Tag : featured

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Want to lean out your thighs? You won’t believe what you’ve been missing…

Okay, maybe it’s a cheap shot that I’m buying into the whole Upworthy practice of writing ridiculous headlines! Now that I’ve gotten your attention…Recent conversation with two girl friends of mine reveal that I wasn’t the only one a bit self-conscious of my thigh area. This seems like a more common nuisance among asian girls, whether genetically or culturally, as our mamas love to call them “childbearing hips” and move on to comment on our other body parts as they usually see fit. Asian moms mean well, I’m sure :)

It shouldn’t be any revelation on my part – girls have been subconscious of how they look for centuries. What’s ironic to me is how small my two friends are in contrast to me. They’re both really fit girls who know how to take care of their body. Our conversation took an inevitable turn and they asked me for workout advice to tone and lean out their legs. I’m both surprised and flattered that they’re seeking advice from me. After all, I only started weight-training like what…6-7 weeks ago (and may I add, only on the weekends). Though I’m no expert and have no original advice to give, I did recall what my chiropractor told me – 40 seconds as the defining time under tension. I decided to take it upon myself to do a bit of further research (aka doing a lot of Google searches).

I love lists and categorizing, don’t you?
I took the liberty of outlining some areas to consider in a list:
– genetic predisposition
– caloric input vs. output
– body composition
– metabolism
– hypertrophy vs. strength

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics do play a role, in that women tend to carry more fat in the upper legs and hips than do men.” – This fact taken from an article from the Dailymail.co.uk “Femail” section doesn’t surprise me a bit.  However the next paragraph says that “Scientists, led by researchers at Oxford University and the Medical Research Council, looked at the genetic code of more than 77,000 people, and found 13 gene locations that may influence fat deposition on the hips.” Does that mean you should just give up on the whole pursuit of getting slimmer legs?

Genetic predisposition – gender, genetic body fat distribution and body shape, play a huge factor on how our lower body is shaped. Fat on the lower body for women is tricky as it often is the last place to show signs of weight loss. Unless you are genetically lucky in a sense and have naturally slim legs, your body fat % will have to be in an uncomfortable level and drop below 20% or more to achieve the “definition” zone. Many bikini and fitness models will reach this body fat level (15-17%) and some may not be able to menstruate. 

Caloric input vs. output

This seems very logical and has been a long-standing formula for manipulating weight.  When your caloric output is greater than your caloric input, you lose weight. It seems simple and all, except that it completely neglects the type of food you’re putting in your body and the type of exercises you should do. Certainly, one boiled egg which is equivalent to a chocolate bar calorically cannot be regarded as the same nutritionally. Same can be said about the caloric output. Can all exercise whether it’s running, weight training, circuit training, zumba be considered to have the same effect on your body as long as the caloric output is the same?

Another common saying that we’ve been fed growing up in the 90s is the “fat burning zone”. The longer you stay in that zone, the more fat you can burn. Many think that cardio for a sustained period of time can contribute to fat loss. 
According to this women’s running site, a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology discovered that regular 30-minute workouts resulted in more weight loss than regular 60-minute workouts. “At the end of the 13-week study, the half hour workout group lost 8.8 pounds, while the one hour workout group lost 8.4 pounds. Scientists hypothesize that our bodies compensate as the exercise session drags on, thereby dampening the results.” 

The human body is amazing in adapting to external environments and harsh circumstances. When you train for a long-distance event, your body gets better at it which also means it becomes very efficient in using the least amount of energy possible to complete that event. This can improve your performance in endurance sport but may work against you if your goal is fat loss.

Body Composition and Metabolism

There was a blog post written a while ago that spread like wildfire on the topic of “running makes you fat?” It certainly would be easy for me to jump on that bandwagon and start trash talking all the marathon runners and that they’re setting themselves up to get fat with their training.  The logic behind their explanation makes sense to me but I also believe that the human body is very adaptable and our ancestors were probably good at both steady state activities (ex. running or jogging at a steady pace)and burst activites (ex. sprinting).

To give this whole argument a bit more context, these writers hold the point of view that steady state activities, running long distance for example, will enable the body to go into self preservation mode. Some of the reasons include:

  • Training consistently above 65% of maximum heart rate shifts the body to salvage as much body fat as possible, ultimately slowing down your metabolism
  • After regular training, fat cells stop releasing fat during moderate-intensity activities like they once did.

There are many reasons why one wants to run a marathon. For one, it’s a real and measurable accomplishment. I absolutely admire endurance athletes for their determination and mental toughness (things I wish I have… sigh). However, I find myself siding with the above viewpoint that if your goal is to lean out and lose weight, training to run for 26.2 miles may not be your answer.

I did find some tips on how to prevent your body from going into “self-preservation” mode if you’re continuing your endurance training.  Thanks to many more google searches, I stumbled across the Science of Triathlon blog – also listed below.

1. Do not restrict calories intake when initiating endurance training

Isn’t that the first thing we girls do when we want to get that beach-ready body – ramp up the cardio and cut down on calories. According to Science of Triatholon, that’s the last thing you should do. Generally you’d notice the weight loss as your caloric output exceeds your normal calorie intake  4-6 weeks into training.

2. Eat Fat!

You heard that right. Gone are the days of the 90’s way of thinking. Fat is essential for hormone production and absorption of vitamin D. Not eating fats during endurance training would only mean your body hoards the fat even more.

3. When you’re training hard, think about what that food does for you nutritionally before you put it in your body.

Here are some opposing viewpoints around this whole “running makes you fat” issue:

Why running is making you fat by Patrick Hitches

Does running make you fat by Science of Triathlon

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get to the bottom of my list so keep an eye out for a Part 2 post to discuss the last bullet points (metabolism, hypertrophy vs. strength). You would think fitness experts and trainers could have exhausted this topic by now. The deeper I’ve gotten into my research, the more opposing viewpoints and training methodologies I’ve discovered. Apparently there’s still a lot more to be said. Until then, ladies, what say you, LET’S DO SOME SQUATS! :)

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Who knew barbell front squats can be so fun?

One cool thing about picking up a new hobby is that you have so little prior exposure to it, so everything you do become new learnings and you can see almost immediate progress. So it is also for my experience in picking up barbell front squats.

The hardest part about front squats is holding the barbell in rack position because I’m not used to having my core stabilising the weight and my shoulders supporting the bar. It’s led to some new battle scars – red marks on my front delts (or maybe the lack thereof: The deltoid muscle is the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder, according to Wikipedia)

Bruised Front Delts from Front Squats

It seems a bit faint under this lighting. I swear I’m not exaggerating, there were red marks.

I find that I can stabilise the barbell better when I consciously think of keeping both abdominal and buttocks tight. It also seems to improve over time when I do a few more planks here and there. It comes down to familiarity for me. The more barbell exercises I do, the more familiar I get with the sensation of activating or tightening certain muscles which usually revolves around the upper back, abs and butt.

Karen front squat 130 lbs for 3 reps

The bruising of my front delts is another issue. It’s become a constant physical, if not mental, roadblock, because all I can think about is how much it bothers me when i have the barbell in rack position.
I think this video taken last weekend demonstrates that perfectly.

This is me doing 130 lbs front squats for 3 reps. (close to my body weight now that I probably weight more…) At first I counted up to 115, but forgot about the 2 x 5lbs and the 2 x 2.5lbs metal plates at the end. Part of me is also annoyed by how the barbell was hurting my shoulder. 

Midway through, I was definitely bothered by where the barbell is sitting and attempt adjusting it… So this is an example of what NOT to do when front squatting with a barbell :)

For all those that have liked, commented, messaged me on the deadlift post last week, I’m SO overwhelmed and grateful for your support and hope to not just share my journey with you, but also open up the floor for discussion! :)

Got some good tips or advice for front squatting? Please don’t hesitate to comment, I do check them quite often! :)

P.S. Sorry I couldn’t use another Lego picture. I’m afraid it’s beyond the Lego figurine’s range of motion, so couldn’t find a good one on the internet.

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Why should girls not be scared of deadlifts?

If you’ve recently inquired after my weekend plans, you’ve most likely heard me talk about a gym called Afterburn Fitness and are probably wondering to yourself what kind of sane person would consider “working out” as fun weekend activities.

I can’t quite recall when this interest began, but I can honestly say that I look forward to every weekend because I know that’s when I get to work on my PR (excuse my shameless use of gym lingo – it’s just a fancy way of saying “Personal Record”), and one power lift in particular – DEADLIFT.

Karen-deadlift-185lbs

185 lbs for 3 reps

If you think this post is my way of sharing deadlift knowledge or tips, you may as well stop reading right here. I’m a total NOOB to this whole deadlifting business, but I also know how it makes me feel as a woman – strong, empowered, capable, when I can lift 220 lbs off the ground with one pull.

Okay, all bragging aside, I think it might be beginner’s luck. I started training deadlifting maybe 3-4 weeks ago. Started off maxing at 195 lb, then 205 lb, then 210 lb (personal best). I was on a roll but also know I’ll be  hitting a ceiling soon.  Just as I suspected or perhaps it was the self-doubt that I’ve already created in my mind, last week I plateaued at 185 lb. After re-examining with my partner a couple times, we figured that I didn’t have the same leverage because my chest was so collapsed.

I feel like writing out my experience because I know so many girls shy away from barbells or heavier lifts because they fear 1) they can’t do it, 2) they may get injured, 3)they get too bulky and macho in figure. Perhaps it’s still too early for me to say, as I’m only a month into my training, I haven’t noticed much bulking yet? Hopefully I can continue to share my journey and progress with you so you can see for yourself.

What my experience has really taught me so far though, is mental strength – getting over the feeling of “I can’t” and knowing when to say no – dropping the weight doesn’t mean you’re giving up. The most important lesson I’ve learned though is in the event of dropping the weight, reset, re-evaluate, and re-tackle perhaps a lower weight, but not giving up altogether on your day’s workout – that’s the beauty behind power lifting training that I’m starting to appreciate.

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