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Fitness

In Extracurricular, Fitness on
February 4, 2015

The Bikini Fitness: All Your Gains

 

Photo by Aaron Mnan.
Thanx Aaron!

Training for a figure competition had its challenges and stressful moments but it was overall,  rewarding and fun. That’s why I made it my goal to compete again.  This time, because I’m naturally a smaller framed person, I decided on a bikini fitness competition.

But this fitness journey was different.  So, as soon as I found a home in California, I found a gym that specialized in personal training and competition training. Seriously, everyone there looks like a gorgeous fitness model.  When I started having to travel 30 minutes to the gym for a 30 minute workout then back again, I started thinking maybe priority one when relocating would be find a gym I liked, then find a house near it. I started my ritual: up at 0430, booty in the car by 5am, at the gym by 5:30. Home, shower, eat and to work all by 7:30. Then get home just in time to meal prep, or do one activity in order to be in bed no later than 8pm or else I’d struggle to wake up the next day.

One of my coaches spraying PAM on my rear.
December 2014

The goals and priorities of a bikini competitor differ from a figure competitor.  Instead of focusing on getting stronger, the focus was on sculpting my body to look a certain way.  The goal for bikini is to look lean, not too strong. So big biceps are not ideal. Working the bis and tris were not a priority. Instead my focus was on getting rid of my excess fat on my belly, thighs, and booty.  I didn’t do squats. My leg day never crippled me for three days like they did during figure competitions.  I did leg presses…but not too much to avoid quad striations. I did an Elite Fitness Gym trademark — Donkey Kicks and Monkey Lunges, to isolate my gluts without adding bulk to my legs.  And man did they work. I saw booty results and so did everyone else.  But I couldn’t do as much physically. I was unable to perform pull ups or run like I used to. Something was off.

At my figure competition.
May 2013

In contrast, was at my peak of fitness as a figure competitor. I could do eight perfectly executed pull-ups without any problem. I could run a sub-seven  minute mile. Each week I exploded past my personal boundaries and impressed myself by being able to lift more and more. As a bikini competitor, I was just thin with a gravity defying rear end.  That’s when I realized I defined  fitness for myself as what my body is able to do rather than what it looks like. My fit body can run a mini-marathon without training. It can run a mile, relatively fast, without being winded.  It can lift things, push heavy items out of the way, sprint itself out of danger if needed.  Being able to do deliver these tasks does not necessarily mean my body is going to show cuts and muscle definition.

I recently started questioning if fitness competitions are worth it. And through some introspection, I got my answer, Yes. And here’s why:

1. It’s worth it because it inspires others. That alone makes it worth it. Lauren, one of my fit and fabulous friends, said I was her role model. Now, I know I look to others to inspire me but I have never considered that I was inspiring others.  People get motivated by seeing someone they identify with and relate to do something they always wanted to do. I always thought a marathon was out of my league until I saw my cousin complete the Marine Corps marathon.  She became my inspiration. I always thought being a fitness competitor took some out of this world ability until I saw my friends Lea, Terri, and Suzanne, who are all just regular girls like me, make a decision to commit. If I can be a link in a motivation chain that motivates another who will inevitably motivate others to make healthy changes in their life then I’m proud to continue.

2.  You learn your own body. Fitness isn’t a one size fits all equation. Just like everyone’s skin reacts differently to the sun, or to shellfish, peanuts, glutton, or medicines, everyone’s body reacts differently to different stimuli.   Some people put on muscle by picking up a backpack. Others can lose fat just by changing their soda to water. Carbs affect bodies in different ways. When you are clean eating and on a regimented eating, workout, and sleeping schedule, you can identify the cause in a change in your body a lot more accurately than when the stimuli of your sleeping, eating, and workouts are sporadic. You learn what works for you and what doesn’t.

 

3. Starts each workout with the end in mind.  Training to compete gives you a time frame to work within and a goal to work up to. Without, I’d just stagnant and become complacent. I’d settle for good enough or fit enough. I’d maintain the standard.  I’d become complacent with a light jog a few times a week. some jumping jacks, dance around my room to a Taylor Swift song and call it a workout. With a fitness competition as a goal, I have an end point in mind.  But when I have an end in mind, I stay focused. I start setting mile stones to get from point A to point B. The competition is really just a display and culmination of a lifestyle.  It isn’t the focus, but a showcase of my focus.

Photo by Justine Pyle.  Bodies by Team Armed Forces Europe

4. It breaks through perceived limitations. Fitness competitions is what turned this uncoordinated girl with a general rule of “no contact sports” into an athlete (of sorts).  And even though I still maintain my no contact sports rule,  I shattered a physical barrier I thought I had.  Fitness competitions took my fitness to the next level. No more accepting good enough when I know I can be better.  I learned that I have amazing will power when I tucked away Girl Scout Cookies for four months until after my show!  I learned I can make a commitment to healthy eating and regularly scheduled workouts.  I learned what you are capable of from the planning to the execution.

5. You reap the benefits of an active lifestyle. The physical and mental benefits of a regular fitness regiment are numerous. Your physical capabilities expand.  Your mind maintains a positive, happy outlook.  You find balance.  And this gem:

6. Your abs become your resume. It’s your credentials and fitness credibility. You might not have your physical trainer certification yet, but you know a thing or two about how to transform bodies and perhaps people will feel comfortable coming to you for non-professional guidance and help. It also keeps those pesky gym pick-up artist at bay or at least challenges them to come up with some more creative pick up tactics…like, “Don’t try to hit on me with your unsolicited workout advice, look at my abs and bis, clearly I know what I’m doing.”

Michelle Lewin…My girl crush. Love her abs!

7. Confidence.  Whelp, there goes your shyness.  Once you’ve gotten up on a stage and catwalk in a tiny bikini and clear plastic stilettos, there’s really nothing you can’t do. Once you shattered this fitness and confidence barrier, you’ll start to wonder, what other barriers can I shatter?  Mental ones? Can I master a challenging topic?

8. Fun, Fit Friends.

 

The women you meet at fitness competitions tend to be amazing people. Not only do they motivate, inspire, and encourage others to greatness but they are motivated, inspired, and encouraged. They are about living their best life. These are confident, goal-oriented women who understand the difference praise and positive feedback makes.   Being surrounded by that type of positive energy is just refreshing!

When you compete, you are competing with other women not against them. Your only competition is challenging yourself to be stronger than you were yesterday.  Sometimes you just need a team of your own personal cheerleaders who understand what you are going through and value your story.

 

Photos by: Brian Cann Photography (www.heirloomsandintimacies.com), & Justin Pyle & Jarrod Weymar
Bodies by: Team Armed Forces Europe & Team Elite fitness Training in Riverside California

9.  You learn the Art and Science of Wellness. So many fitness and health trends come and go. But having a basic knowledge about the relationship between diet and muscle functions to affect the metabolism will help you discern what is legit or not.   I’ve learned massages aren’t just a luxury and needing mental health shouldn’t carry a stigma. I’ve learned different goals like getting leaner, growing muscles, gaining agility, getting faster, stronger, training for different sports will hall have different paths.  These paths are often overlooked in magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo’s fitness sections. Getting the right trainer to explain the “whys” and “hows” of the body works makes your workouts more effective and efficient. You end up working exactly what you want to work out in minimal time. Having access to the experts in the field can equip you with the awareness to make healthy choices.

The gains are so much greater than just muscles and a great figure.  I’m going to continue my fitness journey but do it more my way. I’ve followed two different styles of competition prep and I think it’s time to combine what I’ve learned for my own style according to my values.  Looking fit without actually being able to do something with it is of no value to me.  So I’ve committed. As I sit here, typing and eating my donut, I’ve made a Bikini Fitness body by Spring Break my goal.  and I’m ready to sacrifice more than I ever have before to get the results I haven’t seen before!  Kicking it up a notch in 2015.

 

In Extracurricular, Fitness on
January 5, 2015

Bikini Fitness: The Struggles

Photo by Dan Kennedy. Thanx Dan!

This December I participated in my fist bikini fitness competition.  This is not to be confused with the figure competition that I previously competed in while in Stuttgart.  As common with most tests of determination,  there were times throughout the course of prepping that I asked myself, is this all worth it or should I just walk away? Here I highlight the struggles I faced in hopes of encouraging those going through the same process to stick with it!  It’s so worth it!

Turning Point One: Thanksgiving and Travel

Training for a fitness competition has its challenges and those challenges are only amplified during the holidays and complicated by travel.  I’m not saying the availability of clean foods is a problem. It isn’t. You can eat clean just about anywhere. Even McDonald’s serves salad and grilled chicken. But for me, food is usually a focal point of my travels. One of my favorite ways to explore a new city is through its local cuisine. It took training for this competition for me to realize that eating, along with exploring, is easily one of my favorite pastimes.

 

So when I traveled to San Francisco, a city known for its haute gastronomy, for Thanksgiving, I knew I was in for a test of self-control. Who wants to go to San Francisco and be surrounded by world class cuisine and have to order a salad?  Keeping in mind that I don’t like lettuce or raw greens anyway.  I was looking for some grub at a Grab and Go refrigerator shelf at a Wal-greens in Fisherman’s Wharf.  The Grab and Go hosted the typical selection of disposable plasticwear of salads, sandwiches, & pasta salads. But I viewed the selection as a container of carbs, container of fats, and container with a little proteins. I knew I hit a turning point in my dieting when I started seeing food by their make up of protein, carbs, and fats rather than the actual article of food.  Fortunately, a belle can always count on coastal areas being fish friendly. The Bay area has so much fish diversity and eating healthy was a pleasure more than a struggle.

Turning Point Two: Unexpected Social Events

My Post-it note wedding invitation.


My co-worker comes into my office at 3pm on a Thursday talking about how he “cannot stand going another day without being married” to his all around Amazing girlfriend. Crazy romantic huh?  He plans a whirlwind, spur-of-the-moment proposal and subsequent wedding in Vegas for the very next day.  Of course I wanted to be there. But it destroyed my training!  After waking for my 5 am workout, putting in a full days worth of work, then going to Las Vegs, I was awake for 23 hours. I ate at some iconic greasy spoon resturuant. Drank my fill. Didn’t workout a bit over the weekend. Monday morning guilt came when I stepped on the scale.  Three pounds gained since Friday! Fortunately, at six weeks out, I considered myself far enough from stage time for a minor slip up…so I thought.  The day before the competition, my work hosted a dinner party. Food was being passed around, toasts were made and I couldn’t even drink the water.

Me, the groom’s friend, the groom, the bride, and the bride’s friend.

Turning Point Three: The South

The weekend after thanksgiving I traveled back home to The South for a family event. Who wants to go home to The South and not eat the glorious deliciousness? All I could do was think about all the marvelous food that I couldn’t eat. I’m in my food element here.  I can’t help but be enticed by all the familiar restaurants and menu items not available in Southern California. Cracker Barrel, O’Charley’s, Cheddars, Ritzies, Rally’s instead of Pollo locos and Del Tacos.  It was really being back in my food element that I considered just throwing all my work away to enjoy eating!

On the plane, I found myself almost to the point of anger watching McDonald’s being passed around a family of passengers sitting around me. The kid sitting next to me licked his Dorito dusted fingers while he took a break from eating his delightfully smelling Panini. And there I was eating hard boiled eggs.  I started to have a food panic on the plane.  Panicked to the point of buying $7 mini bag of kettle cooked potato chips and putting mustard on them.  I could literally feel the calories fill me up and bring me back to life just like you can visually witness flowers perk up after placing them in a vase of water.  Yes. I broke down. I ate something I shouldn’t have.  Not because I wanted to eat junk…Potato chips wouldn’t have been on my food of desire list.  But maybe a lack of constraint due to being hungry and having few other options!  Then I felt guilty and imagined the love handles growing in the spaces I’d worked off.  After that, I decided to make a list of ll the foods I couldn’t wait to eat when training was all over.

Sweet potato waffles
Sweet potato pie
High quality $10 bacon cheeseburger
Buttermilk biscuits
Mint Chocolate chip Milkshakes
Toaster Struddles (I’ve had three boxes in my freezer since before I decided to compete)
Raspberry Ice cream drizzled with amaretto
Vanilla ice cream with bourbon drizzled
Lemon bars
Margarita
Lemon pound cake
Pumpkin spiced bread
Flaky French style croissants
McD’s French fries
Waffles with fruit, pecans, powdered sugar, vanilla sauce
Sweet potato fries
Frozen Italian lemonade
Popeye’s chicken
Mocha peppermint latte
Sweet tea
I want something, ANYTHING deep fried.
I’m Hungry! Seriously hungry!I literally wrote that all in my travel journal.  I decided sleep was my best option to fast forward through all the food around me and on my mind.  In sleep, I dreamed of a bakery that combined the best of both European and American pastries. Pound cakes, fruit tarts, banana nut bread, waffles, crepes.
By the end of my trip back home I was tired of eating halibut and asparagus! I wanted to eat for real!  Self-induced, low starvation is emotional.  My tolerance level for nonsense went low.  My focus wasn’t on my work.  Again, I ask myself, is it all worth it? Does the quality of my life increase in anyway by the increase of the quality of my abs?
Walking around the airport with a ziplock of hard boiled egg whites and $4 bottled water I wondered  How much had this experience cost me?  I calculated the costs when I got home.

What does it cost?

 

Final Week Meals
$32 for four pieces of frozen halibut (It’s the least fatty of fish with the most protein for your buck)
$3 dozen eggs (An extra dollar added for eggs in California)
$3 frozen asparagus

Meals, Gear, and Training

$600 a month for meals ($500 in groceries for one person! California living is expensive)
$435 Personal training  (That’s $145 a month X three months X 30 min sessions X 3 times a week X group session shared with three
other girls).

$100 registration the bikini show

$250 Waxing – two separate sessions. Apparently you have to
go three times to get the cycle of hairs…pretty sure this was a marketing ploy to keep me coming back. Other girls just shaved. After my first competition I swore I’d never wax again but for whatever reason, I forgot that vow. I guess it’s something like hen women have terrible deliveries and swear never to have more babies but forget the excruciating pain and go through it five more times.

$100 Spray tan.  Yes, black girls spray tan too. Black girls benefit from the cuts in their muscles being highlighted and their skin tone being all one smooth, even color just like everyone else.

$60 full set Mani –ped (Did this back home in Kentucky because it’s cheaper than Cali)
$250 Custom bedazzled bikini (one of my team mates bedazzled mine)
$50 Clear, 5-inch stripper heals (I already had my heals)
$30 Blinged out costume jewelry

$500 Hair. Lengthened and dyed.$35 Make Up

 

$2,448 total

Goodness! I’m sure I could have saved by shaving instead of waxing, finding a cheaper hair option and more frugal food options. For the next competition I’ll already have a bikini, heals, and jewelry. And that’s just the financial cost. Intagible costs also exist. Costs like the meal planning, and prepping required to never get caught without enough healthy food to eat like what happened to me on the plane. Or the mood shifts due to carb and water depletion.  There’s having to go to bed at 8pm in order to get up at 4:30.  It’s having to skip evenings out with friends because the the main focus of the night is drinking caloric drinks and eating poorly.

The cost of Getting Lean is the most inclusive article I’ve found that really details all the effort required to get the Michell Lewin body I covet.  But as I sit and contemplate my 2015 goals, I wonder if I’m getting as much out of the training as I put in. Do I value the abs I’ll gain more than I value sampling amazing food? Do I prefer abs over milkshakes? Biceps or Waffles?  Is there a way to have it all? Is the fit-looking body really worth the effort and sacrifice?

Below is where I’d like to be.  Very Lean and strong. I should be able to lift things if needed or run quickly for long periods of time.  It’s going to take actually weighing my food instead of guessing. Probably doing two-a-days a few times a week to get cardio in, and serious commitment to my diet.

Below is me during training. When I commit to a regimented healthy lifestyle of planned deliberate eating choices and consistent weight training with some slip ups here & there.  I usually need a coach or friend to keep me focused and motivated.

 

Below is me normally. It’s  a regular part of my moderately active lifestyle.  It includes eating whatever I want but running or Zumba three times a week,  walking the dog, taking the stairs, parking further away from the door, and doing some push ups and crunches here and there.

So is it worth it to be a fitness competitor? It all depends on my priorities and values this upcoming year.  As for now, the jury is still out.

In Extracurricular, Fitness on
November 12, 2013

All You See Is Pictures

While I was still reeling from “My Ultimate Journey” high, I couldn’t overlook some of the less than supportive comments left on my social media pictures. I know my friends were just trying to be supportive of me, but they did it at the cost of other athletes and it doesn’t have to be that way. While I appreciate the recognition of my own hard work, it”s also important to realize the hard work others put in.

 

First, these are my teammates. I depended heavily on them for support when I was ready to give it all up. They were my accountability partners when it came to staying true to my diet, guidance on better recipes and workouts, and even spotting me while I pushed myself to my limits. I couldn’t have been successful without them. A win for me, is also a win for them.

 

Second, you just never know where others started from or how much one had to overcome to get to where they are. One teammate is 45-years-old. After taking shrapnel while deployed in a combat zone, she medically retired from the Army. It took extensive physical therapy and medical care to get her walking back to normal again. You know, after being an active, senior enlisted leader then transitioning to being physically incapable to do simple tasks really takes a toll on a person mentally. Just her being able to work out again was a success. She pulled herself out of depression and put in work. She turned the entry points of all her shrapnel into lady bug tattoos all over her body. To those who didn’t know her before,  she may look bigger than most contestants. However, she dropped so much of the weight she gained while immobile. Putting on a tiny bikini and clear stilettos and walking confidently on stage was a turning point for her confidence and she didn’t deserve to have all her hard work deflated by insensitive comments.

 

It’s like getting honors at graduation and being all pumped up full of accomplishment and someone flippantly saying the criteria for the honors was too low or undeserved. It just takes the wind out of your sails.

Everyone deserves to feel as amazing and powerful as I felt that day! You can say, “You look great” without saying, “You look way better than those other girls” because those other girls worked just as hard and are equally as beautiful. You can say that you would have judged me to be the first place winner rather than saying the first place winner didn’t deserve her title or saying the judges were clueless. You can compliment without comparison.

 

Pictures don’t tell you that a competitor was fighting cancer while training. They don’t tell you that a competitor overcame diabetes just by training. Pictures don’t tell you that a competitor started from being paralyzed from a bad car accident fought her way through recovery. They don’t tell you that a woman just had a baby 7 months ago. They don’t show you a competitor went from not being able to do a single push up to being able to knockout 10 pull ups. They don’t tell about the mom who couldn’t keep up with her kids, but now can interact with them while they actively play. Pictures don’t tell you about the athlete who overcame anorexia and adapted a healthier lifestyle.  But those are the stories behind the pictures of the bodies that shared the stage with me.
I appreciate the love, but love is best when it’s shared.  I think we can all work on being a little more mindful of having stronger compliments. Strong compliments are the ones that stand on their own, not the ones that are only valuable in comparison to another.
In Destinations, Europe, Fitness, Scotland on
May 10, 2013

A McKenzie in Scotland: Touring Scotland While Fitness Training

G’day ya’ll!

The Queen’s summer getaway spot
I once told people visiting Spain was like visiting home. For once I got to hear Spanish, a language that was familiar to my ears, and it brought a level of ease and comfort that I didn’t experience while being in delightfully strange Germany. Well, for the same reason, being in Scotland also gives me the same sense of home. I’ve gotten into the habit of not speaking to people in public spaces because I don’t want to go through the whole hassle of fumbling with my knowledge of another language…
“Sprechen sie Englisch?”
                  “Parlez-vous Anglais?”
                                          “¿Hablas Inglés?”

It was in Scotland I realized my conditioning! Here I am at Top Shop (my new favorite fashion store btw) sorting through racks of dresses and a girl starts chatting with me and amazingly…I understand every word! For the first time in two years I can talk to strangers in the shops in my native language and it’s also their native language! You just take for granted that privilege until you no longer have it.

In addition to speaking my (adoptive) mother language, Scotland feels like home because I am of Scottish Decent (or I at least have a Scottish last name…whole other story for another day). I had a sense of belonging to finally get to announce my Scottish last name when checking into hotels or making reservations. I know these people probably do not find any significance about my last name but here, it fits in. It’s not in Germany where my last name clearly stands out.
Since I am three weeks out from training for my first fitness competition, my diet is very restricted and I need the ability to cook healthy meals for myself. Fortunately, Scotland is not known for it’s delectable cuisine. So I got a two bedroom apartment hotel at the Holyrood aprtHotel in the Holyrood neighborhood of Edinburgh. I almost felt guilty having so much for little ol’ me. It made me wish my family was there with me. But it had the kitchen, a fitness room/closet, and a grocery store around the corner. It’s in a perfect location near the Royal Mile touristy area. I’ll certainly stay again when I visit Edinburgh. I spent something like 20 USD on fish, eggs, water and couscous food for four days. Not bad. Besides, I packed my own oat meal, seasonings, and tuna.
Tranquility in the middle of the city
Anyway, of course Apart Hotel was a little pricy to maintain the entire time I was there and I didn’t plan where I’d move next after my first few days. Scotland was having some sort of Bank holiday and all the hotels were booked for the weekend. So I got one day at a budget hotel on Princess Street, the main commerce artery of the tourist center, but I still needed another night to cover me before my flight. Nothing like a good vacation with to add a sense of drama to in if I’ll find a place to stay for the night. After some internet searches I found something in my price range through the goodness of airbnb.com
Overall I love Edinburgh. It’s one of my favorite places in all of Europe. It’s beautiful, peaceful, and Edinburgh is just big enough to be an interesting city but without the crazy hustle and bustle of Europe’s major capitol cities. As one local said, Glasgow has a bigger party at a funeral than Edinburgh does at a wedding. And I certainly believe it after just a few daytime hours in Glasgow. So keep that in mind when planning your Scottish visit.
I’d love for my big extended southern family to visit Scotland. And here’s what we’d do if we did:
We’d stay in the ApartHotel or rent a hotel from Airbnb. It’s perfect for exploring the Royal Mile which is the tourist district lined with shops. Royal Mile or actually, High Street, is the mile long road linking the Palace to the castle. From this location you can stroll along the cobble stone streets. If you have the time, I suggest picking either the castle or the palace per day…
Day 1: Get acclimated. Yes! You are really in Scotland! After checking in, buy groceries, visit Holy Rood Palace, stroll the streets, have lunch back in the apartment, spend the afternoon in nature at Holy Rood Park and watch the sunset. You can see the entire city from its highest point. And it’s like being in the country while in the middle of a city. You may be tempted to watch Parliamentary proceedings in their modern building. This I must discourage. I’m not sure why I thought it would be so interesting. It wasn’t. It was as exciting as C-SPAN in a Scottish Accent. Terrible.

C-Span for Scotland (beautiful but boring!)
 Day 2: Explore. Stroll streets, Visit the castle as soon as it opens, have lunch in town, explore the streets while picking up information for evening walking tours from one of the countless advertisements. Rest back in apartment, have dinner before going on an evening walking tour or taking a whiskey tasting evening.

Day 3: Spend time in the Royal Botanical Gardens, check out and return to places in the area you might have missed or want to revisit on The Royal Mile, stroll down to Princes street across the river stopping by the Edinburgh University Library, the free Scottish National Gallery, listen to the Kilt-clad bag piper, shop on George Street and Princes Street (Top Shop, Princes Mall, and Primark are my favorites). Walk Multrees, the city’s first street build since the 18th century. Dine out or Rest up with a meal at home.

Day 4: Time for a city break! Eat a big breakfast and take a Scottish Tour to the Loch Ness and the Highlands. I went on this tour. I was a bit disappointed it was a whirlwind with a lot of driving and pointing but not much getting out and exploring. Besides, when I went in May, it was cold and rainy. Additionally I was afraid to drink anything all day because there were no facilities on the bus and they made it clear they wouldn’t be stopping for
comfort breaks. The best thing about the tour was the guide providing insight on Scottish culture and history in her lovely accent with her terrific story telling abilities. If it weren’t for that, I’d suggest making the same trip on your own.

Day 5 Branch out. I explored much of Edinburgh on foot. Now it’s time to branch out. Next time, I’d use this day to taxi, rent a car, learn the bus system and visit the zoo, the pier, and any other extraneous locations that weren’t in walking distance. See Edinburgh’s neighborhoods outside the tourist district. Relax.

Not to Miss!
If you don’t have five days I’d say Spend your time on the Royal Mile. Holy Rood Palace, Holy Rood park, Edinburgh Castle, the streets, and the monument on Princes Street. If I had more than five days, I’d spend the rest of my time in Scotland road tripping to Carsethorn south of Dumfries on Colvend coast southwest Scotland/Galloway district or to Kippford and Sandyhills. I could spend a summer exploring the gorgeous landforms and coasts on the Scottish country side. Of course, that’s just the country girl in me coming out.

In Extracurricular, Fitness on
November 6, 2012

Staying Fit While Traveling In A Tasty World

Two things the American South and the Deutcshland Sud have in common: Colorful culture, distinctive from the rest of the country and delicious, fattening, fried foods that this southern girl has a hard time resisting.
Model, entrepreneur, leader, nutrition snob, friend, and Belle

Now that I’ve committed to a healthy lifestyle and made winning a figure competition my new goal, I’m amazed at all the yummy vices that seem to spontaneously appear begging me to take just a tiny taste. Let’s face it, no matter how committed you are to clean-eating life style, chicken strips just taste better when twice-battered, deep-fried, and dunked in a bowl of creamy, rich ranch dressing rather than grilled. Plus here in Deutchland, ice cream and gelato stands on every corner, sauce-drenched spätzle, schnitzel, pommes, pork, schweinshaxe…all of it delicious yet counterproductive to my fitness goals. What’s worse are the limited healthy options I have when I travel.  One travel weekend can blow all the hard work I’ve put in at the gym and the self-control I’ve displayed in the kitchen.

I have some amazingly fit friends who have long been part of this clean eating tend. My favorite Texan, Suze, studied dietetics at her university in Texas and just started her own clothing line that suits her cute, athletic style: Nutrition Snob. I’ve always known her to be very knowledgeable about the effects different foods have on our bodies. I go to her for food guidance all the time. She stressed the importance of pre-planning when traveling. When I plan to travel, food is usually a minor detail on the itinerary if part of the plan at all. Eating shouldn’t be an afterthought!  That only leads to me switching into the “critically hungry” mode and ready to vaporize anyone who gets between me and whatever will stop the pangs in my belly!My super fit friend, Natalie, who is a physical therapist (PT) and ran cross country for her university in Kentucky.  I was out of my element when I went on a beach vacation with her and her new PT friends. They were super particular about what they allowed in their bodies. They chose turkey over ham, low fat snacks and drank water. I was craving cookies, chips, dips, ham sandwiches and wild cherry Pepsi.  But even Natalie admitted that she slacked on fitness when she was on the road. Of course, she isn’t training for a competition any more and doesn’t travel every weekend like me either.  I just cannot afford to go without a workout or proper diet for an entire weekend every weekend. What she is committed on is maintaining her runs regardless. So I have several challenges to address. I can work out all day no problem but it is a challenge to make the deliberate, conscious effort to eat well. Both become difficult when constantly on the go. It’s easy to make excuses to blow off the work out and healthy diet while on the road (or rails, or in the air). Yes it takes effort in planning and prepping for food. But, like Suze always reminds me, if it was easy everyone would be walking around with a six pack. 

Here’s the Advice I’ve collected from my most fit Southern Belle friends:

1. Get a climate control lunch bag with an ice pack and take your own lunch for the road.

On the road in Germany your three fast food options are McDonald, Subway, Burger King, and KFC and those are few and far between. You’re almost forced to go to a sit-down dinner off the autobahn and as Americans, we do not like to waste time. Even so, if we went to a dinner, you are relegated to chose from whatever they are serving which could mean choosing between deep fried pork or deep fried beef. Try these as on-the road meals (I don’t do lettuce so I’m skip over the obvious choice of packing a salad but if you are a salad girl, by all means, find some creative recipes and pack that salad):

 

  • Cold pasta salads
  • Bean, tomato, cheese and corn salad (mix in some cilantro)
  • Grilled chicken/Turkey sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Lean meat, low fat cheese quesadillas
  • Spinach or Tomato Wraps: spinach, feta cheese, turkey bacon and grilled chicken or try a combo with hard boiled eggs, shredded carrots, chicken  and avocado yum!
  • Tuna and hard boiled egg sandwiches/wraps without the salad dressing

     

2. Although going for chips, cookies, and candies are my habitual travel grabs, I’ll plan head for those travel muchies and make this my snack-food shopping list:

 

  • Water
  • Granola
  • Nuts
  • Granola, cereal, protein bars
  • Fresh fruit & veggies
  • Dried fruit
  • Pumpkin seeds, cashews, pecans, almonds
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Sharp cheddar cheese chunks
  • Wheat thins or other whole grain crackers and hummus
  • Yogurt
  • Apple sauce
  • Peanut butter sandwiches
  • Almond butter sandwiches
  • Tuna
  • Smoked Salmon with dill
  • Dark chocolate is okay (just don’t bring the entire bag)

 

3. Microwaves and refrigerators in European hotels are rare.  Instead of staying in a hotel which forces you to eat every meal in restaurants, try staying in a vacation rental where you’ll have a kitchen.  The costs are usually competitive with hotels but of course, it takes pre-booking (i.e. pre-planning).  Once you’re there can you hit the local grocery and whip up kitchen miracles just as you would at home.
4. If you stay in a hotel consider meals that do not need to be heated or see what wonders can be worked with a coffee pot.  For example your coffee pot can be used to bring water to a boil to make oatmeal, soft boiled eggs, rice, noodles, or steam vegetables.Countless meals can be started with steamed veggies, rice, pasta, eggs and boiling water.
5.You’re on vacation! By all means, eat out. Just chose leaner options and don’t get carried away on the portions. Luckily, the restaurants in Europe post their menus outside the restaurant. After translating the meals on the menu, chose the restaurant with the most healthy options.
6. Not having workout clothes can hinder your will to work out. Of course, you can do pushups, dips, and crunches wearing nothing but your underwear in your hotel room but without the gear you’re less likely to do it. Besides, you’ll miss out on some beautiful scenery on morning runs or hikes.
7. If you are flying to your location, you’re obviously going to be weight contentious about your luggage. However, if you’re road tripping, consider bringing your hand-held weights along. While you’re at it, why not bring a hot plate to save you the trouble of cooking in a coffee pot.  If these are not options for you, once you arrive at your destination find a 1.5 liter bottle of water to use as weights.
What a beautiful sunrise run.
8. Chose a hotel with a gym and use it!

9. Dancing, circuit training, jogs, dips, crunches, push-up do not require fitness centers.  Commit to a minimum of  a set of push ups and sit-ups first thing in the morning to get the blood flowing then right before bed to tire you out.  that way you won’t forget or not have time.

What other advice do you have on staying fit while traveling in a tasty world?