A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

A blog about my life, fitness and fun! (...and maybe a few cat pictures...)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

My Fitness Journey Part II

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If you missed Part I, make sure you check it out... or none of this will make much sense!

JK-L has been one of my running buddies for several years. She is a HOOT. Talking to her makes running 15 miles seem like it took 15 minutes. We met up one June evening in 2012 for a trail run around Pinchot Lake. Not surprisingly, our conversations hovered on the topic of working out, food, and all the things I had been obsessing about for years. JK-L is a personal trainer, and has spent her life devoted to fitness and helping others reach their goals. She runs, lifts, conducts boot camps... she's amazing.

Anyway, we got into talking about weight training- of which I knew nothing about. I was curious, and she urged me to come to the gym where she worked for some personal training sessions. Now, I always sort of turned my nose up at personal training. Not because I didn't think trainers knew what they were talking about, but because I felt like I should be able to figure out what to do on my own. And a lot of people got trainers for the purpose of motivation and accountability- I didn't need that! I had JEANS to fit into. What more motivation could a gal need!?

There was also the cost. A good personal trainer is expensive. I had no doubt it would be worth the money, but I wasn't even sure I HAD the money. Couldn't I just read some articles on the internet for free? And wouldn't it be selfish and vain to spend several hundred dollars on myself in this way? I decided to talk to my husband and see what he thought.

Well my husband LOVED the idea. He had been telling me for years I needed to weight train. I called JK-L that night and we set up our first consultation. The plan was to have 10 training sessions with her, and then she would design a program for me to follow on my own in the gym. After several weeks, if I needed a new plan, I would go in for a session and she would teach me a new lifting routine.  (Obviously, continuing to see her for training would have been ideal, but it was not in the budget for me!)

At the consultation I opened up about my obsession with food, my over exercising, everything. I went through a typical day and what I would eat. Just to give you and idea...

5:30am – wake up, run 7-9 miles
10:30am – apple (60 calories)
12:20pm – 1-2 packets of oatmeal (200 calories)
2:00pm – granola bar (100 calories)
3:40pm – fat free deli turkey sandwich on lite bread (100 calories)
6:30pm – Salad w/ fat free dressing and 3 pieces lite garlic bread (300 calories)
7:30pm – ice cream, cookies, whatever dessert I wanted (Who knows how many calories? I didn't measure. I felt entitled.)
9:00pm – Bed. Bloated. Tomorrow I'll get up at the crack of dawn and run off all those dinner calories!

Just to review, that's 60-90 minutes of cardio a day and about 1500 calories consumed. My goal was to eat as few calories as possible up until dinnertime, and then stuff myself with all the calories I should have been eating throughout the day! JK-L asked me why I did this. My answer was simple- I LOVE being really hungry and then eating A LOT of food. Also I didn't like to feel "full" unless it was at the end of the day. If I ate at work, I would feel fat.

(I know, I know. This is so messed up and crazy. I know that! I knew it at the time, too!)

JK-L was so understanding. She commended me for being open and honest, for being very self aware of what I did and why I did it. I was being completely real. She weighed me in and calculated my body fat. 

The grand total... 123lbs and 23% body fat.

23% BODY FAT!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

How!? It didn't make sense to me then, but it made a lot of sense once I digested the information. I was skinny fat.

I did not dwell on the information for too long. I am a woman of action and JK-L assured me I would see results from her program because she knew I would do EXACTLY WHAT SHE TOLD ME TO DO. And I did. I attended my lifting sessions with JK-L for 5 weeks and cleaned up my diet. She taught me so much about lifting, how to burn fat, and how to eat right. This did not involve hours in the gym, nor did it involve cutting calories. It meant NOURISHING my body, eating the right foods at the right times, and focusing on the quality of the exercise, not the quantity.

Things I learned from JK-L and other huge changes I made to reach my NEW goals!!!

1. Less carbs, more protein. I was eating a diet almost entirely comprised of carbohydrates. I didn't cut them out completely, but I cut them significantly- especially at night. I made sure the carbs I ate were whole wheat and contained lots of fiber. I replaced the carbs I was giving up with lean protein. Examples: egg whites, chicken breast, ground turkey, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whey protein shakes.

2. What to eat before and after a workout. I used to run on an empty stomach and then have no energy to push myself. Then after a run I wouldn't refuel. This was killing my metabolism and my muscles were not able to rebuild. Now, I eat a carb before working out and a large portion of protein paired with a smaller portion of a carb immediately after a workout. **This was very hard to change. At first I felt "fat" eating immediately after a workout and would freak out. Now I freak out if I have to wait too long after a workout to refuel. Oh, how times have changed!**

3. The importance of weight training. I had no muscle, I needed to build it. I was prescribed weight training 2 days a week. On those days, NO OTHER CARDIO should be done. My muscles needed to rebuild or else there was no point in the lifting workout.

4. Less steady-state cardio. Plyometrics, HIIT, tempo runs, hill repeats, and sprints were going to help me burn fat.

5. Look at being hungry as an OPPORTUNITY to make a good choice. You have the chance to fuel your body with what it needs. What you choose to nourish your body could make you one step closer to reaching your goals.

6. Eat throughout the day. Don't save all your calories and carbs for a night time party in your mouth. (My words, not hers!) Now, I pretty much eat all day long. And I eat more calories than I used to. (2000-2300 depending on my training for the day)

7. Focus on FAT LOSS, not WEIGHT LOSS. This image says it all:

These were huge changes for me. I don't know why I was ready to get out of my comfort zone, but for some reason, I took a leap of faith and decided to make myself make the right choices, even if I was uncomfortable at first. (It also helped that I shelled out hundreds of dollars for the training sessions. VERY MUCH WORTH THE MONEY. But there would be no point to spend the money if I wasn't going to take the advice of the expert I was paying!)

"The trick to an amazing physique is not doing everything right for a day. It's doing everything right day after day after day after day." - Pauline Nordin

And that's what I did. Over the course of the next 5 weeks I made more good choices than bad. I didn't over train. I didn't starve myself. Guess what happened? I started to get used to it. And I started to see changes in my body. My stomach, which was once bloated (my carb belly!!!) was now flat. Clothes started to fit better. At my final training session with JK-L I weighed in at the EXACT SAME WEIGHT, but only 20% body fat! This was good news! My body composition was changing. I was making the fat-muscle exchange. That is why my clothes fit better and I was smaller overall without losing pounds.

JK-L and I were both extremely happy with the results. Now it was time for me to go it alone. I was determined at this point. I had created the habits, now I just had to stick with them.

I did. I wasn't perfect. I still drank wine. I still had my ice cream cones. One time I went for a 6 mile run after lifting (it back fired!). But I started making more good choices than bad. Because of this, I have seen many positive changes...

1. I don't view food as the enemy. It is a way to fuel my body. I do allow room for "fun" foods. Wine, ice cream, chocolate covered coffee beans... I never set out to eat perfectly. This is not attainable for me. But when I eat well, I feel well.

2. My body fat % continued to go down. My muscles grew. This took awhile, and I'm not done. But I see progress! (I'm not losing weight... I have only lost about 3lbs in the past year. It appears to be more because I lost fat and gained muscle.) The pictures speak for themselves. In the first picture I am 123lbs. In the second and third pictures I am about 120lbs.

Skinny Fat on the Golden Gate Bridge - June 2012

November 2012 - After building some muscle!
May 2013 - Almost a year after my journey began!
I love this picture of me. I look the same way I feel- fast, strong, happy and free!!!! 

3. I am no longer a weakling in the gym! I can lift heavier weights than I could a year ago.

4. I have gotten FASTER! Since seeing JK-L I not only PR'ed in a marathon by 10 minutes (and qualified for Boston!) but I also ran a sub 20 minute 5-K. Overall, my running pace has increased a lot, and that is thanks to lifting more and running less. (And I'm sure tempo runs/hill repeats helped, too!) Basically, I gave my runs a PURPOSE, I didn't log junk miles (much).

Harrisburg Marathon - November 2012
PR & BQ!
My first 5k- Dick Fralick River Run in Millersburg - May, 2013

5. I do not starve myself. I eat when I am hungry and I don't worry about being hungry. Food is now a chance to make a healthy choice to nourish my body. Or a "fun" choice to keep me sane! Starving yourself all day kills your metabolism. I cannot imagine ever doing this again. There is no point. I used to eat about 1500 calories a day. Now I eat 2000-2300- depending on the training I do on a given day.

6. I do not feel the need to over exercise. That's not the way to reach my goals. My workouts have a purpose, and unless I'm doing a long run, they don't take longer than an hour.

7. I am happy! Most of the time I feel strong, no "fat". Of course I have my days I feel bloated. I get antsy on rest days. But I would say 85% of the time I am very content with how I feel and how I look. This is huge! Will I ever feel fabulous 100% of the time? Probably not. I don't think anyone does. But I feel a million times better than I used to. What more could I ask for???

I am so thankful for everything JK-L has taught me. She changed my life!


  1. This is a great story, and thanks for linking up to my blog! Your background is very similar to mine, so I know how nice it is to 'see the light', so to speak :) Congratulations on all the progress you've achieved so far!

  2. Thank you Tara! Maybe I should have asked to link to your blog?? Sorry about that! Your blog is a huge motivation for me. :)

  3. Maybe I should email u...just left a comment regarding my binging (but I don't exercise and never ever purge)...so lost and sad :(

  4. Yes send me an email, I would love to chat with you.

  5. Love this story! It's amazing what the power of weight training can do. I'm still in a period of discovering this balance but this is a great inspiration!

    1. Thank you! Good luck in finding your own balance. I never thought I would be okay with it, but it has become the new normal for me. Plus, seeing results also helps!

  6. Just came across this while researching about fitness. I have a slightly similar story to yours but at the moment, I'm struggling. I'm 23 years old right now and am doing insanity everyday plus occasional running. But I used to be able to run marathons and gym so much two years prior. When I was running and dedicated to my diet, I was at 106 pounds. Then because it was too light for my well-being, I began eating more and got up to 118 in a year then 126 pounds a few months back. I was eating relatively healthy but also incorporating "healthy" junk. I lifted back then and pretty heavy too. Throughout the whole process, I was never "thin" or never looked like the product of what I ate and worked out. This was probably why I tried starving myself to achieve 106 pounds. It was so hard to not eat anything but exercise like crazy. But I just wanted the jiggly stomach to go away and it never did. I still have it and I'm losing all sorts of motivation to exercise. I'm only doing insanity now cause I know I'm just eating too much junk like cereal. It's so hard cause I know my genetics are playing against me rather than with me but it's also my eating habits now that I'm snacking way too much and borderline binging. i was wondering if you could offer me a piece of advice or encouragement cause I feel like I'm losing hope...

  7. Thank you for your honesty in this post. Many eating disorders hide in the fitness arena, particularly running. It's I commend your bravery and I look up to you for overcoming it.

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