Happy New Year!

Hey guys – it’s been a while! Hoping everyone has had a lovely christmas and new year, I know I have. I had such a nice time being at home with my parents and cats having not been home since August. There really is no better place than home – though it was odd not having my big brother around!

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Anyway I’m being a bit of a hipster and not doing my new year’s post on new year’s day – mainly because I wasn’t functioning too well after two late, alcohol fuelled but very fun nights with my friends rolling in the new year. I’m not usually one for resolutions as I’ve always thought why wait for a socially constructed time to set yourself some goals? Just go for it! But this year I’ve made some resolutions of sorts – or maybe just continuations of goals that I thought might make an interesting blog post ūüėõ

So here we are; my new years resolutions!

1. Be kinder to my body

In 2014 my weight fluctuated a fair bit ¬†and when my weight went up it generally wasn’t in a good way. Competition prep meant dieting and breaks from competing meant putting the weight back on after enjoying the ‘forbidden fruits’ a little too much. Of course this didn’t happen every time, and I did find a good balance when I implemented Carb Backloading however I feel I did put my body under a lot of stress. In April for example, what I then thought was a mystery virus, is now clearly a manifestation of overtraining combined with a caloric deficit. I went up to 56kg after a particularly stressful week in January and didn’t do much about it until around March. Then inexperience with dieting and losing weight meant quite a battle to get back under 52kg which led me to feel horrible for about 10 days or so with aching muscles and horrendous fatigue. I now recognise those tell tale muscular pains as a time to back off training and eat more – I’ve discovered that particular type of pain has no other cause. So in that respect I’m already working towards my goal. I’ve also made the decision to go up a weight class which I think will help me no end in the long run. Around the same time I chose to stop MMA which will also probably be better for me too – less minor injury and more rest from intensive exercise. I do miss it sometimes though.

Anyway this year I’m hoping to find – and stick to – a way of eating that gives me everything I need without compromising my health. I very much enjoyed Carb Backloading and am interested in trying CarbNite – or seeing if I can find the best of the two, as I found the strength gain on Carb Backloading to be unparalleled by any other diet. This is still quite a restrictive way of eating so I will have to weigh up my options.

Another way I need to look after my body is all the extra stuff that needs to be done outside of the gym – I’m talking lacrosse balling, foam rolling, doing yoga, assistance exercises and stretching. In the last few months I’ve become particularly lax with this – but like I said before, these are goals that I’m already working on. It doesn’t help that I haven’t had any major competitions to work towards, which usually motivate me to be a little better with these things. To reduce day to day niggles this is unfortunately something that needs to be done and if I want to be the best I need to get on it! I must mention though that having started doing assistance stuff in the last few months (though maybe not as regularly as I’d like) I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my lifts – particularly working on the smaller and weaker muscles. I have my wonderful physio to thank for these improvements and hope to continue in the same vein.

2. Be kinder to my mind

The previous point brings me on to this – something I have struggled with for pretty much my whole life. As quite a perfectionist personality I can be quite hard on myself when I don’t meet my own high standards and this is something that has contributed to some pretty difficult times in previous years. Thankfully that period of my life seems to be over and I’m happier now than I’ve ever been – however there is still a part of me that expects too much.

Some of the best advice I’ve ever been given is to be your own best friend. If your best friend didn’t achieve all they set out to that day would you be disappointed?¬†Or would you tell them there’s always tomorrow? I work damn hard a lot of the time and I’ve got so much better at appreciating my own efforts, but I imagine this will be a continuous process for years to come. So every time I can’t be bothered to foam roll, miss a bench, leave the library an hour earlier than planned or stay in bed til 3pm I’ll tell myself there’s always tomorrow. And if I don’t manage to tell myself that then oh well, I’m only human! ūüôā (see, I’m doing it already haha)

This will be particularly necessary in the coming few months as I wrap up my degree – there’s going to be a lot of hard work involved! I originally aimed to get a 1st as I have been a high achiever my whole life, but I am currently sitting on an average of a high 2:2. I’m still going to aim to get the highest grade that I can but I’m not going to compromise my mental health to achieve a certification, after all I feel I bring so much more to the table than just a degree.


3. Be more helpful

Some of the people I admire the most are those that continuously help others, and I often find myself taking a back seat as I let others do the hard work. This year as well as continuing to improve my own life, I strive to help others as much as I can. Hopefully in terms of my goals this resolution won’t need to take a back seat, but this year will be the year of my own personal achievements and I’m not going to let anything get in the way. In the meantime though, I’ll be the one clearing up the weights at the end of the session.

4. Explore my potential

I know I said early that I work hard a lot of the time, but a lot of the time I don’t. I’ve been known to ‘coast’ and do the bare minimum that I can do to achieve. Maybe this is my self-critical mind coming into play a bit here, but there’s no harm in wanting to better yourself right? It seems finding the fine balance between this point and number 2 will be tough.

There’s so much out there that I can do. Every time I pick up a paint brush (which isn’t often!) I astound myself and I always wonder what I could create if I spent more time practicing and honing my skills. Similarly I wonder how much better I would lift if I managed to do all of my assistance exercise, keep to a healthy diet and train to the best of my ability. ¬†This may also be true for my degree, though I feel I do work very hard already and I don’t want to fall behind on other areas of my life which are helping keep me sane. There are a few other things that this relates to as well so hopefully 2015 will be the year of achievement.

5
. Grow a big fat butt 

Self explanatory. This year will be the year that I grow out of my white-girl butt and grow into my powerlifters butt that I know is there somewhere!

2014 was hands down the best year of my life – I made new friendships and strengthened old ones, continued to enjoy and compete in a sport that I love and just generally had a blast. I have every faith that 2015 will be just as great – particularly as I have two of the best lifting partners to share it with ( @amyyspencer and @shax2 on Insta – go check them out!)

Starting the year on a PB at my first training session of 2015 wasn’t bad – managed a 90kg paused squat after achieving this weight as a new PB at a fun comp in mid-December! I’m hoping 2015 will bring me even more gains and I haven’t peaked early haha.

As has been the case for some time now I probably won’t be able to post as much as I would like to in the coming months due to that pesky little thing called a degree – but you can get more regular updates on my lifting, nutrition, and day to day antics on my Instagram which is @susiebboo

Happy 2015!

Peace and love x

All England Powerlifting Championships

The run up to the All England was quite smooth; I’d recently hit a PB deadlift, felt confident with all my openers and didn’t have weight as an issue. I also found out it wasn’t going to be my last chance for my 130kg deadlift as I had thought, so this took some stress off (although this was in some ways mistaken – will come onto this later!). However, the week prior was full of travelling, life-sorting and trying to find someone to wrap my knees on the Sunday. All of this along with the stress of managing my mum at her 2nd competition on the Saturday meant I didn’t have much time to feel nervous, which I guess is a good thing!¬†

I’m still not sure whether the distraction of coaching my mum the day before the competition was a help or a hindrance to me in the long run; all I know is that it was stressful, exciting and a completely new experience! I’ve never fully appreciated the amount of energy that goes into managing a lifter at a competition, and it has made me all the more grateful for the support we receive as a club. Keeping a close eye on the clock, carefully selecting next lifts and making sure the lifter has everything they want and need is definitely not an easy job. Thankfully the stress paid off and my mum had a great competition, she managed 7/9 lifts and finished with a 200kg total (10kg above her aim) with a 75kg squat, 37.5kg bench and PB 87.5kg deadlift. I’m a very proud daughter. The whole experience completely drained me, but I used this to my advantage to get a solid 9 hour sleep the night before my competition, quite the feat as I’m sure many lifters will agree!

Another new experience for me was a 3pm weigh-in; I’ve only ever had an 8 or 9am weigh-in which makes it easier to restrict food and drink beforehand in order to make weight. Thankfully due to the success of¬†carb-backloading¬†making weight wasn’t going to be an issue. Hovering at around 51.7kg¬†while still backloading, I was able to drop to around 51kg after dropping carbs for my rest days, allowing me a backload the night before the competition and to eat and drink as normal before weigh in. I weighed in at 51.3kg, the lightest I’ve ever weighed in a competition, in the middle of the day, and on creatine which can make you hold water. Result!

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Lifting was delayed due to the groups before us going on longer than intended, so we were unsure as to when we would actually start lifting. Although a minor hindrance, this meant that our final warm-up lifts for squats were a little rushed! Unfortunately our coach couldn’t be with us on the day so were relying on another coach (who will be coaching when I go to Italy) to help us out with timings and warm-ups. I was very grateful and reassured to be introduced to him the day before, as it meant I had someone to do my wraps for me, and also gave me experience being managed by him before my first international in Turin.¬†

The warm-up itself wasn’t the smoothest, as I think I had forgotten how to squat with my new technique a bit, and wasn’t taking as much time as I maybe should have to set up for the warm-up lifts. However, my final warm-up of 110kg was fine and deep enough which gave me the confidence to open with a very easy 115kg. Comp nerves and feeling a bit out of practice from rest days meant my form was not completely up to scratch, but still miles better than it had previously been. I then went on to do my second lift of¬†122.5kg¬†which is shown in the video, setting a new u20 British Record. As this was somewhat tough and I had broken my record I made the tactical decision not to do a third lift as I wanted to save my energy for deadlifts.¬†

10514410_246741888869786_1518619450639784693_o¬†We had the same issue with bench of not knowing the exact lift-off time until part-way through the warm-up. This meant I actually only¬†did one lift in my bench shirt before stepping out onto the platform to do my opener of 62.5kg which absolutely flew up. My second lift was 67.5kg¬†which was tougher than I had liked as I think I had my belt on a little high making it harder for the bar to come down to my chest which threw me a bit. Still got it up. Decided on 71kg for my 3rd lift attempt, as the record I hold is 70kg and felt 72.5kg was a little out of reach on the day. Unfortunately I missed this lift; lack of strength, wrong line, shirt on wrong‚Ķ. who knows. I wasn’t deterred as I already held the record and had two good lifts in. Onto deadlift!

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Deadlift warm-ups ran smoothly, despite feeling a little tiredness in my hips and a minor twinge in my left calf, my suit felt tight and I still had buckets of energy. I was also very excited to try for the 130kg I had been striving for. My final warm-up was 110kg which shot up, so I stepped onto the platform to do an easy 120kg. Next was the lift I had been waiting for; 130kg¬†on the bar. Unfortunately I didn’t get it captured on video but as you can see in the picture above I got it up! It wasn’t easy but it definitely wasn’t a massive fight. Pleased I had got this and with nothing to lose, I tried 135kg but my foot slipped a fraction and I narrowly missed it. Definitely got it in me! This left me with a PB total of 320kg. With the slipped foot and slight twinge before the deadlifts had even began, my left calf is now a little more than twinged so there is a lot of stretching and some rest on the cards for me at the moment. I am still walking and it only feels like a small pull so I should be back training in no time.¬†¬†

Now is probably the time to mention my slight mishap. For months I have (somehow) mistakenly thought that the British Standard for deadlift is 130kg so have been striving to get it in a national competition for around 2 months. Thinking I had achieved this, I checked the records on the way home to see if I had managed to set a total record too. Turns out the deadlift standard is 140kg so I am actually 10kg off, but the total record is 322.5kg so I was only 2.5kg off which would have been easily achievable in the competition with another squat or a lighter third attempt deadlift. I was surprised at myself in that I’m not upset and am actually pleased I had the (mistaken) motivation to achieve the 130kg in the last few weeks. It also means I now have the 140kg to strive for at the Western Europeans, and having big goals definitely spurs me on. Operation add 10kg to my deadlift in 3 weeks starts now!!

I had great fun at the competition with my family, friends and fellow club members, and really enjoyed meeting some new faces. Some very strong ladies on the powerlifting scene at the moment. For such a massive competition it was run incredibly smoothly and as ever the referees, spotters and commentators were fantastic. My thanks in particular go to Arun who helped me in a time of coachlessness (although we did stay in contact throughout the competition) and without him I probably wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did and maintain my composure. I’m very much looking forward to being coached by him at the Western European Cup in September and am very excited for the coming weeks of training!¬†

Another reminder of my¬†fundraising page¬†where I am hoping to raise a bit of money towards my upcoming international debut in Italy! Anything you can spare would be a big help ūüôā¬†

Adventures in Carb Backloading

Having heard about it¬†from a friend¬†of mine several months back, ever since I’ve been intrigued to try Carb Backloading (CBL), a fat-shedding, muscle-gaining dietary plan devised by John Kiefer.¬†

The plan essentially entails following an ultra low carb diet during the day, then replenishing glycogen stores with high GI carbs in the evening after training, with a few other modifications such as not eating breakfast. 

In recent months when following my keto-ish diet to drop in to my weight class, I’ve sort of crudely followed this diet, having kind of worked some of it out for myself, but it seems I run out of energy after more than a week or so and just isn’t sustainable. As the plan is a bit more structured and contains higher GI carbs for my post-training nutrition, I’m interested to see if this plan leaves me with a bit more energy.¬†

As you’ve probably noticed my weight is quite often an issue and although I did find a ‘sweet spot’ recently with a medium-low carb diet, I still feel there are improvements to be made. I’m hoping to be able to put on a bit of muscle in the next few weeks, and being able to do this while losing a bit of fat (which is what the plan promises!) is an ideal situation.

The first 10 days of the plan involves going full keto, with an intake of just 30g of carbs a day. This is¬†¬†to ‘train’ the body to use fat for energy, and to fully deplete glycogen stores. I started doing this yesterday, and as ever am constantly looking for new recipes for a bit of variety in my diet. As much as I love chicken legs and burnt broccoli, it can get tedious after the 8th day in a row!
So in the next 10 days or so you can expect some more low-carb recipes that I’ve devised. I’ve bought myself a bunch of spices and have made friends with chilli, so look forward to some aromatic and spicy concoctions.¬†

I’ve taken a pre-CBL progress picture, and have recorded my weight so hopefully I will be able to use these for reference a few weeks down the line.¬†Then I’ll write a review of my experience with following the plan as a woman as it was predominantly aimed at men.¬†

Kiefer’s CBL is available as an e-book here.

 

Shepherdess Pie

With my mission to have a varied diet, I’ve been experimenting a bit in the kitchen lately, so you can all look forward to some more healthy recipes in the coming weeks.

This is my (relatively) low-carb take on a shepherd’s pie, using celeriac and leek for the topping and pork mince for the base.¬†This is one of the first recipes that I’ve made entirely from my own imagination, and I’m really proud of how it’s turned out, hopefully you’ll like it too! I hadn’t ever tried celeriac until a few weeks ago in a lovely vegetable pie that my friend made me, so this is my first time ever using it, and I think it works really well against the rich flavour of the pork mince. This took me about 40 minutes to prepare but I’m not very efficient in the kitchen, and was making it up as I went along, so you could realistically make it in about 30 minutes. I’d love to know what people think of this recipe, so if you try it ¬†out do let me know what you think ūüôā

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Ingredients 

For the topping

  • 1kg Celeriac (AKA celery root)
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 50g low fat cream cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the base

  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 500g reduced fat pork mince
  • 1x 500g carton passata
  • 1/4 tsp stevia (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • Frying oil of your choice

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Makes 4 largish portions or 5 Susie-sized portions

Method

  1. Peel and chop the celeriac into cubes, then put on to boil for approximately 20 minutes
  2. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic, and fry over a medium heat (I used coconut oil but you can use whichever oil you prefer) for 5 minutes until softened, adding the crushed fennel seeds after about 4 minutes
  3. Add the pork mince to the onion mix and fry over a medium-high heat until browned
  4. Add the carton of passata to the pork, reducing the heat to low-medium and allow it to simmer
  5. At this point chop the leeks and put them in to soften with the celeriac for the remaining few minutes of boiling
  6. If using, add the stevia and salt to the pork at this point. I always add some sort of sweetener to tomato dishes to combat the acidity, but usually don’t use salt. The salt and sweetener are entirely optional
  7. If you want the top to be a little crunchy, preheat your grill now
  8. Drain the vegetables and allow them to steam off for a few minutes, then use a hand-held blender to puree these along with the cream cheese. I didn’t thoroughly blitz the mix and left some leek pieces in tact for added texture
  9. Take the pork off the heat (it should have simmered for about 10 minutes now), and pour into an oven dish, spreading the veg mix on top
  10. Sprinkle the top of the pie with any seasonings that you fancy, and place under the grill for about 5 minutes until a little brown and crispy
  11. Serve and enjoy!

Sweet Spot

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Having experimented a lot with my diet over the last year or so, at the moment I seem to have found a sweet-spot where I’m able to eat a variety of foods, including some carbohydrates, and stay full while losing/maintaining weight and keeping up my performance in the gym. Although I’ve only been keeping this diet for just over a week, I can already feel its benefits in my energy and satiety levels, the number on the scale and my overall satisfaction with my diet.

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An example of my day’s food at the moment is as follows:

8am: black coffee with tbsp coconut oil

10am: 3 tbsp low-fat fromage frais with fruit and seeds

11:30am: portion of shepherdess pie (recipe to follow)

2:30pm: mackerel salad (recipe to follow)

5pm: banana pancake (banana, 2 eggs, 1/2 scoop casein)

8pm: (post-training) baked potato with tin of tuna, low-fat cream cheese and asparagus

I’ve found that having my coffee then waiting a few hours to eat to be better than getting up and eating straight away, as I’m able to do my fasted low intensity steady state (LISS)¬†cardio (walking in the park) and work up a small appetite for my first meal, which is still only small. Low fat fromage frais has been a god-send find, as it is cheap (¬£1 for 500g) and boasts better macros than other low-fat yoghurts, beaten only by 0% greek yoghurt in my opinion. Perfect as a scrimper’s alternative. Having banished fruit (bar bananas) from my diet for months, it’s nice to have something sweet in my diet once more, though I do feel like a classic white-girl dieter having fruit and yoghurt for breakfast!

I’ve successfully made my way down to sub 53kg, with a few weeks to go and still eating carbs. If I continue in the same vein¬†I’ll be comfortably into my category and still be able to maintain my strength. I attribute this weight loss (over a kilo in just over a week) to consistently walking in the morning, a clean and consistent diet, and an increase in my fluid intake.

With the added benefit of being LISS cardio, I’ve found walking in the park to be a great way to start the day, as it gives me time to enjoy the greenery, organise my thoughts and wake up a bit before I start the day. `I cannot recommend it enough to anyone that gets a bit frazzled and bogged down with their to-do list, and it’s been suggested that it can help lift your spirits too. I’ve also been working on a small personal¬†goal, which I’m not going to divulge now (because of this TED video), but which I will hopefully be able to showcase sometime in the near future!

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As it’s getting rather hot down here in Bournemouth at the moment, I’ve needed to increase my fluid intake, which has probably also helped with my weight management. Water is such a vital part of our health, yet¬†I was almost surprised to find it in my 200 super foods book. It’s the most absolutely essential part of our diet, but¬†some of us still walk around unknowingly dehydrated on a daily basis. Even mild dehydration can impair both physical and mental performance, so make sure you’re getting enough water. I try and aim for at least 3 litres per day, and increase this in the warm weather.

Although I’ve reduced the amount I’ve been posting recently, this is hopefully for the better. I’m trying to make sure I post more quality rather than quantity, as even I found reading my regular training updates a little tedious. So hopefully the quality of my blog will improve and I can continue to regale you with the life of a 20 year old powerlifter without boring your socks off ¬†ūüôā

 

Seeds

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With so many competitions in the recent months, the subsequent need for a keto-ish diet for weight maintenance, and¬†my tolerance for a very repetitious and unvaried diet has meant that I have probably¬†been missing out on some key nutrients. Although I’ve been hitting my target macros, I’ve almost certainly¬†not paid enough attention to my micros, with a diet consisting of mainly green veg, meat and fats I’ve likely been missing out. This may be the cause for my recent exhaustion.

So, to combat this I have done a number of things. To start with, I’m trying to vary the meals I have each week. With pre-preparing meals this can be hard, but I am trying to not eat the same meal for more than 4 days at a time. ¬†I am also trying to incorporate more colour into my diet. Having eating so much green for so long, I am eating more of a range of colours as this will mean more of a range of nutrients. Peppers, aubergines and blueberries have all found their way back onto my plate, and I’m loving it.

One particular food which I feel is often overlooked as an amazing source of minerals and fats is seeds. Holland and Barrett do a great little mix called ‘Omega Sprinkle’ of which I’ve had 2 bags sitting in my cupboard for an age, so I decided to do something with them so I’m more likely to eat them. I’ve come up with a really simple way of adding some extra flavour and crunch to them, which is probably all over the internet already but here’s my take!

Ingredients

–¬†1 and 1/2 cups mixed seeds
– 1 egg white
– Pre-prepared spice mix of your choice

Method 

  • ¬†Pre-heat the oven to 180¬†¬įC (350¬†¬įF )
  • ¬†Line a baking sheet with grease-proof paper
  • ¬†Whisk the egg white until reasonably firm
  • ¬†Sprinkle the seeds with the spice mix (as much or as little as you like)
  • ¬†Fold the spiced seeds into the egg white and spread across the baking tray
  • ¬†Sprinkle with some more spice for added flavour
  • ¬†Bake for 7 minutes or so, then break up the mix a bit with a fork
  • ¬†Continue baking, checking and mixing every 4-5 minutes or so, and remove when the mix is evenly browned and crunchy
  • Allow to cool, and store in an air-tight container

These seeds are perfect for afternoon snacking, or sprinkling over a salad. I used a cajun spice mix, which is absolutely heavenly. I also made another batch using a little vanilla extract and some stevia, great for sprinkling on top of some greek yoghurt. Let me know what you think of this recipe ūüôā

 

Motivation

Despite having a great deadlift session on Friday, and achieving a set of 3 on my previous comp PB of 120kg, my lack of motivation from the previous week persisted throughout the weekend. A night out, work, and an exhausting trek around the new forest probably didn’t help, but Monday came about and I felt exhausted, overwhelmed and unmotivated. I made the decision to take the day off from work and training and just take some time to recuperate.

I took a couple of naps, did some cooking, watched some mindless TV and just generally chilled out. On top of this I did some perusing about the internet to try and find some coping techniques for when you’re burning the candle at both ends, and struggling with motivation. My friend recently introduced me to TED talks, so listening to a few of those about motivation and happiness really helped, but most of all a couple of articles on Pat Reeves’ website, sent to me by my mother, really helped me feel more focused.

An article about anxiety in lifting really helped, in that it reminded me to recall things I had previously used as coping methods, not necessarily just in lifting but in day to day life. Things like taking time out to just relax and listen to music, saying no to social events if I’m feeling swamped, and writing down¬†everything¬†I needed to do to de-clutter my mind.

Next was an article about achieving¬†goals¬†which really helped me re-focus. My main goal at the moment is to be selected for Hungary, but unfortunately I don’t have a definite time-scale or much detail about this.¬†So I worked with what I had and wrote down all the things I’d need to do to achieve this; stay consistent with my training, stay at 52kg, try and incorporate some assistance work and most importantly stay excited about this amazing opportunity.

.                            motivation

From this, I decided to update my goals board and turn it into a motivation/goals wall. I’m quite a visual person so hopefully having these reminders in a very prominent place will help me to stay focused, and get me to where I want to be.

Taking the day off everything was definitely a good idea, as I had a great 12 hour sleep last night and woke up feeling more able to deal with current pressures. I’ve had a very productive yet enjoyable day today, and feel a bit more like myself.

Training this evening was a bench session, although I did some light squatting to warm up. I worked raw up to 50kg then put my shirt on for 60kg, moving up in 5kg increments to 75kg. Through some fault of my weight, or the way my shirt was put on me, I wasn’t able to get the bar down to my chest, even at 75kg. Although a little disheartening, with not long until the British I’ve decided to go back into my old shirt and work with that. My numbers might not be as high as I’d like, but it’ll be more productive and rewarding training in the short time we have left before my next competition.