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lifestyle changes

For the record, this is a frighteningly long post about powerlifting, IIFYM, and lifestyle changes that I’ve decided to implement (aka feel free to skip if none of this is of any interest to you).

My last competition didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, and while I can’t deny that I’m disappointed, I can’t say it was a total loss either, because I reached a new PR on deadlift and didn’t bomb my squats this time.

I will say that I did feel a whole lot more alone, which may have been due to the fact that everyone there was with their coach/trainer/team, and then there was the straggler–me. Here’s a conversation between me and one of the other girls there:

K: Where’s your coach?
F: I don’t have one.
K: (looks somewhat incredulous) Wait, you don’t have a coach?
F: Nope, I kinda just work out for fun between all the studying. :O
K: Dang! You go, girl! That’s awesome!

As always, however, everyone was incredibly friendly and supportive, which was rather uplifting, because I feel that competitive venues of this sort are pretty darn rare (not that I’ve ever been in all that many non-academic competitive environments). I’m wondering if I should give Steve my “I WAS DESTINED FOR GREATNESS” speech and then convince him to train me with awesome home-cooked food as a bribe.

Things I will do differently next time include always asking for liftoff, and also finding some piece of time while training to figure out what my maxes are so that I’ll actually know what to pick for my openers (I was super lax with that this time–both with the training and the dieting). The latter was a billion times easier this time around, and I wasn’t miserable at all. I weighed in at 120.8 with all my clothes on, so I definitely think I did it right this time. I don’t think I rehydrated enough though, which may have affected my overall performance too.

A fair number of people at my school seem to think that I used to be a college athlete of some kind, which is actually wildly flattering, because I definitely was not. (I can’t actually fathom what kind of sport I’d be good at. It’d have to not involve hand-eye coordination because sadly, I’ve been known to open doors and then walk into them. By “them,” I mean the door. Don’t hate.)

I happened to come across this the other day and was rather happy. :D!

I’ve changed up my workout routine as well as my eating habits, which I’d hate to call a “diet” because it’s really not. (I prefer the term “lifestyle change” because it’s a lot more accurate.) As I may have mentioned in the past, I joined instagram mainly because of the food porn. This has not changed and my recipe list continues to grow astronomically, but I kept seeing a bunch of the same tags in my favorite recipes/pictures and got rather curious as to what “IIFYM” was.

So I looked it up and have, in essence, partially adopted it into my current lifestyle. IIFYM stands for “If It Fits Your Macros” (proteins, CHO’s + fats!). Here’s the summary, if you for some reason don’t feel like reading their page (I basically just threw in my own commentary).

  1. Buy a digital food scale and weigh everything you eat (in grams, uncooked) for the first 3 months.
    (I bought a scale for ~$6 on Amazon, but my inner drive to weigh everything I eat isn’t quite there yet. I may get on this eventually if I want better results. I will probably have to if we do indeed get to everything we have planned for San Diego.)
  2. Open a free account on a calorie/macro tracker/app of some kind.
    I prefer myfitnesspal because the iphone app is free, and because I can throw in my recipes and find out the exact macros for it. Be forewarned that there are mistakes in some of the things people have logged. If you hit your macros perfectly, you shouldn’t have calories “left over” because hello math. (CHO = 4cal/g, protein = 4cal/g, fat = 9cal/g)
    Jun prefers fitday because it’s much more customizable in terms of tracking your macros (MFP uses percentages for macros, but I’ve found a way to circumvent this) and giving you free reign over how many other nutrients you want to be tracking (MFP only allows an additional 2) and because there are too many food/ingredient options on MFP.
  3. Put in your info (age, weight, height, gender, activity lvl) into this calculator.
  4. Log everything you eat into whatever you ended up choosing for #2.
    This may seem tedious at first, but if you’re weird like I am and enjoy making lists/tracking every single thing you do (yay for type A’s!), this is actually kinda fun. I make it into somewhat of a game, or turn it into a puzzle for Jun (see the picture below).
  5. If you want to lose weight, eat 15-20% less calories than your daily required calories (TDEE). If you’re trying to gain, eat 10% more.
    There’s no need to eat more calories on the days that you work out, because the calculator already factored that in for you when you chose your activity level. (It takes your week’s worth of caloric needs and divides it by 7 so it’s averaged throughout each day of the week.)
  6. For even more accuracy, take in…
    • > 1 g protein/lb BW
    • 0.45 g fat/lb BW
    • Any remaining calories left = CHO’s (carbs)
    • 20-25% of your BW in fiber
    • 1 gallon H2O/day (in addition to whatever other liquids you consume)
  7. Recalculate your TDEE + adjust your macros every ~5 lbs.
  8. Try to meet your micronutrient (vitamins, minerals) requirements first before you move on to other foods.
    (Take a multivitamin!). I’m also tracking my fiber, calcium/vit D + sodium intake.

Just for fun, my fb husband/best friend has somewhat been dragged into this too (he was curious, so I just sent all the information his way and he hopped on board), so our conversations have turned into something like the following:

The background = fish that look like they’re kissing, from our Monterey trip. :] I think our “relationship” is cooler than a lot of real relationships out there. <3

We’ve found that getting enough protein each day is pretty effing difficult without protein powder, so I’ve been making use of my Costco bag of it, and he’s been finding alternatives because he hates powder. As you can see, cottage cheese is currently winning, and I’m thinking I may have to convince myself to like it just because it’s super cheap and a really good source. 14g protein/7g CHO/0g fat is kinda hard to find. :O

(This also means that the recipes I come up with in the future will likely be protein-heavy and that I’ll probably include the calories/nutrients in my recipes from now on. Yeahhhh bro food!!!)

I’m fairly curious to see how lean I can get while still maintaining my strength so that I can continue to lift heavy things and hopefully also incorporate said strength into pole. He wants to be super-awesome at gymnastics (I would too, actually; it’d go hand in hand with pole), so it is an experimentation of sorts. At present, I’m still doing rough estimates with my food to see where that takes me, but thus far (I’m currently less than 2 weeks in, and definitely did not follow this the day before/day of my competition), I do believe I’m seeing results and I really like the flexibility. Depending on my goals, I may or may not go hardcore and start weighing everything I eat, but at the moment, I think this will definitely suffice.


more to learn

I was at the gym the Saturday before my competition and my would-be training buddy (aka Steve, the one who put the idea of competing in my head in the first place) happened to be there, so I figured I’d ask him if there was anything I should do differently. For the last competition, I gave myself a rest week the week before and kinda didn’t really all that much, which I thought was a bad idea, but there’d been so much emphasis on rest, I figured I should take their advice.

Apparently, “rest” doesn’t mean do nothing. (I should’ve known.) But I’ve apparently been doin’ it wrong. :O

Last year, when he’d said “3 reps,” he’d meant that I should be cutting down to 3×3 and for the 2-3 weeks before, I should be doing heavy weights but at a very, very low volume. (I’d been doing 5×3 for the exercises I’d be competing in and 3×10 for accessory exercises, har har. Ever the overachiever, I guess, except this is a pretty bad idea when you’re training for a competition.)

If you think about it (which I clearly did not), it makes sense. You’re training your muscle fibers for a specific task. In powerlifting, it’s pretty much composed of explosive movements. You just pick the weight up, move it, and put it back. It takes all of a couple seconds (unless you’re seriously putting up a good fight/struggle). If you’ve been training your muscles to do multiple reps of less weight, they’ll be better at that instead of a couple ginormous lifts, which is what you really want. Muscle memory.

Anyway, he essentially kicked me out of the gym, told me to do bench on Monday, squats on Wednesday and then Ibuprofen Thursday through Saturday. We shall see how this goes!

I’m also possibly gearing up for something else in early November. (It’ll help keep me motivated!) I will be likely experimenting with my dietary/workout habits after the competition to work on that. (Also because I need a break from my current workout plan, or I’m just going to plateau and be sad. This whole tracking my macros thing sounds pretty promising if I actually stick to it, and if I want to kick ass in November and next year when I cut to 114, it might be a good idea. Separate post on that to follow!

lessons learned

The powerlifting meet was definitely an awesome experience. I learned a ton and will be way more prepared for the next one than I was for this one (trying to stuff in studying for med school along with starting my first-ever diet while training for this alone, most often without a spotter, without knowing much about what it’d be like was definitely interesting). Since I learned to lift weights, I’ve really just been doing it because I think it’s fun (and because it’s a great workout, especially seeing as how I hate cardio and all). I started training for the competition 5 weeks ago, and having it looming in the week after my first year of med school ended kinda gave me the motivation I needed to keep going to the gym even when I felt like I should instead be studying (luckily, this worked out for me).

Before we were let off for our last summer vacation ever, one of our professors gave us a “summer assignment.”

1.       6 weeks physical rest
2.       6 weeks mental rest
3.       Take Dubin wherever in the world and then take great digital pics proving it..Submit to me and I’ll make a class set.

So I brought Dubin (the book that’s floating in front of me) to the powerlifting competition!

Seeing as how this was my first competition ever and most of my time was spent med-schooling rather than paying attention to everything that went into this, being at the actual competition was definitely an eye-opener. I packed the world with me because I was really paranoid that I’d forget something.

What You Need:

  • Singlet
    I’m not sure why they make us wear these, but one website I liked reading from said it’s to “emphasize the true size of your crotch,” which I found hilarious. I got mine from Amazon, which is basically where I get everything, since so many websites won’t recognize my current address as an actual address. It’s surprisingly comfortable, but having to pee when you wear it sucks.
  • Long socks
    For if you’re doing deadlifts. Some people knock up their shins and bleed everywhere, and it’s in your best interest to not get that on you. I had several pairs from sockdreams, which is an online shop I like to frequent for warm and/or costume accessories. No tax + free shipping! :]
  • Shirt
    You apparently wear it under your singlet for squats and bench press for hygienic reasons. You can elect to just wear your singlet on the deadlift if you wanna show off your arms. No compression shirts (or compression anything, actually). Plain shirt might be cool, just in case they don’t allow logos or anything.
  • Food
    They sold food there, but it wasn’t healthy, so I’m glad I packed my own. I brought a loaf of bread and the hotel I stayed at had a bunch of portable packets of jam, honey and peanut butter, so I pilfered a bunch and ate sandwiches throughout the day. I also brought some energy bars with me (I was going to make my own, but they were on sale and I got lazy).
  • Water/Gatorade/Hydration
    I brought a crap ton of water with me. If there’s anything positive that I learned from my diet, staying adequately hydrated was probably one of the most valuable ones. My kidneys are much happier with me now. (My bladder is not. It’s a good thing I’m an HBLer; leaving the room all the time to pee would’ve been annoying.) 2 cups of water = 1 pound.

Things I Didn’t Have That Would’ve Helped/Were Awesome

  • Liquidgrip
    That shit is amazing. (I feel like it’d be really good for pole too.) It’s like chalk that just stays on your hands and doesn’t rub off. The lady I befriended (since I knew uh, no one there–I recommend you bring a friend if you’re not that outgoing and don’t want to talk to strangers) gave me some because she’s awesome, and I think it really helped me with my deadlifts.
  • Flat shoes
    So speaking of deadlifts, flat shoes would help a lot. I didn’t own a pair of those, unfortunately, but I may obtain a pair of chucks (possibly kids size 4 because it’s $10 cheaper) before I enter the next one.

Other Things That Might Help That I Never Use

  • Lifting belt
    I don’t own one of these and haven’t ever used one. I hear it helps most people lift a shit ton more, so I may ask my friend about this one of these days.
  • Wrist wraps
    While I do own these, I haven’t used them since 2009 because they gave me somewhat of a false sense of security and my form got sloppy, which led to my murdering my back and not being able to lift for several months. I drove myself (and potentially everyone around me, if they weren’t such good friends of mine) crazy.

Other Notes

  • Travel only with awesome people, or just go it alone. Seriously.*
    This should’ve been an obvious point, but somehow, you overlook things like this sometimes.
  • Talk to people there!
    People here are probably the most friendly/supportive/encouraging bunch you’ll ever find in any kind of competitive atmosphere. I think part of it is because for the most part, we’re just competing against ourselves instead of against each other. There are so few female lifters that if I were to ask any of the guys for advice or help, their giving me said advice has absolutely no chance to screw them over. Different age category, different weight class, different genders… Getting to talk to everyone there was probably one of my favorite parts of being there–I learned a ton, and we cheered each other on, gave each other pep-talks, shared our food stashes, took videos/pictures for each other, etc. It was a good time. :]
  • Weigh-ins
    Due to my day of unplanned starvation (see asterisk below), I weighed in at 121.4, which was 2 pounds under what I needed to be. This basically equates to 6 pounds lost in 3 weeks, which honestly wasn’t all that terrible, if you don’t think about the fact that I normally consume way more food than I actually need/tend to crave unhealthy food when I’m studying. It did get somewhat tricky since I was building muscle while trying to lose weight, and had to find a balance, but I may get to how I did this in a separate post because this one is pretty effing long already.
  • Choose reasonable openers.
    But also know that whatever weight you choose, you can only move up from there.
  • Open division
    Apparently, I didn’t actually have to compete in the “open” category. I can open a division for my age group (it apparently doesn’t exist). The more you know…
  • Your mind plays a significant role in whether or not you actually make the lift.
    If you tell yourself you can’t, you probably won’t. Tell yourself you can. Tell yourself the weight’s light. I definitely did a lot of, “Farrah, you got this. You did this weight multiple times before. Why wouldn’t you be able to do it now?” I also tried to shut down any negative thoughts I had (e.g. “But you’re 5 pounds lighter than when you did that lift before and you’ve barely eaten anything. You’re like this starved shell of a human being and there’s no fuel to power that lift–SHUT YOUR FACE. YOU CAN DO THIS, DAMNIT.”) Channeling all your rage and anger into the lift also helps. Lots.

powerlifting competition

They thought I was a high school kid. I found this rather amusing.

Listening to the rules!

I hate it when I fail at something, but I like honesty, and I should practice what I preach. I bombed my squats, which was the first event. You better believe I was all kinds of disappointed. :[

In the midst of descending. From now on, I’m doing the “ass to grass” variety–then it can’t possibly be too high! :D

With each “bad” experience, however, I am a firm believer that you can learn a wealth of information from it.

I didn’t screw over my squats because I couldn’t lift the weight (the judges could tell it was an easy weight for me). I’d just had the misconception that going parallel was all I needed. I think I was a little high on the first one, so I went for parallel on the second, which is probably when they realized that I wasn’t aware that you had to go lower. (Hooray for not reading the rulebook carefully/forgetting that bullet point entirely. Having a video of myself lifting would probably have been a great idea too, because I can’t exactly see if I’m going low enough when I’m in the squat rack. On my third attempt, one of the guys there offered to tell me when I was low enough (I also hadn’t been aware that that was even allowed), but I descended too slowly and was too tired to get back up. :[

I also probably psyched myself out. Do not ever underestimate the power of your mind. Negative self-talk will be the death of me.

I was told that I had a beautiful arch. <3

For the record, I absolutely adored the fact that there were people there to rack the weights for me. <3 <3 <3 Having spotters was also pretty awesome. (The lack of a spotter is one reason why bench improves so very slowly for me.)

This weight (259 lb) ended up being pretty easy for me, so I guess I should’ve picked something heavier. Next time!

Looking up was super helpful for deadlifts (probably would be for squats too).

In any case, since I bombed my first event, I wasn’t eligible to take a fourth attempt to beat the state record for Virginia on deadlifts. :[ But it is a-okay. I apparently hold the state deadlift record for my weight class, so you know what? I’ll take it. :] What doesn’t kill me will just make me stronger. Now that I know what to expect and how everything works (for the most part), I have full confidence that I can and will beast the next one I enter. :] I will be practicing wall sits to the floor so I don’t eff over my squats again. :O

More to come on prepping/making weight/dieting/lessons learned/etc. :D!


Given that I absolutely adore food and haven’t really ever actively tried to lose weight, this has been a somewhat trying time. :[ I already eat pretty healthily most days, and I already work out fairly regularly, but I’m pretty sure I used to eat way more than I actually needed to on a fairly regular (aka daily) basis because I like food more than I like drinking fluids (and I hate having to get up all the time to go pee), which basically translated to me being in a perpetually dehydrated state.

It sucks, but I wanna do well, so I’m doing it.

Truth be told, I was supposed to start dieting back in mid-April, when my whole I’m-going-to-enter-a-powerlifting-competition ambition began. But two days after this idea was placed into my head, our town had their annual chocolate festival…and then a week later, it was my birthday

Basically, I made all the excuses in the world to avoid having to diet. :[ I’ve never actively tried to lose weight because weight can fluctuate so much so easily. I also don’t own a scale, so I’d much rather go by what I look like in the mirror. A couple days ago, my friend suggested I check out how much weight I lost from night to morning, so I decided to take him up on that.

At 7:30 p.m., when I weighed myself, I was at 125.8. 5 cups of tea/water and a meal of grilled tilapia + steamed veggies later, I was 3 pounds heavier (3 hours later). The next morning, I’d lost 2.2 pounds.

(You see why I’d rather just look in the mirror? >_> )

I really, really wish I could just work out harder instead of watching what I eat, because to me, lifting a couple hundred pounds is infinitely easier than curbing the sheer amounts of food that I consume. (Let’s not factor in how much I crave unhealthy food when I need to study. :'( )

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. :[ When I stepped on the scale about a week ago and saw that my weight hadn’t changed at all (still at 127), I got pretty worried, because I need to be at 123 for the competition. Granted, a lot of this must be water weight (at least, I hope so), because I’ve been guzzling water/green tea like a fiend (it helps to curb the hunger and possibly increases insulin sensitivity/has potential effects on energy metabolism + fat oxidation). In a sense, this is good because, I kid you not, this is the most well-hydrated I’ve ever been. I seriously need to start some kind of a caloric deficit though if I don’t want to be completely miserable next weekend (last-minute ideas include not drinking anything on Friday and then putting on all the clothes I own and running a mile or three, or spitting in a cup all day).

My “maxes” (quotations used because they’re not my 1RM; I still have no idea what those are, but I guess we’ll see) are currently as follows! (This is probably what they’ll stay at because today’s my last day for gains.)
Deadlift: 255
Squat: 225
Bench press: 120

I was at the gym on Tuesday and one of my friends (co-officer for FM club) asked me what I was working on.
F: Today’s deadlift day!
J: Is that all you do?
F: Well, there’s squats and bench press and several other accessory exercises too, but that’s the big one for today.
J: Cool. I’ve always been really impressed by your deadlifts.
F: Really? :D!
J: Yeah! They’re awesome!
D: What are you at right now, 235?
F: Yep! I did 225 last Friday, so I figured I’d move up.
(I was going to shoot for 250, but they convinced me to try for 255.)
J: Alright, let’s do this, Farrah!
F: Alright!! (manages 2 reps)
J: Holy shit. That’s really, really impressive. I wonder if I can do that. I’m a little scared to try now.
D: Yeah, it looked like you weren’t having much trouble with it. You know what’s really impressive though?
F: What?
D: Can I see one of your hands?
F: (holds up hand) They’re puny, I know. :[ It sucks for piano.
D: Your hands are about half the size of mine and you can still lift all that weight.

Encouragement and positive self-talk has been monumentally helpful.
From mid-April to now, I’ve gone from:

  • 110 to 120 for BP
  • 185 to 220 for S
  • 215 to 260 for D

I still don’t know what my 1RM is for any of em’ though. My bench press sucks. :[ We’ll see if I find out my maxes next week!

Daniel and Justin say that if I do manage to break the national records (I’m pretty far off right now, but someday!), they’ll put up a banner for me in the second year classroom. :D

Waking up in the morning and seeing some really awesome abs staring back at me = amazing motivation. If being driven by sheer vanity and dreams of badassery can make me stick to this, so be it!