Tag Archives: lifting

Body(building) Dysmorphia

Body Dysmorphia:

“…Involves belief that one’s own appearance is unusually defective

and is worthy of being hidden or fixed.

At the ripe young age of 25 I found myself a new mother. My whole life I had fought to fit into a mold of some kind, whether religious or emotional or relational or physical, and I felt lost. I had wider hips. Boobs. I was “oddly shaped”: small upper body, skinny legs, tired glutes…. and I really did have boobs. Double D’s, at the time (oh the nursing days…). I felt lost. I didn’t know this body. What was this? What should I do with it?

I started counting calories and running with some light weight lifting again, something I hadn’t really done since highschool. I’d been active, but not religious with food concerns.

Around that time I got an iphone. I got Instagram. I searched “fitness”… and I found a bikini competitor. I was hooked. I saw she was a mom… and I was hooked.

5.5 months later I placed top 2 at my first NPC show and qualified for nationals. I’d followed months of rigorous nutrition plans and workouts and starved and depleted myself down appropriately for peak week. I hadn’t ever been so proud of how I looked.

2 weeks later, with poor coaching and no reverse dieting instructions, I was 22 lbs heavier and absolutely miserable.

So began a long cycle this last few years of “bulking” and “cutting”. So began what I am now examining as a probably unhealthy relationship with food and a certainly unhealthy immersion into a culture that perpetuated insecurities and increasingly severe body dysmorphia.

The bodybuilding culture lives, eats, breathes, and thrives on comparisons. How you look LITERALLY determines your value.

While this culture has been easy on some… it is very, very hard on others.

The focus is always on flaws… not progress. If you’re going to stand onstage next to someone who worked harder or has better genetics in their favor, you have to make up for it somehow. To increase your value… you have to look different.

Spend almost 3 years trying very hard to look different, and it becomes incredibly easy to be supremely self-critical. You spend so much time trying to “fix” your body, that you forget how much it’s already changed or what it’s capable of. You begin to view it as a piece of shit failure with a lot of ground to cover to be “the best”, and you become obsessed with your own flaws.

Everyone is constantly trying to fix themselves. Diet changes, workout tweaks, everything – all grounded on becoming “perfect”.

Nutrition is regimented to the gram… to the nut! I remember my boyfriend saying “seriously… what is one extra almond going to do to you babe” as I religiously counted out my 10 almonds one night.

Take these behaviors out of the sport of bodybuilding: self-criticism of an already athletic and healthy physique, supreme obsession with measuring food, high concern about varying even an iota off plan, and severe self-criticism and abasement… and you have what many would call an eating disorder, an exercise disorder, or at the least… body dysmorphia.

In the beginning, bodybuilding was an amazing test of discipline. Over the last 5 preps, it has instead become a painful way to color my view of my own body… a body that is sexy, strong, and very, very healthy.

Today I attended my first Crossfit class at Free Range Crossfit (http://freerangecrossfit.com/). I was super, super nervous. I kept thinking about how my thighs are still carrying fat from my bulk… I don’t have a six pack right now… my shoulders are still so small. I was worried about skipping a lift day and my body… digressing?

Instead, I had an absolute. Fucking. Blast. By the end, my shirt was off. I wasn’t thinking about extra bodyfat. No one was looking at or critiquing me. I rowed my damn heart out, and I buddy-carried a 150 lb dude back and forth in a parking lot multiple times. I heard “awesome job”, “one more”, “wow, your lungs are strong, dude!” and much more encouragement. Post-WOD, I’m incredibly sore and exhausted, but I didn’t come away and look at the mirror to see if my quads were tapering… or waist was smaller… or triceps more pronounced. I felt strong, powerful, beautiful, and capable.

When I got home, I ate a damn brown rice wrap with turkey and mustard and spinach – at a meal where I normally don’t get carbs. Later, I had egg whites instead of tuna. I had ketchup with it, too. Am I going off-grid, crazy, wild, treating my body like crap? No. But I’m letting go of the obsession.

I’m still meal planning. Still cutting. Still focused on what I need to do to progress. But I’m done hiding things, fixing them… viewing them as defective. I’m done buying into body dysmorphia disguised as a passion for progress.

I applaud everyone still in the industry who finds a balance, who feels great about themselves at every stage. But for me, every day is a greater confirmation that leaving competing was a good thing.I want to grow into a healthier mindset… a greater belief in my own power and less self-criticism. I want to stop worrying about an extra almond or a substitution. I want to change how I see myself. I want to give up the habit of critiquing every flaw. I want to move forward out of a very body dysmorphic culture, and into one that focuses on long-term good and uplifts and encourages me to be and do my very best.

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7 (oops, 5) Things a Good Coach Will Never (ever, EVER) Do

So we’ve touched on this a little in the previous post: what you need in a coach, and what you don’t.

A good coach is VITAL to your journey as a competitor, and that includes POST-SHOW and OFF-SEASON. But hold on that, we will get to that in future posts.

If you’re questioning your current coach or exploring new ones, or if you’re wondering about your own coaching style, take a look at these 5 Things a Good Coach Will Never Do!

5 Things a Good Coach Will Never Do

  1. They will NEVER IGNORE YOUR FEEDBACK OR CONCERNS

Anonymous Example One (these are all true feedback stories) writes:

     “I left [my coach] shortly after my rebound from my last prep… Sent an inquiry about post-show or off-season prep (even willing to pay full price!) received a non-specific, awkward email almost ten days later and then nothing. Medical concerns went unanswered or dismissed. ‘Oh severe muscle cramping and numbness in your toes? Just drink more water.'”

I’m honestly shocked and appalled by how common these testimonials are. Let’s talk for a minute about something called rhabdomyolysis. I’m spending the most time on this point, because it effing matters.

WEBMD tells us: Rhabdomyolysis is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from a breakdown of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as kidney (renal) failure. This occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrate urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death.

In fitness this essentially means… bad sh*t happens when you overtrain. The scary truth? Rhabdo results in long-term dialysis (as in kidney problems for life) or even death, and can happen to anyone. Rhabdoymyolysis is particularly prevalent in athletes new to sports with high intensity routines. These people don’t know their bodies as well and are ignorant of warning signs.

Sample of rhabdo symptoms: 

  • Muscle pain, especially in the shoulders, thighs or lower back
  • Muscle weakness or trouble moving arms or legs
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nauseaor vomiting
  • Fever, rapid heart rate
  • Lack of feeling in hands and feet
  • Confusion, dehydration, fever, dizziness or lack of consciousness.

In untrained athletes, early symptoms of rhabdo (or overtraining… see below) are often confused with muscle soreness (DOMS).

IF YOU ARE TELLING YOUR COACH that you have one or more of any of these symptoms, and they’re telling you to drink more water… get a new d*mn coach.

MUCH more common than rhbado but also very dangerous is overtraining syndrome.

What is Overtraining Syndrome?

People who are very physically active sometimes cross the line between sufficient training and too much training. Overtraining usually occurs when the body does not have enough time to recover from the stress of intense training.

Signs of overtraining include the following:

  • You constantly feel tired or listless.
  • You cannot make further fitnessgains or you actually move backward in your level of fitness.
  • You suddenly lose weight.
  • Your resting heartrate increases 5 beats per minute.
  • You have lost your enthusiasm for exercising.
  • You feel irritable, angry, or depressed.

Treatment for overtraining requires that you cut back on training or stop altogether for 1 to 2 weeks. In extreme cases, a month or more of rest may be needed. It can be very difficult for a person for whom training is a way of life to believe that they have overtrained and need rest. It is more effective to prevent overtraining in the first place.

In competitors, overtraining is often mistaken for carb-deprivation or the “rigors of competing”.

If you express concern to your coach about any of these symptoms, and they ignore you or tell you they’re normal without asking more questions, explaining things carefully, or referring you to a doctor…. Get a new coach.

No matter what type of feedback you’re giving, if it’s ignored, you’re not being taken care of. You’re PAYING to have customized, carefully crafted plans with a coach, AND a relationship with that coach – your training experience should be a dialogue. Not a brick wall.

Ok, finally, onto the last 6 points (I”ll be brief)!

  1. They will NEVER FAIL TO EXPLAIN “WHY”

A bad coach will tell you to do it… because they said so.

A good coach will tell you to do it… because [insert explanation here].

In other words, a good or even GREAT coach will explain WHY you do what you do.

Anonymous Example Two writes:

     “I asked one time why my diet and workouts never changed… I was told that if it’s working, why change it? I didn’t feel this was a great answer.”

These types of answers are a write-off for a coach who either isn’t giving you the time and energy you deserve to explain, or who actually doesn’t know.

Don’t be afraid to ask “why?” If they never answer… find someone who will.

  1. They will NEVER FORGET ABOUT YOU

Coaches are busy: we are often belabored by tons of questions. I have been! Sometimes, we are too busy to answer right away. However…

Anonymous Example Three writes:

     “I sent a question on my show day after sending several questions the week before. My coach never answered. As a result, I went in blind.”

If you have a time-sensitive question, your coach should answer, promptly.

Even if you have a general question, it still shouldn’t take a week to hear back.

If you don’t receive a response, or it takes a long time to hear back, the coach is either lazy, doesn’t care, or doesn’t delegate properly. Big teams can often cause a hold on response times that SHOULD indicate to the leader or leaders that it’s time to hire some help.

If you’re paying for coaching, you should get it.

  1. They will NEVER PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY HUMILIATE YOU

Anonymous Example Four writes:

“My coach called me a ‘loser’ when I got second callouts.”

If you haven’t flinched… you should be. This is NEVER okay. Coaches are there to encourage and exhort you. Do we need to be honest with you? Yes. But never, ever, are we there to pull you down.

If your coach has spoken badly of you to others, or to your face, you need a new coach.

  1. They will NEVER REFUSE TO CHANGE YOUR PLANS

A good coach will incorporate feedback. Will they make things easier on you? No. They should push you. But if something hurts, or if you feel you’re not targeting a weakness which they’re aware of, or if you need an adjustment because your gym is lacking certain equipment… you name it… your coach should be available for those small adjustments.

Anonymous Example Five writes:

“I told my coach that I had a gluten and dairy intolerance. When I got my plans, they included both wheat and dairy.”

Busy coaches do sometimes have oversights. But if this happens, you’d better be asking them why. The same thing is true for plans which never change… ever. A good coach knows that changing your plans every 4-6 weeks prevents plateaus, a good coach adjusts plans to avoid injury or to focus on your weaknesses, and a good coach is available to continue that dialogue and make tweaks as you go.

I recently told my coach I couldn’t afford the steak I was supposed to eat every night – and he tweaked my plans so I could have lean ground beef instead. That’s a good coach!

If your coach never changes your plans and always refuses to incorporate your feedback, move on.

This post went longer than intended, so it got chopped back to 5 points! Essentially, in summary:

A Good Coach:

WILL NEVER IGNORE YOUR FEEDBACK OR CONCERNS

WILL NEVER FAIL TO EXPLAIN “WHY”

WILL NEVER FORGET ABOUT YOU

WILL NEVER PUBLICLY OR PRIVATELY HUMILIATE YOU

WILL NEVER REFUSE TO CHANGE YOUR PLANS

I hope these points are a helpful reminder to you of what you deserve in a coach.

For coaches out there, I’m calling you (and reminding myself) to keep these things in mind as you grow. Let’s keep the integrity in this sport by being true to the care of our clients.

 

 

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Calling the Fitness Industry Out: It’s Time for Some Integrity.

After careful consideration and an anticipation of backlash, unfollows, and unpopularity, I’ve decided to publish a letter I wrote to my old bodybuilding team when I made the decision to leave them a few months ago.

The reason is trifold:

1. This letter was never acknowledged.

2. This prep with a different coach has taught me a lot about wrong and right.

3. I’ve now had MANY people come to me with similar concerns, female athletes triad, eating disorders, depression, and depletion and adrenal issues from poor coaching or a lack of attention – from several teams.

I would have appreciated the response I felt this required, or to have seen changes in the last few months as I and others have expressed these concerns.

The bodybuilding industry is losing its integrity and its focus on the long-term benefit to their clients. The responsibility to the individuals. Multiple coaches are guilty of this… The integrity is leaving us…Let’s bring it back.

To be clear, I do support a lot of these girls on my old team and consider them brilliant industry competitors. But the personal care is going downhill, and the more experience I gain and the more pain I see, the more I feel people need to be made aware of these concerns, which apply to many coaching styles.

Please feel free to contact me at sportyspicefit@gmail.com with any questions. 

I have also included the response of a friend who is hugely active in the fitness industry, and someone I respect a lot, because it was invaluable. You’ll find both below.

My intent in sharing these is to push the people who participate in the industry to recognize how far we have come in the wrong direction, and to help competitors and athletes and people seeking weightloss alike to make informed decisions.

Here is the letter I wrote the team, months ago. It’s reflective of the experience of many, on multiple big-name teams.

Hey guys!

I wanted to take the time to send you a thorough email and express my gratitude and also a few thoughts.

First, thank you, thank you, thank you for believing in me and bringing me on board during an incredibly difficult time in my life. The added kindness of the sponsorship enabled me to really find my feet and establish myself after an awful abuse situation. It pushed me back into a career and community that I love dearly, and opened my eyes to a whole other side of fitness.

Working with you has been a wonderful education and an incredible honor.

This year was super challenging as I pushed through starting life as a single mom and returning to school, as well as battling the confusion of post-show metabolic compensation and feeling really lost when my body rebounded last winter. I knew so little, despite years as a trainer, about the effects of competition on your metabolism and reverse dieting, it was a shock for my system and something I learned from this time around.

I wish I had been ready for and physically able to do North Americans, and to see everyone again.

Despite the fact that my training has been gratis, I will be leaving the team at this time. I wanted to write an email because I didn’t want in any way for you to feel I was angry, bitter, or prepared to trash talk the team as some others have done. I’ve had girls come to me upset or confused about things and every single time explained how hard you both work and how I respect and love you both.

That being said, just a few thoughts.

First, for many girls as the team has become so big, they are panicking and stressed by the lack of personal attention. While it is understandable with the empire you’re building that you don’t have the time to respond quickly to emails, in my opinion it would’ve been ideal quite some time ago to start hiring assistant coaches in order to keep from the growing number of posts I see in our private group from girls weeks or less from competing who haven’t had plan updates or responses to emails.

Another girl in particular came to me stunned that it had been three weeks with no reply regarding her prep. I don’t get involved in those discussions, but it’s fast becoming the norm. That doesn’t speak well of the team, or of the heart I know you have for everyone. There has to be some way to delegate so that people are taken care of on a personal level.

Second, favoritism. While I know this is likely NOT the case, people are observing that a few girls in particular seem to have more time and attention. I can’t speak to the truth of that and don’t know if that’s true, knowing you both, but it probably comes from the first thing I mentioned above.

Third, personal care. While people are more and more needy and emotional and stressed, and I deal with that myself with the few bikini clients I have, they also do occasionally have valid need for more personal input which ties back to the first thought. They ESPECIALLY need more preparation for what happens post-show, and some basic direction for reverse dieting and off season. This to me says there is a full extension of care for each person so that they don’t go through what I went through (and many others have) after my last show.

All of that being said, I do know who you are and I do love you both and admire and respect you. I just think as the team has gotten so big, there is a much greater need for assistants and delegation because things are slipping through the cracks. It reminds me of the difference I’ve noticed between working for a mom and pop gym vs a franchise. Your girls NEED the one-on-one and the prompt responses and the TIME investment that says we are here for you.

I’m transitioning to another team because they’ve offered an opportunity to be a part of something smaller and more personal, but also because I have a chance to assistant coach there which is a HUGE dream of mine. I’m excited that they’re already working on off-season plans for me and I’ll be competing with them in the spring in Arizona. I look forward to seeing the girls out there and have nothing but love and support for everyone competing, no matter the team. You know that my integrity is everything to me, and I think this is a good transition to support that. It’s also the reason I took the time to write this email.

Thank you again for the time and love and care. Best wishes in all of the amazing opportunities you’re pursuing!

Love and respect,
-Jen

————-

Here is the post back to me on FB from my friend (his reply – Team Edge never responded to the email):

From MD:

Standing up and sharing truth! Never, NEVER anything wrong about that. Any business should adapt to the growth swing, yet this is more common. Unfortunately the side effect teams loose sight of is that they are coaching people to a physical extreme that leaves these competitors in a very delicate state physically … with their physical health swinging in the balance. I wish more “coaches” would look at the magnitude of what they are doing to their client’s body as more important than how much money they can make. 

At some point, a client of a team / coach is going to wise up after suffering serious health issues due to their practices and hold them accountable and sue them … AND WIN! Until then, these teams / coaches are playing a very dangerous game of Russian Roulette sending people into adrenal fatigue and failure leaving so many with serious, if not permanent, endocrine problems due to their cookie-cutter approach, lack of communication and no concern for the health of their clients. What these teams/coaches fail to understand is that just because a client signs a liability release, if gross negligence has occurred … the release can’t protect the team/coach from knowingly or unknowingly harming their clients resulting from poor communication & misguided coaching that causes physical damage. The lawsuit could in fact show criminal negligence and some could end up in jail, but God forbid a client actually dies as a result to these issues you’ve stated. 

What if their client was suffering serious physical/mental issues and needed guidance from their coach, and as you pointed out, no response? The results could be tragic for all parties involved. But as you have said, this isn’t good. 

**HIGH 5** Jenny for no longer biting your tongue. Until people like yourself voice the problems and exposing these poor business practices that clearly the bottom line is more important than their client’s health … it will continue to occur.

Bravo my friend. BRAVO!

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Complete Nutrition Product Reviews #1

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Over a month ago two burly young dudes walked into my YMCA and introduced themselves, repping the Complete Nutrition brand. I liked them and I was interested in their product description… we started discussing bodybuilding, and they told me I should come into the store to meet their owners, Morgan and Tyler, to learn more about who they were and possibly discuss an affiliation of some kind.

Being the curious cat that I am, I did. I popped over right after my workout: a sweaty, nasty, makeup-less mess eager to learn more.

I LOVED them. Here were my first impressions, off the bat:

1. Clean, organized, uncluttered store
2. Friendly, KNOWLEDGEABLE (they hire PERSONAL TRAINERS), outgoing, open, honest (with GENUINE CARE for the customer) staff
3. Fitness-savvy/well-rounded: aware of various industries and goals with expertise to address a variety of “niches”
4. Integrity: the brand has a clean, open, in-house tested approach to supps, with no push to upsell and a deep passion for customer loyalty
5. Ambitious…they’re going places. I love watching heart win over financial gain. The fact that they care about the organic integrity of their products and their effectiveness, provide free fitness consultations and input/training plans/nutrition advice to customers, and take the time to reach out and build a relationship with you speaks volumes for their future.

I was pretty thrilled to get a chance at a supplement goody bag!

Today I tried the Mixed Berry Blitzz pre-workout: amazeballs. Here’s why:
1. no weird asparthame aftertaste
2. the first pre that didn’t make me nauseous or jittery
3. the first pre that didnt make me act like a rabid squirrel
4. the first pre to give me a nice boost without the aftermath crash
5. best tasting mix i’ve ever added to my water.

#BOOM.

After legday I tried the Vanilla Whey Iso: Gluten free!

Again, blow my mind (and I’ve gotten free products before, which I didn’t feel like raving about)

SO good! Very angel-food-cake, and knowing that they’ve tested it made it that much more reassuring when it comes to effective muscle repair and building. An hour later, no stomach pain, which means it really is a pure Whey Isolate.

I’m really excited to continue trying these products, and no matter what happens in future, this girl is going to be a Blitzz addict from now on!

http://www.completenutrition.com/

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