Saturday, April 26, 2014

Take your time

It is funny to realize that while I still have a long path ahead of me, a lot has changed in my body throughout the years.

Me at the age of 10yo during my thinnest years
I am perfectionist to the extreme. My OCD takes me from picking falling leaves on the floor at work, to putting away the weights at the gym. And I make faces when people lift weight but do not put them back. I take it very seriously. So having to accept that it takes time to build my body in a healthy way is not an easy task.

How many of you have caught yourselves envying those fantastic transformation stories? I did! Many times...

It is true that all we see are the results. We were not physically close to those athletes to know about their struggles and hard moments entirely. What we have are pictures of incredible bodies, while us... Well, the mirror talks to us.

My turning point: August, 2010. I cried after seeing it
But let's face the truth: is everyone the same? Are there two of the same human beings walking on earth? Two with the same characteristics, background and experience? The answer is no! So even though we give thumbs to those who achieve their top at a fast pace, there is no reason to beat yourself for not being the same.

My journey is far from being a fairy tale. I did improve a lot, but I still cannot tell when I will get "there". Last year, for instance, I reached a great shape. Unfortunately, I was not able to sustain it for long. I had some health setbacks and after a period of recovery, I noticed that I had taken some steps backwards. It all may have slowed me down, but the amount of experience and knowledge that I acquired in the process was not waste.

Whenever someone asks me how to get started, I always suggest taking one step a time. I myself did not like drinking water at all. My life was coffee (=caffein), Coke (caffein+caffein) and Mate (caffein+caffein+caffein). The only food for me was fast-food. For a while, I used to eat McDos three times a day on a daily basis. I love French fries (with lots of mayonnaise in the best Flemish style) and pizza. I could surely eat them every single day. At a certain point however, I realized the damage my bad eating habits were causing my body and, consequently, my health.

In 2012,  right before my very first contest preparation
I still drink one cup of coffee in the morning, but that is it! Throughout the day, no sodas either. I did drink one last week and it felt weird. Industrialized juices or smoothies are in my things-to-avoid list as well. However, despite the amount of sugar contained in them, they are still a better choice than a soft drink. Ideally, make them yourself with organic fruit and greens.

If sugar is your weakness, try observing why you "need" it. Is it because you are feeling anxious or stressed? Are you dehydrated? Are you having an energy crush? Watch your meals during the day. Are you eating enough? Are your dishes varied? Carbohydrates and healthy fats are not evil monsters and they must be part of any diet.

Personally, I am not the most creative person in the kitchen. I only learned how to cook after my first Bikini competition and I am not a cooking princess. On a weekly basis, I browse the internet looking for new recipes to bring some new colors and flavors to my intake.

At the first Arnold Classic Brazil, April 2013
Some of the tricks I also use to keep myself on track are:
  • Have a strong shopping list: I crossed the items when I buy them, but I do not erase them from my list. This way I keep track of the food I still have in the freezer as well;
  • Try new things: look for new recipes, make substitutions in your traditional plan. There is way much more than chicken and broccoli out there. And it does not have to taste bad to be healthy;
  • Remove ONE bad habit a time: in the beginning you may want to change things drastically, but if you want to make your changes last, it is better to give your body and your mind time to get accustomed to everything;
  • Watch your emotional level: we live under pressure every day, the whole day. It is traffic, work, family affairs, financials, etc. These things cannot control us though. Find a way to work it off without eating it out;
  • Keep yourself busy: find a hobby. Ideally, get involved with some physical activity. I love running and lifting weights. Is there any sport you like? Or dance style? A walk around the block is much better than sitting around;
  • Enjoy your new lifestyle: remember that you want to improve your life. It has to be fun even before you start enjoying the new you. Do not take it too seriously. 
Above all, have in mind that no matter how long it takes, it will be worth it. It is more than fitting in smaller clothes or hearing compliments. It is about improving your well-being. Do not punish yourself if you slip up. It happens to everyone. Be your best friend, motivation and inspiration. No one can be 24h a day by your side so become your best companion. Whether you lose one inch or improve your performance, be proud. You did not get in the shape you are now in just one day. You can and you will achieve it as long as you keep on doing what has to be done!

Pre-workout picture from April 22, 2014.
Now let me know about yourself? How is your progress going so far? What victories have you already booked? What are your plans for short and long terms? I would love to learn about your path too.

Wishing you all a great day!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Gain muscle mass and lose weight

I remember that about 10 years ago, when I first attempted a come-back, someone asked me the killing question: "What is your goal: to lose weight or to gain muscle mass?" Unless you start the right way, with someone orienting you in the right direction, you will not be able to answer to it as I could not either.

My return did not happen back then because of health issues (I will talk more about it in another blog in the future). However, the truth is, I did not know what to say. For me, it was obvious that everyone wanted to lose weight. There was absolutely nothing else to think of. And what was this "gain muscle mass" talk?!? I did not want to become a bodybuilder...

Please note that I had already lifted weights before at the age of 19yo. At that time, I was also on a diet to 'put on muscle', but I was not even aware of that. The 10 years gap made me forget the whole process though.

Easter Sunday strength training

But why was this question so important? The thing is that, depending on your goals, not only your workouts, but your diet and supplementation, changes. Because you will be training your body differently, it will need more, or less, of certain nutrients and vitamins in order to function properly and lead you to the desired results.

You will surely find experts (and I mean real experts, not broscience) who talk about doing the two things at the same time. Do I believe it is possible? Yes, I do. Can anyone achieve it easily? I am not so sure about it.

Similar to those who show progress with IIFYM plans, those who have muscle maturity tend to have higher levels of success in building muscle and leaning down at the same time. Unless their metabolism is damaged for whatever the reason, such athletes (professionals or amateurs), are real fat-burning machines on a daily basis. And when they add some cardio to their routine and keep their carbs intake monitored, BOOM!

Unless you have some genetic predisposition, things may not go that smooth when trying to do both at the same time. It is true that you can (and should) try, but be aware that it will take a lot of pre-work before finally being able to implement a solid routine safely if you are new to it.

Temperature in °C earlier today: Perfect weather for running!

To start things, build muscle. If you have never dared entering the free weights room (this one goes mainly for the ladies), it is time to get over it. Personally, I have already gone through pretty much everything, but I am way too stubborn to let a spotter or a sexist take me away from my objective. When there, lift as heavy as you can. If you have to start with 2lbs weight because that is all you can, so be it. However, do not get stuck with them. Remember the quote: "Don't lift weights lighter than your handbag." For the moms, think about your kids weight. You can carry them around, can't you? So why not lifting at least the same weight at the gym?

For the guys, the tip is not lifting whatever weight you can unless your form is perfect. You may not feel it now, but no one can tell the damage bad posture can cause to your back and joints. Swinging dumbbells during curls will not make your biceps grow, but it may hurt your elbows seriously. Remember that you are at the gym for yourself. Leave the ego at the door. It is better to go ass to the grass with light weights than 3/4 squats with 100lbs. 

Depending on your fit level, wait from one week up to two months to start doing cardio. Hard gainers should wait the longest. You do not want to blow your gains at any cost. And when I mention cardio, I am not suggesting that you become a battery bunny and spend hours on the treadmill. Getting fit is the ultimate goal no matter. Becoming a toothpick is not an option. What you want is to get blood flowing in your body and to strengthen your cardiovascular system. Steady cardio once a week is fine and if you need some extra burn, go for HIIT.

Why? Because! Leaving for today's run.

Log your exercises, meals and progress (please see my blog "How you can make it work for you" for tips on ways to create your log). Take your mood and energy levels into consideration. Did you have a stressful day? Did you sleep enough? Everything matters. After a while, you will be able to see a pattern. This should be your guide for moving forward.

These are a few guidelines I have been using for myself in my "Personal experiment". Do you have other suggestions? Please let me know them. I would love hearing from you too.

'Till next time!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Personal experiment

Some blogs ago, I mentioned that I was about to start a program to get in shape for the summer. Unfortunately, it seems that there was some confusion with the date. Instead of today, May 3rd, 2014 is the appointment for the kick-off. With that said, there is going to be a change of plans.

In the past month, I have been bulking. It is not like have been eating crap like there is no tomorrow, but I have increased the amount of carbs of my intake in an attempt to build some muscle mass in the process. I did hit some PRs at the gym however, my weight pretty much stayed the same no matter what.

Well, now I have two extra weeks in my hand, without any plan limitations and total freedom. So, I decided that I am going to make the best out of it.

Why? Because!
All these years, I have been always following someone's 'plan'. Whether it was a plan put together specially for me by a personal trainer or from a book or website, I myself never dared being creative about my training. Despite having the example of my boyfriend who built a great physique throughout 20 years of being his own trainer, I have always feared not knowing enough. But let's face it, no one knows me better, right?

Therefore, the time has arrived when I am going to be a big girl and put into practice all the things I have learned so far. It is going to be a great experience no matter the results. Of course that the knowledge my trainers acquired throughout the years is not to be compared. Still, I think I have gone through enough to deserve my trust too.

For this week, the idea is lifting three times and running/jogging/sprinting three times. I want to make sure that I improve my running performance without damaging the (little) muscle mass. It will be an experiment and I am really excited about it. So you will be hearing (or should I say reading) not only about my impressions, but I will be sharing my workouts, meals and everything related to my fitness schedule and reactions to it.

Where you invest your love,  you invest your life.

I am looking having you in this journey with me, but it will be great to hear from you as well. Who puts your plans together? Have you ever trained your own? What sports do you practice? Please let me know about your experience too.

Wishing everyone an awesome Easter!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

How you can make it work for you

Last week I wrote about how I get things done in my life. Those were general rules that I have in mind on a daily basis. They allow me get a lot done within the limited free time that I have. And more importantly, without exhaustion myself.

Each person is different and each moment in our life may require a different approach. We have to keep our eyes and mind open for the need of changes and not to be afraid of jumping in if necessary.

Personally, I prefer to use applications and keep most of my stuff online. This way I can check all my appointments any time, anywhere. When you plan ahead it becomes crucial to have as much information as possible at hand. If you need to make changes in your schedule, you will not have to guess anything. It is all there and you can (generally) drag them from one day or time to another to have them rearranged.

With that said, I still keep a paper agenda with me for the times I have bad connection and cannot go online. Even though I should have 4G by now, I feel lucky when I have connection sometimes. 

Tracking my workouts prevents me from getting stuck in plateaus.

So what do I keep track of?
  • Appointments (professional and private)
  • Projects (professional and private)
  • Goals (professional and private)
  • Groceries
  • Workouts
  • Meals


Whether it is a meeting in the office or an appointment with my hairdresser, I write it down. As a rule of thumb, I keep my professional schedule on the agenda from work, and my private ones, electronically. Double booking oneself or forgetting a call is not a pleasant experience and it can spoil your day or even your career.


I am always working on something. I love sewing, knitting, reading and taking pictures. That in addition to my hobbies and regular chores. To avoid losing sight of deadlines, I make notes about everything. Ideas do not come at predetermined times. Wow-moments can hit you when watching TV or when you are stuck in traffic. You do not want to miss them!


All the time and energy I invest in my projects and plans cannot be in vain. Many times we are so busy "surviving" that we forget the meaning behind our actions and the reason why we started them in first place.
No matter how much you enjoy the race, remember what you are expecting to accomplish with your efforts. Otherwise, you will not be able to measure your progress. Set goals for 2, 5 and 10 years from now and record them. You cannot get anywhere without a destination.


Because of the limited hours of shops and supermarkets here, we buy our groceries on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Therefore, I must keep close track of all ingredients I need to buy for the week in advance. If I miss something, I will have to change my meal plan and it can damage the balance of diet. If you are an athlete, you surely understand I mean.


The only way to improve your physique is by breaking plateaus. If you are a runner, it means running faster or longer. If you lift weights, you want to go heavier and have more intense sessions. How can you remember where you were at if you do not write it or input it somewhere?


After spending more than year following no-brainer diet plans, suddenly I was confronted with having to put my own meals together while keeping a balanced intake. Needless to say that it sounded pretty scary to me in the beginning (I'm a no-cook) and it is still a challenge to keep them varied.
However, when I started putting a schedule together, things got much easier.

When it comes to choosing the tools to use, have your personal preference in mind above any fashion or tendency. At the end of the day, it has to work for you. It might be flashy, cheap, expensive, cool, whatever, but if you do not feel comfortable working with it, it will be a wasted effort.

As mentioned above, I use both applications as well as paper tools to get organized. The more centralized your lists are, the better. And that is the main reason why I go online. However, I do not want to be in the dark if I run out of battery or a server somewhere around the globe goes down.

My number one tool is Google. I use not only Gmail, but their Calendar and Google docs. To keep my partner updated of my schedule, we adopted Cozi. Their system is user friendly, available for both IOS and Android phones and tablets and in addition to a family agenda, they also offer to do and shopping lists as well as a recipe book. For my workout and meals, I have recently adopted BodyMinder. I was still struggling with a method to use for my training and intake journal and it is proving to be a great alternative.

Cozi and BodyMinder are two the tools that I use.

These are just examples of some of the tools that I use. There are other great ones out there for all tastes and preferences. So before choosing one, the first step is to ask yourself what you need to start with. If you are not accustomed to writing things down, do not expect you will get everything tracked at once. It will just create unnecessary stress. Take one step a time. Pick the aspect you need to improve most and work on it. Once the first barrier is broken, the rest will be piece of cake.

Get others in the family involved. Kids may work with stickers, for example. Working together will surely make it a fun experience. How about a vision board? Or a board on the fridge? Be creative!

Once you are into it, you will see how much more productive you have become. And if by any means you do feel at ease with the way you chose to do things, do not be afraid to change. You will only succeed if you use the right method. If you have to do some monetary invest, think of the return you will get by getting your time managed better.

You already have something going on. Awesome!  Let me know what tools you use. For what do you use them? I would love to learn from you too!

Thank you all for stopping by and I hope these tips can be helpful somehow. Success and see you next time!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guess who's back?

Here I am. A little more than one month away from turning 39, I decided to write another page of the book about my fitness adventures. After doing a lot of thinking, my heart (or should I say my feet) spoke louder. This person here is going to run again!

For most of my life, I have been involved with physical activities. First, it was ballet like most little girls, but it soon took off to all other available dance styles.

Around the age of 18, I started having major back problems. They discovered I had scoliosis and it had reached a point that it was even preventing me from getting out of bed on 'bad' days. Along with physical therapy, I was advised to swim. I could not swim back then and I found the lessons very boring. I quit classes after less than 2 months. And it was not until the age of 34 that I went back to the pool to learn it.

Sincerely, I do not remember how lifting weights appeared as a solution. I did not have internet at the time, so I wonder if I read it somewhere or heard it from a friend. The fact is that I was introduced to the iron by the age of 19 and it was love at first “sight”.

Throughout the years, I had many hiatus, with the longest one being from 2001 until 2010. My life had changed drastically: I left Brazil and moved to Belgium where I attended college (my classes were in Dutch and I did not speak one word during the first year). The money I had saved was only enough for my studies, so going to the gym was a luxury I could not afford. And after graduation, I started working right away (awesome!), but then time became an issue.

Last time I participated in a running event in 2011.

Making a long story short, at the age of 34 I decided that I had to do something about my physique. There were a lot of great things going on in my life, but from outside, I looked heavy, carrying extra weight that did not belong to me.

In the meantime, I have run, lifted weights, practiced BJJ and since last year, started participating in fitness competitions. The reasons for me changing so much vary from health issues to lack of time, or simply not being able to combine some of them.

In all three contests that I attended, I participated as a Bikini competitor, but now I am looking forward putting on more muscle and going for Figure (Body fitness outside the US). Because it is a new experience to me, I still do not know how long it will take me to build the necessary amount of lean muscle to hit the stage again. I am not in a rush though. I am enjoying this journey way too much to spoil the fun with useless stress.

And the best part about taking a sabbatic year is to be able to experiment and learn more about my body. Each person is different and what works for one does not necessarily work for another. Trial and error may not be the most efficient method, but it is a process full of rewarding lessons.

At the moment, I am lifting as heavy as I can to build some muscle mass. I am also adding extra lean carbs to my diet because I want all energy I can get. As from April 18th, I will be joining a program from Flex Magazine Netherlands to get ready for the summer. It will last 8 weeks and I am dying to see the results.

Despite all the activity around me, there was something missing. I did not want to give in and I looked for excuses everywhere. But when things are meant to be, they happen. So yesterday, I bought myself a new pair of running shoes. Yes!!! I do not have plans for a marathon or anything of that matter (just yet). I only want to kick-off some beginner start to run plan and see how it goes. I miss the streets. I miss the weather working for me or challenging me. I miss running...

Next Saturday, April 12th, it will be exactly one month before my 39th birthday. Even though it was not part of the plan, it fits perfectly.

Gym look, new running shoes and flowers to bright the day!

Why did I write all that? It is because I want to share my journey with as many people as possible. I would love to learn from other runners, beginners or pros. I want to share tactics, tips and experiences. Tell me your fun stories and “wow” moments. I will be sharing things from my side as well. I have a feeling that it will play an important role in my journey to the physique of my dreams. I am just getting started.  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How I get things done

Recently, I was chatting to two friends about life stuff and they asked me the magic question: "How do you find time to do everything?". Sincerely, the answer is quite simple : planning.

Let's start with what they meant by 'everything'.

I have a full time job. My hours are flexible and if you are a workaholic too, you know it generally means long days. It is true that since I got really close to exhaustion two years ago, I keep overtime to a minimum. Still, I am not the kind of person who can easily 'turn off' together with the work laptop.

Work look

Outside office hours, I dedicate as much time possible to my passion. Fitness is a very important aspect of my life and it embraces much more than the time spent in the gym. It is the morning cardio, the food preparation in the weekend, planning workouts, etc.

I also love networking, social media, I collect Dollfies (beautiful Japanese dolls), love gaming, do house stuff, have long calls with my mom who lives in Brazil, have a cat and spend time with my other half. It is true that I do not have kids, however I am not the kind of person who can sit still for a long time anyways. 

So how do I do it?

First of all, I have my priorities. Focusing in 'one thing at a time' allows me to get more done with quality than I would by just jumping back and forth. It is true that things come up here and there, but you have to keep in their importance in mind. Evaluate the situation. OK, it might be urgent, but do you really have to drop the email you are writing? Or can you even do it later today? Sometimes, asking such a simple question can facilitate your planning a lot.

Secondly, I free my head by noting absolutely everything I must know or do. I may use colors or symbols as visual aids, but I do keep a record of the smallest appointments and set reminders whenever necessary. Having it all in my head would only increase the chances of missing 'something' and tire myself in the process. For the most part, I keep an electronic calendar, but I also have a small notebook in case of emergency (battery of smartphones generally goes down when we most need them). Try to have it in one place: grocery shop, to do list, bills to pay, etc. No need to waste time looking for anything.

Finally,  I am realistic about my day. I would love to restart running (it has been 3 years already!!), go back to Japanese classes and train BJJ again; just to mention a few. Unfortunately, a day only has 24 hours and I must sleep for at least 7 of those if I want to function properly the day after. While the first point was related to prioritizing your to dos and activities, this last one is about your life in general. So many times we allow our calendars to be double booked even though we know that we cannot be in two places at the same time. Don't do it with yourself.

Saturday bulk cooking: trying a new recipe

Take time to reflect about your schedule and evaluate how you can implement these steps on a daily basis. After that, it is time to choose a means to keep track of schedule. Do you prefer a paper agenda or do you choose to keep things electronically? Do you want to separate your private from your professional appointments? Would you like to share it with someone else, like your partner? Plan it in your head. Do not focus on how others do, but find a system that fits you best.

And then comes the moment of putting it all into practice...

Remember to save yourself some free time. We are not machines, we need down times to recover. The more rested you are, the more productive you will be. In addition, expect the unexpected. There are only a handful things we can totally control in life. The rest, just happens. You can leave home on time to go through your emails before a meeting, but get caught up in traffic. You do not take your gym bag with you thinking that you be able to stop home first, but then a call takes longer than planned. The weather is really nice outside, but you have to hit home earlier because you just brought one meal with you. These are obvious obstacles, but there is also getting sick (or having someone sick in the family), a last minute appointment, or anything else that might force you change your plans.

Accept that you are not in charge of every single atom of the Universe. Get organized with the things you can control and be flexible with the rest. Enjoy the time that will free that you will find by managing your time better.

Fitness is a passion to me, but there's more in life than training.

Do you also plan your days ahead? How do you do it? Share your tips and feel free to share your comments and ask questions. I would love to hear from you too!