Friday, October 31, 2014

Ending the Month on a High Note

Wow, October has been super busy and also very, very fulfilling.

You  know that t-shirt that says Eat, Sleep, Train Repeat? Well, add in Study and Cook and that pretty much sums up my life. It's routine. It's predictable. It's all very satisfying :)

Ever since I started studying for the Instructor's Certification Program, I have been overwhelmed with work. The curriculum is a lot more detailed than I had expected. It's been an amazing learning experience. I have particularly loved how I've seen links between the teaching methodology I've applied while teaching English at a university and what is applied to teaching martial arts. It's been fascinating. Although it's been a lot of work, I really have been quite thrilled at all the new things I've been learning. I've made quite a bit of progress through the curriculum over the past 2 weeks. There's still a lot more to be done ... I'll definitely be nervous until I find out whether or not I've qualified for the next level.

There's about another week of the Whole Life Challenge left. I've been completely spot on with everything - my nutrition, my workouts, my lifestyle challenges ... I have used some of my indulgence points and have learned a lot about my food mindset in the process. I'll be posting my reflections on the challenge on my WLC blog later on. The food parameters of the challenge definitely suit me. The only thing I still have to work on is my desire for something sweet. I tried a few challenge-compliant desserts this time (different things sweetened with dates), and while they were nutritionally sound, this past week I've given up on those as well because I really need to not want something sweet at all. It's tough. It's something that I'll continue to work on.

The good thing is that I've got my food prep down to quite a routine. I do spend quite a lot of time on Sundays getting food ready for the week. It is worth it though. I just wish I could do it ALL on Sunday. I still end up spending a couple of hours a day with food prep - particularly dinner. I'm getting better at it, but as much as I love cooking, I would like to cut down a bit more kitchen time. Let's see how November goes ...

I finished my Weights program. It was a tough one -- fewer sets and reps, heavier weights. As much as I loved pushing myself and lifting heavy, it was a difficult program to follow. First of all, I didn't count on having to take so much time to recover from my lifts. After I did my 90 kg squats, it took me a good 4 days before I felt completely like myself. Part of it is that I haven't really been fully resting - I'm either at MetaFit, Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, or Yoga ... so my schedule is packed. It's fun and I do enjoy it all, but I the heavy lifts threw me off a bit. Once I got to the really heavy lifts, I was only lifting once, maybe twice a week. I'm happy with the progress I made, but I'm glad to be scaling back to a more regular program until the start of next year.

Yesterday, I went up to 100 kg on my Deadlifts. This was a big accomplishment for me given that I really suffered when I dislocated my wrist at the end of last year. Refraining from any weight training for 4 months and then starting again from really light weights was difficult for me - psychologically more than physically. However, I'm so glad I (for once) actually listened to my doctor and followed my rehab program to the letter. It helped me get to where I am today. I still haven't hit my 120 max as before, but I'll get there.

Here's a comparison pic - the top photo is of me doing Deadlifts for the first time after dislocating my wrist. It was taken in March 2014 at I'm tentatively lifting 25 kg. Then there's the mini video excerpt of me lifting 100 kg. Prior to that 100 kg lift, I had completed 3 sets of 6 reps at 70, 80, and 90 kg respectively, so I felt great about my progress. Onward and upward! :)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Working without Numbers - Part 1

I weigh myself daily. I know that there are a lot of discussions out there about how often you should weigh yourself and the pros and cons of whatever decision you make.

I've decided to weigh myself on a daily basis. However, it's taken quite a bit of discipline not to let the numbers get the best of me. I've seen major weight fluctuations with the span of just 1 day - one morning I wake up weighing X and the next day I'm up almost 2 kg, despite eating clean and working out. The following day I could be down 1/2 a kilo (it always goes on faster than it comes off, doesn't it?!), and then after another 3 days it could be 2 kilos lighter.

It is so frustrating!

That being said, I still like to weigh myself daily because it allows me to check myself. If I have a weight gain, even if it's 100 grams, I focus on what choices I make during the day to ensure that I stay on track and not contribute to the weight gain. Does it always work? No.

The real discipline comes from not letting those numbers get the best of you.

In the end, it's a long process. You've got to trust that the results that correspond to your effort will eventually come.

It's not easy. However, I am getting better at it.

By tracking daily, I have come to realize how big my weight fluctuations can be. I could steadily gain weight over a period of 2 weeks only to see it all come off with a bit extra over the span of 2 days.

The key is to just keep diligently working towards your goals.

I know that in the past I would get frustrated and think - Seriously? I gained weight? What was the point of skipping dessert if I was going to gain weight anyway?!

This type of mentality is dangerous to have. I think that's why the end goal shouldn't be solely on weight loss but rather living a healthier lifestyle.

Weight lifting definitely helped me change my attitude because after several months of really good weight lifting, I began to realize even though I was either weighing the same and often more, my body shape was changing and I was losing inches, even if I wasn't losing pounds.

I had to change my perception of weight and my attitude towards the numbers.

I knew that being stuck in that negative head space wasn't going to do me any good at all.
It's still tough for me to see a gain on the scale, but after moping for a bit, I shrug it off and get back to doing whatever needs to be done to keep working towards my goal.

After all, my overall goal is to be healthy and fit -- with or without the corresponding numbers, that is my end goal. Hopefully the numbers on the scale/body measurements will eventually catch up.

The bottom line: Know your goals. Figure out what you need to do to achieve them. Keep working towards them, and don't let the numbers on the scale hold you back. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


This week's lifestyle focus of the Whole Life Challenge is to smile at at least 3 people you don't normally smile at (e.g. not smiling at your family members, best friend, etc.) I love this 'challenge' because I love to smile. Ever since I moved to London, part of getting comfortable in my new surroundings has been to not shy away from making eye contact with others and to just smile. I say hello and good morning to random people and I've always got a favorable response. I like the idea of doing what you can to spread good cheer -- with tragedies and bad news happening way too often in every corner of the world, I think we should definitely smile whenever we get a chance!

I've definitely been smiling a lot lately as I've been making good progress towards my goals. Well, in terms of actual results, the numbers may not be adding up. However, I am 100% pleased with my effort and am confident that the numbers will catch up in due time. It's just about trusting the process, being patient, and keeping on pushing forward.

Some things I smiled about over the past few days:

Managing 3 really good low and slow back squats at 90 kg (198 lbs) - wish I had a photo of me actually doing the squats!

Being awarded my Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu -- I'm the first female to reach this rank at the club!

I made a {if I do say so myself} really yummy lemon and date 'cake' - gluten free, sugar free. 
Will share the recipe soon.

Getting a handle on my weekend food prep.

A perfectly timed belated birthday present of a fab new foam roller -- much needed after doing 4 workouts on Tuesday! 

Smile - spread the cheer!

Friday, October 17, 2014

A New Adventure

In the last post, I mentioned a few new adventures. Well, the biggest one is linked to my earning the Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu.

If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you know that I've been enthusiastically practicing Jiu-Jitsu for the past year or so. To say that it has had a positive impact on my life is an understatement. I'm completely fascinated with the art and I am amazed at how the practice has had an impact on many aspects of my life - particularly my confidence. Having a boost in confidence has had an enormous impact on pretty much everything I do. Wanting to be good at it has made me focus on being healthy, of eating well, of resting, of being disciplined ... to some it may sound like a lot of hard work. However, what I've discovered is that when you have a passion, doing all those things that may seem like sacrifices to others just comes naturally to you. It's what makes you happy.

When I approach the mat, it intimidates me. I feel nervous because I don't know how I will perform. I know that in a few minutes I will have somebody heavier on top of me who is trying to put me in a submission hold. This intimidation, however, is what also fuels my excitement. It's like I'm doing an experiment on myself -- I want to know how I'll react. I want to see how calm I can remain under pressure. I want to see if I can execute the moves I've learned in the past to help me in the current situation. The intimidation helps me focus. It's what reminds me that to be good at something means more than just coming to one class and doing the moves. You've got to think about it, analyze it, and accept the challenges so that you can work to overcome them.

Since the move to London, I've been thinking really hard about what I want to do. I've always wanted to be a teacher. I knew when I was 16 and so I went on to pursue that line of work. My most fulfilling moments in life have been when I was able to help one of my students. It's a satisfaction that money can't buy. What's more is that I feel grateful to my students and totally blessed that I have had the opportunity to actually make a difference, no matter how small, in that person's life.

It's this feeling that has been on my mind since I moved to London. All I wanted to do was make a difference - in some shape or form.

... and now I've been given that opportunity.

There are no guarantees at the moment as the application process is lengthy and tough, but I'm studying and working towards completing the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Instructor Certification Program. In order to be eligible to even apply means that you have to earn a score of 90% or higher on your Blue Belt test (which I did), after which there are several other tasks you need to complete (e.g. videos of you doing certain moves, teaching certain classes etc), and it all culminates with a finally couple of days of training at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu headquarters in Torrance, CA.

Now, as I said, there are no guarantees. I need to perfect all the components of the training before I even get considered to go to CA in January ... plus, since I was accepted into the program kind of at the last minute, I only have half the amount of time (30 days) to get it all done ... but in my heart and in my mind, I want this so bad. As soon as I decided to apply and was accepted apply for the program (you can't just apply, you actually have to apply to apply!!), I haven't stopped smiling. It just feels like this is right for me. It feels like this could actually be the way I can fulfill my dreams of teaching and empowering others. How amazing would it be if I could pass on the very thing that has given me the strength and confidence to change my life? I am humbled by it all really. Even though I haven't been completely accepted or passed, just the fact that somehow I have ended up in this place where I could actually achieve something so significant makes me pause and feel so very blessed.

Wish me luck. It's a long road ahead.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fulfilling Wishes

It's October 16, 2014.

It's been many days since I've posted. I have been sick for the past 2 weeks and busy in between with many new exciting things.

First of all, this stupid flu/bronchitis is still lingering. I am getting better, but I have yet to have a cough-free day. It is SO annoying! At least I slept well last night - that was refreshing.

The illness has slowed down my activities big time. I barely moved for a couple of days and for the others I did the mildest forms of exercise and stretching. I went to Jiu-Jitsu class for the first time last Friday and went to the gym for the first time in 2 weeks yesterday ... so it's been slow.

Nutritionally, I've been doing well. Being on the Whole Life Challenge has helped me with this a lot (you can read about my progress here).

I did have one day of indulgence on my birthday, but what was interesting was that being off sugar and processed foods, grains, dairy etc. for 5 weeks really changed my taste as well as my cravings. Initially I thought I was going to go crazy eating and indulging, but it ended up being a much more controlled (by choice) day -- and that was actually very satisfying.

I am definitely starting to find my feet in terms of settling down in London. The house is coming together. My training schedule, even though slightly off right now due to my illness, is pretty much set. I've got my menus and meal planning pretty much down. It's looking good.

In addition to that, I achieved my first big goal, which was to earn my Blue Belt in Jiu-Jitsu!!! I trained really hard, so when I got my results of my test (evaluated by video through the Gracie Academy in Torrance, California) I was over the moon!

It was the highlight of my birthday celebrations :)

Another year older and I couldn't have felt younger or happier!

I'm looking forward to another year of adventures! Stay tuned :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Down with the Flu

I have barely moved since Friday. I felt a cold coming on since earlier last week, but it all really hit me on Friday morning ... I've improved slightly in that every single inch of my body doesn't hurt, but other than that I'm still sniffling, coughing, and feeling blah in general.

Quick (belated) review of September:

Looking back on my September goals I did ok. I definitely could have done better.
Mind: I finished my book submission chapter & I read Zen in the Martial Arts
Body: I completed only 8 lifting sessions; I chose to skip a few in order to be rested for my blue belt test; I did my HIIT sessions as well as my BJJ sessions and definitely hit 27 total workouts even though my step count didn't come close to 65,000 per week (mainly coz' a lot of my sessions, e.g. yoga and weight lifting are intense but don't require a lot of steps)
In terms of food I've been doing great.
Soul: I'm really happy I've been able to incorporate 3 1-hour yoga sessions a week plus do daily stretching
Life: Shelving is up -- and that's about it!

I didn't count on so much of my life coming to a standstill as I worked on my writing. For about 10 days I barely did anything aside from workout for an hour or two and then stay glued to my desk. I was not too thrilled about that, but it's my fault for not working on my chapter from beforehand.

October has started off slow for me, particularly since I haven't been well.

I've decided to take the next few days off from any major workouts - just some basic exercises until I feel better. After that I think I'll be able to better focus on my goals for the rest of the month.

Two photos from my Blue Belt Test drills 

preparing to defend against an aggressive opponent

going for an armbar

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fish Burgers

These burgers have been fantastic to have in the fridge during the week. I haven't tried freezing them yet, but I'm pretty sure they'll hold ok. It'll be great to have a batch done over the weekend and then have backups in the freezer for a quick meal.

I've done this recipe with canned tuna as well as with canned salmon. They've come out great both times. They're quite filling. I've had them in different ways depending on how hungry I was feeling - sometimes just the burgers themselves, other times I'd have it with salad, or I've made them a bit bigger and put them over a grilled portobello mushroom.

salmon burger over a grilled portobello mushroom with lettuce and tomato 

tuna burgers with a side salad of avocado and cherry tomatoes

2 cans tuna fish or salmon
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon mixed herbs
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup mixed vegetables (I like to use a mixture of chopped bell peppers and peas)
generous squeeze of lemon
extra virgin rapeseed oil for frying

1. Beat the eggs
2. Mix together the fish, almond flour, and spices
3. Mix the beaten eggs into the fish mix
4. Mix in the vegetables and the lemon
5. Shape into patties (number depends on how large you want the burgers)
6. Fry

Nutritional info: (per burger; based on the recipe above making 6 burgers and including 2 T of oil for frying) 

Tuna burgers:
210 calories
18 g. protein
5.2 g. carbohydrates (2 g. fiber)
13 g. fat (2 g. sat fat)

Salmon burgers:
185 calories
17 g. protein
5.2 g. carbohydrates (2 g. fiber)
12 g. fat (1.5 g. sat fat)