Friday, November 27, 2015

Swim Bike Fuel: Reflection on 26 days

I promised you Swim Bike Fuel, and I'm delivering on that promise (very early on Friday morning)!

Over at Swim Bike Fuel they're having a sale today through Monday for the January program registration, so I wanted to be sure to get my "review" post up today to give anyone on the fence a few good reasons to snag a spot and get a deal too. Black Friday/Cyber Monday pricing starts today (Friday) at 5:00 am EST so read this and GO!

This is going to be a lengthy post because it covers the last 26 days of Swim Bike Fuel (SBF). I'm going to break it up into the most realistic sections I can think of, so feel free to jump around if you want.

But before I start...

HUGE thank you to Meredith and Meredith for offering this program.

It sounds so cliche, but it's been life changing and life affirming, and I loved learning something new every day that I can implement and exercise the rest of my life. I feel like I get it now. Like every little piece fell into place and I finally understand why what I put in my body really matters. And that's all thanks to you.

You are changing lives.

~~~~~                                                              ~~~~~                                                              ~~~~~

Moving on...!

*I'm going to preface this by saying - this is not the program. As a matter of fact, we all agreed not to share the lessons, so I'm not going to. I know MV worked hard to put this together over years and years of being a trainer, coach, and nutritionist, and I'm not about to spoil her livelihood. Instead, I'll give you a basic rundown of how the program was constructed and operated, and what to expect.

Anything denoted with ** (two asterisks) is something I've sourced from Swim Bike Mom. I don't own it, Meredith Atwood does.

Also, since I probably need to say one paid me to write this. It's a pretty freaking positive A++++++ review. But I'm not getting money for it. As a matter of fact, I paid to have this experience and am now following it up with a good review. So yeah. Keep that in mind as you read.

What you can expect here:
  • The Basic Information (what you'll probably ask)
    • Who
    • Who#2
    • What
    • How
    • The Cost
  • My Why
  • "I Already Know A Lot About That"
  • The Best Things About This Program
    • One lesson, one day at a time.
    • It is not one-size-fits-all.
    • There is nothing to "buy into".
    • Vitamins
    • No restrictions.
    • I love fat!
    • I lost 5lbs.
    • The Healthy Emotional Change.

The Basic (and most important) Information

Who: If you don't read Swim Bike Mom (SBM) we'll start there. Meredith Atwood (MA) is Swim Bike Mom. You can probably guess that she's a triathlete, and you'd be right. Just go read her blog to get a feel. She's hilarious, and she's included some stuff about SBF every so often on her blog, mostly about how it's helped improve her race results (and there's that, like, the weight she lost).

Who #2: The program is facilitated by MA, but it is run mostly by Meredith Vieceli (MV). She's got a laundry list of certifications that qualify her for this job, and she shows it in the group. MV backs up everything she says with research - and not hokey new-age, hippy-source research. So if that's a concern you have, you can put it behind you. If you ask for a source, she's got one, and every daily lessons have research behind them to give you a "why". But she also doesn't fake her way through - if she hasn't researched something or doesn't have experience with it, she is honest about that (this only happened like, twice, the whole way through, and it was usually about products people had questions about).

Here are a few of the posts she's written for SBM: Swim Bike Fuel FAQs, Food Is Fuel


What: Next, take an hour and watch the launch webinar MV and MA did in August. This is a good intro to what the program is about. Spoiler: It covers everyday nutrition and sports nutrition, mainly focused towards women, particularly moms.

That said, having being part of the group I can say it definitely did not matter that I don't have kids, and there are women of all ages and at all points of life. Honestly, being a busy, multitasking, working-out female qualifies you for the group because those are the exact qualities the program addresses.

If anything, this program and the input and questions from other women has given me a very tiny inkling of an idea of what to do when I start juggling a family and trying to stay active. Their advice and experience was precious over the last few weeks, even if they didn't know there's that

How: The group is conducted through email and Facebook. According to our group on Facebook, there were 150 people who signed up.

**November SBF group
You get the daily lessons via email, but I'm going to stress it - you have to have a Facebook and be attentive to it for a month. I actually struggled with this right after the Paris attacks because I wanted to throw my phone at a fucking wall most of the day, but knew I couldn't get rid of Facebook because I wanted to keep up with the group.

And I did keep up! I read everything posted, and I commented on a lot of different things with my experiences and opinions (everything from butter crocks to RMR). I would say being active paid off for me because it kept me in the right mindset all month.

In my opinion, the best thing about the Facebook group (beyond support) is that if you ask a question, you will get an answer, and/or input from others. And moreover, if you ask MV something directly, she will respond to you.

Our group started November 1st, and MA and MV have said it will be active through December 31st. MV is, understandably, not answering questions after the initial 26 days...we had her at our beck and call for almost a month, that's what we paid for, and she deserves a break!

The Cost: I paid $297 for SBF. No, it wasn't cheap, but I regarded it as necessary because of my training goals for next year. The next question you'll ask is if I think it was worth it?

Yes. For all the reasons that follow.

My Why

I'm sure you want to know why I signed up for it. I've mentioned this in previous posts, but I felt like training and race-day nutrition was the black hole in my regimen. Triathlon is something I have been interested in for almost 5 years, but not something I ever formally attempted. The training for my half this year coincided with the initial launch of SBF, and it was a major decision for me to not sign up for the September launch. In the end I didn't, and I really kind of regretted it.

Which is why, when they announced the November group, - right after I signed up for the Chicago Oly tri next August - I jumped on it. I did not want to keep regretting my decision.

And, since I'm being honest, I have issues with food. I have for a long time, and I wanted to take a chance and see if this program would address that, which I figured it might because MA has talked about similar issues in the past. (Second spoiler alert: It does.)

This's gold. I got way more out of it than I thought I would.

It's gold because it's not just "what to eat" - it takes you into consideration as well (and the fact that normal people want to go out to dinner with their friends/family occasionally).

Hindsight being what it is, I'm glad I signed up when I did because...

"I Already Know A Lot About That"

Yes! You probably do. I did too, because I've been reading health and nutrition stuff since I went vegan/vegetarian in 2009. It's funny, because looking back I knew a lot of this information. And I ignored most of it.

Why? Why would I ignore all of these things I'd read before?

Because I knew the information, but I didn't *really* know the 'why'. I mentioned before that MV backs up every lesson she gives you with research - and she does. It's like she takes your digestive system and body and how they function and puts the puzzle together for you right in front of your eyes. There is very little she tells you to do in the program...and a lot of, "This is why you should do this thing you haven't been doing."

I'll give an example: A year ago I gave up drinking Diet Coke for about 6 weeks. I can't even remember why I started drinking it again. Probably because I "wanted" one. I was back on a one-a-day habit when this program started November 1st. But this month, I have had approximately two Diet Cokes. Once I learned why I shouldn't drink Diet Coke (or things with artificial sweeteners) it made it way easier to pass it up. Knowing the physiological effect it would have on my body (and the mental chain reaction that would start) basically lent itself to my quitting "cold turkey".

So yes - you probably do already "know" a lot of this information, but if you're like me, you aren't acting on it. SBF made me much more aware about how I'm fueling, and why I'm eating the things I do (and yes, I still eat bacon and drink alcohol and yada yada...see the "Best Things" section for all that).

Yes, there is Sports Nutrition!

Quite a few of the ladies in my group were/are still training for races of all levels - everything from 10ks to Ironmans, and the Sports Nutrition lessons probably had a way more immediate effect for them.

For me, I learned that your every day nutrition is one of the most important aspects of your entire training plan, but there were specific lessons that focused on how to hydrate and replenish during long-distance training and races. I won't have reason to implement most of this knowledge until the spring, but I'm excited for when I get to because I feel so prepared for it now!!

Plus...there are so many new things I didn't even know existed that I now get to try!

The Best Things About This Program*
*in my humble opinion

One lesson, one day at a time.

You don't get bombarded with a crap ton of information at once. The lessons are daily, and they are bite-size (pun intended) - though some bites are bigger than others. This allows you to make one small change each day and/or rethink your nutrition. MV even includes and action item in each lesson to help you get started.

The lesson is emailed to you, and then all of the follow up is done on Facebook. MV did FAQ sections each day to answer the "bulkier" questions asked in the forum, providing additional resources when needed.

For me, the action items were the real eye opener. It took all the information in the lesson and condensed it to an idea of how to apply that information to your life. Those small actions every day are what have changed my approach to nutrition and fueling.

It is not one-size-fits-all

We all know one-size-fits-all is about the stupidest saying ever. There are 7 billion people on this planet. One size never fits all. MV is very honest at all times that you have to try new things, take the tips and apply them, and then decide what works for you and what doesn't.

You have to do your part. You have to be conscious of the things you're changing and take note of the effects on your body.

There is nothing to "buy into".

There is no 7-day cleanse, no fasting, no elimination diet, no meal replacements or weird things you add to your drinks, no cutting x, y, or z out cold. You don't have to eat only raw foods (or kale), or buy a bunch of supplements and a 30-day diet plan, and you don't have to only buy one brand's products.

I may have spent almost $300 on this class, but I do not feel like I was jipped or duped into buying a system that only promises temporary results and does not address what happens after the 26 days.

I feel like I have been set up to succeed for the rest of my life (and to enjoy cheeseburgers during that a matter of fact, I had a steak burrito on Saturday, and a great Thanksgiving dinner, and felt awesome about both).

It feels IS life changing.


I specifically want to address the issue of vitamins because I've always had a bit of a vendetta against vitamins and supplements - and also because this was the biggest cost to me after the initial program fee (no one's decision but my own!).

I've heard of a lot of programs where you have to spend a lot of money to get a bunch of supplements and vitamins to start taking all at once (because 'you just have to do it' as 'part of the program'), and you also have to start eating according to their meal plan if you want to lose all the weight you signed up to lose.

I flat out resent these programs because I feel they are intentionally misleading, and they are money grabs.

I will admit though, I have spent a lot of money on vitamins. The "a lot" part coming from the fact that you have to buy at least a 30 day supply at a time, and the higher the quality the better (which means label reading to avoid fillers).

But remember what I keep saying about MV and her "whys"...well here's the deal: With SBF there are lessons on vitamins and protein powders and that stuff, but the first thing said is always, "Eat nutrient rich foods" and then it's followed by "and here's what you can take if a certain part of your physiology needs a boost."

SBF taught me if that you're going to add something in (supplement, vitamin, etc) you better have an intention for doing so. And I have an intention for spending all the money I did on vitamins.

Before this program, I only took a probiotic for women's health (yeah, the down-there health, but also general gut health). Now, however, I have added in a few different things, and I chose them with very pointed intentions.

I've mentioned it before, but I have my pesky NSAID problem which prevents me from taking anti-inflammatories - so I added in vitamins and supplements that cool inflammation. I also added in a daily multivitamin for women's health. And finally, I decided on a D3 supplement because I have depression, and I have an odd feeling my D3 levels are low (and I will be getting them checked at my next doctor's appointment). Here's what I take every day now:

Not pictured: Daily multivitamin.

Morning: fish oil, turmeric, probiotic, D3 (+tart cherry juice). Afternoon: fish oil, daily multivitamin, turmeric.
These are a sampling of what the program mentioned might be important, and like I said, I picked these for a specific purpose...and they were not exactly cheap. I probably spent close to $200 on all of these (each bottle ranges from a 30-90 day supply, so they'll last a while). I want to give everything six weeks to work, especially since I have another 4 weeks of PT in front of me. I'll do whatever I can to help this darn tendinitis, even if it means taking 7 pills and drinking a cup of juice every day!

Next up...

You don't have to stop eating certain things altogether. (No restrictions!)

MV never says "stop drinking alcohol", "stop eating bacon", "you can't have doughnuts", etc. Instead, it's all about moderation, working in the things you like, and why those shouldn't be your go-tos anymore.

Background: One year for Lent I went vegan. Though I have absolutely no problems with someone being vegan or vegetarian, it was not for me, and I do not believe that it is a diet suited for every person on the planet. I was vegan for almost 6 months, and vegetarian for another 2 years, and two bad things happened.

The first was that I never felt satiated on a vegetarian diet (please don't comment on this...I did it "right" and ate good food and not just fake meats and stuff...there is always a critic, and now's not the time or the place). Like I said...I have no issues with people not eating meat...but it is not good for me.

Second because of the all-or-nothing mindset that goes along with depression, the restrictive habits of veganism (what you can and cannot eat) really back-fired on me and I ended up with a horribly restrictive diet, that has gradually gotten better over the years, but it took a long while.

SBF was what I needed to allow myself to stop restricting, period. Now don't interpret that wrong...I don't go around eating chocolate bars all day, but I will throw butter or oil on veggies, eat full fat Greek yogurt (wat. 10 grams of fat per serving?!), or put avocado and hummus on a piece of Ezekiel bread pre-workout and not care that - hey, that's quite a bit of fat!

Speaking of...

I love fat!

And MV encouraged that love!

I haven't said it yet but, "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle!" and aside from 100% discouraging restriction, you get "permission" to eat lots of foods "society" says you should stay away from if you're trying to be healthy and/or lose weight. And healthy fats are right at the top of the list.

Yesterday (Thanksgiving, holiday of gluttons) I was prepping this post and took a picture of my pre-workout breakfast for you to see just how much I had to eat for breakfast on Thanksgiving:

So we've got vitamins, coffee with soymilk, an egg sandwich (one egg+one eggwhite on Ezekiel toast with butter) and sauteed kale, pepper, and onions, and tart cherry juice.
Had it not been a workout, I would have left out the eggwhite and one slice of toast. But this kept me going through my workout (20 minute spin + 20 laps in the pool), and the only other thing I had before we went to Jennie's for dinner was another slice of toast and cup of Fage 2% (with jalapeno hot sauce in it).

On a normal weekday at the office I usually have toast (with butter or peanut butter) or oatmeal with berries and soymilk, plus cottage cheese or Greek yogurt, and plenty of fresh fruit. At work I tend to munch all day because having everything at once will make me tired, so I just graze and eat whenever I start to get hungry.

And this is just one meal. There are three in a day, and they always leave me feeling good afterwards! I make very conscious - intentional - decisions about what I'm cooking and eating all day (and sometimes with no pre-planning at all, because I can be pretty bad about packing my lunches and make that decision at 5:00 am on my way out the door....whoops, bad habit).

So all this food I'm eating. I probably haven't seen my weight go down, have I?


I have lost 5lbs.*
*and one inch off my waist, and one inch off my hips.

While injured.

While eating a lot.

While watching my performance soar. (Swim Bike Bench, anyone?!)

And, most importantly to me, I have done it without actually trying. I haven't counted calories or paid attention to macros (because those things get me in trouble with restriction). I've both cooked at home and gone out to eat, and have faced a few office shin-digs too. But yup...weight has come off and I have had a full belly the whole while.

I left this for almost-last, but I feel it's one of those questions people want an answer to. I started this program just shy of 171lbs, and last time I weighed myself was like 166.something. So yeah, it's in that 5-lb range. I promised myself it was not a goal for me to lose weight during this program - that I would just try to implement things and see what happened, and note changes in my performance.

But go ahead and read it 26 days, without trying, and while actually eating, I lost 5-lbs. know...hit some training PRs too - WHILE INJURED!!!! 

Seriously. What's more important here? 5lbs gone, or an 80lb Bench Press that I'd never even bothered trying before?!?

And, oh yeah, there's that Healthy Emotional Change too!

It just kind of happened. For a lot of people in the group. Yesterday's thread was full of positive and thankful comments to M+M about what the program did for each person, and I'm right there with all of them.

Not every single lesson is one about nutrition. The approach is very holistic, and encompasses several  important emotional aspects as well. Those, quite possibly, set SBF apart from anything I've ever seen before.

Remember how I said the program takes you into account as well as food? I didn't just mean likes and dislikes. I meant all the rest - it's about your body, mind, and spirit too.

I'm pretty sure you can tell I'm excited about this program. And I'm confident going forward (INTO THE HOLIDAYS) because of it. I'm confident in SBF, period.

But most importantly...

I'm confident in and excited for myself.

...and in every decision I make about what to eat. Which pretty much says everything I could possibly say about this program, but I wanted to give you the long version first.

Now go forward if you dare...and Swim Bike Fuel!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving again

It's Thanksgiving today!

Happy Thanksgiving to all (even if you are some uncultered heathen living in a country that doesn't celebrate the US Thanksgiving... ;P)!!!

I actually can't believe that it's Thanksgiving and I'm not sure why. November seems to be flying by (just like the whole year!), so I feel like today has snuck up on me. Might also be because I still got up stupid early (like 5:30) and aside from the fact that I'm still sitting in my pajamas, it doesn't feel like a day off yet...

That said, not a single Thanksgiving goes by that I don't think about how this was my dad's favorite holiday (ironic, given that he was English and didn't celebrate a single Thanksgiving until he was in his 30s), and missing him always feels a little different on Thanksgiving. It makes me a little more conscious of how grateful I am for the people I do still have around me.

Speaking of people I'm stupendously grateful we're heading to Jennie and Steve's to celebrate.

Read her latest blog post and you'll be surprised to find out I'm not dressing like a homeless person for the occasion.

Instead, I'm acting civil and completely ruling the holiday. Why?

Because I'm bringing PIES.

Apple with a swirly top-crust thing Jennie wanted me to do.

Deep dish pumpkin (the turkey is kind of my signature on Thanksgiving pies).

And a bunch of mini-pumpkin pies. The crust-to-filling ratio is higher on these, making them perfect for people like myself who prefer crust, and still want a little bit of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.

To you and yours, wherever you are and however you celebrate:

Happy Thanksgiving


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Winter has come and madness is upon us... (gulp)

Hello there and how goes it?

We had a wild, windy, and very wintery weekend here in Chicagoland. All week the weather reports were preparing us for a huge snowstorm, so on Thursday, after picking Nigel up from the vet, I made the executive life decision to spend most of the weekend at Cam's.

Sidenote: Nigel is doing great. He got six stitches which are healing well, though he won't let me take a picture for you all because he hates pictures and doesn't understand my commitments as a blogger. The vet called today to tell us that the lump was a benign trichoblastoma tumor. It's a type of tumor that develops in the deep dermal tissue around the hair follicle. Dr Sharon said she was able to successfully removed all of it during the procedure last week. Phew! And Happy Thanksgiving news!

He's gotten lots of cuddles this week to help cope with the annoying stitches he had to get.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program!

This decision to stay at Cam's paid off hugely when I was offered Saturday OT and got to drive Cam's Jeep (with its 4-wheel drive and spankin' new tires) to work in a blizzard.

Here are some pictures from the weekend!
The world when I woke up at 6:00...It kiiiinda looksl ike Narnia :) Snow wasn't too bad at this point.
Around 8, headed to the 'Bux to get my coffee fix before braving the office on a Saturday.
And of course, when I got to work I sent this to Cam so he'd know his car I got to work safely and was parked in the nice, sheltered parking garage:

When I left work it was way more windy, as you can see here (I took this from the stairwell in the parking garage):

Fortunately, by Sunday there was no more snowing happening, and it's gotten slightly warmer all week so what we got over the weekend has been (very) slowly melting. And it can stay that way. It was a bit of a shock to be plunged from gorgeous weather last week right-straight into winter this week. I can wait a little longer for more!

We've been keeping busy 'round these parts all week. I've still been working a matter of fact today is the first day in a long while that I won't be working OT. We got out early today because of the holiday tomorrow which, because of how hourly wages work, pretty much meant no OT. But don't think I'm upset about it! Oh no! I could use a day with no OT. Our missing department member finally came back, but somehow she lost access to our coding systems while she was gone, and hasn't been able to work so we're still picking up extra work. Ahh lovely. Corporate America and it's security systems! Yayyy.

I'm also still fitting in PT every Monday and Wednesday - as a matter of fact, I had my progress note done on Monday, which went well, but it was still a bit disheartening when Amy said she wanted me to book another 4 weeks of appointments. Truthfully, I knew that would probably be the case, but I was really hoping to be done by December 1st.

Alas, I won't be. The progress note was positive - I've improved to about 85-90% full functionality, but I still have pain when I walk too much and after certain activities (ahemm, lunges...and I love lunges!! D:). Since my overall goal from therapy is to get back to running and to be able to train for Hustle Up the Hancock, Amy suggested the additional appointments. I also see Dr Gent on Monday, and will talk to him about what else I can do to help.

All of that aside, I want to bring up this post from last month about swimming. In it, I set a goal that by the time I finished PT I wanted to have reached an endurance for 20-25 laps in one go in the pool...and I have great news to report on this!

Yesterday...I did it! It was my last swim before my "last" PT appointment, and it was our high lap day. So I jumped in, and went to it. Here's the breakdown:

  • I started with 10 laps (500 yards) front crawl
  • The next 15 laps were a mix of front crawl, breast stroke, and back stroke
  • Short break
  • 5 final laps front crawl
  • Total of 1500 yards (or .85 miles)

I am really proud of this. It was sorely needed this week because last week's swims were abysmal and left me feeling pretty defeated. But this was awesome. When I started swimming a few months ago I only had about 5 laps in me at a time. But now...well .85 miles is almost the entire Olympic triathlon swim distance! Since I have a new end date for PT (I believe my last appointment is December 30th), my goal for the end of PT is to complete at least 1000 yards front crawl without stopping.

So far, my main reason for doing so much breast and back stroke has been to mix it up and keep things balanced throughout my shoulders and back. I want to avoid any overuse injuries from rotating my shoulders in the same direction all the time...but honestly, I need to work on endurance for my front crawl. I think the solution to this might be increasing weight training for my posterior shoulder and back at some point I need to work that into the equation as well!

Along with this awesome news is that I finally broke my bench press plateau. (Seriously, it was a great week in Gym-land.)

Last week I finally benched a 3-set at 75lbs (something I've failed multiple times before!) and even hit a 1RM (one rep max) at 80lbs after that. I would love to hit a 90-lb max by Christmas, because I will have officially doubled my weight since I started lifting in the spring, and that's a pretty awesome Christmas present to myself.

I think I owe this, in large part, to all the good stuff I'm learning through Swim Bike Fuel. I keep saying I'm going to do a post about it, and I am. Our program ends tomorrow, and they're having a Black Friday sale, so I plan on posting about it very soon. Like, maybe even tomorrow soon. My whole perspective on eating and fueling my body has changed, and if active-life nutrition is something you feel you don't quite have a grasp on, I can't recommend this program enough. I've been able to work everything into my life day by day, and I am so much more conscious about every lesson we've learned. It's definitely a process, but Meredith V makes it very, very easy.

So...yeah, look for that in the coming days. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out and ask. I will answer what I can!

To recap, here are the goals I have before Christmas and New Years (and a peek at what's coming):

December Goals

  • Bench Press 90-lbs (Christmas)
  • 1000 yards of front crawl without stopping (New Years)
  • Get through the holiday madness, which seems much maddeninger this year!
    • CPCU 520 test (Dec 10th)
    • PrideZ holiday mixer with Sears (Dec 10th)
    • Sarah's Wedding (Dec 12th)
    • Gingerbread house contest at work (Dec 16th)
    • Birthday awesomeness (Star Wars...Dec 17th)
    • and all the PT, doctor, and other appointments I have scheduled
    • oh yeah, and Christmas
    • and New Years

I will say this about blogging...I like the goal-setting mentality a lot of bloggers have. Setting these goals gives me something to keep working towards, and I'm able to prove to myself again and again just how much I can do if I just try. December will take a lot of trying though, haha.

Anyways...time for me to get going. Because speaking of healthy eating and all that, I have two pies to make for Thanksgiving dinner! (And I should probably clean some hamster cages and study or something too).

Off I go...see you later!