Monthly Archives: May 2014

That CrossFit controversy, and Thursday training

There’s been a lot of talk on my Twitter timeline recently about a backlash against CrossFit, and the backlash against that backlash. I’ve not really had an opinion about it, because I don’t do CrossFit and I admit I’m not a huge fan of it; but I’ve also never done CrossFit so it’s not really fair of me to be down on it, if you see what I mean.

One thing CrossFit supporters have been saying is that there will be haters against every movement, and that’s definitely true; in the case of things I deeply care about, there’s a huge haters movement against fat/size acceptance & Health At Every Size, and many of those haters are… CrossFitters, and powerlifters, and other “fitfam” (barf) types. So part of me is kinda thinking “Yeah, it sucks to be the object of a backlash, doesn’t it?!” which is pretty juvenile but, as is said, sorry not sorry.

I’m not going to participate in a CrossFit backlash, though, as I’ve never done it so I can’t talk. Maybe I should do a few sessions to get myself acquainted with it; although I’m wary of doing that as I expect I’d get lectured about my weight & my diet, and I really do not have the time or energy for that shit. Or maybe I’d be surprised, and I wouldn’t get lectured. Who knows.

Anyway, at BGWLC last night it was my max legs session:

  • Light front squats: 20kg x 8; 30kg, 2 sets of 8
  • Rack deadlifts (one hole from the bottom of the rack): 50kg, 2 sets of 3; 70kg x 3; 90kg x 3; 100kg x 3; 110kg x 1; 115kg x 1; 120kg x 1 (!!!); two failed attempts at 125kg
  • Single-arm dumbbell rows: 20kg, 5 x 5
  • Heavy cable crunch: 30kg x 10; 35kg, 8 reps, 3 sets of 6 reps
  • Dumbbell side bends: 20kg, 2 sets of 5

Today my coach flies out to South Africa for the IPF World Classic Championships, where my friends Ernie Parkes & Anna Macnab are competing. So excited for them, and so proud that two BGWLC lifters are world-class competitors!


Radical fatty resources

A few days ago I replied to a Facebook post asking how plus-sized bloggers get their confidence, suggesting some resources to read. That gave me an idea to write a blog post about some of my favourite fatshion bloggers and radical fatty writers. Then, today there’s a lot of stuff in the news about obesity, how the UK now has the fattest/unhealthiest/obese-est (all used interchangeably, sigh) people in Europe etc etc, so writing that blog post definitely seems apt. Not least because I keep meaning to get back to writing about fat acceptance more on here!

I started reading about fat acceptance back in 2008 or so, before I started lifting (I was exercising a bit towards the end of that year) and I’m happy & proud to have stuck with fat/size acceptance & body positivity stuff despite being barraged on all sides by the usual fitspo nonsense.

My FA journey came in two stages: initially I got into fatshion blogs & normalised the idea in my head that larger women can and do look awesome in directional, fashionable clothes. The second stage was more radical – reading feminist writing on fat acceptance, acknowledging that appreciating your body for what it is, and loving it as opposed to punishing it, is a radical act.

These are a selection of links that I’ve read/treasured/appreciated over the years, it’s by no means exhaustive – if you have some favourite links, please share them below!

Fa(t)shion blogs

Fatshionista on LiveJournal

The original site I started with. I don’t read it much any more, but if you’re an LJ regular it’s worth checking out.

Gabi Fresh

The. Best. Seriously. I love Gabi so much – she’s responsible for me wearing miniskirts for the first time at 32 and feeling AWESOME in them.

Curvy Girl Chic

Alison Teng’s blog, and she is flawless.

Arched Eyebrow & Pocket Rocket Fashion

Two London girls I love and who come to my gym!!! *dies*

The Curves Have It, Fuller Figure Fuller Bust & Curvy Wordy

Three awesome lingerie (and clothes) bloggers who have given me serious bra envy (and resulted in my owning far more Curvy Kate bras than are strictly necessary!)

The Wardrobe Challenge

If I’ve just spent a fortune at ASOS, Hanna is usually responsible.

Radical fatty resources

Shapely Prose

Now archived, but IMHO the seminal resource for fat/size acceptance.

Dances With Fat

Ragen Chastain is a dancer & choreographer, who completed a marathon & got a whole heap of shit for it. Check out her hate mail if you want to see what trolls think of fat people exercising.

Golda Poretsky

Holistic health practitioner & body love coach, Golda also gets a whole heap of hate for helping people love themselves. Her TED talks are worth watching.

Fierce, Freethinking Fatties

FFF is a collaborative blog that I don’t always 100% agree with, but is always thought-provoking & well-written.

Fat Body Politics

Quite a new one for me, but excellent reading so far.

Fat Nutritionist

Michelle is fat, and a nutritionist. I know, right?! The two are not mutually exclusive, who knew?

Health At Every Size Blog

The original resource for HAES info, originated by Linda Bacon.

Obesity Timebomb

Definitely the most radical on the list, Dr Cooper’s writings are pretty provocative and controversial. Which is why you should read her.

So, your turn – what are your favourite fa(t)shion, FA, HAES & related resources? Any vital ones I’ve missed out?

Protein pancakes; and weekend stuff

I spent a couple of hours this weekend trying to write up my talk from Devs Love Bacon. Apparently publishing your slides after doing a talk is the norm, but because my slides are basically just pictures, I wanted to add a rough outline of my talk too. Trouble is, no matter how I write it, it sounds rubbish (to me, anyhow) so I got very frustrated & had to come back to it several times. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it at some point soon; although it won’t be long now until the organisers publish the video (eek!)

In the meantime: I had a nice relaxed long weekend where I did nothing much, which was just what I needed. On Bank Holiday Monday I started my day (around 11.30am!) with protein pancakes made with MyProtein Total Breakfast…

Total Breakfast pancakes

Total Breakfast pancakes

I suppose in true fitness blogger style I should be raving about how “delicious & yummy” these were, but TBH I’m still looking for that perfect protein pancake recipe that actually tastes like pancakes. These are quite close in terms of texture, but they suffer in flavour because Total Breakfast has artificial sweeteners in it, and I cannot stand the taste of any artificial sweetener. I always end up dousing the pancakes in maple syrup to disguise the artificial flavour.

I just can’t really get enthused about faux versions of delicious real foods, though. I can’t imagine protein pancakes ever being as delicious as the real thing, and I’m not even going to bother with things like spiralled vegetable “pasta” or cauliflower “rice” because the real things are too awesome to pass up. That said, if you know a protein pancake recipe that’s as good as the real thing, let me know (those banana & egg fritters don’t float my boat either).

Anyhow, mini-rant over. As I mentioned before, I’m not going to bother making weight for my next competition, and as a result I’ve been eating ALL THE FOOD recently. And by all the food I don’t mean endless eggs & veggies; I mean Indian two nights in a row, and plenty of Haribo. My clothes have, as a result, been feeling quite snug and my muffin top rests even further over my jeans than normal, but I was surprised to find that I was only 73.5kg when I weighed myself at the gym yesterday evening. I feel about 75+ right now. Weird.

Monday night was my speed bench session:

  • Narrow-grip bench press: 20kg, 10 reps x 2; 30kg, 5 reps; 35kg, 5 reps
  • Narrow-grip bench press to 2 boards: 40kg x 3; 45kg x 3; 50kg x 3; 52.5kg x 1; two failed attempts at 55kg
  • Narrow-grip decline bench press: 20kg x 6; 30kg x 5; 40kg, 4 sets of 3; 40kg x 5
Setup for decline bench press

Setup for decline bench press. Oh hey! I’m in the mirror, in my Nyan Cat t-shirt

In case you’re wondering, this is how you set up for decline bench press: put the feet of the bench on one of the boxes used for box squats, and hang on for dear life (while feeling a bit sick).

  • Seated dumbbell press: 10kg, 5 reps x 3
  • JM press: 30kg, 2 sets of 12
  • Machine rows: 15kg (each hand), 3 sets of 10
  • Hammer curls: 9kg dumbbells, 3 sets of 7 (9kg was far too heavy, I think I will never progress on these!!)
  • Incline sit-up: 3 sets of 10
  • Spiders (band pull-aparts): 3 sets

I was also meant to do leg raises, but these still irritate my back where I injured it. Time for a massage, probably.

Today I brought my gym kit to work and had planned to go do some sort of HIIT or barbell complex at lunchtime. But 12pm rolled around, my calendar popup popped up and… I just couldn’t be bothered. Sitting in the office, out of the rain, eating my lunch appealed so much more. Oh well. I just can’t get motivated to work-out when it’s not a class or coached session!!

It’s a long weekend here in the UK and I’m…sitting around on my butt, doing nothing. As it should be. The last couple of weekends have been really busy so it’s nice to have some time off!

On Friday I finally made it back to conditioning, which was great. The workout was “not too hard” compared to some of the sessions we’ve had, but I found it punishing because I’m so out of shape 😦

After the usual warm-up of jogging, sprints, bear crawls, sit-ups, push-ups, burpees etc; we had the following:

– 50 kettlebell swings with 16kg kb
– 50 Swiss ball knee tucks
– 30 sledge hammer tyre slams
– 60 sit-ups
– 40 wall balls with a 5kg ball (never done these before!)
– 2 rounds of throwing a 20kg sandbag from one end of the dojo to the other
– 20 box step-ups

Bookended around Friday, I had speed bench on Thursday night, and speed box squats on Saturday. Not surprisingly I really ache today, especially in the shoulders. Throwing a 20kg sandbag seemed like it wasn’t going to be too hard, but in reality I sucked at it and my shoulders took a beating!! Then yesterday I had chin-ups, which I still have to do with the heaviest band. Even so, they take their toll on my poor noodle arms!

I had a chat with Martin on Saturday about my competition schedule; I had intended to sign up for the All-England on August 16th as well as the London Clubs in July & of course the British Classic in September. But after discussion I’m going to drop the All-England, as I’ll just be too beaten up to do the British otherwise. Shame, because I’ve only done the All-England once, in 2011, and loved it. But never mind, the British is more important! Martin wants me to try to get a 270kg total in July, so I have the option of competing at the British in either the 72 or 84kg classes; which is a nice idea. I still want to do the British in the 72s, but it’d be good to have options!!

52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever, by Hanne Blank

I haven’t talked enough on here recently about fat acceptance/size acceptance/body positivity, and I feel I should remedy that a bit, especially given I’ve decided not to make weight for my next competition & instead just compete at whatever weight I happen to be on the day. This most likely means I’ll end up in the 84kg class.

The way the GBPF works, if you put down a weight class on your entry form but turn up on the day as underweight, you aren’t allowed to move down a class. So if I put down 84kg on my entry form & turn up 72.0kg on the day, I’ll have to lift in the class above, IYSWIM. Given my natural, not-trying-to-make-weight weight is anywhere between 72-74kg, this might happen. I’m not doing a bulk or anything like that, I’m just not going to make weight (that extra weight I carry isn’t bulk, it’s chub 🙂 )

I won’t deny I’ve gone backwards & forwards about doing this. For starters, if I squat 97.5kg+ at my next competition, then I won’t be able to set the Greater London divisional 72kg record, which is an arse. But I’m trying to weigh up if I want a divisional record or a 100kg squat more. Second, I don’t half feel out of condition at the moment. Not specifically because of the extra weight, but because I’ve not been going to conditioning recently (because of holidays/conferences) and I can only go to yoga once every two weeks now (because of the meeting schedule at my new job). Part of me wants to say “Just go back to eating no bread/no dairy again! Lose that gross belly!!!” But I don’t want to do that – I want to get back to how I felt before I saw the nutritionist & before I injured my back – 74.5kg, feeling strong as hell, and drinking half a litre of milk every day.

Then the other day I saw that Hanne Blank is doing a “52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever”. Hanne Blank, if you don’t know her already, is a brilliant writer & speaker on body positivity. Her book The Unapologetic Fat Girls’ Guide to Exercise (and other Incendiary Acts) is fantastic. Last year I did her 100 Days of Body Practice in which I walked to & from the station every day, and found it very positive (I now walk to the station all the time; although I’ve moved house and my then-7-minute walk to the station is now a 20-minute, 1-mile walk!)

So when I saw Hanne advertising her “52 Weeks to Your Best Body Ever” program on Twitter I jumped at the chance to sign up. I like think I’m already pretty savvy, body-positivity wise, but one can always learn more and by supporting Hanne I hope she can spread the size-positive gospel further & wider. Every little bit of positive reinforcement helps!

I’m so excited to start on this, and I wish Hanne every luck in the world. Please go check out her fundraiser, and her books; and I’ll report back here about how I get on!

Back to training & new program

[I feel a need more exciting titles for my blog posts, they’re all a bit… well, the same.]

So I’m 3 sessions into my new program, in the run-up to the Greater London clubs championships. The program is a 4-day one, which I’m doing over 3 days a week, so each “week” of programming actually takes me more than a week. Confused? Me too. But the boys at the gym who didn’t take part in the Farm Open have been doing a similar cycle for a while.

I didn’t have time to write up my workout last Thursday due to OMG I’m talking at a conference!!! stress, but better late than never:

15th May

  • Bench press: 20kg, 2 sets of 5 reps; 30kg, 2 sets of 5
  • Narrow-grip press to 3 boards: 40kg x 3; 45kg x 3; 50kg x 1; 45kg x 3; 47.5kg x 3; 50kg x 1; 45kg x 1

(Strange progression there due to my inability to keep my elbows in when narrow benching, and Martin & I having a bit of a barney about it)

  • Narrow decline tricep press (i.e. bench tilted backwards; really not pleasant!): 20kg, 2 sets of 7 reps; 30kg x 7; 35kg x 4; 37.5kg, 3 sets of 4 reps; 40kg x 4
  • Tricep pushdowns: 10kg x 25; 2 sets of 15kg x 20
  • Dumbbell upright rows: 7kg, 3 sets of 8
  • Incline dumbbell holds: 10kg x 8; 2 sets of 12.5kg x 8
  • Cable crunch: 30kg, 3 sets of 10

Not surprisingly, my arms were like noodles on Thursday night.

19th May

  • Concentric rack squats (walk bar out, squat below parallel to rest bar on pins, pause, explode up): 20kg, 2 sets of 5; 40kg x 5; 50kg x 5; 60kg x 3; 70kg x 3; 80kg x 1; 90kg x 1; two failed attempts at 92.5kg

I’m a bit annoyed I didn’t get either of the 92.5kg attempts, but on the first one I was damn close (second time I lost all power). 92.5kg is my best competition squat, so it’s nice to be approaching that sort of level in ordinary training.

  • Bent-over rows (bar): 20kg x 7; 30kg x 7; 35kg, 2 sets of 7
  • Gym walks (laps of gym holding dumbbells): 20kg, 4 laps, 2 laps, 1 lap
  • Glute & ham raises: 2 sets of 15
  • Pullthroughs: 2 sets of 12
  • Cable crunches: 30kg, 2 sets of 10
  • Shoulder dislocations, stretching etc.

Today I’m so sore. And I managed to bring protein to work but no protein shaker, DOH. One day I might be more organised with my work food, but today is not that day!

Talking about powerlifting – the finale!

Well, I did it – I did my talk on powerlifting at Devs Love Bacon and it was a brilliant experience. I spent all of the conference beforehand super-nervous, and barely slept at all the night before; but about two minutes into actually doing my talk I realised that I was really enjoying myself and it was fantastic.

(Obviously I’m not a British champion – I corrected them, I swear!!)

I got lots of positive Tweets & many people came up to me afterwards & said how much they’d enjoyed my talk. And doing the talk has had the effect I wanted – namely that I feel much more enthused about development again and less blah about my career. I mentioned in my talk that part of the reason for attending the conference & doing a talk was to try to get myself out of a development rut, and a couple of people had suggestions for what I could do (including things like become a “developer evangelist” – to be honest I think I’d rather be a powerlifting evangelist!)

Before I did my talk I was thinking I’d never do another one; but now I think I might change my mind. Trouble is, I have no idea what I’d speak about! Maybe I’ll get some more ideas about the intersection of sport/exercise and geekery.

Regarding work: after my confidence breakdown last week, today I’m feeling better about stuff. On Thursday my product owner said my Cucumber test scenarios were really good for someone who’d been doing Cucumber less than 2 weeks; and today one of the Ruby devs said my second-ever commit was pretty good for someone who was only at the beginning of week 3. RESULT. I do feel a bit like I’m just cutting & pasting & altering other peoples’ code, but then isn’t 95% of programming like that anyway?!

Despite all the fun I had at Bacon, I’m really glad it’s over & done with because I really want to get back to my normal routine and my normal TRAINING. I feel very out of shape after missing conditioning for the last two weeks. Time to knuckle down and get working on that 100kg squat.