Bikram Yoga – 90 minutes of death

They say you should change your routine up to improve your bodily function. I have tried pretty much everything to get rid of my crazy headaches and stress, so I thought I’d try bikram yoga as well.
Can’t hurt, right? Well, it’s been two weeks, and 7 sessions – and I’m still not a convinced yoga person. In fact, I actually hate doing it already in the first pose. 90 minutes become a very long time when you don’t like what you’re doing.
For those who don’t know, bikram yoga is 26 strict yoga poses, performed twice and held for a period of time, in a 40 degree room, over 90 minutes. Its selling points promise better sleep, a happier mentality, less recovery after injuries and a toned body, as well as improved physical and mental health. It is also suggested that it may lower blood pressure, reduce depression, and strengthen the immune system – all while detoxing your system and helping you lose weight and increase flexibility.

Just like any other type of exercise, pretty much.

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So they tell you that the 2nd, 3rd and 4th session will be way easier than the 1st session. Not too sure about that. I still struggle. I actually think I struggle more now that I know what I’ve got coming up. But I’ve said I’m going to give it a month – because apparently you become a completely new person after a month of practising bikram yoga. They just forget to mention how bloody hard it is, and how dizzy you get if you do one of the early morning classes.
If you want to be someone you’ve never been, you have to do something you’ve never done, they say. So here I am. Stepping outside the comfort zone again.
You know you’re inflexible when the old lady in a swimming suit in front of you can touch the floor bending over, and you can’t. I knew I had no flexibility, but I didn’t think it was THAT bad. Hamstrings – on fire. Lower back – stiff as a pole. Calves – cramping.
Oh, and the best thing? When they tell you to HOLD OFF drinking your water until the water break. Sorry abnormally flexible lady in lululemon clothes, if my body asks for water, it gets water.

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They like to tell you how you can burn around 1000 calories during one session, however – if you do intense exercise for 90 minutes in any way, form or shape, you can easily burn that amount of calories either way. And as much as bikram yoga challenges the body, each session is the same, meaning that your body will adapt. You might get really good at practising bikram yoga poses, but the shock your body got in the initial period of doing it, will wear off.

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Studies have shown that the raised temperature in the room, and the set structure of the poses can assist in stimulating glands that improve the T-cell function, i.e, the proper functioning of the immune system, which is great, however the excess sweating can also bring high risk outcomes with it – if you are not careful.

Ask me again once my month of practising this torture type of exercise is up, and I’ll answer whether my silky baby soft skin result is worth 90 minutes of hatred. For now, I believe it is a good detox for periods of time, but not the first choice of exercise people should resolve to.

Oh, and if you think you have sweated the most you’ve ever sweated it your life – you haven’t until you’ve tried bikram yoga. You sweat in places you didn’t think could sweat.

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To carb, or not to carb?

So a dear friend from home asked me about carbohydrates. What should we eat? How much should we eat? When should we eat it? And not to mention, are carbs bad for you? The answer is no – carbs are great for you, you just need to choose the right type of carbs. Carbohydrates equal energy for the brain, if you deplete your body of carbs, you may risk losing brain cells – sucks, right?

As with any other food, STOP OVERCOMPLICATING THINGS. Unless you’re planning on competing in bikini fitness or other body building competitions, when you eat your carbs will not matter. The general rule is 5 g per kg of bodyweight, so I’d wanna be at about 65-68 x 5 g of carbohydrate every day. However, if you’re attempting to lower your body fat slightly, you might wanna consider lowering the amount of carbohydrate and substitute it with healthy fat and protein.

Now, there are carbohydrates in everything – so don’t think that just because you don’t eat pasta, bread and rice you’re not eating carbohydrates. People often tell me that because my body fat is low, I must be dodging the carbs. But I’m not. Let me introduce my food for the past days.

IMG_5825Okay, this is like the story of my life every day. Whoever said I have mad organizing skills – you’re right.

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On weekends, I try to have a variation of my normal breakfast (particularly if the boyfriend cooks it, or we go out for breakfast, and all I have to do is eat). Scrambled eggs with heaps of veggies, oven-roasted potatoes and some gluten-free bread (I don’t normally eat gluten-free bread, or much bread for that matter, but this one was actually ok). CARBS.

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I’m trying to learn to like the seaweed part of sushi, so we made homemade sushi-rolls stuffed with quinoa, veggies, salmon and tofu. CARBS.

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A half eaten salad at work. With oven roasted pumpkin, potato and sweet potato. CARBS.

IMG_5870This picture does not do justice at all, BUT this is probably one of the best meals I’ve had in a long long time. Kangaroo with a salad made of grilled beetroot and sweet potato, some other vegetables, brie and nuts. Carbs, carbs and more carbs.

And I do of course eat my normal oats for breakfast, eat at least 5-6 different types of fruit every day, and I’m pretty sure that counts as carbs too. So let’s conclude. Carbohydrates are not bad for you, if you eat the right type.

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The hidden sugar

Knowing the different kinds of names for added sugar is a key to realizing what products to choose and what products to avoid if you want to “eat clean”. I went hunting for a substitute for wraps (or spelt wraps/speltlomper, in norwegian….) today and jeez, they all contain some kind of crap. One of them claimed to be yeast free, dairy free and contain no added sugar, and they were bloody expensive too. I usually always read the ingredients lists of new products (whatever is mentioned first, is what the product contains the most of), and this package of supposedly healthy wraps contained added concentrate of apple juice. Hidden added sugar right there! If you don’t pay attention when picking your almond milk, soy milk, rice milk or oat milk, you end up with added sugars again. You think you’re buying pure dried fruit, but instead it is covered in sugar. Coconut sugar, palm sugar, agave nectar, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, .. this list can go on forever.

Bree-sweet-tooth-types-of-sugarI eventually found a package of gluten-free wraps, but oh my, the Norwegian spelt wraps are heavily missed. Making them into chips with heaps of spices in the oven did do the trick though, and I had super delicious tacos for dinner. Speaking of sugar and tacos, all the taco spices and sauces contain added sugar too. I know we have a stevia-sweetened sauce in Norway,  but that is yet to come in Australia. iHerb has a taco seasoning thing with no added sugar or salt from All Natural Frontier, and I rarely use anything other than that. You can also make your own mixture with garlic salt, paprika, cumin and such.

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I got a package from iHerb today (discount code: TBW611 to get $5-10 off your first order), and it was full of chocolate-ish-things (even the lipbalm was chocolate flavored). I have a thing for coconut and chocolate so when I found Raw Revolution’s chocolate coconut bliss, I had to order them. Now, these claim to be healthy, raw and all that, but they do in fact contain added agave nectar, and will therefore be a part of my cheat-day – NOT my normal everyday. They are for sure a better option than the average snickers-bar (favourite….), but should not be indulged all the time just because they claim to be healthy.

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I also ordered freeze-dried mango (with no added sugar), and oh my God – why have I never tried that before?! It is so so so delicious. My sister has always been a major fan of dried fruits like apricots and that, but I’ve never really liked it – until now. These little pieces of heaven will for sure be ordered again. When it comes to dried fruit and such, like raisins, dates and figs, it is important to remember that these are pretty high in naturally occurring sugar and therefore also more calorie-rich than your average carrot or apple. One big medjool-date contains about 110 kcal, which is more than a normal banana, so if you are trying to control your calorie-intake you might wanna not overdo them because just like with anything else, we should eat everything in moderation.

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I got to do legs for the first time since being stupid with my ankle this week, and I had forgotten how damn sore it is possible to get from a workout. Learning to not overdo things, I decided to ease off the heavy weights and did my hipthrusts with 65kg instead of the 75 I’ve been doing for a while, but Jesus Christ it still killed. I’ve also realized that I’m lazy doing my ab-workout, so after finishing my bicep/tricep workout this morning I asked one of the bored instructors in the gym to force me to do my abs. I swear, they are still crying. I asked for it, I complained whilst doing it – and I’m probably gonna complain even more tomorrow. But I did it. Happy Marita.

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That ass

I have never been much of an “ass” girl. Not that I’ve ever had boobs either, though that’s a different story. But getting interested in working out has taught me that lifting weights (in a combo with proper nutrition of course) is the way to go to sculpt your body. Not dying on the treadmill every day. Not hating on the crosstrainer every day. But building muscle. Now, I am no bodybuilder, in fact, I barely have visible muscles. But I grow stronger, I push limits and I learn. Lifting weights = more muscle = burning more energy every day = toned body.

It has been requested that I put up my program for building, eh.. “that ass”. If I could choose, there is a plethora of other exercises I would rather include in my leg-day program, but because of knees not willing to cooperate (surgery gone wrong x 2) and a torn ligament in my lower back, I can’t. And well, this ankle injury isn’t really allowing for any leg program right now. I simply have to do the things that works for me and my body. My program is as narrowed down as it can possibly get and I am very happy I still can dedicate two full workout sessions a week to my legs.

I don’t have pictures of all the exercises that I do, but I will include them anyway.

Smith Machine Squats.

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90 degree legpress, I do one leg at the time simply because I am stronger in one leg, but doing both legs at once is fine.

Hamstring curls on a machine (-13kg old picture).

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Cable kickbacks.

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Hamstring curls on a swissball (yes, I struggle too).

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90 degree wall-sits (hate hate hate).

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Calf raises either in stairs, using the smith machine w/weights or on a step.IMG_1486

And I always finish my workout with the most awkward exercise in the book; hip thrusts. Now, I know we all read fitness blogs where the girls do crazy amounts of weights with their legs, but that does not mean you have to. We all have to start somewhere and work our way up. I found this photo the other day, and see where I started with my hip thrusts. I’m pretty sure this bar weighs about 20 kg..

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And now I am (after strongly motivating myself) doing 12 x 3 of 70 kg.

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I also tend to throw in the occasional supine bridge with one leg at the time, sumo squats and squats with elastic bands if I am feeling it (and have the time).

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If I could, I would also include, deadlifts (done properly, not the way I destroyed my lower back) bulgarian split squats, normal squats with weights and lunges. Promise me that you will google the exercises (or get help) before trying them for the first time, technique is so important to avoid and prevent injuries.

When I was at my physio, we discussed the fact that so many people eliminate leg-day from their workout routine because “they already use their legs enough”. You’ve seen them. The guys at Stereosonic with chicken legs and a massive chest. We concluded that they were lazy, as working out the largest muscle group of the body can be both challenging and exhausting. Including compound movement exercises, rather than solely relying on isolation exercises (bicep curls….) will allow for building of muscle and increase in strength, whilst attacking fat and sculpting your body. Furthermore, studies show that resistance training can promote bone re-calcification, enhance tendon and ligament durability and aid in the strengthening of joints.

We should not only lift weights for the sake of our own appearance, but also to minimize the risk of injuries and to enhance performance in other sports, such as soccer, running etc.

But where do you get your protein from?

Meet Luke Tan. Bodybuilder, strength and conditioning coach and NLP Mindset/Life coach within the Australian Strength Performance. Luke has represented ASP in the International Natural Bodybuilding Association (INBA) Victorian Championships, where he placed second runner up in his category and won ‘Best Routine & Poser’ (read the story here).

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Surely this guy must be devouring red meat, dairy products and other suspected sources of protein on a daily basis. Yeah, not really, Luke is a vegan. You heard me – a guy with muscles who eats his vegetables, and he has even inspired a few of his clients into relying less on meat and dairy.

Having previously lived by the paleo principle and consumed up to 1kg fish/meat/poultry a day, Luke has noticed a massive change since turning vegan.

“I was always binging on nuts and never felt satiated. I craved lollies, cakes and chocolate during the day and felt guilty because of the amount of carbs when I ‘succumbed’ and had a small block of chocolate or fruit. Every once or twice a week, I looked forward to my ‘cheat meal’ having whatever I wanted in one sitting. Since turning vegan, I’ve found that my diet is a lot more varied and not to mention colourful. I absolutely love eating organic apples, bananas and dates.”

The bulk of his calories come from starches (rice, quinoa, sweet potato, pumpkin) complimented with a large volume of salads and fruits. Always being ‘carbed up’ has left Luke more energetic, his digestion has improved, and the cravings of processed food has disappeared. Why you ask? Well.

  1. His glycogen stores are always full
  2. Most of these processed/refined carbohydrate sources (eg: cakes, chocolate, lollies, ice cream) contain animal products/ by-products.

Being a vegan allows Luke to stay lean, and he has found an increase in both strength and performance in the gym. Due to the alkalinizing effect of a plant-based diet, his pre-existing shoulder issues and brittle teeth with re-occurring cavities are barely existent.

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I was once told, that before bears hibernate, they put on 100 kg to survive the winter simply by eating blueberries. Not meat. Not fish. Not some ridiculous amount of bread. Blueberries, guys. Residents of Okinawa, Japan, have the longest life expectancy of any Japanese AND in the world, and also the highest amount of people enjoying a plant-based diet.

So where does Luke get his protein from?

“Rice, beans.. There is protein in everything”, he says. He supplements this with pea/ rice protein isolate shakes and Branched Chained Amino Acids (BCAAs) intra/ post workout. “I love doing what I do the vegan way, knowing that I am progressing a step at a time while serving my highest purpose, which is to make a difference to the world”.

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When Germany occupied Norway during World War II, they confiscated nearly all of the farm animals to feed their own troops, leaving Norwegians with no choice but to eat a diet mostly based on plants. The peak of of the Norwegian death rate due to heart attack and stroke was in 1939 very high, and as a result of Germany arriving, it began its decline. By the end of the war in 1945, the rate had gone back to nearly what it had been 15 years prior. But from 1945 and into the next decade, when the people again had meat and dairy available, the rate went skyrocketing back up to nearly where it had been before the war.

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I am not trying to convince anybody to go vegan or vegetarian, mostly because I cannot pride myself of being that (though my diet consists of more vegetables than meat/chicken/fish as I am a hopeless cook), BUT I am trying to convince you to nourish your body with the nutrition already provided us naturally. Eat a rainbow. Eat what is natural. Don’t claim that meat and dairy is the only way to get your protein. And why not give Luke’s 30 Day Vegan Challenge a try, and see what difference it makes for you?

For more information on the vegan lifestyle and a positive way of living, check out ‘Luke T Evolvedstrength’ on Facebook and stay tuned for his blog ‘evolved generation’.