Weekly Workout: Cruise Vacation and Eating Vegan

So this isn’t exactly a workout update, since I haven’t really been working out.  I’ve been resting and relaxing and crusing on a Carnival Cruise ship.  This vacation has been being planned out for two years, mostly because it takes that long for us to plan to spend that amount of money on one thing, but also because we were planning this vacation with some friends of ours as well.  We had been on a cruise before; four years ago when Justin and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary, and just before Justin made the transition to a Vegan lifestyle.  The entire thing was easily a glutton-fest, because food is readily available all the time.  Good food, bad food, endless food.  Four years ago we took advantage of it every chance we had.  Since then we have made many life changes, and the biggest one of those is that not just Justin, but I myself have decided on a Vegan lifestyle.  This was probably our biggest concern going into this year’s cruise because while there was food in abundance, the food was all very rich and filled with butter, milk, and eggs; that is unless we wanted to eat salad and fruit the entire week.

Times are changing, however, and even in the last four years the number of people who are eating vegetarian and vegan has increase dramatically.  So while planning the last few weeks before we left, we figured that there would be options available – but we had no clue to what extent, so we decided to ask.  The thing about Carnival is, if you have a log-in to their site, and you go and sign in to look over your cruise information, you are guaranteed to get a phone call.  I got a phone call every time until the end when I actually mentioned the fact that they were calling me every time I signed in to my account.  I think they must have made a note on the account.  Anyhow, a couple of times when they called to follow up on my online inquiries I asked specifically about vegan eating on the cruise, both time I got the same answer; in the dining hall they have what is called a “Spa Menu” which is just for  special diets and allergies.  To me this didn’t fill me with any level of confidence that we would have options.  I had already been on a crusie and knew that the dining room was a drop in the bucket of food availablility, but it was hope at least that we wouldn’t be eating “rabbit food” all week too. 
On Monday during our drive to Flordia, the couple we were going with mentioned going and talking to the dining room stafff to see if we could find out more information, so that was the very first thing we did upon arrival; we went straight to our dining room and discussed our diet with the staff.  They were very nice and basically handed us a menu and told us to pick what we’d be eating that evening and they would make sure that it didn’t include any animal products.  Then every night at dinner they would give us the menu and we would pick out our meal for the next day.  So this “Spa Menu” that we were told about on the phone was not really a seperate menu at all – it is THE menu for the ship (which changes slightly every day) and the kitchen staff would make your food to match your diet.  If they could not make your selected items you would find out the next day (which did happen with Justin and I one day with our dessert).
We followed this same process for a couple of our breakfasts as well, we just picked the foods we’d eat and they made them vegan for us.  We ordered Room Service once, but made sure to pick items we knew we could eat.  For lunch, we had to rely upon what was available via room service or the buffet lines on the boat.  By the end of the week I was both thankful that we had so many food options and ready to get home so that I didn’t have to think so darn hard about what I could eat.  I will say that this cruise was way different for me because of this too.  I think the first time around the unlimited food and options was so front and center to everything that what we did was almost scheduled around our trips to the buffets and trying a zillion different desserts.  On this trip, the food was a a by-product to the vacation, which we spent enjoying the sun, the water, the entertainment and just each other.  So there is a side of me that thinks that not having such an overwhelming amount of food – and NOT being “able” (yes it IS a choice..but still) to eat so much was ultimately a good thing.

My Tips for Eating Vegan on a Cruise (this also will work if you have food allergies):
  1. Make your dining room your first stop.  Set a precedent from the very first day.  Pick out your food, if you have suggestions for what should be substituted for any meats, have them write it down. (ie: Justin had sushi one day, and asked them to use avacado instead of fish.)  One thing we didn’t really know for sure until the last day – they do have tofu.  On the last day a Tofu steak was on the menu.  I don’t know if this is true of all cruises, but that leads me to a subpoint:
    1. Don’t be afraid to ask for something.  They hand you the menu straight up, no other options are written down, so at first glance it looks like there’s nothing for you.   We had vegan pancakes.  We had a mango cream soup made with soy milk.  They whipped up margrine for us made from vegetable oil – and no milk.  WE HAD SOY MILK!  I was so excited by this because they have coffee for free everywhere, but all the creamers were dairy.  I had to drink my coffee in the dining room or via room service, but I was thankful I didn’t have to give it up.
    2. By the third day, most of the servers who were assigned to us knew we used a “special menu” and were automatically picking up the butter from the table in front of us, and not offering us any of the bread if they knew right off we couldn’t eat it.  I felt like this was very respectful on their part.
  2. When getting food from the buffet line – grab staff members and ask questions.  There are plenty of items marked “vegetarian” – so in some cases that gives you a place to start.
    1. If the kitchen staff seems confused, have them verify.  More than once the person who actually cooked the food came out to answer our question.  
    2. If all else fails (there was one day where there were no options for lunch outside of the Mongolian Wok line) they do have salad and fruit all the time.
    3. Give up on any dessert from the buffet line.  It just isn’t going to happen.  They do have french bread, and now and then something you can dip your bread in (no butter/margrine on the buffet)
  3. When you hit your shore stops, be aware that the natives WANT to help you, but they might not understand you right out.  They barely even have a word for “vegan” in Mexico, but once they understand what you’re trying to say, they are more than happy to help (but then again, they have that tip jar out and waiting….cruise ships mean money to them!)
  4. Be nice, and understanding.  We are the oddballs, the weird ones, and we are a little difficult.  Being demanding and rude will not get you anywhere or anything but unhappy.  Sometimes things just don’t happen the way you expect – shrug it off and move on.  Be thankful for what you get.
    1. We made good friends with one of our servers in the dining room, Marabel.  She was so understanding and did everythng she could  to help us.  She even told us we could have the chocolate melting cake made vegan.  That was exciting.  Not-so-much when the next day they told us they couldn’t do it because they use milk to melt the chocolate.  Marabel was fighting for us, though, and wanted us to have that cake.  The last night of our cruise she went back to the kitchen and really pulled for us – telling the cook he HAD to give us something more than just fruit for dessert, and that he could indeed make the chocolate melting cake with soy milk.  And he did.  She was so happy to present those cakes to us, and we were more than happy to eat the rich chocolate dessert.  It was a small thing, but kind of huge at the same time.  

Weekly Workout – Week of June 29th

I know I haven’t been giving “weekly” updates, but that is because working out is moving along as working out typically will.  I’m on a schedule and I lift on that schedule, and sometimes I make my lifts, and sometimes I don’t.  This last week was a little different though.  First off, I have started adding some different things to my workout in the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been attending a Yoga class that is provided by my workplace on Tuesdays.  This isn’t a stretch and relax type yoga, it is full-on as advanced as you’re able to make it (modify where necessary) kind of Yoga, with lots of core focus.  I love it!  
I’ve also started attending my husband’s Weight Lifting class on Mondays, and while I like working out with a group, it’s a bit different.  They tend to work up to their 1-rep max and then do back-off sets for sake of time.  This is all fine and good, but I have a hard time working up to my 1 rep max.  You can see below in my workout summary, on both my squats and benchpress I failed the lift.  Both of those lifts should have been completely doable because of what I’m doing for 5 reps on my normal days.  I think I may just have a mental block more than anything, and I need to over come the “I can’ts” to be able to do this.  And I need to do it BEFORE I actually enter any kind of Powerlifting Competition of course.

I have also been working on doing a Hook Grip while deadlifting – I practice this only one time a week, and still use the straps on my 2nd deadlift day.  When Justin first started doing this, he complained about it hurting some.  Thankfully he’s a great teacher, because he worked out all the issues, passed those tips on to me, and unless I don’t have the grip tight enough I don’t experience the pain he did.
I was so bummed by Monday’s workout that when I got to Thursday I blew the entire thing out of the water, and felt really, really good about it.  I was able to easily add volume to my workout, and should be able to add some weight this week.
I did not work out on Saturday this week, but that is because on Friday my husband and I went to a “First Fridays” which is a monthly community event, and there we hung out with his Strongman friends and the gym that he works out with at Christ Strength Gym.  There we did the Sigmarsson Deadlift, and a Truck Pull.  I did pretty well (and was fairly sore for a few days).  The truck pull was EXCRUCIATINGLY slow – but I can officially say I pulled a truck! 🙂

Here I am pulling a Truck

And a short video of the deadlift

Weekly Workout: Week of May 24 – May 31

This week was full of staggard on my results.  The entire week was sort of crazy at work.  It wasn’t a bad week, just a busy one; the kind of weeks that leave you mentally drained. It’s funny how your daily life effects your work out, and for some people working is a stress reliever, and I believe this to be true all around after the work out is completed, but for me having a long day means a sluggish workout.  So here are the highlights of my workouts:
Tuesday:  Squats are tough on a normal day on a normal day, but Tuesday they were just not happening for me.  So I didn’t even go up in weight at all.  My goal this week was to be doing 125 all week.  125×5 is my current personal best so far, an I’m looking to get to 135 already so I can put the “big girl” weights on the bar (the 45lb’ders).  That did not happen!  However, my benchpress is really starting move up. 85lbs is pretty good number for me right now, and I fully expect to be able to get 85×5 ths week.  My Deadlift was not good, but that makes sense because my squats were off as well.
Thursday:  Squats felt better!  I should have went ahead and moved up to 125, but I had it in my mind to stay with the 120, but given the number of backoff sets I completed, 125 was not out of the question.  I broke the barrior on Strict Press (Military Press is what it’s called in that Fitlist App), and finally got 65×5.  Here’s hoping to get to pushing 70lbs this week. 
Saturday:  Saturday the squats went excellently, and I got my 125 x 5 goal…though it felt like it was going to kill me (Have I mentioned I’m not a huge fan of squats?)  Push press is moving on up as well, but my deadlifts.  I’m so dissapointed about those deadlifts, but I couldn’t get 195 off the ground on Saturday, and when I dropped the weight to 185, either my confidence was down or I was just so tired that I couldn’t budge it either.
This week’s Goals:  I will likely keep squatting up to 125, and hope I can add more volume to my backoff sets after hitting it.  I want to see my bench move up to 85×5, and my presses move up to the next 5lbs.  And I REALLY, REALLY want to see my Deadlift back at 195×5.  I’m really disappointed with my results on the deadlift this week!

Weight Lifting: Challenges and Goals

So a couple of weeks ago I started a YouTube channel to talk about my weight lifting and throw in some book reviews, that sort of thing…but I’ve discovered something; I don’t think I have the  kind of personality it takes to run a YouTube Channel.  But instead of just calling the whole thing a bust, I’m just going to move the weight lifting part of my life over here to my blog.  I’ll post short videos via Instagram, and if I can figure out how to post them to my blog, I’ll do that as well.

The goal:  I want to participate in a Strongman Competition sometime in 2016 with my husband.  Justin is a Strongman Competitor as well as a Powerlifter.  I believe I’ve mentioned this before, but he’s getting ready to compete in Austin, TX with the PlantBuilt Team.  So for now I’m just working on lifting and increasing my weight, but in the near future I’ll be going to a local Stongman gym to learn how to do the kinds of lifts and carries they usually do, because that in itself is a learning experience.  Anyhow, so here are my numbers for this last week.  This past Tuesday, well, I just had a bad day.  I didn’t eat right and I was tired, and that just messes things all up.  For that reason, I did take it easy on squats on Thursday as well.
The Challenge:  Well, as an extra incentive, I am going to be setting goals to reach for in my lifting.  When I meet the goals, I plan on rewarding myself by purchasing a book themed/nerdy racerback tanktop, (and in the winter I may move to t-shirts).  I’ve already purchased my first one. 
So my next goal is to get my deadlift up to #225 (two 45lb plates!), and I can get a new tank.  I’ve been pinning tanktops to a pinterest board.  I’d love to see any you all might come across!
So some questions for you:  what would you like to see in regards to this?  Any information you’d like me to share about my program, diet, etc?  Any other questions?  I want to make a record of this part of my life, but I want it to be interesting too!!

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The Note in which I tell the world why I went from “trying vegetarian” to a new lifestyle

* note: this is copied from a Facebook note, where I actually do “know” people.  🙂

My disclaimer:  Much of my rambling is a result of my personal experience, and my own thoughts and ideas.  I was going to add a few links to back some things up but now I can see that that isn’t an option on Facebook notes, but there is a lot of speculating going on in my head that I may not be 100% accurate on…if you want to contradict me in a polite fashion..I’m fine with that.  If you want to slam me…really, I guess I’m fine with that too, but don’t be surprised if I don’t really care what you have to say today or any day in the future.  Delivery of information is key…if you want to be heard, do it in a mature fashion.  We’re not in High School anymore.  (okay, some of you might be in High School still…but those of you I know are better than that!)

I kind of wanted to put down into words why I felt it was best for ME to continue on the vegetarian path.  I am not going to tell you why you should do it, because this – like many other life decisions – is a personal choice.  I find it amazing how much kickback this particular choice brings, and how many people want to tell you how wrong you are.

So first, let me just address a few questions.  YES, I’m getting plenty of protein.  Anyhow, it’s not the protein that our bodies need; it’s the amino acids, 13 of which that can be broken down from a single protein, that our body uses.  So while I may not be getting as much actual protein as I have in the past, I  can tell you without a doubt that I am getting many more amino acids than I was in the past.  And doesn’t it just makes sense that it is easier for our bodies to give it what it needs straight out rather than making it “work for it?”  Outside of that, I eat many other protein sources that are not meats, in fact all of the foods that we eat include small bits of protein.  I’m also going to point out, that unless I decide to become some kind of big-time body builder, I don’t need an unusual amount of protein.

The second most frequently asked question; do I ever crave a big fat juicy steak?  No.  I don’t.  I was never a “cow” person to begin with.  Hamburger was always a struggle for me to eat in any form.  I could somewhat tolerate sirloin hamburger meat in my spaghetti, but most days I just wish I would have left it out.  What I did crave was a turkey and cheddar with chipotle sauce on pretzel bread sandwich.  YUM YUM!  When I first started attempting this diet and I did fall to temptation, this was always my go-to.  And then, recently, my father-in-law stopped in for a visit and he bought a big bag of Taco Bell tacos.  Nothing special, just plain and simple tacos, but they did smell divine.  I wanted to eat one…and this was just a week or so ago.  But then I thought about the effects of the red grease of death (taco meat) when I WAS eating meat and how bad it could possibly be when I hadn’t had meat in months, and figured that was one negative reaction that wasn’t worth the “fall in to temptation.”

We were created to eat fruits and vegetables.  I know many of you, my friends, are not Christian – but surely you can respect the fact that prior to becoming privy to the scrumptious meats that can be found by killing a mammal, bird, or sea dwelling creature, we had to survive somehow.  Now I’m not going to go into the politics or the “but’s” – I’m just saying that fruits and vegetables are the easiest foods for our bodies to process, we gain the most nutrition from them simply because our bodies easily break them down into the nutritional pockets our bodies need (vitamins, fiber, minerals, amino acids, etc…).  It is food in its purest form; rather than being manipulated, shaped, pushed, and magic-ed (by use of eggs, flour, milk and an oven) into a different shape and form.

And to all my friends who are Christian – YES, God did give us permission to eat meat.  I’ve used this argument over and over and over.  But what God did not tell us to do is to pump said animals with hormones to make them bigger and fatter and more meatier (is that really a word, because spell check is letting it go through…?).  We [humans] do some really stupid crap to get the “biggest bang for our buck” [$] when it comes to our food.  And we have had some really awesome results – need I remind you of Mad Cow Disease?!  Not to mention the conditions in which these animals are forced to live in.  It is my conviction that this is NOT what God meant when he said to “have dominion” over the animals, fish and birds.  So we know that steroids have negative effects on us mere humans.  Yes, big muscles do result in some cases, but there are so many negative side effects that we are not allowed to use steroids in this fashion.  I suppose the thought is that the hormones we put into these animals is putting out results into our meat products that are so small in amount that it’s not really effecting our health.  I beg to differ…

Wait, pause!  Okay, here is my mind cutting in and tossing around another truth that at this point is necessary to address.  YES!  We do these same crazy stupid things to our fruits and vegetables. We grow them so that they come out bigger and prettier; we add pesticide, herbicide, insecticides, suicides, homicides, and whatever else we can use to make our fruits and vegetables bigger and badder than ever.  So now I’m walking in circles.  And unfortunately, it is EXTREMELY difficult to get away from all of this “we add everything to our products” scenario – unless you happen to be a wealthy and are able to buy the most organic of the organic of products 100% of the time, or you’re a farmer with a very large fertile land, and are able to grow everything under the sun.  I guess the same can be said about meat, assuming you can hunt, skin and…do all that fun stuff to get your own meat, that would be most ideal.  But unfortunately, my inner Katniss has yet to make an appearance, so I don’t see any version of this happening in my family.  Additionally, once again I go back to our bodies breaking down nutrition; it can take up to a week for our body to fully digest some meats, while fruits and vegetables are digested in a much quicker fashion – it’s a much easier process for our bodies. So, basically, I’m saying that it’s impossible to get away from all the bad stuff in our foods – but I’m also saying that by cutting the meat I believe I have chosen to lessen the evils.

Okay, this is the point when I tell you about my personal experience.  If you are of the male gender and are still reading my lovely musing – I just want to warn you.  I am going to talk about my female monthly cycle….feel free to continue to read, but I’m giving you a heads up out of politeness.

So for the past two years I’ve been dealing with monthly…issues.  It’s not been pleasant or pretty or fun.  I am very sensitive to hormone changes.  This first became evident when I was between 18 and 19 and taking birth control pills.  I didn’t know what was going on at the time, and it took a few trips to the Dr before we figured out the root of the problem, but every month in the first week of taking the pills I would react by vomiting until there was absolutely nothing left in my stomach, and then dry heaving for at least an hour afterward.  This would happen for at least days 1-3, if not for 5 days.  Once we figured out the association between the pill and the vomiting, I got a sort of placating “well, sometimes this medication has this sort of side effect.” (really, violent vomiting?)  So, because I was on the lowest hormone enhanced pill, I was given another medication to counteract the vomiting.  I don’t know what it was.  At the time I didn’t care, it worked so I was fine with this.

My second (third, and fourth) indication that I’m a tad bit sensitive to hormone changes was when I had my kids – the shift from being pregnant, and all of the hormones that build up over 40 weeks time, to suddenly not being pregnant and having practically none of those hormones made for an EXTREME shift in my emotional well being.  I could explain this to you, but it was not a fun time and to me is kind of personal.  So no.  Let’s just say it was pretty bad.

Back to the now, or the last few years anyway.  I’ve been having increasingly bad monthly cycles.  Bad as in I have NO CLUE when I’m going to start, I would spot for one, two, three weeks before having a fully fledged flood on my hands.  I was emotionally a wreck during these times.  Some months were pretty good, some were bad, some were really bad.  It seemed like there was no rhyme or reason to the entire cycle ever.  I go see my Midwife, who refers me to a Gynecologist.  Both of which have said that I seem to be in a pre-menopausal state, and that I wasn’t ovulating every month. (And this is EXACTLY what I wanted to hear at 30 years old!)  So the prescribed solution was to put me on a medication that would boost my hormone levels and tell my body to ovulate, and then regulate my cycle further by taking birth control (which I hadn’t taken since before having kids).  I tell the doctor of my birth control issues, and they said that if I have problems with the one prescribed to come back and they would try something different.  Seemed logical at the time, so I decide to give the solution a try.  I took ONE PILL…ONE!  I was up all night, and I had not adequately remembered my body “on” birth control pills, but it is NOT pretty.  Violent is too delicate a word for it.  And all the time in my head I’m thinking, “there is something just not right about all of this.”

So from here I decide I am NOT taking this advice, no medication for me.  I start tracking my cycles on a calendar, including every ache and pain, every spot and flood.  I determine, on my own, that the Dr and Midwife were partially correct.  I was likely ovulating every other cycle.  I would have a semi normal month, 28 day cycle everything was okay, and a horrible month (or 40 days rather) of hormones, craziness, non-predictable stuff.  I’m guessing this was a month of non-ovulation, but I’m not a doctor.  I decide I can live with this.  We aren’t having any more kids, and at least I have a better idea of what’s going on.

And then we started making changes to our diet.  Justin is head first, ALL IN!  Vegan, mostly raw food if he can.  I am WAYY too attached to milk, cheese, and eggs to go vegan, despite the fact that I know many of the same hormone issues exist there as well.  But I decide to give being a vegetarian a try.  At first I struggled.  I was like a kid that you told they couldn’t have something, they become more desperate for that one thing.  I never did like meat all THAT much prior to making this move, but suddenly I wanted it much more.  That first month I experienced the motherload of hormonal breakdowns.  It was very reminiscent of the type of emotional shifts that took place after giving birth.  I do not know for sure, I have no information to back up my hypothesis, but I suspect that I was going through a withdraw – a “meat hormone withdraw” if you will.  Because after a month of wishy-washiness I stuck to my guns and went full on vegetarian and have yet to look back.

I noticed a difference right away.  That first month (after the crazy month mentioned above) instead of being somewhat hateful when my period came around, I didn’t even notice a shift in my temperament.  Usually I have to be very deliberate about what I’m thinking; make myself realize that I’m getting mad over something extremely stupid, (WHY WOULD YOU COLOR THAT CAT GREEN…CATS CAN’T BE GREEN!!! – okay, that was a completely made up scenario, but it was a bit like that). This was 2 months into the diet change and I couldn’t even tell I was moving into my monthly cycle.  The cramps, while still there, were not nearly as painful.  So, I’m thinking…”okay, this is my ‘good’ side” and I wait for the next month.  28 days later, another perfectly smooth cycle.  Now I’m thinking…hallelujah, I’m healed!

The truth is, I believe I am.  It’s been several months now and I have had perfectly timed 28 day normal cycles ever since I changed my diet.  This is just one change.  Between more energy and generally less doomsville and more happy feelings from my end, I can’t help but think that cutting meat has been the reason why.  It has honestly been the only real major change that I have made in my life that could have such a drastic effect, and it makes me wonder, what other things have changed that I just don’t know about?  By getting rid of all the unnecessary hormones, and I think it’s possible we are getting much more than we realize, has affected my body in such a way that I can’t see myself going back to eating meat…no matter how tempted I might be by a taco bell red grease of death taco!