A Special 9/11 Workout & Tips to Kick Sugar’s Ass

IMG_6925Thursday’s workout is in honor of those who died on September 11, 2001. I was 21 at the time and remember every moment of the day like it was yesterday. My last few years as a teacher, my students had no emotional connection to the day and that was really weird for me. I’ll never forget 9/11 and I can’t imagine the generation growing up right now not fully grasping the devastation that America experienced.

Your Strong Figure Conditioning Workout for September 11, 2014:

You have a couple options: If you have access to equipment or if you are a CrossFit box following the conditioning workouts, here’s a workout I found that has PLENTY of meaning behind it. http://www.crossfittothebone.com/wednesday-september-11-2013

If you don’t have access to this sort of equipment, here’s what you’ll do:

9 Rounds for time:

  • 11 Thrusters (with kettlebells, barbell, or dumbbells)
  • 11 Burpees
  • 11 Box jumps or step-ups
  • 11 Push-ups

Finish the workout with a 2001 meter run or row (1.25 miles).

If you don’t have equipment, sub squats for the thrusters, and I’m sure you can find something to jump on. Couch? Stairs?

Next, Kicking Sugar’s Ass

After I posted my “Crap Load of Workout and Nutrition Tips,” I got a great comment about writing more on avoiding sugar. I think I’ve written a lot about the dangers of sugar, or even how to eat sugar on a carb back-loading diet…I know I’ve ranted more than a handful of times about how pissed off I get around the holidays when sugar-filled everything is consistently within eyesight, or mouth-site maybe. ;) But I’ve never really written much about how to avoid getting addicted to sugar.

First up, I’ve said it hundreds of times. Sugar is like a drug. It takes one DQ Blizzard and BAM! You’re hooked. Seriously, even the smallest taste of sugar rewires your brain to think you NEED SUGAR and that you need it all the time! You’ve probably read about a lot of people going on 30-day no-sugar challenges or even whole food challenges, etc., and it’s always SO HARD because letting go of sugar is like detoxing from drugs. Maybe not with the convulsions (I’m only going by what I’ve seen in the movies) but headaches, mood swings, etc., are typical when trying to let go of sugary habits. And what happens when you make it to goal day? You celebrate with sugar! And then the cycle starts over.

Here’s the thing. I’ve tried giving up sugar. I’ve told myself SO MANY FREAKING TIMES that if I can go 30 days, I can go 90. If I can go 90, I can go 180. And if I can go 180, I can go a year.

This is impossible.

At least for me, anyway. And this is coming from Ms. Health Conscious 24/7. Knowing how bad sugar is for the body, how it fuels and mass produces cancer cells, how it creates inflammation in the muscles and joints, how it makes me feel crappy and sluggish, how it makes me feel guilty with every splurge–I freaking KNOW this and I still can’t cut sugar out of my diet 100%.

So I LIMIT it. 

I create ALTERNATIVES.

I REWARD myself.

I GET THROUGH the holidays. 

I know that I’m not going to cut out sugar for the rest of my life, so accepting this fact just helps me become aware of what I need to do so that I don’t go overboard with sugar. Let’s face it. I hate the term “YOLO” but if I want to have a blizzard on my birthday or a gingersnap cookie at Christmas with a little Irish cream in my coffee, dammit, I’m going to have it.

January through Septmeber, I’m ok with avoiding sugar. I keep myself busy and try not to think about it. For goodness sake, I definitely don’t buy it at the store. Unless Erik brings it home (and I make him hide it), it’s not in my house. So the way I get around the need for sugar is NOT BUYING IT, and then strategically rewarding myself on the weekends. I’ve made it a habit to eat really clean all week long, work out at least 5-6 days each week, and then on Saturday, I have a treat, and usually after my toughest workout of the week. Sometimes, it’s not even a sugary treat–sometimes it’s just a big freaking slice (or two?) of pizza, and a cold beer. Sometimes it’s a healthy dinner and ice cream for dessert. Just this past Saturday, Erik and I went out to Xenia, a local Kurdish restaurant, and picked up our favorite kabobs–the “Euphrates.” If you’re a Harrisonburg  local, you MUST try it. We ordered double meat and I ordered mine on a whole-wheat pita. (The pitas are homemade!) Think juicy bites of lamb and beef over top a pita spread with hummus, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and feta. SO good. This is what I call a healthy splurge. A lot of calories, but great food. After we digested, we got blizzards. This isn’t typical–it’s more like a once every 6 months thing. It keeps my food choices in check, gives Erik and me a date night, and goals to hit in my weight lifting. For me, this works.

Nightly sweet cravings? 

I understand that it’s hard not having something sweet or even not having dessert every night. I grew up in a house where we always had a snack at 8pm–ice cream or pop corn, and usually ice cream. I’m still a snack-addict and I’ve GOT to keep things on hand to battle the cravings. One thing I like to do is make a smoothie. Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking that all those frozen berries and bananas make one heck of a milkshake! Another thing I like to do is make protein pudding. I take a box of sugar free / fat free Jell-O (whatever flavor floats your boat) and mix half of it with a cup of plain Greek yogurt. I add a little almond milk and voila! I’ve got low-carb/low-sugar pudding. Sometimes I make sugar free jello and keep that in the fridge. And sometimes I just munch on frozen fruit like cherries or grapes. I also LOVE Quest bars. I try to buy a box when I have extra cash and save those for “desserts” at night too. Chocolate chip cookie dough Quest bars are my FAVORITE.

I Don’t Restrict Myself Anymore. 

I used to be “Mrs. Low-Carb.” No, not Miss or Ms; I’m talking MARRIED TO LOW CARB. But you know what? This just doesn’t always support my heavy lifting goals, and it also leaves me craving sweet foods. So I’ve also upped my carb intake a bit. I still eat very low carb throughout the day, but I eat sweet potatoes more often, cereal post workout (only after really heavy lift days and I buy the healthiest kind I can find!) and sometimes I make gluten-free cornbread or other treats. This helps me avoid sweet cravings a lot. So on days I workout really hard, I up my carbs around my workout window, and I also try to aim for healthier carbs with some sort of nutritional value. This has really helped me and I feel like it’s a special treat to have something fulfilling with my meal.

Finding Acceptance? 

Maybe this is an excuse or maybe it’s me growing up a bit, call it what you will, but some days I just look at myself and say,

“Hey. You’re a strong chick. You do your best in the gym. You’ve come a really long way. You eat good foods. You’re also almost 34 years old, not so genetically blessed, and never plan on competing in a figure or bodybuilding competition. Be happy with a few curves and a couple extra pounds.” 

I’ve met a lot of people who don’t struggle with sweets. They eat well, go to the gym every now and then, and have a dessert once in a while. They never overdo it and know when to say “no thanks.” Sometimes in the fitness world, we get so wrapped up by wanting to have the perfect lifts, the perfect bodies, and the perfect diets that we lose sight of reality and end up creating really bad habits. Sure, I get that you have to do this if your goal is a big competition of any certain sort. I know some people MUST clean up diets in order for optimal success. I even know a person who never eats sweets and has three alcoholic beverages a YEAR. Dude! I like beer in the summer and wine in the winter! I’m just not that intense……anymore.  I’ve been there done that, and I need more of a balance. I’m ready to be 34, strong as sh*t, and pack a little cushion if I want my pumpkin pie blizzard. Is it an excuse? Will I always feel this way? I don’t know. But I’m trying.

But what if you REALLY want to eat sweets every day? 

So there is ONE way you can actually eat your sweets and get away with it. And I know some people who do this 4-5 times per week. It’s called “Carb Back-Loading” but it only works if you are lifting serious weight in the gym. If not, it’ll put the pounds on you, so don’t try it. BUT, if you’re lifting big weight–enough to really tear down the muscle so that it has to rebuild itself–carb back-loading works really well. You essentially have some sweets after your workout. That’s it. Workout REALLY hard and then go grab a scoop of protein and eat it with your bowl of lucky charms. Have a decent dinner later–chicken breast and rice–then have a bowl of ice cream for dessert. All your other meals during the day must be low carb and high in protein and “good” fat to balance out fat loss and muscle growth, and the sweets work better if you can avoid desserts/foods that don’t contain high fructose corn syrup and trans-fats. So I guess it’s slightly complicated, but honestly, if you are a die hard sweets addict and a heavy lifter, this might be for you.

But pumpkin season is here! 

With the upcoming holiday season, I know I’m facing temptation around every corner. I love EVERYTHING pumpkin, cinnamon, apple, and peppermint. I even really enjoy baking cookies, making peanut butter balls, and decorating cupcakes. Carb Back-Loading will be how I handle sweets. If someone brings me a pumpkin roll (please don’t), I will bust my ass in the gym every single day so that I can enjoy a slice when I get done lifting. I’ll do it til it’s gone. I know I’m human, I’m not perfect, I am going to try my hardest to stick to my regular pattern of whole/healthy foods with the weekend treats. I will buy pumpkin-spice coffee and drink it black. I will buy gluten-free cookie mix to make pumpkin cookies for special occasions or for weekends when Erik and I lift a lot of heavy weight. Maybe I’ll consider not baking this holiday season….after all, we’re on a budget here in this house and baking for everyone gets very expensive. I will say no to holiday treats at work–and mind you–this takes practice but you must become good at it. Say NO at work! I swear that offices are the worst when it comes to the peer pressure of eating crap. If you say no enough, they won’t ask you anymore. Trust me. And every time I say “no thanks,” I know that my own treat that I’ve planned for myself after my workout or on the weekend will taste SO much sweeter and I won’t feel guilty about it either. So plan your holiday treat splurges for around your workouts and get good at saying no to random surprise holiday rum cakes in the office commons area.

Lessons Learned? 

Overall, I accept that I’m not going to avoid sugar 100% and I try to be smart about my selections. I don’t keep it in the house, I plan my sugary rewards for post lifting, and when the holidays roll around, I look for balance. I tend to keep frozen fruit in the freezer, fun foods like protein pudding in the fridge, and I up the “good” carbs in my meals. It’s all I can do and maybe all I can offer.

What are YOUR tips for avoiding/cutting out sugar? What will you do this holiday season as pumpkin/peppermint/chocolate everything rolls into sight? Let us know in the comments below! 

Feature image: 9/11 Memorial Wall in NYC