As promised, here is part two of the interview with Mindy Ambrose – read part one here. Mindy is going to talk about her training and dieting now, and a whole lot more in her weekly column beginning this coming Tuesday. Watch for Your Friendly Neighborhood Gym Girl, beginning this coming week.
L&S: What is your favorite body part to train?
MA: Shoulders. This is what makes me look the most like an athlete in my everyday clothes in my opinion, and results come fast when working these muscles.
L&S: What is your best body part?
MA: My glutes. I wish it was something like my calves, but I can’t deny the feedback I get on my backside. I work hard to keep it looking 10 years younger.
L&S: Are there any training days you don’t like?
MA: I have a different relationship with arm days now that I am recovering very slowly from a couple of minor injuries. I used to live for upping my weights on arm days, since I am fairly strong in that area, but now I lift about 90 percent of my full ability to avoid injuring myself again. I used to dislike leg days until hiring a coach and being introduced to new exercises and new ways of implementing my standard exercises. Overall I just love training, so I use the term “dislike” very loosely.
L&S: How much cardio do you do during contest prep, and off-season?
MA: My cardio is mixed up constantly, and has been different before each show. The theme seems to be 30 minute sessions that are extremely efficient, challenging AND SWEATY. Now that I am going into the off-season, I have a feeling my cardio will be around two to three days per week, but still only 30 minutes long. I would choose consistency in training and diet over one-hour-long cardio seasons five times per week ANY DAY. As long as I am consistent year-round with training and diet, I’ll be given moderate cardio for maintenance and general health benefits. I value cardio conditioning, and not just building pretty muscles to look at, thus I’ll be having more fun with boxing, capoeira, cardio boot camps and probably some cross-fit this winter.
L&S: What fat loss tips can you pass along?
MA: Learning to eat for function is essential. Ensuring that indulgences are made via decision versus emotion or impulse, is another key factor in healthy consistent fat-loss. Fighting to drop fat is uncomfortable and can be a long process, and it sure can’t be described as EASY. Ask yourself what you need to do to set yourself up for success before creating drastic restrictions and deadlines.
In many cases, something needs to be addressed surrounding emotional eating, or eating out of boredom. What kind of eater are you? In some cases the lack of discipline is simple – it’s just a bad habit of eating whatever you want, whenever you want and without ANY consideration. It’s hard enough to MAINTAIN a fit physique with those habits, so actually FIGHTING to get your body back under those conditions isn’t realistic.
When I say eat for function, I mean change your mindset to be able to eat bland, nutritious, clean FUEL (more times than not) so indulgences really become no big deal. I’ve been known to eat the same breakfast, brunch and lunch every single day, because I really don’t care enough about variety at those times, to warrant indulging. Then when I really feel like having lunch out, or pizza for dinner, do you think I feel guilty? Heck no! Not after practising discipline consistently day after day for months at a time.
This is how I use balance to prevent the yo-yo effect, while still allowing myself to eat rich decadent sumptuous gourmet meals. I now consider a piece of apple pie to be zero calories, because I’ve turned my body into a fuel-burning machine via longterm consistency – I can’t tell you how good that feels. Here is an example of function food practises that I’ve been using for about 3 years.
Breakfast: protein shake made in the blender with spinach, oats, 1/2 Banana and ice (so delicious that I rarely crave sweets.)
Brunch: egg whites on dry sprouted grain toast with a handful of unsalted almonds (Boring and bland function food.)
Lunch: a mini CLEAN turkey meatloaf, steamed yams and loads of Brussels sprouts (bland but very filling and satisfying.)
To me this is all delicious, but according to friends who I’ve encouraged to try it – it isn’t as easy as it looks. It seems easy enough to them at first, but in every case they just can’t do the egg whites on dry toast. “I can’t eat a meal like that,” they say. They HAVE to have butter or cheese or ham or yolk with it… why? What if that was the only food on earth? There’s still three more meals in the day, so why does every single one have to be all about rich flavors and ingredients? I stick with the egg whites on dry toast purely to practise discipline and to fuel my body in a very clean way. If you can eat like that for a year – just in the first half of your days, I believe you will successfully lose weight and can battle poor eating habits in the process.
L&S: Describe your method for a body part?
MA: I get asked by many women (and surprisingly men too,) how I have achieved a round, smooth backside at the age of 33. I used to dislike leg days at the gym, until I realized that these exercises cross over into building the glutes as well. My favourite glute-building exercises are;
Seated leg press – By mixing up my leg placement I am able to target my glutes as much as my quads. I recommend researching what muscles you can target on this leg press machine. You can use a wider stance, or ankles close together. You can also have your feet placed high at the top of the platform or much lower down. Experiment to find the technique you have to use to feel the full burn in your entire glute muscle – that’s the MONEY technique, right there!
Walking lunges – I mean PROPER and CHALLENGING walking lunges. This involves no stopping or putting your foot down between steps, and means taking the longest stride you can handle while keeping your front leg at a 90 degree angle and your back leg perfectly straight. (as with any lunge, this 90 degree angle and avoidance of your knee propelling past the front of your toe is very important in preventing injury.) If you’re not holding weights and panting and sweating everywhere, you probably aren’t building muscle-size. I prefer to walk across my gym and back a few times and the intensity is so high that it feels like a cardio session.
Deadlifts – I like to use a deadlift machine for these. My coach adds these into my contest prep sometimes and changes how many reps and sets she wants me to do. I don’t ask questions – I just follow it. Making sure your stance/movement is symmetrical is integral, because this involves very heavy lifting. Explosive but controlled lifting and squeezing the glutes at the end of each rep makes a world of a difference in building your glutes. My heart races when I deadlift – its great!
L&S: What are your training tricks that sets your method apart from others?
MA: It isn’t a revolutionary concept, but using heavy lifting to create a curvy figure through muscle-development seems uncommon among women I talk to. Honestly, the feminine curves I have are from muscle, and I had to train hard and lift heavy to get those curves. It seems ironic that adopting some practises from male bodybuilders has helped transform my shape to be more dynamic and girly. I think strong square shoulders are underestimated in the overall balance of an attractive physique. Without my delts, I look a lot more bottom-heavy than I am. In a nutshell, relying less on cardio and more on extremely intense, sweaty, wheezy, heavy-lifting sessions (where each set is only five to eight reps before I feel like I am going to pass out and die,) give me the most girly figure I have ever had.
I would like to add that health and fitness goals, in my eyes, should be driven by long-term lifestyle intentions. Having deadline or dates for your results can be powerful tools, but have a plan for after that date. Be patient. If you are using short-cuts or depletion in your dieting, what are you really hoping to get out of that? How does that help you in the big picture? What’s the sense of urgency that’s worth jeopardizing your health over? These are important questions to ask when making changes to your lifestyle.
I get asked questions involving how someone can deplete themselves, more than any other diet-related questions. I commonly hear things like “You must not eat any carbs, how do I eat like you?” and “Should I not eat any fruit or bread if I want to look like a fitness model?” I personally believe depletion only sets you up for an eventual relapse that is going to be hard to recover from. Your body needs a balanced diet.
The same goes for drastic changes to your training program. If you go from a completely stagnant lifestyle with no physical activity, to seven days per week at the gym OVERNIGHT, are you really setting yourself up for longterm success? Are you likely to burn out and fall off the wagon? Create your goals with HEALTH in mind, friends.
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