My Top Ten Films of 2014

I do this at the beginning of every year: I post my list of my favorite films from the previous year here on the blog. And then, almost immediately, I change my list. I change it 50 times. And that’s what will happen here: I’ll post this list, and then I’ll change it 50 times between now and the Academy Awards. I know this because I’ve already changed this list twice in the last hour.

Some notes: I haven’t seen everything yet. Still have to see Foxcatcher, Unbroken, Cake, Under the Skin, Still Alice and a few more. Once I see them, I’ll update my list. But I’ve seen most of the best films from 2014, so it’s time to rank them.

Here we go.

1. The Theory of Everything
2. Birdman
3. Boyhood
4. The Imitation Game
5. American Sniper
6. Interstellar
7. Chef
8. Wild
9. Nightcrawler
10. Gone Girl


What Am I Up To?

I haven’t written anything on here in awhile. That’s my bad. I could tell you that I’ve been busy, that I haven’t had time. But the truth is that I have had time. I just haven’t written.

When the breakup happened in August, I went through a phase where I wrote down my feelings. All of them. And at first, I published them here for the world to read. But then I realized that was probably a bad idea, so I put them behind password protection. I wrote for therapy and to make myself feel better. It was a suggestion from my therapist, and it worked to an extent. I did feel better after venting my feelings.

But then I realized I was probably oversharing. I also realized that my intentions behind the writing I did were something like: my ex will read these posts, and then she will get back together with me. It seemed so simple at the time.

Life is not so simple.

So I decided to stop letting everyone in the world read about my heartache. I kept talking to those close to me. I kept a handwritten journal. I kept seeing my therapist. And, wonder of wonders, I got better. I started focusing on my health and the food I take in. I turned daily visits to the gym into a habit. In doing so, I dropped all the way to 184 pounds. I started at 216 pounds in August. I’ve lost 10% body fat.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. My body looks drastically different than it did three months ago. I have visible muscles, and I can feel strength I’ve never had.

I feel like the changes in my body are a visible reminder of the changes that occurred inside of me, too. I have gone through a lot over the past three months, but I came out the other side stronger than ever. I am happy and I smile and I laugh a lot. My friends have noticed the change in me, and that makes me happy. And I have made one new close friend, and I value her greatly.

I finished the Whole Life Challenge. That’s where the majority of my weight loss happened. Brandy and I tied for first place, and our team finished in the top 80 in the entire world. I enjoyed it so much that I’ll be doing it again in January.

Yesterday, I started a three week weight cut. It’s the same cut used by Mike Dolce when he’s helping fighters cut. My goal is to get down to 170 pounds by December 16. I’m going home for Christmas on December 17, and I’d like to be as small as I can possibly be. I also want to see what fighters experience when they’re going through weight cuts, because I feel like it will give me some perspective. And thus far, I feel great; I’m eating 100% clean foods, and I have tons of energy throughout the day. We’ll see how I feel on December 16 when I get ready to weigh in; for now, I am happy.

And that’s the thing. I’m happy. I have come a long, long way. There have been painful moments over the past three months. I am sure there will be painful moments in the future. But I know I’m equipped to handle them now.


HIIT 100’s

So, in an effort to kick things up a notch in terms of my daily training—my ultimate goal now, after all, is to be roughly 170-178 pounds with abs and visible hip flexors (don’t judge me. These are my goals, and I have valid reasons for them. I promise. Stop staring at me like that. You would understand if I told you)—I started Dr. Jim Stoppani’s famous HIIT 100’s program yesterday.

If you aren’t familiar with the program, here it is in a nutshell: Hell.

It’s designed around the concept of high intensity interval training. I already use HIIT in my running sessions; I’ll warm up, then walk for 2-3 minutes. When those 2-3 minutes are up, I sprint as fast as I can for 1 minute or 90 seconds. When those 90 seconds are up, I return to walking for 2-3 minutes. During my sprinting, my heart rate can hit 160, which is right on the edge of being anaerobic for me. But then I return to walking, and it goes back down to 130-135, which is still in the fat burning zone.

I’m not a fitness expert, but they tell me this is the best way to burn fat. And I can tell you that, looking at the “before” picture I took when I started training hard in early September to looking at the picture I took last week…well, the results are noticeable. A very close friend mine, when I sent her the picture, said “Holy jeebus. That’s a helluva difference.” And today, if I took the same picture again, you’d see an even greater difference. So I am a big believer in HIIT.

Which is why I’m shifting from Stronglifts to HIIT interval training in my strength training. I’m going to blast the rest of this fat off. I’ve lost 10% body fat since I began hardcore training. I have another 10% body fat to melt away before I hit my original goal of 15%. I don’t know if that’s still my ultimate goal – being roughly 12% sounds pretty good right now and would help me accomplish my abs and hip flexors goal. But right now, 15% is a good target.

So today is day 2. I’m excited to get to the gym. It’s easily one of the high points of every single day for me, and I find that it sets the tone for my whole day, even if I am sore as hell.


Heart Rate Variability Training

Today, I began taking my baseline scores for heart rate variability training. I don’t science or math very well, but at its core, HRV is a tool that gives you a good picture of your body’s readiness for difficult and intense training sessions on any given day.

The theory is that, once you have established your baseline HRV scores, you are able to wake up each morning and, using a chest-strapped heart rate monitor (I have a Lifetime Training bluetooth chest strap monitor), get a clear picture of how ready you are for training hard that day.

Green means you’re good to go and you can train as intensely as humanly (or Botterly) possible. Yellow means you should probably stick to medium-intensity training and stretching, while Red means your body is suffering a bit and could use a rest day.

The idea behind HRV is that you are maximizing your training time by training as effectively as possible. I’ve heard about HRV from various fighters over the years, but never thought to try it myself. That is, until a few days ago when I did deadlifts for the first time in four months. The following two days? They’ve been hell. I spent a lot of time in the sauna and spa, but only today am I truly feeling 100%. And that’s probably because I tried to keep on working on (after deadlift day) when my body needed a rest.

I’ve already been cautioned that I’m probably overtraining by the doctor, so this is a tool that will help me see how my body is functioning. Being able to use data and numbers (even though I don’t math) to see how my body is functioning has been a revelation for me, and HRV is going to be a big help.

Fitness, Health

MyHealthScore: September 2014

Lifetime Fitness, the new gym I joined two weeks ago, is the best fitness facility I’ve ever been to. I knew this already, as I was a member back in Katy from 2007-2009. If you’ve never set foot in a Lifetime, I strongly urge you to check it out. Is it pricey? Yes. It’s far more expensive than a regular gym. But given the things you receive as a member—free Crossfit, yoga, and every other class you can think of—it’s well worth the admission. Plus, it’s just nice to go to a place where you can hit free weights, use a squat rack, then hop on one of 14 different kinds of cardio machines before getting in the eucalyptus steam room or the dry sauna or the massive hot tub. And then you can top it off with a swim in one of the massive 10-lane indoor or 12-lane outdoor pools.

This is going to sound like a Lifetime commercial, but I’m a big fan. And one of the other perks is something called MyHealthScore, which is an overall assessment of your health and fitness. With my membership, this costs $20, which is quite cheap when you consider all that the test reveals. I knew I wanted to take the test soon after signing up so I could figure out my baseline score and have something to look back on three months down the road when I take it again.

Here are my results.

Overall score: 76 out of 100. This is not perfect. But it’s much, much higher than I would’ve scored even six weeks ago. I was docked 16 points for high body fat (more on that in a little bit) and 8 points for my glucose being slightly high. The glucose was high because I ate carbs last week (I usually only eat vegetable carbs). That’s easy to manage, and I was barely over the threshold.

Body fat: Currently, my body fat is 28%. When I measured my body fat on August 21, it was 34%. So I’ve made drastic progress, and it is absolutely evident in the way my body looks and in the pants I’m now wearing (size 34, down from 38). My Body Mass Index is 28.5, which is high. I need to get my BMI down under 25 in order to be truly healthy, and my body fat goal is 15%. That’s going to take awhile, and when that day arrives I will have some nice abs. But I am going to get there.

Total Cholesterol: My total cholesterol is 176. Anything below 200mg/dL is desirable. So I’m good here. My drastic change in nutrition has worked wonders here.

TC/HDL Ratio: This measures the relationship between healthy cholesterol levels and your total cholesterol level. Mine is 3.67 to 1. That, again, is in the low side and is desirable. I’m good here.

Blood pressure: My blood pressure is 110/71. These are great numbers for my age.

Triglycerides: Anything lower than 149 is considered low and desirable here. Mine are 88. So again, doing awesome here.

Glucose: My glucose levels are 103. This is slightly high, as desirable is considered to be less than 101. The doc said this is partially due to the processed foods I ate in small quantities last week, and partially due to the fact that I am overtraining. I’m in the gym twice a day, seven days a week, and yeah, that is too much. He has instructed me to rest, and with my regular diet (which includes zero sugars), this will drop down to desirable levels.

Aerobic capacity: My VO2 score is 45.7, which is “in the green” for oxygen intake. I’m very happy about this number.

So, things I am going to work on in the hopes of improving my score on the next text: Not overtraining. Resting more often. Being cognizant of not taking in sugars or processed foods. Flexibility. And finally, mixing in more cardio so I can continue, along with my healthy food lifestyle, to shed that body fat and get it down below 20% and onwards to 15%.