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[Client Spotlight] Carmen: the vegan cycling and weight lifting powerhouse

Meet Carmen: the vegan weight lifting and cycling powerhouse! Carmen has been training with me since June 2014. Her complete shift in lifestyle over the past year deserves highlighting – not to mention her impressive athletic accomplishments that include performing unassisted chin-ups for reps, and completing a 120-kilometre charity cycling event last week! In the pic below, Carmen is on the right.

Carmen, vegan cyclist and weightlifter

Carmen is now gearing up for her first triathlon next month, and continues to challenge herself at the gym. She says, “Grab onto any challenge Karina throws your way and you will never look back! Hey, swimming 750 meters [at the upcoming race] is nothing after doing a challenge of 3000 meters a week for a month!”

Carmen and her partner (a client of mine for 2 years and another vegan cycling and lifting powerhouse) often train together – which sets them both up for success. Carmen says, “Don’t underestimate the power of exercising as a family! When you share similar goals, it is easier to meet them as there is a support mechanism and a healthy mutual ‘guilt trip’ when bowing out of exercise or eating healthy. Instead of feeling guilty for being at the gym versus spending the weekend with those you love, exercise together and then have the rest of the day to enjoy each other’s company knowing you did something good for your body and mind.”

Read on for my interview with Carmen.


Carmen, vegan cyclist and weightlifter

How long have you been working with Karina?

I started my training with Karina back in June 23, 2014. What a year it has been!

Why did you start working with Karina? What was happening in your life that made you take this step?

When I hit 46 I started to notice a marked slowdown in my metabolism. Yes, lucky me I had entered into my perimenopause stage which translated into additional inches around my waist! I was looking for a fun way to exercise like boxing, which I had done in the past, but could not find a good fit. During Vancouver’s VegFest last year, my partner introduced me to her trainer Karina, whom I had heard lots about. Karina, in her infinite wisdom, asked me what I liked to do and hooked me with “Come and see me, I can show you some fun boxing exercises that will do the trick for you”….well the rest is history!

What were some of the hurdles you dealt with as you got started?

One of my biggest hurdles was being quite anaemic for years and did not know it! For all you women out there, get your blood tested! Typically unless you are way below the norm, your doctor may not flag this as an issue. The scale for Ferritin is 15-180, which is a crazy scale.

I was at a 9 and had the energy of sloth (at least I did not look like one)! Now I take a kick ass iron supplement (FeraMax-150; consult your doctor) and I am around the 35-40 mark. What a difference.

Fast-forward one year of eating smarter, exercising 6 days a week, and training with Karina – and I am a completely different person! I feel like I can accomplish anything! In fact, I just completed 120 km bike ride from Burnaby to Harrison Hot Springs for a charity…what a rush. (This is from the person that previously got tired from walking just a few blocks.)

What was difficult for you?

I had to change my perceptions. At the time I thought that exercising twice a week was sufficient; I remember my jaw dropping when Karina informed me that my goal should be double that if not 5 or 6 times a week. “Seriously?!” was my retort. And if you think about it, there are 168 hours in a week, putting aside at least 6 of those for exercise, is not asking too much.

Another challenge was going to a gym and being literally lost! I would pick a station and lose interest immediately or not even know how to use it properly. Coming to the gym equipped with Karina’s workout program made a world of difference.

What was easy for you as you started?

Many will tell you that I have an extremist personality, and they are right! So once I felt empowered at the gym and felt the benefits of exercising there was nothing stopping me; exercise became not a task but something I look forward to.

Before training with Karina I would wake up to my alarm and find any excuse to reset it and go back to bed. (Come on, I know I am not alone on that one!) Another challenge was halting my training as I was on the road for work every other week; now I book hotels based on their gym quality and make sure that I work out even at the end of a long day. Karina even put together a 15-minute workout that I could do in my room if I could not get to the gym when I was on the road…. Trust me, it is such an intense 15 minutes that it kicks my butt to the gym instead!

Carmen, vegan cyclist and weightlifter

Are your reasons for increasing your health and fitness different now than they were when you started working with Karina? If yes, how?

I would not say my reasons are different but rather my goals have changed; I want to take my fitness to the next level. I have lost about three inches around my waist, have muscle definition in my legs and arms and want to maintain this. Trust me, take 10 days off for a vacation and the weight creeps back up - welcome to middle age! But beyond maintenance I want to do things I never thought I could, like a sprint triathlon in August!

What are some of the day-to-day changes/adjustments you had to make (and continue to make) to maintain and improve your fitness?

I was vegan before I met Karina and it was one of the things that attracted me to her training wisdom. But it did not mean that I was always making smart choices when it came to the food I ingested.

Karina gently introduced the idea of logging my food though MyFitnessPal and set a goal in the amount of protein I needed. This was a great tool as it made me make smart choices and drop dumb-ass ones like eating popcorn at the movies – a sacred ritual for me. Did you know that a large movie theatre popcorn bag contains 1200 calories? That is all your workouts in a week thrown down the drain, yikes! So now I make my own popcorn (Karina’s recipe) and I think twice before “treating” myself and reaching for a bag of potato chips. There are more than 450 calories in a small bag – really, do you know how much yummy healthy food I can eat instead? Now it does not mean I do not eat treats, I am just more conscious about them.

What does health mean to you?

It means everything. I want to live a long healthy life without being a burden to family or society; if I can increase and extend my quality of life by eating right and exercising, then why not?

Why is good health important to you?

We cannot control the cards we are dealt but there is definitely a circle of influence upon which we make a decision either way. Take my sister for example; it was a rare cancer that took her away seven years ago at the age of 47. That is my age today – way too young. I do not know what she could have done differently, but I do know she had a very stressful life which left no time for herself.

For me that was a turning point. I became vegan, got rid of petrochemical products wherever I could, and made a paradigm shift in my work persona so that I could eliminate stress. Now that I have adopted a very active lifestyle and make smarter eating choices, I feel I am doing everything I can. The rest is up to whatever life throws at me.

What’s your secret (or not-so-secret) health/fitness superpower?

It goes without saying that being vegan is one of the biggest advantages to being healthy!

Carmen, vegan fitness training progress

Check out Carmen's one year physique progress! As you read in Carmen's interview, fitness isn't all about aesthetics, but it's certainly a great side effect of working toward athletic performance goals!

Have questions? Wanna chat health and fitness? Just wanna say hi? Get in touch with me any time.


Download Karina's 350-item vegan grocery list!

Vegan Grocery List by Karina Inkster

Need inspiration for healthy plant-based eating? Need to spice up your daily meal routine? Download your free vegan grocery list! With more than 350 healthy items (some of which might be new to you), you'll be a vegan nutrition superhero in no time.



Download your free vegan strength training ebook by Coach K!

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