Friday, October 30, 2009

The Pink Cooler

Recently, I've been doing a fair amount of traveling, and every time I go through security with my pink cooler, I get questions from the TSA workers, and am often told they need to do a search of the cooler. I don't mind, because I've learned how to pack my food according to FAA regulations.

FAA regulations around bringing food on airplanes? Well, not quite. What I'm referring to are the carry-on regulations for liquids and gels. Bottles of 2 oz or smaller of liquids or gels are allowed; however, anything larger than that instantly becomes the property of TSA. Which means if, for some reason, you forgot to move your can of Spike energy drink from your cooler into your suitcase, the TSA will become the proud owner of said can of Spike (I hope the Miami TSA workers enjoyed it!).

Did you know that peanut butter is considered a liquid? Yep. Found that one out first-hand at the Bozeman, MT airport on my way to the NPC California State show. Two weeks earlier, I had flown to San Francisco to compete at the Contra Costa show (where I subsequently won the overall and took home a full-size sword. Getting that home is another story for another day), and didn't have any problems with the small Tupperwares of peanut butter in my cooler. The TSA worker I ran into on my way to LA was not about to let me transport the very dangerous, very liquidy peanut butter to California, though. She informed me that since it was a liquid, I needed to either go check it or throw it away. The offending peanut butter was an $8 jar of salt-free natural Maranatha peanut butter. It was neither cheap nor easy to find. I knew I wouldn't have a car in LA, so I was concerned about trying to find my way to a store that actually carried natural, salt-free peanut butter. As I scraped the Tupperwares clean and handed the jar over to the TSA worker, I nastily informed her (through the tears streaming down my face) that she better enjoy that jar of PB, since it's difficult to find and very expensive. She pretended like she actually cared (didn't do a very good job, though), and then asked to see the plastic silverware set I had in the top of the cooler. She very nearly took my plastic knife away, despite more tear-filled pleas. She finally relented and let me through security.

Lessons learned:
  1. Check PB in suitcase, or prepare to find a store at your destination.
  2. Always smile and be polite to TSA workers.
  3. TSA workers are oblivious to tears and hysterics.
 I now travel sans PB, and every time that TSA worker sees me, she smiles and asks if I have any PB. Apparently she either remembers me as The Girl with the Pink Cooler or The Girl who Freaked Out and Cried over Peanut Butter. Regardless, I'm now memorable to the Bozeman TSA workers.

So if my pink cooler doesn't contain PB, what does it contain? Simply put, all the foods I need for the entire trip, including travel back home. I cook all my food in advance of my travel, weigh everything, and package it for each day. Ziploc baggies are easier to pack than bulky Tupperware, so I put everything in either tin foil or baggies, and then put each day's food in one gallon-size baggie. I write the day on each bag, and the time on some of the smaller items so I eat them at the correct time (ie I may have different amounts of oatmeal, so I write AM and PM on the different baggies).

My cooler always contains one plastic spoon, knife, and fork, 2 plastic plates, a plastic cup (for protein shakes), a handful of napkins, and extra baggies in all sizes. I always make sure I have at least 2 gallon-size baggies for ice, because water from the ice melting will leak out of the bag and get everything in the cooler wet if I don't put the first baggie in another baggie.

But wait ... if TSA security doesn't allow liquids or gels, how do I keep my food cold? Since TSA took possession of my (really nice!) gel ice packs several years ago, I learned some airport secrets.
  1. Pack food as the last thing before leaving the house. This doesn't mean I don't have it ready (it's all prepared the night before travel); it means I pack it in my cooler the minute before I walk out the door.
  2. Always smile and be polite to TSA workers (see #2 Lessons Learned).
  3. Buy bottles of cold water after going through security to keep food cool on a short flight.
  4. Get ice at bars. Bartenders are most agreeable and don't give me the odd looks the McDonald's workers give me when I ask for ice.
Once I get to my hotel, the first thing I do is put the food in the mini-fridge. If there isn't a mini-fridge available (I always ask for one when I book the room), I change the ice in the cooler. Yes, it IS possible to keep food cold in a cooler for up to 4 days. Just change the ice twice a day and the food stays cold. I also locate a microwave (again, I request one when I book the room). ALL hotels have microwaves. I've actually walked into a hotel kitchen and asked a worker to please heat up my hamburger at 5 am. (He gave me a funny look, but I smiled and thanked him a lot). I've also heated up my food in the employee lounge at one hotel because that was the only microwave in the building.

So as I'm getting ready to travel in a couple days, I need to make sure I get to the grocery store and get everything I need. I can also pick up a couple things when I get there. Hope these tips help!

Happy Travels! :)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brush with Fame

I woke up this morning feeling like I got hit by 10 trucks. One at a time. My back was sore, my chest was sore, my tri's were sore, and my legs and calves were sore. I had absolutely NO desire to get up and do cardio ... yet there I was at 7:30 am walking incline intervals on the treadmill. I guess that's a demonstration of dedication (or stupidity, as I'm sure some would agree). I'm glad I went to the gym this morning because I proved to myself that I'm serious about this whole training program I'm doing.

I'm on Week 7 of the keto diet and feel like I may be getting a bit leaner. I did morning cardio on Monday and today. I'm going to head back to the gym in a little while to do another session of cardio.

I picked up a Tuesday evening shift at the gym, and last night was my first Tuesday night (I usually only work Friday evenings). Kevin Levrone (winningest bodybuilder in history) came in to train, and actually remembered meeting me a couple months ago when I came out to visit Jerry. While he was training, Branden Ray stopped by to train for the last time before his big move out to California (his girlfriend lives out there). Branden is the favorite to win the Nationals coming up in a couple weeks, and he's looking GOOD!! He's about 220 lbs and only 5'5" tall with a 27" waist. Smaller than mine right now! Yikes!

Jerry met Branden this summer and got to know him a bit. And he apparently couldn't stop talking about me, so Branden was anxious to meet me (prolly so Jerry would shut up about me!). ;) I watched him train, and wow - he's intense!

There were a couple other big guys in the gym at that time too, and I was reminded again of the other reason I moved out here: the bodybuilding community is alive and growing! I had a smile on my face almost the entire evening, and even got a couple pictures of the guys while they trained. I can't wait to meet more people in the fitness industry!

Friday, October 16, 2009


How to deal with training and diet during a particularly stressful week ...

This past week I was in Montana leading a training class for work. I've been here for 5 days ... which means I traveled 7 hours, stayed in a hotel, and was on my feet for 9 hours every day. Being on my feet for 9 hours a day is exhausting, not to mention the other factors of travel and hotel. So how did I manage my diet and training?

I stuck to my diet all week with a couple M&M's mixed in with my trail mix. Gotta live a little. :) Each day, lunch was catered in, so I just found items that had meat and veggies in them, along with some cheese for fats. I supplemented with trail mix and some low carb protein bars (Power Crunch - yum!). My last meal of the day, I ordered something from room service - a burger or chicken. I realized that the burger seemed to take too long to digest, so I switched to chicken the last few days and woke up hungry (which is the goal - means my metabolism is kicking in). I'm looking forward to my carb meal of sushi tomorrow morning!

My training schedule wasn't quite so easy to stick to. I did 30 min of cardio every morning at 6 am. Most of the days I did incline treadmill intervals at 3.1 mph. Doesn't sound like much, but it definitely gets my heart rate up! I trained on Monday and Tuesday, with evening cardio on Monday. I was supposed to do cardio on Tuesday evening, but by the time I finished my training, I was completely exhausted. I called my boyfriend, sobbing because I didn't have the energy to do cardio and felt like I was letting him and myself down. He assured me that it'd be better for me to rest than to try to push through a cardio session.

Wednesday was morning and evening cardio, and Thursday was morning cardio with a light Active-Recovery training session. We decided that AR would be a better option for me instead of trying to push through an intense workout. By this time in the week, I was fried, mentally and physically. I knew if I tried to push through a tough training session, I'd break down in tears and would get frustrated. This morning I did 20 min of cardio on the recumbent bike.

So while I wasn't able to maintain my intense training schedule the whole week, I was able to keep active and at least do something in the gym. It's all about modifying as you go along, and making adjustments to fit circumstances.

I can tell I'm dropping a bit of weight too (hooray!), because the pants that fit really tight when I packed them last Saturday were hanging off my hips yesterday. I don't think I've ever been so excited to not have clothes fit!

I'm glad to have this week finally over! Each day was long, stressful, and busy. I'm proud of myself for staying on track, even if I did have to modify training a bit. I'm motivated for some intense training coming up, and am looking forward to seeing some changes next week!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Impatience and a New Plan

I had a meltdown last night.

I just completed 5 weeks of the keto diet, 2 weeks of training, and 1 week of cardio. I was starting to feel ok about myself and thought I was seeing some progress. And then I tried to find outfits to wear to work this week ... and discovered that I haven't made any progress at all.

Since I now work from home, I've been living in sweats and workout clothes. I find jeans and a comfortable t-shirt to wear on the weekends, but I haven't had to dress up for work. So when I was going through my wardrobe (read: boxes and bags of clothes yet to be unpacked), I had to try on dress pants to find some that fit. I realized I'm in my largest size pants again. Sigh. I don't know how this happened, as I've been strict on my diet and my workouts are more intense than ever.

I hate feeling so unhappy with myself. And I really don't like my physique right now. So I made the executive decision to start contest prep early. Since I'm traveling this week, I don't have my food completely prepared, so I'll begin prep next Monday. What's the difference between what I've been doing and contest prep? Well, there are several differences.

Food ...Right now, I don't weigh my food; in prep, everything gets weighed, counted, or measured. I'll also go back to writing down everything I eat, and having set meal times - every 3 hours. All my meals will be whole foods; no bars or protein drinks.

Cardio ... I'll increase my morning cardio to an hour before work on an empty stomach. Currently, my cardio is a half hour in the morning, and another half hour several days a week. It's also not completely consistent.

Training ... My training will remain the same; it's already intense and consistent

Supplements ... Vitamins will remain the same (Multi, C, Calcium). I've been trying the new fat burner, Top Secret, by Bodywell Nutrition. I haven't yet decided if I'm going to continue with that, or switch to Hot Rox Extreme by Biotest, or maybe even Hydroxycut Hardcore by MuscleTech.

In a nutshell, contest prep is more intense, time-consuming, and consistent. Everything is planned, prepared, and measured. Training and diet are always in the back of my mind, and I'm very aware how I look and feel day to day. I'll start taking progress pictures once a week (same time, same location, same lighting), and tracking my weight.

I know I talked about a Transformation in my last post, but I've decided that I'm not patient enough go about it the way I'd planned. I want to see results sooner, and therefore, I'm increasing the intensity of the plan and transitioning into contest prep mode. Once I drop some weight and body fat, I'll re-assess and come up with another plan.

It's time to get serious!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend posted a thread about an 8-week transformation that he and I are doing. I had no idea I was in the middle of a "transformation"! These past 5 weeks that I've been on my keto diet was just a way for me to lose some water weight and get to a leaner starting point for contest prep, not a "transformation."

Transformation implies that I have things I need to transform. It was a bit of a rude awakening to realize and finally recognize that I DO need to transform. I haven't been happy with my physique these past 4 months, and after some serious struggles, I've finally buckled down and screwed my head on straight. During this process, it never once occurred to me that I was "transforming," but I guess I was. A Transformation is merely putting a name to the process I'm following. Now that it's been defined, I guess I should put a bit more structure in place.

I'll be posting some training and diet highlights, along with progress pictures. Yes - Before, During, and After pictures, which is really scary! I've always taken progress pics during contest prep, but the early pics are never shown to anyone but my trainer. I can't believe I'm posting my Before pictures here! However scary this is for me, I feel it's not only necessary, but will be helpful for others.

A transformation is a very real process done by real people, not just celebrities or pro athletes. It can be done while holding a full-time job and balancing a family and other responsibilities. It's challenging - absolutely! It requires a complete lifestyle change for some ... a lifestyle that sometimes goes against the norm. It requires intense discipline and focus, and it's difficult!

I don't drink and I don't eat carbs. I get up early to do cardio before work, I'm at the gym up to 3 times a day, and I'm in bed before the evening news is on. And I love my life! The rewards more than make up for the sacrifices. When I'm standing on stage being judged, I know I did everything I could to transform my physique into the muscular, lean sculpture I'm presenting. I know that every sacrifice, every cardio session, every meal, every training session, every rejected M&M was worth it.

So today is the middle of Week 5 of my keto diet. I'm not struggling with carb cravings this week; instead, I'm just very hungry. We added cardio this week, so I'm expending even more calories than last week.

Here is this week's schedule:

Mon - 30 min AM Cardio, Train Back/Bi's, 20 min PM Cardio
Tues - Train Chest
Wed - 30 min AM Cardio, Train Shoulders/Calves, 30 min PM Cardio
Thurs - 30 min AM Cardio, Train Tri's?
Fri - 30 min AM Cardio, Train Legs?, 30 min PM Cardio (if I can move after training legs!)

These pictures were taken Monday, Oct 5 after AM cardio (when I look my leanest, of course!).

 As a comparison, here are some pictures that were taken the day of Jr Nationals on June 19, 2009.

While I don't expect to maintain this conditioning year-round, it's a goal to look even better than this in 2010. These pictures represent my best conditioning ever, and they're the standard I'm using as I prepare for competition next year.

It's clear I have quite the transformation ahead of me. I'm excited about it, and looking forward to measuring my progress. Here's to transforming!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cravings and Results

I'm finally starting to feel a little better! My cough is getting better, and I had more energy today than I've had in awhile. A couple more days of prednisone and some sleep, and I should have this pesky bronchitis kicked!

I trained delts today, and wow! What a workout! I had phone calls during the time Jerry and I usually train together, so I had to train by myself, which was somewhat disappointing. He designed a training program for us to follow, with some exercises different, depending on what we each need to work on. Since we both need to bring up our delts, we did the same exercises today. And honestly, I don't think I've ever exhausted my delts this much in my 11 years of training! By the time I was finished with the workout, I could barely lift my arm to fix my ponytail! I'm curious to see how I'll feel tomorrow.

I was very hungry after the workout, and then got sleepy a couple hours later. I know the intense hunger means I'm getting healthier, which is good. Feeling sleepy means I'm still fighting something, though. And the workout took a lot out of me.

As far as my diet goes, I'm still on track! This has been a difficult week for me, as I've really been craving carbs and sugar (especially donuts!). The previous 3 weeks really weren't too difficult mentally, but I've really struggled this week. I think it's a combination of things: week 4 of the diet, 2 carb-up days in a row (Sat & Sun), female issues, and my body getting healthier (which increases my appetite). While I haven't actually picked up anything I'm not supposed to eat, I don't immediately walk by "forbidden" foods either. I linger and imagine how they'd taste. I'm hoping next week will get easier.

Today I noticed that I seem to be getting a little leaner too! I could actually see some ab lines and some of my serratus too. I didn't feel any leaner, but seemed to look it just a bit. Just enough to keep me motivated and on track! I can't wait to see the results I'll be getting soon. Cardio starts next week!