Friday, December 31, 2010

Goals and Resolutions

Today is New Years' Eve, a time for reflections on the past year and thoughts of what the new year will bring. It also brings the inevitable "New Years' Resolution."

I have to admit, I'm a bit jaded on the whole NY Resolution thing, mostly because what begin as grand intentions very rarely evolve into long-term plans or actions. Case in point: ever notice how busy the gym is from January to March? Filled with clueless people wandering around like they're lost? By April, the gym is back to the regulars, and all the "New Years' Resolutioners" have gone back to their televisions and couches. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps. But it's been my observation that very few of those people actually stick to their resolution plan for more than a month or two. (And the ones who actually DO continue with their resolutions? I salute you!)

This is the first time I've put this much thought into a "NY Resolution." Usually, my "resolutions" are things like "I will swear less this year," or "I will give more to those in need." While those statements are good intentions, they're usually quickly forgotten and abandoned.

Because of my negative feelings about NY Resolutions, I was going to write about how I'm going to make GOALS, not RESOLUTIONS for this year. So I looked up the words "goal" and "resolution." And guess what I discovered? BOTH terms describe my plans for 2011!

2. a resolve or determination: to make a firm resolution to do something.
3. the act of resolving or determining upon an action or course of action, method, procedure, etc.
4. the mental state or quality of being resolved or resolute; firmness of purpose.
5. the act or process of resolving or separating into constituent or elementary parts.

resolve, determination, perseverance, tenacity; strength, fortitude.

the result or achievement toward which effort is directed; aim; end.

1. target; purpose, object, objective, intent, intention. 2. finish.

Some may see these two words as synonymous; however, I see them as completely different. "Resolution" focuses more on the process, while "goal" focuses more on the end result. And yet, these terms used together create a strong action plan.

Operation Pro

I've already started this plan, but 2011 will bring in the increased level of intensity, hard work, and yes, suffering (don't get me started on this term; that's a whole 'nother debate for a different day). My "resolution" for Operation Pro involves a course of action, a plan and process, and a firmness of purpose, or tenacity, if you will. My "goal" is to win my Pro card at Team Universe.

I'm excited about this coming year, because I feel I finally have a strong action plan and a set timeline to follow (trust me - this is crucial for us planner-type people).

What are your resolutions and goals?

When you're thinking of what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it in 2011, remember to think about a course of action and a plan. So many resolutions fail because they're simple statements, which is the state of mind, but they lack a plan of action and process. If a simple plan and milestones are set, it's much easier to achieve the end result, or the goal.

Here's to a healthy, successful, and exciting new year, filled with friends, family, and fun!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

We wish you a happy, healthy holiday season filled with family, friends, and fun!

Merry Christmas!
Kari, Jerry
Ed, Ginger, Nikko, & Bruno

(Note the skeptical expressions on the kitties' faces. Also note the intensely curious expressions on the dogs' faces.)

Ever try to set the camera timer, grab two cats (who dislike the dogs), and make it into the picture frame within 10 seconds? I dare you to try!

First Attempt

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Other Relationship

I have a confession to make. I've been spending a lot of time with a certain someone. Every morning, I have a date with him. And every evening, we see each other too. I don't spend as much time with him on weekends, although I do dress up to meet him on Saturday and Sunday mornings. During contest prep, we spend so much time together, I yearn for a break away from him. But I still keep our dates, because he's an important element in my success.

Yes, J is aware of this relationship. And he actually encourages it!

Who am I talking about?

Why, Mr. Treadmill, of course! (Srsly, who did you think I was talking about?!)

Mr. Dreadmill at home

This is Mr. Treadmill in his home attire. He looks a bit different at the gym, but his personality is the same.

I've spent many holidays chillin' with Mr. Treadmill, and for a couple years, he was my Valentine's Day date. I wake up early just to hang out with him, and sometimes during prep, he keeps me up past my bedtime.

I have a love/hate relationship with him. I don't particularly enjoy our dates (and I gotta be honest - sometimes I dread them), but like I said, he's an integral component of my success. He helps me get lean, which helps me win trophies ... and hopefully he'll help me win my Pro card this year!

And now I'm off for my evening date with Mr. Treadmill!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Failure is Part of the Journey

This quote was posted on Staggs Fitness site this morning, and I liked it so much, I wanted to share it too.
You've failed many times, although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn't you? Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot.

R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on.
English novelist John Creasey got 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.
Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.

Don't worry about failure. Worry about the chances you miss when you don't even try.

~ Wall Street Journal

How many times do we let failure slow us down or even stop us from reaching our goals? How many times do we let doubt creep into our minds and sabotage our own attempts at greatness?

Don't let yourself stop yourself from following your dreams. Don't let yourself talk yourself out of trying and trying until you succeed. Failure is part of the journey toward your goal ... accept it, learn from it, and then use that knowledge to continue your journey.

Let's make today a great day!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Popcorn Pothole

One of my goals of this blog is to be open, honest, and real with not only myself, but also with you. While I haven't entered the super-strict phase of Operation Pro yet, I have tightened up my diet and training. I'm feeling good, strong, and focused. But today I'm struggling with some strong urges to dig into the flavored popcorn I bought for our Christmas celebration tomorrow.

So many treats in stores this time of year!

I haven't dug into the popcorn ... but I'm tempted to. Sure, as competitors, we deal with temptations on an everyday basis. Sometimes it's really easy to say "No," and sometimes it takes a lot of willpower. I'm happy to say that I'm choosing willpower today, and will not dig into the popcorn until tomorrow.

I don't feel like I'm depriving myself, even though I'm choosing not to eat the popcorn today. I know full well that it will taste just as good tomorrow. I'm remembering my Operation Pro goal, and know that popcorn is not in the plan today. I know that if I eat it today, I'll be disappointed in myself for not following the plan, when I know that I'm fully capable of following it. I also know that I'll have a better workout without the extra sugar in my body, and I won't run the risk of having a blood sugar crash at any point today.

I realize that things are going to get more difficult, especially when I start my actual contest prep diet, so I'm not complaining. I'm trying to prepare myself for a mentally challenging, yet inherently rewarding prep. My craving for the popcorn is just one small pothole in the road to turning pro.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Bodybuilder's Perspective on Being Hardcore

Last month, I was pondering what it means to be hardcore in the gym. I came to the conclusion that "hardcore" means a dirty gym, hard training, '80's clothes, and a fanny pack. When J read the blog, he disagreed with a couple things, and wanted to share his own opinion. So I interviewed him to get a bodybuilder's perspective of what it means to be "hardcore."

In a nutshell, J's definition of hardcore is "no frills, go to the gym, get the job done." It's a state of mind.

What's your definition of "hardcore"? What kind of gym do you train in? Health club? No frills gym? Home basement?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lusting for a New Suit

As some of you may know, I'm moderately active on Twitter (meaning I'm online during the weekday, but rarely in evenings or weekends). I've met several wonderful people through Twitter, and have had some great conversations regarding fitness, training, diet, and competing. A couple weeks ago, a few of us were chatting about competition suits, and I started thinking about whether I wanted to sell two of my 2-piece suits. I also started thinking about a new suit for this year.

I usually wear the same suit for all competitions in a two-year span, then I get a new suit. Since suits are so expensive (well, at least the ones I want are expensive), it doesn't make sense to me to wear them only one time. I bought a new (to me) suit last year, and wore it at both competitions. It fits me better than any other suit I've owned, and it's beautiful ... so why am I still thinking about getting a new suit?

My last two suits have been pre-owned, which has saved me a bundle of money. I was able to get pro-level suits for about half the cost of a new one, and I got a ton of compliments on both of them. I haven't custom ordered a new suit for about five years, though, and I keep thinking that it'd be so wonderful to have a suit designed to my exact measurements. At this point, a new suit isn't in my budget, though. (sigh)

I do have two suits that I could sell, but haven't decided if I even want to sell them at all. J had a good idea of putting the suits in a box frame along with some stage photos and hanging them on the wall. I have to admit, I kind of like that idea!

For you competitors ... how many times (years) do you wear a suit? Have you ever purchased a used suit? What were your experiences?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Operation Pro Explained

You've been hearing about Operation Pro in my past couple blogs ... but what exactly does it entail?

It's Go Time!

Monday, December 13, 2010

All I Want For Christmas ...

Every year, my mom asks everyone in our family to create a Christmas List with ideas of what we want for Christmas. When I was younger, I'd just open the Sears catalog to the toy section and circle all the toys I wanted. Cuz really, who wanted something as boring as clothes?!

Now that I'm older (and have fully embraced my planning and organizational tendencies), I create an Excel spreadsheet, complete with item, size, price, store where it can be purchased, image of the item, and website link. (Yes, I actually do this, cuz hey, I figure the more thorough I am with the list, the less questions the person who picks my name has.)

When I created my list this year, I discovered it contained mostly items pertaining to working out. Of course, it contained expensive workout clothes, among other items. J's list, not coincidentally, also contained several gym-related items. As I thought about it, I realized that people's Christmas lists are really a reflection of themselves: their interests, their tastes, and their lifestyle. Since J and I spend a fair amount of time in the gym (him more than me, since he's a trainer), it's only natural that our lists would include training items and gym clothes.

What's on your list this year? Do you feel it's an accurate representation of your lifestyle?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Operation Pro

I'm swamped with projects at work, so I don't have time for a long post. Just wanted to give you a quick update that Operation Pro has officially begun!

Operation Pro is my focus for the next 31 weeks. It's a clean diet, intense workouts, and a focused mentality. I have to admit, my focus has wavered quite a bit since my last show. I've debated competing in Bikini, then decided to stick with Figure. Then I incorporated plyos into my workout ... and discovered that they don't work for my body. Then I wanted to drop some weight to maintain at a lower weight, and then I decided not to.

Enough wavering back and forth! Thank you for sticking with me on my off-season roller coaster ride! Now I'm asking for your support for the next 31 weeks while I train for my title match: Team Universe.

If I want that pro card, I need to focus on it. As IFBB Pro Candice Houston said in an interview earlier this year,
"If you were a Pro, how would you train? How would you eat?"

I need to train like a Pro and eat like a Pro.

And most of all, I need to THINK like a Pro. I need to believe in myself ... to believe that I CAN earn my Pro card.

It's Go Time! Let's do this thing!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Speedbump and Thanksgiving

For the past month or so, I've been wrestling with the issues I discussed in my Title Match blog. Namely, do I really want to give my all to my Pro card quest this year, or do I want to try to have some life balance? I have to admit, the life balance option is far more appealing ... yet ultimately, less satisfying. So ... I've made the decision to just go for it! I'm excited! And scared.

Leaping off the threshold ... kind of

I was all set to take the reins on my diet this past Monday ... and then I got sick. I'm not just talking about a cold or sinus issues (cuz I train and diet through those issues). I'm talking about stomach issues and a fever. I actually went home from work on Monday afternoon, which I very, very rarely do. (Srsly, I have a desk job, where I just sit all day. I have to be really sick before I go home from work.)

I've been on a saltine crackers-pedialite-Jello diet for the past two days, which feels really weird to me. I'm so used to eating on a schedule, that it felt weird to not eat much during the day. And I can't remember the last time I had saltines. I can't help worrying slightly about losing muscle mass by not training or eating any protein for two days (strange, I know, but it's the mindset of a competitor). I'm well aware that my body needs rest, and it's depleted, so I don't want to push it and prolong getting well, but I'm itching to eat some protein and get to the gym again!

Giving thanks

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I fully intend to celebrate without thinking about training or diet (not that I'll be eating much cuz of my tummy issues anyway). Gotta be honest here, I'm so sick of hearing and reading about all the tips to "stay fit during the holidays" and "how to lose weight during the holidays." Why do fitness people think it's not ok to enjoy holiday food once a year? Unless you're in contest prep, there's absolutely no reason NOT to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. There's no need to go for a run after dinner, or do morning cardio so you won't feel so guilty about eating. Detach guilt from food. Ok, 'nuff said about that.

Eye of the Tiger

I'm ready to do this thing. I'm going to take a couple days to let my body fully recover, and then it's on like Donkey Kong. (Anyone remember that game? Did I just date myself?) J and I have talked about my approach to competing this year, and we both realize we'll face challenges and frustrations along the way, especially when we're both dieting at the same time (yikes!). It's so important to discuss this decision with close friends and family, though; I don't want to run the risk of alienating people who mean a lot to me. I know some people won't understand, and that's ok. All I ask for is support, and an occasional encouraging comment.

Team Universe 2011

My next show is on July 9, 2011. I have 32 weeks to get myself into the best conditioning of my life, so when I walk out onto that stage, there's no doubt in the judges' minds who should win.
“Success is not measured by what you accomplish, but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds."
~ Orison Swett Marden

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Figure Girl World is Official!

Figure Girl World is now an official website! Yep - check the URL ... no more "blogspot" in the link! I also want to let you all know that I appreciate all of my readers and official "followers" so much! You have all inspired me to actually spend money on my blog (this is a big deal cuz I'm a notorious cheapskate).

If there are any topics you'd like me to address or discuss, please let me know! I'm open to suggestions and love hearing from you. :)

~ Kari

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Title Match

"Have you ever had a huge goal? Something really big that you dedicated yourself to? Something that consumed you?"

Good question. J asked me that last week while we were discussing competition plans for next year. I pondered the questions all week, and then when we watched the Rocky movies on Sunday evening, it brought the conversation to the forefront of my mind again. This question keeps running through my head like a skipping CD:

"Have you ever dedicated yourself fully to something?"

I could argue that I dedicate myself fully to every competition I do. But is that really the truth? Do I do everything I possibly can to win the show? And right now, am I truly doing everything I possibly can to achieve my Pro card?

Before you say, "Yeah, you're dedicated, Kari!" think about this: I've always tried to find a balance between my prep and other things in my life, such as work, family, friendships, and relationships. I've always said that "prep is my own thing - it's not anyone else's issue." And so I've tried to still lead a halfway normal life, doing "normal" things like going out dancing, going out to eat (either finding something not too detrimental to my diet on the menu or even bringing my own food), and being an attentive girlfriend.

But as I really think about it ... did I really do a good job balancing it all? Or was I simply doing an adequate job and not really succeeding in all areas?

I keep asking myself these questions:
  • "What if I gave it my all?"
  • "What is my 'all'?"
  • "What does it mean to give everything?"
  • "What would giving everything entail?"
  • "Could I really do it?"
  • "Am I mentally strong enough?"
These are not feelings of self-doubt; they're simply a deep introspection and honest search for the truth. And since this blog is about me being honest with myself and with others, I'm going to open up and share with you some of the things I've been grappling with in my mind lately.

What does it mean to "give my all"?

Let's get this out of the way: Since I compete naturally, giving my all does NOT include taking drugs, prescription fat burners, or prescription diuretics. So that's not even an option.

I suspect that my "all" means training hard from now all the way up to the show. Not that I don't already train intensely, but my focus would be strictly on the exercises and muscle groups I need to improve for the show. I keep remembering the scenes of Rocky training in a dungeon or in the snow in Russia - he trained with an intense purpose. Heavy training may mean getting bigger and carrying more weight than I'm comfortable carrying, looking bigger than I prefer (cuz let's face it - most of us girls don't want to feel like we look "big").

Hardcore training!

It means dieting harder than I ever have before. That doesn't mean fewer calories (don't want to destroy my metabolism after all!), but it does mean no Treat meals through the whole prep period. That's right - no cookies. (Can't believe I just wrote that.) I've never dieted without periodic Treat meals before. I'm talking about a 16 - 20 week prep ... which is about 5 months of no carbs.

Wait a minute ... I said no Treats, but I bet you're asking yourself why I just said no carbs too. The reason for no carbs is because I use the Keto diet to get lean: high protein, high fat, no direct carbs. Before you get your posing suit in a bunch, remember that every body is different, and my body does NOT process carbs efficiently. I've tried several other approaches, but none have been as effective for me as keto. And believe it or not, I have the most energy on keto, and don't lose muscle.

So, to recap thus far, my "all" includes 35 weeks of intense training, with 16 - 20 of those weeks doing straight keto, no Treats, no carbs. (Am I crazy?!)

What does it mean to give everything?

Well, I guess that giving everything means not attempting to lead a "balanced" life. It means dedicating everything I do to my goal - every activity I do, every piece of food I put in my mouth brings me a step closer to earning that Pro card. I would not attempt to do Normal activities like sight-seeing at the Smithsonian, going on vacations or family visits, or spending the day at the beach. Essentially, my social life would be put on hold for roughly 5 months. I wouldn't worry about being a good daughter, sister, friend, or girlfriend. I wouldn't move to Russia, like Rocky did, but I would essentially isolate myself.

Training in any condition

This last part sounds awful, to be honest! I don't know if I could intentionally isolate myself and not be the best person I could be to the people who are important to me. On the other hand, nearly every person I can think of who successfully achieved a significant goal made personal sacrifices at some point in order to achieve their goal. Perhaps if I explain to them beforehand and help them understand that I'll be back to normal after the show, then those close to me will still be there at the end?

I honestly don't know how I feel about this yet. While it seems like a solitary sport, bodybuilding at a high level is almost a team sport. Nearly every successful bodybuilder (and I use this as a generic term for everyone who competes) has a strong support team behind them, helping them along the way.

Even when he isolated himself, Rocky still had a support team with him.

Am I mentally strong enough?

I honestly don't know if I have what it takes to give everything. Part of me wonders if I even want to do it. It'd be the most difficult thing I've ever done, but has the potential to be the most rewarding.
"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
~ Theodore Roosevelt

I ask myself, would the reward be worth the risk of losing everything and everyone that means anything to me? Would the reward be worth the price? I don't want to be that person who stands all alone with only her cold trophies beside her because she alienated everyone who cared about her along the way. I don't want to become a leech - sucking energy from everyone in order to bolster myself, and not giving anything back. I don't want to not be true to who I am, what I stand for, and what I believe in.

At this point, 35 weeks from Team Universe, I honestly don't know if this is the path I'll take.

If I do take this path, after the show, regardless of the results, I could honestly say I did everything I possibly could do to prepare to win the Pro card. But on the other hand, would I be happier knowing I somehow found a balance during prep, at the expense of not doing everything possible? Or would I always wonder if I could've won it if only I'd done everything I could do?

Standing on the threshold

I now stand upon this threshold ... excited at the prospect of the greatest challenge of my life ... yet scared and apprehensive. I'm sure this is how Rocky felt at the prospect of the Title Match. In a sense, Team Universe is MY Title Match.

Mr. T is my Pro Card

Is embarking upon this challenge something I truly want to do? Because if it's not something I want with 100% zero doubt, I will not do it ... I won't be able to. If my resolve and belief in myself aren't 100%, and my dedication isn't completely solid, there's no way I'll be able to commit to the challenge.

If, however, I decide to give everything, I will do it. And I will give 100%, even though there will be difficulties, frustrating challenges, and times when my mind will be my worst enemy. It will be like Rocky overcoming doubt and adversity just to get in the ring for the chance to win.
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."
~Booker T. Washington

It will be both the best and worst times of my life. And no doubt - it will be an immense learning experience with lessons I can't even fathom at this time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Does it Mean to be Hardcore?

Ever since I started dating a bodybuilder, I keep hearing the term, "hardcore." J and his friends use the word as if it's a status symbol: "Yeah, our gym is hardcore!" or "All the hardcore guys wear "hip sacks." ("Hip sacks" is a whole 'nother blog for a different day. I'm not even gonna get started here. But suffice it to say, my Grandma also owned and proudly wore one of those so-called hardcore "hip sacks.")

Being an English major, I often investigate the etymology (origins) of words. So the more I started hearing the word, "hardcore," the more I started questioning what it really means and how to use the word in its proper context.

What makes a gym hardcore?

Let's first discuss what makes a gym "hardcore." My understanding of a hardcore gym is one that is dirty with broken equipment, and is often either in a decrepit, run-down building with spray paint on the exterior, or is located in a basement. It must be dank, dark, and may have exposed light bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

Is this gym "hardcore"?

There are very few machines, but the dumbbells go up past 150 lbs and the weight plates may have rust on them.

Equipment is all crammed in here and doesn't look new, so this gym is hardcore.

Only "serious" bodybuilders train in these gyms; other people are too intimidated. (Or they just don't like cracked benches with perma-sweat stains on them.)

This gym is so hardcore, it's not even in a building!

It's not a fancy, expensive gym that has brand new, shiny, matching equipment and more stability balls than dumbbells.

Is the couch there so you can rest in between sets?

The only cardio equipment in a hardcore gym is either old treadmills or jumpropes. No fancy elliptical machines, each equipped with their own TV.

No sweating allowed!

What does it mean to be "hardcore"?

Now that we've taken a look at the elements that make a gym hardcore, let's think about what it actually means to BE hardcore. My basic understanding is that being hardcore means training hard with intense focus. It means going to the gym to TRAIN ... not to "work out."

AnimalPak ads are known for depicting hardcore training.

Or it means doing good, old-fashioned drills outside ... in the middle of winter ... in Russia. Like Rocky.

Rocky was the definition of hardcore!

To most of the bodybuilders I've talked with about this, being hardcore doesn't only mean training hard; it also means looking the part. Hardcore involves hoodies, string tank tops, work boots, clown pants, fanny packs, and oversize t-shirts a la Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing.

The hoodie and work boots make this guy hardcore.

These people are all hardcore.

I'm not trying to poke fun of people's wardrobes, or what elements make someone hardcore. It's my understanding that most modern bodybuilders think of the 1990's as the age of true hardcore bodybuilders. Which, in turn, means that they associate the fashion of the '90's as the definition of hardcore.

Bodybuilding fashion is starting to finally evolve, and GASP clothing is now very popular among bodybuilders. Not only is it nice quality, it's cut for bodybuilders.

What's the fascination with being hardcore?

Being hardcore is a status symbol of sorts. Not everyone can or wants to be hardcore. To be hardcore, you must be focused, determined, intense, and driven. The work boots and fanny pack are optional.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

Last night, I encountered a milestone in my life.

Was it a life-change decision? Nope.

Was it a great accomplishment? Nope.

What was the milestone? It wasn't anything as profound as a life-changing decision or a great accomplishment, but it could definitely lead to either of those things.

The milestone was finally watching several of the Rocky movies ... for the first time in my life.

Sly Stallone as Rocky

Talk about a motivating series of movies! These movies have been on my must-see list (along with The Goonies, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club) for awhile, so even though I missed the first part, I decided to keep watching and have J fill me in on what I missed.

Not only was I impressed with Sly's level of conditioning in the movies (can you say shredded?!), I was impressed with Rocky's determination and will to overcome all obstacles to win.

The movies raised a couple questions for me that I'm still mulling over.
  • What does it mean to be "hardcore"?
  • Have I ever done everything I could possibly do to achieve a goal?
  • Would I ever do everything I could possibly do to achieve a goal?
  • Do I have a goal of the same magnitude as Rocky's that would require an extreme amount of dedication, commitment, and training?
  • If I do have a goal, do I even have the mindset and mental toughness required to achieve that goal?
  • How many people ever set high goals and actually achieve them?
  • How in the world did Sly get so shredded and still have enough energy to train so hard? (This answer may actually have to do with the non-reality nature of movies.)
At this time, I don't have any answers to these questions, but they're definitely swirling around in my head. And they'll most definitely be the subject of future blogs, so stay tuned!

In the meanwhile, I'm going to use my renewed sense of motivation to train hard and grow some muscles!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Halloween and the Guilt Complex

This past weekend was a celebration in honor of sugar and sweets ... so I, being a fan of all things sugary, decided to celebrate as well! No, I didn't eat clean. Yes, I ate the mini candy bars. No, I have no remorse. Should I? No, I don't think so.

Office potluck goodies

So often in this industry, we're bombarded with guilt trips about what we should and shouldn't eat. And really, it's no one else's business but our own! Who cares what I do or don't eat?! But I digress. Because we lead a "healthy" lifestyle, we're encouraged to feel like failures if we don't eat completely clean all the time. Talk about putting undue pressure on someone!

I'll be the first to admit that I love cookies and candy bars. And I eat them! But the key is to not eat them all the time. I select certain days or time frames in which to indulge my sweet tooth and mental cravings. And then I go back to eating healthier. I've found that a structured plan and goals helps me to maintain some balance and mental sanity. And yes, my structured plan does include cookies (albeit every so often).

We had 50 lbs of candy in the house ... and we handed out nearly all of it on Halloween!

Attaching a feeling of guilt to foods and thinking of certain foods as "bad" only perpetuates negative thinking and self-loathing when you eat them. It's not "bad" to eat candy bars; just eat them in moderation. Enjoy them, and then go back to eating clean food, sans the guilt complex.

While I enjoyed the candy bars on Sunday evening, and the office potluck on Thursday, I do have to admit that I struggled more with my workouts after those meals (and it felt weird to be eating candy at work!). I was able to train hard, but my body definitely didn't process the sweets as efficiently as it processes my lean turkey. I felt more sluggish and bloated all over. Those feelings were actually a good reminder of why I eat clean the majority of the time. My body responds very well to healthier food, and as a result, I feel better - physically and mentally.

I'm glad I had some treats last week, but I'm also happy to be back on my clean food plan this week!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Treats!

I decided to go for it and to participate in the Halloween potluck at work. I had some pizza, cookies, and candy.
And it was really good. I'm a little shakey from the sugar and carbs, which is normal when I eat carbs after not having them for several days. It's almost time to hit up da gym and put some of those carbs to good use.

Srsly, how cute is this cupcake?!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Potluck Dilemma

Tomorrow is my office's annual Halloween celebration. All employees are encouraged to dress up and to bring a treat to the potluck. The costume is not my issue (I'm going to be a vampire!) ... it's the potluck that has my mind spinning.

I'm going to make these for the potluck ... Browned Butter Pumpkin Spice Krispies

As you may know, I've been following a fairly strict diet for the past 5 weeks in an attempt to look like a Figure competitor year-round. I've been very successful with the diet too! In that timeframe, I dropped 7 lbs (which is a lot for a lil thing like me!). My clothes were fitting better, and I felt better about myself. However, due to hormones and staying strict for several weeks, last week my mind rebelled and I didn't follow the plan very well. Subsequently, I gained back a couple of those pounds. And then with this past weekend's trip to Carlo's Bakery, I gained back ALL the weight I'd lost.

Wait. What?! How could I gain back 7 lbs that took me 5 weeks to lose?!

Easy! I ate. A lot. Often.

Rather than remaining discouraged and frustrated, I accepted the fact that I gained back some weight, and reminded myself that I'm the only one in control of how my body looks and feels. I went right back to my diet on Monday, and feel better already! I'm already down a couple pounds, and it feels good to be back on track.

But there's a potluck at work tomorrow. And I love potlucks, cuz they allow me to sample so many different foods at one time. If I were in contest prep, considering the potluck wouldn't even happen. It just wouldn't be an option. But I'm in my off-season now, and although I'm still following a very strict plan, the consequences of not following the plan aren't as detrimental.

Since I'm a Type A Planner, I made a tidy little table to record my thoughts about participating in the potluck.

To Participate To Not Participate
I get to sample yummy food! (duh) "Yummy" (ie sugary) food often upsets my tummy.
I won't feel hungry most of the day (like I usually do ... go metabolism!). It'll throw me off my diet.
It's my off-season, so there's no absolute need to stick to my diet all the time. My off-season is a time to do everything I can to prepare for next season.
If I diet so strictly even in the off-season, the mental discipline of contest prep is really gonna suck! Following a clean diet will help me maintain a leaner physique so I won't have as much to lose during prep.

As I review my cute, organized table, I realize that the arguments FOR participating are more mental-focused, while the arguments for NOT participating are more physical-based. I WANT to participate, but SHOULD I? My main reasons for following a diet plan now are to fit into my clothes and to feel good about how my body looks (cuz really, don't we all want to look good nekkid all the time??).

What do you think? What would you do? What do you think I should do?

Stay tuned tomorrow to find out what I chose to do!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New NPC Divisions

After Nationals on the weekend of October 16th, rumors have been swirling online about the creation of two new divisions in the NPC and eventually, the IFBB. These two divisions are Men's Physique and Women's Physique. Because there was no "official" statement about either of these divisions, the message boards and online communities exploded with questions, concerns, rumors, and fear. I've been following discussions on several forums, and have waited to post any information or weigh in with my opinion until I had all the facts (hey, my English degree is good for something!). Keep in mind that details about these divisions are still being determined. The information I have is current as of the day I'm posting this; however, it may change.

Men's Physique

Here are some details about this new division:
  • Men will be barefoot and will wear logo-free board shorts a la MMA, "belly button to top of knees," according to Steve Weinberger.
  • There is no posing criteria defined yet, but word is that traditional bodybuilding poses won't be required.
  • Emphasis is on abs and chest (obviously not on legs, since they'll be half covered by the board shorts).
  • Physiques will be along the lines of a male fitness model, and those featured on Men's Health.
  • Any NPC promoter can have this division at their show in 2011, with a Pro division beginning in 2012.
Men's Physique Example
    Women's Physique
    This division has created the most firestorm and uproar, as lack of official information bred rumors and fear among competitors.
    • Women be barefoot and will wear posing suits, either plain or blinged out.
    • Physiques will be in between Figure and Female Bodybuilding (FBB). More muscle than Figure, but less than FBB.
    • There will only be 6 shows in 2011, all at National shows: Jr. Nationals, Jr. USA, Team Universe, USA's, North Americans, and Nationals.
    • Any competitor can compete; competitors do NOT have to be Nationally Qualified.
    • If the 2011 season is successful, Pro shows will be added in 2012 (initially suggested in NY, CA, and TX).
    • Classes will be based on the number of competitors initially, with classes added for higher numbers of competitors.
    • Classes will most likely be based on weight, not height. This is not yet finalized, though.
    • Posing will include quarter turns and some traditional bodybuilding poses (made more feminine with open-hand posing). Competitors will also perform a posing routine.
    • This division will NOT replace FBB (this was a huge point of fear for many competitors). It's simply an additional division for those ladies who are too hard and too big for Figure, but too small to be successful as a Pro FBB.
    • Several examples of physiques that have been suggested as being suited to this division are: Juliette Bergmann, Cory Everson, Juliana Malacarne, Gina Aliotti, Marina Lopez, Monica Brant, and Larissa Reis.
    Juliana Malacarne
      Cory Everson

      Gina Aliotti

      My Thoughts
      Change is inevitable. These two new divisions offer opportunities for more people to compete and to live the competitor lifestyle. As a female, I'm not complaining about seeing more men on stage. :) However, I understand how guys who have been competing in bodybuilding for years could be upset by Men's Physique, as it seems like any gym douche could throw on a pair of board shorts, waltz on stage, and win a trophy. Hopefully this proves to not be true. Hopefully we'll see guys who aren't as big as bodybuilders, but who still have a solid muscle base and show up in good condition.

      I'm also excited about the Women's Physique division (WPD), because I'm hoping it means that slightly smaller, softer physiques will now be awarded in Figure ... and that's exactly along the lines of my own look! I will never have feathered quads, striated glutes, crazy arm veins, and deeply cut abs - all of the things that may be rewarded in WPD. Although all of us competitors love to train, some ladies discovered they were getting too big for Figure and were told to cut back on training and to increase cardio. (Who wants to do that?!) So I'm happy to see the NPC offer a place for those ladies who are too big for Figure, but not big enough for Pro FBB - they can still train hard and be able to compete successfully.

      The only drawback about adding these two divisions is that shows are going to be even longer now. Some shows are already several hours long, and this will extend them even longer.

      One thing that's for sure - 2011 is bound to be an exciting year!

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      Cake Boss!

      I'm gonna go out on a limb and announce that I may have one of the world's biggest sweet tooths (is "tooths" even a word??!). I adore pretty much everything that has sugar in it (minus chocolate. I don't like chocolate. No, srsly, I really don't like it.). While many women dream of chocolate candy, I dream of donuts, cookies, and cupcakes.

      I drool just looking at a picture of these ...

      One of my favorite TV shows is Cake Boss. Earlier this year, when I was dieting for Team U, I found myself watching episode after episode of Cake Boss, and drooling over all the yummy bakery goodies and cakes they make at Carlo's Bakery. J even suggested we go to the bakery after Team U to celebrate. Except I ended up not doing Team U, which meant we didn't go to the bakery at that point. We did, however, plan a trip to the bakery with J's client, Rich Siegelman, after Nationals. So this weekend, J and I headed up to Hoboken, NJ with Rich and his son to visit Carlo's Bakery.

      J and me outside Carlo's Bakery

      We arrived in NJ early Saturday afternoon, checked into the hotel, and then headed straight to the bakery. As expected, there was a line outside; however, it moved quickly, and within 15 minutes, we found ourselves inside the famous Carlo's Bakery.


      We received a number when we entered, but when our number was called, we still had no idea what we wanted to order. There were so many people inside, it was difficult to view the display cases. The goodies weren't labeled with names, either, so we had to ask several employees what items were so we could order them correctly.

      It was really crowded inside the bakery

      J and me inside the bakery

      Rich had custom ordered a cake for J, thanking him for all his help for Nationals. When J saw the cake, he was very surprised and touched by Rich's thoughtfulness.

      Rich with J and his cake

      We got to see Mauro, one of the bakers featured on Cake Boss! Rich was quick enough to get a picture with him.

      Rich and Mauro

      All of us with our bakery goodies!

      When we finally left the bakery, loaded up with boxes of goodies, we couldn't even wait to get to the car to break into our treats. We sat on a bench and had our first taste of our baked goodies.

      Cream puff deliciousness

      J and his lobster tail

      Boxes of bakery goodies

      Back at the hotel, we grabbed a booth in the lobby and dug into the cake. We unanimously decided that it was the best cake we'd ever had. It was even better than Costco cake, which was my all-time fav. J's cake was red velvet with cream cheese filling and buttercream frosting. It. Was. Heavenly.

      Best. Cake. Ever.

      The next morning, we headed back to the bakery to stock up on more goodies to take home with us. There were fewer employees working at that time, so it took us an hour to get inside, place our order, and leave.

      Crowded on Sunday morning. Mauro (one of the bakers on Cake Boss) is in the background!

      We snacked on baked goodies the whole way home, and surprisingly, still had some left when we got back to Maryland!

      A pound of cookies!

      It was a really fun trip, and we all had some great tasting food! Although we still have some leftovers, I know I won't be digging into them for awhile. I'm back on the clean eating wagon today, and am hoping to find my abs again by the end of the week (they decided to disappear this weekend). The next trip to Carlo's Bakery is already planned ... it's going to be my post-Team U celebration!

      Can't wait for the next trip!

      Friday, October 22, 2010

      Judging Criteria from Sandi Williamson

      One of my favorite internet radio shows is Muscle Girls, Inc., hosted on RX Muscle by Adela Garcia and Sonia Gonzalez. Adela is 5-time Ms. Fitness Olympia champion, and Sonia is the first ever Ms. Bikini Olympia champion. Both of these ladies have been competing for quite a few years, and are well-known names in the bodybuilding industry.

      Adela Garcia and Sonia Gonzalez

      Every Tuesday evening on Muscle Girls, Inc., they have a guest(s) join them for industry news, gossip, or an interview. I wanted to share this past week's show with you, because I feel it contains a lot of very important judging information for female competitors. Sandi Williamson, who is an IFBB Head Judge, talked about what judges look for in Bikini, Fitness, Figure, and Bodybuilding competitors.

      Muscle Girls, Inc. (10-12-10): IFBB Head Judge Sandi Williamson

      The show is an hour long, and if you don't have the time or the inclination to listen to the whole thing, here are a couple points I feel were the most important.

      • Bikini is the most subjective division.
      • There's not one "ideal" body for Bikini. Even though Sonia Gonzalez is the reigning champion, it wasn't her ideal body that won her the title. It was everything she brought to the stage, including presentation, hair, makeup, and suit.
      • Skin tone and a pretty face are important judging criteria in Bikini.
      • It was a close call between Nicole Lee Wilkins and Erin Stern at the Olympia this year. Sandi said there was no doubt in any of the judges' minds that those ladies were the top 2; however, comparing them was like comparing apples and oranges.
      • Nicole brought a fuller look and seemed to carry more water.
      • Erin has a tendency to be almost too lean; she brought a slightly fuller look to the Olympia, which earner her the title of Ms. Figure Olympia.
      • There's not one "ideal" body for Figure. It all depends on who shows up the day of the show.
      • Fitness is the most difficult category in which to compete.
      • Routines that are gymnastics-heavy tend to get marked down; Sandi likes to see a sense of rhythm involved in the routine.
      • Iris Kyle brings a complete, conditioned package to the stage year after year. She's the standard for Female Bodybuilding (FBB).
      • Adding more muscle isn't always the best option; competitors need to present a complete physique.
      There's more information in the show, so I really encourage you to listen to it when you get a chance, especially if you're a competitor!

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      Adding Some Spice to Life

      Many of the foods I eat while dieting taste rather bland, so in an effort to make my food taste better, I began experimenting with different seasonings and spices. I realize that eating food that actually tastes GOOD may not be considered "hardcore" by many old-school bodybuilders, but if my food doesn't taste good, I'm less likely to eat it and more likely to want to stray from my diet.

      So I want to share with you a few of my favorite things!

      Land O Lakes

      I just discovered these seasonings last week, and I. am. in. love. I've been using the Sharp Cheddar and Parmesan and Herb on my egg whites every night, and today I tried the cheddar on my ground turkey. That was prolly the best decision I've made all day.

      Sharp Cheddar is my new best friend

      Mrs. Dash

      Mrs. Dash has been a good friend for several years. I especially love the Original Blend and Southwest Chipotle.

      So many options for variety!


      Not only does McCormick make a zillion different spices, they also have Grill Mates seasonings. My favorites are Montreal Chicken and Hamburger seasoning ... and I sprinkle them on my egg white omelets. Yes, they actually taste really good on eggs too!

      Believe it or not, this tastes great on eggs!

      With the onset of Fall weather, I've also begun randomly sprinkling pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon on my meals. Be careful with the pumpkin pie spice, though, because it's rather strong and can be overwhelming at times.

      You can have pumpkin pie all year long with this spice!

      Just because I'm dieting or limit my food choices so I can attain a certain look, doesn't mean my food can't taste good.

      Which seasonings and spices do you use, and which are your favorites? I'm always looking for new ideas to make my food taste gourmet!

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      NPC Nationals and the Pumpkin Patch

      This past weekend was not only fun, but also very exciting for several reasons. Some of my good friends came to visit, and Jerry had a client competing in the largest amateur show of the year: the NPC Nationals.

      Good Company

      Melanie, Damon, and their 1-year old, Jackson, arrived from Pittsburgh on Friday evening, and spent the weekend with us. We had a great time catching up, visiting the National Zoo, and selecting the perfect pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. I really enjoyed hanging out with them, and am so happy they were able to visit!

      Melanie, Jackson, Damon, Jerry, and me at the pumpkin patch

      A New Pro!

      While we were looking at pandas and lions at the zoo, Jerry's client, Rich Seigelman, was down in Atlanta, GA competing for his Pro card at Nationals. He dropped from Lightweight down to Bantamweight this year, and showed up with one of the most conditioned physiques in the entire show. He and Jerry were in constant communication the whole weekend, and on Friday night, Rich won his class and earned his IFBB Pro card!

      Rich Siegelman, new IFBB PRO!

      Jerry guided Rich with a very non-traditional approach to prep, both of them facing doubt, questions, and dispute about the techniques. As I've mentioned before, Jerry customizes diet and training for each client, taking into account how everyone's body responds to different foods and training exercises. The combination of Jerry's knowledge and approach, and Rich's hard work and dedication created a winning team!

      Check out Rich's interview with Shawn Ray and Cedrick McMillan of Muscular Development.

      More Victories

      I also want to give a huge congratulations to new IFBB Pro, Branden Ray! When he lived in Maryland, Branden trained at my gym. He's been knocking on the Pro card door for awhile, and he earned Pro status this weekend when he won the Light-Heavyweight class at Nationals this weekend.

      Branden Ray, new IFBB PRO!

      Hanging out at the gym with Branden last Fall

      Another friend from the DC area, Rob Kreider, placed 5th in a tough Middleweight class.

      Rob Kreider

      I also want to congratulate Danielle Reutter, who won Figure Class B and earned her Pro card! She and I competed together at the Arnold Amateur in March, and I've been following her progress since then. She brought in a smaller, tighter package, and beat out 27 other beautiful ladies for the title.

      Danielle Reutter, new IFBB PRO!

      Congrats to everyone who competed this weekend; it's an accomplishment to even step on the National stage!