Saturday, February 27, 2010

Packing Day!

It's another Saturday night, and here I am at the computer. I'm just getting ready to head to Target to pick up some last minute items I need for the Arnold - for the show and for some photoshoots. I've been meaning to get to Target all week, but every night when I left the gym, I was so tired and ready to go to bed, I kept putting it off. So tonight's the time!

I just finished eating my 4th meal of the day (kinda late on meals today), and have a bit of energy that I'm going to use. I still have my evening session of cardio that I'll do when I get back from Target. I hate doing cardio so late, but there were so unexpected delays in my plans today, so I've got my Endorush with me to help me through cardio. Even though it has a lot of caffeine, I'll still be tired enough to sleep tonight.

This afternoon, I picked up my order of 19 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Yes, 19 boxes (I downsized this year). :) They're all sitting in my spare room, lids of the boxes closed so I'm less tempted. I won't eat any, but that doesn't mean I have to look at them and torture myself.

So many people have been asking me what's gonna be the first thing I eat after the show. And quite frankly, I don't want to think about it because I don't want to focus too much on what I CAN'T have at this point. I need to keep reassuring myself that my turkey and broccoli tastes great! Which it does. And I need to keep my focus all through Friday ... when I'll be at the biggest bodybuilding expo of the year ... where there will be SAMPLES, SAMPLES, and more SAMPLES. I think I'm going to bring a baggie and just put the protein bar samples into the baggie and then eat them later. That way, I'll still feel like I'm getting to experience them and not missing out on something.

Tomorrow is another circuit training with am and pm cardio. I'm also going to go get my hair highlighted for the first time EVER! That's right - I've never dyed my hair! I'll give you a second for a look of horror and disbelief. Ok, your second is over. LOL I'm gonna get some streaks in my hair for just a hint of edginess. I'm really looking forward to it, so I hope it turns out great!

Here are Parts III and IV of my final week circuit. Enjoy!

Part III - Lunges

Part IV - Shoulder Press

Time to hit up Target

Friday, February 26, 2010

Circuit Training Parts 1 & 2

My body feels like a machine today. I've been STARVING all day, am thirsty again, and have been running to the bathroom like every half hour. It feels like I may have dropped some water, but I guess I won't know until I step on the scale again tonight after my workout. I've been maintaining my weight the past few days because I'm actually ready early. I know - I can't believe it either! But my diet was spot on this time, I worked hard, and now I'm ready to go!

Jerry and I made a couple videos during my workout yesterday to give you a peek into my training. I've been doing some circuits this week, hitting every body part at least twice in the week. I'm not pushing for strength; more for maintenance and to keep my metabolism and heart rate up. Reps are high, there's little rest between sets, and just for fun (yeah, right!), we threw some cardio into the mix.

So here's a glimpse into one of my workouts, one week out from the Arnold. Enjoy!

Part I

Part II

It's time for me to hit up the gym again for another circuit and cardio. Stay tuned for more updates later!

Video from 8 days out from the Arnold

Jerry interviewed me on Wednesday about my prep and how I was feeling 8 days out from the Arnold. I'd just finished a cardio session and was getting ready to eat and head home. I've discovered that my favorite part of the day (besides crawling into bed at night) is putting on my comfy sweats after my evening cardio session. It means the hardest part of my day is over and I can relax for the rest of the evening.

Babytatten 8 days out from the Arnold Classic - m3muscle Video

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Final Week Scheduling Fun

Exactly a week from today, I'll be standing on the Arnold stage ... ... I'm ready.

My body is tightening up everywhere, my mind is 100% focused, and I'm in the final planning stages of all the pre-contest appointments I need in order to shine my brightest on stage. The last week before the show is always exciting. It's the final push to the finish line. Workouts change slightly, diet may change depending on conditioning, and the whirlwind of scheduling begins.

What exactly do I mean by "scheduling"? Since part of Figure is poise and presentation, competitors need to be groomed before walking on stage. Hair, nails, tan, suit, and shoes all need to be in top condition. I haven't quite finished scheduling all my appointments, but here's the schedule so far ...

Saturday - Massage. SO looking forward to this!
              - Wash suits, repair any crystals
Sunday - Hair appointment. I'm getting my hair highlighted for the very first time EVER. SO excited!
            - Tan
Monday - Probably nails. I'm getting a full set of acrylics and French tips on my toenails. Haven't scheduled this yet.
             - Tan
Tuesday - Brow wax
              - Other waxing. I have an at-home kit, so I do my own waxing except for my brows.

We head out on Wednesday, so I'll probably shower and finish shaving when we get to the hotel. Then I think we may apply a couple coats of the tan. That's still up for debate yet, as the pre-judging isn't until Thursday evening. We may wait until Thursday morning to apply the tan.

I'm also working on lining up definitive times for some photoshoots while I'm there. I like to do shoots at shows since I'm already in optimal shape at that point.

I'm finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate at work, but I'm still being productive. I just have to keep giving myself pep talks and short deadlines. LOL I finally got to bed earlier than usual last night, and slept in a bit, so I feel more rested today, and more energetic as a result (well, as energetic as I can feel the week before a show LOL). It's amazing what a difference some sleep makes! My body was so tired yesterday, I just struggled through morning cardio and was dragging the whole day. At least today I don't have to give myself pep talks just to get out of my chair to head to the restroom.

I better shift my focus back to work. I have a couple things I need to do before I meet Jerry at the gym. I'm training a bit earlier than usual today because he has clients during my normal training time, and I really need him by my side during my workout. I can motivate myself just fine, but he gives me that little extra push that just might give me an edge over my competitors. Any little bit helps!

Everything is coming together exactly as planned. ONE MORE WEEK!!! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Future Competitors

As I take more of an interest in online communities, I'm meeting new people and making new friends in all corners of the world. Everyone has a different story and a different background, perspective, and reason for being involved in the fitness community. I'm having such a fun time getting to know people and broadening my horizons. Sounds cliche, I know, but it's so true.

Living a fit lifestyle isn't a new concept by any means. In fact, it's becoming more and more mainstream. I see new Whole Foods popping up everywhere! And nearly every magazine I pick up includes articles promising to teach people "How to lose 10 lbs" or "Get Flat Abs in 5 Minutes!". There's no doubt about it - a healthy, fit lifestyle is "trendy."

With so many people jumping on the Healthy Bandwagon, it's surprising to find out how many people have absolutely no idea about how to GET healthy and STAY healthy. I get questions all the time at the gym about my diet and training ... how I got my arms to look like that, how I lost so much weight in a couple weeks, etc. What they don't realize is that I'm living a Competitor's lifestyle. And it's not mainstream in the least bit.

The intelligent men and women I'm meeting online are also living the Competitor's lifestyle. And they're facing the same issues I've faced: lack of support, ignorance, jealousy, and disgust from other people around them. Online fitness communities, forums, and message boards all provide a safe place for us to meet each other, to share knowledge, and to provide support, encouragement, and motivation. These communities are a place where others understand our unique issues, and support our non-mainstream goals of physique competitions.

I get so excited when I meet women who are just getting into the industry. They have such a high level of enthusiasm. The first contest prep is fraught with nerves, uncertainty, discomfort, excitement, enthusiasm, and doubt all at the same time. It's such an thrilling and ever-changing time, because for many, it's the first time they've ever attempted anything like this. It's a drastic, regimented, disciplined, and limited lifestyle that is not right for everyone. But those who can do it, thrive.

I remember my first prep vividly. Namely because I felt like crap almost the entire 15 weeks. I was completely focused on all the foods I couldn't eat. I'd walk down the aisles of the grocery store, mouth hanging open, fingers trailing along packages of bread, cereal, donuts, and cookies, gazing wistfully at all the shopping carts filled with a wonderful variety of food. I'd designed my own diet, based on some internet research and the advice of some bodybuilder friends. The result: I overtrained and starved myself to almost bodybuilder leanness. And walked away with a trophy.

So I attempted to do the same thing the next year, and didn't understand why my body didn't respond the same way. I was disappointed with my placing at the show, and decided to work with a trainer the following year. That was 3 years ago, and I think I've only just now figured out the best way to train my body for a show. It took Jerry's extensive knowledge and my notebooks from previous preps for us to determine the best training and diet approach.

We're all a work in progress, and we all have the power to change our bodies, to mold them into the sculptures of our dreams. I'm so happy I'm meeting so many wonderful, inspirational people online lately, and hope that by sharing some of my experiences, I can also inspire, motivate, and encourage others to achieve their dreams.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


It's all around me ... taunting me, teasing me, laughing in my face, wafting under my nose ... TEMPTATION in the form of food!

Up until a couple days ago, I wasn't bothered by the sights or odors of food that I can't have. I could watch that TGI Friday's commercial over and over again (and I did, cuz they kept replaying it during evening cardio), and not be bothered. I could stand next to the lady in the kitchen at work and watch her slather butter on her cinnamon raisin bread, and then calmly put my turkey and broccoli in the microwave. I could walk by the bakery section in the grocery store and not stop to sniff every delectable treat on the shelf.

But now things are changing ... I only have a little more than a week to go, and the cravings and temptations are starting to get to me. Don't get me wrong - I still love the food I'm eating, and I'm not sick of it yet (yes, I'm being honest!). However, since I only have a couple more days left, I find myself looking forward to the food I can eat after the show. And that's totally NOT the mindset I want to have.

That's the mindset I had in past years when I binged so badly I got very sick, bloated, and FAT in a short amount of time. I was disgusted with myself. This year, I've committed myself to sticking to my diet and training because I LIKE looking and feeling good. I'll eat for a day or two and then I'll be right back on my diet, getting ready for the next show.

When Jerry and I were at Safeway the other day, though, I casually sauntered through the bakery section. I leaned over and sniffed fresh oatmeal cookies ... scrumptious cream cheese coffee cake (yes, it exists), and then opened the donut cabinet and took a big sniff of all the sugary sweetness on the shelves. Then I shut the door, and walked over to put another carton of eggs in the cart. That behavior may seem odd to people who don't compete, but I've heard stories of other girls doing something similar. It didn't bother me all that much that day, but just the fact that I DID walk into the bakery section indicates that my mind is shifting slightly.

Today when I heard a lady talking about Girl Scout cookies, my heart started to pound, and I walked over to her and promptly ordered 3 boxes. That may not seem like a lot, but I already had 19 boxes on order with someone else! Yes, 19 boxes. And yes, I do eat them throughout the year. I like knowing that if I want a GS cookie in October, I can have one.

So now there are 2 boxes of Thank U Berry Much, and 1 box of Dulce de Leche cookies in my work bag. Just sitting there, unopened. I want one cookie. Just one. But I won't have one. Those boxes will come home with me and will be placed on my Food Shelf with all the other Forbidden Foods. But just the fact that I bought more boxes is another indication of my mindset.

I literally drooled when I smelled the buttered popcorn someone made in the kitchen. And I'm embarrassed to admit that I stuck my head inside the microwave before heating up my turkey just to inhale the popcorn smell and imagine how it'd taste.

There's a thread on one of the forums I belong to that discusses food we used to eat when we were younger. I contributed my part and started reading the rest of the thread, but then started getting really hungry. And I could feel my mind start to want those foods instead of automatically rejecting them. I haven't been back to that thread again.

There's something about being on a diet and not being able to have the food that causes this insane desire to want it more. Off-season, I wouldn't even eat this stuff! I don't eat cereal or popcorn normally. If I'm offered it, I usually turn it down. But now that I know I can't have it, I want it. Go figure.

Only 9 more days ... I can do this. I WILL do this! There's no way I'll give in to any of my cravings or the temptations around me. No way in hell. And I'll try my hardest to remain focused on my goal and to not think about food to eat after the show. That's not the most important thing right now. Right now, my focus is on training hard and coming into the show in my best condition ever!

Monday, February 22, 2010

10 more days

Only 10 more days to go ... it seems like a lifetime ago when I first thought about doing the Arnold. When the thought crossed my mind, I almost immediately banished it. It's too big a show. I'm not at that level yet. People are going to have such high expectations for me, and if I don't place well, I'll let them down. I'm only kidding myself by thinking I've earned the right to stand on that stage.

But the more I thought about it, the more I felt something was pulling me toward it. Why not do it??

And thus, the journey began. I decided in September that I was going to apply for an invitation. I knew I'd have to start training for it long before the invitations were sent out, so I talked it over with Jerry, and he assured me that I deserved to be on the stage just as much as the next girl.

"You won a sword, for pete's sake!" he kept telling me. But I still wasn't completely convinced. When people asked me what my next show was, I'd just shrug and say I hadn't decided yet. Then I finally got the courage to start telling people. But whenever I'd tell them, it'd be with a disclaimer, "well, that is, IF I get an invitation. But I'm gonna train for it."

By the time I officially started prep, most people around me knew it was my goal. And oddly enough, they all seemed to have far more confidence in me than I did. (I still think that's true). The day I sent the registration in, I took a deep breath and hit the gym with intensity. And the day the invitation letter came, I started jumping up and down for joy. When I asked Jerry how it felt to be dating an Arnold Competitor, his head whipped around, his jaw dropped, and he looked at me with huge eyes. I'll never forget the big hug he gave me at that moment.

I'm not gonna lie ... this prep has been tough. It's been different than any other prep I've done. The first half was a piece of cake (mmm ... cake ...), and then the second half started ... and it's been a constant struggle since then. Because I messed up my metabolism so badly dieting for the Jr Nats last year, my body hung onto everything I ate after the show, and I slowly gained 20 lbs. NOT the off-season I wanted! So I had a long ways to go. I needed to drop 20 lbs in 15 weeks. Maybe not such a big deal for a big bodybuilder, but I have a petite frame, so even 5 lbs on me makes a big difference in how I look and feel.

Jerry's been by my side the entire time. Supporting me, encouraging me, pushing me, wiping my tears, holding me, and motivating me. I honestly couldn't have gotten to this point without him. I feel like I'm right on track. My body is responding in the way we want it to respond, I made some good off-season improvements for a more balanced look, and I have the confidence to know I can hang with the best on that stage.

This is the final week of hard training, and then next week it all changes. I always look forward to the week of the show, because the hard part is done. Then it's time to just "land the plane," in the words of the famous Kevin Levrone.

It's time to hit up the gym for another training and cardio session. Each time I stumble on the treadmill or falter during a rep, I picture myself standing on stage, knowing I did everything I could to deserve to be there. I keep moving my feet, one step at a time; I keep pushing through my training, one rep at a time, one set at a time.

Contest prep truly is a team effort. And I want to acknowledge all the support, guidance, and motivation others have given me the past couple months. I hope I make you proud on that stage.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Normal Couple

As the date for the Arnold looms closer and closer (TWO weeks!!), I find myself almost completely consumed with thoughts about training, diet, photoshoots, the stage, posing, and my fellow competitors. I struggle to concentrate at work, and it seems like competing is all Jerry and I ever talk about anymore.

While it's nice to have someone I can talk to about this who understands and can hold up his end of the conversation, I also realize that Jerry and I also need to put the show aside sometimes and really focus on our relationship.

Last night I finished early at the gym, so we went back to my house and actually got to hang out together for awhile. It wasn't just him watching TV or surfing the web while I ran around packing and unpacking clothes for the next day, measuring my food, and gathering my vitamins together. I mean we actually sat down and talked with each other. We didn't talk much about the show; we focused more on how each other's day was and just other inane things he and I discuss. And it was SO nice to take a break for the rush hour that seems to be our lives.

Last weekend we went shopping for part of Saturday and most of Sunday. Even though we were shopping for photoshoot clothes for me, it was still nice to be doing some Normal. I couldn't remember the last time he and I went shopping together! We went into fun stores, we tried on clothes, and held hands while strolling through the mall, just like any other Normal couple. Ok, so we had to swing into GNC to get me an energy drink at one point because my legs stopped functioning, but once I drank half of it, I was ready to go again. LOL We considered running out to the car when it was our mealtime, but decided we didn't have enough time, so we pushed the mealtimes back a bit, and it ended up working out ok. AND I discovered that my focus is spot on because nothing in the Food Court tempted me at all. :)

I'm so happy I can talk to him about anything and everything, especially training and dieting. And I'm also happy he and I can be a Normal couple and just enjoy our time together, doing nothing.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Skinny Pants!

I have a very exciting announcement to make ...

I now officially fit into my Skinny Pants!! :)

Last year a couple weeks after the Jr Nationals, I bought a really cute pair of really small dress pants. When I tried them on, they were rather tight, but Jerry said they looked good (of course he did - he's a boy :P), so I bought them. And subsequently gained 15 lbs and wasn't able to wear them. So they hung in my closet with the tags still on until last night.

I tried them on 2 weeks ago, but they were still really tight, and I didn't feel I'd be comfortable wearing them all day at work. Plus, I was worried if I tried to sit down, my gut would pop the hooks open, and my thighs would split the seams. LOL So, with a sigh, I put them back in the closet.

Last night I took them out again and thought, "What the heck, let's see if they fit now." And they did! They're still tight, but definitely wearable. And look very cute, by the way! I paired them with a new (size Small!) form-fitting blouse. I love the fact that I can fit into these clothes and actually feel confident in them. I'm not constantly trying to pull my shirt down over any fat rolls, or sucking in my gut when I get up for one of my many restroom trips during the day.

I love that I have the power and control to change my body and make it look how I want it to look.

I love seeing my hard work pay off, and I love how confident I feel.

It's my goal this year to remain within 7-10 lbs of my contest weight. I feel it's a very manageable goal, and one that will keep me feeling good about myself. Every year I've competed, I've let myself gain 20 lbs in the off-season, and I'd feel awful about myself. I would cringe when looking in the mirror, I'd cry when I couldn't get my thighs into my favorite jeans, and I'd feel embarrassed to wear a bikini in the summer.

That's not going to happen this year! This year, I'm going to remain focused in my training and diet, and work with Jerry to come up with a reasonable strategy to keep me leaner, yet allow for a bit of relaxation. I need to keep reminding myself that if I want to break into the fitness modeling industry, I need to look like a fitness model year round. And if I decide to do a show, I don't want to have to train to utter exhaustion for weeks on end in order to be ready. I keep repeating to myself, "You're a National-Level competitor. Competing is more than a hobby; it's your lifestyle."

Here's to a victory with my Skinny Pants ... which will soon just be my Regular Pants!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breaking Point

"We all have great inner power. The power is self-faith. There's really an attitude to winning. You have to see yourself winning before you win. And you have to be hungry. You have to want to conquer."
~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

There comes a point in every prep that I find myself teetering precariously on the edge of sanity. One word, one look, one touch has the ability to send me straight over the edge into the dark abyss of self-doubt, despair, anguish, and intense frustration. I reached that point last night.

I am 2 weeks out from the Arnold, and I've really been struggling the past couple weeks. I am completely reliant on stimulants to get me through the day, and have steadily increased the dosage and am now stacking stims on top of stims just to get my body to function at a "normal" level. Before the stims kick in and after they wear off, my body is completely drained. I'm sluggish, fatigued, and every little moment feels like a monumental effort. Many times I find myself just standing in one spot, perfectly still, eyes staring blankly into space. I've done this in the middle of conversations, which I'm told is quite interesting for the person I was talking to.

Somehow, I've managed to get through every workout and cardio session using the planned weights, reps, and interval duration. I have no idea how I've done it, because at times I've felt like it wasn't possible. I continue to surprise myself, and in that way, I'm proud of myself. I know I'm continuing to push out of sheer willpower and determination. It's amazing what our bodies are capable of when they're pushed to the extreme. We're a lot stronger than we think we are!

Last night my schedule was different than usual, because I had to feed the landlady's dog in the evening. Normally, I'd go straight from work to the gym and train and do cardio. I'm usually home around 8 pm. Last night I needed to be home earlier than that, so I just did my training session and planned to do cardio at Jerry's house a bit later. I was panicked, because I knew. I just KNEW that I wasn't going to be able to get to bed early. I haven't gotten much sleep all week, and I'm progressively more tired and drained each day, so I'd been looking forward to going to bed early. When I realized it wasn't going to happen, I felt devastated. Mind you, since I'm tired and depleted, my emotions run a bit closer to the surface, so what may normally seem like not a big deal suddenly becomes a catastrophic event in my world lately.

I made it through my workout, and by the time I was finished, I was glassy-eyed and stumbling over the carpet in the gym. Just thinking about everything I needed to do yet brought tears to my eyes. Jerry was very sweet and tried to help me come up with a plan that would get me into bed by 9 pm. What we didn't factor in was the extra time it now takes me to do or go anywhere, since my body just resists every movement. I had planned on starting cardio at 8 pm ... but by 9 pm, I still hadn't made it over to Jerry's house.

I had 45 minutes of cardio to do, plus do a couple loads of laundry, eat a meal, let his dogs out, and take a shower before I could crawl into bed. Again, this doesn't seem like a huge deal, but it was enough to leave me sitting in my car, sobbing on the phone to Jerry.

I began to wonder why I'm doing this to myself. Why am I putting myself through such deprivation? Why am I putting up with feeling like crap all the time? I'm not very much fun to be around because I'm either tired, spacey, or irritable. Who wants to hang out with someone who acts like that all the time?! I sure wouldn't! I try very hard to remain positive and sociable around others. After all, they're not choosing to compete; this is my own deal and it's not fair to let my struggles affect others in a negative way. Poor Jerry has been so patient with me. I honestly don't know what I'd do without him.

I found myself questioning whether I'm really cut out for this "sport." And if it affects my life in a negative way, how beneficial is it that I continue competing?

I have to admit, these thoughts scared me! I can't remember ever questioning whether I'm meant to compete or not. As I voiced these concerns to Jerry, I found myself hoping they weren't true. I love competing. And while I don't always love how I feel, I love knowing that I'm in complete control of my body and how it looks. I love being an inspiration to others. I love working hard and seeing the results of my hard work, and then being rewarded for it on stage. I love standing on stage, knowing I did everything I possibly could to bring my best physique to the stage. I love being able to wear form-fitting clothes and know that I look good in them. I love feeling happy with how my body looks. I love the pre-contest jitters and butterflies I get moments before I step on stage. And I love hearing my name announced while I strut on stage under the bright lights.

So why would I suddenly start to doubt myself? Why would the thought of not competing even cross my mind?

And then I realized it. I was at the Breaking Point. My Breaking Point. It's at this point that I have a decision to make: continue pushing hard and suffering or give up and quit. The latter is not even an option. I have no intention of quitting this prep, of tossing away 14 weeks of hard work, suffering, and pushing my body. I've been invited to one of the most prestigious shows in the U.S., and I intend to bring my BEST to that stage.

After I got off the phone with Jerry, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and repeated to myself, "Suck it up and get your butt on that treadmill. You can DO this!" And I did. My cardio session actually went very well! I increased the intensity a notch and imagined myself standing on stage next to Arnold.

When the going gets rough, champions find it in themselves to not just keep pushing, but to INCREASE their intensity. To push past their limits, to break the barriers they set in their minds. The true mark of a champion is not how much weight they pushed; it's how they faced challenges along the way.

Arnold says it best: "Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Straddling Two Realities

When we're kids, we don't seem to have a very difficult time making friends. Most of us are in constant contact with other children our age at daycare and school. We get to be friends with the children of our parents' friends, our neighbors, and the other kids at the park. We don't give much thought to similarities or differences at that point; it's just fun to play with someone else, especially if they have the same interests.

As we get older, we tend to gravitate into cliques in school. Social groups start to form based on sports, clubs, and classes. We start spending time with people who have some similar interests and abilities, and start to lose touch with former friends as we grow and change.

As adults, our friendships formulate in the office and in any other activities we're involved in. Most of the time, the activities and interests don't dictate a drastic lifestyle or diet, so people from different backgrounds have no issues spending time together over a glass of wine, or a backyard barbeque. At this point, our friendships are varied - we may still have friends from childhood, high school, college, former workpaces, and other geographical locations. I call this the "Normal Life."

And then there's the "Competitor's Life."

While physique competitors may have some Normal friendships, most also have a large number of Competitor friends. What's the difference? Normal friendships are based on the things I mentioned earlier - childhood, stages in life, workplace, hobbies. Competitor friendships are based on a shared interest in a Competitive Physique lifestyle. Which can be very different than a Normal lifestyle.

One of my biggest struggles is straddling these two lives. I've been a Competitor for 4 years. For 3-6 months out of the year, I dieted and trained for a show. I lived and breathed the Figure, Fitness, and Bodybuilding world. Most of my thoughts revolved around the show, my training, and my diet. I was focused, dedicated, and consumed by my preparation to compete. I stuck to a very strict diet, I put myself through rigorous training, and lived either at work or at the gym. I limited my social activities, mostly because I didn't feel well a lot of the time or because I needed to train. I narrowed my sphere of influence and contact.

The remainder of the year, I lived a Normal life. I gained 20 lbs, I ate whatever and whenever I wanted, I went out with friends, I went to Happy Hour, and I trained sporadically. I talked about things other than competing and diet, and didn't worry about trying to fit my next meal in around a trip to the mall.

Where's the balance between these two worlds? I see two extremes, each having their own purpose. I remember being so upset last year that I couldn't just be "Normal." If I ate pasta, my body retained a lot of water the next day and my feet swelled. If I didn't go to the gym, I got antsy and impatient. If I ate a couple cookies, I immediately felt sluggish. While doing all of the things I couldn't do during contest prep was fun, most of the things just made me feel gross, bloated, and fat. I was so frustrated that I couldn't live a Normal life and eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight.

I've since changed my life drastically. I met the love of my life (who also happens to be a competitor bodybuilder and my trainer), I moved across the country, and I'm now preparing for my highest profile competition yet. I can talk contest prep, diet, nutrition, and training all I want without getting eye rolls and blank stares. People understand what I mean when I say I feel "flat and watery." I don't have to rush home from the gym to spend time with my boy, because he's already at the gym. With me!

Yet, from time to time, I still struggle with a Normal life. I work in an office, and several mornings a week, while I'm heating up my turkey and broccoli, the lady next to me is toasting and buttering cinnamon raisin bread. And the guy across from me is taking his leftover pizza out of the fridge. When I say I'm kind of a gym rat, the girl across the table says, "Oh I am too! I love to do cardio!" And when I'm at the mall shopping, I get frustrated that I need to stop shopping to run out to the car to eat cold chicken.

I've made the commitment this year to live the life of a Competitor year round. This doesn't mean I won't indulge once in awhile, or I'll be so strict with my training that I'll miss out on experiences. It just means that I'm constantly reminding myself that I made this decision. I WANT to be leaner all year round. I WANT to keep my metabolism up. I WANT to remain in control of my body.

I won't cut off friendships with others who aren't in the Competitor world. Just because they don't chose this type of lifestyle doesn't mean I can't interact with them. I most likely won't have as much interaction, though, because my lifestyle is so different. My type of fun does not include alcohol, Happy Hour, or going out every weekend. I find myself gravitating toward others who are more fitness-oriented, and I'll most likely spend more time with them. It doesn't mean I don't cherish all of my friends for what they bring to my life. It means I'm straddling two realities and am working on balancing the two so I live a richer, fuller life.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Body in the Mirror

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see beauty? Do you see strength? Do you see flaws? Do you see fat? Do you see intelligence? Do you see disappointment? Do you see happiness? Do you see sadness?

We all see something different every time we look at ourselves in the mirror. And what you see may not be what others see when they look at you. You've heard the saying "Perception is reality." It's so true - what we perceive to be the truth is our own reality. And your reality may be different than my reality.

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see any and maybe even all of the things I mentioned above at one time. We are our own worst critics. Always judging, always comparing ourselves to others or ourselves in a previous time period.

That's the part I want to focus on - comparing ourselves to ... ourselves. Have you ever looked in the mirror and wished you looked like you did in high school? Or when you were 30? Or when you were on stage? Or when you finished that marathon?

As we grow older and our body matures, it naturally changes. Things we go through in life - stress, pregnancy, sports, depression - all affect how our bodies look throughout the years. Not to mention the natural changes we experience by just growing older.

If we're aware of all these changes, why do we keep comparing ourselves to an image we had of ourselves years ago when life and age were different? How realistic is it to focus on a past time period? Instead, we should be focusing on the future. How we want to look based on our starting point at this time.

As I'm prepping for the Arnold, I keep thinking back to my prep last year. I think about what, when, and how much I ate, how I trained, which exercises I did. The structure and duration of my cardio, and how my training program was planned are all things that keep running through my head. Questions swirl all day. "When were my meals?" ... "How long did I do cardio in the morning and in the evening?" ... "How many days a week did I train and do cardio?" ... "Did I have any Treat Meals at this point in prep?" ... "Did my bicep vein show this soon or was it closer to the show?" ... "Was I leaner at this point last year?"

As I'm asking myself these questions, I'm also trying to answer them for myself and for my trainer. This is the first time I've worked solely with Jerry, and as well as he knows how my body works, we're both still learning. We're constantly making adjustments, tweaking diet, training, and cardio. I have to admit, it's frustrating for me at times, because I like things to be more planned out. But it's tough to plan exactly how a body will respond without trying a technique first.

Although I wrote many things down in my training notebook last year, I didn't keep track of some small details that would be helpful at this point. Plus, I can't find my notebook from the last 6 weeks of my prep, which is very frustrating. So we're playing it by ear, trying new things, changing things, and documenting everything along the way.

One thing I have been good about is taking progress pictures ever since I started competing. The pictures are a true representation of the changes I've made to my physique. I not only look at pictures of me on stage, I look at pictures 3, 4, 5 weeks out to see how I compare. But is it really a true comparison?

As much as I'd like it to be, it's not a true comparison. Why? Because of some of the changes I mentioned above. As I get older, my body is aging. Plus, I've continued to train hard and have added muscle and changed my structure. While I realized this on one level, apparently it didn't really sink in until last night when I pulled up pictures from my first contest prep and showed them to Jerry. We both looked at them with a very critical eye, and as he explained the changes I've made the past couple years, I realized that I've been in denial for several years, because I keep comparing myself to the previous year and try to attain the conditioning I had at my first show. But it's NOT POSSIBLE.

My muscles have grown, developed, and changed shape, so I will never look like I did at my first show. Or at my second show. Or even last year! When I looked at progress pictures from last year's prep, I saw exactly where and how I've changed my body in just a year. It blows my mind to think I could've changed my structure in such a short amount of time, but the proof is in front of me.

I'm also realizing that I'll never be the same size I was 4 years ago. And that's ok. I'm learning to accept that. I'll never be that small as long as I continue to compete. I have to remind myself that I made those changes. I alone was responsible for changing my body, and I changed it in a GOOD way. I now have a more flowing shape. I have curves. And that's ok.

It may still take me some time to come to terms with this new discovery, and I'll probably mourn the loss of some of my smaller clothes that I was still futility hanging on to. I'll just look at it as an opportunity to provide some cute clothes for someone less fortunate, and an opportunity for me to do some shopping and buy more cute clothes. :)

Just for fun ... the first picture is of me 1 week before my first show in 2006. I weighed about 100 lbs. The second photo is of me last week, about 3 weeks out from the Arnold and about 109 lbs.
I was definitely the leanest I've ever been at my first show ... almost too hard for Figure, especially by today's judging standards.

When I look at this picture, I know my legs will never look like this again. And I don't want them to. My legs are bigger and stronger now, with a slightly different shape. I also know my delts will always look fuller and bigger than this. And now I actually HAVE lats. :)

So what do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you still comparing yourself to the you of 5, 10, 15 years ago? Take a second look at yourself and start to love who you are NOW. You're a different person. More knowledgeable, more well-rounded, and even more beautiful today than you were yesterday. Look to your future and know that you are in complete control of how you look. You can change your body if you want to. You'll never look like you did several years ago ... you'll be better!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Preparation is Key

The snow is finally over! Hooray!! Now come the chores of digging out and carefully navigating the roads. Most businesses and offices were closed yesterday ... including the gym. So how did that affect my training? It didn't! :)

The snow started late Tuesday afternoon, so when I found out the gym was closing at 6 pm, I left work a couple hours early so I could get my workout and cardio done before it closed. I had a good workout session, and zipped through my cardio. Wednesday (yesterday) was a cardio-only day, so I stayed at my boyfriend's place and used his treadmill to get both my morning and evening cardio done. Since we were snowed in at his place (much to my chagrin - I missed my kitties at my place!), I stayed there again last night and did my cardio on his treadmill again this morning. The gym is closing at 6 pm again today, so we're gonna head there in a little while to get my workout and cardio done early. Thank goodness for his treadmill - it literally saved my training schedule!!

How did being snowed in affect my diet? It didn't! :) Because I planned ahead. Jerry picked up food for me on Tuesday morning just so we could make sure I had enough to get me through a couple days. We cooked some food yesterday morning, so I had plenty of food for all my meals yesterday and a couple today.

I'm finally back at home this afternoon (kitties were very happy to see me!), and right on track with my training.

What's the whole point of my ramblings? If you prepare and plan, you won't be thrown off track by unexpected events. Preparation is key.

What if Jerry didn't have a treadmill? I would've put my boots on, bundled up, and trekked around in the snow for an hour. Prolly not the smartest thing to do, but the most important show of my career thus far is right around the corner, and I'm willing to do what I need to do in order to bring my best conditioning to the stage.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snowmaggedon and Pizza

Snow, snow, and more SNOW!! That's all anyone is talking about here. If it's not snow, it's how bad the roads are, whose shovel got stolen (yes, apparently there ARE people THAT mean in this area), and which business are open or closed.

The DC area got smacked with a snowstorm this past weekend. Businesses were closed and people were snowed in all weekend. It's Tuesday, and some people are STILL snowed in because their streets haven't been plowed yet. Most roads are actually clear (for the most part) today, although lanes are reduced and people are still driving like morons. I've never seen so many idiotic drivers in one place in my entire life, and that's including the obliviously slow drivers in Montana. But to their credit, people here aren't used to driving in snow, and I understand how more than an inch of snow could be traumatizing.

With the huge snow disruption, the gym has been closed off and on. I'm only about 3 weeks out from the Arnold, and every single workout and cardio session count. So how have I been dealing with this situation? Luckily, my boyfriend has a treadmill at his house! I never thought I'd be so happy to have access to a treadmill in my life! Ha I haven't missed one workout or cardio session yet. I even got some extra cardio and back work in by shoveling out my car on Sunday. I woke up yesterday morning feeling very sorry for myself. My back was really sore, and I'd forgotten that I shoveled heavy snow, so the first thoughts that ran through my head were, "Ugh, I hurt all over and I didn't even do anything yesterday!" It took my boyfriend reminding me that I'd spend a half hour hurling heavy shovelfuls of snow over my shoulder the previous day.

I had a bunch of junk food on Saturday. It was so good!! I was nervous about it, considering how close to the Arnold I am, but my boy said to go ahead. And since I trust my trainer implicitly, I let loose. Pizza, cookies, and Whoppers totally made my day! The funny thing is, even his maple sugar flavored oatmeal was a treat for me! Normally, on my Treat Days, I have a bunch of sushi. We know how my body reacts to that. What we didn't realize was that my body would react differently to the pizza. Yesterday I was drier and harder than I normally am after a junk day. I'd only gained a pound of water, and most of the retention was nearly gone by yesterday evening. So that means pizza seems to work better for my body than sushi. Huh?! Hey, I'm not complaining! It's different for everyone.

I was very hard and dry on Saturday morning after cardio. Since we couldn't get to the gym, we had to make do with the lighting for pictures. I know they're not the best, and not a true comparison to last week, but at least they're something.

I can see changes in my body every day, which is very exciting. I've been practicing posing a couple nights a week after training and cardio, and we've had a couple middle-of-the-gym strip-downs in the middle of a workout cuz we were in a spot with good lighting. Posing in the middle of the gym is a whole new, scary experience for me! In Montana, I was among like 2 other competitors, so people would always throw my odd looks when I'd practice posing in the gym. I learned to just practice in the locker room, and still got some weird looks, but oh well. At my gym here, there are so many competitors that no one even gives me a second glance when I'm posing. Jerry directs my poses and adjusts my arms or legs, and points out areas that have changed in the past couple days.

I tried a new pre-workout stimulant yesterday, and holy cow - I had the best workout I've had in a long time! The supplement is Jack3d by USP Labs. I took it 45 min before training and ate a quick meal before hitting the weights. I didn't fatigue as quickly, I had energy, and I was in a good mood, all of which have been issues for me lately. I actually felt guilty for feeling so good! It was a strange feeling to be energetic and bubbly in the gym again. The dosing is 1-3 scoops, but I only took 1/2 scoop to see how my body would handle it. Seems like it was about the right amount. The energy lasted for about 4 hours, and then I got really sleepy after that. Partly because the supp wore off, and partly because it was about 8:30 pm, and that's when I usually start getting tired anyway.

I had a couple moments in Target where my mind just sort of blanked out and I had difficulty focusing on what I was looking at or thinking about. The vacant feeling wasn't due to the Jack3d, but was indicative of how I'd normally be feeling without any stimulants. Jerry literally had to take me by the hand and walk me to the register to pay for our items. I perked up a bit when we got home, but was so happy to go to sleep.

Well, that about updates my life for the past couple days. We're supposed to get slapped with another big snowstorm this afternoon through tomorrow, so I'm gonna try to get to the gym early today to get my workout in. I can do cardio on Jerry's treadmill later tonight if I don't get it in this afternoon. Only 3 more weeks left!!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Mental Game

Figure is undisputedly a physical sport. But as with any other sport or athletic event, there's a mental aspect that can by more trying than the physical nature of the activity. I wrote about the mental aspect a couple days ago when I talked about crying in the gym. That entry was more focused on the struggle of getting through a tough workout when I have no energy left. But what about the other 90% of the day? I'm faced with temptations in the form of food and laziness.

I just started a new job, and thus far, I haven't had to deal with breakroom donuts or other scrumptious treats (which is highly unusual in a tech company, but I'm not complaining!). Yesterday morning one lady made cinnamon raisin toast, though, and I felt like tackling her and shoving the toast into my mouth as fast as I could. But I didn't. I just smiled at her (ok, it was more like baring my teeth), and reached into the fridge for my breakfast of ground turkey.

I find myself drooling over commercials on TV for Red Lobster, TGIFriday's, and even Wendy's . I swear, they make that food look extra delicious just to torture me! I remind myself that it almost always looks way better on TV than it does in reality, and it prolly doesn't taste that good anyway. Then I crank up the treadmill and keep chugging away.

What did I mean about the temptation of laziness? Imagine a time when you felt absolutely terrible. No energy, everything felt like a chose. Moving your head felt like an effort. Getting up out of your chair required a mental pep talk. Just looking at pictures of people doing active things made you feel tired and worn out.

Got that image in your head? Good. Now multiply those feelings by 2. That's how I feel at various times throughout the day. Not all the time, not every day, but often enough for me to have to constantly remind myself WHY I'm doing this and to encourage myself to keep going.

The temptation to not work as hard in the gym is always in the back of my mind. When my arms start to fatigue, instead of stopping (like my body is screaming at me to do), I push out 2 more reps (and subsequently start the flow of tears, of course). When I'm desperately hanging onto the treadmill, stumbling over my own feet, I'm so tempted to decrease the incline or the speed.

But why would I do that? All I'd be doing is cheating myself out of the opportunity of a lifetime to stand on the Arnold stage. On stage, I'd know in the back of my mind that I hadn't done absolutely everything I could've done. I hadn't pushed as hard as I could've or should've. All I would've done is try to make myself comfortable. But this sport isn't about being comfortable. In fact, everything about it is UNCOMFORTABLE.

It's uncomfortable to feel hungry the majority of the day. It's uncomfortable to drag my tired, sore body onto the treadmill before the sun rises, and then do it all over again in the evening. It's uncomfortable to make food mid-week in order to make sure I have the right amounts for the next couple days. It's uncomfortable to maintain a positive, upbeat attitude when my body just wants to go to sleep.

So why do I put myself through these challenges and all the feelings of being uncomfortable? Because it's ALL WORTH IT.

When I'm standing on stage wearing my obscenely expensive, beautiful suit ... my hair all done up ... my makeup flawless ... my body shining from the paint and oil ... my heels clacking on the hardwood stage ... my body held tense and tight while I smile at the judges and pretend my muscles aren't screaming at me ... I know with 100% of my being that every single second of my prep was worth it.

I've never felt more beautiful, inside and outside, when I was standing on stage, proudly displaying my work ethic, my determination, my drive to succeed, and hearing my name called out amongst the cheers and applause from the audience. That's MY moment in the sun. The moment when I know I've accomplished my goal. Because whether or not I place, just standing on that stage is a victory, and a culmination of months of challenges, deprivation, and sheer will power.

So yes, this sport is physical by nature. But the mental aspect is just as important and vital to success. I'm going to keep working hard, pushing myself, and give myself 100% to achieving my dreams. And when I'm standing on that Arnold stage, I'll know that I deserve to be there.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Voluntary Struggle

I can finally access my blog at work again! All due to the fact that I got a new job, and the atmosphere here is a lot more relaxed. I like the relaxed atmosphere, but at the same time, I'm a bit disappointed that now I won't have an excuse to go out and buy some cute work clothes. Oh well; guess I'll save some money for my upcoming competitions.

Speaking of competitions ... I'm definitely making progress. I know this not only by looking at my progress pics, but also from the fact that I feel terrible!! :( This is nothing to feel sorry me about because it's actually a GOOD thing. Yep, that's what I said. Feeling like crap is a good thing in this sport. Seems like the worse you feel, the better you do. So backwards!

I've been feeling awful the last couple days. We discovered a diet trick that works for me, and since we implemented that, I've been getting noticeably leaner each day. It's so exciting to see changes in my body every day! Looking in the mirror and discovering a new line or vein is so motivating.

And speaking of veins ... Monday was a victory because I finally saw my forearm and bicep veins! I'm not very vascular, so whenever I see veins, I get excited. It means I'm getting LEAN!! I kept walking around the gym with my arm out and a huge smile on my face. Only my boyfriend knew what I was smiling at; I'm sure I looked like a complete moron. LOL

We took progress pics again on Saturday after cardio. We decided to try a new location with lighting more similar to the stage. I'm 110 lbs in the pics and very depleted. I have about 8-10 lbs more to drop, and 4 weeks to do it. Yipes!

This week was also the start of double sessions of cardio. With the start of the new job, I now have time to do cardio in the mornings. This is a VERY good thing, as I was desperately struggling through cardio last week. My energy is completely gone in the evenings, and by the time I even got to the gym, I was drained. I was concerned that my lack of energy and inability to push myself hard during cardio would start negatively impacting my prep. Today was the 5th day in a row that I did cardio in the morning, and what a difference! I struggled a lot today, but the time seemed to fly by on the other days! I get to leave the gym before 10 pm, and actually look forward to training again! I can't even express how much of a drain cardio was after my workout. I'd just dread it. I'm still doing some cardio after my workout, but it's a short amount of time, and compared to the long session, it's a piece of cake!

I hope I feel better tomorrow. Last night I found myself stumbling around the house, dropping things, and forgetting what I was talking about in the middle of sentences. I stood in front of my closet for 5 minutes, trying to pick out dress clothes, and couldn't even focus. Jerry kept reaching for me, thinking I'd fall over when I'd be standing in front of him. This morning I must've stopped about 10 times during cardio because I just couldn't keep going without stumbling. I finally made it through, and when I got to work, I just sat in my chair and stared blankly at my computer. I've taken a couple stims since then, and I'm much more functional right now (thank goodness!). Tomorrow brings some changes to my diet, so hopefully that will be the trick to getting me through the rest of the week.

No one ever said making progress was easy. It's a struggle every day. But it's a struggle I choose to endure because every little bit gets me one step closer to my goal. I'm not complaining. I'm not whining. I'm just pushing forward, giving everything I can to pursue my dreams.

There's no crying in baseball!

"Are you crying?! There's no crying in baseball!" - A League of Their own

"I don't cry! I work out!" - Starsky & Hutch

There's a cultural stigma about crying. Men are terrified of crying women! I know this because I cry a lot. I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to admit it, because it's just part of who I am. What makes me unique, though, is the fact that I regularly cry in the gym. Yep, you read that right. I cry in the gym. In the middle of workouts. Why? It's usually a combination of things: tired, hungry, frustrated, depleted. It's not from feeling sad, though, and it usually only happens during contest prep.

I bet you're thinking I don't train hard. Or that I'm just a baby, and I should suck it up. Quite the opposite, in fact. BECAUSE I'm training hard on limited calories, energy, and strength, I get frustrated. I push myself to the breaking point, and then train some more. Just because tears are running down my face does not mean that I'm going to stop in the middle of a set. No; I use it as strength and motivation to push through those last few difficult reps. I picture myself on stage, getting handed a trophy (or a sword!), my hands raised in victory.

Even though I don't think crying in the gym is unusual, apparently other people are stunned! I warned my boyfriend when we first met that I'll sometimes cry during a workout. He laughed it off and promptly forgot about it. Until a couple weeks later, tears started running down my face after about 100 lunges (which followed heavy squats, step-ups, and wall sits). He didn't know what to do! He got this panicked look on his face and stepped back to let me finish the set. After I composed myself, he and I talked about it and why it was happening. Now when it happens, he knows that I'm pulling on all my inner strength to get me through the set, and a minute later, I'll be fine and ready to move on to the next exercise.

As my bodyfat is steadily decreasing, I can feel my energy levels declining. I'm still pushing hard during my workouts; in fact, I'm in a heavy lifting phase right now. But I know the tears are going to appear when I least expect them. And I'll finish the set, wipe my eyes, and ask Jerry which exercise is next. A bit of an unconventional aspect to training, but it works for me.

Keep training hard and remember that your motivation comes from your inner strength and determination to be the best you can possibly be.