Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CSI Photo Shoot in Chicago

During the weekend of Jr. Nationals, Jerry and I had a photoshoot with Cal from CSI Photo. This was the 3rd time we shot with him, and as always, we love the photos! He sent us a couple previews, and if these are any indication, the rest of the pics should be awesome!


Go Redskins!

Can't believe how lucky I am to be with him!

Jerry bein' all tough n stuff

Love this one!

I have to admit, I'm still trying to get used to my curvier look in these photos. I've only done shoots at shows, so I've always been super lean and wearing Jan Tana. These pics show a softer, more mainstream look, and while I understand the broader appeal factor, I'm my own worst critic, and see so many areas where I wish I were tighter. I'm trying hard to look past this and to recognize that these photos help diversify my portfolio.

Thanks again to Cal for the great work!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Fit Mindset

Are fitness enthusiasts really that different? I'm coming to realize that yes, we most certainly are. We think differently, we act differently, we approach life differently, and we look different than others.

While I'm enjoying the start of my off-season and feeling like so many restrictions have been lifted in my life, I realize that my most people's standards, I'm still living a very structured lifestyle. I still pack my food every day ... I still eat every 2.5-3 hours ... I'm still following a rather structured diet during the week ... I still do cardio twice a day (most days) ... and I still train 4 days a week. Structure? Sure, I guess ... but it doesn't feel like it to me. I don't feel any pressure to HAVE to do any of these things. And maybe that's why I feel so free. I'm CHOOSING to live this lifestyle. And believe it or not, I'm actually ENJOYING it! It's like I said in my Jennifer Aniston post ...

"It's not something I HAVE to do ... it's something I WANT to do. I want to be able to go to the beach at any time this summer and feel confident about my body. I don't have to be in contest shape by any means, but I want to feel good about myself. I don't want to feel embarrassed, or have to explain that I'm 'off-season,' 'bloated,' or 'retaining water.'"

This past weekend, Jerry and I went to the beach again. And got stared at again. Now, I'm suffering from a slight case of body dysmorphia. Since I've spent the majority of the year being all ripped and lean, I'm having difficulty accepting my fuller, more rounded body. I know it's normal and healthy, but it's a completely different look than I'm used to, and I'm having issues adjusting my mindset. So when people at the beach stared at me, instead of feeling confident, I was embarrassed, and just wanted to put one of Jerry's shirts on to cover myself up. I had to consciously stop the negative thoughts and remember that even though I'm not in contest form, I still look ok compared to the average person. I'm not saying I look fabulous by any means. I just look fit (hopefully!). But because of my contest prep mentality, I view things a bit differently than Normal people.

Beach on Chesapeake Bay
We also had some treats this weekend. We enjoyed some great seafood in Annapolis, I made homemade DQ Blizzards, and we visited our favorite sushi place. And oh yeah, we had some fabulous BBQ sammiches at Orioles Park! We did Normal people things all weekend. And it was nice! But we were both ready to get back to the structure and clean foods on Monday ... which is not a Normal people thought!

Fresh seafood in Annapolis

The boat I want for Christmas

Orioles Park at Camden Yards

Rockin' our FREE 40th Anniversary Orioles hats
I'm back to eating clean foods this week, and had an awesome leg workout yesterday! I love training hard and I love feeling strong. I just need to keep reminding myself that looking "fit" most of the time is good. Looking contest prep lean most of the time is not so good. As much as I try to be Normal, I just can't deny that I have a different mindset.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Chicago, Jr. Nationals, and a Fire Drill - Part II

And the excitement continues ...

4:50 am ... The fire alarm in the hotel goes off, so we all stumble out of bed, grab the flashlight, and make our way slowly through the pitch-black hallways to the door. Thank goodness my 1-year-old nephew remained quiet and calm! What a little angel!

Fire truck responding to the fire alarm

5 am ... They let us back into the hotel. False alarm.

6 am ... The fire alarm goes off again. We all ignore it and go back to sleep. Baby and Jerry sleep right through it. Possible?!?!

10 am ... We make a McDonald's run for breakfast, because the hotel's breakfast was unavailable due to the power STILL being out.

11 am ... We check out (money fully refunded!!) and head over to my grandma's, stopping to pick her up some coffee. She's still without power too.

12 pm ... We head downtown Chicago to see some bean thing in a park. We get stuck in traffic.

1 pm ... Still stuck in traffic.

2 pm ... Still stuck in traffic.

3 pm ... Still stuck in traffic.

4 pm ... Jerry and I turn around and head to the Hyatt for the Jr. Nats evening show. The rest of my family pays $24 to park at Navy Pier. Ridiculous. We hit traffic again.

5 pm ... Still stuck in traffic.

6 pm ... Jerry has to eat and pee, so we make a pitstop at Outback Steakhouse.

7 pm ... We change clothes on the roof of the parking garage and head to the evening show. We ran into more friends and had a blast cheering for everyone we knew. My friend, Becca Staggs nabbed 4th place in Bikini Class D, Amanda Zawojsky nabbed 5th in Figure Class C, Meredith placed 4th in Figure Class D, Shelby Starnes got 5th in the Light-Heavies, and Dusty Hanshaw dominated the Superheavies. (I still think Dusty should've won the Overall.)

 Becca Staggs

Amanda Zawojsky

 Shelby Starnes

Dusty Hanshaw

We sample all the yummy food at the expo (LOVES me some protein bar samples!), and get tons of supplement samples and a couple free t-shirts.

Online buddies meeting in person!

Becca and I finally meet in person! She's such a sweetie, and I wish her the best of luck at Team U in a couple weeks! We also meet up with friends from another board we belong to.

Nicky Freglette, Shelby Starnes, me, Jerry, and Chris Genkinger

Jerry, me, Brad Davis, Dusty, Evian Delly (Dusty's fiance)

12 am ...We end up going through the drive-thru at Burger King cuz we're both hungry, and nothing else is open. I may or may not have eaten a little pie thingy and some funnel cake fries. Yes, I said funnel cake fries.

 Enjoying the pie thingy

12 pm ... We head over to Grandma's and spend the afternoon with her at her community pool.

Saint Jerry

8 pm ... Cookout at Grandma's. It's so nice to feel normal and to not have to worry about timing my meals or having food with me all the time!

Grandma told him he could have 2 lemon squares. He had 3. They were good.

9 am ... Check in for flight online. I notice that it looks like our seats are facing backwards, and there are only 6 rows. I'm concerned about the size of the plane. No way we'd take a puddle jumper from Chicago to DC, right??

11 am ... Check out of hotel and head to Grandma's to visit until it's time to head to the airport.

3:30 pm ... Board plane and discover our "upgraded seats" are not just Economy Plus, they're Business Class. Which means ... AWESOMENESS!!! The plane is a Boeing 767 (ie HUGE), and there are indeed seats that face backwards in Business Class (luckily for my motion sickness issue, ours faced front)! Score!! Our seats recline all the way into a bed and have more options than a Lazy Boy recliner! PLUS, we each have our own huge TV screen and can watch TV, movies, play games, follow the flight route, or listen to music. PLUS, we each have our own remote controls for the seats and TVs!!

Yes, I am the dork who keeps exclaiming to Jerry, "Honey! Look at this! Honey! Look what my seat can do! Honey! my feet touch the foot rest now! Honey! This is SOOO cool!"

We get some amused looks from the other more seasoned Business Class passengers.

Way better than the extra 6 inches of leg room we were excited about on the trip there! Note the size of my PERSONAL TV!!

The divider between the seats. Note my own personal remote control that I don't have to share with Jerry.

We get free snacks, free altoids, and a full can of Diet Coke served in a GLASS (not plastic) cup. I watch the movie Valentine's Day, and Jerry watched Sherlock Holmes. We never want the flight to end!

7 pm ... We sadly leave the lap of luxury and exit the plane. We get our luggage right away cuz, hey, Priority passengers here!

All in all, it was a fun weekend, filled with experiences I'll never forget. I'm so glad we got to see my family, spend some time with my grandma, and meet up with our online friends.

Chicago, Jr. Nationals, and a Fire Drill - Part I

I know I'm like a week late in posting this, but here's my recap from last weekend. It includes a trip to Chicago, a fire drill, a power outage, a visit with my family, a photoshoot, and Jr. Nationals. I'm gonna break it up into 2 entries too, cuz I just realized I wrote the longest blog ever.

I'll start with Thursday evening ...
9 pm ... Jerry and I get home from the gym and "discuss" how I'm going to get my fasted morning cardio in if our plane leaves at 6 am, and we need to leave for the airport at 4 am. Options: (1) Do cardio when we get to the hotel in Chicago. This means no food until about 10 am, Central time. (2) D cardio at home before we leave for the airport. This means getting up at 3 am to do cardio. And since it takes me forever to pack, it would also mean not going to bed at all.
No decision was made, but there were some tears (on my part, of course).

10 pm ... As I'm weighing out my food for the weekend, I realize we didn't make enough turkey. So I decide to make my egg muffins instead.

11 pm ... Egg muffins are finally baking in the oven. Jerry and I resume the cardio discussion, which lead to a discussion about whether I even wanted to compete any more this year.

12 am ... I finally made the decision not to compete, and am working on being at peace with myself. I pack up all my food anyway, despite knowing that I won't eat all of it during the trip. I begin looking forward to some treats and restaurant meals with my family.

1 am ... Still packing. At peace with my decision not to compete the rest of this year.

2:30 am ... I finally crawl into bed, watching House Hunters International (I wanna move somewhere exotic too!)

3:30 am ... The alarm goes off, and I drag Jerry out of bed.

5:30 am ... We walk up to the airport gate just as they start the boarding process. Whew! When we board, we notice we were upgraded from steerage to Economy Plus. Hooray for 6 more inches of leg room!

8:30 am ... We meet up with my family (hooray! It'd been 6 months since I'd seen my bro and his family.) and drive to our hotel.

9:30 am ... We're several hours too early for check-in, so we hang out in the breakfast area and take advantage of the free food. Hey, we're paying guests too ... just 4 hours too early.

11 am ... We're able to check in. They cleaned a room just for us!

12:30 pm ... Jerry's hungry (surprise, surprise), so we leave in search of pizza. He and I ate at this great little place called Capone's in Lombard, IL. Homemade food, authentic atmosphere - they're actual relatives of Al Capone!

Capone's in Lombard, IL

2 pm ... We spend time at the Brookfield Zoo ... which is the zoo with the least amount of animals that I've ever seen. No lions, tigers, or zebras. Everything cost extra money. It was 95 deg and sunny. We were all sweaty, stinky disasters. And Jerry and I were dragging, cuz we were both still depleting in preparation for a photo shoot that evening. Not the best zoo experience.

4 pm ... Storm clouds roll in, the sky gets black, and the wind starts whipping. Everyone at the zoo takes off running for the parking lot. Within minutes, severe thunderstorms sweep in, knock over power lines, and wipe out the power for most of the Chicagoland area.

5:30 pm ... My family drops Jerry and me off at the Hyatt O'Hare (location of the Jr. Nats) for our photoshoot with Cal at CSI Photography. The power is out at the hotel and they're running on a generator. Pre-judging is delayed, so the competitors were all just hanging out at the expo. We ran into a bunch of our friends, which was really cool.

Jerry and I with Meredith and Dave, mutual friends of ours

6 pm ... The sky clears up, and Jerry and I shoot outside with Cal. Can't wait to get the pics back!

7 pm ... We stroll around the expo and peak in the doors to watch some of Figure pre-judging. We watch our friend, Meredith, get 1st call-outs in Figure Class D!

Meredith Berthelson, 4th Place, Figure Class D

10 pm ... We decide to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. I ate a couple cookies ... :)

Healthy food, but it tasted SOOO good after only eating my diet food for so long.

OMG. They were really good!

11 pm ... My dad picks us up and we head back to the hotel ... where there's still no power. The room is dark and hot. We're all completely unimpressed.

The fun and excitement continues on the next post ...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Work in Progress

Thank you for all the supportive comments on my last post about deciding not to compete again this year. It was such a difficult decision for me to make, because usually once I commit to something, I stick with it.

This picture is a great example of why I need to take the rest of the year off in order to bring my best physique to the stage next year.

Lehigh Valley Championships Overall Comparison

The quality of the photo isn't the best, but you can clearly see the size difference between me (far left), and the Overall winner (middle). We both have a very similar shape, but everything about her is just one size bigger. There was nothing I could've done differently to win the Overall - she just had me in size. And that's the size I need to build in order to be more competitive at the National level next year.

Although I made the decision not to compete last Thursday evening as I was packing for Chicago, I still brought most of my food along for the long weekend. I had planned on eating clean most of the time, with some occasional treats after our photoshoot on Friday evening. What I hadn't planned on was a slew of severe thunderstorms that slammed Chicago on Friday evening, knocking the power out in some areas for a couple of days. What do thunderstorms have to do with my turkey? With no power, there was no way to keep my turkey cold, and it all went bad. That was confirmation enough for me that I'd made the right decision not to do Team U! I can't even imagine how badly I would've been freaking out if I'd still been in prep!

So far, I've kept my diet relatively clean. I'm still eating my usual turkey and eggs, but I've incorporated a couple other food sources, and have added some carbs back in. My appetite is still ravenous, and I'm still doing cardio twice a day, although it's a lot lower intensity than it was last week. My goal is to drop about 3-4 lbs of water weight within the next few weeks, then back off the cardio a bit and start my off-season training plan.

I'm trying to listen to my body and eat only when hungry, and stop eating when I'm full. For those of you who have dieted before, you know this sounds simple, but can be quite challenging. I need to keep reminding myself that moderation is key, and no foods are "off limits." I'm trying to find a healthy approach to eating clean and living a balanced life. For now, it's a work in progress! :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Knowing When to Say "When"

This past weekend I made a big decision. I decided not to compete anymore this year. Which means I won't be competing at Team Universe, or doing any National shows this year.

This was a difficult decision that I put a lot of thought and consideration into. My whole goal this year was to turn Pro in figure. So why pull out of the show with only 3 weeks left?

As I've mentioned before, I started dieting right after Thanksgiving ... which means I've been dieting non-stop for 29 weeks. Add in 2 high-stress shows (the Arnold Amateur and a local show for my NQ) that required peaking my body and then going straight back into dieting, and my body is just DONE.

The past 2 weeks have been a struggle for me mentally also. Since my body wasn't responding as we'd anticipated, and I was really sick of dieting, every day included a debate about continuing with prep. I knew I COULD push through it through sheer willpower ... but the question remained ... did I WANT to? And that's when I needed to be completely honest with myself.

For no good reason, I hadn't booked the hotel, sent in my registration, or booked the spray tan appointment for Team U. It's not like I didn't have time or didn't know what I needed to do. I just didn't do it. It's like my subconscious was trying to tell me something, and it reminded me of a time quite a few years ago when I just didn't do something I needed to do because I wasn't 100% sure of my decision. Back then, I didn't listen to my gut feeling, and ended up regretting a decision. This time, I listened to my gut. And it was telling me that doing Team U this year just wasn't right for me.

Each time I step on stage, I make sure I bring an improved physique from the last show. And this time, I wasn't so sure I could bring the physique I needed in order to win my Pro card. Sure, I could give some of the girls a run for their money, but at this point, I still have some work to do before I achieve a physique that's worthy of a Pro card.

I knew the next 3 weeks would require 100% focus, and include a fair amount of suffering. I'm not averse to either one, but this time, my heart just wasn't in it. And putting my relationship and family on the back burner for those 3 more weeks wasn't worth it to me just to place in the middle of the pack at Team U.

I know the level of competition, and I know the level of conditioning and size I need to bring to the stage in order to win. I could get the conditioning (with said focus and suffering), but I can't put on the amount of size I need in such a short time. I need another year of intense, heavy lifting, with a focused off-season and some time to grow.

As soon as I realized I was ok with my decision not to compete, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I'm confident I made the right decision for me, and I don't feel like I'm disappointing myself or it's something I'll regret. One of the hardest things in life is knowing when to say "when."

And after reaching deep inside and being honest with myself, I know that this is the time for me to say "when." My body and my mind need some time to relax, to unwind. I'm going to enjoy my first summer in DC with my boyfriend by going to the beach, to ball games, to movies, to dinner ... and not worry about packing all my food or finding time to get all my cardio in.

So my off-season has officially begun! This weekend, we spent time with my family and watched the Jr. Nationals show (stay tuned for my review of the weekend). We ate a ton of junk food, satisfying all those carb cravings, and are back to eating clean food ... which feels good. I'm not "dieting" anymore ... I'm just living a healthy, balanced life. I said "when" ... and I'm happy. :)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Brief Update

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Chicago right now, finally getting caught up with my internet world. We've been without power for about half of our trip, after some ferocious storms ripped through the area on Friday afternoon. Last night, Jerry and I went to watch the Jr. Nationals evening show. What a show!! Strong, tough lineups with some serious competition. Everyone brought their best shape and conditioning to the show. We took a bunch of pictures, and some videos, but haven't gotten a chance to upload them yet. Congrats to all my friends who competed this weekend - you all looked amazing! It was so much fun to meet online friends in person and meet up with people we hadn't seen for awhile. Congrats especially to Becca, Meredith, and Dusty, who all placed really well in tough lineups!

A couple days ago, I made a big decision. But you're gonna have to wait to hear about it until I get more time to write about it. It's time to meet up with my family now, and spend some quality time with them. It's not often I get to spend Father's Day with my dad!! :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Price of Victory

"The price of victory is high, but so are the rewards."
~ Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant

Next week I begin my 29th consecutive week of dieting. Yep, 29 weeks. I started my diet right after Thanksgiving, and since then, have competed in the Arnold Amateur and the Lehigh Valley Championships, winning 4th and 1st in my height class, respectively. In 3 weeks, I'll be standing on stage for the final time this year, competing for my Pro card. But honestly? July 10 can't come soon enough for me!

Yesterday I wrote about how I was in a funk all day. My mood fluctuates a bit during the day, dependent on meal times and my natural high and low energy times, but yesterday, I just couldn't seem to pull myself up. The funk continued from work to the gym, where I discovered my weight was still the same for the 4th day in a row (yes, Jerry, I know I'm supposed to stay away from the scale!). Although Jerry swears I'm getting leaner and harder, I just don't feel it. We had a long discussion at the gym, and continued it later at home. (There may have been some tears involved on my end.)

Bottom line ... my body is responding differently again. My training approach is slightly different than for the other 2 shows, but the diet is nearly the same. My body should be getting leaner and harder, but I seem to have plateaued. It just goes to show that every prep is different, and there's not just ONE right approach (no matter how strongly some girls disagree with this!).

When we critiqued my body, we discovered that I closely resemble a mini brick. SO not cool. Since I have a small frame, there's a fine line between just enough and too much muscle on my body. Even though I may feel I'm carrying a lot of muscle, I still look small compared to the other women on stage.

2010 Arnold Amateur, black suit, 3rd from left

So how did we remedy this situation? Changes to my diet and training program again. I only have 3 weeks until the most important show thus far. Which means the next 3 weeks could royally SUCK for me. I'm going to have to work my ass off - literally.

We still haven't figured out why I felt so out of it yesterday. We discussed whether I should even continue with prep for the show, since my body seems to be trying to tell me something ("Hello! I'm done with this stupid diet & training thing!!"). Ever notice how your subconscious makes in appearance in your actions? Last night when I went to Target (which was a victory, by the way. I left without spending more than $30!), I somehow ended up buying a couple extra things.

Now how did THOSE end up in my basket??

 Whaaaaat. It was on sale. And no, I didn't eat any. It went straight into the freezer.

We didn't make any decisions last night. Just decided to sleep on it and see how I feel after a couple more days. When I woke up this morning (late again - darn phone alarm never goes off!), I was recharged and ready to go. Cardio went well, and my good mood has continued all day. I'm focused, positive, and ready to DO DIS THING!!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Planning for a Successful Off-Season

So much focus is on the prep leading up to the competition ... but what really happens after you step off stage?

One of the most commonly asked questions of competitors is, "What's the first thing you're gonna eat after the competition?" I hate this question. Why? Because I feel it negates the whole experience of standing on stage, competing. The whole point of contest prep is not to deprive and starve yourself; it's to stand on stage and be judged on your physique. So why focus so much on after-show food?

I realize restricted diets take an emotional toll on competitors, and the end of the show signals a reward for all the hard weeks of prep, but it's very important to approach the off-season with a clear, focused diet and training plan. After enjoying the stage time, and indulging your food cravings for a day, it's a good idea to get back on a diet plan within a couple days of the show.

If you indulge your cravings the day after the show, you'll most likely experience quite a bit of discomfort, in the form of cramps, gas, bloat, water retention, and lethargy. Basically, your body is trying to process foods it hasn't had for awhile. Food may sit in your stomach for long periods of time, as your body tries to digest it. During this time, it's important to continue drinking liquids along with the food. Bodybuilders have been hospitalized after a show because their bodies couldn't handle all the junk food they shoveled in their mouths. Their bodies couldn't process the food, and their internal organs began to fail. Scary!

Following a structured off-season plan will allow your body to put on some quality muscle (post-contest is the optimal time for the body to grow more muscle), stabilize the metabolism, and reduce water retention (usually a result of post-show indulgence). Not following a structured diet after the show can result in unwanted weight gain and a slower, metabolic set point ... which will make it more difficult to get lean for the next show. See My Metabolism Story for a cautionary tale of poor off-season planning.

An off-season diet should be very similar to your contest diet, with the addition of some calories and food sources. Once the majority of bloating and water retention has decreased, try adding more food and variety into the diet. For example, I don't include protein powder in a contest diet, but I include it in my off-season diet. In order to grow muscle, you'll need to continue to feed your body and keep your metabolism fast.

MyoFusion by Gaspari Nutrition is a good quality and yummy protein powder

All this information is great ... but what if you have an off-season plan, but are finding it difficult to stick to it? You're not alone! I can't think of one person who hasn't struggled with staying on an off-season diet. Heck, it's tough enough sticking to a contest diet even with the pressure of the stage looming ahead, much less staying on a diet with no show in the near future!

Here are a few tips for staying on track:
  • Allow yourself some treat meals or one treat day a week. This will satisfy any cravings you may have and help you to stay on track the rest of the week.
  • Remind yourself that you're making a "lifestyle change;" it's not just a "diet," which infers short-term.
  • Cook and pack your meals the same as you did during prep. Make all your meals for the week and package them up so you can easily grab them from the fridge.
  • Set a goal to take pictures each week, just as you did with progress pictures during prep.
  • Chew sugar-free gum when you have a food craving.
For more tips and information about staying on track after a show, see Avoiding the Post-Contest Feeding Frenzy.

What gum addiction??

The off-season is a fun time, but having some semblance of structure can help you maintain a healthy physique year-round.

Trying to Find the Sunshine

This week I seem to be struggling with pre-contest blues. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's the diet, maybe it's hormones, maybe it's a combination of things. The weather's been mostly grey, overcast, and rainy, which always seems to drag me down. After a fun, relaxing weekend, I was ready to start the week off on a happy note. And then I tried to train legs heavy on Monday evening.

Unfortunately for my training schedule, I need to train after work, which is usually when I feel most down and sluggish. I took a couple extra stims to help push me through my workout, and instead of firing me up, they seemed to almost drag me down and make me feel angry. Jerry had me try my legs in a different position on the leg press, which terrified me more than I let on. I'm absolutely terrified of the leg press because of my ongoing battle with knee pain. I'm so scared one of my knees will give out mid-press, and the weight will fall on me. I have the safety pegs set high enough, but I'm still scared of it. Usually my feet are positioned high on the platform, so the brunt of the weight is on my glutes and hamstrings instead of my quads, but we tried it the more traditional ways on Monday. I pushed through it as best I could, but I was battling tears the entire time.

Smith machine squats were next, and I swear, even the bar felt heavy! :( I felt really weak, and wasn't able to use as much weight as I've been using the past few weeks. And after each set, I struggled to control my breathing to avoid an asthma attack. Battled tears again.

I did a couple other exercises, and everything just felt heavy. I was close to tears the entire time, and so frustrated. I felt a little better after cardio, but still disappointed with the workout.

Trying to look on the bright side of things, I keep reminding myself that it's normal and natural to lose strength during contest prep. Before each show, my strength decreases, and to balance that out, we usually decrease the weight and increase the reps. This time we're not doing that, and I'm still trying very hard to push heavy (for me) weight. I still believe it's the best approach for this show, but am having difficulties adjusting my mindset.

Yesterday's workout went slightly better, but I got stuck once during incline chest press. Luckily, Jerry was there spotting me, and just lifted the bar up when I continued to hold it in a lowered position. Today is a cardio-only day, so hopefully my body will recharge and re-energize for a great workout tomorrow. And hopefully the sun will finally make an appearance sometime this week too!

Only 3.5 more weeks to go!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Look Ma! It's a Bodybuilder in its Natural Habitat!

Among the many challenges of contest prep is life balance. Because so much of the day revolves around training, cardio, meals, and food prep, it's really easy to get completely consumed by prep. I'll be the first to admit that I've been completely guilty of it. Because I usually don't feel well, I usually don't feel like doing anything that requires any extra or non-essential movement. Sometimes even getting up to heat up my food feels like a herculean effort, not to mention the multiple restroom trips necessitated by the gallon of water I drink a day!

But I feel it's really important to remember that there's more to life than just prep. There are relationships, activities, and work that all need attention too. I'm not idealistic enough to think that everything needs to be perfectly balanced - if that were the case, I wouldn't do well at the shows, because I wouldn't be devoting enough time to prep. However, there should be some sort of balance involved.

With that in mind, Jerry and I decided to attempt some "normal people" activities this weekend. On Saturday evening, we went to see The A-Team. (Actually, we went to see the Karate Kid, but since we failed to properly plan, it was sold out. So we went to the next best thing.) Granted, we didn't have the same movie theatre experience as most of the others there did, but we still had a fun time. We didn't get popcorn (which we both adore! With butter, of course.), but we did get a Diet Coke. And I brought my food in with me. I have this super cute cooler that looks like a purse, so I just put my tupperware in there with a small ice pack, and I'm set!

Similar but mine's cuter

Yesterday we decided to hit the beach. Hooray for living close to a beach for the first time in my life!! We packed up our beach stuff and our coolers (can't miss a meal!), and hit the road. An hour later, we were burning our feet on the hot (orange?) sand. We quickly discovered that apparently the other people at the beach clearly had none of the body dysmorphia we have. We saw all shapes and sizes of people, all having a fun time. While it was nice to get appreciate stares from others, it was also a good reminder for us that being lean, having a 6-pack, and competing aren't the truly important things in life. Being able to spend quality time with family and friends - hanging out on the beach, having a cook-out, playing in the waves - is food for the soul. We're looking forward to going back when we're not dieting and spending the whole day soaking up sun, eating concession stand food, and not worrying about getting home to do evening cardio.

Tryin' to get rid of the pasty white skin color we're both currently sporting

I'm glad we made the effort to get out of the house, away from our everyday routine, and see something different. Although neither of us felt 100% great with tons of energy, we found we did have enough energy to go somewhere and enjoy ourselves.

We're both looking forward to even more life balance after Team U. While we try to do Normal things every once in awhile just to feel sane, it's not the same as being able to spontaneously go somewhere without having to worry about packing enough food and getting our workouts in. Oh, I'm sure we'll still pack some food during the off-season, since we're both committed to staying in decent shape, but it won't be like the pressure of weighing, measuring, and packing food during prep.

A funny story to wrap things up ...

Since Sunday is Safeway Day for us, we stopped by the store to pick up our food for the week. Within 5 minutes of entering the store, we were again stared at. I started to wonder if I had sand in my hair or if my suit top was still tied, because a young woman continued to blatantly stare at us. She then walked right up to us and said in an amazed voice, "Are you guys, like REAL bodybuilders?" I just smiled and nodded, while Jerry pointed to me (like anyone would doubt he's a bodybuilder :P). She then continued with, "Wow! I've never seen one in person before!" I immediately pictured the Crocodile Hunter (rest his soul) exclaiming, "Wow! Look at these bodybuilder specimens in their natural habitat!" I kinda felt like some sort of odd animal species after that comment. But then again, I guess we WERE in our natural habitat: the grocery store!

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Metabolism Story

As predicted earlier this week, I've felt like crap the last two days. Hate it when I'm right about that! LOL

I'm still steadily dropping water weight, gettin' leaner, and keeping my strength up. I'm also ravenously hungry! I eat about every 2.5 hours, which comes out to 6 meals a day ... and I'm hungry about an hour after I finish eating. So I figure I spend about 80% of the day feeling hungry. My tummy feels like it's eating itself all the time. I'm pretty sure it's already eaten itself and is on to my other internal organs.

But this is really a GOOD thing. It means my metabolism is cranked, and my body is burning fat. Oddly enough, this is the most food I've ever eaten during a prep, and I'm still hungry and still dropping weight. Hmmm ... maybe Jerry DOES know what he's doing after all! ;)

I've been reading a lot about competitors who have completely messed up their metabolism due to prep, and all the struggles and despair they go through. I completely identify with them, because I did the same thing 5 years ago. I did my own prep, and while yes, I won a trophy, I also severely damaged my metabolism to the point where I gained 20 lbs in 2 weeks, and reset my body at a higher weight and slower metabolism. My body turned into a sponge that just absorbed everything I dumped into it, making me feel miserable, depressed, and out of control.

I couldn't fight the cravings, and just ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I got really sick 2 days after the show, tried to go back on my diet, but failed miserably. Cuz really, who wants to eat dried out chicken all the time?

I can claim ignorance, but what I should really claim is stupidity. I knew nothing about metabolism, and thought that in order to spur more fat loss, I should eat less. So instead of speeding up my metabolism, instead, I pulled food out of my diet throughout prep, and ended up on barely enough calories to function, and nearly killed my metabolism. The next year, I did the same thing (cuz I got lean the first year, so why not try it again?! :P), and ended up with the same results, sans trophy.

The third year, I finally realized I needed to work with a trainer, so I tried the online training thing. While the trainer's dieting protocol seems to work very well for male bodybuilders, it wasn't the right match for a natural female competitor. I did end up doing very well that year (two 1st places and an Overall win), but I still gained a bunch of weight after the shows. I literally ate my way through Mexico a week after the last show. My family was amazed at the amount of food I could pack away! I literally ate 3 desserts with every meal (thanks to the amazing desserts served at the all-inclusive resort!).

Gaining a bunch of weight in the off-season just makes it that much more difficult to diet down the next year. My body wants to hang onto the weight, because it created a new set-point. A much higher point than I'd ever wanted! I was dealing with a ruined metabolism.

When I started prep for the Arnold this year, Jerry told me to start by just eating when I was hungry. I'd so completely messed my body up, that I was only hungry a couple times a day. Now, 6 months later, I'm hungry about every 1-1.5 hours. Talk about a drastic difference!

In the next 4 weeks (OMG - only 4 weeks left!!), I expect my metabolism to continue cranking, and my appetite to continue to be ravenous. The real test will come after the show, though. Jerry's already coming up with a good off-season plan for me, and I'm resolved to stick with it cuz I don't want to be embarrassed to wear a bikini this summer - like the previous 4 summers :(.

My goal? Remain about 5-8 lbs above contest weight, keep the metabolism cranked, and put on some good size! But until then, my focus is on Team Universe! In 4 weeks, I'm lookin' forward to rockin' the stage!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tell Me Lies

Honesty is such a basic concept, yet it can be so difficult at times. We all want to portray ourselves in the best light possible, and sometimes that means hiding things or lying about things. I tried lying once when I was younger, and I just got into more trouble than if I would've told the truth. Since then, all attempts I've made at lying have failed miserably. So it seems that I suck at lying. Apparently, I'm quite transparent.

But I don't think that's a bad thing. In fact, I think it's actually a very positive thing. I approach life with an open and honest perspective, and assume others do the same. How very wrong I am sometimes.

One of the biggest and hardest lessons I've learned in the past year is that people lie. A lot. And sometimes for no good reason. I really don't understand the compulsion, but I'm learning to deal with it.

For example, if I believed everything people wrote on forums or said to me, every guy is always at 12% bodyfat, can bench 405 for reps, and squats 1000 lbs. Every competitor has THE BEST training program, and everyone else's program sucks or is "wrong" in so many ways. No one does cardio anymore and they only diet for 2 weeks before stepping on stage. Cereal is a great pre-contest food, no one cheats on their diet, and everyone is 100% "natural."

Do any of these things sound real or possible to you? I've heard them all ... and actually believed some of them! I'm sure some people actually believe the things they're saying, even if the things aren't actually true (C'mon, we all think our trainer is the best, right?). But there are some people out there who say these things just to annoy, distract, or piss off other people.

My question is ... why do it? Why lie? Who cares what you can bench? Who cares what your bodyfat percentage is? Who cares how long you diet? Who cares if you like your training program?

The only person who should care about any of these things is YOU! No one else!

I find myself constantly comparing myself to others ... reading what they write about their diet and training, and believing they're all telling the truth. But not all the information they're providing is true, and I have no idea what they're NOT saying.

For example, if I read an article about a Figure pro's diet and training program and look at her pictures, I immediately start comparing my program and my body to hers. This is a dangerous thing to do, because I don't know if the info in the article is 100% accurate. I also don't know what's NOT included in the article. Maybe she does additional exercises than what's listed. Maybe she uses "supplements" or other techniques that no one talks about. Maybe the pictures were touched up a lot before they were printed.

The point is, no one divulges all their information about their diet and training programs. Some people even outright lie about theirs. I'm discovering that it's best to just keep doing what I know works for ME, and focus only on my own prep. I need to stop worrying about what others say or don't say, and just bring my own best physique to the stage.

I don't think I'll ever understand why people lie, but I'm accepting the fact that they'll continue to do it. Especially in this industry, where there are so many different methods, approaches, and theories ... and not one right answer that works for everyone.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Atrocious Crime & Progress Update

Ok, so this is my 3rd entry of the day ... but I had some other things I wanted to post in addition to my usual ramblings about the insignificant things I think about during the day.

I'll start off with an update and a follow-up to Friday's tough decision regarding my Treat Meal. Jerry and I talked it over at length, and decided to go out to dinner on Saturday evening. The following factors were taking into account:
  • I wanted to wear my new teal dress. Yes, this was a factor. Srsly.
  • We both wanted to go out on a "date" ... our last one for the next 5 weeks.
  • I didn't want to have to struggle to stay on my diet the whole day if I had the meal earlier in the day.
  • Jerry didn't want to have to deal with me struggling to stay on my diet the whole day. ;)

So we went to dinner at Bertucci's, a nice Italian restaurant we both like. I was a very good girl and stayed on my diet the WHOLE day!! :) We both got all dressed up, and had a great time!

Neither of us really like this pic. I think I look fat, and he thinks he looks skinny. Go figure. But the dress is cute, right?!

After dinner wasn't so much fun, though. I've been struggling with severe acid reflux (GERD) and a hiatal hernia for the past 2 years, and when it flares up, it's NOT a fun time. I don't just get the standard "heartburn" feeling ... I actually throw up. Really not fun. :( I've had the standard tests (barium swallow, esophageal manometry, and an endoscopy), and am on preventative and maintenance medication for it. Unfortunately, the medicine doesn't always work. This time my reflux flared up pretty badly, and  I was miserable for 3 hours. When I weighed myself the next morning, I was only 1 lb more than Friday. I hope I kept enough food in that it spiked my metabolism, but I'm not really sure. I hope so, because it was my last Treat Meal before Team U.

I'm gonna backtrack a bit now to Saturday morning. After morning cardio, we took progress pics. I'm very not happy with these, but in the spirit of being open and honest, here they are.

The back pose especially makes me cringe! Pop quiz: guess where Kari stores most of her fat? Yep - glutes and hammies! Grrr Guess we're all our own worst critics.

I was 109 lbs in these pics, and Jerry figures I'll be on stage at about 103-104 lbs. The goal is to bring me in bigger, fuller, and tighter than the previous 2 shows. Challenging, because I for the Arnold, I was bigger, and for the Lehigh, I was tighter. So now we're going to attempt to combine the two into my best conditioning to date. Thus far, I've been able to improve my conditioning each show, so we're working hard to achieve a nice balanced, full, yet tight look.

I had to laugh after we took these pics, because my suit left Jan Tana Ultra 1 color all over me. For some reason, the smell of Jan Tana gets me all excited to compete. Is that weird? :)

Ok, next topic.

I threw away a donut. Yep, you read that right. I'll repeat it: I threw away a donut. It was prolly the most painful thing I've done in awhile. As some of you may know, I don't believe in wasting food (example: check out any of my off-season pics), and I don't believe in throwing it away. Ever. Under any circumstances.

I broke my own rule yesterday. So what in the world made me commit this most atrocious of crimes? I blame Jerry. Let me explain.

On Saturday morning, we swung by the grocery store to pick up some eggs. While we were there, I decided to pick up a donut to celebrate a belated National Doughnut Day. I figured that instead of having dessert at the restaurant, I'd just have the donut. Jerry said it was ok. And then we got home.

We then proceeded to have a "discussion" (ahem) about the definition of Treat MEAL. I use the term "meal" very loosely. Meaning, the "meal" could begin  at 5 pm while getting ready to go out to dinner, continue in the car on the way to the restaurant, and end several hours after we get home. Jerry's definition of a "meal" includes only the food eaten at the restaurant.

Apparently we were unclear on each other's definitions of the term "meal." And upon further "discussion" (and maybe some tears on my part), we came to an agreement. Eating the donut was not necessary, nor was it a good idea. After all, I'm chasing a PRO card. If I don't need to eat a donut, I should probably avoid it by running like hell in the opposite direction.

I couldn't quite bring myself to throw it out on Saturday (even after all the refluxing), but on Sunday morning, I looked at it, pictured it sticking to each of my thighs on stage, and tossed it in the garbage. I then proudly informed Jerry that the donut was now in the garbage (while silently crying inside), and that it would remain there (i.e. no digging through the garbage to pull it back out again. Yes, it's been done. No, not by me. Even I have some standards, small as they may be at times.).

My favorite kind of donut: apple fritter. The apples make it healthy, right? :)

I know I made the right decision, and if faced with the situation again, I'd do the same thing. I have a burning desire to earn my Pro card, and to be able to add IFBB Pro in front of my name. It just has such a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

And now my final topic ... what's on deck for this week.

This week is gonna suck. No, I don't have a negative attitude; I'm just being realistic. We increased both my morning and evening cardio times. Not by much, but every little bit makes a difference. We also made some small changes to my diet, and will be changing my training a bit too. All these changes will result in more energy expenditure on a greater calorie deficit. Granted, not much of a deficit, but it'll be noticeable to me, that's for sure.

I'm still feeling good today, energy- and mood-wise. I'm guessing that I'll feel ok tomorrow morning, but start to feel tired and sluggish in the afternoon, as my body struggles to hang onto the fat and water. If I don't get a decent amount of sleep tomorrow night, my guess is that I'm going to feel terrible on Wednesday. :) I'm looking forward to it, because it means I'm doing something right! I know that the worse I feel, the better I look. No, I'm not overly starving my body or ruining my metabolism; I'm merely getting ready for a show. We hope to actually ADD a bit of food next week, depending on this week's progress.

I'm finally finished rambling. If you've actually read this far, thanks for your patience! LOL I just finished eating Meal 4 while I was writing this, so I'm off to the gym to train legs!

What's Your Excuse?

I got this link from someone on Twitter, and just had to share.

Next time you don't feel like training or going to the gym ... remember this video.

What's your excuse for skipping a workout?

"Champions find a way. They don't make excuses. Nobody cares what your excuses are. Get it done or go home."
~ Layne Norton

More Training Changes - Video Blog

Since we were filming a video for M3World (shameless plug: check it out - it's the site Jerry and I run. We just gave away a bunch of free supplements yesterday!) last night, I decided to do another quick video blog. Highlights: I'm 5 weeks out from Team U, and we made more changes to my training/diet this week. I'm preparing to feel like absolute crap later this week! :)

I'll post more later ... for now, enjoy the video!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Great Debate

Happy National Doughnut Day!!

I'm sulking because I can't properly celebrate this most wonderful of days by sampling a doughnut. Srsly, this is quite tragic and painful for me. Sometimes I really despise the limitations of contest prep.

And now on to a different topic ...

It's Fridaaaay! For some reason, this week seemed to go by slowly, even though it was a short workweek. Maybe it's seemed to go by slowly because it was so eventful, and I'm ready for a nice, relaxing weekend. This week included all of the following things: off-site training for work, damage to my car, repair on my car, morning cardio, changes to my diet, not enough sleep, and losing 6 lbs (all water weight ... but I'm still all flat and watery looking). I think those are enough events for one week! I'm looking forward to some serious tanning/reading time this weekend!

Series I'm reading right now. Yes, I know they were written for teens, but they're really good!

Yesterday I asked Jerry about the possibility for a Treat Meal this weekend ... to which he asked, "If we have sushi tomorrow morning, can you go back on your diet for the rest of the day?" Hmmm ... great question! Can I? I honestly don't know! Like I've said before, once I'm off my diet, I have a really tough time getting back on it for the remainder of the day, even if being "off" is a planned meal. This is definitely a mental issue that I continue to struggle with. Once I'm ON my diet, I'm completely fine! But once I fall off, even for just a bite of something, I'm OFF. (Note to self: If I'm gonna be Pro, I really need to learn how to manage this issue!)

Currently in my fridge ... too easily accessible ... and NO, I don't believe in throwing food away!

This conversation happened yesterday, and I still don't know the answer. I almost think that having my Treat Meal as my last meal of the day would be better for my psyche. After morning cardio, I could come home, make eggs, and then have my regular diet food the rest of the day. Then Jerry and I could go out for a nice dinner somewhere (and I could wear my new really cute one-shoulder teal dress that I've been dying to wear!). So why isn't this the easy solution? Two reasons ...

1 - The ideal time for me to have a Treat Meal (according to Jerry) would be earlier in the day, so I could burn off more of the calories throughout the day. But the whole falling-off-for-the-whole-day thing really becomes an issue.

2 - I should NOT even be having this issue. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself (read: perfectionist), but I feel I should be able to get back on my diet after competing for 5 years. Yet I continue to struggle. I'm super good at making excuses for not staying on once I'm off. I view this mental struggle as a weakness, and I despise feeling weak.

So I'm continuing to debate the options in my head. Try to overcome my weakness, eat earlier and struggle with staying on my diet the rest of the day, because it's the "best" thing to do for my training program? Or recognize my weakness, stay on my diet during the day, and have my Treat Meal in the evening, even though it's not the ideal protocol?

If someone came to me with this issue, I'd tell them to do whatever is best for their training program. We SHOULD all be strong enough mentally to follow the training program to a T ... but we're human. And inherently, humans make errors and have weaknesses.

So tonight I'll talk things over with Jerry again, and let ya know what we decided to do! What would you do??

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nap Time

Is it Nap Time yet? That's the question of the day. I think the changes to my diet have finally hit my body today. I've been really sleepy, with focus, concentration, and motivation issues. Blah. I've been sipping on a bottle of Endorush all day, which keeps me nearly awake, but makes my head feel kinda funny. Too much B vitamins tend to do that to me.

Blue Raspberry Fix is my flavor of choice

Tonight I think I'm training back and bi's. I'm planning on taking some extra Jack3d/Levrone Formula before my workout so I can focus and train hard. I'm mildly irritable at this point, so I need to try extra hard not to snap at Jerry tonight while he's training me.

On a positive note, I'm steadily losing that ugly water weight! I've been dropping a pound a day since Sunday, so I'm definitely feeling better about my progress. On Monday, I was very worried that I wouldn't have enough time to drop the weight I need to drop in 6 weeks. While Jerry reminded me that I was retaining an extraordinary amount of water that would come off fairly quickly, I was still worried. We were going to start double cardio sessions 5 weeks out, but decided to play it safe, and started them this week, at 6 weeks out. I didn't want to be in a position where I'd regret not starting a week earlier. It would completely suck if I were a week behind schedule for Team U because we took a gamble and only started 5 weeks prior.

I view this show as my one shot at a Pro card this year. Granted, there are 5 or so other shows this year that I could do to try to earn it, but this is by far my best shot. If I don't win it here, I'll take the rest of the year off and try again next year. Well, at least that's the plan at this point. There's a very strong possibility it could change. :)

Is it Nap Time yet??

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Thank you, Jennifer Aniston

I gotta say, it feels good to be back on track! In the spirit of being honest (that seems to be my theme lately), I want to share what helped snap me back into contest mode. Please don't laugh, scoff, or smirk too hard, but my mind finally made the shift after I was looking through the latest US Weekly magazine. (I swear, it's not mine! Jerry loves those trashy gossip mags, so I find them lying around the house until I gather them all up and return them to the gym, from which Jerry "borrows" them.)

What was it that made the lightbulb finally light up in my head? Actually, it was looking at the "article" about star's Bikini Body Secrets. As I looked at the photos with a critical eye, I had to admit that most of the women in the article look pretty good (especially 41-year old Jennifer Aniston!)! Not really athletic, Figure Girl good, but definitely better than the average American. As I read about their diet "secrets" and their training routines, I realized something: these women worked hard for their bodies. So how can I expect my body to be tight and toned if I don't work hard for it?!

She's even got a bit of an ab outline!

I kept thinking about Jennifer Aniston and how she ALWAYS looks great! It's very clear that she follows a relatively clean diet and puts in her time at the gym. To her, eating healthy and exercising is just a part of her life. She doesn't half-ass it and expect to look good ... like I was doing.

She looks better in a bikini than I do right now!

Half-assing it never got anyone anywhere ... in fact, it's a great way to remain stagnant. Rationalizing those cookies or that glass of wine only serve to set you back from your goals.

It's kinda funny that it took a trashy gossip magazine and a movie star to make me realize what I needed to do and to re-motivate myself. Of all the threads on fitness forums, the quotes and stories online, the radio interviews of pros, and the videos of pro workouts that I've read, listened to, and watched ... nothing snapped me back into place quicker than seeing the beach bodies of celebrities and reading about their workouts. Whoda thunk??

So thank you, Jennifer Aniston, for re-inspiring me and kicking my butt firmly back on the contest prep wagon. I'm making a CHOICE to be fit, healthy, and lean. It's not something I HAVE to do ... it's something I WANT to do. I want to be able to go to the beach at any time this summer and feel confident about my body. I don't have to be in contest shape by any means, but I want to feel good about myself. I don't want to feel embarrassed, or have to explain that I'm "off-season," "bloated," or "retaining water."

My diet and training are on point this week, and I've already dropped 3 lbs since Sunday (water weight). We made some adjustments to my diet, tightened things up a bit, and added in morning cardio. I thought I'd feel crappy today, with my body trying to shift into ketosis, but I actually feel ok (albeit a little tired). I'm ready to stand on stage again in 5.5 weeks!

Lightweight Baby! Another Video Blog

I've discovered a quick, easy way to update all y'all on my progress ... video blogs! We recorded another one last night after my workout. I talked about my training protocol (heavy), reaching my personal best in free squats (145 lbs), and wrapping my knees for the first time (thisclose to tears). Now that I've given you the highlights ... enjoy!