Monday, August 30, 2010

Need Some Motivation?

Think YOUR workouts are tough?

How would you like trying to do your workout with only 1 leg?

Amy Palmiero-Winters does just that. She lost her leg below the knee ... yet, she doesn't use that as an excuse NOT to be fit. In fact, she just completed a 100-mile race. Yes, that's right - a 100-mile race!

 Article on Amy in a recent fitness magazine

She refuses to let others set her limitations ... and is a true example of creating your own destiny.

I, for one, am not only impressed ... I'm inspired.

I challenge you to find your own inner motivation and to set your OWN limits ... and then push beyond them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheesecake on My Mind

For some reason, work has seemed to go be especially slowly today, which has prompted me to be on Twitter more often than usual. One of my online friends, Margie, is 5 weeks out from her first show, and has been particularly interested in talking about sweet treats today. So of course, being an Enabler, I had to jump into the conversation and contribute my own thoughts of yummy cookies and my favorite Red Velvet cheesecake.

Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake

Before I started competing, I'd barely even heard of The Cheesecake Factory (heretofore referred to as CF), much less had eaten there. (C'mon, I lived out in the middle of Nowhere Town, MT.) It didn't take long for me to realize that fitness competitors have an unnatural obsession with CF. I didn't understand it ... and although I fully participate in discussions about CF and the wonders of cheesecake, I'm still not sure it's my favorite place to go after a show.

Don't get me wrong! Loves me their cheesecake! But honestly? I'd rather have a cookie. *ducking from all the swinging blows aimed at my head from bodybuilders and figure girls.

Elle's Belles - My Favorite Cookies in the Whole Wide World

I don't know where this whole obsession with CF came from, but it's nationwide. At any show anywhere in the US, there's rampant talk about going to CF after the show. And I'll be the first to admit that I fully participate in these discussions ... talking about the food and which flavor of cheesecake I'm gonna get, etc. I don't even know why I do it. Maybe it's like the gang mentality. Everyone else is talking about it, and the food there IS good, so I obsess about it too.

But in reality?? I'd much rather just have a cookie.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Delusions of Grandeur

We all want to achieve something important in our lifetime. Something of significance: a trophy, a certificate, a prize. For those of us who compete, most often the goal is to turn Pro.

I compete in Figure in the NPC (National Physique Committee), which is the amateur division of the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding). In order to move from the NPC into the IFBB, you must either earn your Pro card at a show, or petition the IFBB to receive it (yep - it's true. Some of those Pros out there didn't earn their Pro card at a show. Fair? Well, that's another story for another day). In order to earn your Pro card, you need to meet certain criteria and progress through different levels of shows.

Local / Regional Level: These shows are usually small, with fewer than 200 competitors. There are usually 2-4 Figure classes, with anywhere from 2-10 competitors in each class. There are no eligibility requirements to compete at this level. Some, but not all, shows are National Qualifiers.

National Level: These shows are usually very large, with upwards of 400 competitors and big name guest posers. There are 6 Figure classes, with up to 40 competitors in some classes. In order to be eligible to compete in these shows, Figure competitors must place in the top 3 of a National Qualifying (NQ) show. Team Universe and the Jr. USA's require a top 5 finish in an NQ show. The National Qualification is good for the remainder of the year in which it is earned, and the next full calendar year. For example, since I earned my NQ this year, I'm qualified to do all National shows this year and next year. If I don't place in the top 5 of a National show during that time frame, I'll need to re-earn my NQ for 2012.

Pro Level: These shows are large, with a smaller number of competitors than National shows, as there are no height classes; all athletes compete in the same class for Figure. In order to be eligible to compete in these shows, Figure competitors must win the National show Overall or meet other requirements (each National show has different Pro eligibility).

Although the Local shows are smaller, there are many of them offered throughout the year, which gives competitors lots of opportunities to earn their National Qualification. There are only 7 National shows in which competitors can earn their Pro card. And as I mentioned above, the competition at National shows is very tough.

In my opinion, just because you earned your NQ doesn't mean you should compete at a National show that year.

Now before anyone gets their posing suit in a bunch, let me explain why I feel that way.

National shows are a big deal. Plain and simple. The best of the best amateurs are there, all vying for very few Pro cards. Very rarely does anyone show up out of shape (unlike Local shows where there's often varying levels of conditioning), so the competition is very fierce.

I competed at Jr. Nationals in 2009 just for the experience. I knew I wasn't going to place in the top 5; all I wanted to do was to not tie for 16th. And I achieved my goal! (I placed 15th! LOL) Would I have liked to have placed higher? Absolutely! But I recognized the weaknesses in my physique, and used it as motivation to work even harder in my off-season.

Before someone decides to compete in a National show, I think they need to take an honest assessment of themselves. NQ ladies should ask themselves the following questions before booking their plane tickets to Nationals:
  • How do I look compared to the Pros?
  • When I compare my show photos next to the photos of the Pros, do I see a big difference between their physiques and mine?
  • Are my muscle bellies thick enough already or do I need to take some time to put on more size?
  • Is there a good balance between my upper and lower body?
  • What was the quality like at the show in which I earned my NQ?
  • Were most ladies in good condition with good balance, or was there significant variation in each class?
  • How large were the classes? Placing 2nd in a class of 2 or 3 is not the same as placing 2nd in a class of 15.
All too often I see ladies win a trophy at a small Local show, immediately plan to compete in a large, highly competitive National show, and then end up tying for 16th place along with 25 other ladies in their class.

Don't get me wrong - winning a trophy at a show is a huge accomplishment! And there should definitely be a strong sense of pride in that achievement. However, winning a trophy and earning the NQ doesn't automatically mean that a physique is ready to be competitive at the National level.

By no means am I trying to discourage anyone from doing a National show! I'm merely encouraging competitors to really consider whether they're ready to be competitive at that level. I understand that everyone has different reasons for competing, and that some ladies may want to do a National show just for the experience (like I did).

That being said, I actually earned my NQ back in 2006, and could've competed in a National show several years ago. I did an honest evaluation of my physique, however, and realized I still had a long ways to go before I would be any kind of threat at a National show. I'm still working on developing my physique, and like I've mentioned before, I feel I need more size in order to be competitive. (Whether or not I actually do put on any more size is another story. I don't really want to be any bigger.)

On the other hand, I can name a handful of ladies who achieved immediate success at the National and then at the Pro level. Their physiques were clearly National/Pro quality when they earned their NQ.

I have the utmost respect for everyone who competes, regardless of their placing. Competing is not easy, it's not always fun, and it takes a certain kind of person to complete a 12-15 week (sometimes longer) prep and then to stand on stage wearing items smaller than my grandma's underwear in front of hundreds of people. It takes guts, courage, dedication, motivation, hard work, and just plain stubbornness. So be proud of your accomplishments, admire your trophies, and do an honest self-assessment before signing up for that National show.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Renewing my Passion for Competing

This past weekend was a success in many ways. On Saturday, Jerry and I spent most of the day at the NPC Maryland show. As I mentioned in my previous entry, Jerry's client, Brooks, was competing in his first bodybuilding show. He competed in two divisions: Novice Heavyweight and Open Light-Heavyweight.

 Brooks is on the far left

I've been to quite a few shows over the past 5 years, and I've seen some big cheering sections. But Brooks had the largest cheering section I've ever seen before. It was truly a moving experience to be a part of Ninja Turtle Green Team Brooks. His fans cheered so loudly, he had a difficult time hearing Jerry in the front row, shouting posing prompts to him! In the evening, he had twice as many fans cheering for him.

Seth Feroce was the guest poser. Very nice, personable guy!

Not only was it a thrill to be part of his team, their innocence and curiosity about the show and the sport was a good reminder of how many things I take for granted. I rarely stop to think about the reasons behind the things we do: tanning, shaving, posing, etc. I answered a bunch of questions and explained things as the show progressed ... and the more I talked about it, the more I realized just how passionate I am about this sport. I explained why we paint on such a dark tan (helps display the muscles better), why we shave our entire bodies (helps the tan adhere to the skin better and more evenly), why some of the competitors were dripping sweat on stage (the lights are hot, posing is really difficult, and they didn't nail their conditioning / drying out process), why some guys pose to a different side (shows their better side), why it's not ok for guys to bedazzle their posing trunks (not allowed in NPC), why it's called a "posing routine" instead of a "dance routine" (sounds more manly), why some guys are moved around in the lineup (the judges are comparing physiques side-by-side), what the difference is between figure and bikini (muscularity), etc.

 Novice Heavyweight class

I wasn't annoyed by any of the questions, and really enjoyed answering them. I often don't realize how foreign the things we do seem to people outside of the industry. I don't think twice about carrying a cooler with me everywhere I go, shaving my whole body, getting airbrushed in a co-ed room, or standing on stage wearing less than what most women wear under their clothes every day.

 Jerry and Brooks after the show

The whole experience renewed my enthusiasm for competing, and made me realize how strong my passion is for this sport. I love competing. I love the whole experience of being at a show. I was a bit burned out for awhile, but I'm relieved that my energy is renewed, and I'm once again looking forward to stepping on stage next year.

 Jerry and me after the show

Brooks tied for 5th place in the Novice HW, and was thrilled. We all celebrated at our favorite diner after the show.

 Post-show food bliss. Note the huge smile on his face!

A couple of our other friends (and M3World) members competed too. It was great to hang out with Jay, Alex, and their wives! They're all wonderful people whom I'm happy to call friends.

Brooks and his girlfriend, Katie, after the show

Saturday was a long day, but it was lots of fun! We all had a great time, and I was reminded again that competing isn't only about winning or advancing to the next level. It's about growing as a person, learning about yourself during the prep journey, and knowing that hard work does pay off.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Making Lemonade

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."


I made lemonade today, because my morning sure started off with plenty of lemons!



I had two alarms set on my phone so I could get up and do 45 min of morning cardio. Clearly I have have mad crazy turning-off-alarm skillz, because I somehow managed to turn off BOTH alarms ... and subsequently woke up an hour and a half later than planned. D'oh! Thank goodness the cardio is something I'm doing on my own and isn't absolutely necessary, like it when I'm in contest prep.

It was raining really hard this morning, so I suggested that Jerry let the dogs outside instead of me (I didn't want to ruin my cute hairdo). When he stepped outside, he frantically asked me if I knew that the sunroof on my (BRAND NEW) car was open. Uh, no, I didn't know. The entire interior of the car is now drenched, including parts of the roof (how water got into the roof, I have no idea). :-( I was really upset about this, especially since I just bought the car a month ago.


Isn't it cute? I love it!

While Jerry was outside putting towels in the car, Nikko, our 13-year old Brussels Griffon, peed on the good rug in the living room. Apparently, he couldn't hold it. This happens occasionally, but not. on. my. good. rug. I immediately put Nikko outside so he could finish up, and Jerry sprayed carpet cleaner on the rug (we should buy stock in that stuff).


Nikko

All the way to work, water kept dripping out of the roof, so I had to hold a towel above my head to soak up the water before it dripped onto our clothes.

And when I got to work, I realized I'd run out of green tea and had to settle for white tea (which I despise) mixed with strawberry kiwi. The combination of the two flavors actually ended up tasting ok. Not my favorite, but it was drinkable.


My favorite green tea

So that was my morning ... sigh.

I decided I could either dwell on the events of the morning and wallow in self pity all day ... or I could take positive action.

I decided to take positive action. I made lemonade.




Doesn't this look yummy? And positive? And sunny?

I focused on the positive things: I made an appointment to bring my car into the dealership tomorrow to be professionally cleaned (I don't want to take any chance of mold growing inside it!), I tried a new flavor of tea, the cleaner took the pee out of the rug, and I feel rested from the extra sleep I got.

The rest of my day has gone well. I've been productive at work and felt wide awake. I'm glad I made the choice to think positively and focus on good things, instead of feeling miserable and upset all day.

Tomorrow will be a good day! I plan to get to bed early tonight so I get enough sleep (thus reducing the risk of turning my alarms off) and can do morning cardio, my car will be clean and dry again, and since I'll be heading to the grocery store after the gym tonight, I'll have green tea again. Or maybe I'll have some lemonade!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Secret" to Getting Lean

It never ceases to amaze me how people think that being in shape is easy, and doesn't require any work or clean food. How many times have you heard ads about "diet pills" that will make you lose weight in your sleep, allow you to eat anything you want, and not require any exercise? Radio, TV, and internet ads all tout these products as the "secrets" to getting lean and "high school skinny." (Who wants to be "skinny" anyway? I'd rather be LEAN!) What most ads don't mention is that these "secrets" only work in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise program.

I get a lot of questions from people about how I stay in shape, especially when I'm in contest prep, and the changes to my body begin to be more noticeable. My standard answer is "I'm a gym rat." If I get further questions, I mention that diet is really important. It's at this point that eyes glaze over and heads start to shake in denial, and I hear, "Oh, I could NEVER do that!"

Do what? Eat healthy? Stop going out for lunch every day? Resist the cookies in the lunchroom? Only eat half the food you order and take the other half home for later? Stop snacking? Drink less sugar-laden soda and juice and more water?

CSI Photo, 2009

Other comments I hear are, "Oh, you're already so in shape. You don't need to go to the gym! Bet you can eat whatever you want!" Um ... no. The reason I'm in shape is BECAUSE I go to the gym and watch what I eat. It's the same mentality that I see when I read news articles exclaiming that celebrities actually have to work hard for their in-shape bodies: "What do you mean Eva Longoria Parker eats clean?" and "Jennifer Aniston has to exercise?"
Jen's fitness secret? She makes fitness a huge priority in her life--as in, she works out 7 days a week.
"It's simple," she told the Daily Mirror at the London launch of her eponymous perfume in London on Wednesday. "[I] run, work out every day. I do a lot of running--exercise is so important."

There's no "secret" or "easy" way to get in shape. It's simple, old-fashioned exercise and diet. It's not easy, it's not always fun, but it's always, always worth it.

Mike Yurkovic Photography, 2009

Monday, August 16, 2010

County Fair Fun!

One of my favorite things about summer is going to the local county fair. Going to the fair is a staple of my summer must-do's. When I discovered that Jerry had never been to a fair, I immediately made plans to go this weekend. So it was with an air of excitement (on my part) and an air of trepidation and reluctance (on his part) that we set off for the county fair yesterday.

The weather was overcast and alternately rainy/misty, but that didn't deter us. Nope! We're hardcore fair-goers! Besides, the weather kept the non-hardcore fair-goers home so we had fewer people to battle for prime viewing spots of pony exhibitions and sheep judging (both of which we attended).



I know it's hazy (camera ended up next to dethawing protein bars - yes, we brought our own food to the fair, although we didn't eat them - so the lens got fogged up), but this is Jerry at the fair entrance

We bravely meandered through the midway (or as Jerry called it, the "carnival") amidst the catcalls and coercing shouts of the carnies working their rigged games. Then we got to my favorite part of the fair: the animal barns!

We petted sheep, goats, and bunnies, and admired from a distance cows, horses, and pigs. It was clear Jerry hadn't grown up in the Midwest, as he found the pig barn smell highly offensive, and didn't appreciate my questions pertaining to grade school class field trips to pig farms.


Jerry making friends with a goat


The goats are my favorite animals


Ninja Sheep

I vetoed Jerry's suggestion of going into the "freak show" exhibit. I tried that at the fair last year and am still scarred from the experience.


Jerry and the 5-legged goat outside the Freak Show tent

We both wanted to ride a camel, since they were advertising camel rides, but unfortunately, the weather made that impossible. So we settled for petting them.


The first time Jerry saw a camel


I named him Fred

As I mentioned earlier, we watched a pony exhibition and the sheep judging. We discovered it's kind of like a bodybuilding show - they're judged on shape, size, fleece, structure, etc. One little sheep made her disgust at the whole process well-known, as she vocally protested the entire time she was in the ring (she placed 3/5).

And now onto the infamous fair food ... we tried fried Oreos, which were gross (unless, of course, you like chocolate, which I don't). Our lunch was rather boring: hamburger and crabcake sammich. I bought a piece of red velvet cake that was left over from 4-H judging (it was good! And only $0.25!), and Jerry had a corndog. And that was it! Apparently, mini donuts are only a Midwest thing, because there were no mini donuts to be found. Sad.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon! We only got rained on once, and had some new and exciting experiences. Jerry actually had a fun time (thank goodness he approaches most things with an open mind!), and he won me a little stuffed monkey at one of the rigged games too!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dealing with Cravings

Today has been a rough day for my diet. I've been really hungry and battling cravings all day. I haven't succumbed or cheated, but it's been a constant mental struggle for most of the day. There are cookies up at the front desk, and it's all I can do not to just walk up there and eat one. Or two. Or three. But I keep reminding myself of the following things:
  • Cookies are NOT part of my diet.
  • I will feel guilty, disappointed, and upset with myself for cheating on my diet.
  • The cookies won't taste as good as I think (or hope) they will.
  • Even if I took some to put in my freezer and eat this weekend, they won't taste very good.
  • I'm making progress. I don't need to derail myself.

Cookies up at the front desk. Not freezer-friendly.

Thus far, those statements are working, and I haven't "casually wandered" up to the front desk just to chat with the receptionist yet (conveniently standing in front of the cookies).

I've been trying to figure out why I'm having such intense cravings all of a sudden, when up to this point, this week has been going really well.

This morning I didn't do morning cardio, because Thursdays are my non-morning-cardio days. Without the energy kick I usually start the day with, I felt a bit sluggish this morning. And I feel like I'm retaining some water today too; my muscles look kind of smooth. These two things contribute to me feeling like I'm off-track (even though I know I'm not). And when I feel off-track, I feel more inclined to just throw in the towel and eat junk. Seems backwards, doesn't it? You'd think if I felt off-track, I'd want to do everything possible to stay the course ... yet my mind leans toward the opposite direction.

I've been really hungry all day too. That's actually a GOOD thing, because it means my body has burned up all the carbs and is now burning fat! But it also means I'm hungry for most of the day, and those cookies look darn good! Ha I've been drinking lots of green tea (helps keep me warm in a frigid office too), water, and Endorush, and chewing lots of gum.


 My favorite green tea

I know that having cravings is normal ... and I know the feeling will pass. Sticking to my goal is much more important and psychologically healthy, so I'm desperately trying to flip the switch to "off" on the thoughts about cookies, and instead focusing on how much progress I've been making. Plus, I get some treats on Saturday, and you can be darn sure they'll be much better than those nasty, stale cookies at the front desk!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Decision Made!

The Great Debate about whether I should continue competing in Figure or switch to Bikini has finally come to an end. I've decided to go with ...

FIGURE!!

Yep, I'm gonna stick with Figure. After looking at lots of pictures from shows, evaluating my own physique, and doing some soul searching, I decided that I like how my body looks with muscle on it. I looked at pics from a couple years ago, before I started training seriously, and I genuinely like how I look now.

Yes, I wear larger size clothes now, but my body has so much more shape now! Even though I hate the struggle of finding clothes that flatter my body shape (and aren't outrageously expensive!), I'm proud of the shape I've built. My muscles are a testament to the dedication, consistency, determination, and long hours in the gym over the past few years. I've shaped, toned, and defined my body into a work of art. It's not perfect, and it's still a work-in-progress, but I've definitely made some improvements!


2006 Emerald Cup ... My 1st Show


2010 Arnold Amateur

The original plan was to build more muscle in order to be competitive with the top National-level girls, but at the same time, I knew that more muscle meant a blockier, brick-like body for me, especially in the off-season. Since I want to maintain a more streamlined physique for my height, I'm not going to focus on building any more muscle. Even though I'll still be anywhere from 5-8 lbs lighter than some of the other girls on stage, I like this look better than a thicker look for myself. This may mean I'll never get my Pro card, or even place very high at a National show ... and I'm ok with that, because I want to be happy with myself 365 days a year, not just for 1 day on stage.

I'm happy and at peace with my decision. I'm going to continue training in a more athletic way - supersets, giant sets, and plyos in my workouts. They keep me entertained, engaged, and challenged ... and by the end of the workout, I'm a sweaty mess. I love it!

I'm in the middle of Week 3 of my Summer Bikini Body program, and am really starting to see some changes, which is motivating. My bigger clothes are fitting a bit looser, although I still can't squeeze into my smaller clothes comfortably. My diet is tight with no weekday treats; I get some treats on the weekend, which gives me something to look forward to all week. For all intensive purposes, this feels like a contest prep without all the stress of an upcoming show.

Thanks for all your support and comments when I was wavering and feeling lost. I really appreciate it and want you to know it means a lot to me. :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Figure Suits

One of the most important parts of a Figure/Bodybuilding show is the suit. After all the time spent in the gym, on the treadmill, and out of restaurants, the actual show is when competitors really shine and strut their stuff on stage. In Figure, especially, part of the judging score is on presentation, which includes stage presence, hair, makeup, and suit.

It never ceases to amaze me how much money, time, and work are put into transforming those tiny scraps of material into sparkling, shimmering masterpieces. Figure suits aren't something you can just walk into a store and purchase; most of the time, they're custom made according to a woman's exact measurements. Some suitmakers offer off-the-rack options that are sold with bags of rhinestones for a DIY project. While this may be a bargain option, it's usually not an option at the National and Pro levels.


Plain, off-the-rack suit, sold with a set of crystals for the competitor to put on herself

The price of the suit increases with the number of crystals on it. Most Pro-level suits are all blinged out and often have over a thousand Swarovski crystals on them. While off-the-rack suits start at about $80, Pro suits start at about $600 and up. Many Pro suits are over $1,000. Yes, I said $1,000!


This is one of my Pro-level suits. Mary Elizabeth Lado wore it when she won the 2008 Arnold.

A good option for ladies to get quality suits for a good price is to either buy them on consignment, buy them used from other competitors, or rent them. I've bought most of my suits used and paid a fraction of the original cost. Competitors normally wear suits for a year or two before selling them or buying a new one. Wearing a different suit brings a fresh stage presence and a new look.

When selecting a suit, it's important to take both suit cut and color into consideration. I've actually heard judges make comments about suit color and how it either enhances or detracts from the woman's body.

If you order a custom-made suit, expect it to take 6-8 weeks to make, so make sure you order it well in advance of your show. A good rule of thumb is to tell the suitmaker that the date of your show is a week earlier than the actual date. No, I'm not encouraging you to lie; I'm just trying to help you have some peace of mind and less stress before the show. :) Some suitmakers will send you swatches of fabric and have actual fittings as they make your suit.

Any questions about suits? Lemme know - I'm more than happy to answer!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Inspiration

Even though I claim to not be a fan of "reality" TV, I seem to find myself mesmerized by several different shows each week. On Friday evening, as I was aimlessly flipping channels, I came across a show on TLC called "How I Lost 100 Lbs." Fascinated, I watched several stories of women who had lost at least 100 lbs, and changed their lives.

One of my favorite columns in Oxygen magazine is "Oxygen's Success Stories" about women who have lost a significant amount of weight and make lifestyle changes.

Since I've been living the fitness lifestyle for the past few years, I don't think anything of packing food each day, bringing my cooler with me to the mall, eating every few hours, and spending a couple hours a day at the gym. It's just my life; nothing weird to me. But I do recognize that my lifestyle is foreign to a lot of people. The women in these stories discovered a fitness lifestyle, and it was a key element to their success.

Watching and reading about the stories of these women who discovered the value of good nutrition or a love for fitness is so inspiring to me. I get goosebumps when I see how these women have taken control of their lives and changed their bodies into healthy, lean machines. They all learned how to empower themselves and to make the changes they wanted to make in their bodies and in their lives. They learned that a simple "diet" isn't the answer; it takes a lifestyle change and a consistent level of commitment and dedication to their goal. The process isn't easy, and I admire those who stick with it. There will always be setbacks and slip-ups, but the most important thing is getting back on track and not letting the setback have any further impact on progress to the goal.

What inspires you to keep working hard? How do you stay motivated? If you get off track, what helps you get back on track?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Necessary Evil

Cardio ... it's such a simple word that somehow manages to elicit strong emotions. People either love it or hate it; not many people are ambivalent about it.

I'll never claim to be one of those who loves it and looks forward to it! To me, cardio is a necessary evil in my pursuit of maintaining a lean body. Usually, I don't particularly look forward to it, but attempt to convince myself that it's not a complete waste of time.

I've noticed that there seem to be many variations of the definition of cardio. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "cardiovascular" as "2: used, designed, or performed to cause a temporary increase in heart rate (a cardiovascular workout).

Which basically means: anything that is done to increase your heart rate. It doesn't say anything about exercise equipment (treadmills, elliptical, etc.) or specific activities (running, walking, swimming, etc.). To me, in addition to running and walking, cardio can be hiking, rollerblading, running stairs, doing plyometrics, and aerobics classes, among other things. While some people believe cardio for contest prep MUST be performed on exercise equipment in a controlled manner, I disagree.


The dreaded treadmill

I do agree that using equipment helps you maintain a steady pace or heart rate, but I don't agree that it's essential to use machines to get lean. I've heard of quite a few Figure competitors who do outdoor workouts and include plyos in their training as a replacement for cardio machines. I understand that everyone's body responds differently to different stimuli, but I think it's worth it to experiment with different cardio techniques periodically. Even though one method works for you, why not explore other options for variety? Who knows - maybe you'll discover something that works even better and is more enjoyable for you!

How do you define cardio? What methods work well for you? I'd love to hear your opinions!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Fitting Room Fiasco

Just when I was starting to feel better about myself ... thinking I was looking leaner and tighter ... I had to go shopping and try on clothes. Why do I do things to torture myself?! *banging head on keyboard

Even though we're both on a limited budget, Jerry and I decided to spend a rainy Sunday at the mall yesterday. We were both having a fabulous time until I decided to try some clothes on at Bebe and Arden B. And then the fun ended.

The sizes I normally wear either didn't fit or made me look like an overstuffed sausage a la Mariah Carey. At one point, I think I embarrassed Jerry when, after attempting to squeeze my thighs into a pencil shirt, Jerry asked if I wanted a bigger size and I shrieked (rather loudly), "NO! Are you suggesting I'm FAT?!" Then, momentarily blinded by tears, I ran back into the fitting room. Poor guy. Really, I feel bad. He was just trying to help. (I apologized to him a minute later.)

It was a real eye-opener to discover that even though I still have quad & ab lines, I'm still not wearing smaller sizes. I apparently put on some muscle this year, and while I'm the same weight I usually am off-season, I'm leaner than I've ever been. That should make me feel good ... and it does ... for the most part. But in a very female way, it's still depressing to be wearing larger clothes.

I worked hard for that muscle, and I realized I don't want to lose it. I was in limbo about whether or not I wanted to lose some muscle. I finally realized I don't want to lose the muscle; I just want to be leaner in the off-season. Although I don't know what that means for my competition career, I do know that it'll make me feel more at peace with myself.

So I hauled myself out of bed this morning and put in 30 minutes of intervals on the treadmill. I enjoyed some treats this weekend and am back to eating clean today. I'm looking forward to putting the weekend carbs to good use during Leg Day at the gym today!