Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Treats!

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


Srsly, how cute is this cupcake?!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Potluck Dilemma

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

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

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

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

Easy! I ate. A lot. Often.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New NPC Divisions

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

Men's Physique

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

      Gina Aliotti


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

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

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

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

      Monday, October 25, 2010

      Cake Boss!

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

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

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

      J and me outside Carlo's Bakery

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

      Y.U.M.

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

      It was really crowded inside the bakery

      J and me inside the bakery

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

      Rich with J and his cake

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

      Rich and Mauro

      All of us with our bakery goodies!

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

      Cream puff deliciousness


      J and his lobster tail

      Boxes of bakery goodies


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

      Best. Cake. Ever.

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

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

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

      A pound of cookies!

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

      Can't wait for the next trip!

      Friday, October 22, 2010

      Judging Criteria from Sandi Williamson

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

      Adela Garcia and Sonia Gonzalez

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

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

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

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

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      Adding Some Spice to Life

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

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

      Land O Lakes

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

      Sharp Cheddar is my new best friend

      Mrs. Dash

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

      So many options for variety!

      McCormick

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

      Believe it or not, this tastes great on eggs!

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

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

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

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

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      NPC Nationals and the Pumpkin Patch

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

      Good Company

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

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

      A New Pro!

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

      Rich Siegelman, new IFBB PRO!

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

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

      More Victories

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

      Branden Ray, new IFBB PRO!

      Hanging out at the gym with Branden last Fall

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

      Rob Kreider

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

      Danielle Reutter, new IFBB PRO!

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

      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      McDisgusting

      It's a staple of the average American diet. We eat it on road trips and when we want something fast without having to bother with cooking. You know what I'm talking about: Fast Food.

      I grew up with fast food as part of my diet. Cuz really, what kid doesn't love Happy Meals? Going to McDonald's was a treat, as my family didn't eat out very often. And in high school, I discovered the deliciousness of the Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit.

      It wasn't until I really started to pay attention to my diet and to read nutrition labels that I realized I didn't want to pollute my body with foods filled with preservatives (check out this recent experiment with a Happy Meal). I also realized that every time I went to a fast food restaurant, it was a frustrating experience that led me to question the hiring techniques of the store managers. (I don't think being polite to customers is ever over-rated.)

      Happy Meal

      For the past several years, I've mostly avoided fast food places, with the occasional exception of Dairy Queen (loves me some Blizzards!). To me, fast food restaurants represent gluttony, sloth, and laziness. These feelings I have are less about the food served there, and more about the lifestyle that fast food represents. Instead of McDonald's being something positive, like it was when I was younger, it's now something negative to me.

      Sure, people can argue that fast food is no worse than the cookies and cake that I so adore. And yes, I'm sure there's at least a minimal health benefit in some fast food items. But for the most part, I feel like fast food is completely against my goal of healthy living.

      I'm baffled by the allure of a Whopper or a Big Mac. The last time I ate one of those, I got a terrible stomachache! I remember adoring McDonald's french fries when I was in high school, but whenever I try them now, I'm disgusted by them. I'd much rather have The Cheesecake Factory's sweet potato fries! (Yum!)

      Sure, they may look good, but they don't taste good to me anymore

      Even as I write this, I realize I could come across as sounding like a stuck up snot, so please don't think I'm judging anyone's choice of foods. My point is to merely state that as I come to embrace a healthier lifestyle more and more, I've realized that my tastes and attitude toward certain foods and restaurants are changing. When it comes down to it, I'll always pick a cookie over a Big Mac, and a cupcake over fast food fries. It's just a matter of preference.

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Everyone's Got a Different Story

      When people ask me how I got interested in competing, I tell them that I simply wanted to see if I could do it. Five years ago, I hadn't even heard of competitive bodybuilding. Sure, I knew who Arnold Schwarzenegger was (who doesn't?!), but I'd never given bodybuilding more than a passing thought. But when I started to look at photos of competitors, I asked myself, "I wonder if I can do that?" And thus began my journey into the world of figure competitions.

      I competed in a couple shows, and assumed the other competitors were there for the same reason as I was: To get a trophy, of course! It wasn't until my fourth show that I discovered that everyone has a different story.

      A Dose of Humility

      As I was standing backstage before the 2008 Contra Costa show, I began to size up my competition. Thoughts running through my head were:
      • "Wow, her delts are totally striated! Wonder if mine look like that?" *immediately checked own delts in mirror
      • "Oooh! Her suit is really pretty! But mine is prettier." *admired own suit in mirror
      • "What in the world is THAT girl doing here? She's not even in shape! And she can't even pose right!"
      Yep, I really did wonder why that lady was there. She had visible cellulite on her thighs, no ab lines, and her suit cut into her sides where it should've layed flat. She was surrounded by a couple women who were trying to teach her how to pose. I wondered why she even thought she should do a show if she wasn't conditioned and didn't know how to pose.

      And then I started listening to what she was saying ... and discovered that she had recently lost 90 lbs, and had made it one of her goals to compete in a figure competition.

      "I'm in the best shape of my life!" She exclaimed. "I'm so excited! My whole family is in the audience!"

      Boy did I feel like an ass! Who was I to judge whether or not someone should compete in a show?! Did I really think I was that much better than her? That lady was in the midst of achieving a dream, and I had the gall to think snarky thoughts about her. I felt lower than low.

      I walked over to her and asked if she wanted any posing pointers, and she gratefully accepted my help. I was so proud of her when she walked on stage and posed beautifully while her family cheered for her.

      Everyone's Got a Different Story

      Since that show, I've opened my mind and my heart to all competitors. It takes a lot of guts to stand on stage in front of a whole auditorium full of strangers while wearing a suit smaller than your underwear. Everyone who stands on stage at a bodybuilding show is a winner in my book.

      Who knows what obstacles they've encountered in their journey to the stage? Who knows what adversity they've worked through to get to the show? Who knows how long they had to diet and how hard they had to train to feel ready enough to compete?

      No one has the right to judge other competitors for being on stage. We're all part of a family when we're backstage.

      One of my favorite things to do backstage is to listen to the stories of other competitors. Some of them have struggled to put on muscle, while others have struggled to lose weight. Some of them have been obese for the majority of their lives, and decided to change their lives. Some of them have been training and competing for years and years, while others are at their first show. Some of them have been diagnosed with cancer, while others are in a wheelchair. Yet, they're all there for the same reason: to stand on stage and present the result of all their hard work.

      At your next show (whether you're in the audience or on stage), I challenge you to open your mind and to remember that every competitor has a different story. Everyone who steps on stage is displaying courage, so give them encouragement and support by clapping and cheering.

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      One Size Does NOT Fit All

      Halloween is just around the corner, and as I'm looking at Halloween costumes, I've been noticing a disturbing trend. No, it's not the plethora of outfits that being with the word "sexy" (although that's a huge trend too); it's the sizing of the costumes. I see a lot of "One Size Fits All." For reals?

      How can one size fit everyone, when we're all different shapes and heights? It seems like it's the easy way out for costume manufacturers. Just like it's the easy way out for many trainers.

      Yep, I said it. There's a trend of trainers using a "One Size Fits All" approach to dieting. What I mean by this is that many trainers have a "formula" that they follow for most of their clients. Some clients respond very well to the standardized approach, while others make little to no progress.

      What does a One Size Fits All approach look like?

      It takes many forms. It could be a percentage breakdown of macro nutrients, such as X% protein, Y% carbs, and Z% fat. While it may look like a very scientific approach, not every body responds to the same percentages of macros. Some people respond very well to carbs, while others (like me!) retain water and look all puffy from carbs. Some people need a lot of protein, while others don't require as much. Using a standardized macro percentage approach neglects individual body responses and reactions.

      Another standardized approach is using a specific diet technique, such as carb cycling or the keto diet (zero carb). The theory behind carb cycling is that by rotating high, medium, and low carb days, you keep your metabolism from slowing down, as its prone to do while following a calorie deficit diet. The keto diet removes all carbs from the diet, and uses higher amounts of proteins and fats to stimulate fat loss.

      Both of these diets can be effective for different people. The issue is that some trainers and coaches only use one of these approaches and are close-minded to any other approach. I know of several trainers who never put their clients on keto diets because they believe carbs are absolutely necessary, while other trainers only use keto diets for their clients.

      Are all clients successful in reaching their goals? Nope. And it's not for lack of effort on their part. Quite often, it's simply a matter of the diet they followed.

      Some trainers suggest only certain foods for their clients, without realizing that some foods may cause bloating or stomach irritation for some people. A good example of this is oatmeal. It's one of the most common diet foods, and many trainers include it in their clients' diets; however, many people are either gluten intolerant, or get bloated from oatmeal.

      Bro Science

      Not only are many diets standardized approaches, but last minute pre-contest "tricks" also fall into this category. The term "bro science" has been coined to describe techniques that competitors do the week of the show in order to improve by 1%.

      These tricks include sodium loading/depleting, "carbing up," water loading/depleting, and use of diuretics.

      When asked, I bet some trainers couldn't even explain WHY they have their clients do these things. Or if they can explain it, they give a textbook explanation about how the body is "supposed" to respond. But bodies don't always respond the way textbooks say they're "supposed" to.

      If a competitor still needs to drop some fat and water the week of the show, none of these last minute "tricks" are going to help; in fact, they may actually make the competitor look worse than the week before! But since that's "the way it's always been done," trainers have their clients load up on sodium and water, and then deplete the week of the show.

      Does this work? You tell me - how many times have you heard a competitor (or yourself!) say, "I looked better the week before or the day after the show." Why is that? More often than not, it's because one or more of their last minute tricks backfired, and they missed their peak. How's that 1% improvement feeling now? It's not ... cuz it never happened.

      Customization

      The key to succeeding in this sport is to follow a diet and training program that's customized to YOU. Follow these two points to determine if your diet is right for YOU.
      • Ask your trainer about WHY they're suggesting certain foods or a diet approach.
      • Be honest with yourself. How do you feel when you eat the foods on your diet? Do you feel good? Do you feel bloated? Are you eating them just because you like them, even though they upset your tummy? (oatmeal example)
      Just like my Halloween costume, one size does NOT fit everyone. We're all different, we all respond differently, and as such, we should follow diets that work best for ourselves. When you find the diet or foods that work best for you, remember that there's no reason to change it, regardless of what people tell you that you "should" do. The only thing you "should" do is what's best for YOU.

      Tuesday, October 5, 2010

      Luck, Manipulation, Research, & Common Sense

      I've been weight training for the better part of 13 years. And I've only paid for a trainer for 2 of those 13 years. How did I manage this? It's a combination of luck, manipulation, research, and common sense.

      Luck

      When I first started lifting weights in college (for cheerleading, of all things!), I was fortunate enough to have one of the football coaches take one of the other cheerleaders and me under his wing and teach us proper lifting techniques and exercises. It was during this time that I discovered I could grow biceps, and I fell in love with the weight room. For that, I will forever be grateful to Coach Raeford.

      Manipulation

      After Coach Raeford moved to coach at a different university, I pestered Exercise Science majors to write up training programs for me as "practice" for them (or at least that's the phrase I used to convince them to write me programs for free). I didn't have any set goals at this point; I just wanted to get stronger.

      After college, I joined Gold's Gym and manipulated one of their trainers into writing out a program for me during the "free initiation training session." I haughtily informed the poor guy that I already knew how to use all of the machines, so he didn't need to waste his time demonstrating how to use, say, the leg extension. When I signed my contract, I was told I got a "free training session," so I demanded that he use the session to write up a program for me. (To all of my trainer friends, I totally apologize for your horrified expressions right now, cuz looking back, I realize I totally took advantage of the system, and didn't value the time and knowledge it takes to write a good training program.)

      Research

      When I started training for my first figure competition, I didn't want to spend the money on a trainer or nutritionist, so I devoured articles on the Internet and talked with some bodybuilder friends. And while I did win a trophy that year, I also managed to completely destroy my metabolism and gained 20 lbs in the weeks following the show.

      Professional Help

      Two years later, as I was preparing for my third show, I realized I needed professional help. (No, not THAT kind.) And for the first time in 10 years, I actually paid for a diet and training program. I followed it for about a week before deciding I didn't like the diet. So I hired a nutritionist. And proceeded to win shows. But the next year, his diet and training techniques didn't work for my body, and I didn't place as well as I wanted to in a couple shows.

       Winning the Contra Costa Overall

      Common Sense

      When I met J last year, I wasn't completely convinced he could successfully train a figure girl (yes, he knows this, and we both laugh about it now), but the more we talked about training and diet, the more I realized that he really knows what he's doing! (I have no idea why that surprised me, since he's a very intelligent guy, and has been competing himself for over 17 years.)

      When I moved out to DC last year, I asked him if he'd train me, and in the span of a year, I've made more progress than I had in the previous couple years. I've reached my best conditioning and stage presentation yet, and continue to make improvements in my physique.

      J & I competed at the Lehigh Valley Championships together

      I get a lot of questions about whether J and I have any issues with this arrangement. Of course we do! But that's the topic of my next blog ... so stay tuned!

      Monday, October 4, 2010

      Dessert Gum: Little Pieces of Heaven

      I want to share what I consider the 8th Wonder of the World: gum that tastes like dessert. Yes, folks, I've discovered (with the help of some friends) gum that tastes like mint chocolate chip ice cream, strawberry shortcake, and key lime pie. It truly is a little slice of heaven for those of us who eschew carbs.


      Little pieces of heaven

      Wrigley's Extra Dessert Delights makes these three scrumptious flavors of gum, each containing 2 grams of sugar alcohol (which I consider burned off by the time I'm finished chewing the piece). And to answer your unspoken question of taste ... Yes, each flavor actually DOES taste like its intended flavor!

      I'm also a fan of the Fruit Sensations, Berry Smoothie being my favorite.

      I'm normally a fan of gum and enjoy different flavors, so imagine my excitement when I discovered there's now gum that tastes like some of my favorite desserts! I found these at a couple local grocery stores. They were just released in October, so they're brand spankin' new!

      Go ahead! Treat yourself!