Saturday, February 26, 2011

Operation Pro Week 1 Check-In

It's the end of the first of twenty weeks of prep for Team Universe! This week went by quickly, and things are going well so far. Check out the video - I talk about how I'm feeling, what my diet is like, and how I expect to be feeling by the end of the weekend.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Choosing to be a Champion

Getting sick is never any fun ... and being sick during prep is even worse. And that's exactly how I began Phase II of Operation Pro: with a cold.

I spent most of the weekend curled up on the couch with my Snuggie and my book. Going anywhere outside the house just seemed to be a lot of effort.

I didn't feel any better yesterday, but I still went to work and to the gym.

Halfway through my workout, my head started pounding so badly, it brought tears to my eyes. This time the tears in the gym weren't from fatigue or frustration; they were from pain.

But I pushed through my workout and finished strong. In contest prep, there's no room for acting weak, even though I may feel weak either mentally or physically.

Sometimes in order to achieve success, we need to deal with feeling uncomfortable and train even during a bout with a nasty cold. I kept thinking of my friend, Donloree, who reminded me that I can CHOOSE to be a champion. So during my workout, I kept telling myself, "I'm a champion."

And you know what? By choosing to finish my workout, I felt like a champion.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Operation Pro - Phase II

This week begins Phase II of Operation Pro ... it's time to lean out for my show! Join me on my 20-week journey to winning a Pro card at Team Universe! Only 138 days to go ...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Skinny or Muscular?

As a Figure competitor, I realize I have a slightly skewed viewpoint and perspective than most people. Things I consider "normal" aren't necessarily normal for most people. But I'm pretty sure most of you will agree with my opinion about this ...

Who would you rather look like?

Gina Aliotti
Or her?
New York Fashion Week, Marchesa 2011
Thought so.

American Ideal

I'm baffled that the second picture is the "American ideal" for women. How many American women actually look like that? And why are we always so surprised to discover that clothes look different on us than they did on the runway models?

Here are a couple more photos from Fashion Week, courtesy of Bergdorf Goodman and Glamour.

These ladies look so hungry!
No muscle tone anywhere
When did womanly curves go out of style?
These women all have beautiful faces! But their bodies look like pre-adolescent boys - all gangly and flat-chested with no muscle tone. Why do designers think women should look like young boys?

The Body That I Built

Yurkovic, 2009
I'm proud of my curves and of the muscle I've built! I realize my body shape isn't everyone's ideal either, but I'm proud of how I've sculpted and shaped myself from skinny and scrawny into curvy and muscular. I'll continue to look at physiques like Gina's and other Figure pros as my inspiration, and will keep training hard in the gym, cuz I don't know 'bout you, but I sure don't want to look like a skinny, young boy!

Yurkovic, 2010
Whose physiques do you admire? What are your thoughts on the runway models?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chompin' at the Bit

In 21 weeks, I'll be standing on stage at Team Universe. I start dieting next week; I feel like I'm heading into a self-imposed hibernation for the next 5 months. FIVE months! I won't be going out to eat, and I'll be spending increasing amounts of time in the gym. My diet is going to be stricter than ever before, with no planned carbs or treat meals.

When I think about it in these terms, it sounds really scary ... yet I'm excited!

I've been focusing on this show for the past few months already, training hard to build up weaker areas, and keeping my diet mostly clean. This is the most focused I've ever been in the off-season, and I can't wait to shed this layer of fat and see what I've built underneath.

Contest time means that I can't wait to do ab checks in the bathroom mirror at work on my many trips to the restroom (from drinking a gallon of water a day). I can't wait to fit into my skinny pants again! I can't wait to watch my body transform into a work of art. I know I'll have to think like a Pro and resist the temptations that are all around me.

To some, training for a competition is hardcore. For others, it's just a way of life. It's my reality, and it will be my world for the next five months. I'm chompin' at the bit to start the next phase of Operation Pro!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Just Suck It Up & Train!

Every Thursday for the past few months, I've been whining about training my back. Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have seen these complaints. I don't mean to be a whiner about training, because obviously, it's my passion. But I honestly do not enjoy Back Day for several reasons:
  1. My back muscles fatigue very quickly, which makes some exercises very difficult to finish.
  2. The new exercises I'm doing are uncomfortable and awkward. For some people, they may be neither uncomfortable nor awkward. But since I've clearly avoided doing these exercises for years, the motion and form feel new to me ... and thus, awkward.
  3. My back aches the next day. Not in a sore-quad way (which is delightful!), but in an I'm-sick sort of way. Sometimes, my whole body aches, which is highly uncomfortable.
As I'm writing this, I just realized there's really only ONE reason I don't like Back Day: it's uncomfortable for me. And I don't like to be uncomfortable. Ever.

I also realized I sound like a whiny baby. Ha.

The thing about being a Figure competitor, though, is that even though we sometimes whine (about Leg day, cardio, etc.), we always just suck it up and train. I can't think of one competitor I know who actually LIKES doing cardio. But we all DO it. Why? Because for most of us, it's necessary in order to get lean. And we want to WIN!

So even though I may whine and whimper about doing certain exercises or cardio, there's no doubt that I'll always do it. I'm never tempted to skip it (even though skipping may sound appealing at the time), because I want to be confident that when I'm standing on stage, I'll know I did everything I could possibly do to win. Plus, there's a reason my trainer has me do certain exercises or a specific amount of cardio: it works!

What's your favorite muscle group to train?
Do you whine about certain exercises or cardio too?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Gym: Comfy Sweatpants

Up until last week, I didn't appreciate my gym to the fullest extent.

Gold's Girl

When I moved to Maryland in 2009, I naturally joined the gym that J belonged to. I also got a job there (free membership anyone?). J's taken me to see a couple different gyms in the area, and quite frankly, I liked some of them better than my own gym. I've belonged to Gold's for most of the 10 years that I've been training, so naturally, I feel most comfortable amongst the black and yellow logos.
I even have a Gold's sticker on my water bottle!
Switching gyms wasn't an option, though (remember the free membership thing?), so I just settled in at my gym and secretly lusted after the shiny, newer equipment at all the other gyms in town. (Srsly, my gym has the world's oldest equipment. Ever hear of Trotter equipment? Me neither.)
Equipment at my gym
A couple weeks ago, an LA Fitness Signature Club opened just down the road from my gym. Being the curious (and nosy) critter I am, I convinced him we needed to take a tour and train there one time "just to see what it's like."

The Tour

The gym. Was. Beautiful!
Ooooh ... purty!
My mouth hung open during most of the tour and I kept exclaiming, "Ooooh! This is so NICE!" Everything was new and all shiny and sparkley (and srsly, what girl doesn't like new, shiny, and sparkely?!). The gym manager gave us the tour, pointing out all the amenities and features that neither J nor I would ever use (pool, basketball court, digital lockers, lounge in between locker rooms), and making a point to mention their current membership deals.

I wasn't sold on the gym until we checked out the cardio deck. Every piece of cardio equipment had an attached TV. There were four stepmills. FOUR! And four new Woodway treadmills. I was in lurve!
Awesome for knees and shins!
I'll admit it - I was almost won over by the tour and the sales spiel. J, however, wasn't so easily convinced. We went back a couple days later to train delts.

The tour was one thing ... training was an entirely different experience

When we got there, I was in a hurry because we were running late. (Remember that free membership? I needed to be on time for my shift.) By the time I'd found the locker room, realized the fancy schmancy digital lockers were smarter than me, run back to ask J how to operate the lockers, run back to the locker room again to fiddle with the stupid locker, and then back out to the gym floor, ten minutes had passed and I felt like I'd already finished my cardio for the day.

The weights were pretty and the equipment was smooth (I heart smooth cable machines), so in that respect, my workout was good.

What wasn't so good were all the stares I got from other gym members. Of the ten people who were there, I felt like nine of them were starring at J and me more than was polite. Instead of feeling comfortable and being able to focus on my training, we both felt uncomfortable and distracted.

After training, I gave the Woodway treadmill a try. It was so smooth and cushioning! I fumbled my way through the digital screens and began walking. Tried to change the TV channel, but the channel button was apparently just for looks, because it didn't work on my machine, nor on the treadmills on either side of me (had to check them out just to make sure mine wasn't the only broken one). So I set up my DVD player and started watching an episode of Sex & the City (I'm on Season 6).

And then the treadmill stopped. What the heck?! Turns out the DVD player had lightly brushed the Stop button. Several minutes and three stops later, I was ready to throw the stupid Woodway over the railing into the basketball court below. Apparently, there was no place to set my DVD player that didn't shut off the machine. I have no idea how much cardio I did because I had to keep resetting the machine, and there weren't any clocks in the cardio area (srsly?!).

I left frustrated and late for my shift.

Newfound appreciation

Lesson learned: While all the bells and whistles of a new gym can seem appealing, it's best to try out the gym for an actual workout.

Sure, the equipment was new and the treadmill felt like walking on air, but I didn't feel comfortable in that gym. It felt like a new pair of shoes that just won't get broken in, while my gym feels like a comfortable pair of sweat pants.
Comfy ... just like my gym
Even though I train on old equipment in a gym without digital lockers, I'm happy there. The members are all people who are serious about their training and about reaching their goals. I'm not saying no one at LA Fitness is serious about training, but it's a much smaller percentage than at my gym. And there's nothing more motivating than being surrounded by other motivated people! I appreciate the fact that I don't get starred at (and never did, even when I was a new member) and I can focus on my training without getting interrupted.

I've stopped whining about my gym, and am now so very thankful I have such a comfortable, welcoming, and motivating place to train for my Pro card!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chant of a Champion

I have these words posted on the wall behind my computer monitor so every time I glance up, I read a line or two. I first saw this on a Gaspari ad that featured Ava Cowen. Upon further investigation, I discovered it was originally written by Nicole Snell. With her permission, I've re-posted it here.

Chant of A Champion ©2007
By Nicole Snell

When I think of quitting I will think of who will be standing next to me on stage.
Will I be able to say that I worked harder than her?
When I stand on Stage will I be able to say that I pushed myself harder, that I kept going when I felt like stopping, and that I gave that extra effort when I felt like collapsing?
It’s that last burst of commitment that separates the champions from 2nd place.

I will train when others go out with their friends.
I will train when others are eating out at their favorite restaurant.
I will train when others are taking an off day
I will train when others are hanging out with their boyfriends.
I will train when others are sleeping.

Every moment is a victory:
Each step on the treadmill.
Each set.
Each rep.
Each bite of food.
Each and every thing I do has a purpose.

The food nourishes my body.
The training invigorates my spirit.
The weights stimulate my muscles.
The supplements support my health.
The rest gives me a chance to rebuild.

Never stop.
Never give up.
Never say can’t.
Never say won’t.

A champion must first challenge the self before they can challenge others.
I am my competition.

Failure is not an option.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Holy Cow! I Grew Wings!

One of the areas I've been focusing on this past off-season has been my back. I've been working very hard to increase my back width and thickness. I've been doing some new exercises and some of my least favorite exercises in order to develop my back to match my leg development.

After I trained back yesterday, I hit a few poses ... and suddenly, I realized ... I finally grew wings!
Red arrow pointing to the lat I grew this year!
It's so rewarding to see my hard work finally starting to pay off!