Monday, May 30, 2011

Operation Pro Week 14 Check-In

I know I saw this a lot, but time is really flying for me this prep! I only have 6 more weeks until I hit the stage at Team Universe in July. I feel like if I blink, those 6 weeks will be past too.

In the video below, I talk about what happens when you unexpectedly add more activity into a couple days while in prep. I went home to visit my family, and spent more time running around visiting people and setting up for parties than I did resting. We all got very little sleep, and were on the go most of the time. I didn't veer from my diet AT ALL - at only 7 weeks out, there's no room for error. So what happened last weekend? Watch the video and find out!

Thanks for following my journey and stay tuned for more updates!

And in case you're interested in seeing the world's cutest nephews ... here they are! I gave them lots of snuggles while I was home!

James and Jeffrey

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Birthday Celebration, Figure Competitor Style

Some of you may know that my birthday was last week. Normally, I equate my birthday with the importance of a National holiday. However, I'm in prep this year, so I couldn't have my traditional birthday celebration (which normally includes doing something special and eating ice cream cake!).

Throughout the day, quite a few people asked me how I was going to "celebrate" my birthday. Since I needed to stick to my diet and training programs, any special outing or food was completely out of the question.

So how does a Figure competitor properly celebrate her birthday?

She insists that her boyfriend use actual wrapping paper to wrap her gift (newspaper or plastic store bags are NOT acceptable).

Ed helped.
She opens her presents!

A cake pop maker! Can you say Best. Present. Ever?!
She does morning cardio.

Mr. Dreadmill
She packs her cooler and goes to work.

The famous pink cooler
She goes to the gym and has a GREAT back workout!

Growing wings!
She hops on the bike ...

Getting older ...
And does her post-workout cardio.

She goes home and enjoys some delicious sweet potato pancakes!

Sweet potato pancakes - my favorite meal!
And that, my friends, is how a Figure competitor celebrates her birthday: doing the same things day in and day out that will get her one step closer to her goal.

In about 6.5 weeks, I'm going to step on stage, knowing that the choices I made these past few months have brought me closer and closer to my goal. My ultimate birthday celebration is going to be holding that Pro card high and knowing I worked hard to earn it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unexpected Support

Earlier today, I posted a tweet about lacking motivation. I was referring to work, but apparently, no one else thought so. I received an outpouring of supportive and encouraging tweets ... all related to Operation Pro!

This is missing the #officelife tag!
Note to self: Add "#officelife" to all work-related tweets.

At first, I was confused by how people could think I lost some motivation for prep, because I'm more motivated than ever to compete! Admittedly, I have occasional doubts, but my motivation level has never been higher.

Then I made the startling realization that people associate me ONLY with fitness. What most people may not realize (or care) is that I have a desk job and actually spend the majority of my life at work ... not at the gym. Some days I don't even go to the gym! (Thanks to the treadmill in the guest room at home.)

Instead of getting upset or annoyed (which has been happening a lot lately - hey, I've been dieting for over 12 weeks! It's gonna happen.) at the misinterpretation, I decided to just thank people and let them know I appreciate their support. Because really, it was very thoughtful of people to send me support and encouragement! I'm touched that people took the time to send me a note when they thought I was losing motivation toward achieving my goal. It's so nice to know that there's a wonderful group of people - who I've never even met in person - cheering me on.

Thank you to everyone who sent me a note of encouragement this morning! I have since found the motivation to finish the Flash interaction I was working on. :) And you can bet I'll have a great workout in the gym later today!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Operation Pro Week 12 Check-In

When I first began prep 12 weeks ago, 20 weeks seemed like a really really really long time! Now that I only have 8 weeks to go until Team Universe, it seems like time has flown!

I made a short update video and talked about how my prep is going: diet, training, sleep, mood, and energy levels.

I really appreciate all your support and encouragement! Stay tuned for more updates ... only 8 weeks left of my Operation Pro journey!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Believe in Yourself!

Seven years ago, I made the decision to take a giant leap outside of my comfort zone, and entered a Figure competition. A lifelong athlete, the gym was nothing new to me. The degree of commitment, dedication, diet, and training WAS new to me, though! I approached it like I approach most things: I gave 100%. People at the gym thought I was slightly crazy, but I received a lot of encouragement and support.

My family, on the other hand, was slightly concerned about their baby girl. The competitive bodybuilding world was foreign to them, and when my mom asked me, "Why do you want to look like a man?!", I struggled to explain to her that I'd just look like a leaner, more muscular version of myself. My parents remained skeptical and concerned.

My first prep was difficult, to put it mildly. I did my own training and prep, and second-guessed myself throughout the entire 15 weeks. I starved myself, overtrained myself, and essentially wrecked my metabolism in the process. I had no energy, I looked gaunt, and I became extremely crabby and snippy with those close to me. Most days, it took all my energy and willpower just to drag myself out of bed.

When my mom saw photos of me during that time, she became very concerned and often told me that I looked "sick." My co-workers also expressed concern and told me I looked "skinny." People at the gym started to ask me if I was ok when I looked like I might fall of the treadmill.

Instead of relying on my belief in myself, I let the comments and concerns penetrate my outer shell, and I began to doubt myself even more.

  • Was I healthy?
  • Would I have any health repercussions after the show?
  • Was all the mental and physical anguish worth it?
  • Should I quit?
  • Was I just wasting my time?
While the comments and concerns weren't meant to discourage me (after all, they were made because people care about me), that's exactly what happened. My self-doubt increased exponentially.

  • I could've let my self-doubt get the best of me.
  • I could've given in to my severe cravings and shovelled copious amounts of cookies into my mouth.
  • I could've pulled out of the show for no reason.

But I continued to force myself NOT to give in and give up. I gave myself many positive self-talks:

  • "Other girls can do this and so can I."
  • "I CAN push through this workouts and finish the long cardio session."
  • "One bite of a Snickers bar could stand between me and first place."
  • "Yes, I CAN get out of bed."
  • "I BELIEVE that I can do this!"

Those self-talks kept me going the last few weeks, even though I still battled the perpetual self-doubt.

And when I stepped on stage after 15 weeks of pure hell, the first thing that popped into my head was, "I LOVE this!"

2006 Emerald Cup, tied for 4th place!
I realize now that my approach to prep was more damaging to my body than it should've been, and I understand why others were concerned about me. I now have a much healthier approach. My family understands how I need to feel and look in order to win, and my mom has even started armchair judging at my shows!

What I learned from this experience is how valuable positive self-talk can be. Sometimes our own worst enemy is not another person; it's ourselves! If there's something you WANT to do, the most important thing is to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

Believe that you CAN do it.

Believe that you WILL do it.

We all make choices every day. So what kind of mindset will you choose? Will you choose to doubt yourself and to give up? Or will you chose the mindset of a champion and believe in yourself? I encourage you to chose the latter and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!

Check out how other bloggers stay motivated and overcome obstacles at Fitness Blog World.

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Pittsburgh Recap

This past weekend, J and I headed up to what's becoming our annual trip to the Pittsburgh bodybuilding show. As I've mentioned before, J and I first met at the show two years ago, so the show holds special significance for us. We also have friends who live in Pittsburgh, and it was fun to get to see them again too.

After minimal sleep on Friday evening (3 hours for me and 10 minutes for J), I got up at 3:30 am on Saturday morning to do cardio before we hit the road at 5:30 am. Operation Pro doesn't allow for missing any cardio sessions. We made the trip in 3.5 hours and headed straight to Soldiers and Sailors for pre-judging. We'd missed a couple bodybuilding classes, but managed to catch our friend, Mario Tarquinio, on stage in the Middleweight class.

As always, the quality of the show was great! And there was a very high number of bodybuilders - some classes had up to 21 competitors! I've never seen a non-National level show with classes that large before. Also as always, the lighting of the show left much to be desired. Competitors were actually much more conditioned than they appeared on stage, where they looked smoothed out.

Like last year, I paid special attention to the Pro Figure portion of the show. J and I discussed conditioning, symmetry, suit design, and posing. We've decided to work on my posing and may be making a few minor changes to my stage presentation. Cheryl Brown brought her signature look, and took home top honors. Her conditioning was even overall, and had a fine balance between hard and soft.

Pro Figure Winner - Cheryl Brown
Bringing a harder conditioning was Heather Dees, who nabbed second. Kristin Nagrani edged out Gennifer Strobo this week for the 3rd place spot. Last weekend at the Europa Orlando, Strobo finished ahead of Nagrani. Candice John repeated her Europa 5th place finish, and Alea Suarez made her Bikini-to-Figure debut with a 6th place finish.

Pro Figure Lineup
Pro Bikini brought a different lineup than last year, and a couple of the placings baffled us. All of the ladies brought their best, and J and I agreed that the judges had a tough job. Perpetual bridesmail finisher Jaime Baird finally snagged a 1st place win with great stage presence and a slightly leaner physique than in the past.

Pro Bikini Winner - Jaime Baird
I noticed a couple things about the Bikini lineup. I have to admit that I've seen Jessica Jessie in better condition than she was at this show. She brought her trademark spunk to the stage, but wasn't as tight as she's been in the past. I would've liked to have seen Justine Munro place higher. She's got a smooth stage presentation, and brought an overall conditioned look to the stage.

The amateur Figure division seemed to favor a slightly harder conditioning again this year, which is rather disappointing to me. Don't get me wrong - the winners looks amazing! But (unlike many Figure girls), I'd been hoping that Figure conditioning will get a bit softer this year, with the introduction of the Women's Physique division. I'm looking forward to seeing the results of Jr. USA's in two weeks, which is the inaugural show for WPD.

Figure Overall Champion - Kristina Curci
I predict that the overall winner, Kristina Curci, will win her Pro card this year. She swept both the Masters and Open classes with overall victories in both.

Another new division, Men's Physique, was also rather interesting to watch. Men's Physique is similar to the Male Fitness Model division in other federations. The men aren't as big or as conditioned as the bodybuilders, and they wear board shorts on stage. Abs and calves are a must for this division!

Men's Physique
Not only was the show fun to watch, we also met up with several of our friends. A couple of ladies from the DC area were competing, so we chatted with them before they took the stage. Shanan Maynard, Christina Makosy, and Stephanie Kelley all looked beautiful on stage! I have to admit, I was so flattered when Stephanie recognized me from my blog! It was so wonderful to meet you, girl!

Stephanie and me
We hung out with our friend, Kevin Levrone, who even took J backstage to chat with some of the Pro bodybuilders who were there to guest pose.

After the show, we headed over to the host hotel with Kevin, where many of the competitors and media were mingling.

J and me at the host hotel after the show
Before we headed back to Maryland on Sunday morning, J taped some interviews with Kevin for his documentary we've been filming. Here's a sneak peak of one of the interviews, which J posted on his site: BioS3 Training.

Overall, it was a great weekend for both of us! We got to watch a great show, get re-motivated for prep, visit with friends, and make some contacts. I'm going back over the notes I took while watching Pro Figure, and am ready to rock the stage at Team Universe in 9 weeks!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stepping Into the Limelight

Last week at work, my managers requested that I facilitate a discussion during our bi-weekly department meeting. I was excited about the opportunity to do a trainer-type activity, and also a bit nervous. My official title fluctuates among "eLearning Specialist," Instructional Designer," and "Trainer." I've had ample opportunities to flex my elearning and instructional design muscles, but very few opportunities to actually lead any discussions or in-person training sessions. While I love all aspects of my job, I realized that I really do miss being a trainer. I also realized that if something as simple as leading a discussion of my peers could make me nervous, I've been living in my comfort zone for too long.

Comfort zones are exactly that: the place where we feel comfortable, where everything is familiar and safe. The problem with comfort zones is that they don't foster growth and development. And without growth and development, how can we improve ourselves?

I started thinking about how comfortable I've made my life. I very rarely get nervous or anxious about anything! While that seems wonderful on the surface, I have to ask myself, "Am I really growing as a person?"

When I was younger, I used to get nervous about piano recitals, sleepovers at friends' houses, babysitting, cheerleading competitions, and a plethora of other activities. It's not that those things wouldn't make me nervous now (because they totally would!), but I don't put myself in situations very often anymore that would make me nervous. I feel like it's a bit of a shame, because after all of those activities, I'd be exhilarated and proud of myself for performing well or for handling uncomfortable situations.

Because I'm not continually putting myself in nerve-wracking situations right now, does it mean I've become complacent? I gave this question some thought, and then realized that there are more ways to grow than to just throw yourself into scary situations (although this has been my inclination in the past). Stepping outside your comfort zone can be something as small as doing new exercises in the gym or trying to actually match your gym clothes for the first time ever.

Or stepping outside your comfort zone can be something as big as going after your Pro card. Deciding to do Team Universe was scary. Announcing that I was doing the show was even scarier! I'm putting a lot of pressure on myself to do well, and am focusing all my energy on doing what I need to do in order to bring my best physique possible to the stage in 10 weeks.

So while I'm not constantly putting myself into nerve-wracking situations, I AM preparing for my most nerve-wracking experience ever, when I step outside my comfort zone ... and into the limelight on stage.

What things are you doing to step outside YOUR comfort zone?