Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What are YOU gonna do today?

The Concept of Productivity

In her latest blog, Ava Cowen posted a link to a motivational video that she claims she watches every day during prep. I checked out the video, and was immediately enraptured. The video is about the Concept of Productivity and what makes successful people so successful. It's not some magic pill or complicated formula. No, it's simpler than that. It basically boils down to this:

Apply the most amount of effort to the best of your ability in the time allotted time that you have.

Here are a few more of my favorite quotes for the video:
All successful people realize that time is the most precious commodity that's out there. It's the one thing that you can't buy or ever buy back. So these successful people realize that they have an allotted time to perform a given task, so that they have to give it their absolute all to doing that task.
Going through the motions is the most disadvantageous thing that you can do.
All successful people realize that they're gonna give it their absolute all and put in their heart and soul in any task that they do, no matter how small or how large it is. That they're gonna be the best person that they can be while they're doing it. That they're gonna do it RIGHT.
The major difference is that the successful people do every single task right, whereas the people who are not successful, do it WRONG.
The best bodybuilders in the world: "These people gave it their heart and soul throughout every single rep. Throughout every single set. Throughout every single gym session. Every single day. For weeks. For months. For years. For decades. To get to where they were. That they weren't just gonna go through the motions, but they were going to break through ALL mental barriers to get to where they wanted to be. And that's the difference between successful people and those who are not."
You could say to yourself, 'Oh, I went to the gym today, so I'm better off because of it.' But the question you have to ask yourself is: 'What did I do in the gym today?' And how did you do it?
It's really not about the genetics as much as it is about the effort, and about doing the activity RIGHT.
Successful people understand that they're gonna give it their all throughout every single task that they have to do. Because time is so precious. And that they're gonna do it RIGHT.
Ask yourself what are you gonna do today? But more importantly, you need to ask yourself, "How are you going to do it?"
This concept not only applies to the gym and how you train; it also applies to every aspect of your life.

So what are YOU going to do in the gym today?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Carpe Diem!

One of my goals this year has been to pursue all opportunities I'm presented with. This may not seem like a big deal to some of you over-achievers, but to a psuedo lazy procrastinator like me, it's huge! It means going out of my way to look for opportunities and then to actually follow up with said opportunities. All in all, it takes some time and work on my part. It also means changing from, "Well, I probably COULD do that, but I just haven't pursued it yet," to "Yes, I just followed up on that!"

The mindset and resolve of finally taking ACTION, has been paying off! Thus far, it's led to a training video and weekly guest blogs on FitnessRxmag.com, which is very exciting for me!

This past week I finally took advantage of a couple other opportunities.

My good friend, Donloree, asked me to write a guest blog for her successful blog, Bikini or Bust. I wrote about the different experiences I've had at shows. Even though each show has some of the same similarities, the experiences can be completely different. I've definitely had some highs and lows at each show!

Bikini or Bust Guest Blog
A new site, Muscle Bombshell, contacted me regarding a feature interview. I responded to several questions, and the interview is posted on the site today! I'm honored and thrilled to be featured on this site!

Muscle Bombshell Feature Interview
I'm so grateful for these opportunities, and am happy I can show them the respect they deserve by following up and finally taking action!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Plastic-Lined Walls

This past weekend marked the fifth bodybuilding show I went to as a spectator this year. (Have I mentioned how much I love living in a more central location where shows are accessible by car?) The big difference between the Maryland Championships and all the other shows is that J competed. As such, I was not just an interested audience member, I was a nervous audience member! I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of J stepping on stage. I kept feeling like I should've been backstage instead of sitting in the audience, because his prep was such a team effort for both of us. After the show, I did go backstage for a couple minutes, and seeing the plastic-lined walls got me thinking about the similarities of every show.

When we haven't been certain of the exact location of a show, we always tell each other to "find the orange people." In the sunlight, the spray tans of competitors always appear orange for some reason, although they look natural on stage. Most competitors wear black clothing so the tan stains don't show up as much. Every show will have orange people wearing black track suits and flip-flops.

Standard competitor attire: black track suit
Another common element are the large sheets of clear plastic or brown paper bag material lining the walls backstage. The spray tan gets on EVERYTHING so the plastic protects the venue walls and floors.

Speaking of the spray tan, there's a certain smell that exudes from competitors the day of the show. I can't really describe it, but it's a combination of pre-tan body scrub, 4 days without deodorant, and the spray tan formula. Some competitors also use a glaze that smells somewhat like icy hot. Whenever I smell those odors, I know I'm at a bodybuilding show.

The restrooms at all show venues also have one thing in common: orange stained toilet seats. Like I said, the spray tan gets on EVERYTHING.

Every show has an expo of sorts outside of the auditorium. And there is always at least one table that has protein bar samples. (Yum!)

As a general rule, competitors are nice people. At the point where we're ready to walk on stage, we're usually hungry, tired, and depleted. Yet, I've never seen anyone NOT help out another competitor. I've heard stories of ladies lending their shoes and suits to other ladies who had issues with their own. I've helped ladies glue their suits on, and have in turn, asked other ladies to help me with mine. (Yes, we do actually glue our suits on. How else could we get those tiny scraps of material to stay in place? No one wants to see a wardrobe malfunction on stage!) My friend, Tenecia, calls the assistance we all show to each other backstage the "Tan Rule."

Everything about bodybuilding shows is exciting to me, because I associate them with that nervous, excited feeling I get every time I compete. Next time you're at a show, take a look around and see if you notice the same things. What other things have you seen at several shows you've been to?

Friday, August 19, 2011

64 Weeks

I'm sitting at home looking at my boyfriend's drawn face, his vascular arms, and his tired eyes. J slumps in the chair, barely able to keep his eyes open. It's the day before his show. He feels like crap, he's got no energy, and he fantasizes out loud about all the food commercials on TV. He's ready.

Tomorrow is the NPC Maryland Championships!

Tonight we'll head to the weigh-in, and then to the spray tan location. J is a mix of Irish and Portuguese, and while the rest of his family inherited the dark Portuguese skin, he was blessed with very pale, white Irish skin ... skin that somehow rejects all attempts at tanning. Thank goodness for spray tan services at shows!

The show begins tomorrow at 10:30 am. That's when the culmination of 64 weeks of intense training, 22 weeks of cardio, and 20 weeks a strict diet will pay off. He's ready to go, and I couldn't be more proud of him!

My Jerry

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's in My Supplement Cabinet?

There are people on both sides of the supplement fence: people either think they're very beneficial or they think they're a waste of money. I used to sit directly in the middle of the fence because I didn't know very much about them.

J is very well-informed and knowledgeable about supplements, and has tried most of the free samples we get at shows. (Check out his supplement reviews!) When I started training with him, the first thing he did was to inform me that my favorite gummy vitamins did not, in fact, contain the necessary nutrients I needed, and furthermore, they contained enough sugar to keep my body out of fully shifting into ketosis. D'oh! After the switch to quality vitamins, he then had me try a few basic supplements.

Below is a list of the supplements I currently use, or have used within the past year. I switch some out periodically and substitute others. Some are rather similar with slight differences and flavors.

Supplements I use
Figure Fuel by MAN Sports: This is a pre- and intra-workout supplement. It's BY FAR the most effective workout supplement I've tried - it helps with focus, intensity, and fatigue without giving me any jitters. There are no stimulants in it, and it was designed BY women, FOR women. I discovered how effective it actually is when I ran out and tried a couple other formulas. I couldn't figure out why my workouts weren't as intense and I fatigued so quickly. When I went back to Figure Fuel, my workouts greatly improved. That's proof enough for me that it's a good quality supplement!

Vitamin D3: This is a great supplement for bone growth and health. I firmly believe all women should take this vitamin daily.

EVP by Evogen: Endorsed and used by several IFBB Pro bodybuilders, this pre-workout supplement helps with muscle growth and helps prevent fatigue. Although it's more expensive than other pre-workout supplements, it's high quality and actually works well.

HumaPro by ALR Industries: This is an amino acid blend designed specifically for humans. It promotes muscle growth. I've used this in my intra-workout drink to help maximize my workouts.

Biotin: This is a water-soluble b-complex vitamin that helps with nail and hair growth and strength. During prep, sometimes nutrients are missing from our restricted diets, so this vitamin is important to keep our nails and hair beautiful.

Xtend by Scivation: This supplement consists mostly of Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's). It helps with training intensity and muscle growth and repair. I occasionally use this in my water bottle throughout the day, or in my intra-workout drink.

Micronized Glutamine: Glutamine is an amino acid that helps maintain muscle. This is a good supplement to add to your water bottle throughout the day or add to your pre- and intra-workout drinks. I believe every serious athlete should supplement with glutamine.

Multi-vitamin by Optimum Nutrition: Multi-vitamins are important for everyone, not just athletes.

Myofusion by Gaspari Nutrition: Not only does this protein taste good, it's good quality too! It's a complex protein formula that consists of whey protein concentrate, whey protein isolate, egg albumen (egg whites), and milk protein isolate. I either drink this mixed with some water, or I blend it into egg whites and make a protein pancake with it.

Pure Liquid Amino by All-American EFX: Also known as liquid beef aminos, this blend is a liquid that tastes like Hershey's Syrup. Srsly. It's good! Essentially, it helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles for increased stamina, faster recovery, and muscle growth. I mix a couple tablespoons with water and drink it immediately after any workout, including cardio sessions. I also periodically mix small amounts in my water bottle throughout the day.

So there's a sneak peak into my supplement cabinet! I do, however, use the term "cabinet" loosely. Since there are two of us competitors in the house, we have supplements stashed on top of the fridge, in a cupboard, and on free-standing shelves in the kitchen. If J had his way, we'd have all the cans and bottles lined up on the counters for easy access. But I informed him that since we're not in college anymore, we should try to have a somewhat "grown-up" looking kitchen. We ended up compromising.

Supplements on top of the fridge doesn't look very "grown up" but it certainly is convenient.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Beginning of Summer

Living in a two-competitor household has its benefits and its challenges. I've talked about how we make the trainer/boyfriend relationship work, and how it feels to watch J suffer through prep. Thankfully, due to our experiences last year and ultimate resolution of issues, this competitive season has been MUCH less stressful for both of us. (Whew!)

2010 Lehigh Valley Championships
It's still really difficult for me to watch J prep, though. He hurts. He's tired. He's sore. He's hungry. As his girlfriend, I want to make it all better for him, but that's not what he needs from me right now. I need to keep encouraging him to push past his limits and continue giving everything he's got and then give some more.

In exactly 10 days, he'll step on stage at the NPC Maryland State and East Coast Classic show!
If you're in the area, consider coming to watch the show and chat with us!
We're both excited for the show, and even more excited to have our competition season come to a close. Combined, we'll have dieted for exactly 26 weeks straight. That's a long time!! We've missed out on ballgames, boat trips, days at the beach/pool, sight-seeing tours, and good meals at restaurants.

We both made the decision to give our all for this period of time, and while we're disappointed we've missed out on some fun times, at the end of it, we'll both know that we gave our best.

Our summer will officially begin on August 21. It's about time!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Post-Contest Blues Be Gone!

One of the most important part of prep is coming up with a post-contest plan. It's often over-looked, yet vitally important in order to avoid a bad rebound or the blues after a show.

As you may know, I also write guest blogs for FitnessRx. Last week, I wrote about dealing with the post-contest blues, which is a subject that has been gaining more and more attention the past couple years. When I first started competing, I had no idea what to expect during prep and no plan for post-contest. This grave error resulted in some severe metabolic damage that I just recently managed to remedy.

Last year was the first year I had an actual plan to follow off-season. Although I did gain some weight (which is inevitable when you're trying to build muscle), it came off very easily when I started prep for Team Universe. Not only is the post-contest diet and training plan beneficial for the weeks immediately following the contest, it also helps prepare you for shows the following year.

Do you have a post-contest plan? Has it helped you transition from prep into your off-season? If you didn't have a plan, did you get the blues or experience a frustrating rebound?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

How NOT to Mess Up Your Tan

For the first time, on my 10th show, I finally got my tan to remain perfect for the show. Not messing up a tan is quite an accomplishment and no small feat! Here's some helpful information to help you get the perfect tan for your show.

Skin Prep

Before getting tanned (regardless of the application method), you need to prep your skin. The week before the show, start using the exfoliating and pH balancing soap provided by your tanning product company. Jan Tana, ProTan, and Liquid Sunrays all have their own products, and for best results, I strongly recommend using the company's own products!

Jan Tana works best for me
A day or two before the show, start the hair removal process. YES, you need to remove ALL the hair from your entire body. This includes the peach fuzz on your arms, back, butt, shoulders, chest, and tummy - in addition to the areas you usually shave. No, it's not weird to ask your significant other to shave your back. Or your chest. Ha!

I recommend waxing for your underarms and a full Brazilian for your bikini line. I do NOT recommend using a depilatory cream (like Nair), for the simple reason that it BURNS YOUR SKIN. Many thanks to Katie for running to the drugstore to pick up some aloe lidocaine gel for the burns on my arms and back the night before a show.

Once you're all shaved and polished, it's time to apply the tan!

Airbrushing vs Painting

Painting the tan on yourself (usually with the assistance of someone else) requires a buff, latex gloves, a drop cloth, and lots of patience! The number of coats of tan depends on how pale or dark your skin is. If you're Casper pale like J, you'll need 3 to 5 coats. Each coat needs to be even and blended. The process gets really old really fast. Thank you to my good friends, Melanie and Katie, who have seen more of me than they'd ever wanted to see when they painted me for shows.

Airbrushing, on the other hand, goes on evenly, and the artist can apply the color thin or thick, depending on your skin color. The main drawback of getting airbrushed is that the whole process is FREEZING!! In order for the tan to dry, it needs to "freeze" on the skin, so anything that raises your body temperature will make the tan melt and streak. After getting sprayed, I stand directly in front of an air vent, crank the AC and literally shiver non-stop for 5 hours until the tan is completely dried on my skin.

What about water?

Once the tan is applied, you can NOT get ANY water on your skin! Water immediately removes the tan, leaving a mark. Wiping the water away will only make the streak bigger, so dab water very gently to prevent further streaks. Jan Tana lotion can be used to blend the tan around the water spot. Keep in mind that it won't be perfect by any means, but you can blend so the mark won't be seen on stage.

Before I learned that heat melt the tan and lotion can blend water marks, I had my friend Katie help me out. While she tried desperately to blend the tan using more paint, I aimed a blow dryer at the area trying to dry the new paint. Needless it say, it was a complete disaster, and Katie, I'm still indebted to you for your patience that whole trip!

Once the tan is on, I don't wash my face or my hands. It sounds kinda gross, but I don't want to take the chance of getting any water on me. I use facial wipes for my face and Wet Ones wipes for my hands. When brushing my teeth, I stand as far back from the sink as possible to avoid any water splashes, and I always make sure I've got a shirt on when near any water.

But how do you NOT pee on yourself?

This only applies to the ladies. Men, you wouldn't understand how difficult it is NOT to get any pee spatter on your legs. "Water spots" (which is the nice way of referring to drops of pee on your legs) are the fastest, easiest way to mess up an even, beautiful tan.

Here are a few methods that seem to work:

  • Put a couple toilet seat covers in the toilet to avoid any splashing.
  • Hold a Dixie cup against your body to avoid spatter.
  • Wrap towels around your legs before you sit down (note: your tan must be dry before trying this method).
  • "Hover" above the toilet seat; don't sit on it.

Take it from me - you do NOT want to have your significant other trot back down to the tanning room 10 minutes after you got sprayed and announce to everyone in the room that his girlfriend "peed all over herself," and then have to enter the room (in tears, natch) and have Ms. Jan Tana herself take you aside to fix the so-called "water spots" all over your legs. Get my point?

What should you wear after getting tanned?

Since the tan stains clothing, most competitors wear black clothes after they're tanned. I've seen quite a few track suits with team names on them. I prefer an oversize t-shirt because it touches the least amount of skin (and therefore decreases chances of streaking or smearing the tan). My trusty Geek Squad shirt has gone with me to many, many shows.

I substituted my Geek Squad shirt for my new Team Keenan shirt this year.
If you put clothes on before the tan is dry enough, the clothes will leave marks. You do not want to have to blend in elastic waist band marks around your waist (again, thank you, Katie!).

Sleeping with the tan on

I recommend bringing your own sheets, pillowcases, and towels to every show (if you don't have to travel, use old sheets on your own bed) because the tan WILL come off on fabric and the hotel WILL charge you for ruining their sheets and towels. I have a large flat sheet that I fold in half like a sleeping bag and put on top of the hotel sheets.

Keep in mind that just because you think the tan is dry doesn't mean that it actually is. Remember when I said it has to freeze on you? Well, even after it's dry, if you get warm, the tan will streak. That means, if you sleep with your arms bent, you'll have streaks in the crook of your arm. If your hands somehow end up on your stomach in the middle of the night, you'll have hand prints on your stomach in the morning. Hand prints aren't very easy to blend (thank you, Melanie!). Trust me on this one.

I've learned (from past experiences) to sleep on my back with my arms straight by my sides outside of the sheet. No streaks on my arms or hand prints on my stomach anymore!

If you've never competed or are preparing for your first show, all this information may seem overwhelming. Oddly enough, for all the time we spend in the gym preparing for the show, the week of the show, the tan is one of the most important things. Hopefully this is helpful for you to keep your tan perfect too!

If you have any additional tips or tanning horror stories you'd like to share, please do so! We can all learn from each other's experiences.