Monday, January 31, 2011

Being a Champion

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a champion. Does it mean isolating yourself from everyone and everything that doesn't have to do with your goal? Does it mean training eight hours a day? Does it mean surrounding yourself with positivity? Does it mean going the extra mile? Does it mean doing what other won't or can't do?

I decided to look into how Olympic athletes approach training, balance, diet, and motivation. I found a couple articles that interviewed athletes, and pulled some quotes that I thought were interesting or useful.

Katie Uhlaender, Skeleton Slider: "I've been pretty narrow-minded. There's one thing to focus on,"
"I'm completely focused on training and sport," Uhlaender said. "I did everything I could to know that when I walk into the Olympic stadium, I feel prepared."

Kristin Armstrong, Cyclist: She stays active by hiking with friends, but she doesn't participate in strenuous activity. Although training is essentially Armstrong's full time job, she values balance in her life. Fortunately, she was accepted into the Home Depot program, which allows her to work 20 hours per week with full time wages and benefits. Work is also a distraction.

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, February 2006

Gymnast Alicia Sacramone: "I remind myself that I've been working for this so long, that it'd be silly to give it up after so many years of hard work. Also, that this tough part here is temporary, and that the Olympics are so close, I can make it through anything now."

Swimmer Kim Vandenberg: "I just try to think of the process and not so much the end result. If I'm working hard and doing everything I can, in the end it will all come together. I'm taking care of the small details: sleeping, drinking water, and eating healthy foods. Having that knowledge that I'm preparing well gives me comfort and confidence."
"I tell myself that the pain I go through is only going to help me in the end, and I keep that in the back of my mind. If it wasn't for pain I wouldn't be improving. I try to embrace it and know it will help me. And all the pain makes the end result that much more satisfying."

Diver Laura Wilkinson: "Visualization, at least for me, gets me to that point ... It takes practice, just like diving does. I just had to be patient enough to practice it."

Track Star Lolo Jones: "But as my coach always says, your body is like a car, and food is like your fuel. I am a race car so I can’t just put unleaded fuel in my car. I need that good premium fuel."
"I am also a big fan of this quote by Frederick Douglass, 'If there is no struggle, there is no progress.'"

Women's Health Magazine

Regardless of whether they won a medal, these women are true champions. Just by making the Olympic team, they proved they're among the best in the U.S. in their chosen sport. I admire their drive, dedication, motivation, and focus on doing their best at all times.

I'm going to post some of these quotes on my wall to continually remind myself to believe in myself and to stay focused on my goal.

Who are your role models? Do you have any favorite inspirational quotes?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thundersnow and Being Thankful

Most of us in the fitness world spend a lot of time there ... sometimes more time than we'd like, especially during contest prep. Although I also work there, I don't always like to just hang out at the gym and visit. Except for last night. Last night, the gym was far more comfortable than our home.

On Wednesday evening, the DC area got hit by an epic thundersnow. Yes, there was thunder, lightning, and ... snow? It started as rain, changed to sleet, changed to snow, then changed back to sleet. All in all, the storm dumped about 5 inches of snow laced with thick ice. The conditions resulted in some 12-hour commutes, hundreds of abandoned cars, and 650,000 homes and businesses without power.

The snow sure was pretty ... until we lost our power. Then it wasn't so pretty.
J and I happened to be one the lucky ones to lose power in the middle of winter. There were bright blue and orange flashes of light, buzzing sounds from the power transformers, then the entire sky lit up like daylight (at 7 pm), and then everything went dark. It was like the dementors in Harry Potter, sucking the happiness out of everything in their path.

Power outages in our area
I never realized how much I value and use electricity until it was gone. We were cut off from the world completely - no radio, no tv, no internet. We did have our phones, but tried not to use them in order to save the battery power. I read my book by candlelight that night. (J was terrified I'd somehow set myself or the house on fire, but I managed without incident.)

Morning cardio was shoveling the driveway. Luckily, my office had power, so I stayed warm all day. J, on the other hand, had to cuddle with all the animals to keep warm. We thanked our lucky stars that the gym also had power. So we basically moved in last night.

All the animals cuddling up with J for body heat
J brought his food and his blender, and was able to keep his food cold and make protein shakes. We both brought toiletries and showered at the gym. We weren't the only ones using the shower facilities, either. Several people walked in with their clothes and shampoo during the course of the day. We also hung out and chatted with friends, all sharing horror stories of long commutes, cold houses, and no internet.

I thanked God for the gym yesterday. I was not only able to train and do cardio, I was also able to freshen up and feel clean and human again. It made me realize just how much we take for granted. We're thankful we had a place to warm up, and that we weren't one of the thousands stuck in traffic trying to get home from work the night before.

On our way home from buying flashlight batteries at Target, we got a call that our power had been restored. We've never been more appreciative of electricity ... light and heat really DO make a difference in our lives!

59 degrees 45 minutes after the power was restored
The house quickly warmed up from 55 degrees, and we were able to settle in for some Jersey Shore drama. We're still giving thanks that we have power now, while so many others are still without it. And we're also thankful that in our moment of need, the steady, trusty gym was there for us.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Drops in the Bucket Already?

I'm not embarrassed or ashamed to admit that I occasionally cry in the gym. It hasn't happened in awhile, but tonight I felt the familiar warm sting of tears threatening to cascade down my face while I was in the middle of glute kickbacks. I haven't cried in the gym in a long time; usually it happens during prep, when my body is depleted and I'm exhausted. I'm not quite in prep yet, nor am I depleted ... in fact, I had some yummy treats yesterday ... so what triggered the tears today?

As I've mentioned before, Operation Pro entails doing some exercises I'm not particularly fond of. It also entails mixing up reps and sets, which is challenging for me. I despise high reps (quite frankly, I get bored doing any more than 10 reps at a time), and Operation Pro includes some sets of high reps (*gag). High rep sets also tend to trigger my asthma, making it difficult for me to breathe.

For some reason, tonight my inhaler wasn't working correctly, and I was struggling with enough air flow during most of my workout. It all came to a culmination during glute kickbacks.

High reps + asthma issues = tears

I gave myself some extra time in between sets, and pushed through the exercise, telling myself, "the other girls getting ready for Team U are pushing themselves too." Like I've said before, when I'm standing on stage in July, I want to know that I pushed myself further than ever before, and did everything I could to prepare myself to win that Pro card. A few tears are nothin' but a drop in the bucket on my journey to winning a Pro card.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Grocery Shopping During Prep

In response to a couple questions I got regarding food prep and diet foods, I want to re-post this video that J and I made last year during contest prep. J talks about the foods we eat during prep, the differences in our diets, and why we keep sodium high throughout prep.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Bodybuilding World

As you may know, both my boyfriend, J, and I compete (he in Bodybuilding, me in Figure). Prior to moving in together, I'd never lived with (much less dated) another competitor. At first, we were both thrilled at the prospect of having someone who completely understood contest prep and everything it entails. And then I started prepping for the 2009 Arnold, with J as my trainer. After we faced those challenges, I discovered what it feels like to be on the other side of the relationship with a competitor.

J & me at the 2010 LeHigh, the 1st show we did together.

As 2011 prep looms in the near future (4 weeks for me! EEK!), I find myself thinking about prep and the things we go through as competitors. When I read my friend Donloree's blog about what it's like to live with a Figure competitor, I got to thinking about what it's like to be a Figure competitor living with a Bodybuilder. There are some similarities, but also some very interesting differences.
  • When I tell J that he's "looking huge!" and he's a "beast," he grins and says "thank you!" When someone tells me I'm "looking huge," I cry.
  • We can't travel for more than an hour without stopping for a potty break for one of us (usually both of us).
  • Neither of us ever leave the house without our coolers; however, his is twice the size of mine. And is not pink.
  • I routinely tell him to check out pictures of half-naked women. He then critiques them and determines whether or not they'll be successful at a show. Yes, we both think this is normal.
  • He routinely tells me to check out pictures of guys in their underwear. I then critique them and determine whether or not they'll be successful at a show. Again, we both think this is normal.
  • It's not uncommon for J to drop his pants in the middle of the gym and go through his mandatory poses while he's in prep.
  • It's also not uncommon for either of us to strike a pose in the middle of a department store.
  • When we travel, I bring my pink cooler, filled with all my food for the duration of the visit. Since his food can't fit in a cooler, he brings packets of protein powder and oatmeal. We then make a beeline to the closest supplement store and buy a jug of protein that he'll use for the remainder of the visit.
  • He considers slow, meandering sight-seeing and museum visits "cardio" because they involve more movement than just lying on the couch.
  • While at the beach, we both pick out people who have the genetic potential to do well on stage. We then seriously discuss their shoulder to hip ratios and delt development. Yes, we both think this is normal, and usually don't even realize we're doing it.
  • The only non-diet food we have in the house are Girl Scout cookies. And they live in the freezer. We don't even have a bottle of ketchup or a stick of butter in the refrigerator.
  • When we're shopping, we go out to the car to eat at our scheduled meal times (coolers in the trunk), then go back into the mall to continue shopping.
When I watched some hilarious videos about a guy who wants to be a bodybuilder, I was forced to acknowledge that things that seem normal in the bodybuilding world may sound very strange to others. I know this won't be my world forever, but it is for the next few years. So if I bring my own food to a restaurant, randomly discuss someone's shoulder to hip ratio, or spontaneously strike a pose in the middle of a department store, rest assured I haven't gone completely off my rocker; I'm just living the bodybuilding lifestyle.

Off-season! October 2010

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Need vs. Want

I just had a startling realization this afternoon ... J and I won't be able to go out to eat for at least 20 weeks, maybe more if he decides to compete this year! That's 5 whole MONTHS!

I had a moment of panic when this thought crossed my mind. Frantically, I contacted J, and he confirmed it.

Sigh.

I took a minute to throw myself a mini pity party, and then reminded myself that I have a goal. A goal bigger, more wildly audacious, than anything I've ever set for myself. A goal that even I'm not sure I can achieve (although I keep telling myself I can in hopes that maybe someday I'll believe it ... and hey, fake it till ya make it, right?).

I also reminded myself that I made a pledge to myself that I will do everything I can do in order to achieve my goal. This means traveling very little, if at all, refraining from going out to eat, and eating fish during prep. These items may not seem like a big deal for some people, but they're huge mental issues for me.

I love to travel, plus my family lives in another state, so I need to deal with the fact that the duration between visits may be longer than usual. I also need to tell myself that it's ok to be homebodies more than usual until we're finished competing. We don't NEED to travel; it's just something I LIKE to do.

I also LIKE to go out to eat. But really? My body doesn't need that food. I'll be feeding it much healthier food during prep anyway. Going out for sushi or pancakes isn't something I NEED to do. (Mmm ... OHP)

I do, however, NEED to eat fish during prep. (I just gagged when I wrote that sentence.) I don't like fish. It stinks, and the fishy taste never goes away, regardless of how it's cooked or seasoned. But I've already resigned myself to including it in my diet this year because it's an excellent source of lean protein. (Just gagged again.)

I realize that some women do an excellent job of balancing career, family, kids, and friends while they're prepping, and I fully admire and commend them. But I have no intention of balancing anything other than my career (need to pay the bills, after all) during prep this year, because when I stand on stage at Team Universe in July, I want to be able to say to myself that I did absolutely everything I could possibly do to bring my best conditioning to the stage. I want to be absolutely positive that I gave 100% effort and focus during prep and didn't cut any corners or take any shortcuts.

And if that means not going out to eat for awhile, I guess I can handle that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Celebrities ... They're Just Like Us!

The headlines of all my favorite weekly gossip magazines all screamed something about diets and weight loss last week. It seems like at the start of each year, magazines decide to shove fitness and diet down the throat of the general public. Headlines exclaiming "How I Got Slim" and "Half Their Size!" and "Diets That Work" flood the newsstands and grocery store check-out lines.


Within these magazines are stories of people (mostly celebrities) who either lost weight or normally maintain a svelte physique. People magazine seemed to be the only publication that highlighted non-celebrities.

While I don't aspire to have the same physique as the ladies featured in the magazines, I was interested in how they either lost weight or leaned out. So I "borrowed" the magazines from the gym, and set about reading about the health and fitness routines of celebrities.

I discovered something very interesting. Nearly all the diets consist of foods that are in competition diets!
What?! You mean celebrities actually watch what they eat, follow semi-structured plans, exercise, and eat clean?! You mean they actually WORK to maintain their physiques?!

According to Us Weekly (Issue 830, January 10, 2011) ...
  • Carrie Underwood lost 20 lbs after American Idol in 2005 by keeping a food journal, working out with a trainer, and not eating out.
  • Jennifer Aniston's diet consists of yogurt, fruit, salad, broiled fish, and steamed vegetables.
  • Halle Berry said, "If I stick to exercising every day and put the right things in my mouth, then my diabetes just stays in check."
  • Denise Richards, who feels "more fit than I did in my twenties," literally carries around "a small cooler filled with snacks."
  • Jennifer Lopez maintains that "You've got to diet and exercise - you just have to." She also controls her food portions, and limits bread, sugar, and alcohol.
  • And Jennifer Hudson (my favorite story) has lost about 80 lbs by tracking calories, fat, and fiber, and eating egg whites, chicken, shrimp, and bananas. She also does cardio and trains five days a week with a trainer.
With all of this information, how are American still confused about how to lose weight?? All of these women advocate a healthy diet filled with clean foods, and exercising several times a week. It's a very basic formula: 

clean food + exercise = healthy, toned body

While I knew on some level that celebrities must watch their diets, I didn't realize they followed programs very similar to competitors. But really, when I think about it, it just makes sense. Some of those ladies admitted they like pizza or sugar, but they either eat them in moderation, or avoid them altogether when they're preparing for an appearance or event, Which is exactly what competitors do: eat their favorite foods in moderation in the off-season, and avoid them during contest prep.

I doubt we'll be seeing any of these ladies on a Figure stage at any time, but I bet we will see them on award stages soon. And you can bet they'll be rockin' toned arms, flat tummies, and lean legs ... cuz celebrities, they're just like Us!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Frog Story

Someone gave me this story a few years ago, and as I was thinking about my goals today, I remembered it and want to share it with you.



A Frog Story

Once upon a time there was a bunch of tiny frogs who arranged a running competition.

The goal was to reach the top of a very high tower.

A big crowd had gathered around the tower to see the race and cheer on the contestants ...

The race began ...

Honestly, no one in crowd really believed that the tiny frogs would reach the top of the tower.

You heard statements such as:

"Oh, WAY too difficult!!"

"They will NEVER make it to the top."

or:

"Not a chance that they will succeed. The tower is too high!"



The tiny frogs began collapsing. One by one ...

Except for those, who in a fresh tempo, were climbing higher and higher ...

The crowd continued to yell, "It is too difficult!!! No one will make it!"

More tiny frogs got tired and gave up ...

But ONE continued higher and higher and higher ...

This one wouldn't give up!

At the end, everyone else had given up climbing the tower. Except for the one tiny frog who, after a big effort, was the only one who reached the top!

THEN all of the other tiny frogs naturally wanted to know how this one frog managed to do it?

A contestant asked the tiny frog how he had found the strength to succeed and reach the goal?

It turned out ...

That the winner was DEAF!



The wisdom of this story is:

Never listen to other people's (or your own!) tendencies to be negative or pessimistic because they take your most wonderful dreams and wishes away from you -- the ones you have in your heart!

Always think of the power words have.

Because everything you hear and read will affect your actions!

************************************************

I challenge you to remember this story when you find yourself listening to negative comments and doubting yourself. Remember your goals, repeat positive affirmations to yourself, and surround yourself with those who support you and believe in you.

This year, I'm going to be the deaf frog, and will continue taking the steps to reach my goal. When I encounter negativity from others or from myself (I'm still working on the positive self-talk thing), I'll think about the deaf frog, and repeat positive affirmations to myself.

How many of you hear negativity when you share your goals? More importantly, how many of you talk negatively to yourself? (Like I said, I'm guilty of this and am working on it - it's not easy!)

How many of you are going to be deaf frogs with me this year?