Friday, December 27, 2013

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!

This December has been a busy month! Because we live nowhere near to either of our families, December is the month of traveling to visit relatives.

The first weekend, we went to Minnesota to visit my family. We celebrated Christmas early, as usual. For the past few years, the weather has been relatively mild in Minnesota. Not this year! When we arrived, the high was -10F. Talk about frigid! We knew it was going to be cold, so we'd packed warm clothes, but nothing can prepare you for that harsh bite of cold on the face. Brr!

I felt sicker earlier in the week and when we got to MN, I felt even sicker. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Influenza A. Fabulous. For the most part, I stayed put at my parents' house because I felt too awful to do anything else. Plus, I didn't want to get anyone else sick. I'm bummed I didn't get to see any of my good friends, but at the same time, I didn't want to get them or their kids sick.

Keenan Family Christmas
As always, I had such a fun time hanging out with my family. My nephews are getting so big! They're 4.5, 2.5, and 0.5 years old now. I love watching them open presents!

J's Birthday
December is also the month of J's birthday! (It's an expensive month for me!) He didn't want a party of any celebration, so we just spent some quality time together. We went out to eat to celebrate another friend's birthday, and J got a free dessert, so that made him happy.

Rhode Island
This past weekend, we flew up to Rhode Island to celebrate Christmas with J's family. While there, we met up with several other YouTube guys and had some great workouts and conversations. It's always fun to meet up in person with online friends. Each guy did a collab video of one of the workouts; it's fun to watch them and see the different perspectives! We also chatted with Steve Reeves, a bodybuilding champ and one of J's friends.

One of the gyms where we trained was so cool! It was basically in a garage, with all the equipment crammed together. One on of the old televisions, a Jay Cutler DVD was playing. It was so motivating to train there - everyone was enthusiastic, determined, and motivated. So much positive energy!

Nick Pinheiro, Bobby Arcand, J, me
We had a really nice visit with J's family! His niece is growing up so quickly - it's hard to believe she's 2 already!

J and his niece, Khloe
New Year
We flew home on Christmas morning, after celebrating on Christmas Eve. We were surprised by how many other people were traveling on Christmas too.

Christmas Day at the Providence airport
As we move into the New Year, I've been thinking about goals and things I want to focus on in 2014. One of my main focuses will be social media. I want to grow my online presence in an authentic and classy way (i.e. not using T&A, which is an easy - and cheap - way to get followers). I welcome any and all advice from you social media gurus! I realize I need to blog more often; that's another one of my 2014 goals. :)

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and enjoyed some quality time with family and friends!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Self-Righteous Donkeys

One thing I've noticed a lot this year in the fitness industry is a marked air of superiority. From Facebook posts to tweets to Instagram pictures, I see people bragging about how much junk food they're eating, how high their calories are, and how little cardio they're doing. It's not only bragging, it's an attempt to make themselves feel superior to others who don't subscribe to the same approaches.

Personally, I don't care what others eat. I know which foods work best for MY body. I know which method of dieting works best for ME. It's not the same approach that works for everyone, because every body is different. But I sure as heck don't go around bragging about my diet and insinuating that others are stupid for not doing things my way! And I most certainly don't suggest that others are doing it "wrong" or that I'm better than anyone else because of how I eat.

I don't understand where the arrogance and false confidence came from. Where did it start and why?

I wish people could realize that no one person is better than anyone else. I eat this, you eat that. So what? Neither of us are better than the other; we're just different. I do cardio, you don't. Neither of us is wrong; we hold different beliefs about cardio and have different body ideals. The world is a richer and more interesting place when there are differences of belief, of opinion, of approaches.

Why be a self-righteous donkey when you could be a soaring eagle, diverse and beautiful in your own way?

I hope this culture of superiority and arrogance changes soon. I see it alienating and dividing people who used to be friends, or at least had mutual respect for one another. I realize there's always the option of "unfollowing" or "unsubscribing" from social media feeds, but I really wish that didn't have to even be a consideration.

My wish for 2014 is that there is more celebration and respect for differences, and less "holier than thou" attitudes.

Have you noticed this trend also? Do you know people who seem to love to brag about their diet and training program while putting down others who follow a different approach?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Bit of Controversy

As some of you may know, J has a successful YouTube channel, on which he posts new videos nearly every day. (If you didn't know about his channel - what are you waiting for? Go check it out!) On one of his videos, he received a comment asking about my stance on steroids. I don't often talk about that subject on here because it's so controversial, but I thought you may find this video interesting.

I'd like to hear your opinions!

Do you compete in a natural or an untested organization? Do you feel natural competitors are at a disadvantage in an untested organization? Are you as scared of illegal things as I am?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Back to the Grind - Sort Of

As I mentioned last week, I'm taking some time off from the gym. In that time, I've caught up on sleep and let go of some stress. I'm now a week into my gradual plan back into the gym, so I wanted to give you an update on how it's going.

My diet is still moderate carbs and decently high calories for my size. I'm having a difficult time getting all the meals in - I've been skipping one meal because I'm just not hungry. I'm listening to my body, and when I'm hungry, I eat. That comes out to 4 times a day. I'm hungrier in the morning and afternoon and not very hungry in the evenings. I find it a fascinating process to learn about how my body works and then to be able to listen to it. During prep, I have to push past my limits in order to achieve my goals; at this time, it's nice to be able to relax and not feel stressed about getting all my meals in.

This weekend, we hung out with some friends, and I was a bit upset I couldn't partake in the potluck. I kept thinking, "I wish I would've started my diet a week later!" But then I'd remember that it was my own choice and if I hadn't eaten whatever I wanted for 5 weeks, maybe I could've started a week later! In the end, I felt better sticking to my new plan (even though the cookies looked and smelled uh-maze-ing!).

I've dropped 4 lbs in the past week. We all know that it's just water, but regardless, I feel better. I know I'm making progress and hopefully soon my clothes will start to fit better. (That's the REAL test - how clothes fit!) I'd really like to lose 2-3 lbs this week. I know I've got at least 2 more lbs of water floating around in my body. Then hopefully the fat loss will really begin.

Cardio has just been AM cardio. Lemme tell ya - it was weird NOT doing morning cardio at first, and now it's kinda weird making sure I get up earlier again in order to have time to walk. Since it's not too cold in the mornings yet (and Mr. Treadmill is dying), I've been walking outside. I love walking around the neighborhoods in our little town! I grew up in a house on a county road, not in a neighborhood, so I love that I have neighborhoods around me to explore! Yesterday morning, I found the World's Biggest Leaf!

Biggest Leaf I've Ever Seen!
What challenges do you face after taking a break from the gym? Do you feel you have to re-learn old habits? Is it comforting to you to follow a structured plan?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mr. Treadmill is Dying

I have some sad news to share ... the other special someone in my life, my other relationship, Mr. Treadmill, is very sick. He's been limping along for awhile, but this morning, I realized that his time is limited.

My Faithful Friend, Mr. Treadmill
Last year, he decided to get stuck at a very steep incline (much to J's utter dismay - he doesn't "do incline"). An equipment specialist - one of our friends at the gym - came out to take a look and fixed the issue. Since then, I'd been careful not to push Mr. Treadmill's incline so high. Apparently, even treadmills have limits as to how far they'll be pushed.

A couple months ago, right after my shows, Mr. Treadmill decided he'd had enough of inclines and he was going to remain flat for the remainder of his life span. The "Incline" button no longer works (in addition to the "Up" and the "3" buttons which only work periodically). I didn't realize how much easier cardio is on a flat surface!

This summer, my parents visited us and commented that Mr. Treadmill was a lot louder than when they visited last year. Because the motor had gradually been getting louder, I hadn't realized just how loud it was.

This morning, I was wishing I had ear plugs.

My friends, I think it's time I started looking at other options. I don't want to be unfaithful to my very faithful Mr. Treadmill, but I think our relationship is coming to a close as his life span is also coming to a close. He'll always be close to my heart. After all, I've spent so much quality time with him over the past 3 years, I feel we have a bond.

I don't need a top of the line model - just something durable. Our treadmill gets used a couple hours a day when J and I are both in prep, so unlike most home treadmills, ours will NOT be used as a clothing rack. Neither of us run (unless we're being chased), so we don't need any fancy programs. A cushioned tread and incline functionality are all that we ask for. Oh, and a built-in fan would be really nice (but not necessary)!

Do you have any recommendations for a decent home treadmill? Which brand(s) do you prefer?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

R & R

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I'm taking some time off from the gym. This isn't a new thing, as if you recall, I took some time off last year too. It seems like about this time of year, I just need a break. I usually compete in the Spring and early Summer, which means I start my diet near the beginning of the year. By October, I'm usually burned out and ready for some down time.

It's not that my metabolism is completely dead or I have zero energy; I simply need some time to kick start my metabolism and recharge my tired body. After my last show every year, I have grand intentions to reverse diet out of prep instead of taking the bumpy path back down the mountain that was prep. I'll be the first to admit that I've never been successful at it. Giving my body a break is a good approach to resetting and regrouping.

Training as a Job
I've been out of the gym for a couple weeks now. This may come as a surprise to some of you, but ... I don't miss it. It's not that I don't enjoy working out - I do. It's just that sometimes training gets to feel more like a J-O-B than F-U-N. It becomes something I have to do instead of something I want to do, especially when my training needs to be very specific in order to help me continue to climb the ranks of the NPC.

For the past 2 years, my training has been very specialized - focused on correcting muscle imbalances, improving symmetry, and maintaining a specific size. This means I train some muscle groups twice a week and other groups not at all, and I do plyos for half of my workout instead of straight weight training. Sometimes, I want to summon my inner toddler and scream, "But I don't wanna!" Yet, I know the reward is always totally worth it to me.

Some time away from the gym allows me to rediscover my focus, drive, and passion for training. It gives my body a much-needed break, and it makes my spirit happy.

So while I don't miss being away from the gym, I did discover that I missed just being plain old ACTIVE. I've been going for walks around my neighborhood, enjoying the scenery and the beautiful Fall weather. I didn't follow a structured schedule; mostly, I just went when I felt like it. Some days I felt like it, some days I didn't. And I was ok with that.

What is THAT on My Legs?!
What I wasn't ok with was the change in my body composition. We knew it would happen and I was prepared for it. But it's still kind of a shock to look in the mirror and see some cellulite on my legs, or to realize my arms are now jiggly. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not how I prefer to look or feel.

Easing Back In
J and I decided that it's now time for me to begin following a more structured routine. Yesterday, I started a clean meal program and some light cardio. My meal plan is moderate carbs and decently high calories for now. My body usually responds slowly when I have carbs in my diet, but by substituting the complex carbs for the sugary carbs (mmmm ... cookies and M&M's) I was eating before, my weight should slowly start to drop.

Cardio is just a walk in the mornings - no intervals or anything intense. I enjoy the comfort of indoor cardio, but I also enjoy doing cardio outdoors, so the past 2 mornings, I've bundled up and walked outside instead of indoors on our (slowly dying) treadmill. It's a wonderfully refreshing way to start the day!

Less Stress
This break came at a good time, as August and September were super busy for work. I was able to keep up with my projects at work and not stress about getting to the gym or waking up early to do cardio. I've also been able to catch up on a lot of sleep!

I'm glad I'm able to take some time off. I'm looking forward to getting back into the gym soon and making some good progress for next year!

Do you take time off? Do you enjoy it or do you feel restless? How long of a break do you usually take?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Whirlwind That Was August

I can't believe it's been an entire MONTH since I last posted an entry! August was crazy busy for both J and me. He did TWO competitions in August, and then we went up to Rhode Island to visit his family.

Delaware State Championships
At the beginning of August, J and I headed up to Wilmington, Delaware for the weekend. He competed in the Delaware State Championships as a Light-Heavyweight. He brought his tightest conditioning EVER, proving that conditioning is no longer a weakness of his.

Most Muscular
He ended up placing 2nd, although, in my unbiased opinion, he should've won. I'm not complaining about judging - I despise when people do that. I'm merely stating my opinion as someone who's been in the industry and knows what to look for. I looked at his competition with an objective eye, and he had conditioning and shape over the winner, who just had size. In what book does 1 out of 3 win?

His posing routine was beautiful!
We left the show extremely disappointed and upset. It's one thing to lose to competitors who are clearly better than you, but it's quite another thing to lose to someone who didn't beat you in the majority of poses. Regardless of his placing, I'm extremely proud of J. Moving on (because thinking about this show makes me crabby) ...

Shawn Ray Classic
The original plan was for J to compete the following weekend in Baltimore at the Shawn Ray Classic; however, after the Delaware, J had a sour taste in his mouth. He didn't feel he could be any better, and announced that if he couldn't win the Delaware, maybe he didn't belong at the Shawn Ray show.

He spent all week eating things he hadn't gotten to eat for the last 3 months, while I cancelled hotel reservations and time off work.

How many plates can he eat?!
And then on Thursday night, after chatting with several trusted friends, he asked me if I thought he should compete in 2 days at the Shawn Ray. I made him drop his drawers, and hit a few poses so I could check out his conditioning. I told him that ultimately, it was his decision, and I'd support him either way, but I thought he should do the show. He certainly wouldn't look out of place on stage, and he'd probably have a good time.

He decided to do the show at 10 pm on Thursday evening. Who DOES that?! Ha!

I hastily RE-BOOKED the cancelled hotel room, re-planned PTO from work, and started packing for the weekend. The next morning, we headed to Baltimore.

We had a blast at the show!

A fuller look than the week before
Our friends, Dawn Robinson and Rob Kreider both competed too, so we had fun cheering for them on stage.

Team BioS3! J and me with Dawn. She has dropped over 100 lbs in the past few years. She's such an inspiration!
So proud of him!
The Big Bitch Formula crew was there in full force to support both J and Rob.

BBF! J & me, Rob & Donna, Tanya & Bobby
J just missed out on 5th place by a point. It was a tough show with good quality bodybuilders. He wasn't disappointed with this placing, because it was fair, in our opinions.

Rockin' the stage
I can't even describe how proud I am of J. He fought through an incredibly difficult prep and brought his absolute BEST to the stage. It's quite the accomplishment for his 20th year of competing.

Here's his posing routine from the Shawn Ray show. It's beautiful!

Rhode Island
Continuing the whirlwind that was August, we headed up to Rhode Island the week after the Shawn Ray. J's dad was diagnosed with lung cancer about mid-way through J's prep. It was a tough struggle for him to continue to stay focused on prep, while so concerned and upset about his dad's condition. We were looking forward to seeing his family and spending some quality time with his dad.

Brothers! J, his brother, and his niece, Khloe
We had a really nice visit! We hung out with his family, visited some of his friends, and played with his little 20-month old niece, Khloe.

On the way to the airport, we swung by Fenway Park!

We finally had a bit of a break from traveling, so I've been working a lot because work has been crazy busy! I work in a consulting firm, so August-September is proposal season and crunch time for many projects. I'm also taking some much-needed time off from the gym. I'll write about that in my next post, so stay tuned!

Did you take any end of summer trips? Where did you go and what did you do?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Playing Catch Up

I'm still alive! I just haven't really felt like writing for some reason. I'm in the middle of reading the Mitch Rapp books by Vince Flynn, and given the choice between writing and reading, I've been choosing reading. I've also somehow managed to get myself added to a couple committees at work, along with a Toastmasters officer position that demands more time than the one I held last year. All of that combined with new projects at work means I haven't written a blog in FAR too long!

So here's what else has been going on in my world ...

J is competing this weekend!
He'll be competing as a Light Heavyweight in the Delaware state show on Saturday, August 10th. (If you're in the Wilmington, DE area this weekend, let me know!) I'm so excited for him - he's in the best shape he's ever been in, so in my opinion, he's already won. It's been a long couple months for him, but I tell ya what - I've never met anyone so consistent and dedicated. He hasn't missed one meal, one workout, one cardio session. He gives it his all every day, even though he wonders how he's going to get through each workout. But he does it and doesn't complain. He's my hero.

Sliced and Diced!
Krav Maga Revisited!
I bought another Groupon for martial arts classes (loves me some Groupon!), so I started taking Krav Maga self defense classes again. Remember last winter when I took a few Krav classes and ended up spraining my ankle during a routine warm up? I was so bummed I couldn't take any more classes after that! And then prep started in January, so I'm finally now able to take classes again. I took a class last Wednesday and my hands finally stopped hurting on Sunday. It was so awesome!

Family Time!
In early July, my uncle passed away, so I flew back to Minnesota for the funeral. It was a sad occasion, but I ended up having a nice visit with relatives I hadn't seen in many years. I also spent some quality time with my nephews.

Cuddling with my newest nephew, Jacob
Doing weighted pushups with nephews as weights!
A few days later, my parents flew out to Maryland to spend a few days visiting us here. I always love getting to spend time with my family! While my parents were here, we went to Harper's Ferry to walk around the town. There's a lot of history there, especially during the Civil War time period. The coolest thing is that it's at the peak of West Virginia. Across the Shenandoah River is Virginia, and across the Potomac Rivier is Maryland.

On the way home from Harper's Ferry, we stopped in Boonsboro, Maryland. For those of you who read Nora Roberts books, you may recognize the name of the town. It's the setting of her Inn Boonsboro trilogy. My mom and I are HUGE Nora Roberts fans, so we were ecstatic to see actual sites that were in the books! We (ok, I) jumped around, pointed, and yelled at all the stores and places I recognized from the books. The nice lady at Turn the Page Bookstore assured us that we were mildly tame fans - apparently, there are much more rabid fans than us.

Mom and me at Turn the Page Bookstore
Whenever my parents visit, they always come to the gym with me for at least one workout. We got photobombed by some guy in this picture! Haha!

Lunges with Mom!
My dad loves to fix things and put things together, so his project for this visit was to put our grill together. We gave it a trial run and made grilled chicken and asparagus. It was delicious!

We were all excited to use the grill!
I think I've got you all caught up now! I'll be posting some pictures this weekend while we're in Delaware. If you're interested in hearing J's thoughts and experiences, check out his YouTube channel! He posts a new video every day and always has something interesting to say.

Are there any other bookworms reading this? Have you read any Vince Flynn or Nora Roberts books? Which were your favorites?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guess What?!

I have some exciting news to announce! I'm now a contributor for NPC News Online!!
My first article was posted this week. It's about how having a positive attitude can have a big impact during prep and on stage. You've have read several of my posts about a positive attitude and how it helps me succeed during prep. I feel fortunate that I'm able to continue sharing that message with readers at NPC News Online too!

I did the Happy Dance when I saw this banner!
Check out the article!

I'm thrilled (and still in awe!) that I have the opportunity to write for the NPC! I truly believe it's the best federation for me and my goals, and I'm so thankful to be a part of the team of contributors!

What topics would you like me to write about? I welcome all suggestions!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Cardio Exploration

One of the wonderful things about not being in prep is the flexibility to do cardio outside of the gym. During prep, we try to minimize as many factors as possible so it's easy to determine when and where changes need to be made. That means I only do cardio on the treadmill. I honestly don't mind it because I get to read or catch up on social media during that time. But when the weather is nice, I want to be outside!

I live in a quaint little town that I'm slowly exploring during my cardio walks. I listen to an audio book while I truck up and down streets, through neighborhoods, and across train tracks. Growing up, we lived on a country road a few miles out of town, so I'm fascinated by neighborhoods and little corner stores. I'm discovering parks and historic homes, a high school track, and beautiful landscaping.

Here are a few pictures I've taken recently during my walks.

Something about this railing captured my attention.

Row of flowers along the sidewalk.
This past weekend, I found myself on a little path through the woods that opened onto a high school track!

Nature's archway
Maybe I'll start doing some track workouts now that I know we live only a short distance from the track!

I'm not reading as many books these days, but I'm really enjoying getting to know my little town and all its nooks and crannies.

Do you do cardio outside? Do you prefer indoor or outdoor cardio? Have you discovered anything cool about the area you live in?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Your Guide to Progress Pictures

One of the best ways to measure progress and to get an objective perspective is to take pictures. How many times have you heard someone say, "I had no idea I looked like that until I saw myself in a picture!"? (This could be a positive or a negative reaction.) Progress pictures are an important part of prep, and I recommend that every competitor take them when preparing for a show.
It's fun to see progress! These pictures are 8 weeks apart.
During prep, I take progress pictures every week. I follow these guidelines when taking the pictures:

  • Same time.
  • Same location.
  • Same lighting.
  • Same suit.
It doesn't really matter what time of day or where you take the pictures, as long as you take them at the SAME time and in the SAME location each week. This is important, because it'll be the most accurate indication of your conditioning - you will have the same amount of meals and water in you. I prefer to take pictures after morning cardio before my first meal on either Saturday or Sunday. I know other people who prefer to take them in the evening after they've trained and eaten a few meals. Time of day isn't important as long as it's consistent week to week.

Lighting is a really important aspect that's often overlooked or not taking into consideration. Lighting can mean the difference between looking conditioned and looking out of shape. The best lighting is from above, the worst is from below, and side lighting can wash out a side of your body. Pay attention to lighting and try to mimic the lighting from week to week.
The importance of lighting. These pictures were taken only minutes apart - the only difference is lighting.
What should a progress picture look like?

A progress picture should include your entire body (although you can crop the head if you'd like). The pictures should be of you in the same poses each week - competitors should have pictures in several different poses. Figure should include at least front, back, and model poses. Bikini should include at least 1-2 front poses and a back pose. Bodybuilding should include a few key mandatories such as front relaxed, back double-bi, or side chest.

What is NOT a progress picture?

The following things are NOT progress pictures:

  • Locker room "selfies" in workout attire. Clothes can disguise a lot! Lululemon pants can make EVERY butt look good, but that's no guarantee the butt will look good on stage in a little scrunch bottom.
  • Bathroom mirror "selfies" of just one body part - like abs or a flexed bicep. Everyone leans out differently. Some people have hard abs yet visible cellulite on their thighs. Or lean legs with a muffin top. The "selfie" will only highlight their best part, which is absolutely no indication of how the rest of their body looks or how they will look on stage.
  • A picture of a butt or boobs. See above. This is no indication of how the rest of the body will look on stage. Also? There's no such thing as weight exercises for boobs, nor are they judged on stage or need to be assessed for "progress."

Keep in mind that progress pictures do NOT measure self-worth. You are always beautiful, worthy, and empowered.

Progress pictures are merely a reflection of your conditioning and a good way to objectively measure progress during a time period. They're also good tools for online coaches to use to make any adjustments to diet, cardio, or training.

It's difficult to take progress pictures yourself, so I recommend enlisting someone's assistance. I've had some luck using a self-timer on my camera, but it's always much easier to just have someone else take the pictures. That person can also provide some pointers for posing or help you adjust the lighting.

I always think it's fun to look back at progress pictures and see how far I've come. They're a dose of reality in a world otherwise dominated by body dysmorphia.

Do you take progress pictures? Have you found the pictures to be helpful in objectively assessing your progress?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Just Not Feelin' It

It's been 4 weeks since I competed at Jr USA's and I've barely written anything. Honestly? I just haven't felt like writing. I stare at the blank screen and think about what I could write about, but then shrug and think, "But I don't really feel like writing."

Remember last year when I wrote about how I felt like I went from being a beautiful swan to an ugly duckling? Oddly enough, I wrote that post about 4 weeks after my show - same time frame as this year. And I'm feeling about the same way I did last year. Although I haven't had the extreme mood swings that I had last year, I've definitely had some mixed emotions in the past few weeks. Overall, I've felt much happier post-contest than I did last year. But I still don't feel quite "right" ... if that makes any sense.

I really thought I was going to avoid the post-comp blues this year. And while I don't feel like I have the "blues" per se, I've definitely felt a bit out of sorts more often that I would have liked. I'm feeling much more positive this week, though, because I realized something about long term vs short term gratification - but you'll have to wait until later this week for that post and explanation.

This is just a quick post to let you all know I'm still alive and smiling! And also that I got some obnoxiously bright pink capris from Lulu recently. I love them!

Can my outfit BE any more obnoxious?! I love pink!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Things You Didn't Know About Me

It's been awhile since I've done a "Get to Know Kari" post. If you read the trashy celebrity magazine, Us Weekly, you'll find this very similar to their "25 Things You Didn't Know About Me" feature they run each month for a different "celebrity."

Things You Didn't Know About Me (and maybe some things you did know about me)

  1. I make up songs and special "dances" for random occasions. I have a dance for making par on a golf hole, several songs about my cat, Ed, a Happy Dance, etc.
  2. I usually prefer the company of a good book over interactions with people.
  3. I think everything my cat does is cute. Srsly. He's the cutest thing ever.
  4. I love giving speeches at Toastmasters meetings and competitions.
  5. My favorite stretch of road is the Pennsylvania Turnpike because it feels like race track. I like to pretend I'm a race car driver.
  6. I wish I could see my family more often.
  7. I don't really like green vegetables. I eat them because they're good for my body but I never crave them. Ever.
  8. I correct people's grammar in my head.
  9. I like to leave funny notes for people to find later. I imagine them smiling when they read the notes.
  10. I'm equally comfortable in a fancy dress or in workout clothes.
  11. My parents are the best role models I've ever had.
  12. I could hang out on a beach all day every day and be perfectly content.
  13. I can be bossy. Just ask J or my little brother.
  14. I feel like the most beautiful woman in the world when I stand on stage during competitions.
  15. I'm fascinated by British history and would love to live in London.
  16. J'adore protein bars and Endorush.
  17. I needed to move out of Minnesota in order to grow up and become who I felt I was meant to be.
  18. My guilty obsessions are watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette and any Kardashian show.
  19. I'm impatient by nature. And I get more impatient during prep.
  20. I studied in Spain in college and would like to go back to visit the places I used to frequent when I lived there.
  21. I have my motorcycle license and used to own a bike. I sold it when I moved to Maryland.
  22. I value my true friends more than they'll ever know.
  23. Receiving Tiffany jewelry makes me cry. (in a good way!)
  24. I wanted to be a police officer and even took a gun safety course before realizing that police officers don't cry. And I cry a lot.
  25. Cookies, cupcakes, and cake are the way to my heart.

This was harder than I thought it'd be! Did anything on this list surprise you? If you're a blogger, I challenge you to post a list too! Send me your link and I'll post it here.

Robin Romero at Prissy Fit was the first to accept the challenge! Check out her 25 things here:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's Next?

Now that my shows have come and gone, I've been getting a lot of questions about "what's next" for me. Will I do another show this year? When is my next show? Can I finally "eat" now? (like I haven't been eating for the past few months?)

I have to admit, I'd really like to do another show this year. But there are several reasons and factors as to why I'm finished competing for the year.
  • I just finished a 6-month prep. I started dieting all the way back in December. I began cleaning up my diet before Christmas, took a few days off while celebrating the holidays, and then went back to the diet until we went to Mexico in January. I kept my diet about 90% clean in Mexico, and then tightened it up to 100% when we got back. It was really nice to be able to eat some cake over the Memorial Day weekend!
My nephew, James, and CAKE!!!
  • In regards to my relationship, most of the focus for the past few months has been on me and getting me ready to compete. Now it's time to focus on J. He played the supportive boyfriend and coach role for many months. He listened to me whine, he gave me hugs when I cried for no reason, he went grocery shopping for me, he encouraged me through tough workouts, and he was my biggest cheerleader (literally and figuratively). Now it's time for me to be there for him while he preps for his show in August.
  • It's really difficult - if not impossible - for my body to peak perfectly more than time a year. Jr USA's was my main focus this year, so I went into the Pittsburgh show about 5% off, as planned. If I would've peaked for the Pittsburgh, the chances of me peaking for Jr USA's would've been slim. If I would've continued prep for another show, there's a high probability that my body would either A) stop responding or B) get really strung out and start to burn muscle.
  • I need time to make improvements. There's a saying that goes something like this: "The REAL work is done in the off-season." This is the time to make improvements so when I hit the stage again next year, I'll look even better. The plan is to work on my hamstrings, glutes, back, and shoulders for the remainder of the year. I'm excited to continue building and refining my physique.
  • Competing is expensive! May was a very expensive month for me! Travel and tanning were the highest expenses, but all the little things add up too. It's time to gently wipe the tears away from my credit card and start paying off those expenses.
I love competing! If I didn't, I wouldn't do it. But it doesn't make sense to do a show just to do a show. There's "strategery" involved, along with priorities and responsibilities to take into consideration. If I want to progress in the sport, I need to choose shows wisely, while also listening to my body and keeping my relationship a priority.

So what's next? Supporting J through prep, continuing to train and make improvements for next year, eating clean, taking some yoga and martial arts classes, and enjoying the summer with friends.

Competitors: How many times a year do you compete? How do you decide which shows to do? How long is your off-season?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Jr USA's Weekend Recap

Wow ... it's been almost 2 weeks since I've posted a blog. Life has been crazy! Three days after I got home from Charleston, I jetted off to Minnesota to visit my family for several days. When I got back from Minnesota, I had a ton of deadline-sensitive work to do, along with trying to get back into the swing of my routine. Things have finally slowed down - thank goodness!

I haven't forgotten that I promised you a more in-depth recap of Jr USA's, so here goes!

We flew into Charleston on Friday afternoon. I checked in on Friday evening, and then went through the fun process of the spray tan. I was SO. COLD. The tanning lady kept asking me if I was ok because I was violently shivering. I swear - the tan is the worst part of competing. It took longer than usual to dry too, because our room didn't have a direct fan/AC vent and it was humid. Humidity + tan = hours of standing, waiting for the tan to dry. Thank goodness I found a marathon of Law & Order: SVU on TV to keep me occupied!

360 is a good number!
The hotel was attached to the venue, which is my favorite setup. So convenient! Even cooler was the open atrium of the hotel so we could people-watch from up by our room. I love seeing so many competitors and industry peeps in one location!

Perfect for spying - er, people watching
I actually slept decently the night before the show. I felt calm and relaxed - not anxious, just excited. I was up early on Saturday morning and went through the long beautification process, then we headed to the venue. It was in a Performing Arts center, so the stage area was really nice, and there were actual dressing rooms backstage.

I felt relaxed before the show and just had fun on stage. I can't even begin to tell you how excited, thrilled, ecstatic, happy I was when my number was the FIRST one called for FIRST call-outs!! I swear, my big smile got even bigger! My goal was top 5, and I'd just achieved it!

Class B Top 4!!
I came off-stage elated!

Right after pre-judging. We were excited!
I was tired and wanted to head back to the room for a nap, but we had a few friends and another Bio-Built team member competing in Bikini. After pre-judging, I tried to nap, but couldn't sleep. I was on such a high and couldn't stop smiling!

One of the industry experts predicted I would get 2nd! I realize it's just that - a prediction - and he wasn't a judge. But it sure felt great to know that I can hold my own on the National stage!

Prediction. Vicki Dowell actually ended up winning the whole show ... and he had me placing ahead of her!
Finals went quickly. They introduced all the competitors, we waved, and then they called top 5. I had made it!! I had my fingers crossed (figuratively) when they were calling the final placings. I didn't want to be called for anything less than 2nd; I got called for 4th. I had achieved my goal of top 5!

4th Place!!
I won a dagger! Or, as I later learned, a scimitar! Such a cool trophy!

How cool is that?!
I have to admit, because I read the prediction, I had my hopes up for higher than 4th place. I'm happy with it, but a teensy bit disappointed. I'll use that as fuel to train hard this year and come back even better next year!

When we got back to the room after the show, I was surprised to see a cupcake box sitting on the table! My birthday was the day after the show, and I told J that all I really wanted for my birthday was a cupcake with my name on it. And somehow, he managed to get to a cupcake store in Charleston and buy one without me having a clue! Best Boyfriend Ever award goes to J!

It said "Happy Bday Kari"!!

OMG. It was SO. GOOD.

We won a weapon!!
The next day (my birthday!!) we went shopping at an outlet mall and then went downtown Charleston.

At the Outlet Mall
We went for a carriage tour around the city, and our horse's name was Facebook!

Facebook and me
After the tour, we walked around the city. We ended up walking more than we'd planned, and by the time we made it back to the city center, we were exhausted!

J liked the weapons at Battery Park.
I liked the houses near Battery Park.
We ate pizza on Sunday night, and then flew home early Monday morning. All in all, it was a fun, wonderful weekend!

Fun on stage!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Jr USA's Behind the Scenes Perspective

I had planned to write a longer recap of Jr USA's weekend, but I'm slammed at work and won't have time to write it today. I do, however, have a video I want to share! J created a video with snippets and a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like to be a competitor and a coach going to a National show.


Here are a few pictures from the Evening show.

Class B Top 5!
Team Bio-Built!
2 of my Favorite Things: Cookies & Weapons
Keep checking back for my recap of the weekend, my thoughts on the show, and some pictures of beautiful downtown Charleston, South Carolina!