Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One of Those Days

Ever have "one of those days" at the gym?

When you think about going, you feel dread? When you pull into the parking lot, you sit in your car for a few minutes, attempting to psych yourself up to walk in the gym door? When you walk into the gym, you wish you were at home instead, cuddled up on the couch or snuggled warm in bed? When you begin your workout, the first words that run through your head are, "I don't want to be here" and then, "I don't know if I can get through this today"?

I had "one of those days" yesterday.

One of my goals this prep has been to maintain a positive attitude and to look at the experience as an opportunity to learn, grow, and embrace any difficulties I may face. Up until yesterday, I was doing a really good job of it! I even had a respected gym member (and former Jr. Nationals champion) tell me on Friday that he was impressed by how happy and positive I was this year compared to last year. I was flattered and pleased that others had noticed my efforts.

Yesterday wasn't the first day I've dreaded going to the gym or had to dig deep to push through my workout. Days like that happen periodically; they're just as much a part of prep as cold chicken and morning cardio.

Two years ago, the mantra that got me through prep was, "I am a champion." Last year, it was "I'm going to win a sword!" This year, the shows in which I will be competing won't have swords as prizes, so the sword mantra doesn't work. I've found myself going back to the champion mantra. Repeating it to myself whenever I feel my quads start to shake during lunges, or I start to doubt that I can get those last 2 pull ups.

And ya know what? It works! I always find that little bit of extra strength to push through and finish the set. I may sit on the bench, gasping for air for a full minute afterward, but I complete what I need to complete.

Yesterday, I kept reminding myself that I've had difficult workouts before and I've made it through them. I am stronger than I think I am. My body can do the workout; my mind MUST stay strong and focused. By the time I finished my workout, I felt so much better than when I'd started it.

Mental strength is powerful.

Have you read Chant of a Champion by Nicole Snell? If not, I encourage you to read it, print it out, and post it in a place where you will see it every day. It's a powerful statement. Here's the first part of it:

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

Do you have a mantra that you repeat to yourself during difficult times? What methods do you use to push through a difficult workout?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Both Flagged and Failed

I've written about staying off the bandwagon of trends before, and then at some point succumbing to a handful of them. Well, I've officially hopped on yet another bandwagon: Flag Nor Fail clothes.
Some of you may be wondering what my reasons were for resisting. It's not like the owners, Dana and Rob Bailey, aren't great people! I even met Dana in person a few years ago when she was with Isolator, and she was super sweet and bubbly. My reason was much more nerdy than that: I had (and still have) an issue with their slogan.

"We shall not flag nor fail" was part of a speech given by Winston Churchill at the House of Commons in June 4, 1940, following the evacuation of the British and French armies from Dunkirk as the German tide swept through France in World War II.

My issue with the slogan is not the message of it: stay strong and never surrender. No, my issue is that they truncated the line so that it doesn't read grammatically correct. Without the negative before the word "flag," the entire line loses the original meaning. It implies that one WILL "flag" or tire. Ever the English language purist, I am reluctant to throw my support behind any company that doesn't follow proper grammar guidelines.

I know some of you are prolly shaking your heads and wondering what the heck is wrong with me, while others of you are nodding your head in agreement as I wax on and on about grammar. What can I say? Loves me some English! ;)

All of that being said, I finally fell prey to FnF's crafty marketing ploys: "We will drop special items at 10 pm EST and most have limited quantities in each size." Well, if that doesn't call to the impulse buying side of my brain, nothing does! The grammar purist in me BOTH flagged AND failed at resisting cute clothes.

Now let me tell you a story:

So there I sat at my computer on a Tuesday night at 9:58 pm, anxiously refreshing and refreshing their Store web page. Then I battled the internal debate:

Logical Kari: "I'm only going to buy this one item. Wonder what size I should get. Hmm ... Dana is wearing a Medium in that picture, and she's only an inch taller than me. Wonder if I need a Medium."

Illogical Kari: "You should get both a Small and a Medium. What if the size you order doesn't fit?"

Logical Kari: "I don't need two pairs of yoga pants. They're not even 4-way stretch like my Lulu's, which do wonderous things for my butt. In fact, I don't really need these pants at all."

Illogical Kari: "Those pants are so cute. You're going to regret it if you don't buy them. Just get the Small. That will encourage you NOT to gain weight after the show."

Logical Kari: "I can always use a new pair of pants." *clicks Add to Cart

Illogical Kari: "Wow! That cut-out sweatshirt is super cute! You should prolly get it to match the pants. You want to look cute at the gym, right?"

Logical Kari: "I do NOT need to spend that money on a sweatshirt I don't really need. I don't even know when I'd wear it. It's too warm to wear while training."

Illogical Kari: "Think of how cute and comfy it'd be. Also, it's hand cut, so it's a true original piece."

Logical Kari: "I don't need it. Plus now I have to pay separate shipping on it cuz it's not on the same order as the pants.

Illogical Kari: *clicks Add to Cart

And that, my friends, is how I ended up with both the yoga pants and the hand cut sweatshirt.

Stay Strong & Weather Your Storm
Never Catch Your Breath
I have to admit, both items ARE super cute and comfy! Plus, I like the catch phrases on them.

Do you follow any clothing lines like Flag nor Fail? Do you ever buy anything? Do you also find yourself continually refreshing their Store page when new items drop?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Video Blog: Jump Around!

Time is flying! I'm only about 10 weeks out from the Pittsburgh show! I've mentioned that my training style is different this year - vastly different from anything I've ever done before to prepare for a show. Here's a short video of me explaining how my training is structured and what kinds of exercises I'm doing. Also, Ed makes a cameo, which should be reason enough for you to watch the video.


I'm more than happy to answer any questions you may have - just add them in the Comments section below.

Do you enjoy watching short video blogs? Are there other topics you'd like me to address in a video?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Land of the Living

Today is my first day back at work in a week. As I mentioned last week, I was feeling under the weather. I ended up working from home the remainder of the week, not wishing to spread any germs to my unsuspecting co-workers.

On Thursday, I felt worse than ever, so I dragged myself to the doctor and was officially diagnosed with a sinus infection that decided to move into my lungs. Not what someone with asthma wants to hear. I was also instructed to take 2 days off from the gym. Not what someone in contest prep wants to hear. I begrudgingly accepted the prescription for antibiotics and silently amended the recommendation for time off from the gym to be, "maybe you can train tomorrow."

For the first time I can remember, I skipped a workout during prep. Under J's advice, I also skipped cardio (I don't consider cardio a workout). I took a nap and rested the remainder of the evening. I have to admit, while it felt weird to not be at the gym, it was also kind of nice. I know that within the next 14 weeks, I'm going to get crazily sick of the gym, so I may as well enjoy the respite while I can.

I felt a lot better on Friday and decided that one day off was sufficient. J modified my workouts to a lesser intensity than usual, and I trained on Friday and again on Saturday to make up for missing on Thursday.

While my enthusiasm was high, I could definitely tell my lung capacity was diminished. I found myself out of breath sooner than usual, so I took a bit of extra rest time in between sets and exercises, as needed.

We spent the weekend just chilling at home, resting. Yesterday, I put on jeans for the first time in over a week, and quickly realized just how uncomfortable they really are in comparison to my sweats and Lulu's! If I could live in sweats and Lulu's, I totally would!

I'm bummed that being sick set me back a bit. The Pittsburgh show in only 12 weeks away, and although I'm making progress, I still have a ways to go. My cardio has increased slightly, but my diet has stayed the same. Every year, I'm impatient, and J always needs to explain that slow and steady wins the race. I completely trust in his plan (after all - his plans work EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.) and feel thankful he knows exactly what he's doing. I'm happy to be back in the Land of the Living, and I'm looking forward to seeing more changes every single day!

Have you ever skipped a workout while in prep? What do you do when/if you've ever gotten sick while in prep? Are you as impatient as I am to "just be in shape already!"?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Long Lost Photos

You ever have one of those moments when you find something you forgot about? That happened to me right before we left for Mexico a few weeks ago. When we put the camera card in the computer to clear it, we realized there were pictures on it from our show. From LAST June! We knew the pictures existed, but neither of us had really looked at them.

When we got back from Mexico, I looked through the pictures and was floored. I LOVE them!

J and I tried to line up a shoot at the last minute with Chris Zimmerman (I WILL shoot with him someday!), but due to scheduling conflicts, it didn't work out. So the morning after the show, we went into the hotel's fitness center and did our own photoshoot just using my point and shoot camera. The pictures turned out really well!

Here are a few of my favorites!

We had a blast shooting these pictures, and I'm so thrilled with them!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Under the Weather

One of the main things J and I have been focusing on for the past couple years is not only looking healthy, but also being healthy. J has done a lot of research about vitamins, minerals, and supplements that have legitimate health benefits. As a result, we've added the following things to our daily regime: colloidal minerals, Coenzyme Q10, and Hot Beverage Nutrition. In addition, by keeping our diets mostly clean and training hard, we're keeping our bodies physically strong.

Hot Beverage Nutrition: Mixes great in my daily tea
We're confident our efforts are paying off, as both of us have managed to fight off most of the bugs that have taken a lot of others down. If we do get sick, we don't get as sick as others we know, and our bodies have been able to fight off the germs within a few days, without having to take antibiotics. (Have you ever noticed that during prescription drug commercials, the side effects they list often sound much worse than the actual issue the pill is designed for?) For most of my life, I'd get sick often - cold, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, strep. Since I've started focusing on my health, I discovered that I rarely get sick anymore.

I Blame the Nap
All of my health efforts are being tested this week. I somehow managed to pick up a bug this past weekend, and my body is fighting hard to get rid of it. I took a nap on Saturday afternoon and woke up with a very sore throat, which is always my first indicator of an oncoming illness. J earned Boyfriend Brownie points by going to CVS at 2 am on Saturday evening to pick up Chloraseptic and NyQuil so I could sleep without throat pain.

I dragged myself to work on Monday, but realized that it's not a good idea to come to work when hacking and feeling like a pile of dog pooh. Your co-workers will treat you like you have the plague because really - who wants to get sick?! I decided it would be more comfortable for everyone if I worked from home yesterday and today. (I'm so thankful my job allows me to work from home periodically!)

My co-workers today
Not the Average Person
When the average person gets sick, they may choose to stay home and not go to the gym. Since I'm far from the average person, I headed to the gym for my usual workout on Monday. The general rule of thumb is if the illness is throat up, hit the gym; if it's throat down, stay home. Most of my issues are in my sinuses and I'm in the middle of contest prep, so I mentally prepared myself to push through my workout.

Being the wonderful coach that he is, J took my cold into account when he designed my workouts for Monday and Tuesday. He dialed the intensity back a bit so as not to overtax my body. I was able to make it through my workouts and cardio to stay on track with prep. My diet has also been on point, as usual. Being sick is no excuse to stop following my contest diet. In fact, it's even more important to consume those healthy nutrients now.

Hopefully, my body is strong enough to fight this cold without the aid of antibiotics. Taking good care of our bodies is so important for long-term health, strength, and quality of life. I'm not letting this cold get the best of me; I'm continuing to put quality food, vitamins, and supplements into it to help it stay strong and get healthy again!

Do you get sick very often? Have you ever been sick during contest prep? Which vitamins and supplements do you use and believe in?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Planning to Succeed: Managing Contest Prep While on Vacation

As I mentioned briefly last week, I recently spent a week on vacation in Mexico. It was such a wonderful relaxing time! J and I met my parents at a resort in Playa del Carmen, about 45 minutes south of Cancun. The week was spent basking in the sun, relaxing with a few good books, visiting and catching up with my parents, shopping for cheap souvenirs (we're all suckers for that stuff), and playing with random wild animals. It was a blast!

Last year when we went to Cozumel, I wasn't in prep yet. This year, when we booked the trip, I wasn't supposed to be in prep either. But after a few discussions, J and I decided I'd start prep earlier than planned and just try to maintain my weight and conditioning while in Mexico.

A vacation is just that: a vacation. Yet before the trip, I was really stressing about my diet and food choices while there. The resort was an all-inclusive, which means a wide variety of phenomenal food available any time of the day. A dieter's nightmare! I realized that I needed to take a practical, yet relaxed approach to the whole trip. I didn't WANT to be stressed out while there, nor did I want to focus on food or what I "could" or "couldn't" have. Not only would that be missing the whole point of the word "vacation," it isn't a healthy mindset.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
Normally, if I have to travel during prep, I pack all my food for the trip duration and bring it with me in my pink cooler (which is considered a "personal item" by airlines). Because I was crossing an international border, however, I couldn't bring anything unsealed or that might look suspicious (like protein powder in baggies). I decided to bring "Bricks" (all natural protein bars made by a member of my gym), BNRG Power Crunch bars (my favoritest bars in the entire universe - and low carb too!), and sealed sample packets of Big Bitch Formula. J brought some Champion meal replacement packets for himself too. We each brought our favorite Smart Shake bottles for the protein shakes.

We were prepared!
Aside from the supplements, J and I decided that I'd add carbs back into my diet that week (removing the stress of trying to stay keto), and I'd make healthy decisions about food. Although this sounds like an easy plan, it's not easy for me. As you may remember, I struggle with not taking an "all or nothing" approach; "balance" is very difficult for me. I wasn't striving for balance per se this time, but I did need to focus on making smart decisions most of the time. I was apprehensive, but ready for the challenge.

Believe in yourself is an important component of success.

The Beach as my Playground
Our resort didn't have a fitness center (I will be making this suggestion on my Trip Advisor review), so I brought along a stretchy band for some resistance exercises. Luckily, my workouts consist primarily of plyos right now anyway, so it wasn't a big issue.

Every morning, I got up early to do my workout and cardio. I followed my usual training schedule: cardio every day, workouts Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri. The only change was that I did my workouts in the mornings instead of in the afternoons. I wanted to have them done so I wouldn't worry about trying to fit them in later in the evening or during the hottest time of the day.

I did my workouts on the beach, barefoot, with the sunrise on the ocean as my backdrop.

Walking lunges

Pop squats

Shoulder press

Side delt lateral raises
After my workout, I walked along the water's edge, the ocean splashing on my legs, the morning sun warming my shoulders.

Morning walk
Fabulous way to start the day!
I was surprised by the number of people who had the same idea! I saw several ladies doing yoga, several people running along the water's edge, and many people walking every morning. It helped motivate me to know that others were on vacation too, yet still found time to make fitness a priority.

Family Bonding
For the last few years, every time my dad and I see a tennis court, we say, "We have to play!" ... yet we never seem to make the time. This trip, I was determined to make sure we played tennis. My dad is the reason I began playing tennis when I was 12. He's been playing nearly his whole life, and it's something special for he and I to share. The day we'd planned to play, the heavens opened to a torrential downpour. The next day (our last full day there), we got our chance, and spent 2 hours on the court. We had a blast just hitting back and forth without keeping score.

Tennis with Dad
Back to Reality
I have to admit, last week I was a bit depressed to be back in cold weather with the stress of work and prep piling up again. Morning cardio on my dreadmill is not even remotely close to the serenity I felt while walking on beach every morning in Mexico. I'm sucking it up, though, and doing what needs to be done.

My weight fluctuated a bit last week, as my body re-adjusted from travel and the shift back into ketosis. I managed to achieve my goal of maintaining my weight, and as of this past Saturday, I'm 13 weeks out from the Pittsburgh show. I can't wait to watch my body change in the upcoming weeks!

Have you ever traveled while in prep? Did you take any pre-planned vacations? How did you approach it? If you had a plan, did you follow it?