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!