Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Time Off

I'd just like to declare that I've been a terrible blogger this past year! I haven't written a blog since July, which is completely unacceptable! So here's a quick update:

I'm taking some time off from competing, and most likely won't compete next year. I've been competing every year since 2006, and it's time for a break. I started taking some dance classes, which I adore! (I totally suck at ballet but am halfway decent at hip hop.) I'm still going to the gym and training on a regular basis, and I go out running every morning. I still don't consider myself a "runner" though!

Work has been crazy busy! In addition to developing online training courses, I've also dipped into the project management realm, which is a whole new experience. It's a huge challenge, but I'm enjoying it so far.

The holidays are coming up, which means I will be traveling to Minnesota to visit my family. It'll be a busy few months, but I'll try to make much more of an effort to write. Thanks for sticking with me!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

NPC Universe Weekend Recap

It's the week after NPC Universe (formerly Team Universe), and I'm feeling great! I'm still on a high from the weekend. As I'd suspected after pre-judging, I finished in the middle of both of my classes. I placed 8th out of 14 in Masters Figure A, and 12th out of 27 in Open Figure B.

Yes, we all compete to win, but honestly, I'm happy with my placings. I brought my absolute BEST look to the stage, and I'm so thrilled with how I looked on stage! I keep looking at the pictures, thinking, "Wow - is that really me??" I had a fun (albeit brief) time on stage, and know that all my hard work was worth it.

Time for Some Fun!
After the stress of the show was over, J and I finally got to relax. I had a photoshoot on Sunday with Chris Zimmerman (love the pics I've seen so far!), and then J and I went into NYC. We wandered around Times Square, went to Cake Boss Cafe (I got a Lobster Tail - my FAV), toured Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and then went to the top of the Empire State Building at 1 am. The view was spectacular!

We drove home on Monday, and I was back to work on Tuesday. I still have the dark color from the spray tan - it's slowly coming off in patches.

What's Next?
I'm still maintaining very close to my contest weight. I'm SO determined to stay around this weight. I'm up about 2 lbs so far, and the most I want to gain is 5 lbs. I know I need to be bigger and to add more muscle in order to successfully compete in Figure at the National level ... but honestly? I don't want to get any bigger. I LOVE how my body looks right now. I LOVE the size I am right now. I feel happy, beautiful, and confident. I want to feel like this ALL the time.

J and I are working on designing an approach for the rest of the year, in regards to training and diet. Right now, I'm back (mostly) to my pre-contest diet and training. I'm still doing AM and PM cardio, and my regular routine of weight training. There are only a few changes: we decreased cardio by a couple minutes, added back the options of running or incline treadmill for cardio, and removed the elliptical sprints in between weight exercise sets. We'll slowly cut back on intensity, and structure the workouts to the new goals we create.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your support and encouragement, and for following my journey to the stage! I appreciate it more than you know!

Here's a video recap of the Universe weekend and what's next for me.



Are there any topics you'd like to see me address? Do you have any questions you'd like me to answer? Let me know in the Comments below!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I Feel Like a Winner

It's Team Universe weekend!! Yesterday was pre-judging and tonight is Finals. I didn't make first call-outs, but I'm not unhappy with how the show went. In fact, I'm thrilled with how I look and with what I brought to the stage. I couldn't be any happier!

Here's a video of my experiences so far this weekend.



Thank you for all your support and encouragement! It means so much to me!! I'm ready to have some fun on stage at Finals!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Thoughts Before Team Universe

I'm sitting in the hotel room in Teaneck, NJ, relaxing before going to my tanning appointment. Team Universe pre-judging is TOMORROW!! Where did the time go?! Time seems to stand still and then fly by during prep. It feels like I've been in prep forever (or 6 months), but I still can't believe the show is tomorrow already!

Originally, we'd planned on driving up to NJ this morning (Thursday morning), but yesterday afternoon, I started thinking about driving up at night instead. We left the house at 11 pm last night and arrived at the hotel at 3 am. J drove the entire time, for which I'm extremely grateful! I caught a bit of sleep during the drive, but was still exhausted when we got to the hotel.

Today has been spent sleeping and just relaxing. This is my favorite part of prep.

Earlier this afternoon, I got checked in to the show and received a cool participation medal. I've never gotten one at a show before and think it's a cool gesture for competitors. I kinda feel like I've already won because I've got a medal. :)

I already feel like a winner!
I'm feeling alternately excited, nervous, and tired. I'm trying to stay focused on bringing the best ME possible, and not worrying about who else is here and what they look like (sometimes easier said than done). I'm also dealing with the crushing experience I had here in 2011. Trying not to let that affect my nerves, and resolving to just stay relaxed and enjoy the experience this year.

Tonight will be spent trying not to mess up my tan (also easier said than done) and just relaxing. Tomorrow at noon is the athletes' meeting, and then pre-judging starts at 2 pm ET. I'm guessing I'll be on stage around 3-4 pm.

Thank you for following my journey and I'll try to post some updates throughout the weekend!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Double-Edged Sword

I have a photoshoot this afternoon!

As usual, though, I realized that I needed to do some shopping before the shoot. I like my wardrobe, but my everyday clothes aren't usually suited for photoshoots. At the mall last night, I tried on a couple dresses. They fit like a dream! I LOVE my body at this size! It seems like everything I try on looks amazing!

There's only one problem: I won't look like this for long.

It's not that I plan to blow up and gain a bunch of weight after my show next weekend. It's just that the level of leanness that my body is at now isn't maintainable nor healthy. Sure, I'm small and clothes fit great, but I'm wiped out all the time and often feel like I'm moving under water. (Ah, the joys of prep!)

Being in contest shape is a double-edged sword.

Because I feel so great about how I look, I want to go out and buy a bunch of cute clothes now. Sure, I need a few new clothes because most everything is just hanging off my body and it'd be nice to have at least ONE pair of shorts that fit. But I don't want to spend too much money on clothes that won't fit next week. Even adding 5 lbs of weight makes a difference in how my clothes fit. (Ah, the curse of being short and petite.) I don't want to end up with a closet full of beautiful clothes that don't fit or that I can only wear for one week out of the year.

I did a few twirls in the pretty dress, mulled over the practical matter of "how exactly does one wear a bra with this? Oh, maybe you don't? Oh that looks so inappropriate," and then brought the dress back to the sales rack. I have enough dresses that fit me right now.

One of my favorite dresses!
Do you feel the urge to buy clothes when you're in contest shape?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oh, You Noticed?

"Looks like your diet is finally starting to work," she said, as we passed by each other in the gym.

Huh? FINALLY starting to work? What do you mean? It's been working for the past 3 months; you just haven't noticed because normally I wear long-sleeved shirts to the gym. That day, I was wearing a tank top for the first time in months.

Last year, J informed me that I'd need to wear long sleeved shirts during contest prep. He had his reasons for the recommendation (read: directive), many of which didn't quite make sense to me. But he's the coach and I follow what he says to do. I stocked up on cute long sleeve shirts and resigned myself to feeling like a furnace while training. For a girl who doesn't like to sweat, it was not a fun experience.

This year, I voluntarily began wearing long sleeve shirts when I started contest prep. I discovered that I focused more on the mind-muscle connection when I didn't have the distraction of critiquing myself in the mirror while training. Again, I felt like a furnace while training, but I wanted to get the most out of my workouts.

Typical gym attire: long sleeve shirt and capris

Two weeks ago, J told me to start training in tank tops. It was time to unveil all the hard work I'd been putting in and actually SEE what I looked like while training. It may not make sense to those of you who don't compete, but what I look like at home is completely different than what I look like in the gym. It's all about lighting and muscle pump. Sure, I'd seen myself in the mirror at home and in restrooms, but I didn't know what I really looked like.

That's when I got the sarcastic passive/aggressive "compliment" about my diet finally working.

I can finally break out all the tank tops I've been collecting over the past year!

I've been getting a lot of comments and questions from other gym members lately, especially as the show is getting closer and closer. With very little exception, I've received a TON of support and encouragement. I'm overwhelmed sometimes by the outpouring of cheers, especially from people I normally don't converse with.

At this stage of prep, every supportive comment means so much. The mental rollercoaster than happens day to day and even hour to hour can get exhausting, and all it takes is one "Keep up the great work!" or "Hang in there!" to keep the smile on my face and the focus in my mind.

I'm still surprised every time I look in the mirror while training and see striations or a bicep vein. It's like I was sculpting and molding a piece of art under the cover of a tarp, and then I whipped the tarp off to reveal the almost-completed structure. Seeing the results of my hard work over the past few months is so rewarding, and one of the reasons why I love to compete.

What type of outfit do you wear while training? Have you tried training in long sleeves? Do you get support from other gym members?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Caffeine: The Breakup and Makeup

I read an article that said that 90% of Americans consume caffeine daily.

90%!!!

I've always been up front about my love of caffeine and Endorush, especially during prep. But last Fall, I did something I didn't know was possible: I quit caffeine cold turkey.

Yep, caffeine and I officially broke up. And it was glorious.

I learned to wake up in the mornings without stumbling to the refrigerator for that first gulp of Endorush. How to push myself through a workout based on sheer willpower and determination. How to stay awake through the 3 pm sleepy hour at work.

I was doing great! I was happy and felt healthy and whole.

My plan was to stay away from caffeine until I absolutely needed it during prep. I knew the day would come when I'd need it to function while I deprived my body of calories and overtrained it in the gym. I hoped to hold out for as long as possible because I didn't want my body to be addicted to anything.

That's not to say that I NEVER had any caffeine. I'd have sips of J's Diet Coke here and there, but my body wasn't dependent on it.

Caffeine and I stayed broken up until Memorial Day weekend, when we made up and got back together.

We were in Texas for FitCon, and I knew it was going to be a difficult weekend for me - long hours and social obligations combined with the usual stress of staying on my diet and getting in all cardio and training workouts. I brought along a couple bottles of Endorush, and sipped them very sparingly. Just a sip made a huge difference in my performance! The added boost of energy enabled me to push through my cardio and workouts with intensity.

Endorush: We're back together again
I have conflicted feelings about going back to being on caffeine. On the one hand, I don't feel like it's healthy for the body to have an addiction of any kind - and then feed into that addiction. I don't WANT to feel hazy and stumbly in the mornings if I don't have some caffeine. On the other hand, the caffeine is impacting my performance in all areas on my life in a positive way. I'm more productive at work, and I can train more intensely in the gym. It's like a double-edged sword.

I've come to terms with the fact that in order to continue functioning at a high level for the next few weeks, I need to consume caffeine at various points throughout the day. I don't want my performance at work to suffer - I need my job! I don't want my performance at the gym to suffer - I'd like to push myself to be my absolute best on stage. After the show, I think I may try to wean myself off of it again. Until then, it's time for another sip of Endorush!

Are you addicted to caffeine? Have you ever quit cold turkey? Do you find that caffeine helps your performance?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Locker Room Confessional

This prep has been full of interesting and new challenges. I've been pushing harder than I've pushed in a long time, and it's really starting to take a toll on me mentally and physically. My sprained ankle has mostly healed, but now I'm battling another injury. The quad teardrop above my knee on my right leg feels like DOMS x1000. I thought it was just a normal sore muscle, but during my run yesterday morning, it cramped up so badly, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to make it home from my run. It hurt to run, it hurt to walk. I very nearly called J to come pick me up, but he was at the gym with a client, so I toughed it out and made it home. We modified the plyos in my workout last night, and it was Delt Day, which gave my leg a bit of a reprieve.

I'm frustrated, tired, over-trained, and emotional.

Basically, this is the non-glamorous side of prep. Here's a video I put together last night at the gym. A very real and honest confessional about thoughts that run through my head during prep.



Despite the struggles and emotional breakdowns, not once have I considered backing out of the show. I WILL get through this, and I'll be stronger for it! When I stand on stage in 3 weeks, I'll know that I overcame injuries, challenges, and struggles, which will make the moment that much sweeter.

What struggles and challenges have you faced during prep? Do you identify with any of the feelings I'm experiencing?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Angry Ankle

Contest prep is hard on the body, no doubt about it. Every year, I've battled some sort of minor inconvenience like a sore shoulder or a pulled hamstring. This year, I battled something far more painful and challenging: a sprained ankle.

I don't know how or when it happened. Shortly after I began running outside, my ankles started hurting. I figured it was just an adjustment period and just pushed through the pain. After awhile, the pain lessened and I thought everything was fine. Then I found myself slightly rolling my left ankle and feeling tweaks of pain. The pain increased until it was extremely painful to run or even walk. I then discovered one night that my ankle had swollen to the size of a golf ball.

Ouch!

Apparently, I'm great at ignoring warning signs.

For the next two weeks, I diligently iced my ankle every night and took ibuprofin throughout the day (which I hate having to take!). I didn't let it deter me, though, and simply wore a lace up ankle brace during cardio and my workouts.

Speaking of cardio ... running was out of the question. So we moved all my cardio to the elliptical. Since we don't have an elliptical at home, I did some sessions in the fitness center at work and some at my gym, much to the surprise of the morning gym regulars. (I got a lot of, "What are YOU doing here so early?!" and "Who are you, again?" questions.)

One of the trainers at the gym pinpointed the issue as being in my upper calf. After working on my calf muscles for a few days, my ankle started feeling a bit better. Just in time too, as I ended up having to go running for cardio while at FitCon in Texas.

I'm so grateful to my gym family for all the support and encouragement they gave me while my ankle was giving me issues. People are still continuing to ask me about it and to cheer me on. And also thank you to J for his never-ending support. He has the difficult position of being in two roles at the same time: boyfriend and trainer. Sympathizing with me while at the same time helping push me toward my goals.

We didn't know how long my ankle would be injured or if it would get worse, so we decided to push even harder with training and diet and try to get ahead a bit in case the ankle sidelined me for awhile. So my training and cardio got more intense, and the diet got even more tightened up. I didn't argue, though. I didn't want to fall behind!

My ankle is feeling a LOT better now (thank goodness!), although it's still not 100%. I still have some twinges and shoots of pain periodically after I've been sitting for awhile and then get up to walk or when I step wrong. I look at the situation as just another challenge that creates a life lesson - we're always stronger than we think we are.

In the words of Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman:
You have to remember that the hard days are what make you stronger. The bad days make you realize what a good day is. If you never had any bad days, you would never have that sense of accomplishment!
When I stand on stage in four weeks (EEPS! Time is flying!), I'll know that I overcame obstacles and injuries to get there, and it'll make the moment even sweeter.

Have you gotten injured during prep? What happened? Did it set you back? How did you recover?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

FitCon Weekend 2014

Last weekend, J and I went to the 2nd annual FitCon expo in Waxahachie, TX (just South of Dallas). As I mentioned, we gave a talk about how we make our relationship work with him being both my boyfriend and my coach. As promised, here are more details about FitCon weekend!

The official FitCon 2014 t-shirt
FitCon

FitCon is the brainchild of Jason English, aka Big J's Extreme Fitness. He grew the event from a small gathering last year to an expo this year with booths, speakers, and an ANBF bodybuilding show. Big J's vision of connection many of the fitness YouTube channels brought together people from all over the U.S. Attendees could meet their favorite YouTube personality in person, buy t-shirts and training gear, and get samples from some of the awesome supplement vendors in attendance.

J had a table where he sold his t-shirts and signed photos of himself. We were so excited to meet others who watch his channel and listen to his advice, experience, and stories!

J and me near his table at FitCon
I was his "camera crew" all weekend, so I walked around and shot footage all day. We're high tech - using an iPhone for all footage. ;)





Metroflex Arlington

We spent all of Saturday at the expo hall and then when the event wrapped up, we all headed out to Metroflex Arlington to train at the famous gym where Ronnie Coleman used to train when he was Mr. Olympia.

The sign is indicative of the state of the gym
Metroflex was ... um ... well, it was small. And dirty. And gross. J loved it, I was ... less than impressed. The place was packed with FitCon attendees and I quickly saw that there was no possible way I could get my workout done in there. I did a few sets to say that I've trained there, then I headed to a 24-Hr Fitness club to do my actual workout. To my surprise, I found a bunch of other FitCon peeps there too, who also realized they couldn't train at Metroflex. I ended up having a great workout! It's so motivating to be around others who are also training hard and having a good time.

Sightseeing, Family, and Friends

On Sunday, J and I went up to Dallas and checked out Dealy Plaza, where JFK was shot. It was both somber, moving, and fascinating to be there.

Across from the "grassy knoll"
The "X" behind us is where one of the bullets struck JFK
We met my cousin, Mike, and his kids for lunch. I hadn't seen my cousin for about 7 years and had never met his kids, so it was so wonderful to spend time with them!

Me with Cousin Mike and his kids, Matthew and Caleb
Later in the day, I met up with an online friend, Faith, and her family. We'd never met in person before and had a fun time chatting.

Faith and me with her son, Lidon
The Prep Elephant

The only sort-of downside to the weekend was that I didn't get as much sleep as I wanted to get because I needed to get all of my cardio sessions in. That meant I woke up 1.5 hours before J in order to have time to do cardio, get ready, and be places in time. We had to be at FitCon at 7:30 am on Saturday ... which meant my butt was up before 5 am in order to do cardio. On Saturday night, my evening cardio began at 10:30 pm. That's usually when I'm in bed. I wasn't happy about having to get up early and stay up late, but prep isn't about being "happy"; it's about doing what needs to be done. And cardio and training needed to get done.

Another challenge was that while the hotels we stayed at claimed they had "fitness equipment" ... in reality, NONE of the equipment actually worked. What a disappointment! I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago, and was relying solely on equipment to do cardio instead of running while my ankle healed. I didn't have an option, though; I laced up my running shoes and hit the road. Thankfully, my ankle held up and I was able to get the cardio done.

Early morning run before FitCon
Speaking of cardio, one of the highlights of the trip for me was going to Destination Dallas, formerly Metroflex Plano. It's a newer gym and it's bad ass!! If you're in the Dallas area, I highly recommend it! It's where Adela Garcia, Branch Warren, Steve Kuclo, Alison Frahn, and many other top competitors train. And I can see why! It's not the biggest gym (although not as small as Metroflex Arlington), but it has such an electricity in it. Steve Kuclo was actually training there (SO COOL!) while I did cardio. Talk about motivation!

Destination Dallas. Badass gym!
I brought all of my food for the entire weekend with me in my new IsoBag cooler. I LOVE my new cooler!! I bought it in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, and this trip was the first test of it. It passed with flying colors! I was even able to get the ice packs through security (hint: make sure they're completely frozen). I was able to stick to my diet because I had all my food with me.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. I was prepared all weekend!
All in all, we had a wonderful weekend, met some great people, and made new friends. I'm looking forward to FitCon 2015!

Have you been to Metroflex Arlington or Destination Dallas? What did you think? Have you stayed in hotels that claimed to have a "fitness center" that just contained broken equipment? How did you handle it?

Monday, June 2, 2014

When Quitting Isn't Really Quitting

I'm a self-proclaimed bookworm. Reading is one of my favoritest things to do in the entire world. Most of the time, I'd rather curl up with a good book than engage in meaningless conversation with other people. Reading relaxes me and sends me to different worlds, introduces me to new characters, and teaches me about topics, things, and events I might otherwise not have know about. In fact, I love reading so much, I majored in English in college. My dad was skeptical as to the benefits and applications of an English degree, but there was nothing I liked better in the world than reading, so the English degree seemed to fit.

During prep, I read a lot. Mostly because I spend lots of quality time with Mr. Treadmill or Mr. Elliptical, and reading helps me pass the time. (How do people do cardio without either watching TV/movie or reading?!) This year, I haven't been reading quite as much because I've been running outside (*gasp* Can you believe it?! I'll write a post about this soon.) instead of using cardio equipment. But instead of listening to music while I run (I'm lazy and haven't updated my iPod playlist for 2 years.), I listen to an audio book. So it's still kinda like I'm reading!

I use the Overdrive app, which interfaces with the electronic branch of libraries across the US. Instead of paying a subscription fee or buying all the books I listen to, I simply check them out of my local library using Overdrive, and then download them to my phone.

OverDrive App
I've been running into an issue lately, though, that I've been reluctant to face. Not all of the books I check out are very good. I find myself getting bored or annoyed after awhile, yet I continue listening to the book (I just wanna know how it ends). I have a difficult time making the decision to return the book without listening to the entirety of it. I feel like I'm giving up, cheating somehow. I have no idea from where this idea stems, as no one is telling me that I MUST finish the book (this isn't college anymore).

This morning, I took a huge step and STOPPED listening to a book in the middle of my run. I switched to the other book I'd checked out and downloaded. I just couldn't listen to Book 1 anymore. I was annoyed and bored with it. It seemed to drag on ... and on ... and on ... And I began to wonder why I was still listening to it.

  • Was it entertaining me? No.
  • Was I learning something from it? No.
  • Was I near the end of it? No.
  • Did I wish I was near the end of it? Yes.
  • Did I like all of the characters? No. They annoyed me.
  • Have I liked any part of this book? Um, kinda, I guess.
It was time to switch gears and move on to another book.

This reminded me of some situations in life. Sometimes we find ourselves doing things out of habit, just because we've "always done things that way." It's a good idea to stop periodically and assess our actions (or non-actions, as the case may be), and ask ourselves some difficult questions.

  • Am I enjoying this?
  • Am I learning anything from this?
  • Will this benefit me in the long run?
  • Is there something else I'd rather be doing or that would be more beneficial for me?
Sometimes these questions are difficult to answer, and once answered, the resulting actions are even more difficult to implement. But just as I discovered by listening to the new book, changing directions can be much more rewarding and entertaining. I really like the new book, and I'm so glad I didn't needlessly suffer through Book 1 just for the sake of finishing it.

Do you feel guilty for quitting books halfway through? Have you ever stopped in the middle of a goal and realized your priorities and interests had changed? How did you feel? How did you handle it?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Prep Update: Running and Intensity

Where do I begin? It's been a month since I've written a blog, and I have so much to talk about, I'm not sure where to start. Perhaps I'll start with how I'm feeling TODAY and then in subsequent posts, catch you up on other things that have happened during the past month.

As of today, I'm exactly 5 weeks out from Team Universe. I can't believe I only have 5 more weeks to go. It seems like such a short amount of time, yet still 5 more weeks of dieting, cardio, and intense training. I have to be honest - this prep is the hardest I've had since 2010. We knew it was going to be difficult and different because of the time off I took last Fall. I was prepared to work hard, so it wasn't a surprise. But just because I anticipated it doesn't make it any easier.

Cardio

I'm doing a fair amount of cardio - more than I've done in previous recent preps. We needed to reformulate my body composition and then get rid of the fat. Because our dreadmill is still dying a very slow death, and I need to be doing intense cardio, I've been running outside. Yes, running.

I am not a runner.

Yet, there I am, layering on the outdoor clothes, strapping on my iPhone armband, and heading out the door every morning to tour the neighborhood. If I'm really being honest, it's more of a wog (walk/jog) than an actual run, but let's not get hung up on details. I've improved my pace drastically, so I'm finding a new challenge seeing my pace increase.

Training

My training is intense. Every workout is a struggle. Sometimes every set, even every rep is a struggle. I'm not one who enjoys and thrives on pain. To be honest, I avoid it. I don't like to hurt, I don't like the lactic acid burn during and after a tough set. I don't get encouraged by "feeling the burn." Quite frankly, that just makes me want to stop. But how can I improve and make progress if I don't make myself uncomfortable? Literally and figuratively.

The other evening, J looked over while I was training and noticed that a set seemed too easy for me. I didn't think it was "easy" but apparently, I was supposed to really struggle with it. So he handed me a heavier set of dumbbells and instructed me to do another set. As I tried to move the weight, it became more and more difficult for me to complete the movement. I became frustrated that I couldn't complete the set, and since my emotions are thisclose to the surface these days, tears started to run down my face. It's no secret that I cry in the gym from time to time. I told J that I didn't want to cry every workout, and he flat out informed me that it's going to happen because I need to be pushing that hard. I now dread every single workout. But I still go to the gym and get the job done, because that's what champions do.

One of Muhammed Ali's famous quotes keeps running through my head:
I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'
I want to be a champion. I WILL be a champion. I AM a champion!

Do you enjoy training to failure? What are your biggest challenges during prep?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Professional Athlete

The first time I met J, he asked me if I like professional wrestling. I made a face and said, "that fake stuff? No way!" NOT the reaction he was looking for ... as he used to be one of those professional wrestlers. Oops! Open mouth, insert foot.

When we began dating, however, I thought I'd try to open my mind and see if I could appreciate the sport and at least tolerate it. (It's always a good idea to keep an open mind about your significant other's interests.) J was more than happy to educate me, explaining the characters and current story lines. I watched it with him for awhile, but then The Bachelor aired at the same time, and my priorities shifted. (Shhhh! Don't tell anyone - The Bachelor is my secret guilty obsession.)

Although I don't watch WWE Monday Night RAW every week, I do watch periodically. Especially when John Cena or The Rock is on! A couple years ago, we went to see RAW live at the Verizon Center. It was so much fun! J decided to get tickets again recently, so we went to see RAW last Monday night. Again, it was a blast! We had floor seats, and at one point, got to walk right up to the edge of the barriers around the ring. Talk about up close live action!

Ringside View!
Not only did I enjoy the matches, I was also thrilled to see the Diva matches. We've been watching Total Divas, which is the reality show of the WWE Diva ladies. I was more thrilled to see them because I felt like they were movie stars since I see them on tv every week. (I know, I know. I'm a huge dork.)

It's remarkable how much all the wrestlers put their bodies through. Although a lot of the action is faked, they definitely take their lumps, bumps, and hits. I have a lot of respect for all the wrestling athletes - they have to keep their bodies in tip top shape year round.

One thing that really struck me on one of the episodes of Total Divas is something that Brie Bella said, "I wasn't going to have fruit today. I was going to avoid the sugar. As a professional athlete, I need to make sure my nutrition is on point."

A professional athlete.

I don't know why I didn't consider the wrestlers "professional athletes" before ... like NFL, MLB, or NHL players. But they definitely are! They endure rigorous training routines and practices and need to adhere to a healthy diet in order to be able to perform at optimal capacity.

Brie Bella slamming Aksana, former IFBB Bikini International!
Brie's words really stuck in my head. It's not only about looking good, it's about being able to perform and stay healthy. Although I'm not an IFBB Pro, a professional athlete, I can still have the mindset of a professional athlete. To take my nutrition and training programs seriously, not just for the short time period of prep, but throughout the rest of my life. To be vigilant about making healthy choices year round. To not feel sorry for myself when I "can't" eat cake or cookies that everyone else is eating. Logically, I know that I'm making a choice not to eat them, but sometimes my inner whiny toddler takes over and complains about "missing out" on sweets and treats.

Professional athletes don't have whine - they do what it takes to get it done. To excel. To win.

Every year I have a mantra, or a saying that runs through my head during prep and helps keep me focused and strong. This year, my mantra will be, "I'm a professional athlete." The more I say it to myself, the more I'll reinforce it. 

"Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
~ Napoleon Hill


Do you have a personal mantra? What helps you stay focused? Do you watch wrestling? Who's your favorite wrestler or Diva?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those days where you just wanted to take a mulligan? A complete re-do of the entire day? Yesterday was one of those days. It reminded me of the children's book, Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

It seemed that anything that COULD go wrong, DID go wrong. It felt like Murphy's Law to the 1,000 degree!

It all started with a small makeup stain on one of my favorite shirts ... and the day went downhill from there.

I was scheduled to present a software demonstration with a few co-workers at a client site in the afternoon. I planned to leave work early so I could drive most of the day there, and then take the Metro briefly in order to avoid the whole search-the-car-for-bombs inspection and then try to find parking in a very large, very unfamiliar campus. Driving most of the way would also cut down on my evening commute time, since the campus is close to where I live. I turned my computer off an hour before I needed to meet my colleagues. I anticipated it taking about 45 minutes to get there, and I wanted to make sure I arrived early.

Two seconds after I clicked "shut down" on my computer, the screen informed me that it had 89 updates to install. 89?!?! WHAT?!?! I began to panic and then took some deep breaths.

It typically takes several minutes to install a few updates. I'd never seen more than 12 updates at a time. The instructions on the screen were clear: "Do not power off or unplug your machine." I was trapped. The clock was ticking down.

After 15 minutes, my computer still hadn't made much progress. I still had over 50 updates to go. I saw my colleague leave to head to the client site.

Trying to remain calm, I asked a couple of my other colleagues if there was anything I could do to either speed up the process or halt the installations and complete them at another time. They shook their heads sympathetically. No, they said. If I tried to undock my machine, I ran the risk of destroying it and everything on it. I decided to let it continue installing updates.

After 30 minutes, my calm demeanor was slipping. I tried to distract myself. "A watched pot never boils" kept running through my head. There were still 30 more updates to go, and the clock was ticking.

89. Really?
After 40 minutes, I packed up all my belongings so all I had to do was grab the machine when it was finished and run out the door. It was now 15 minutes before I needed to meet my colleagues. I texted them to let them know I was running late.

Five minutes later (after a total of 45 MINUTES), the updates FINALLY finished. I grabbed the laptop, shoved it in my bag, and sprinted down the hall. Of course, I got into the elevator that stopped at every. single. floor. on the way down. I then sprinted up flights of stairs in the parking garage and zipped out of the lot. Naturally, I managed to get behind every slow moving vehicle on the road, including a dump truck and a utility van. When I wasn't behind a slow moving vehicle, I was barely avoiding the atrocious and tire-eating potholes in the road.

I didn't have enough time to follow my original plan of driving most of the way there, so I headed to the closest Metro station. I wasn't absolutely sure exactly where it was, so I made some educated guesses. I managed to find the station and park in the garage. Wouldn't you know it - I parked on the complete opposite end, furthest from the stairs leading to the Metro entrance. I sprinted in my high heel boots - coat flapping, purse and water bottle in one hand, laptop bag in the other.

A train was parked at the station, so I flew onto it, gasping for air. I then saw the sign that there were delays and the train wouldn't leave for 7 minutes. It was now PAST the time I was to meet my colleagues. After I used my inhaler (couldn't breathe from the parking garage sprint), I called them and explained the situation. They were very understanding and said they'd wait for me. I collapsed in my seat, a frazzled, sweaty mess.

I arrived at the client site a half hour late, and encountered were some difficulties getting my temporary badge made. Of course it couldn't be easy.

The good news is that the demo went well. That is the only good news.

After the demo, I had to take the train all the way back up North to my car, and then drive all the way back down, almost back to the client site, to my home.

When I got home, all I wanted to do was to crawl into bed. Instead, I did cardio, ate a meal, and then went and had a blast at WWE Monday Night RAW. Which was the absolute BEST part of the day!

There were moments of calm, of near hysteria, of tears, of frustration, and of acceptance. At times, there was nothing I could do, so I tried to remain as calm as possible. I'm grateful for J for being there for my moment of breakdown, hysteria, and tears. He always knows the right thing to say.

My Rock
Today, thank goodness, has been the complete opposite of yesterday. And for that, I am so relieved!

Have you had days where everything seemed to go wrong? How did you handle it?

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Refresh

Although it can be scary sometimes, change is a good thing. It's an opportunity for growth, new experiences, and sometimes, a different outlook. Times are always changing, and in order to keep current and fresh, it's important to change too. You may have noticed my blog has a different look and feel. I've been feeling for awhile that it was time for an updated, cleaner, simpler look.

I've been wanting to expand the blog text area, remove the busy-ness of the background, and remove some of the side gadgets. In short, to remove the distractions in order to highlight the content.

Welcome to Figure Girl World 2014!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Saved By The Bell Fashion Flashback

I've posted several blogs about workout clothes, so when I came across a post about the workout fashion of Saved by the Bell today, I felt I had to share it with you all.

How many of you watched Saved By the Bell when you were growing up? (Or have seen re-runs of it - you youngin's, you!) It was one of my favorite shows in the 90's (ahhh ... 90's ... how I miss you so!). I love the clothes they all wore on the show - they were so fashionable! Now when I watch it, I have to laugh at how much fashion has changed since then - and how some of it's coming back into style again!

Check out some of the pictures!

Matchy-matchy spandex, slouch socks, and high tops

Remember the thong leotards?!
Even better, they made a workout video! I love everything about this video - from the cheerleading-type moves to the fashionable outfits to the mini trampolines. Here's your entertainment for the day. You're welcome!

 

Do you see some of the 90's trends coming back? Did you own any clothes that looked like these? (I know I did!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Endless Rut

This past weekend, on the way home from the Arnold (look for the post on that soon!), J and I were talking about my goals for this year and for the future. I was complaining that I miss doing many activities that I used to do, and feel frustrated that I can't start new activities that I've been wanting to do.

What do I mean by all this?

In order to be an elite level athlete, you must "give up" some activities in order to focus on the one main goal, whatever that may be. I put "give up" in quotes because technically, you're not really giving up an activity; you're just postponing the time when you can actually do it. But it can be frustrating as well, not being able to feel well-rounded all the time. To some people, that's not a big deal. To others (like me), it can feel confining and frustrating at times.

I'm so much more than just a figure competitor. I'm an athlete. I'm a bookworm, a crazy cat lady, a girlfriend, a sister, a daughter, a friend, an instructional designer, a writer. But when I'm in prep, most of the other things in my life fall to the wayside so I can focus exclusively on bringing the best physique possible to the stage. I realize I need to do this in order to be at the top of my game, but honestly? I really miss things like yoga, skiing, hiking, and krav maga. I really miss going out to eat with J. I miss having a surplus of energy to spend the day playing tourist in our nation's capital. I live in this beautiful city that has so much to offer, and all I do is go to work, go to the gym, and then go home and sleep. I feel like I'm missing out on so many experiences.

Is it worth it? Usually I answer "Yes, of course! You can't beat that moment on stage!" Sometimes I answer, "I hope so." And other times I answer, "I don't know. Is it?" Lately, I've found myself answering, "Yes, but I really miss doing other activities." Greatness is found in routine, but sometimes it just feels like an endless cyclical rut.

I'm not complaining, nor am I hinting that I'm going to quit prep. Not at all! But I am being honest about feelings I have during prep. It's not all sunshine and roses, "everything is going great!", glitter and ponies. Sometimes (most of the time), it's doing what I have to do in order to reach the ultimate goal of looking fabulous on stage. And I do want to look fabulous! It's just that sometimes ... there are sucky parts of the journey, there are whiny moments, there are tears, and there are feelings that life is passing me by.

I genuinely love standing on stage. I love getting all dolled up and feeling like the most beautiful woman in the world. I love knowing that I have the knowledge and the power to transform my body.

In times like this, when I start to feel smothered by routine, I give myself a pep talk. I remind myself that I'm not meant to be "normal" and prep isn't meant to be easy. It's for a short period of time that has the potential to bring great rewards.

In the words of the Greatest Bodybuilder of All Time, Arnold Schwarzenegger,
"Bodybuilding is much like any other sport. To be successful, you must dedicate yourself 100% to your training, diet and mental approach."
I guess skiing can wait until next year.

Do you feel confined and frustrated during prep? Or do you thrive on the structure and routine?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rebuilding

Every year, the body goes through changes, and things that used to work no longer work. And things that have never worked suddenly do work. This is one of the most beautiful and frustrating things about the body. Every year, prep is a new challenge.

This year has been especially challenging for me. I've been unofficially prepping for several weeks now, but feel like I've made zero progress because the scale has barely moved. And when it does move, it bounces around, which can really wreak some havoc on my mind and positive attitude!

Last year, the theme of my prep was "positive attitude." This year, I feel like it's "rebuilding." Because I took two months off, I've had to spend some extra time rebuilding what I'd lost. My body composition changed (which was to be expected), so I've spent the first part of prep not losing weight, but building back up and getting leaner at the same time.

Wait. What? Building muscle AND getting leaner at the same time? How is that possible?

It's possible if you follow the right plan for your body. Since J knows how my body functions and what works best for it, he designed a program to help me rebuild muscle while starting to drop some body fat. Which means the scale hasn't budged much. Which means I've been frustrated because prep has never been like this for me. Prep has always meant "getting lean" to me, so when I don't immediately see that happening, I get worried and frustrated.

Thankfully, J was finally able to explain in terms that I understood (prime example of the difference between male and female communication), and I feel a lot better about how I'm progressing.

I'm impatient by nature, so of course I want to be lean yesterday, for pete's sake!

I'm about 15 weeks out from Jr. Nationals. We just recently changed my training to add in a few more sets, reps, and plyos, so the intensity is picking up! I'm actively working on having patience, and I keep reminding myself that the scale is just an indicator of weight, not of body composition. I feel silly, because of course I know all of this, but sometimes my emotions get the better of my logic. (Does that ever happen to you too?)

Do you get impatient with prep? Do you find that your body goes through changes every year? How do you cope with it?

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Prep Updates!

I took a bit of a writing hiatus in January, as I desperately tried to keep my head above water at work. Now that things have slowed back to normal, I want to give you an update.

As I mentioned in my last blog, one of my goals for this year is to grow my social media outreach. I've been spending some time figuring out how to use Instagram as well as teenagers do, and making some new YouTube videos. As you may know, J has a popular YouTube channel (shameless plug: if you're not already subscribed to his channel, go do it now), and some of his subscribers have been asking when I was going to start making more videos. I've had a YT channel for several years, but mostly used it as a storage place for videos to put on my blog. I'll be adding more unique content to the YT channel and linking some of the videos here as well. Which means ... if you're interested in seeing the additional content, please subscribe to my YT channel! (Yet another shameless plug.)

One of the main topics on my YT channel lately has been prep. Yes, I started prep!

I just wrapped up Week 5, and will be making an update video soon about how things are going. To get you caught up, here are the other prep update videos:









I'd love to do some Q&A videos, so please post your questions in the comments, and I'll make a video answering your questions, and post it on my blog.

I'm looking forward to another successful prep, and hopefully some good times at Jr. Nationals, Team Universe, and Masters Nationals! Keep checking here and YT for updates!

Do you have any questions about my prep, or any aspects or approaches I use during prep? Are you in prep too? How are things going for you?