It’s kind of like Christmas morning, except you can’t eat those soft, warm pecan rolls straight from the oven. My mouth was literally watering as I wrote that sentence. I guess the second plate of white fish, spinach and asparagus I just had for dinner (repeating the same dish I had for lunch) isn’t satisfying my appetite just right. You wait for Christmas morning all year. You plan and prepare, and IT’S HERE, and it’s so exciting. That’s how peak week feels for me.
133 days of training, with a total of 17 rest days since I began this journey in June. Over 100 hours of weight training. Over 80 hours of cardio. Easily 50 hours of meal prep, planning, logging, weighing, chopping, measuring. Countless declined dinner invitations with the reason, “Sorry, I can only have 1 cheat meal this week.” Several mistakes and falling off track with just as many “You can do this” pep talks that I’ve had to give myself. Self doubt turned to self confidence. “WHY AM I DOING THIS?” turned to “I CAN DO THIS!” I haven’t even tallied the cost, but if you’re thinking of training for a show, set aside a few thousand dollars easy. I’m glad that fitness is my only hobby, because competitive bodybuilding is quite an expensive sport.
All of the hours and the emotions and the money and the excitement, and it’s finally peak week.
When my coach told me today, during our last one-on-one training session at the Colosseum in Columbia, that Tuesday would be my last day of weight training, I was shocked. Mixed emotions. Relief and sadness. The weight training is my favorite part of the journey. I think it is so challenging and rewarding. My last day of cardio will be Wednesday, and Thursday is only for posing. I have built the foundation, and now it was time to show off my hard work. Friday would be devoted to REST, to allow my body flush itself of any remaining built up water. Friday is also when I take my polygraph test. Since I am competing in a “natural” bodybuilding organization, I have to prove that I did not use any growth hormones during my training period. Polygraph tests are actually much cheaper than a urine analysis, which is why all athletes test that way initially. If you end up taking home first place, then they spring for the urine test just to be sure.
On Friday, I will get the infamous spray tan which will make me look like I am a cross between someone who feel asleep on the beach for 3 days too long and an Oompa Loompa. Yes, you HAVE to get the spray tan, and everyone knows it’s not supposed to look natural. It’s supposed to make those hard earned muscles look the best on stage. The spray tan takes about 90 minutes from start to finish and includes 3-5 layers of tan. I will just hold my breath and pretend it’s organic.
I’ve been doing a lot of complaining on social media about my diet over the past two weeks. It has been a struggle to go from my flexible dieting lifestyle of building in a lot of the foods I love to being strictly limited to less than 10 foods over the past two weeks. The purpose of this paired-down diet is to limit myself to foods that my body can easily digest: rice, potatoes, oatmeal, spinach, asparagus, white fish, almonds, avocados and eggs. Yes, that’s it. Oh and the first three are like the smallest servings of carbs you’ve ever seen in your life – about 1/3 a cup of oatmeal and a 1/2 of a sweet potato. That’s not much when you’re still training for at least 90 minutes a day. It has been a struggle going from 2200 calories in June to 1900 calories during most of prep to now less than 1600 calories. Damn, I’m hungry. Thanks for accepting my grumpiness. My husband has taking most of the beating, especially at night when he is “loudly enjoying” his sugary cereal for dessert.
It’s all good today. I see the light at the end of the tunnel. What am I going to do on Sunday when all of this is over? I’m going to spend the whole day with my family. I’m going to put my phone in my room and leave it there all day. I won’t need the My Fitness Pal app to track my food. I won’t need to fill out my weight training log to send it to my coach on Monday. I’m going to a Halloween party at our golf club, and I’ll eat whatever I damn well please. I will cook my favorite foods like pizza (with our homemade dough that had been rising since Saturday afternoon), homemade pop tarts and cookies brought down from Levain Bakery in New York City. I will put my feet up and give my daughter lots of extra kisses.
On Monday, I will be back to the gym, but I’ll train like a “normal person,” not a person who has to get in every single exercise on my training plan. I will still eat healthy 90% of the time but I won’t weigh or track anything for a while. I will just BE. Regardless of how Saturday turns out, I am proud of my accomplishments thus far. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The balancing act between wife, mom, full-time employee, and bikini competitor has been one that I am not sure I will ever do again.
For now, It’s time to refocus on the present. 6 days out. Time to keep going strong and full speed ahead. Thank you again for your support and kind words. They mean so much to me. I hope you have been inspired to start goal crushing in your life. That is why I document this journey. The good and the bad. The REAL and the always honest. Tomorrow is Monday. What is your goal this week?
I am a recovering control freak. I used to like to control everything, so much so, that it made me completely out of control. I have learned that I cannot control three things in life: people, places or things. I can control myself, and my reactions to people, places and things, but that’s about it. At 35 years old, I’m fine with that. I like to use the phrase: “Wear life like a loose garment.” It fits my mindset about life these days.
So when my husband called me this week and told me that his ECU game that was supposed to be played this past Thursday was rescheduled for the date of my competition, I had to use all of the tools in my tool box before I “reacted.” I took some time to process the information. Now 16 weeks into training, the ONLY reason that I chose the show that I was training for was because my husband was off that weekend. The ONLY reason. I wanted HIM there. He was my partner in all of this. He has been by my side through all of my struggles and mini milestones. He was my rock. So when he called to tell me that he probably couldn’t be at that show, my heart dropped. I think his dropped even lower. He was incredibly disappointed.
The old “control freak” me probably would have built up some huge resentment of how my expectations let me down. My other favorite phrase is: “Expectations lead to resentment.” I’m sure you’ve had expectations before in some area of your life. Maybe this past weekend, you pictured the perfect family fall day picking pumpkins with your kids. They are all perfectly behaved. Your spouse is in a good mood. You take the perfect picture for social media. But, nothing goes as you “expected” in your head and you’re miffed. It’s okay. We all get like that. That’s called having an expectation. I operate much better when I have no expectations of anyone or anything. I didn’t picture my show date, with all of my friends in the crowd, me winning 1st place and having the perfect after party with all of my family and friends together. I didn’t picture anything going perfectly at all. I have done that in the past many times, and I was always let down because the way I saw it going in my head was always better than reality. So now, to the best of my ability, I try to just let things unfold naturally. I try not to focus on the future or the past and just enjoy the present. Most of the time I succeed. Sometimes I still get off track. I am not perfect. I digress…
As I processed this news that Justin gave me early last week, I didn’t focus my thoughts on the problem. I focused my thoughts on the solution. I wasn’t mad at Justin. It’s not his fault. I cannot control people, places or things, and neither can he. These were just our circumstances. I started to think of possible solutions. I realized that there was a show on October 29th, less than 3 weeks from the day I found out the news. Could I get ready for a show that was only 3 weeks away? I texted my coach frantically, and his response was that I COULD do it “but I really wouldn’t like the next 2 weeks.” I didn’t care. Hours of exercise, paired with much less food than I was used to, I was ready to go hard into the last 3 weeks and give it my all.
We agreed that I would crush the plan he laid out for me over the week, and Sunday (today) we would make our final decision together. Joe and I have the same goal: HARDWARE. My goal has always been not just to compete in a show, but to place in the top 5. That is Joe’s goal too. He wants every client that HE trains this year to place top 5 as well. So the pressure just got kicked up a notch (or 4 notches, since I was now preparing to compete 4 weeks earlier than my original target).
Here’s how my week went:
MORE training, LESS food. A lot less food. A lot less carbs. A LOT more calories burned during my workouts. Low energy. Grumpy spells. I told my husband that I was going to do my very best not to take out my hunger on him. I succeeded most of the time.
The result: Joe told me today that my hard work paid off, and I should be good to go in 2 weeks. The work isn’t over. I have a lot more posing to do. A LOT. I have a lot more training to do. I have to fight hard to the very end. But first I got a cheat meal to boost my sluggish metabolism from the week. Thank you Stoney River Legendary Steaks. I love you.
The new show that I am doing is specifically for Novice competitors. I have ONE chance to place in the top 5, not an opportunity to compete in three different categories. There is no Masters division, so I will be competing against a lot of twenty-somethings. I cannot control the outcome. I can only control my reaction to it.
So for the next two weeks, I’m going down under into the dark zone of training. If I look tired, I am. If I look hungry, I am. If I look nervous, I am. It’s all come down to this, and I am going to give 100% because when I leave that stage I am leaving with NO REGRETS.
Thank you for your support along this journey. Here is a link to the show I will be competing in if you wish to attend. Don’t worry, I won’t “expect” you to be there. I am always grateful for the kind words, the nods of encouragement and the positive feedback. It helps me keep going when things get tough. And right now they are tough. So thank you.
Wish me luck.
I used to think that I worked out a lot. Spin classes 3-4 times a week. Weights 3 times a week. I thought I worked really, really hard.
Then I started training for a fitness competition.
One of the biggest challenges that I have faced in preparing for this show is making time for all of the training. Like you, I have a lot of other responsibilities in my life. Fitness is not my full-time job. I know I talk about it a lot, but I am actually a Technical Recruiter, my profession for over 10 years now. I enjoy making home cooked meals for my family every night. My husband works really, really hard and very long hours. Even though it’s not “my job” to make sure he has a hot meal each night, it makes him really happy when he does. He deserves it. We also have our little peanut Gianna who is 14 months, and growing up right before our eyes. Her new favorite word is “WHOA!” and it seriously cracks me up each time she says it.
I can honestly say, that if I did not have full-time child care, I don’t think that making time to train would even be an option. Luckily, I have some flexibility in my profession and my lifestyle, so I was able to make it work.
Let me be very clear. I am NOT complaining. I LOVE the training. Nothing makes me more excited, than driving to the gym with some new tunes downloaded and my wireless Jaybirds all charged and ready for a great training session. BCAAs in one hand and black grande cold brew with light ice in the other.
When I began training for this competition, almost 15 weeks ago, and my coach sent me my program, I was surprised at how often I was lifting the same muscle groups each day. In the beginning, and for 8 weeks, I lifted my shoulders and legs 5-6 times a week. It all makes perfect sense now, but in the beginning my body went into a bit of a shock with the continual pressure that I put on the same muscle groups. That’s why phase 1 of training was called “composition change.” Not to mention that pre and post workout nutrition that went hand-in-hand with the actual weight training which was just as important. The nutrition piece of the training is a whole other time commitment that I will save for another blog post, but I wish I could have cloned myself over these past several weeks just to prep my meals for me.
Below is an example of one of my workouts. Feel free to try it on your own anytime. The thing I would like to stress the most is to remain very focused and time sensitive when you are training. Don’t stop for 5 minutes to talk to your buddy. Don’t get lost on social media between sets and let 3 minutes of rest go by. I may look very focused lately at 24 Hour Fitness, and it’s because time is precious, and growing my muscles is my number one priority while I am there. As I often say in my spin classes, “Good luck. I’ll need it.”
Day 1 Workout Example
Warm up: Lateral Band Walks 20 steps each leg, repeat for 3. Totaling 120 steps. Are your glutes burning yet?
Seated or Lying Barbell Glute Bridge 4 sets of 15 reps (I use 80-90 pounds). Focus on driving through the heels and squeezing at the top. Also make sure to follow the full range of motion, all the way up and down.
Leg Press, 5 sets, 20, 15, 12, 12, 10 reps. Rest for 45-60 seconds between sets. Goal is to increase weight each set as you decrease reps.
Dumbbell Walking Lunges, 4 sets. 12 reps each leg. HEAVY weight. (I hold 30 pound dumbbells in each hand).
Plie Dumbbell Squats: 4 sets of 15 reps. Focus on driving through the heels and squeeze. For advanced weight lifters, use the Smith Machine which allows you to squat more weight without holding it in your hands.
One Legged Cable Kick Backs: 3 sets of 15 reps, each leg.
Leg Extensions: 2 sets of 20 reps
Lying Leg Curls: 2 sets of 20 reps
Seated Calf Raise: 4 sets of 15 reps
All done, right?! Nope. Now go to 30 minutes of moderate-to-intense cardio. I typically choose the stairmaster and focus on the mind to muscle connection.
After your workout, head home for a large post workout meal, like my favorite taco bowl which you can read about here. Pat yourself on the back for completing a bikini competitor’s workout, and get back at it tomorrow.
It’s no secret that I love treats. I’ve already planned my post-competition, food-fest party which will include everything from Stoney River’s Carrot Cake to Levain Bakery’s double chocolate peanut butter chip cookies, shipped from New York City. I am a self-proclaimed foodie, and even during prep, I try to trick my taste buds into thinking I am having the real deal.
Here are some of the recipes and products that I’ve grown to love and rely on during my 15 weeks of training so far.
1.) Nuts N More Toffee Crunch peanut butter. Not your average nut butter. Nuts ‘N More’s toffee flavor has been a staple in my pantry for many years since I first saw it on Shark Tank. I have tried all of the other flavors, and toffee is still my favorite. It boasts 12g of protein in 1 serving, while regular nut butter has 8g. It also has only 1g of sugar.
2.) SO Delicious CocoWhip! Like cool-whip without the dairy, fake ingredients and GMO’s, the SO Delicious is the perfect topping to just about anything from protein bread to waffles. I store it in the freezer, and scoop just a little out when I need it. Throw a few Guittard chocolate chips on top, and my sweet tooth is satisfied.
3.) I’ve recently gotten completely hooked on MuscleEgg protein egg whites. I have a freezer full of chocolate, pumpkin spice and cake batter flavors. They have a blog full of incredible recipes, including the protein crepes which I made last month which are super low carb and amazing. I was hesitant at first because the shipping is pricey, but now I am a MuscleEgg for life fan. They can also be purchased at some local gyms, so check their website for locations.
4.) FlavorGod seasonings are my go-to spices because they are low sodium and non-GMO. They also come in unique flavors like Taco Tuesday, Spicy Everything, and PIZZA. My favorite sweet seasonings are gingerbread cookie and chocolate donut. I sprinkle them on my protein bread before I bake it or add it to anything that needs a little extra flavor. They are awesome!
5.) I am a big fan of the flapjacked muffins and pancake mixes. I buy them on Amazon for the best price, but they are also sold at Vitamin Shoppe. The Chocolate Peanut Butter muffin tastes like a molten lava cake, and the carrot spice pancake mix is so flavorful. You can also use the pancake mixes to make breads and muffins, so they do double duty.
Speaking of pancakes, I top mine with organic powdered peanut butter (which you add water to and make low fat peanut butter) and Mancakes Syrup, which has less sugar and carbs than real syrup. The ingredients are a little fake, but they are non-GMO, and I use just a tablespoon per serving.
6.) When I need a little something sweet between meals, I use SLAP Nutrition BCAA’s as my drink of choice. I just tried their new “Slappy Hour” Strawberry Mojito which is great if you like a minty flavor. This one also has electrolytes added, so they help to replenish those key components that are lost during my sweaty workouts. Use code MARY for 10% on their website.
Feel free to message me @marydavisfitness on IG for any questions that you may have on these products.