It’s date night. Dressed up. High heels. Fancy dinner. Lots of hand-holding and endearing moments. Right?
My husband works his tail off, 7 days a week for 8 months of the year, has a more conventional schedule in the spring, and a summer that is flexible with some much needed downtime. During this time in June and July when we have more time together and as a family, we make sure to spend as much time together to reconnect after a long football season. So of course when he mentioned that he wanted to train with me some evening (I SWEAR this was HIS idea), I jumped on the chance and booked it.
We drove to the Colosseum in Columbia, after stopping at Starbucks for our preworkout coffee orders, and met with Joe for a solid 50-minute couples training session. We picked the muscles groups that we wanted to work (me, glutes and hamstrings, of course and Justin, shoulders and chest), and Joe put us to work.
I was PUMPED to set a personal record for 305 pound glute bridges after getting some assistance on the first rep. I was able to push the weight three times and was hoping the workout was over after that first 5 minutes. In the off season this summer while I’m not dieting, I am putting all the extra food to use in the gym. The goal of a “bulking period” is to grow your muscles so that when you lean out during prep and dieting, you reveal some new larger assets. Bulking comes with some extra body fat, and I am currently about 10 pounds over my stage weight and back up to 135 pounds during this time. My eating is flexible and I am loving all of the extra energy (and amazing sleep that I am getting) from my calorie bump.
Joe did a great job keeping us both engaged and working really hard, even though we were both doing completely different workouts. It was a lot of fun, and by the end we were completely spent! This date night was definitely unconventional, but it was something that we will definitely do again soon before Justin heads back to working long hours in August. We squeezed in a post-workout meal too (to refuel those muscles, of course) and shared some endearing moments over chips and salsa (and an enchilada). It’s fun to step outside of your comfort zone in your workouts AND in your relationship! Try it sometime; you’ll be sure to work up a sweat. 😉
Contact Joe to set up your date night at email@example.com.
Step outside of your
I have a little pet peeve, and it’s called pretenders. You know those people, when you ask how their day is going, and they say “great!!!” and they are crying inside. Kind of like, when you ask, “How was Disney?” for 7 nights in July, and they say “Sooooo fun!” and you know they are straight lying.
So throughout this bikini prep process, I vowed to myself and to my coach that I would not be a pretender.
The hard part about not being a pretender is that you actually have to tell the truth and to feel uncomfortable feelings, and to say things to yourself and out loud to your husband on the couch during the Next Food Network Star like, “I feel like a failure.” And that is how week 1 felt for me.
So instead of pretending that I absolutely killed it this week, I will just be honest and tell you that it was really, really, really hard. And last night I was questioning everything.
Now the photo you see below is actually me not pretending, because I will tell you that I did absolutely crush it in the gym. I am following a program that my coach created for me called FORTITUDE. It’s no coincidence that the word fortitude means: courage in pain or adversity. The basis of the program is that you lift the same muscle groups each day for 5-6 days in different ways, so that at the end of the week all of the muscle groups are crying.
For instance, maybe on day 1, you do 5 sets of leg extensions – 3 warm up sets and 2 working sets with much heavier weight. One day 3, you do leg extensions again, but this time just one pump set of 30. You are hitting your legs and glutes each day, just at a different intensity. Let’s just say that the end of the week called for a full body massage and some help down the stairs. I loved it. LOVED it. But I am weird like that.
As you know, training your body is only part of this process to get to the stage. You have to train your mind, and you have to eat to perform. Before I started training, I was maintaining my weight at around 2000 calories per day, sometimes closer to 2100 depending on my exercise level that day. So when I got my macros for week 1, I was more than slightly concerned at the 1715 that I was tasked with. I could crush that by meal 4 easy. It was also an adjustment to go from eating 60g of fat per day to around 30g. Much less of all of my favorite fats: avocados, nut butters and red meat. I was determined to give it my best shot. I could NOT fail in week 1, right?! So off I went into the week, burning close to 14,000 just by living and exercising in my normal routine. Not counting things like the afterburn post workout (about 100 calories per day) and my normal life living and chores around the house, carrying Gianna, grocery shopping, etc. So I was burning a total of 16,000 and eating a total of 12,000. It was really hard. I was hungry. I was cranky. I failed. I overate some days. I beat myself up. I didn’t think about quitting, but I really was not sure if I had it in me to keep going.
But I vowed NOT TO PRETEND.
So this morning, I gave it straight to my coach. I didn’t tell him my week was “great!!!!!” because it was anything but great. I was honest. I was open. I was vulnerable. And he told me that the point of week 1 was to see what my body would do – how it would react, and we would all learn from week 1.
The result: MORE FOOD. More carbs. More protein, More fats. Praise the Lord.
I am ready for week 2. More ready than ever.
So when someone asks you how you’re doing today, think of this post. Take off the mask and just be real.
I’m off to crush it.
I’m not one who makes quick decisions.
Wait, let me go back.
I’m not one who makes quick decisions ANYMORE. Rewind to my twenties, and you would have met a Mary who often made quick, sometimes rash, decisions. I’m very grateful to be older and wiser now.
So when it came to thinking about, possibly considering, maybe-one-day, competing in a bikini competition, let me tell you this was one of those decisions that I did not make quickly. The Mary that I am today, in my rational, mature, well-thought-out, decision-making brain, researched the hell out of this idea for months before I made this decision. I stalked strangers on Instagram, asked everyone I knew who has ever competed in a bikini competition about their experience, read countless articles about why competing is the best and worst thing you can ever do, and interviewed several coaches. And at the end of the day, I have decided that I am going to compete.
And I am going to compete for one reason only: because it scares the sh*t out of me.
I am the type of person who likes a challenge. Who needs a challenge. Who likes to have a goal. I function best this way. And when I commit to a goal, I try REALLY really hard to hit it. So not only does making the decision to compete scare me because I have to get on a stage in a terribly dark spray tan, with a very small bikini on and walk in really high heels without falling, it scares me because it’s my new goal. And I really, really want to hit the goal, and the challenge to get to that stage and not totally embarrass myself is a long road that will take extreme discipline and commitment. And all of that wrapped up together (especially the walking on stage in heels), is very scary to me.
Sure you can roll on stage and not have abs and not eat clean 95% of the time and not track your food 98% of the time and not train for months, but the Mary that is going out on that stage is doing all of the above. There will be less dinners out and less chocolate chip cookies and more “sorry I can’t eat that.” And I hate the “sorry I can’t eat that” part because my whole life and diet is based upon the flexible eating program where I CAN eat whatever I want If It Fits MY Macros. But now, I’m going to be “that girl” who can’t eat anything and can’t build in treats all the time, and for me that is uncomfortable. They say, if you want something you’ve never had, then you have to do something you’ve never done. Well, I’m about to do it.
For those of you who do not know much about these types of events, here is an overview.
Below you will see an example of the 4 main divisions featuring the elite of the sport. These women have all won numerous titles and are at the top of their game. From left to right: Bikini division: Ashley Kaltwasser, Figure division: Nicole Wilkins, Fitness division: Adela Garcia, Physique division: Dana Linn Bailey.
1.) Bikini. In this category women are very lean. The judges are looking for a more softer look than that of the other categories (they are not looking for the same muscle mass or definition as that of the fitness, figure or physique competitors). Competitors are judged based on balance, poise and physical appearance, from front and back angles. Think tight and toned.
2.) Figure. Judges are looking for the same type of physique as fitness competitors however there isn’t a fitness routine, only posing. Competitors are judged from all angles and the goal is to have an athletic appearance – wide shoulders with slim hips and thighs. Think conditioned and more a defined physique than that of the bikini class.
3.) Fitness. The goal is to be athletic in appearance and the judges are looking at your shape from different angles. One thing that sets this division aside from the others is that there is a fitness routine set to music where competitors show off their flexibility, gymnastic training, strength and physical fitness.
4.) Physique. In this division competitors are looking at lean muscle mass with very little body fat. Comparisons are made of the athletes (in groups) when they perform poses that show off their muscle definition.
I have decided to focus my training to enter in the bikini division. There are several sub categories within bikini that you can elect to compete in like debut (never competed before), novice (never won 1st place before) and masters (over 35) and you better believe I’m entering all of those sub categories after 22 weeks of “no I can’t eat that.”
I researched coaches. I am not a professional in this area. Frankly, I have no idea what I am doing, so instead of trying to half ass my training, I decided that hiring a coach was the best way to get prepared for this type of competition.
This is my coach. His name is Joe Bender. I think he knows a thing or two about muscles.
I picked Joe to be my coach because he has made it his profession to train men and women to compete in these types of events. He has been training clients for over 12 years, holds three personal training certifications and has been competing himself for 10 years. I also picked Joe because he is going to help me to protect something that is VERY important to me: my metabolism. Joe isn’t going to put me on some 1200 calorie diet for the next 22 weeks (yes training is 22 weeks!). He is going to slowly modify my macros the RIGHT way and after I leave the stage, he is going to slowly help me to reverse diet back to my fighting weight of 132 pounds and 2000 calories per day.
He is going to help me to get lean and super shredded, and I will probably be cursing his name several times a week because my weight training program is fierce and the groupings of exercises, reps and sets are very different that I am used to. More outside of my comfort zone. More fear. More let’s do this!
If you follow me on social media or have taken one of my spin classes at 24 Hour Fitness, you know this about me: I LOVE FOOD. In fact, my motto is: EAT ALL THE FOOD. I educate women on the importance of properly FUELING your body. I debunk the 1200 calorie myth daily. I love pizza and ice cream and I eat everything in moderation. That is why I follow the flexible dieting program called If It Fits Your Macros.
So part of the research that I did during my months of stalking was around the nutrition plan to prepare for the show, how flexible I could be, and how long I would have to train. The physical aspect of this competition will not be as mentally challenging for me as the nutritional aspect. I run to the gym most days, and the idea of a new, crushingly hard, weight training program is so damn exciting to me. However, the idea of a new, less flexible, but still somewhat flexible nutrition plan and new macros (including less fat macros, and I love fat!) was not as exciting. Wait, are you telling me I can’t have THE dessert I want to have every night after dinner?! But I really WANT to eat WHATEVER I want to eat whenever I want it. More uncomfortable feelings.
So after careful thought and lots of research, and then more research, I’ve decided that I want this goal more than I want ice cream every night.
So I’m off to the races. Training starts today. It ends at the end of November. Thanksgiving will be the best meal of my life. Unless I crush this goal. Then I have all of the chicken and brown rice and protein shakes and rice cakes to thank. The taste of satisfaction is pretty sweet too.
Wish me luck.
Women always ask me where to begin when it comes to lifting weights.
Today, I’ll share with you some important information that I’ve learned over the past 4 years since I took my own weight lifting from a cardio-afterthought to a serious part of my workout routine. I hope this information inspires you to step outside of your comfort zone and into the weight room. It’s really not as scary as it seems.
- Did you know that after the age of 35, muscle mass begins to decline at a rapid rate? According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “After age 35 you will lose between .5-1. percent of your muscle mass annually unless you engage in regular physical activity to prevent it. By engaging in regular resistance training and following a sound diet that includes adequate amounts of protein, you can prevent most of the muscle loss associated with age. Health experts recommend that you engage in some of the resistance training that focuses on all major muscle groups a minimum of 2 times per week and up to 5 times per week depending upon your goals.” I always recommend to my clients over the age of 35, that OVER HALF of their workouts per week are resistance training and not cardio-based. So in regards to how often, my recommendation for a schedule where you workout 5 hours a week is over 2.5 hours of that exercise time is resistance training. Personally, I workout for 9 hours a week which includes 4 hours of cardio and about 5 hours of weight lifting. I always take at least one full rest day per week, sometimes two.
- There are many different ways to structure your weight lifting routines, so you will have to take into account how much time each week you can devote to your training. There are three different splits to consider which you can read more about here. Personally, I prefer the 4 day split, which I break into 5 total days. Here is how I structure my weight training days:
- Mondays: Chest & Back
- Tuesday: Legs & Glutes
- Wednesday: Biceps & Abs
- Thursday: Shoulders & Triceps
- Friday: Legs & Calves
After you’ve determined which split you are going to follow you should buy yourself a small notebook and any other equipment that your gym lacks, so that you are ready to hit the ground running on Day 1.
Personally, I love these Phantom Fit resistance bands for warming up my glutes during leg day. I also use these ankle straps for cable kick-backs, since my gym does not offer them. At the beginning of each week, I write down the exercises that I am going to complete each day so when I start my workout, I know exactly what I am going to do. Then I write down my weights for each exercise and how long I rested between sets. If you don’t know which exercises you’re going to do, start with some of the circuit machines versus free weights. Machines are a good place to start for beginners because it forces you to practice perfect form, whereas free weights leave a lot of room for error. You’ll want to stick to the same routine for 4-6 weeks, and then change it up, so your body does not get bored. Focus on increasing your weights as the weeks go on. Aim for 4 sets of 15 reps one week, and then next week try 4 sets of 12 reps at a HEAVIER weight.
- If you get nervous by the phrase “lift heavy” and you envision super bulky men with veins popping from their biceps, grunting and throwing their weights on the ground, think again. Here is an image of women a who lifts heavy. Not too shabby, eh?
A good rule of thumb when choosing a weight that is right for each exercise is to choose a weight that 1) allows you to practice perfect form, 2) makes it HARD to complete 12-15 reps, 3) you are STRUGGLING to complete your last set of reps with. If you can complete more than 30 reps at once using the weight you’ve chosen, that the weight is TOO LIGHT. Step it up! I always see men and women compromising their form in their effort to increase their weights. Remember, MOMENTUM IS NOT A MUSCLE! Perfect form first. Heavier weight second.
For more information on lifting weights check out bodybuilding.com for tips and free online programs. I also highly recommend any of Jessie Hilgenberg’s ebooks which you can learn about on her site: jessiefitness.com.
I hope to see you in the weight room one day very soon! XO, Mary
How do you stay motivated?
I get this question a lot. For me, the answer is simple: “it comes from within.” I know that is not very specific, and it doesn’t really help to explain my personal motivation, so let me share a little bit about motivation in general, and maybe you’ll see what I mean.
There are two types of motivation: intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation means that the individual’s motivational stimuli are coming from within. For instance, a person is taking a spin class at the gym because he or she gets pleasure from taking the class and from the feeling that results after it’s over. It’s motivation that comes deep from within the core. Not everyone has it, but everyone can get it. People who are intrinsically motivated are physically active because they truly enjoy it.
Extrinsic motivation means that the individual’s motivational stimuli are coming from outside or really anywhere except from the inside. Examples of an external factor that motivates people are: to lose weight, to be healthy, to make their spouse happy, to look good, or to meet new people.
Very few people are entirely intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. It’s usually a combination of the two.
Now here is the KEY…
You are more likely to stay on-track with your fitness and nutrition plans if you are INTRINSICALLY motivated.
The boyfriend, the hot bikini body, the compliments, they are great and all, but you have to want it for yourself from within in order to ensure long term success.
Here are some strategies for transitioning towards intrinsic motivation:
- Remind yourself why you are here – If you’ve taken one of my spin classes, you’ve heard me say, “why are you here?!” Remember your personal goals and motivating factors for getting to the gym and staying on track.
- Stay hooked on that feeling – Reflect on the positive feelings and successes you’ve previously experienced from regularly exercising. How did you feel overall? Did exercise improve other aspects of your life besides your physical appearance? For many people exercise is a mental stress-reliever, not just a physical one.
- Set GOALS – I cannot stress this enough! I ALWAYS have a goal in mind. Create a short-term (weekly), medium-term (monthly), and long term (6+ months) goal for yourself. Make sure it is a S.M.A.R.T. goal, meaning Specific, Measurable, Attainable, REALISTIC, and Timely. For instance, “to lose weight,” is NOT a good example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal. I want, “to lose 5 pounds by June 1st” is a S.M.A.R.T. goal if the current date is May 1st, because that is a realistic and achievable goal that you can measure.
- Keep in mind that change takes time – It is important to remember that change does not occur overnight. Recognize that in order to obtain desired results both time and continued effort are required. Consistency is key to success!
- Remember that you have to do this for YOU – You will have the most success if you are your own cheerleader, not your spouse, your best friend or your weight loss group. In the end, it’s you vs. you in the mirror.
More to come on motivation, but I hope this helps to start your weekend off with a little extra pep in your step for staying on track. Stay healthy people!
I hit the gym today for a weight session focused on back and biceps. If you’re new to weight training, it is common to group these muscles together in one day. I also try to add in core work as an “active rest” between sets that are not supersets. (Those are tough enough as it is, and I usually need the rest). As a reminder, a superset is performed when two exercises are performed in a row without stopping. This workout should take you between 60-75 minutes.
Lat Pull Downs – 3 sets of 15 reps (65#)
Seated Rows – 3 sets of 15 reps (65#)
End of Superset
Bent Over Rows – 3 sets of 15 reps (27.5#)
(Active Rest) **See photos below** Exercise Ball Pull-Ins – (see photo) during active rest, 3 sets of 20 pull-ins
Reverse Flys – 3 sets of 15 reps (10#)
(Active Rest) Rope Crunch – 3 sets of 15 reps (120#)
Bicep Curls – 3 sets of 15 reps (20#)
(Active Rest) Wood Choppers on Cable Cross Machine – LEFT side, 3 sets of 20 reps
Bicep Curls with Barbell – 3 sets of 22 reps (30#)
(Active Rest) Wood Choppers on Cable Cross Machine during active rest, RIGHT side, 3 sets of 20 reps
There is something about feeling STRONG that feels better than racing up hills or speeding on a flat road as fast as you can for 60-90 seconds.
One day I came across a picture of my friend Anya holding her one year old baby, and I texted her and said “daaaaaaaaamn girl. you look amazing. how do you do it?!” And that’s when she let me in on a little secret. “Lifting heavy weights makes you lean.” I kept on reading more about it and seeing more girls in the gym with rocking bodies, and they weren’t getting them by running on the treadmill. They were all lifting heavy weights. When I say “heavy weights” I am referring to weight that is heavy enough that it is HARD to complete that last rep in each set. REALLY HARD. You are struggling. As a result of lifting these heavy weights, I’ve gotten really, really strong! You can actually see my muscles, and I am more confident in my body. The scale has crept up a couple of pounds, but I am okay with that because I know that muscle weighs more than fat.
In this section I will share with you what I know about lifting weights, what my favorite muscle crushing exercises are (the kind that will leave you sore and wanting more), and some of my favorite groupings of them. Then maybe one day, you’ll have to keep the same secret I keep from your favorite piece of cardio equipment. Shhhhhh, don’t tell…