I cried on the way home from my show this weekend. In the passenger seat next to me was a takeout bag from Stoney River filled with a bread basket, 10 ounce steak, crabcake, and the most enormous piece of carrot cake known to man. I was driving over the South River bridge when it all hit me. All of the work, all of the sacrifice, all of the restriction, and today I had won, beating 8 other competitors to achieve a professional status. I thought of my Dad and how proud he probably was as I looked over the water at the late afternoon sky. I thought of the discipline that it took to achieve this status when I stepped on stage earlier that day with complete confidence that I looked the best I ever have – as a 36-year old mom. I was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and I thank God everyday that I am healthy enough to set out and achieve these big goals.
What does a Pro Card mean? Many people asked me at 24 Hour Fitness when they stopped to congratulate me yesterday at the gym before my spin class. A pro card means that from now on, I will compete against other pros, and if I place top 3 overall, I can win some prize money. It does not mean that I am quitting my job to train full-time or that I will compete more frequently than I already do. Two shows in the fall and two shows in the spring is the perfect schedule for me and my family. It leaves me “off” over the holidays and the summer when we enjoy some downtime and some good food. And Lord knows I love good food.
Show day started off with a breakfast of shrimp and a rice cake. At the end of the week leading up to a show, you slowly start to add carbs back into the body, after depleating it of carbs over the past several weeks to achieve the lean look, when you add them back (along with salt) you pump up the muscles and fill them out. This is a slow and delicate process because if you add too many, then the water from them may spill out from the muscles and make you look watery and bloated on stage. My coach is an expert at this, which is why I hired him over 14 months ago when I started this journey. I got to the venue around 8:45am and the primping began, Hair, nails, and another coat of that infamously dark spray tan. Everything came together beautifully. Reena Willis-Davis did my makeup for this show, and she knocked it out of the park. I wanted browns and pinks, my signature makeup palate. She crushed it, and I loved my look.
My coach was backstage with me for this show to give me some extra pointers and advice and to see first-hand how the carbs and salt were affecting my physique. Hour by hour my body started to change based on how much salt I added to my shrimp and how much honey was on my rice cake. We were both very pleased with the changes. It was time to hit the stage, and after a little shoulder, glute and hamstring pump up with some bands, I was ready. I walked on stage against 8 other women, and I felt amazing. The judges moved me to the #1 marker in the middle where I stayed for all of judging. That did not guarantee that I was first. You don’t find out for sure until finals, but I was confident that I placed well. I saw my friends and family in the audience, hooting and hollering! I was so grateful that they were there: my mom, sisters, and several friends from the gym. The only missing guests were Justin and Gianna. Justin was trying to win his own competition that day against Memphis in his Navy Football away game, but he was able to FaceTime during the judging to see me on stage.
After judging, I relaxed in the audience to spend time with my family. There was a 45-minute break before the 1-minute stage presentations began. After the break, I went back on stage to pose during my chosen song “Millionaire” by Cash Cash, a song that I picked because my personal motto is that I feel like a millionaire each day because I am healthy. It was the least rehearsed t-walk that I had performed out of my 4 career shows. I focused on having fun and being less technical. I think it showed.
When I was backstage for finals, I started to think about my journey over the past 12-weeks. I love this part of my story because the journey was filled with struggle. As I’ve written about before, my off-season weight got to an all-time high for me, and I was very uncomfortable in my skin during the start of prep. Weighing in at 142 pounds, I shed 18 pounds (a lot in water weight) in order to prepare for this show. It would have been much easier to prepare for the day if I had less weight to lose, but that in fact is what made winning even more sweet, the struggle. When my name was called as “the 1st place winner and newest OCB bikini pro,” I was elated. Every 5am wake up call, hour in the gym, hour in the kitchen meal prepping, and ounce of white fish eaten was worth it. All for the accomplishment of this goal, only 1 year into beginning the sport.
But the celebrating is over. As my husband stated in his morning love note to me yesterday, “Amateurs continue to celebrate. Professionals get back to work.” On October 28th, I will be making my pro debut at the largest pro show in the country in Upper Marlboro at the Yorton Cup. The competition will be fierce. So here in my kitchen at 6am today, it’s time to close my computer and get my gym clothes on, because fasted cardio awaits. There’s more white fish to eat and no more bread for 2 more weeks. I’ll train harder this week and next than ever for a chance to place well in this prestigious show. Have a great day, and thanks for your continued support.
I don’t have much to say this week other than I feel amazing.
I had my last training session this week with my coach, Joe, at the Colosseum in Columbia. A light upper body day with some posing. We talked about our game plan for this week’s diet (when to drop sodium and carb load). Peak week is very scientific, so everything from the amount of salt on my fish to the ounces of water I drink on Friday and Saturday is specific and calculated to produce a certain result, a super tight stage physique on show day. I got the stamp of approval from him and left feeling more ready than ever for Saturday. I also got to see my spring competition photos which are now on the walls of this famous local powerhouse gym.
This morning I was reviewing my blog post from my peak week this past spring, which was titled “A Rollercoaster of Emotions,” and I smiled because there in the title showed my progress from last show to this one. I feel like I am on the opposite of a rollercoaster today, more like a steady slow train, on a track that is not veering off to anywhere but its final stop: show day. In these past 4 weeks, my energy level has been extremely high and my mood very stable. This is surprising to me considering that my daily diet consists of mostly protein, green vegetables, almonds, and the smallest bowl of oatmeal that you’ve ever seen. Running on 1200 calories a day and burning between 2000-2500, I should be feeling much worse. But I’m not. I’ve actually never felt better. Despite my toddler interrupting my sleep earlier this week, I’ve been sleeping better as well which is paramount to this stage in the game. Reduce stress, rest, recharge.
Besides my physical progress, my mental progress is even more noteworthy. I had one weak moment this past weekend where I really wanted a bite of my husband’s Mission BBQ pulled pork. I miss meat, having lived on fish alone for the past 2 weeks as my primary source of protein right now. Until that moment, I had not even the desire for food outside of my strict diet. I don’t even have a big indulgence planned for Saturday night after the event. Carrot cake is usually my go-to from Stoney River, but I’ve gone without sugar for so long, that I know a few bites will make me feel awful, and I like feeling good.
The point in sharing all of this you is to remind you to look back at your progress from time to time. Mine is documented in pictures and blogs to remind me, so it is very easy to see. There are many ways to measure progress: numbers, pictures, feelings. Progress can be found in many things in many ways.
Progress is much more than a number on a scale.
Progress is much more than a number on a scale.
Progress is much more than a number on a scale.
Thank you for following my journey this fall. I am incredibly grateful for your support. If you would like to attend on Saturday, you can find the details for my show here on the Official OCB page. Off to rest and relax. The heavy lifting is done, and now it’s time to enjoy the moment.
Do you ever get that feeling that you’re on the right path? It hit me this morning when I was at the gym at 6am, getting in my workout before my family woke up. I checked my phone between sets of shoulder exercises and I got a message from a client who had recently hit a weight loss milestone. Then I thought back to all of the other messages I had received over the past several weeks from clients that were now “fitting into clothes that were too tight this summer,” “wearing two of their pre-pregnancy tops” and “losing weight while eating more food than ever before.”
I actually starting to tear up right there. I became overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude. I don’t speak of God too much in these posts, but I felt that he was right there with me saying, this is your path. I felt His warmth and guidance and presence. Whenever I get these messages of gratitude from these women, they usually end with a phrase thanking me for their success. I am always the first to respond to my clients that I did nothing. I am teaching them something that was taught to me, and THEY are doing all of the heavy lifting (so to speak). While many of my programs do offer a weight lifting plan, the bulk of my coaching is helping women to develop a better relationship with food, and that is where my gift truly lies. I have been putting one foot in front of the other for many years on this path, and it has led me to where I am today, with a gift for helping and motivating others. It gives me so much joy. I believe we all have these gifts and paths that we are destined to follow.
My sister, for example, is in the home healthcare field. She works with elderly patients who need special care and attention. She has so much patience and is so kind, and she is constantly praised for her work. She is on her path. My friend Amanda has a knack for event planning, specifically tailgates and special events (see photo below and on Instagram). She spends almost an entire year brainstorming for her kids’ birthday parties, and when their day finally arrives, you better believe that all of the invited guests RSVP yes. She is on her path.
Just as the right path is clear today, the wrong paths in life are also clear. Sometimes we just refuse to acknowledge or accept them. We deny them. We cope with them by being overly busy, or eating too much, or shopping online. If we only listened to the voice that guided us a bit more often, we might relieve ourselves of some pain and suffering.
With 13 days left until my first bikini competition this fall, the path down the bodybuilding road also feels like the right path for now. People always ask me what the end goal is, and I don’t really have one. Let’s be serious, I am 36-years old. Many women start this journey in their early twenties. Right now the end goal is to win my competition in 2 weeks, and earn my pro card. That’s as far as I look ahead. To what’s next. Not what’s next, then next, then next. Right now, this is my path.
Bodybuilding has taught me so many lessons. Trust the process. Be patient. Be patient. Be PATIENT. Winning takes sacrifice. Remember what’s most important in life. And it’s not bodybuilding. With each show, I choose to suffer more, because I want to obtain more. My last 2 preps, for instance, I chose a once a week “cheat meal” or refeed meal (calorie surplus meal) as a night out to my favorite steakhouse. I also would have occasional dark chocolate in the weeks leading up to the shows. That was all I was willing to suffer at that time, 6 days a week. This prep, my refeed meals have been 6-8 extra rice cakes a day. And there’s been no chocolate in this house for weeks. Fun, right? But this show I want more. So I choose to suffer more. As a result, my physique is better and I have experienced tremendous mental growth from this process. I know that no matter what happens in 13 days, I gave it my all.
Each show, I have to perform a 1-minute stage presentation where I choose a song and show off my hard work with a serious of choreographed poses on stage. This year’s song was a no-brainer, “Millionaire” by Cash Cash ft. Nelly. Certainly not for the context of the provocative words, but for the beat and to represent my personal motto: “My health is my wealth.” Everyday I wake up feeling like a millionaire because I am healthy. It is one of the blessings that I am most grateful for in life.
This prep, I have spent less time away from my family at the gym and at the grocery store, and more time getting up really, really early to achieve my goals. My little girl is growing up way too fast, and she couldn’t care less if Mommy had a 6-pack. She does, however, like to practice posing and show off her muscles. She doesn’t understand why I reluctantly give her a bite of my egg whites when she has a plate of something I’d much rather be eating. Maybe if I’m still doing this when she’s old enough to remember one my competitions, she’ll understand a little more.
I will continue to listen to the little voice that guides me down my path, and I will veer off and take a new direction when I am guided. We all have unique and special gifts, and I feel that we honor our lives by using them for good and to help others. Cheers to everyone today on the right path, and for those of you who are struggling, may you find the courage to listen to that voice and make a change.
It’s 4:07am as I sit in my dimly lit kitchen to write this blog. Last night was a new record. I was up every hour on the hour. I rolled over, looked at the time, debated if it it was too early to start my day. Any hour with a 2 in front of it, I forced myself back to sleep, but this morning at 3:15am, I just couldn’t sleep anymore. I laid in bed and felt my tummy, which is essentially now just skin, stretched over muscle. My hip bones protruding from my sides. Stomach rumbling. This is the fifth morning this week that I have been up before 5am, regardless of the timestamp on my daily Instagram story where I count down the days to my first competition this fall. 22 days to go. The good thing about getting up this early is that I get a lot done in the wee hours of the morning…and I get some nice hot black coffee. By 4pm, my brain is mush. By 8pm my body is physically worn and it’s hard to get up the stairs for bed. Last night I was in bed by 9pm, and my husband was a saint, eating his nightly snack after I left the room. I could hear the pantry door open as I settled into bed for the night. It would not have bothered me this week if he ate right next to me. At this close to a show, I don’t even see the temptation. Or my daughter’s grilled cheese. One might call them blinders. Regardless, a switch has been flipped and there’s no stopping me now.
This prep has been full of ups and downs, as recently as last week when I started to panic a bit. My weight was not dropping as quickly as my coach and I had hoped, due to my inability to stick 100% to my meal plan. No excuses. It was my fault. There were times during the past 9 weeks where I was not fully committed. After my last show, I let my weight get up to 142 pounds, which was a very uncomfortable place for me. I shared about this in an earlier post from this summer. Since then, we have been playing catch up to return me to my “normal weight” of 135/136 where I sit comfortable and happy. Losing that 7 pounds was pretty killer. Especially since some of that weight was definitely muscle. Even in the “off season” I am never off and continued to lift my booty and hamstrings 3 times a week. The scale was royally messing with my mind. Finally, after persistence, reassurance, and a lot of sweat, I got down to 132 pounds, where I sit this morning. I am now on target to hit my goal weights for both shows.
My first show is October 14th. It starts at 10:30am. It’s on a Saturday. There is no changing that. People change show dates all of the time because of personal conflicts and injury, but for me, there was no consideration for picking a first show at a later date. I am very big on commitment, and I did not want to let myself down. I have coached close to 200 women over the past two years since my online nutrition business has taken off, and I will tell you, the women who chose THEIR date were much more likely to meet their goals. Whether it was to trim up for an upcoming event or vacation, or just a random date that was set and committed to, those women succeeded more often than not. I teach a lot about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals in my groups which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. I ask my clients to WRITE DOWN their goals, being specific and aiming for a date. I am so passionate about helping women to achieve their goals, that I offer weekly challenges in my groups in order to force them to change and grow. This week my 23 ladies in my macro group are giving up processed foods for 5 days (ending tomorrow, which I am sure they are very happy about) in order for a chance to win a $100 Nordstrom or lululemon gift card. Would you give up peanut butter for a week for a chance to win the align pant in one of it’s fall colors? I would. Those pants are like butter. Mmmmm, butter. I digress.
I recently ran into a friend of mine who has lost 25 pounds. Her boyfriend is coming home from deployment in 6 weeks. She has never looked better. She set a her date and is crushing it.
In January, I have big plans to tie my macro groups to an end-of-session photo shoot, where women can show off their 8-week transformations by getting glammed up and photographed. I feel that everyone should have a beautiful photo of themselves. Especially my clients, many of which who are moms that spend a lot of time caring for others and putting themselves second.
I also have clients that come to me over and over and never make real changes. They repeat the same patterns over and over. They don’t plan ahead, the undo all of their hard work on the weekends, they make excuses. If you work with me, at times your get a big mouth full of tough love, and that’s only because I care. I care a lot. I identify the bullshit and highlight it, in a one-on-one setting. I ask people all of the time, how badly do you want it. Their actions will reveal their answer.
It’s almost time to get ready for the gym. In by 7am today and home to start my full-time job. My fire is lit, and it’s because I set a date. Maybe it’s time you set yours.
I’ve been thinking about the word “ego” a lot over the past few weeks.
ego, noun – a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance; the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.
I was lucky enough to get a spin bike in a special class that my friend, and fellow lululemon ambassador, Esther Collinetti taught a few weeks ago at the Sandlot in Baltimore. The Sandlot overlooks the Baltimore Harbour, and she taught an 8am class one Saturday morning to fifty riders outside. That week, I had been thinking that week about my goals for my fall competition season. I have 2 shows planned for the fall, with a possible third that I’m considering, and I really want to win my Pro Card this year. In order to do that, I have to place number one overall in bikini, beating every other competitor. I had been thinking about what it would take to win. I would have to change a few things about my training. I would have to work harder. I would have to sacrifice more.
When I was pedaling along during the first ten minutes of Esther’s 45-minute ride and listening to her inspiring words, it hit me really hard. Even if I work harder than ever, there is no guarantee that I will win. Esther talked about how we have to smash our egos, how working hard was a “given” when you are training and how we just need to take that leap of faith instead of worrying about all of the little steps along the way. I wished I could have stopped in the middle of class to write down even half of the inspirational phrases that she delivered. I kept saying to myself, “I have to remember this!” But by the end of the 45-minute, grueling workout, I only retained less than half of what she said. The workout was simply too hard, and my brain could not capture it all. You can take on of Esther’s classes for yourself at her cycle studio Rev in Baltimore. I promise you that it is worth the drive from Annapolis, even if you have to leave at 5:15am for her 6am class.
“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept YOURSELF.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
The off season has been a challenge for me in acceptance. Over the past 8 weeks, I have watched my body go from svelte and lean to soft and curvy. I have watched it and allowed it to happen. Partly because I know that I need to add calories and fat in order to “make gains” (grow my muscles) in the weight room and partly because I just didn’t care that much anymore about what I looked like. After being so very strict with my diet for over 4 months, it felt so nice to just relax and eat whatever. My stage weight during my last spring show was 124 pounds, and now I sit (uncomfortably) at little over 140. This is not what I had hoped would happen during my off season. In a “perfect world” I would have been a perfect student and reverse dieted perfectly, slowly increasing my food each week to minimize weight gain. But I am not perfect. When I go from living in my own little food prison during prep, to breaking out of jail, it is hard for me to live in balance. I have never been good with moderation, and it is something that I am always working on. In a perfect world, I would have gained a little bit of weight back after my shows (since stage weight is not a healthy weight for me), and sit more comfortably at 133 pounds. I am not body shaming myself or beating myself up for my softer body, I am just speaking truthfully about the struggles that I face. I am uncomfortable.
You may read this article and look at my photo and roll your eyes but I would not roll my eyes at you if you told me you were uncomfortable with an aspect of your life. My ego would not have allowed me to admit these feelings to you. It would have told me to keep these thoughts all inside and not to share them with the world. It would have told me to focus on self rather than to share my experience with others. My ego focuses on the outside world. My soul focuses on my insides. My ego is judgmental. My spirit accepts who I am right now. My ego feels less than. My soul feels abundance. My ego focuses on the past or the future. My soul is present focused.
I have been focusing on accepting things exactly the way that they are right now. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what I used to look like, and I don’t spend much time longing for my future fall season body. I just sit here in the present, feeling uncomfortable. I want to feel this feeling really hard right now because I don’t want to get back to this place after my fall shows. I want to do a better job with moderation, with reverse dieting and with slowing adding back my calories to achieve balance. This week marks 12 weeks out until my first fall show, so these feelings will start to go away as I tighten up my diet. I’ve been uncomfortable for the past several weeks, and I don’t want to go back to that place again.
I chose to write this blog post today to help others. To remind us all that there are times in our lives that we are going to be uncomfortable. Maybe our spouse’s job is unstable. Maybe there is a new health concern in our family. Maybe you too have lost your motivation this summer and are sitting at an uncomfortable weight for you – even if that is only 5 or 10 extra pounds. I challenge you to just sit with the discomfort. Feel the feelings. Don’t mask them with shopping or happy hour or being overly busy. Feel them. Decide if you can do anything about your current uncomfortable situation, and if so, get your ass off the couch and change what you can. Know that you have the power to shift the course of your life in many ways. You just need to find the courage to take the first step. Know that you need to shed your ego in order to grow. I have shed mine tonight when I shared this with you. I hope you have the courage to do the same in your life. Tomorrow is a new day. Go out there and crush it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step outside of your
If I entered in a bikini competition this weekend, I certainly wouldn’t win any trophies. I’ve been referring to this week as my “week of gluttony” to my husband who has seen me plow though some serious food over the past 7 days. (I hope my coach isn’t reading this).
**I may or may not have eaten an enormous tray of sushi this week from Ziki, including the Volcano and infamous Da BOMB rolls.
**I may or may not have eaten a chicken cheesesteak and fries from Heroes Pub. Oh and their steamed shrimp are amazing (not that I would know).
**I may or may not have picked up a piece of carrot cake from Stoney River, which may or may not have the best carrot cake within 100 miles.
**I may or may not have eaten several Levain Bakery cookies, shipped to my house from NYC two weeks ago.
**I may or may not have had the nuts ‘n more birthday cake nut butter everyday.
Sure I could pretend that I have been a perfect reverse dieter over the past week, but I think you know me well enough by know to know that I don’t pretend. Tomorrow kicks off my 2-week macro group with twenty new women, so I will get back to my healthy lifestyle then. For now, I’m finishing off the weekend strong.
I wrapped up my competition season with 2, 1st place trophies from the OCB, and 3 trophies from the NPC: 2nd Place in Masters 35+, 4th place in True Novice (never competed in the NPC before), and 5th place in Novice (never placed 1st in the NPC before. I trained for a total of 18 weeks for these shows. So am I mad at myself for my “week of gluttony?” Nope, I’m not.
My “off season” will continue through the summer, and I will begin training for my 3 fall shows in mid-August. An off season for me includes a little more flexibility in my diet (however not like the past week!) and a few less hours in the gym. I will still weight train for 3 hours a week and do about 3 hours of cardio, but I’ll incorporate 2 full rest days and more yoga. I will also plan to only track my macros during the week and leave the weekends off to enjoy more of a social life and meals out.
Despite my food fest, I did manage to do a few healthy things this weekend, including preparing a simple dish for lunches this week. The recipe is below. I hope to share more easy recipes with you over the summer on a weekly basis to help keep us all accountable in the warmer weather.
Sweet and Simple Honey Mustard & Goat Cheese Turkey Meatloaf Muffins
adapted from Skinnytaste
Macros for 1 muffin: 72 calories, 9P/1F/6C
3/4 cup grated zucchini, all moisture squeezed dry with paper towel
2T. onion, minced
2T. red pepper, diced
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs, recommend Ian’s
1 large egg
3T. honey mustard sauce, recommend Tessemae’s (non-GMO, no added sugar, dairy free)
1T. Flavor God Honey BBQ seasoning, or similar
salt + pepper
1 ounce goat cheese crumbles
1 package (about 16 ounces) ground turkey meat (used 95% lean)
Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Divide evenly into 10-12 greased muffin tins. My mixture made 11 muffins. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Enjoy!
I ended up cutting up all of the extra onion, red pepper and zucchini and sauteed it as a salad topper for this week. I love it when 1 meal prep idea performs double duty!
I was driving home from the gym this morning after my last heavy glute and hamstring day and a quick 30-minute HIIT spin class; seated next to me was a small brown bag breakfast that I picked up at Whole Foods for my family. Bacon, feta and veggie omelette, everything bagel, cinnamon raisin muffin and some seasoned white potatoes. Even though that cinnamon muffin did look enticing (and from the way my daughter devoured it, apparently it tasted as good as it looked), I was looking forward to a hot shower and my 1 cup of egg whites and 1/3 cup of oatmeal. This had been my breakfast everyday for the past 6 weeks, and with only 7 days from my last show this spring, I didn’t dare stray from the norm.
I started thinking about all of the other things in my life that had become my new normal after time. You know when you start to do something that is uncomfortable, and one day you realize that it’s not uncomfortable anymore and you’ve actually gotten good at it? I started to make a list of those things in my head, starting from way back in high school. I started to see a big picture view of the many ways that I have grown as an adult and the challenges and fears I’ve faced that have produced the person that I am today. After looking at this big picture, I hardly recognized the person that I once was – a timid, insecure teenager once very focused on gaining approval from others.
Here are some of the memories and thoughts I recalled from the past and the mental shifts that have since taken place:
- Feeling like an outsider in my high school group of friends who were all-star athletes. I was cut from field hockey (twice) in high school and from lacrosse. I joined the cross-country team to keep active and busy after school. Today, as a 36-year old mom, I am an athlete.
- Feeling like I didn’t fit in during my college years with my friends who always had the best clothes or latest new handbags. Today, material things mean less than ever to me. I don’t even know who the “Joneses” are, nor do I care.
- Feeling like I would “stand out” if I stopped drinking and partying in my twenties. What would people think if I drank a club soda at a social event instead of a vodka soda? Guess what, 95% of the people who don’t notice, or care. I have no issues being around alcohol, but I have no desire to drink it. I am more self-assured than ever before.
- Feeling scared about the idea of having a baby. How would it affect my marriage? Would it change everything? How would I be able to still find time for myself? How would my body change? Having a baby was one of the scariest and best things ever. Yes, it changed everything, for the better. Now my heart is 100 times bigger. Scheduling time for me and the hubs is a priority which is why we still have almost weekly date nights.
- Being concerned with others opinions of me. I would say this is the area in which I have grown the most, actually tipping to the complete opposite end of the spectrum. I really don’t give a crap what you think of me. I am living in my own truth each day, and that is an extremely freeing feeling.
- Feeling uncertain about adding a weight training program to my exercise routine. Would it make me look unfeminine or bulky? After years of practice and experimenting with exercises, I am so comfortable in the weight room, not only performing the exercises, but asking for help or suggestions if I have a question. And as for it making me bulky. I have learned from experience that muscle growth depends on the food you eat and the intensity of the lifts that you perform, and no I will not get bulky.
- Feeling nervous about training for a bikini competition. But what if I fall ON MY FACE on stage?! I really like eating whatever I want. Training is a new passion of mine and during the 4 months that I train, I can easily stay on track most of the time with occasional treats. Posing used to be my weakest link, but now it’s quickly becoming a skill that I am very confident in.
- Apprehensive about the BIGGER goals that I now have, including earning my Pro Card. I’ll let you know AFTER that happens, how I feel.
You see, the things that were once a concern are not even a second thought today. Everyday I just wake up and put one foot in front of the other. At night when I go to bed I ask myself if I’ve been a good wife, a good mom, a good employee, a good friend, a good coach, and if I’ve taken good care of me that day. I am not perfect at all of these things each day, but I try really hard to do my best. If I see a weakness in one area, I make an adjustment.
So often when we measure progress, we look at how we did yesterday or last week or last month even. We do not look at the years, sometimes decades of work that we have put in to become the person that we are today. We do not give ourselves enough credit for the growth that we have experienced over THAT amount of time. This growth extends way beyond the physical into the mental, emotional and most importantly, spiritual.
I share this message today as a push for you to jot down some of these simple thoughts or milestones in your life. Write them all down. Any small shred of progress that you have seen and made. After you are finished, I want you to look at everything you’ve written. I want you to take a moment to be really proud, because I’m sure you’ve overcome some little stuff and some really big shit, like me. Life is not a race. It is a journey through peaks and valleys. I cannot wait to see what is around the corner, but for today, I am on this path and my feet are on the ground below. I am present in the now. You can read more about the show I’m competing in on Sunday, May 14th here. As always, thank you for your continued support.
1 down. 1 to go.
That’s how I felt when I stepped off stage for the last time at 3pm in the afternoon on Saturday. Feet swollen, physically drained from a few too many mini Justin’s peanut butter chocolate cups and rice cakes with jelly, with two trophies and a crown in my hand. I had done it. 1st Place in Open Class B. 1st Place in Novice Class B. Top 3 overall out of over 20 beautiful ladies. It was an awesome day. I was so proud of the strides I had made in 6 months since my first show in October, most notably my posing. I felt much more comfortable and confident on stage, and I think it showed overall.
My backstage persona is very business-like. I really like to tune out and focus. You won’t find me making much small talk before pre-judging. I compete to win, and I tend to keep to myself which helps me to stay in the zone. You’ll definitely find me with my headphones on (not the BIG ones for fear of flattening out my stage hair) and my backstage playlist ringing in my ears. You’ll find Eminem, Nelly, Rihanna, and Major Lazer cued up for sure. My T-walk song was to Sia’s, Move Your Body, which has been on repeat in our home for the past three months. Even Gianna knows the chorus.
When it was my turn to meet the judges, I did my best to stay in the moment. To remember all of the days and the hours leading up to THIS. THIS was the chance to show off all of my hard work. I was not nervous. I was confident. I had worked so hard, and this was the best me I could be after about 4 months of hard core training. When I got moved to the center of the stage in both Open and Novice, I knew that I had placed well. Relief. Gratitude. Affirmation. I was so proud. My husband was too. I was included on the group texts as he sent my coach the play-by-plays for the day. He is my biggest fan. I could not do this without his support.
When the time came to compete against the other 2 winners of Classes A and C, we had to pose again and then have a “pose off” to determine the winner. This was comical to us, since neither of us were exactly sure what a “pose off” was, but we did our best to show off our best angles while having fun. I did not win my Pro Card that day, but I was proud to place top 3 overall.
As much as I love the sport, I am looking very forward to the summer. Slower times. More flexibility. More time with family and a social life. Competing is so much fun, but it’s also extremely taxing on me mentally. I haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep in weeks. I’m up every few hours either hungry or my mind racing with thoughts about things that I cannot control. The summer sun and some trips to the beach are just what I need come June.
For now though it’s back to reality. I have 12 days left before I compete on Mother’s Day in the NPC Natural Capital Classic in Laurel, MD. This next show will be much larger and more competitive, so there’s not time to sit back and relax. My goal is to come in two pounds leaner in the next show and hopefully place well in the Masters 35+ grouping. I expect no less than 50 overall competitors with at least 10 in the 35+ category. I am registered for True Novice (First NPC show), Novice (Never Placed 1st Overall), Open (All ages and levels) and Masters. 4 chances to win, and a lot of 20-somethings. In retrospect, I would not have chosen a show on Mother’s Day. I would much prefer to be home being a mother, but when I registered for the show, I didn’t realize the Sunday it fell on. Regardless, I believe it’s a sign and a symbol that I am many things besides a mother, and it is okay for moms everywhere to have goals and aspirations of their own besides raising a child. This show is dedicated to my little girl.
I’m off to train my heart out for the next 12 days. 9 workouts remain. 72 meals left that all need to be perfect and boring and consist of greens and whole foods. All leading up to showtime. Then the carbs. All the carbs. Wish me luck.
This was hands-down the hardest week of prep. I’m sitting here at 6 days out on Sunday afternoon while my daughter is napping, and I can’t help but reflect on the week. My husband just finished off a Capriotti’s cheesesteak and chips in the seat next to me as he works on his football recruiting. He was kind enough to text me to ask if he should just eat it at the restaurant or bring it home so I could run to the gym for posing practice. He probably didn’t know what the “right” thing to do was because I’ve been a bit of a loose cannon the past few days. So instead of posing right now, I am just sitting and relaxing and writing, and I was fine with him enjoying his lunch next to me. Man it looked good.
I think my body finally said ENOUGH on Wednesday, the day after my 36th birthday (which happened to be the strangest birthday of my life). Do you know how weird it is to eat a 1/2 grapefruit as a your “birthday cake.” Now whenever Gianna sees me eating my daily 1/2 grapefruit (a fibrous acidic carb that helps to promote digestion), she starts to sing “Happy Birthday to you Mommy…” then asks to share it. God bless her, she wants ALL of my foods and turns down her chewy granola bars and moist homemade banana pancakes covered with peanut butter so that she can eat cucumbers and “Mommy’s eggs.”
Mind-racing nights tossing and turning, afternoons filled with low energy and brain fogs, a few bouts of tears while lying on the sofa after a long day juggling my job, my training and my family, this week my motivation and energy were at an all-time low. Thank goodness for my coach who helped me through some tough times. Joe won the Overall Bodybuilding Champion last March at the NPC Gladiator, so he knows a thing or two about these feelings and emotions (that’s why I hired him).
“It’s completely normal,” he said. “It’s always those last few weeks too. I swear it’s your mind trying to trick you into giving up and just eating more. You should be proud. I usually only see it when people push themselves into really good conditioning. My other client had it last week but he is leaner than he was last year on stage already. His body is trying to fight that. But you have surpassed last year’s conditioning and now I think your body is like ‘hey, when are you still pushing?'”
That simple text reminded me that this IS normal for the stress that I am putting on my body. These feeling are what can make or break a competitor. These last few weeks, especially last week, challenged me more mentally than any other. Today, I am holding strong at 129 pounds. I started prep at 136ish, and my goal is 127 by Saturday. I’ll get there. My diet has been pretty boring. Minimal carbs and only in the morning. Lots of lean proteins (mostly fish) and greens for days. At night, I get to eat 18 whole almonds, and it’s the highlight of my day. My sodium and water levels are normal. I still add salt to my foods, and I still drink 1.5-2 gallons of water a day. During a typical “peak week,” carbs are slowly added towards the end of the week to start to fill out the muscles more, which have become depleted and flat over the past few weeks. Since this is my first of 2 shows in the next 3 weeks, my second show being on May 14th, my “peak week” will look like a normal week on my diet, and we will reserve a lot of the fun carbs for the week of the second show. We want to make sure that I continue to progress even further over these next 21 days, so my best “package” (a term bodybuilders use to refer to their physique) is for that Sunday.
Regardless of the food, this week is still so incredibly exciting. I’ve worked for over 100 days to prepare for this show. I’ve done over 80 hours of lifting and 60 hours of cardio during that time. I’ve taken a total of 10 rest days. Most of the hard training is done. This week, my exercise schedule will be light. I’ll focus more on light lifts, moderate short cardio sessions and lots of posing. I’ll get a little pampering too. Hair, nails, and nice blow dry before the infamous dark spray tan is applied on Friday afternoon. You know the one. Friday will be devoted to rest, reflection and a stress-free day. I trained for this show as hard as I could. I gave it everything I had in me. I know that my physique has surpassed the one that I brought to the stage last fall, so I’ve already won there. I’ll have my husband by my side supporting me, my friends and family in the crowd. I’ll go out there and give it everything I have left. That’s all I can do. At the end of the day, it the training and the challenge that drives me. In this 16-weeks, I’ve been mentally challenged like no other. Now all I want is the hardware to prove it. 6 days and counting…here goes.