One girl's journey into the world of Figure competition

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The 3 C’s: The Key to Growth

I recently read a great forum post by a lifter on bodybuilding.com.  Check it out here.  It’s called the 80/20 Rule for Lifting and calls your attention to reality: 80% of what you do doesn’t matter.

Supplements, routines, macro nutrient minutiae: all that is distraction to a degree.  You should focus on the 20% that matters and I’m calling that 20% “The 3 C’s: Challenging, Consistent, Clean.”

The 3 C’s are what you must do to achieve any growth or body change result:

Challenging:
Lift weights that challenge your muscles to failure and keep increasing weight as you gain strength.

Consistent
:
Keep at it.  This is how results happen.  It takes time, but if you keep at it you will see your body change.

Clean:
What you eat matters.  Lean protein, complex carbs, natural fats.  Don’t eat crap or else you will never get where you want to be.  Your body is made in the kitchen – no joke on this one.

Follow the 3 C’s above, see results, repeat.

I’m changing my outlook on this bulking period and sticking with it until March: Screw the details.

Lift heavy, lift often, eat enough, rest enough.  Oh, and have fun.

What does your bulk look like?


At the Starting Blocks: Week 1 Bulk

Off we go!

This morning I took my initial set of measurements and stepped on the scale for the first time in a long while.

During the warmer months, I’m usually about 5 pounds leaner with my legs being tighter and more defined; however, after the holidays, being sick for 2 weeks without working out, and being on creatine and increasing carbs for the past week, I’m a little soft in the lower body and abs.

Regardless, this is the start – not the finish – and I’m looking to add size, so the weight gain and temporary discomfort are all part of the game.  I had to look back on my post here to remind myself that this whole process has a beginning and an end.

Here are the results from today (all measurements are relaxed):

1/4/14
WEEK 1
WEIGHT 144.60
WAIST 29.00
CHEST 37.00
HIPS 37.75
RIGHT ARM 10.50
RIGHT THIGH 21.00
SHOULDER WIDTH 41.25

When I look back at my 2012 numbers, I had finished my bulk with close to the same measurements as above but with 10 more pounds.

I’m hoping to add about 1″ back to my shoulders and arms during this bulk and keep my hip and thigh measurements relatively similar to where they are now, although gaining some size in those areas is inevitable.

Below you can see the comparison of where I stand today at 145 pounds and were I was in 2012 at 150.  In the 2012 photo, I was about 3 weeks into the cutting phase after a 4 month bulk and was much fuller and rounder than I am now.  Granted, I was posing and in heels in the photo from 2012 and am relaxed and in bare feet in the photo from today, but I was certainly bigger.

JAN BOD 4

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JAN BOD 2 JAN BOD 1

Right now I’m rocking the lean, runner / dancer look, which is fine, but I definitely want to push to balance out my muscular lower half with a more rounded, full upper body.

DIET
This past week I executed the 45 carb /40 protein /15 fat breakdown that I referenced in my previous post; however, my mood and libedo plummeted.  I was quickly reminded how flat and emotionless I felt during my 20 week cutting phase before my competition over a year ago and immediately knew that I needed to shift my macros – bulking should be fun!

I did some additional research and found this great article on Simply Shredded, one of my favorite sites.  I highly recommend reading this if you’re in – or starting – your building phase.

I discovered that the cause of what I was experiencing was due to too drastic a reduction of my dietary fats.  Fats are responsible for normal hormone function (including testosterone) and if they are reduced too much you risk experiencing the effects like those above and you can inhibit your body from reaching an anabolic state.

I have since revised my macros to the below and will follow this breakdown this week:

MACRO TARGET % CALORIES GRAMS
CARB 0.45 1,035 259
PROTEIN 0.35 805 201
FAT 0.20 460 51
TOTAL 1.00 2,300

WORKOUTS
I have stuck to my 3 day / week split, although I truly miss being in the gym 6 days a week.  I’m focusing on getting plenty of rest on my off days and trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night (I was getting about 6).

I’m not sure if it’s because I have been sick recently and my body is still recovering, or if it’s because my lifts are more complete, heavier and more taxing, but I have definitely felt shot after each gym session this week.

I’m working out each body part during each workout and am doing 5 sets of 10 reps per exercise, failing on the last 1 or 2 sets.  I’m focusing on lifting heavy with excellent form.

While I was hell-bent on maintaining at least one program for a solid month, I have been wanting to challenge myself mentally and physically and so on Monday (1/6), I’m starting CrossFit.

Based on the fact that I have been doing regular bodybuilding lifts for over two years, this change to more olympic, dynamic movements will surely shock my system and hopefully fuel growth.

I’m extremely curious to see how my body reacts and, if needed, I’ll shift my calories and regular lifting sessions (if I still need them) accordingly.

Will definitely keep you posted.


The New Year of 2014

It’s a new year, and while that doesn’t mean it’s time to start over, the beginning of a new year is a good place to start.

I have been training myself since my competition last November, and while I have positively changed the appearance of my physique (stronger, more define abs, better glute structure), I have not gained the upper body size I have been chasing after for two years.

Over the holidays, I got the urge to compete again in order to have a focus, a plan, a goal; however, after reviewing the pure financial cost associated with pursuing another competition – forget about the opportunity cost – I just can’t swing it this year.

While chatting with my targeted trainer / coach the other week, I told her how I had been lifting for over a year but hadn’t gotten the size gains I wanted.  She mentioned that I probably needed to stimulate my body in new ways – more dynamic movements and a modified diet, consisting of more carbohydrates.

So while I save up the funds to hit the stage in 2015 – if not sooner – I have resolved to make some shifts in my overall training / diet regimen starting this week to see where it takes me.

—-

The Plan: Clean bulk over the next 3 months, starting the cutting phase in April

The Diet: 45 carbs / 40 protein / 15 fats
– Starting with 2000 calories, making adjustments as I review my measurements and weight every week

The Workout: 3 days instead of 6 days
– Incorporating more rest days
– Targeting all body parts each work day with more dynamic / power movements

The Results: Will keep you posted with photos and measurements

Starting Point:

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The Show – An incredibly late recap!

Show day finally arrived on November 18 and I felt ready.  I got up at 5AM and by 6 I was in lower Manhattan for hair and make up.

I was amped up, dried out and ready to go.  Looking at the images below, I can see how small I started to look after the hours of cardio that I put in.  This is why it’s so important to have a really strong and thick muscle base to start with when you begin to lean out.  You will always lose some.

My boyfriend commented to me, “I didn’t think you would get this skinny.”  I didn’t think so, either.   Regardless, I felt good.

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I got to the venue around 11AM, checked in and then waited for them to let us backstage.  Once we were allowed into the dressing area, I got my final buff down and grease up from my amazing coach and was ready to hit the stage.

I ate rice cakes, almond butter and honey during the morning and you can see how I filled out in the shoulder area from the morning photo above.

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I walked on stage, executed my poses and felt confident.  You can see all the contest photos  here.  I guarantee my hair did not look as messed up as it does in all these photos – just bad timing.

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I placed 8 out of 10 with some clear areas of improvement: Larger upper body, more defined and lifted glutes and hamstrings.

Regardless, I was happy with the results.

After the show my best of friends came to support me at the show with homemade tee-shirts and a big sign.  It made my night.

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I felt fit and fab for the next week as I travelled to SFO for Thanksgiving.

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My full tan hung around for a good week post show (I am usually my mom’s color) and parts of my tan are still hanging around on my feet and thighs 3 weeks later.

I was surprised how unhappy my digestive system got after incorporating long forgotten foods into my diet again: stomach cramps abounded as I ate things I hadn’t eaten in almost a year, but after about a week, they dissipated.

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It was nice to take a break from the gym and be outside in the sunshine for a while.  But I was ready to get back to NYC and ready to get back to clean eating after a few days of fun.

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I’m back to lifting now and am having an amazingly FUN time in the gym again.  Working out for yourself is sometimes so much easier than working out because you MUST.

Throughout prep I feared that I would never want to lift another weight again, but now it’s clear to me how important fitness is in my life and how much I want it to stay a big part of it.

I have been pretty easy on myself in terms of diet.  I’m eating frequently and cleanly but have little cheats here and there.  My six pack is just a glimmer of what it once was, but that’s okay.  I’m not freaking out.  I’m not out of control.

I have decided that I want to work on my overall physique to obtain the proper proportions that a figure competitor needs.  I’m going to spend the next 6 months or so building for ME and not necessarily building for a show.  If, towards the end of the year I want to compete again, I will, but for now, living a healthy, fit lifestyle and feeling amazing about myself is my goal.

I have learned a lot this past year and will recap my learnings soon.  As for now, I’m enjoying life with friends, working through a transition in my relationship (why does it feel like we all go through that after our first competition?) and sorting some things out in my life.

Fitness, health and wellness don’t have to stop because I don’t have a show in my future at the moment; they are my idea of fun and one of my favorite parts of my life.

And I’m excited for them to continue to be.  Every day.  Every way.

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Happy Birthday To Me

So instead of celebrating my birthday on stage and then celebrating my birthday with a delicious and much awaited post-competition meal, I will continue on the straight and narrow path to competition (see previous post).

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I took some serious inspiration from Abs of Steel (a fantastic and well-writtem blog if you haven’t yet subscribed) and woke up “early” this Saturday morning and was at the gym by 9AM.  I kicked out a great workout:

Squats (6 sets)
Deadlifts (4 sets)
Plyo jumps super-setted with leg press (4 sets)
Glute bridge super-setted with one legged lunges (4 sets)
Leg extensions (4 sets)
Leg curls (4 sets)
Abs

All followed by a 45 minute spin class – very sweaty.  

Back to the apartment for 6 egg whites, 140gm tilapia, 125 gm greenbeans (by that time it was 12:30PM and I had only eaten 1/2 a scoop of whey protein + supplements).  

Onward we go today, tomorrow and the next 2 weeks, until the job is done.

Happy birthday to me!

  

 


Throw a Wrench In It

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So I was one week out… Then I was three days out…  Then all of a sudden, I was 2.5 weeks out.

Not cool.

The Hurricane that took the East Coast by surprise caused chaos in NYC and caused my show, which was on November 3, to be pushed out to November 18.  I understood.  This change was all with good reason (no power, no public transportation, massive flooding), but this threw me for a loop.

Disappointment abounded.  I was really looking forward to some pizza and some cake on the 3rd (my birthday) and I am admittedly tired of dieting.

After having prepped and prepped and felt like there was no end in sight, I was finally coming up to the finish line and pushing through.  Then, on Wednesday night, I got an email from my coach telling me the bad news.

So here I am, now 2.5 weeks out.  I’m going to kick it back up again, re-set.  I’ll be in a better state of mind this time to do the salt and water depletion that I have to do.  I will get there – just a little more to go.

There will only be a more positive outcome because of it.

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Getting There

You know, I thought I would go into this whole prep screaming from the rooftops about my progress, telling everyone every detail of my life from how I was feeling to what I was eating to what I was working out and when.

But I didn’t.

By the time I was about 6 weeks out (my last post) I was overcome with doubt. I felt like I would never get to where I wanted or needed to be to take the stage. I wanted to give up and I wanted to convince myself that it just wasn’t worth all the trouble.

But for some reason I didn’t.

Instead of sharing my feelings with you all, I kept it inside. I kept quiet.  I got frustrated, but I also got to work.

I hit the cardio hard. Hit the weights. I struggled through many fights with my boyfriend about the stupidest things because I had suddenly turned angry from all the dieting, all the exercise and none of the good stuff (sleep, sex or food).

I was allowed one cheat meal at about 5 weeks out during which I consumed lots of pizza: It was good.

I struggled with low energy at work while I transitioned to a new role within the company, which really ran me ragged.  Trying to focus and learn a new area on very little food and very little energy is not an easy task.  At about 4.5 weeks out I told myself, “This is just how you’re going to feel.  You are going to feel shitty.”

I ate lots of chicken and lots of vegetables. I started carb cycling at 4 weeks out. I added some new supplements to my regime: a new thermo, more BCAA’s, L-Carnitine and some Glutamine.

On the weekends I worked out.  During the week, I worked out.  Before work I worked out.  After work I worked out.  And when I wasn’t working out I was at work.  Or I was cooking chicken or at the grocery store.

And now here I am: 2 weeks out. I am 2 pounds away from my goal weight.  I feel pretty damn good.  I have been practicing posing.  I have my hair and makeup appointment set.  I have my bottles of tanner ready to go.  I have my “tan plan” all set.  I still need to get my jewelry.

The only cruddy thing is that I got my suit in the mail today and I think it’s too small…

On to the next battle, right? Let’s see if I can fix this one…


Sunday

I am about 6 weeks out now. I am 147 pounds and need to be around 138 before I’m totally dried out. I have about 9 pounds to lose, about 2 pounds a week and so I’m really hunkering down to strip down.

I have been struggling lately with the amount of coaching I have been paying for and the amount of coaching I have been receiving. I can’t help but feel like I have been an afterthought throughout this whole prep and am worried that I won’t be fully prepared or prepped.

The thing that gets me is that there have been a lot of dollars involved and I feel like I haven’t really gotten what I anticipated / need.

This does not do a lot for me in terms of trusting what is going to happen over the course of the next 6 weeks. Am I going to get to show day and not be ready? Will there be a show?

My cardio was increased from 2 hours a week to 6 hours last week, so I am now on the cardio train almost every day. I am riding my bike around the city, running, attending spin classes and doing the stairmill either in the mornings or after my lifting sessions.

My diet is at 1500 calories a day now (45 protein / 40 carb / 15 fat). I am taking vitamins and other supplements, along with creatine and will add in a recommended fat burner once it arrives in the mail.

Cravings are starting for food that I would never crave normally, only because I want to taste something. The foods I have been eating are bland, which I never minded before but now since there is no leeway for the off-diet food choices, I am wanting everything from hot dogs to Pop Tarts to Snickers bars.

Progress is being made, though. My trainer said that I was looking tighter when he saw me on Wednesday. I see it mostly in my upper body, but my abs are coming out and I can tell that in about 3 – 5 pounds they will be completely there.

Yesterday when I took a spin class I could see my abs in the mirror as I sweated my behind off. Good to know there is muscle underneath my skin.

In terms of mood, I am snappy like a turtle and tired. My energy is low and I’m trying my best to stay happy and positive.

The thought of having a cheeseburger with bacon and mushrooms and a cold draft beer at the end of this all is helping me get through.

I’m doing my best to keep pushing. My coach said to work on my core, my trainer said to work on my legs, I think I need to work on the whole damn package.

Today I have legs on the agenda along with sprints and steady state stairmill. I’ll post my workout later today.

Where was everyone else at 6 weeks out? What does your coaching consist of? What are you getting for your buck?


Movement and Change

I have to admit: I have had some doubts during the past few weeks of prep.

I felt sure that I was getting leaner but the scale was not moving progressively downward, which played some tricks with my head.  I could see my abs coming out in the right light, my butt was tightening up, but as far as the scale was concerned…

One day I would be at 152, the next day: 151, the next day 153.  It was like that for about 2 – 3 weeks.  I thought for sure I was doing something wrong.  I was probably eating too much, I was stagnating – what was going on?

In my head my thoughts were: I’m not making enough progress.

So yesterday I emailed the photo below to my trainer and my coach.  This was the photo from last Sunday.  I was checking my email every 5 minutes to see what they would say and when I did receive their responses, they were both incredibly positive.

I told them that I wasn’t losing weight and they both said that it was very possible I was still gaining muscle but that I definitely looked leaner.

Thank you, Figure Gods!

My coach said that I could up my cardio to 45 minutes a session from 30 for the next week before we have our in-person check in.  I am also being extremely careful to keep my macros and calories in check.  I never deviated far, but there were a few days where I was a little over.

 

Last night I did the full 45 minutes after my “resting day lift” of bis and tris.  I followed macros to a T.  This morning what did I find when I stepped on the scale?  150.6!

I have not seen that number since my weight was on the way up during the bulking phase.  Although I know not to live by the scale, this means that my body is changing.

Last night, my boyfriend told me that my legs were definitely looking tighter and the other night in the gym someone who I hadn’t seen in a while came up to me and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you look good!  I remember when you first came in here and you look great!  You’re consistent, making progress.”

I needed that.

Here we go!  Finishing out the 5th week of cutting on Sunday.  I am out of town this weekend, going home to visit my Grandmama for her 96th birthday!  I will post a new photo early next week – looking forward to seeing what’s happening.

What’s going on with your prep?


Posting and Progress

I recently read a post on someone’s blog informing readers that just because she hadn’t been posting didn’t mean that she wasn’t making progress.

And here I am, stating the same.

I have been waking up early (read 5:30AM) and riding my bike downtown with a change of clothes, makeup, meals for the day, post-lifting and post-cardio workout drinks and a change of shoes on my back.  I usually get to the gym in midtown by about 6:05AM and start working out by 6:15.

After a good 45 – 60 minute lift, I down my BCAA’s and head upstairs to the cardio area where I bang out 30 minutes of either walking on an incline at 15% at about 3.3 – 3.8MPH (2 times a week) or I do 20 minutes of walking with 10 minutes of HIIT sprint intervals (only 2 times a week).

After the cardio I’m pretty sweaty, so I hit the showers, dress for the day, and walk my bike (along with all my other stuff) to work where I kick through an 8 hour day of retail new product development.

I have to say that I am really tired of feeling like a sherpa every day of the week.  Toting around at least 4 Tupperware containers and a change of clothes and shoes at all times is kind of  a pain in the behind.  Does anyone have suggestions for how to cope with this?

There has to be a better way!

I am taking my progress pics for this week tonight; however, here are my pics from Week 2 (today starts Week 5 of cutting).

 

I am nervous to see what the photos from tonight look like, only because my weight has been dropping ever so slightly, although I feel like I see changes in my overall appearance.  We will see what the evening brings!

I will post the photos from tonight tomorrow so you can see the difference.  I’m kind of terrified but I have about 11 weeks, so if I ned to kick it up a notch again, so be it.

Get ready for more updates soon!


To Cut or Not To Cut

That is no longer the question.

Last Saturday I met with my coach for measurements and a final weigh-in.  After 8 months of eating a clean, consistent diet of about 2400 calories and working out hard, my bulking phase was about to end.

I had gained 10lbs since I saw my coach the first time over 6 months ago.  While my body fat had increased a few percentage points over those months, when I met her last week I was back to my original BMI.

That was good news: I had gained muscle, not fat.  In order to prepare for a competition in either October or November, it was time to get started dieting right away.

Huzzah!

To celebrate the beginning of the other half of my journey I bought my shoes: The  Stiletto Heel Two-Band Mini-Platform Slide 5″ Heel LIP-102 ($38.99) from Sinful Fashions online.

Things are gettin’ real!

Monday (7/30) I started in with my new diet plan.  I was directed to reduce my calories by about 800, start in with four 30-minute cardio sessions a week and am now on the path towards “the stage” (wherever that may be).

I have dropped about 4 pounds this week and feel remarkably slimmer, but for some silly reason I keep thinking I should look way different right away.

Why don’t I look cut yet?! I asked myself in the gym the other day, and then I thought: This has only just begun.  It takes time, remember?

I took a minute to laugh because when I was bulking I felt the same way, asking myself why I wasn’t getting bigger faster, but I eventually got where I wanted to be.

Every part of this journey takes patience.  Progress comes with time and does not happen instantly: This is important to remember in bodybuilding and in real life.  If progress were so quick and easy, we would all be miles from where we are today.  The key to making it through is your determination to succeed.  Keep pushing and it will be progress that you make.

I can see glimmers of how this whole package is going to come together.  I definitely have a long way to go, but I’m going to get there!

Here I am at one week in.

Where are you in your journey to the stage?


Not For The Contest Prepper – Cheesecake

I love to bake.

In the days when I lived in Ohio I baked all the time: cookies, cakes, cupcakes.  I even went through a phase when I baked all my own bread.  Baking was my creative outlet and everything I baked I enjoyed sharing with my friends and neighbors.

However, after moving to NYC, taking treats to work isn’t as easy as throwing a Tupperware container in the back seat of my Toyota Corolla.  Taking a cake on the crowded morning subway requires patience and elbow room.  I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but bringing a layer cake on the train isn’t my idea of an easy commute.

Needless to say, I have not done much baking in New York, so when I received an invitation to a friend’s apartment for a 4th of July BBQ I immediately said I would bring dessert – and I decided to give myself a challenge: A cheesecake!

I found a recipe for what I am hoping to be the best darn cheesecake I have ever made on SimplyRecipes.com.  Mostly because I have never before in my life made a cheesecake.

Photo credit: SimplyRecipes.com

So this morning, upon rising, I made a run to the grocery store for the needed ingredients and decided to put my oven to work for something other than chicken.

The cheesecake is baking away now.  Once this puppy is done, it’s off to the gym to hit back and abs.

My fingers are crossed!


Hello Mr. Pop Tart

Would someone please tell me why, after many many years – many – of never having eaten a Pop Tart, I’m suddenly craving one?

Just one.

A toasted Strawberry one with frosting and sprinkles. Just a little brown around the edges and steaming hot in the middle. Just about right.

Photo Credit: erineph.com

I went to the grocery store tonight to get some eggs, almond milk and the like and there they were: Pop Tarts.

Photo credit: abetterbagofgroceries.com

I picked up the box to see if maybe I had perhaps remembered incorrectly that each pastry had 200 calories and over 15g of sugar a piece, but damnit, I was right.

My next question to myself was: Could I use a Pop Tart as a post-workout insulin spiking treat? Instead of drinking Waxy Maize could I eat a frosted Pop Tart?

It did not take too long for me to put the box back on the shelf (although I did compare the nutrition information between the frosted with the un-frosted version – you save 3g of sugar) and check out with no cheats except a 4-pack of sugar free pudding (which was really not that great, BTW).

I should have opted for a Pop Tart.

I’m a little weirded out because I’m not even in prep yet and I’m craving childhood treats. I think the last time I had a Pop Tart was in the 90’s.

What do you crave?


From Someone Who Did It – Motivation For This Week

 


Pill Popping

I don’t know about you, but I like to make the lesser important things in my life happen quickly.

To me, efficiency is much better than not when it comes to things like: laundry, grocery shopping, commuting and meal preparation.  You should see my kitchen on Sunday nights – it’s an assembly line.

I would spend all day making and decorating cookies because to me, that’s fun, but I do not want to spend all day cooking 12 pounds of chicken.  So when it comes to taking supplements, which is a “must-do but not so enjoyable” thing, I want this to be quick, too.

My boyfriend prefers to take every bottle down from the cabinet each morning and evening, pour out the prescribed dosage and throw each pill back in his own time.

I, on the other hand, use this handy weekly pill separator and fill it every Sunday night (as my chicken is cooking) with everything I’m going to take for the week.

In the AM, I take the pills in the bottom half of the container and then in the afternoon I take the final amount (I bring that to work in a zip lock bag).  When it’s time to take the pills, I throw all of them in my mouth at once and down they go (with water, of course).

It’s a mouthful, but it saves a lot of time.

How do you manage your pills?


The Little Food Scale That Could

If you’re a competitor, you know the importance of tracking your food.  Eyeballing portions won’t cut it (or so I am told) when you’re weeks away from the stage.  You have to know exactly what is going into your body so you can fine tune your nutritional needs up until show day.

As soon as I decided that I wanted to compete, I decided that I had to get into the habit of measuring and tracking my food so that it was nothing more than a habit when it started to really count.

After quite a while fussing with an analog model, I quickly found a scale that works amazingly well: The Ozeri ZK011 Precision Pro Stainless Steel Digital Kitchen Scale ($19.95).

It’s not too fancy and not too simple.  It will measure weights up to 11lbs and changes from grams to ounces to fluid ounces to pounds with the touch of a button.

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I have yet to experience this feature, but I am told that it even tells you when it’s running low on batteries.  This baby has made Sunday night meal preparation a breeze.

What do you use to measure out your meals?


Supplements, Supplements Everywhere

Since the beginning of June I have added a few items to my supplement routine in order to promote better dietary balance and stimulate and protect muscle growth even more.

My diet is currently running at about 2400-2600 calories a day; carbohydrate to protein ratio is around 1.6 : 1.  Fat is about 10% of my calories.

I was taking in about 3,000 calories up until the beginning of June.

My weight has fluctuated since I started bulking as my body grew (of course).  Adding to the fluctuation of weight was the fact that I didn’t have a scale on which I was consistently checking in.  I would be at Gym A one day, Gym B another, Gym C (yes, I have a Gym C) on another day.

Last week, I decided it was time that I bought a baseline scale and dropped $29.00 on a digital model.  My coach weighed me in at 155 on June 1.  As of this morning I am at 156.0 lbs, and I look bigger and leaner than I have in the past.

Oh how I love muscle growth.

Maybe it’s the supplements.  Maybe it’s the hard work.  Who knows.  Here’s what’s currently in my supplement routine (now all on top of my refrigerator because I can’t fit everything in my supplement cabinet):

1.
Mega EFA Fish Oil (3mg / day)
– Promotes healthy brain function, joint health and normal hormone function.  When you’re sticking to a lean diet, these are essential to include to ensure your body is getting everything it needs to function well.

2.
Creatine Blend (4g / day taken in 2 equal doses)
– Boosts performance in the gym and recovery afterward.  When you take creatine, be sure you’re drinking enough water to keep your kidneys happy.  I drink about 1 gallon a day.

3.
Alpha Lipoic Acid (1200mg / day taken in 2 equal doses)
– This helps combat free radicals that are unleashed in your system after strenuous workouts – and it makes your skin look glorious!

4.
Beta Alanine (3200g / day taken in 4 equal doses)
– You should stack your creatine with beta alanine as this boosts performance even more than just using creatine alone.

5.
Vitamin C (1000mg / day taken in 2 equal doses)
– This helps keep your immune system revved up and ready to combat anything that might come its way – especially helpful when you’re training hard and constantly breaking down your body.

6. Women’s Active Multi-Vitamin (1 serving in the AM)
– Just good to take for general health and wellness

7. Calcium (1200mg / day taken in 2 equal doses)
8. BCAA’s + Glutamine (1 serving taken 2 times a day in equal doses)

Just remember that gains in your figure are not done only through supplementation.  One supplement that can’t be beat is a healthy diet filled with vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and lots of water – nothing should ever be substituted for that.

Do your research, try new supplements that are linked to your goals, but most importantly listen to your body.  Tune in to what it’s telling you and don’t take anything that makes you feel lousy or totally crazy.

The work you do in the gym and in the kitchen will far outweigh any benefits that supplements alone will ever give you.  That’s why they’re called “supplements.”

Be safe and strong and let me know if you have any questions!

 


Aside

The Road On Which We Are Traveling

So here we are.

Five months ago today I started training in ernest for Figure.  I have been working out diligently and watching my body grow and change as it has become bigger, stronger; transformed.

I met with my coach at the beginning of June for the first time.  She said I still had about 2 months of bulking to do before we start cutting for my show in November: More shoulder growth.

In a way, I was relieved.

I knew I needed to add more mass and I was also a little anxious about halting growth in lieu of leaning out.  Plus, there are a few parties and events I have in the middle of the Summer and I was kind of happy that I would be able to kick back and enjoy at least a few nights.

Taking stock of where I have been, I have definitely gone through a transformation in the past year.  Check it out:

Super lean in July 2012:

To Super Puffy in April 2012 (after 3 months of bulking):

To slightly more rounded in early June 2012:

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To starting to feel pretty kick-ass in late June 2012 (today).  I am not flexing, BTW:

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I have felt like my hard body was locked away in a closet for the past 5 months and that was not a nice feeling to have, but things are starting to come around and I’m getting excited.

I have been doing a lot of work on my shoulders (2x per week) in order to get the growth up even more.  I am hoping that by the end of August we will see some significant improvement over today.  Just about one month left and then we’re onto the dieting!

It just goes to show that even though things are uncomfortable on the journey to get where we need and want to be, the  discomfort is often worth it – and this doesn’t apply just to bodybuilding.

Where do you want to go?


The Low Down Dirties

I’ve been feeling kind of low lately.  Work has been dragging me down.  Long hours at the office and continued hours at home after work.  

Bottom line: I need to let go.

For the past three weeks I feel like I have been dragging a boulder around with me.  I have been schlumping around this city and my life like nothing good is going on.  While I know that’s not the truth, I haven’t been able to see anything but blah in my life.

Adding onto the craziness of work, I was told the other day that I will need to travel to India and then to Korea and then to Hong Kong in a few weeks.  Although I’m excited about the chance to reach those parts of the world, traveling to those places poses a whole other set of challenges as far as working out and eating is concerned.

But what is life without a little challenge and do I really want my only interest to be working out?  I’m more than this and more than only that.

My boyfriend told me to let all the bad energy go.  To not misunderstand opportunity in disguise.  To see the good things that are around me.  

I am a positive person at heart.

Today we decided to go to the gym.  I went to my gym, he went to his.  Before we left he said to me, “Christina: What have I told you before?  When you are in the gym, let it go.  Don’t focus on relationships, love, work, your boss, family, the city, the apartment.  All those things have positives and negatives.  Everything has two sides.  Focus on you.  Inside.  Let everything else go.”

And so I did.  I worked out in my gym.  There was hardly a soul there and so I could focus on my own.

By the time I got home, I figured I would do some grocery shopping and found someone had put a little something extra on the bottom of my list:

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I’m not crossing this one off because I am still shopping for it – everywhere.  I should always put some of it in my basket, but I should never have enough.

Stay focused and true.


What I Learned From My Mom On Mother’s Day

I went home to Philadelphia this weekend to see my mom.

“Now, I want to respect your diet,” she said to me on the phone before I left, “so let me know what kind of food I need to have in the house for you.”
“Chicken,” I said, “and oatmeal and eggs.”

“That’s easy.  Now, how do you want me to cook the chicken?” she asked.  “I mean, how to you do it, typically?”
“I just put it in a pot with some water and-”
“- boil the hell out of it?” she asked.
“Pretty much.”

I have now learned that this was the okay but not really tasty way to make my chicken every week.  So here’s what I learned from Mom:

How Not To Prepare Your Chicken
1. Put chicken in a pot with salted water and boil until you think it’s done.

How To Properly Poach Your Chicken
1. Purchase bone-in chicken breasts with skin
2. Rinse the breasts and place in a pot of water – just enough to cover the top of the chicken.
3. Add one carrot, sliced into carrot coins
4. Add one celery stalk, aromatic celery leaves included
5. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, dried basil and especially thyme.  If you have a bay leaf, add one.
6. Turn the water on medium heat and bring to a boil.
7. Reduce heat and let the chicken simmer for about 45 minutes.
8. When the chicken is done, allow it to sit in the water for up to 20 minutes if time allows.
9. De-bone the chicken and enjoy

I would have taken a photo of the lovely poached chicken; however, I ate it all before I could.  But here is a photo of my mom today as we waited for my train back to New York.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me that there is more than one way to cook a chicken.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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A No Good Day

There is no disguising a bad day in my books. When it’s a bad day, I tell it like it is and just admit it.

Today sucked.

It wasn’t that anything bad happened, it was just a really long day at work where I still didn’t get everything I wanted to get done, done. I didn’t feel particularly well (I may be coming down with something) and I’m getting kind of tired of chicken.

I stomped through the front door this evening at about 7:30 and my boyfriend was standing there. “I had a horrible day!”  I hollered as I threw down my keys.

He always likes to look on the brighter side of things. As he approached me I said, “I know that I should be thankful for all that I have, for the job that I go to every day, for the paycheck I get, for the people I work with, for all the things in my life, but despite all of that I still had a crappy day!”

I didn’t work out yesterday and took it as a rest day. Today, I had grand plans of working out in the morning, but when the alarm went off my body did not spring into action.

I hit the snooze button and slept for another hour and told myself I would work out in the evening.

By the time I walked out of the office it was 6:45. I had worked non-stop all day. I was exhausted and slightly miffed and to top it all off it was leg day! Ugh. Hard.

The whole way home the only two things that were on my mind were: 1. my job and  2. am I going to workout tonight?”

I had almost talked myself out of it.

After a brief pep talk at home and a few laughs, I decided that I would hit the gym after all. I threw on my shorts, threw back my pre-workout shake and walked down the street.

Someone once told me that you should never be frustrated or angry in the gym. You shouldn’t go there looking to fix yourself, you go to the gym because it is your refuge. It is your place of peace and meditation.

And so I entered the gym and focused. I began with leg presses and fought out all the angry, moved to squats and kicked out all the frustration, then did hack squats where I got out all the negative things in my head, then deadlifts, leg extension and hyperextensions.

I  finished my workout with a smile on my face, two very tired legs and one very happy heart.

I had pushed all of that negative energy out of me; got myself ready to face tomorrow with a smile and a sense of calm and peace.

The gym is a place of renewal and strength for your body and your mind. No matter what you do when you are there, that is your time to focus not only on the outside of your body, but on the inside, where it counts.

And, in case I start to focus on things beyond my control, I have a little soap dish in my kitchen where I keep my sponge that reminds me every day how I should always feel:

How do you keep positive?

 


One Day I Will Grow Up and Be Big

Every once in a while, my Grandmother will laugh and remind me that as a young girl I used to say, “One day, when I grow up and my bosoms get very very big, I will wear a bra.”

While I am still waiting for that big bosom day to come, I find it quite hilarious that I am excited by the idea that one day, as a grown up, when my muscles are very very big, I will wear a sparkly bikini and have an amazingly dark spray tan.

I have been eating like nobody’s business for the past  3 months.  I have put on a considerable amount of weight and am now tipping the scales at 160 (previously 143).

My jeans are tight, I can’t fit into my favorite cocktail dress any more and leggings and black drapey dresses have become my new best friends.

I am not fat.  I am just stronger.

I can’t say that I hate the way that I look, but after years of being “skinny,” I’m still getting used to the bigger, better me.

“How do you think you look?” my trainer asked me the other night as I rested between a set of cleans.  We were both looking at me in the mirror.

I had had a long day at work.  I was sweating and felt bloated.

“I think that this is a skinny mirror and that I look a lot different than what we’re seeing.  I think my legs look really puffy and bloated and big and that my arms look skinny and small. “  He looked at me like I was crazy.  “I mean, I think I’m making progress though…How do you think I look?”

“I can never tell with you, Berry,” he said.  “Some days you come in here and are like, ‘I am a MONSTER’ and then other days you come in and are like, ‘Meh…I feel fat.’”

More often than not, though, I’m a monster.

“You look good.”

When I was warming up, one of the other trainers at the gym who I have been chatting with quite regularly walked out of the men’s locker room and did a double take.  “Lookin’ good!” he said, “Coming along nicely.”

That made me happy.  Looking at my body every day I see changes here and there, but having not seen this guy for 3 weeks and then him tell me he sees progress, too, is a great thing to hear.

I just have to keep on pushing.

My legs are coming along nicely as well as my glutes. My butt has morphed from two pancakes into two dinner rolls.

Disappointingly, my shoulders are the slowest part to develop and also the most important.  I train them like no body’s business but they are slow to arrive.

I was told to add creatine to my diet last week and today rounds out the 7th day.  Just about 3g on average.  My workouts are more powerful and I’m hoping this will help push me into the next muscular development level.  We shall see.

My six pack has vanished but I swear at times I can still see it.  I know this weight will come off in about 3 months when I start prep and I’m excited for it.  I have a strong base that is getting stronger by the day and I know I can make this work.


It has been so long…

For the past two weeks work has been an explosion of – well, work. I have been in the office early and have left the office late. Fortunately, my eating did not suffer but during the first week of work mania my workouts did.

This I cannot tolerate.

I used to be a morning worker-outer and then I started working with my trainer in the evenings. I started to like sleeping in and working out after the work day was done. However, in weeks like the past two, working 12 hour days and then hitting the gym was easy on Monday and completely not workable on Friday.

Last Friday I almost fell asleep on the train ride home and that never happens to me. Saturday and Sunday I was dragging and felt so sleepy but could not sleep. I was stressed about work and dreaming about it, too.

This past week was better. I managed to get in 3 weekday evening workouts and 2 weekend workouts.

Next week, though I have a new plan: Workout in the PM Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday I will rest and then Thursday, Friday , Saturday I will transition into an AM workout when I typically struggle to workout after work.

I hope this works.

I know that I need to be stronger than this. I need to workout even if I’m tired, but why couldn’t I? Why can’t I?

Should I?

How do you deal with getting to the gym when you’re zonked?


Getting Over Office Eating

Don’t get pushed around at work.  Not by people or by situations.

“My biggest problem is when I’m at the office,” one of my friends said to me.  She can eat healthfully while at home, but at the office she has trouble staying on track.

I was confused.

For me, office eating is the easiest thing in the world.  I bring my meals and my snacks and that’s all I eat.  When I’m at home I have the most trouble because I graze, even if it’s just on chicken and protein powder.

“Wait – why?” I asked.

“There is food everywhere!” she said, frustrated.  She told me how every last Friday of the month there is a pizza and cupcake party for all the birthdays that are coming up the following month.  That there is food put out in the kitchen left over from entertaining clients or food left over from corporate lunches and that people encourage each other to eat.

“Healthy eating is not advocated – it’s not the norm in my office or really anywhere!  Why do I feel like I’m the odd-ball for eating healthfully, bringing my meals or for saying ‘no’ to something that I don’t want to eat?”

I think we can all relate.

I have worked in offices where there was hardly ever any food – and so I never ate any food that I didn’t bring. I have also worked in offices where there was food and candy all the time – and I ate it.

We have all had food pushed on us in the office by co-workers, when out with friends or even at home with our families where it feels like it should be the easiest to say “no,” but sometimes isn’t.

While we can’t always change the office culture of food sharing, we can change how we deal with it.  Here’s how I avoid temptation.

1. Let it be known that you are a clean eater
Rather than allow people to push me around in the office kitchen, I made it my business to be the “clean eater.”  We don’t push the vegetarians in our office to eat meat, so why should someone be able to push me into eating something that’s not clean?

When I started my new job in June I told my colleagues that I was a clean eater.  That I ate 5 – 6 times a day and always brought my food.  Rather than keep my goals a secret, I told them, “I’m working towards my six-pack” or “I’m training right now and need to eat a very specific diet” and so when there is an office poll for pizza at lunch, people don’t even ask me anymore because “CB doesn’t eat that.”

2. Always have a meal on hand
Because I pack and bring my meals to work each day there is always a meal waiting for me nearby, so I’m never starved and never looking for food to satisfy me.  I love how I feel and how I look when I eat clean therefore I’m willing to forego the goodies to fill myself with natural, nutritious food when it’s time.

3. Wait it out
If there is food put out by colleagues or friends – wait.  If you wait long enough, the food will either be a) so picked over that it’s no longer appetizing or b) gone.

4. Don’t look – what you don’t see won’t tempt you
“Cookies in the conference room!” someone yells.  This is a message to stay out of the conference room!

5. Pick it up and throw it out
I am not an advocate of wasting food, but this tactic helps when you find yourself with anything you really don’t want to eat in hand.  Have a colleague offer you a cookie that you can’t say no to?  Did you pick up a piece of pizza from the kitchen and get back to your desk and then realize you shouldn’t have?  Throw it out.  Because you can.  If it’s not in your mouth, you didn’t eat it yet and you don’t have to.

I admit that there are some days when I find myself scrounging around in the office candy box.  Before I know it, I’m back at my desk about to unwrap and eat the offending candy.  That’s when I look at it and think, “Is this really worth it?”  The answer is usually, “No way!” and I just throw it out.  It’s pretty empowering.

How do you stay on track at work?