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:
Lift weights that challenge your muscles to failure and keep increasing weight as you gain strength.
Keep at it. This is how results happen. It takes time, but if you keep at it you will see your body change.
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?
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).
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)
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!
So I was one week out… Then I was three days out… Then all of a sudden, I was 2.5 weeks out.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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!
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.
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?
Would someone please tell me why, after many many years – many – of never having eaten a Pop Tart, I’m suddenly craving 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?
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?
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.
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?
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):
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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:
To starting to feel pretty kick-ass in late June 2012 (today). I am not flexing, BTW:
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?
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.
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?
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?
How do you deal with getting to the gym when you’re zonked?
Who would of thought that part of getting ripped first meant getting a little plump?
When I first signed up for this bodybuilding journey I was expecting to dial up the exercise, dial down the food intake and then see my amazing muscles grow and bulge all the way to the stage.
I, of course, did not understand the science of muscle building at that time.
Cutting and muscle growth are not something you can do in tandem. You can cut and spare muscle, but you cannot cut and gain muscle.
That was news to me.
Muscles need plenty of energy from food to fuel their growth which happens with caloric excess and cannot happen with a caloric deficit. You shouldn’t be packing in a thousand more calories a day, but 200-300 over your daily expenditure should do the trick. And those calories should be good ones, mainly from complex carbohydrates which will increase your glycogen levels to create a favorable environment for muscle growth.
The more I travel down this road to competition, the more I realize how many unfounded beliefs and strange ideas I carry with me about my body and muscle building in general.
I am now travelling down the road to enlightenment
Like many women, I have been hung up on being slender – if not skinny – my whole life. I have worked endlessly with no real finish line in sight to change my body to look like something I don’t even know if it could.
When I started working with my coach I was 5’10”, 145lbs. His goal for me was 155. I couldn’t believe that I was signing up to getting heavier, but I did sign up.
This is me before.
Having suffered through eating disorders in the past, my mind was going a mile a minute trying to be at peace with what I was doing. I could see glimmers of my 6-pack disappearing due to water retention. My thighs started to touch.
I was sincerely uncomfortable with what I was doing, and my brain was unable to find the rationale behind gaining weight. I was allowing my body to morph right before my eyes away from what I wanted it to be.
What was I doing?
I did a lot of self-coaching over the next few weeks. I told myself that although this was uncomfortable, I had never tried to gain muscle by eating more ever before. I read more online. I talked more with my trainer. I found rationale behind his advice.
I needed to gain muscle, so I needed to fuel myself more. I had to give this method a try, so I pushed on.
I reassured myself that my body is malleable, that my body will be okay and that I can return my body to whatever state I so desire – if I choose – after this is competition is over.
I couldn’t deny my brain that I was seeing my muscles grow, even if they were covered by an extra puffy little layer of body fat. I now knew that I couldn’t cut back my calories and expect the results I desired.
So I decided to charge on.
It was a Tuesday night. I was in the gym. I was doing squats and looking at myself in the mirror as I worked through my last set. I was staring hard at my legs as I raised up from a deep squat, clenching my butt cheeks. Are my legs fatter? Do I look fatter?
And suddenly a switch flipped. I finished out the set and put the bar on the ground.
No. I’m stronger and want to be strong and I will continue moving forward and I will not look back.
And I was suddenly over the skinny thing.
I wasn’t going to beat myself up over the fact that my pants were a little tighter. I wasn’t out of control. I wasn’t doing anything ridiculous. I was adding some calories and adding some muscle and this was purposeful.
I want to achieve my goal and so I will do what needs to be done to get there, even if it is slightly uncomfortable for a while. Even if my pants do feel like sausage casings.
I decided that I was going to let my body do this and then finally my brain decided it was going to do this, too.
And so I am continuing to allow myself to get stronger in every sense.
What have you learned on your journey?
Thursday had come to a close at work and I was doing a quick change in my office bathroom before I met my trainer for our 7:15PM session.
As I emerged from one of the stalls a co-worker eyed me. “Going to the gym again?” she asked.
“Yep – hitting the gym again,” I said.
“I guess…oh never mind,” she said as she washed her hands, “I was about to say something that is borderline offensive.”
I looked up at her. I was crouched on the ground tying my sneakers, “No, go ahead, what were you going to say?” I asked with a smile.
“I was going to say, ‘I guess those are your going out clothes, huh?’”
I laughed, “Well, they kind of are, but I kind of like it like that.”
As I walked to the gym I passed people dressed up and on their way to grab drinks or dinner and the words your going out clothes kept playing back in my head.
Should I be dressed up now, going out, grabbing a drink? Would I be happier if I were about to get buzzed rather than about to get my butt kicked by my trainer?
My honest answer was no.
At the end of each day I look back and think, “Will I regret any of the choices I made today tomorrow, and if I will, then what do I need to do differently to try to make tomorrow an even better day?”
I rarely regret my decisions, but I can say for sure that I don’t foresee myself ever regretting going to the gym in order to make my goal to compete happen.
I’m so excited to compete this year and every choice I make that helps drive me towards that goal is a worthwhile one.
So what if my going out clothes are sneakers, sweatpants and a tee shirt? This is me right now – this is me working towards a goal that I want and this kind of going out – going to the gym – makes me feel energized, fit and amazing and while a cocktail can do a lot – it sure can’t do all that.