26 Days Out: Forcing Things to Happen vs. Letting Them Happen

Today is Sunday, my rest day.  26 days until the NPC Natural Western USA Figure competition.  My body—my nervous system—is very tired.  I am spending the day studying for school …. in bed. Ha. I am so sore, and my bed is the most comfortable place.  But I am also at peace.  Admittedly, I woke up this morning in a state of anxiety (like I do pretty much every morning) thinking, “Maybe I should go do extra cardio?!”  But then I stopped and recognized that the idea of doing extra cardio did not feel good in my body.  In the past, I might have forced myself to go do it anyway. And then it would have been a pathetic cardio session with me feeling frustrated the whole time.  But I told myself at the beginning of this competition prep that I would not force things to happen—I would let them happen.  Let me explain using an analogy:

One of my life role models is named Martha Beck (she’s a Harvard-educated sociologist, life coach and best-selling author).  One of her methods of teaching people to be happier and calmer is to have them work with horses: usually when a horse is behaving badly and violently, humans will attempt to “break” them using physical means—ropes, whips, etc… basically forms of torture.  Sometimes that will work. But in her seminars, Martha teaches people that if you stand in a pen with the horse—just stand there—and offer the horse kindness and compassion, and show it that you’re not going to hurt it, it will eventually calm down and “join up” with you.  (Here’s a video of Martha Beck’s friend, Koelle Simpson, explaining this in more detail in a TED Talk).

So here’s where the analogy comes in: the horse is like your own human body.  You can certainly torture it via starvation diets and excessive exercise, and you can get some results.  This is what I had done for a long time, and it sort of worked—and I also suffered miserably internally (one time in high school I actually ended up in the hospital with severe dehydration because I kept exercising when I was sick with the flu… brilliant, huh?).

There is, I believe, a better way.  I have adopted the approach of being kind and compassionate to my body, and recognizing its limits.  At my gym, the people who work there are so sweet—they call me “The Machine”… but in reality our human bodies are not machines.  They are animals that require sufficient food and physical movement and rest.  All of my ideas in this blog may sound a little strange to many Figure & Bikini competitors who enjoy the (so-called) inspirational/motivational “Fitspo” posts on Facebook and Instagram  (e.g. “push yourself to the limit!” and my least favorite of all time: “do it for the thigh gap!” etc.)  Those concepts no longer resonate with me.  I started training to become a Figure competitor because I love it, and it’s that love that will carry me through these next 26 days until showtime.  Let’s see how it goes … :)

Thank you for reading!

Video Blog Update: 5 Weeks Out!

Here is my video blog update as I am 5 weeks out from the NPC Natural Western USA Figure competition on March 22, 2014. I discuss:

  • What my workouts look like right now (spoiler alert… a lot of running!!)
  • How my approach to contest preparation has changed from 2012 to now

Thank you for watching! Your support helps me so much!  Follow me on Instagram; my user name is katiedaysully.

A Long (Sometimes Boring, Sometimes Painful) Journey–But It’s Worth It!

Hello!

It has been awhile since I posted.  Truthfully it’s because I didn’t think anybody noticed and/or cared.  But lately people have been looking at me quizzically, asking “Why haven’t you posted on your blog ?” I stare blankly back, surprised that anyone other than my mom reads this thing (and let’s face it, I MAKE her read it. Love you mom!).

Here’s what’s been going on fitness-wise: I no longer train with Team Bombshell. I have a different coach. I did not make this decision because I have any negative feelings toward Team Bombshell.  They are a wonderful team, and they have changed my life for the better by showing me what I was capable of accomplishing.  But sometimes you have to listen to your heart and make the decision that feels right in your gut (actually I think that’s how ALL decisions should be made—has anyone else read Malcolm Gladwell’s book called “Blink”? It is fantastic and the message is: your body knows the right decision long before your conscious mind figures it out). 

Here’s what has NOT changed: I train hard every single day with the goal of becoming an IFBB professional athlete. I will not compete again in 2013 (the season has pretty much wrapped up anyway—most fitness athletes are in their “offseason” at this point). I am not sure what my first competition will be in 2014, but it will be in the Bikini division (although I don’t have a suit… I sold my previous blue one. Any color recommendations?).  I have accepted the fact that I’m better suited for Bikini than Figure right now (*see my previous blog posts if you are thinking “WTF is she talking about?”)  The reason my focus is not 100 percent on competing is that I have this other thing I’m working on…. Hmm, what was it again?—oh right, I’m GRADUATING LAW SCHOOL in May. And, even scarier, taking the bar exam! Exciting and terrifying.

This is all okay. I have developed have a long-term perspective with fitness and competing. It is a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t need a competition four weeks away to keep me motivated—I want to be within 5-7 pounds of my competition weight year-round.  I would like to pursue commercial fitness modeling in the future as well, and you never know when modeling opportunities will arise—I’d better be in shape!

Here is my biggest “aha moment” over the last year or so: the most important thing in this fitness journey is that I help other people believe that THEY can achieve their fitness goals.  

Time to get sappy and emotional! :-) To be really frank, the trophies I have from competing are now under my bed in a cardboard box collecting dust.  They are just objects.  Here is what’s REAL: when someone says that I inspired them to go to the gym after six months of avoiding it. Or when they start doing HIIT on their elliptical (Julia P!) Or when they hold up their lunch Tupperware to proudly display the salad inside. Or when they vow to give up soda forever (Eddie W… maybe? :-). Those moments are real and important and they could be the beginning of a huge change in that person’s life.

If you want to experience change in YOUR life… like, if you sink into depression when you look in the 3-way mirror in the department store dressing room (was that just me?) but don’t know what to do, let me show you with my own pictures below—you can changeBUT the disclaimer is: it’s not all rah-rah-lose-10-pounds-in-5-minutes like the Facebook ad tells you.  …It will take awhile. Probably longer than you think.  For example, the picture on the left is me almost exactly three years ago (November 2010).  I was doing what the mainstream fitness magazines told me to do.  I did a zillion hours of steady-state cardio on the elliptical and ate the minimal number of calories to survive (mostly composed of sugar).  I hated my body.  See how I’m wearing that stupid hat? I was literally trying to hide. I felt ashamed.

Now, picture on the right is from last week (November 2013. Sorry for the dusty mirror).  I have a SHAPE! I am not skinny fat—I have muscular but still feminine curves. I am strong physically and emotionally. I don’t do steady-state cardio—I do high-intensity intervals. I lift heavy weights. I eat to fuel my performance in the gym and aid muscle growth. Maybe the difference doesn’t look huge to you, but it has changed my life significantly.  

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It took three years to make this change. Here is my nerdy equation for what it required:

(Many small, seemingly insignificant decisions made repeatedly) + (Patience) + (Believing the end result would be worth it) + (Believing that I could do it, i.e. efficacy) – (Fear) = Success.

Write to me and tell me how your own fitness plan is going (or if it’s nonexistent, how are you going to change that?). Thank you for reading!

Competition Recap & Why I’m Switching Back to Bikini Division

Hello and thanks for reading!

Lots of things have happened since my last blog, including my first NPC Figure competition! Here are some life updates:

First Figure Competition: Gave It My Best Shot!

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For those of you who haven’t read my previous posts, I competed in the NPC Bikini division 5 times during 2012.  I did pretty well! But my dream for many years has been to compete in the Figure division (where the girls carry more muscle.)  So I gave it a shot: I trained intensely (under the guidance of my Team Bombshell coaches) for 10 months for my first Figure competition, held in Culver City, CA.

It was a lot of fun, but I didn’t place well.  In all honesty, however, I understand why:

  1. I wasn’t lean enough. I learned the hard way this summer that one bite of this or that does add up.  Like many people, I have a bad habit of turning to sugary carbs when I’m tired or anxious. When I live alone, this isn’t a problem because I don’t purchase any foods that are not on my diet plan. But when I don’t control the food situation, and the stupid Double Stuffed Oreos are sitting on the pantry shelf staring at me, I struggle to avoid them. My willpower is usually pretty strong, but I’m human! I’m not perfect.  Anyway, these extra calories prevented me from looking as lean as I would’ve liked at the competition.
  2. I don’t have enough muscle yet. I don’t naturally have a muscular build and it’s hard for me to keep muscle on my frame. I certainly put every ounce of effort I had into my preparation—I lifted as heavy as possible 5-6 times per week, and I gave my body plenty of fuel to grow. And I did definitely add some muscle, but I looked small in comparison to my competitors.  When I went backstage at the show and met the other Figure girls, I immediately recognized that I looked… like a Bikini competitor wearing a Figure suit. Ha!

But all of this is okay.  I accept what is (admittedly I cried on the actual day of the competition, but after having a few weeks to assess the situation, I am feeling better).  I had to at least attempt to compete in Figure in order to understand why I wasn’t ready for it yet (a huge thanks to Gen Strobo, my Figure coach, for being the perfect combination of patient, encouraging, and firm with me as I prepped).

After speaking with my coaches, I am switching back to the Bikini division for now.  Competing in the Figure division will always remain in the back of my mind, perhaps for when I reach my late 20s or early 30s, but for right now, I think I will have more success in Bikini.  My goal is to look like a more muscular bikini girl, like Justine Munro or Brittany Tacy, pictured here:

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I plan to compete again in less than 7 weeks at the Ft. Lauderdale Cup in Florida.  I competed at this show last year and placed 4th in a very competitive class.  I’m going to have to drop some pounds between now and then to get back to my Bikini competition weight, so I am back on a rigorous cardio, weight training and diet regimen (and Oreos are not allowed in my apartment, lemme tell ya!) It is hard sometimes to balance school and training, but I prefer having a goal in sight.  It keeps me excited and motivated.

Thank you again for reading. I always enjoy hearing about others’ fitness goals, plans, struggles, etc., so please send me a message or leave a comment with what you’re up to! 

Some pictures from the show….

Huge thanks to my Bombshell teammate IFBB Figure Pro Tarah Mitchell. She did an awesome job on my makeup for the show! She also helped with my posing, and let me cry on her shoulder after prejudging. Such an incredible woman!

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I got a blow out at this cool blow-dry bar in Los Angeles! Can someone please do this to my hair every morning?

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*Funniest part about the picture below: check out  the band-aid on my knee…. that’s from falling on a treadmill! IT HURT!

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7 Weeks Out from First Figure Competition

It has been quite awhile since I wrote a blog, but don’t let that make you think I’ve been sittin’ around watching Real Housewives of Orange County (actually I did watch a few episodes of that after my law school finals were over, because my brain was tired and needed something mindless… mission accomplished! Those ladies are NUTS!).

Here’s what’s been going on since my last post: …I’ve been WORKING MY A** OFF!

I knew that turning myself into a Figure girl would not be easy or quick.  But good lord, this has been a journey.

Trying to Enjoy the Process

I have experienced moments of pure joy as I strutted around my apartment wearing my Figure suit and clear heels, pretending I was Erin Stern—then fifteen minutes later I’m in tears as I overanalyze at my progress pictures and wonder why my efforts do not seem to be translating into the body of an IFBB Figure Pro.  With terror in my heart I send my progress pictures to my wonderful Team Bombshell coach Gennifer Strobo, and she says…

Good job. Your shape is great.”

… I think to myself, “WHAT?!”

This is exactly why having a good coach is so vital—she can see changes happening long before I can.  She knows when I am not sticking to my diet 100% (whether or not I fully disclose the spoonfuls of peanut butter I ate the night before when I couldn’t sleep).  I know my coaches see the ‘bigger picture’ and will have me looking my BEST ever in 7 weeks when I step onstage.

The Current Routine + Facing Diet Demons

I’ve been weight training intensely 5-6 days a week, as always, plus doing 45-60 minutes of cardio 5 days per week.  I’ve been eating a lot, as sufficient food is necessary to sustain energy levels and allow muscle to grow. I have no problem eating lots of food—my problem is cutting out the extra nibbles that seem innocent in the moment, but when you’re trying to achieve your ideal physique, they add up!

It’s been difficult for me this summer diet-wise because I’m doing an internship in my home town and living with my parents. I love my mom—she is my biggest fan in everything I do in life—but she stocks the pantry with cookies, sugary cereals, etc.  In my own apartment, I simply do not buy any food off my diet plan, which makes it easier to remain on track.  Now I am in ‘the real world’, as Coach Gen called it, where I’ve got to figure out ways to face my food demons.

I have been working on this a lot, and realized that I stray from my diet when I am seeking comfort, either because I’m anxious or tired.  My worst moments are when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. At 1:00 AM I want to eat carbs because they make me temporarily feel better and help me sleep. So I am working on a plan of action to replace food in those moments: I listen to a relaxation/meditation track on my iPod, or look through inspirational fitness pictures on Instagram, or just take slow, deep breaths and think about something that makes me happy. It seems to be helping, but I am not perfect by any means, and I’m always working on being better.

What About YOU?

I hope you are having a great summer and you’ve set a fitness or health goal of some sort—a 5k, a competition, a triathalon… or you just have a very small bikini hanging from your closet that you want to rock! Send me a message/comment with what you’re up to—it helps me stay motivated too!

See my shoulder cap peeking through that first picture?! Gotta drop body fat over these next 7 weeks so I can SEE my hard work!

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15 Weeks Out: No Stopping Me Now!

Hello!

I’m two weeks away from finishing my second year of law school and 15 weeks from stepping onstage as a figure competitor!

Although this may be my “offseason”, I’ve been working extremely hard because I want to succeed as a figure competitor SO BADLY.  I had a fun time competing in the Bikini division, but my dream has ALWAYS been to have more muscle.  One of my law school friends commented on my last progress photo that he “wouldn’t want to get in a fight with” me, and I LOVED it (thank you Chris G.!!)! Ha ha!  The ironic part is that I’m a very peaceful, non-confrontational person… for pete’s sake, I meditate, do yoga, and read nerdy self-help books at home on Friday night.  But the idea of LOOKING LIKE a girl you wouldn’t want to mess with… that’s pretty cool :-)

The Tougher Moments

Every day isn’t rainbows and sunshine.  I have moments where I look at my progress pictures and think to myself, “Nothing. Is. Happening! I look exactly the same!”, or even worse, I’ll start criticizing myself: “You need to be more diligent on your diet plan. You had an extra piece of gum, remember? How can you expect to win if you don’t cut that out?”  I am extremely self-critical, and I have to watch myself or these thoughts will ruin my day.

It’s also sometimes difficult when not everybody understands or supports my goals.  Not every guy out there thinks an athletic/muscular woman is attractive. I’m sure there are people looking at my progress pictures on Facebook thinking, “Yuck, she looks manly.”…

… but my new experiment in life is called “What If I Didn’t Care What Anybody Thought?”  This is a radically new concept for me.  I spend way too much time fearing that others are judging me.

A few mornings ago, I decided to see what would happen if I pretended like I truly didn’t care what anyone was thinking.  This idea made me  happier and more relaxed.  I wasted less energy pretending to be someone I’m not.   (I’m actually getting tears in my eyes writing this, because it feels so freeing.)  My challenge is to start living this way EVERY day.

Current Training Plan

My current routine: cardio first thing in the morning 5-6 days per week.  Weight training 5 days (lifting as heavy as I can).  I follow the diet plan my Team Bombshell coaches give me, with one moderate “treat” meal per week.  I eat clean, unprocessed foods every 3 hours and don’t take any weird supplements (you don’t need them!).  Don’t fall for gimmicks.  Marketers/advertisers are very good at getting your hopes up, but don’t fall for their nonsense.  You’re smarter than that.

I absolutely LOVE hearing about others’ fitness goals, accomplishments, challenges, setbacks, etc. etc. Please write to me anytime on Facebook or this blog (also Instagram: katiedaysully).

My shoulders in 2010 vs. 2013:

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