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!

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.  

Image

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!

Progress from December 2010-September 2012

Sometimes when I’m frustrated with the pace of progress in my physique, I have to step back and look at old photos to see how far I’ve come.

Don’t give up! Every little effort you make DOES make a difference. When you add them all up, major changes happen.

3 weeks out from my next show–the Ft. Lauderdale Cup!  Time to tighten up and lean out a bit & I’ll be ready :-)

One Day in the Life: Prepping for an NPC Bikini Contest

Hi guys!

17 days to go before my bikini competition, the the NPC Natural Western USA in Mesa, AZ (and then one week later, the NPC Atlantic States contest in Atlanta, Georgia — more on that later).

It’s been a very busy contest prep as I learn how to balance law school with training and dieting. I’ve got a routine down that works pretty well for right now:

4:15 AM: Alarm goes off. I half-consciously get up and  take my supplements before morning cardio in the gym in my apartment building.

4:30-5:30 AM: Cardio Session #1. Right now, because it’s so close to competition, I’m doing it on an empty stomach. But normally I prefer to have a bit of carbs and protein in me beforehand.

5:30-7:00 AM: Breakfast (happiest meal of the day because it’s not eaten out of a plastic baggie, and it’s HOT!), get my cooler of meals and gallon of water ready; shower & get ready for the day

7-8:15 AM: Studying for the day’s classes

8:15-2:45 PM: Catch the shuttle to the law school and attend classes. During the lunch break I study.

2:45 – 3:30 PM: Catch the shuttle back home, grab my gym bag and head to the gym.

3:30-5:45 PM: 45 min-1 hr of weight training, a 10 minute break to eat/rest, and then Cardio Session #2 (by this point, I’m not a happy camper and I have to really push through it!).

6 – 8 PM: Eat last couple meals; get gym bag packed for the following day; study (if I have any energy left!); practice my posing for a few minutes (very important – you’d be surprised how tough it is!) and wind down. Usually I’m in bed (zombie-like, skimming Twitter) by 8:45 PM.

So that’s it. By the end of the week, I’m grateful for a day to sleep in. But at the same time, I don’t want to complain about any of this. It was MY choice to compete while in law school, so it’s up to me to figure out how to balance everything. So far, so good :)

The Self-Doubt Tries to Creep In

I am coming upon my final four weeks of prep before my competition. I received my final 4-week diet and training plan via email during class on Monday and I was so excited/terrified to read it that I could hardly listen to what the professor was saying. The plan is certainly AMBITIOUS. The workouts will be very intense, and instead of 5 days of weight training/plyos each week, it will be 6.

But you know what? My heart pounded with excitement, not fear. Because I really think I CAN do this. I’ve been losing bodyfat for the last 5 weeks at a steady pace and am beginning to see the athletic “bikini competitor” body emerge from underneath the off-season body. It’s exciting.

BUT, I will not lie and say that I feel confident and excited in every moment. I should warn everybody that I might seem a little more sensitive and tired during these next 4 weeks, partly due to the calorie deficit from the strict diet and intense workouts, but also because of the self-doubt trying to creep into my thoughts. With four weeks to go, I’m getting CLOSER to my ideal shape, but I’m not there yet. And the scary thing is, I don’t have endless months to do something about it – I have 30 DAYS. The self-conscious, shy girl within me sometimes quietly inquires: “So, why ARE you doing this? Don’t you feel like a weirdo eating your gross fish and asparagus while everybody else is having pizza? You’re not going to win, anyway.”

Sure, sometimes I DO often feel like the “odd one out” with my little lunch box and gallon of water. But I know that I won’t reach my goals if I don’t just ACCEPT these feelings … and let them go. And my goals are the reason I do this in the first place. I love watching my body change as the weeks pass. It is slowly morphing into that athletic, round shape that I’ve always admired on the covers of Oxygen magazine. Also, I’m very detail-oriented, so I love creating the details of the shape the judges are looking for – paying attention to calves, hamstrings, quads, shoulders, biceps, triceps, etc. Every body part counts and cannot be ignored. I love crossing off the (extremely tough!) workouts I’ve competed. I even love getting up before the sun rises to get on the treadmill (can’t say I’ve ALWAYS loved that one… ha ha).

I want to tell my friends, especially my law school classmates, how grateful I am that they’ve been so supportive and non-judgmental about my endeavor. They have never made me feel like “the weird one” – they seem curious about what I’m doing, but they’re always kind. I truly appreciate what a great group of folks I’ll be in school with for these next few years.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, friends. Good luck with your own goals, projects, and ambitions. Make them BIG and don’t settle for anything less.