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!

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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Team Bombshell Bootcamp Recap!

Last weekend I attended Bombshell Weekend Camp in Daytona Beach, Florida.  It was my second time attending.  The first time was one year ago when I was a camp “Newbie”.   This year, as a “Veteran”, I loved camp even more.  It was a relatively small, intimate camp, which I prefer over the bigger ones—I got to spend time with each of my wonderful coaches and catch up with them.

I stayed in a hotel with a wonderful teammate named Susan (find her Facebook page here).  She is a wife, mom of three kids, and she works—she has such a full plate, and still keeps up her amazing physique!

On the first evening at camp, the “Veterans” showed up after the new campers had already left for the day.  We had a great shoulder workout led by my friend IFBB Bikini Pro Lacey DeLuca.  Lacey pushed me to lift heavier than I thought I could, and she taught me to stop using my traps to assist me—big traps don’t look good on female competitors, so I need to prevent mine from growing.  Here’s a pic of Susan and another great bikini competitor, Barbara:

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We worked a lot on posing this weekend, which was invaluable for me because I had no idea how to pose like a Figure competitor.  It’s much different from bikini, and I have grown to LOVE it.  It just feels more like “me”. I’m not a naturally outgoing, sassy girl, so it was a real stretch for me to act out that role onstage—and in the end, if you look uncomfortable onstage, the judges can sense it.  I am certain that as a “Figure girl”, I will be much more confident onstage.

We ran a lot over the weekend—over the infamous bridge (a total of 4 times!), down to the beach to do a killer plyo workout, and all around Daytona Beach.  We lunged, squatted, jumped and worked out every muscle in our bodies—and I loved it!  Here is a silly picture of me after plyos (I am drenched in sweat but SO HAPPY!)

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The best part about camp is the connection between all the women.  Lots of people feel pretty confident in their clothes, but when they’re standing in front of a huge mirror in a tiny bikini and high heels with pale, un-tanned skin, a few extra pounds from the holidays, and the coach sitting on the floor directing poses, it’s not easy to feel confident.  We have to let it all hang out at camp—literally!  This vulnerability creates a bond between all the girls that is really wonderful.  We excitedly discuss each others’ upcoming shows and cheer each other on as sweat pours down our faces.

 Plan for 2013 Season

I sat down with my coaches, Rob & Shannon, to discuss my show schedule for the year.  I originally thought I might be ready for a June show, but since I am switching to Figure, it’s going to take more time for me to be really ready.  They don’t want to “diet me down” too fast—they want to take it slow, which is fine with me.  I’m in this for the long haul.  My big far-off dream is to become an IFBB Pro Figure competitor and be able to compete with the best in this business, which requires a lot of time, hard work, sweat and patience.

2013: Big Changes & Plans

Hi guys!

Happy 2013! I am so excited for this year. I think it’s going to bring a lot of positive new things into my life.  I actually spent New Year’s Eve sitting in bed happily reading (yes, I’m a nerd) a book by one of my favorite people in the world, a life coach named Martha Beck.  In the book, Beck describes how to identify what you’re meant to do with your life, and how to get there.  This is not an easy process for anyone, especially if admitting what your heart wants to do is different from what society (or your parents, or your peers, etc.) wants you to do.

This process helped me realize a few important things:

1. Although I do want to try living in Washington, DC at some point in my life, now is not the right time.  So instead of doing the internship in DC this semester as I had planned, I am back at law school.  With regard to law school…

2. I signed up for mainly business law classes, realizing that I don’t like the traditional law school courses.  I don’t want to be in a courtroom, I don’t want to write briefs–I don’t even know that I necessarily want to be a lawyer.  This was extremely scary for me to admit to myself, and even scarier to admit to others, but I can’t change what my heart knows.  I’m grateful that a J.D. is a useful, versatile degree that allows people to do all sorts of things.

I signed up for the business classes with the idea that I may start my own business post-law school. I love doing personal training, but I feel that my “calling” in life may be more involved than just physical fitness.  I want to get my life coach certification (via Martha Beck’s online program) and help people “find their way out of hell”, as Beck describes it.  I would like to specialize in helping people sort out their body image issues, especially since I struggled with anorexia for many years.

3.  I am a “Figure girl” at heart.  Although I had a wonderful year competing in the bikini division of the NPC, for 2013, I am following my original dream and training for the Figure division.

My wonderful coaches at Team Bombshell are always honest with me, and they let me know that my body is better suited for bikini (I’m tall with long limbs).  But deep down, I knew I had to switch.  I’ve dreamed about competing in figure for years.  …And I am LOVING the training plan for it!  It involves higher calories (eating 7 times a day!) with less cardio, and my favorite part–heavy weights!  I love the rush I get from lifting as heavy as possible.

The posing onstage is different for Figure.  I’m trying to figure it out!  Here’s a picture of me attempting to flex my back and shoulders for the “front” pose:

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The inevitable question: “Katie, are you going to get HUGE?”  … NO!!!  It drives me nuts when people (usually guys) ask me this.  To prove this to you, below is a picture of 4 professional competitors.  Guess who competes in Bikini and who does Figure? …

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…The furthest left woman (the beautiful Natalie Waples, who is one of the nicest people in the world) is a Figure competitor.  So is the furthest right woman (Candice Lewis).  The two middle women (Yeshaira Robles and Yarelis Gonzales) compete in bikini.  The point is, they ALL look fantastic, and the Figure girls are not “huge”.  Figure is not the same as Bodybuilding.  I will probably step onstage at about 126 lbs (I’m 5 foot 7).  So everybody can RELAX! :-)

My first Figure show will (hopefully) be in June 2013 in New York City.  I am already counting down the weeks (19, if you were wondering…).  I am so grateful to my incredible coach IFBB Figure Pro Gen Strobo for answering all 8 million of my questions and encouraging me to work my butt off.  She is a huge inspiration for me.

I also want to give a shout-out to two new Team Bombshell members:

  • Vanessa L. has been a friend of mine since high school.  I’ve been telling her for months that she’d be a great bikini competitor (she’s a former dancer, so she already has that ever-important stage presence!).  She is going to do amazing this year!
  • Jennifer B. is a law classmate of mine, and she’s been with the team since November.  She’s extremely smart and an incredibly hard worker.  She’s been following her plan 100% and looks amazing.  She is going to rock her first competition in March!

That’s all for now.  Most importantly, send me a Facebook message or comment on this post and tell me about your goals for 2013 (fitness-related or otherwise).  I absolutely love to hear about them, and help you if I can!

Where to Begin…

Law School Exams, I Loathe You & Will Kick Your Butt

Well, it’s 6AM on Saturday and I am awake due to habit. The gym doesn’t open until 8, so it’s a perfect time to blog.

Since I last posted, I’ve completed two of my three law school final exams. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me during the last couple of weeks as finals approached. I’ve had moments of utter fear and hopelessness (“I can’t do this. Why am I in law school at all?”) but also moments of calm acceptance that I’ve prepared the best I could, and that everything truly will be alright.

During this time, I did not slack off from the gym because training is what kept me sane. It’s a scary feeling to know that you can’t control what is on your Civil Procedure exam, and you can’t control the grading curve, etc. But you can control whether you go to the gym and stick to a healthy diet. I continued hitting the weights at 5AM and doing cardio afterwards. I followed the diet almost 100 percent. (Except for a Cheesecake Factory birthday dinner with my dear friend Caitlin, but that was important!).

My friend and law school classmate Karen told me that she continued attending ballet classes during finals because it allowed her to focus only on ballet, leaving thoughts of law school exams at the door. I hope that everyone is able to find something in life that allows them to quiet that constant stream of thoughts running through our heads, whether it’s dance, weight training, basketball, meditation, running, or something else. What is that thing for you?

Where Do I Begin?

I got a couple really wonderful Facebook messages this week. One of them asked about where to find meal plans to correspond with workouts. I recommended a couple of good places to start:

If you’re a female, pick up a copy of Muscle & Fitness HERS magazine at the grocery store/Target. It’s an awesome resource for both training and meal plans. Usually there’s a meal plan designed for if you want to build muscle, and one for if you want to maintain or lose fat.

For guys or girls, check out this website, part of Bodybuilding.com:
http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/fitness-360.html

There are pictures of 6 male and 6 female fitness models with different levels of muscle and leanness. Pick the body that you are aiming for, and check out his/her exact diet and training programs. I love this website!

The other message I got completely made my day (I might have even felt tears welling up, but don’t tell anyone). It was from a classmate from undergrad who said he’s been following my posts, and since I’ve seen him, has made huge improvements in his health. Reading made me realize that I love to help people learn about fitness/health stuff, because there’s so much confusing, inaccurate information out there — I want to help people sort through it so they can reach their goals like he did.

Figure Competition Progress Update

It’s the “off-season” right now for most competitors, because nobody can keep their body in “competition shape” all year round (… think about that the next time you admire a lean, ripped fitness model on the cover of a magazine. Prior to the photo shoot, they probably hardcore dieted, did countless hours of cardio, and depleted their body of water. They do not look like that all the time.)

My training team calls this time “improvement season”, because it’s a time to allow your body to rest, recover, eat higher calories, and build quality muscle. So that’s what I’ve been working on. As I’ve complained about before, my body adds muscle very slowly and it’s frustrating. But I try to remain patient and accept my body for what it is.

My goal is still to compete in my first figure competition in March of 2012, but as the competition gets closer I’ll listen to my coaches’ advice regarding whether I should wait a bit longer. I don’t want to get onstage looking like a fool, ha ha. I want to make everybody proud.

See how my back has SOME muscle, but not enough! Need to drop body fat of course.