Why Would a Girl WANT To Gain Weight? Let Me Explain…

I will address the topic from the subject line momentarily, but first: an update on my new powerlifting program from Coach Ben Pollack! It involved a lot of learning.

For example, Ben is helping me adjust my technique with each exercise to best work with my personal leverages (the angles my body has, based on my height and the length of my limbs, etc.).  The right positions are going to be different for each person’s body, but here are the changes we made:

  • With my squat, Ben had me lower the bar half an inch on my back, rather than having it sit right on top of my traps. This actually did make me feel a lot stronger!  It’s called a “low bar squat” (see the picture). 

  • Bench press: Ben had me widen my grip so I am using more pec muscle than triceps. And he had me bring my feet closer to the barbell so I can use the power from my legs to move the bar (picture above).
  • Lastly, I have been deadlifting with only socks on because my CrossFit shoes have too much of a lift in the heel (your feet need to be flat to avoid injury) So I need to order some old school Converse Chuck Taylors, ha).

How the program works:  Each week, I do each of the big movements (deadlift, squat and bench press) twice, plus some ‘bodybuilding style’ work on various bodyparts, which will ultimately make my “big lifts” stronger.  I can also do a few sessions per week of lower-intensity cardio.  This is such a change from my previous bodybuilding days when I spent literally 50 minutes to 1 hour on the treadmill every morning (fasted!!), doing lunges, walking squats, etc. (and this turned into TWICE per day cardio, during the last few weeks of competition prep – no wonder I had no social life, lol.).

Overall things are going well and I am having fun! Thanks to everybody who sent kind messages or comments about my new journey! I hope I can inspire some other folks (women in particular!) to pick up a barbell because it’s super fun to see your strength numbers go UP (rather than obsessing about the scale number going DOWN, which is not fun, ever!).

Now explaining the title of this blog:

I talked to Coach Ben a little bit about weight classes. For those who don’t know, in a powerlifting meet, you compete with other people in your same weight class.  I asked him where I would best fit (you should select a weight class where you feel strong, but the higher you go, the stronger the other competitors may be, simply because ‘mass moves mass’).

He recommended eventually, long-term, that I ‘fill out’ to the 158 lb weight class (I am 5’7” and currently 147-8 lbs).  So I talked to my nutrition coach, and we plan on sloooowly adding muscle over the next several months ..and years. Yes – I said YEARS, haha.  That is how long it’s going to take.  Muscle doesn’t come on easily for women.  It takes a LOT of hard work (so all of the ladies who fear getting “bulky” – I promise you don’t need to worry about it!).  If you do it the right way, the slow way, you won’t add tons of bodyfat (aka, we’re not doing the old-school “bulking” which I do not believe in!!).

This is important because I am in such a healthier mindset than I was a year or two ago, before I got into real strength training.  From age 12 to my late 20s, I was obsessed with being skinny/lean and never ate enough.  That is an exhausting, depressing way to live!  Now, of course I want to look fit, but I understand that can be accomplished in a healthy way (with heavy lifting!).  Something to think about for anyone else struggling with the scale and body image!!  ❤️


Legally Fit Version 2.L

Holy. Cow.

That’s the only way I can describe these last three weeks. It is my second year of law school, and here’s the good part:  I am doing lots of interesting, worthwhile things both on- and off-campus.  I’m also competing again in 6 weeks (October 20), then again a couple of weeks later (NPC Nationals on November 9-10 – this is the BIG show where I try to earn my pro card again).   The bad part:  I am on the brink of overwhelmed.  So far, I’ve been successful in balancing everything, but it hasn’t been easy. I will be grateful for “improvement season” after I compete at NPC Nationals in November.

(For those who don’t know, “improvement season” (also called the “off-season”) is when competitors spend time away from the stage, making improvements in their physiques to unveil in the spring.  Our diets relax a little bit and we do less cardio.)

Currently I’m sitting in an airport waiting for my flight to Vegas do a job interview tomorrow morning at 9 AM.  After the interview I will have posing practice with IFBB Bikini Pro Skye Taylor, which I am very excited about.  Then I fly back home to catch up on all my reading and assignments.

Training Update: Headed in the Right Direction!

Training is going well.  I never miss a weight training session (admittedly, I did miss a cardio session or two when I was in the middle of moving into my new apartment.  I am not perfect.  I always try to make up the sessions, however, if I have to skip them.)

My physique is making great changes.  And you know what the difference is?  Living by myself.  Living with roommates is fun, but my cravings are much worse when I see their peanut butter/cereal/etc. in the kitchen.  When I live alone, I don’t keep ANY foods that aren’t on my diet in my apartment.  I just don’t buy them.  I always think about buying them (I can’t help but stare longingly at the wall of peanut butter options when I go to the grocery store) but my willpower is pretty strong, and I don’t put them in my cart.

The result of this discipline?  My bodyfat is lower than ever!  I don’t measure the percentage, but I can tell in the mirror and photos.  When I’m lifting weights, particularly my shoulders, biceps and triceps, I can see all sorts of muscles, and I LOVE IT.  It makes all the hard work feel so worth it.

Today at the gym a friendly older guy came over and asked if I was “doing that Figure show in October”.  I told him that I was Bikini competitor with aspirations to compete in Figure.  He seemed convinced that I would be ready for Figure now.  That completely made my day;  I could have hugged him (so I guess some of the ‘creepers’ are harmless, huh Sean?).

Next Show: 6 Weeks Out

I am six weeks out from the Fort Lauderdale Cup.  I think/hope this will be the best I’ve ever looked. My coaches have been trying to add some more muscle to my upper body while keeping everything tight and toned.  I also have a beautiful brand new suit that is much for flattering for my body.  I think this will help bring the whole ‘package’ together.

In conclusion, I’m pushing my body and brain to their limits over these next few weeks.  But it takes challenging times for me to discover how strong I actually am.  I’m also trying to be better about balancing a social life with school and training.  During my 1L year I wasn’t very good about that, but I’m going to try harder now to reserve at least one night per week to go out to dinner and have a fun cheat meal with people I care about.

What are YOU up to?

It means a lot to me when I get Facebook messages or emails from people telling me about their own journeys with fitness, eating clean, self-esteem, etc.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with questions or comments.  Do you have goals for this fall?  Training for something?  I love hearing about it.

 **Update: I did the interview this morning.  The first thing out of the interviewer’s mouth:  “So tell me about these ‘fitness competitions’…”  He then asked me question after question about it for the next 10 minutes.  Ha!


Improvement Season 101: The Good & The Not-So-Good

Right now I’m in the middle of “improvement season”. For fitness competitors, this involves not being on a super-strict competition diet, and not doing 2 sessions of cardio per day. Instead, it involves giving your body the rest and fuel it needs to be emerge stronger in the 2012 competition season.

For me, “improvement season” means I’m eating a diet higher in calories with a wider variety of foods. I’m eating foods that I wasn’t allowed to touch before – lots of potatoes, for instance! It is awesome.

During “improvement season” my workouts involve lifting heavier for fewer sets and lower reps. Here’s an example of the difference: a few weeks before a competition, I might do 20 reps of a certain exercise, and do it back-to-back with 20 reps of another exercise (this is called a superset; it’s intense! Supersets keep your heart rate up the whole time you’re lifting weights). During the improvement season, I’ll do much fewer reps as heavy as I possibly can, with a longer rest period in between sets. The goals is to emerge from “improvement season” with a few more pounds of quality muscle and a changed body “shape” that reflects what judges are looking for in a top figure competitor.

The Hard Part of Improvement Season

Improvement season is nice because I get to eat more and do a little less cardio. But it also means that I’m not as lean as usual (my bodyfat is a little higher). I am trying to accept this and not feel “fat”. But I’ve struggled with body image issues since I was young (as many women (and men) have), and although my state of mind is MUCH healthier now, that fear of being “fat” always lurks in the darkness. I try not to obsessively scrutinize my progress pictures and keep in mind that I’ll be grateful for the changes I make during improvement season when spring rolls around.

Mirror, Mirror…

Also, I had an eye-opening moment today at the gym that illustrates why we are poor judges of our own personal progress. I caught the image of a woman in the locker room in an odd angle of the mirror, and thought “Her abs look good. Wish mine did – I have muffin top, man.” …Then I realized I was ALONE in the locker room, and that woman was ME! I couldn’t believe it. This is the exact reason why I hired coaches to help me – I am a terrible judge of my own progress. My brain is extremely critical. I need objective opinions to help me see what changes need to be made (as well as when I deserve the occasional, “You’re doing great!”).

 Final Note…

I hope that if you’re struggling with your own progress in the gym, you’ll remember my story and know that you could be doing far better than you realize. Heck, if you even make it to the gym and make an attempt to eat clean, you’re already on the right track, and that deserves acknowledgement. Please feel free to comment here or write me on Facebook with your own stories or thoughts – I love to hear them.

P.S. Here’s a picture of my new toy for the gym: VersaGripps! I got them because my forearms frequently get tired and give out before my stronger bodyparts do (like back and chest). So VersaGripps help my little forearms keep going until the real bodypart I’m trying to work gives out. 

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:

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.

What Motivates You?

How does a girl get herself out of bed at 4:30 am to head to the gym? How do you choke down cold, slimy fish and plain green beans? Well, you’re probably a little bit crazy and a lot MOTIVATED.

Motivation isn’t some sort of magical fountain that I draw upon whenever I feel like it. I work on it every single day. When you’re doing things that are uncomfortable, you’d better have enough motivation to push through that initial discomfort or you’ll never get to reap the rewards.

… And when it comes to losing weight or otherwise reshaping your body, rewards come SLOWLY. Painfully slowly.

If you’re having trouble finding the motivation to practice healthy habits, I recommend a quiz in the latest Oprah magazine (November 2011) that helped me  discover what motivates me and how to use it to succeed – it will help you, too!

The quiz can be found here.

The quiz tells you which of five “motivation styles” fits you.  When I took it, the results were very accurate. My “motivation styles” are Accomplishment and Enlightenment.

Accomplishment. I’m motivated by Accomplishment because I enjoy activities which have a clear and measurable “win”. I know this is true because I’ve become so fascinated with competing. My goal is to  eventually become one of the top competitors in figure.

Enlightenment. I was surprised by my other “motivation style”: Enlightenment. The description explains that things like money and fame would leave me feeling incomplete, and that I spend a lot of time contemplating what “calls” me in life. It adds that I’m pulled toward yoga and meditation. These things are absolutely true.

(For those who are curious, the other 3 motivation styles are Connection, Security & Influence).

So the question is, how do I use this knowledge to reach my goals?

Accomplishment: I learn from the pros. I read every article, blog and book I can get my hands on written by top IFBB competitors. I keep up with these women on Facebook and Twitter, gathering tips and wisdom from them. I use visualization to imagine what it would feel like to stand on the Olympia stage next to them.

I also love reading blogs from regular people like me working toward fitness goals. One of my favorites is Rachel Mac. She’s a litigation attorney who also competes in bikini competitions and is an all-around incredible, inspiring woman. Find her on Facebook here.

Enlightenment: I’m workin’ on that part. I’ve realized that being a top figure competitor wouldn’t fulfill me — I need to also help others to achieve their goals. I had a great discussion with fellow law student who is a successful personal trainer.  She gave me information on how to become a trainer. (…And, through this blog, I hope I can help at least one person out there get a little closer to reaching their goals, fitness or otherwise.)

Have you taken the quiz? Share your results with me. What other methods do you use to remain motivated?