IT'S ABOUT TO GET CRAZY AROUND HERE
So I’m winding down to the last few weeks of training before prep goes into crazy overdrive with depletion workouts and nutrient manipulation to get to that final shredded state and stage ready.
I’m working on the details of my posing routines for two different divisions in the fitness competition, that being bikini (or beach body) and figure. What I’ve learned from my coaches is that I have the body type that, for now, can compete in bikini and, also, figure, which is a more developed muscle physique. What that means, though, is that I’ll be a smaller figure competitor, for sure. But judges look for balance and symmetry and how your body shows that. You don’t want to have overly huge thighs or even shoulders that don’t match the rest of your physique. So, with that in mind, I’m gonna go for it. Why the heck not? You only live once, right? Might as well do as much as you can. Sink or swim. I plan to swim, even if to have to hold on to the side for a little bit. Plus, I bought a frickin amazing posing suit that I am determined to wear more than once to get my money’s worth out of it.
Today I did a shoulder and triceps workout before hitting a session with my posing coach, who, by the way, is amazing. I’ve learned so much from Brittany Rice about what to bring to the stage that’s going to set you apart from other competitors. I can’t even begin to tell you how far I’ve come. She’s really helped me bring my “sass” out on stage, which you definitely need to make an impact on judges, as well as the tight glutes, abs and overall muscle tone and conditioning.
This year, my challenge has been to build my shoulders. It’s been really difficult. My coach says I must be an ectomorph. That sounds horrible but it’s basically a long, lean person who has difficulty building muscle. That would be me. (Not sure about the long and lean part at my age.) But our plan is for me to lift heavy for another week before depletion supersets start and then peak week, of course. My coach, Helen Horton, says continuing to lift heavy should keep me full in time for the stage. (You don’t want to look “flat” Read all about ectomorphs here and what body type are you www.bodybuilding.com/fun/becker3.htm )
That brings me to the next progress mention. Today I went in for body measurements and even though I knew the scale had not been moving in a downward direction much I felt a lot leaner and tighter in the midsection and all-around. I was on average about a half a pound lighter throughout the week, but at this point I’m not trying to lose much weight. It’s more about how my physique is looking overall.
Last time I checked in for body composition measurements, I was 9.4% bodyfat with 113 pounds of lean mass. Today, two weeks later, I was down to 9.1% bodyfat with 112 pounds of lean body mass. I’ve gone down only about a half a pound, but it all adds up to some nice gains over the two weeks. Less fat plus I’m slighter lighter in weight is a great thing!
It to give you an idea how different women’s bodies can be, some figure competitor teammates and even bikini competitors on my team, have gone on stage at about 7% bodyfat. In fact, one of our teammates is currently at 7.4% bodyfat and she’s also 3 weeks out from competition. But everybody’s body shape and where you hold your weight, is so
different that 7.5% body fat on stage may look perfect on one women but that would make another competitor look like Skeletor.
For me, much of my advantage (if I do it right) will come from my posing routine, conditioning (holding the flexed pose) and angles I show on stage. Of course, the nutrition has to be on point, and with Helen’s guidance, I shouldn’t have any problems there.
All in all, this prep season has been amazing, my best one so far! I eliminated some stressors, got better sleep and was able to focus better on my nutrition. I’m not saying I didn’t feel like just quitting at some point during this training because I did!! But every time I was feeling defeated, I went through some significant turning point that kept me on the path.
So, what I’d like to share and stress to you is to never be afraid to put it all on the line. Face the scariest things in your life with staunch determination and don’t stop even when you’re at your weakest moments and you want to throw it all away, find that small grain of strength and pull yourself out of your funk and march on! It worked for me for 26 years as a TV newscaster and now as a developing fitness competitor.
Weeks one and two you are gung-ho. Heck, the first month you’re usually still going strong. But heading into the second or third month, and your diet and exercise plan can start to feel fatiguing and downright draining.
But even if the scale is not budging, you have to celebrate and cling to every win. Every step closer to your goal is significant no matter how big or small.
I just had my body assessment done, and I’m down about 1% body fat in 3 weeks to 13.6%. It’s not much but somethings is something, right? And even though the scale has stayed the same, I’ve increased lean body mass by a pound to 112 lbs.
I’m in the 7th week of training for my first fitness competition of the season. While the scale hasn’t changed much, I feel stronger and, of course, the clothes are fitting better.
I met with my posing coach for the first time yesterday and went through the basic figure poses and routines. I have a lot of work to do, but she was excited about my lats so that makes me thrilled about my progress.
Can’t wait to see what the next 2-4 weeks will bring!
If you’re on a journey to get healthier, get stronger, lose weight, this is around the time many folks give up or get discouraged. Don’t.
Trust in the process. Make tweaks where you have to. I’m currently tweaking my diet to compensate for what seems to be food sensitivities I have now that I didn’t used to have! Here’s a helpful article that discusses how to lose fat and build muscle https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/6-ways-to-reduce-body-fat-while-increasing-muscle.html
Our bodies change as we get older, and “healthy” foods that helped us lose weight in our 20’s and 30’s may not help, but hinder you, in your 40’s and 50’s.
Be patient. Sometimes it takes time to figure out your body.
This Saturday marks 15 weeks until I hit the stage for my first fitness competition this season. I have been excited about this prep frankly because I was tired of overindulging during the holidays and I was craving some clean, natural and non processed foods. So, as I have discovered after 3 years of preparing for fitness competitions, there are ebbs and flows in the training. For example, just when you think, you’ve got the whole process figured out, you get a curveball thrown at you.
It happened to me last year in my third year going through fitness competition training. I was finally “free” of the time constraints of a full time job. I had “more time" to devote to prep and “less stress” from a demanding career. Or so I thought.
The red flags? While prepping for the two competitions I had in 2018, my body wasn’t responding the way I expected. I mean, in my mind, I had figured out how to manipulate macros to help me lose weight and build muscle the year before, but I just wasn’t seeing the progress as quickly as the other competitors on my team and I couldn’t explain why. My body seemed to be at a standstill for almost 2 months with very little progress in my physique development. My body fat was barely creeping down as the weeks went by. I started my prep in May and, still, at the end of June, I felt stagnant. I couldn’t see the progress in the mirror, the scale or my body measurements.
Should I quit? Well, that wasn’t an option, but I was preparing myself to face failure if my body couldn’t get its act together. I tried everything I could to figure out what was hindering me and couldn’t pinpoint it. I took extra digestive enzymes, probiotics, special teas to help with digestion, but nothing worked. It was so strange because everything I had done the year before to get stage ready, didn’t seem to be working this time around.
How zany is fitness competition prep? I am the first to admit, being stage ready for a competition, can be extreme. It’s wild to think a woman will diet down to 8-9%t body fat and in the process lose about 10-15 pounds to get there. Some competitors may lose more, if they start out heavier. But what I enjoy about competing is, not only the challenge of getting “stage ready”, but everything I have learned about eating clean. Learning to meal prep has made all the difference in my knowledge about weight loss and maintenance. Plus, even after I am done competing for good, there are so many things I can take with me as I transition into a less restrictive lifestyle so I don’t spiral into the weight gain trap.
What did I learn? Well, I learned that when you make major life changes, as in your work schedule, changes careers, or leaving a career, it will affect your mental state and ability to reach weight loss goals. At least it did in my case. But my body is like that — I’ve heard others are like this, too, But, seriously, any change in routine, even traveling, throws my body out of whack.
What else changed? Not just the lack of a structured day where I had every moment figured out, but I started a new business as a fitness & nutrition coach, and that was taking a lot of my time, cutting into my sleep and generally adding a physical workload that I wasn’t figuring in to my prep. When I finally started counting the calories I was burning during the boot camp classes I was holding, it turns out I was burning as many as 300 to 400 calories per class, just setting up weights, and teaching it!! So maybe I wasn’t eating enough or eating too many protein bars because I didn’t have the time to stop and breathe and get in regular foods. Maybe, as my nutrition, aka, life coach, told me I was building up cortisol which was interfering with my physique goals. (Check out what too much cortisol does here: www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037 )
What am doing differently now? I have realized I have to remove some of the stressors in my life if I want to reach a new, bigger and better personal goal. So, just as I have preached to my clients, I have had to apply the advice to my own life. I have to slow down. We all have to slow down, to be able to focus on priorities and reach your goals. If you are a notorious multitasker with a little bit of ADD in your personality, like me, that is really hard.
So, moving forward, the goal in 2019 is to declutter physically, emotionally, and digitally! Focus, take your time, be patient and work hard! Now, get after those goals! Hope all your aspirations for this year and beyond come true!
\ Every week gets better and has its high points and setbacks. Week 2 went just like that. Sunday through Thursday were amazing. I followed the diet plan well, I came much closer to hitting my calories and macronutrients like I am supposed to. I got back into the swimming pool for laps. This is my steady state cardio much like what many of my 8 Week Get Lean Challengers are required to do for their cardio. It used to be really hard to step back from my running to swim or jump rope or cycle instead, but now I enjoy the rest I give my knees by switching gears in the cardio department.
I dropped down to 130 pounds but then came Friday and my husband's charity golf tournament and I blew it on the diet end. I'm pretty mad at myself for not having more self control, But as with all fitness journeys, it takes time to get to your goals. Thank goodness I have 16 more weeks to go. (But when you are on an 8 week challenge, it doesn't give you much leeway for slip ups.)
Anyway, I'm back on track, I am expecting to drop my calories again this week. Not sure by how much yet. But I have been having trouble eating all those calories on most days anyway (except the weekend when I blew it!)
So, new week, slightly adjusted nutrition goals, positive attitude and, boom, let's get it done!
Week one was tough. I got all the workouts done, and actually Monday through Wednesday were great. I even lost a pound in those 3 days, and hidden ab muscles were beginning to make a reappearance.
The hard part is that I am planning my food a little differently this year since I don't have to be at an "office" for eight to nine hours a day, so it's not necessary to pack my food for the day. I can prepare it with a little more flexibility and creativity. However, as a result, I haven't gotten into a groove for when to eat my food, when to have a snack versus a regular meal. I'm basically all over the place as a mom who works from home now scheduling my day around the kids and the hubby.
That's where having a set routine, where you do work and have to be somewhere from a certain time to a certain time helps if you are meal prepping or trying to stay on an eating schedule. It gives you that routine and stability of knowing where you are going to be at some hour of the day. Even if you travel in a car for your workday, at least you know where you will be and how to plan your food.
My calories are down to 1883 for a few days a week and 1663 for the rest of the time. So I have been logging my food meticulously and looking at the grams of protein, carbs, and fats that I am eating.
My biggest challenge has actually been getting all my protein in and sometimes the carbs, too. What happens is by 8:30 or 9 I am still supposed to eat more, but I just can't handle eating anymore chicken, beef or fish! I haven't wanted a protein shake, either. I am going to have to change my routine somehow. I bought some bone broth recently. Maybe I'll have to force myself to drink my protein in a broth that's not so heavy for late in the evening. I need to try a few recipes with it. I might just add some lo carb toast to it or add the broth to another dish. One cup has 50 calories and 10 grams of protein. (<-insert creativity here)
So where am I starting in this competition prep process ? I managed to keep my body fat between 12-15% during marathon training, but in the last 4 weeks of training and in the 2 weeks post-marathon, I popped up to 19% body fat. Not good. But that's what's been happening during the longest portions of my endurance training. (That's why I got into bodybuilding!) I think my body goes into "reserve" mode or "safety" mode and starts hoarding calories because it thinks I'm going to die running all those miles! Lol But, seriously, I think that's what's happening. It's like a self preservation mechanism. But the good news is I didn't get up to 23% body fat which is what happened last year. And I attribute that to following a macros plan all year.
One documented theory for why this happens to endurance athletes is explained in an article by Gale Bernhardt, an Olympic triathlete and cycling coach, on TrainingPeaks.com, According to the piece, nearly 25% of American adults have Metabolic Syndrome, a disorder that "causes calories to be stored instead of burned. If you have Metabolic Syndrome you’re not good at using calories from sugar for energy....You can’t get sugar into the muscle. Sugar gets moved to the liver and converted to stored fat." So how the body uses sugar, or carbs, is affected. Your body is processing the carbs you eat for energy and instead is just hoarding them on your body. You can read more about this here www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/metabolic-syndrome-gaining-weight-during-endurance-sports-training/
But now for the positives of the week! I recently discovered a new breakfast item/snack I love thanks to my coach! Mashed sweet potatoes and a scoop of any favorite protein powder. I like to add fruit on top! I keep the sweet potatoes to 100-120 grams. So it comes out to about 270-280 calories per serving and at least 20 grams of that is protein. Win!!
Seventeen more weeks to get this new round of prep done right! The Texas Shredder is September 8th! Not letting one set back knock me off track. Just gotta focus on starting the week fresh and doing the best I can. That's what I hope my Get Lean Challengers take from this, too! One bad day or week isn't the end of the world.
Party's over, or you could say the party’s just about to begin. Depends on how you look at it. From here on out, every gram of protein, carbohydrate and fat I eat will determine how my body develops over the next 18 weeks. Even how I burn calories will help or hurt my development.
Sounds extreme, right? I wouldn’t care so much about these tiny details except I have seen the huge difference it makes in transforming my body from average to shredded and toned simply by following the nutrition plan to a T.
As a short term goal, it’s a fun challenge to see how much I can transform my body. In two years of living the fitness competition lifestyle, I have learned a lot about eating clean, how much to eat, and how many times a day. My body now also craves a different kind of nourishment that includes lots of fresh vegetables and water in my diet that I didn’t always incorporate before.
It’s definitely not a plan for anyone to follow for the rest of their life. But in the two years I have followed it, I have adopted many good eating habits that I practice every day now, even when I am not in prep. It’s funny, I can’t believe I deprived my body of so much great food, that’s healthy, too, for so many years! And my family enjoys a lot of it, too!
Even so, I realize fitness competitions are absolutely not for everyone, however, there are so many things about them that all people can benefit from. That’s what I want to share with others. If you are committed to getting healthier and stronger, there will be things in the fitness competitor’s lifestyle you can incorporate in your own lives that will help you reach your fitness goals.
I am excited! From now until October, I will be blogging and vlogging in detail on my website about my own fitness competition prep. I just started my prep for the NPC Texas Shredder in early September and another two competitions I have yet to nail down.
What I do know is that I will be making my “pro debut” in the Naturally Fit Federation, which, by the way, is an all-natural bodybuilding federation. They test for substances like steroids. And, for the record, I would never do that to my body. It goes against every reason why I started lifting weights and competing in the first place.
I hope you continue to follow my journey and are motivated by my experiences as you make your way to a stronger, healthier you!
Train. Execute. Conquer. Easier said than done. 2018’s Boston Marathon goes into the record books as being one of the toughest races for runners to endure. Yep, it was. No lie.
I trained 20 weeks for this race once again shooting for that elusive 3:30 finish I so desperately wanted.
I knew heading into it, I didn’t feel strong enough to maintain an 8:00 minute pace unless by some grace of God, my feet grew wings. Even so, I was still hopeful especially since I decided to take it easy the week before the race and let my legs recover from the last few weeks of difficult training.
But about a week before, as I was beginning to peek at the weather conditions for the day, and I began to worry. It went from temperatures in the 30’s to windy, to snow to heavy rain. Ugh. Who could deal with that for 26 miles?
Surely something would change, I thought. It couldn’t possibly be that bad?
But it was. Everything that was forecast except the snow.
Race day came, and as all runners were bussed out to the starting line in Hopkington, Massachusetts, 26 miles outside of Boston, we all talked about how we were layered for the conditions and how we expected to finish the race. I’ve never seen more runners wearing rain and cold jackets, ponchos, hoodies and plastic bags over their running shoes. I don’t think anyone cared about paying for those race day pictures on the route! We all looked so silly in our getups, but you gotta do what you gotta do to stay warm, right?
I think waiting in the cold rain, huddled against a wall and each other for 45 minutes was the worst. At least when we started running, everyone warmed up despite being drenched in 38 degree rain.
Next to the waiting, having to use the porta potty was the next worst moment for women runners. I think I avoided drinking water as much as I could so I wouldn’t have to remove any clothing.
Reduced hydration was another issue runners had to deal with. It’s hard to know you are thirsty when you are freezing and sweating at the same time. I must have grabbed a few gulps of water at only 5 water stations this year. That’s my record low for a marathon! Thank goodness I’m like a dang camel. Lol.
I also hardly reached for my go-to Gu gels I usually use for energy. I had one before I started running because I was cold and then about three along the route. I usually have about 6 during a marathon.
After the race I talked to a lot of runners that had cramping issues and I’m not sure if it was the cold or just not realizing that your body needs nutrients like electrolytes, Magnesium and salt replenished. Running in the rain makes you forget you’re sweating because it just feels like water.
I am not sure what the explanation is for the cramps in the arches of my feet that started as soon as I began running. It was a horrible pain that worsened if I tried to go faster. It felt like a tendon was pulling in my rear arch and if I ran too fast it would rip. I know, TMI…right? But it was horrible and constantly on my mind during the run.
But somehow the pain was numbed at times and I could enjoy the course. My favorite area is the students lined up at Wellesley College. All the observers are so supportive and loud, but this group is especially fun. They are mostly girls and many have signs saying, “Kiss Me” so you see some kisses shared, but I opted for a few high fives.
It’s funny how last year when I ran Boston, reaching mile 21 felt like I was in the home stretch. This year, all I felt was pain. I picked up the pace a little after Heartbreak Hill at mile 20-21 but not nearly as fast as I did last year. I thought I just needed to finish in one piece and prayed my arches would not cramp up bad enough to force me to stop.
So I kept going, even finding the energy a few times on the course, to pull out my phone and take a selfie or a video.
The crowds start to get louder at Boston College where everyone seems to be having a Patriots Day party to celebrate the holiday and the marathon. Once we get to mile 22 and 23, crowds get thicker, the route is narrower and has more turns as we get into downtown. From some ways out, we can see the giant iconic Citgo sign above Kenmore Square and it really begins to feel like we’re nearing the finish!
I love the giant sign painted on the street that reads 1 mile to go, so you know you’re at 25.2. THAT feels sooo good and it’s time ignore the pain and run as fast as you can (and get your camera ready for another selfie of course! Lol)
My favorite part of the race is turning onto Hereford street and then eyeing the turn onto Boylston Street which is the final stretch before the finish. From Hereford to Boylston the crowd is so loud it makes you emotional every time. The last 385 yards of the race you can see the finish line banner lit up in blue and yellow and I’m sure every runner headed for it feels like they’ve just won the race! I know I do! And I can’t wait to someday do it again.
It’s hard to believe the Boston Marathon is less than a week away! On Monday I ran my last 10 miler and I’m doing a few shake out runs this week…like 5 miles or less.
My hamstrings are super tight, so I will be working on stretching and rolling out my legs with the foam roller, and maybe take a yoga class if I can squeeze it in. Also, it’s always been helpful to get a Cryofreeze session in to help in muscle recovery and prep. Those are brutal, but afterward your body feels heavenly!
I won’t lie the last few long runs and interval runs have also been brutal for me. I just didn’t want to do them. I think I procrastinated all day.
From the 16 miler two weeks ago to the 12 miler last week, I was dreading having to go those distances at about an 8:15 pace. I didn’t quite make the pace in either run, but at least I finished in one piece. Ha!
My interval runs the last two weeks consisted of 8 x 800’s at a 3:40 pace and then 10x800’s at the same pace. An 800 is a basically a ½ mile hard run-- just a tad slower than sprinting. I finished those pretty strong. The first set was between 3:37 and 3:45. The last set of 10 clocked in at 3:30 to 3:43. Nice!! But that’s probably why my hamstrings are not happy today!
It’s all part of the last few weeks of marathon training. The feeling that you’re so sick of running and can’t do another training run to save your life. But, gotta, suck it up and get it done. The suffering is almost over and the glory awaits as you cross the finish line.
In case you have ever considered taking up marathon training, I attached a training plan similar to what I did for my very first few marathons, when all I cared about was getting the miles in and being able to finish at a natural pace for me. If you are wondering, my natural pace marathon finish is 4 hours and 15 minutes. That’s without any speed work.
If you love running and want to build a good foundation, try following this plan. Let me know how you like it and if you really love it and after 8-10 weeks, you want to add some speed work, I can incorporate that for you.
But this plan is great for someone who isn’t out to set world records, but you want get that marathon run off your bucket list and, who knows, maybe down the road, you might add a little speed demon stats to your resume of sports accomplishments.
On Sundays for Cross training, I would suggest doing a weight lifting class but go lighter on your legs. So an upper body type exercise is great -- even like a boxing workout.
On one of your Rest days, you should consider doing a yoga for runners class to stretch out those muscles. You could also do a yoga class on one of your lower mileage running days.
Some days you have so much weighing on your mind and your heart you just don't feel like running. Why? Your body aches and your heart is heavy. That happened to me this week.
My oldest son's transmission went out on his car, his grades in college were not good at mid semester, and he still owed us, his parents, a lot of money for basically throwing away his first semester by deciding to not take his finals at UT Arlington and transferring to UTSA.
His car is also an item he purchased without our consent. So why should we pay for the repair? It broke my heart. I wanted to help him with what he needed to get back on track, get to work, and get himself around.
But I knew I needed to show some tough love. So I headed out on my run thinking about all of these things. My legs were heavy, and my breathing was off. I even cried during my run as I thought about my son telling me his life sucked.
I think as parents we want to solve all of our kids problems, but we shouldn't. So I thought about that, and thought and thought. And by mile 3 I was feeling a little lighter in my step, my legs and my lungs were loosening up. I felt like I could be his super mom again, even though I wasn't going to dish out three thousand bucks right off the bat to rescue him.
But I felt strong enough to be his cheerleader and loving supporter and get through my easy pace 6 mile run.
Sometimes some runs are just intended to help get things off your chest, make you emotionally stronger, and able to deal with the curveballs life throws at you.
Don't dodge those curve balls. Face 'em head on. Running helps you do that.