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 own 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!
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 a healthy 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 (out driving) 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.
Click on my link to see what one documented theory says about endurance athletes and weight gain.
You can also read about a new snack/breakfast option that is to die for! It's 20 grams of protein and only 270-280 calories max (If you opt for a larger serving).
I also talked about this new amazing snack/breakfast meal in a feature TV piece I did with Cristina Blackwell and Great Day SA. She came to my home to talk about how busy moms can get meal prepping done. The piece will be airing before our Fitastic Foods Meal Prep 101 party next Thursday, the 17th. (Details bellow)
So....back to competition prep! Seventeen more weeks to get this new round of prep done right for the Texas Shredder It's September 8th! Not letting one setback knock me off track. Just gotta focus on starting the week fresh and doing the best I can.
Sarah's Competition Bikini Workout: Friday- Push Day 2 + Legs (Shoulders, Chest, and Triceps - Quad Focus)
SARAH’S PUSH, PULL AND LEGS ROUTINE
From beginners to experienced gym-goers, Push, Pull and Legs is a simple, but very effective training split for anyone interested in building muscle across their entire body. Push workouts take care of chest, shoulders and triceps, while pull workouts look after back and biceps. The leg portions of the program include quads, hamstrings and calves.
Overhead barbell shoulder press
Incline DB press
Overhead triceps extensions
Bulgarian split squats
From beginners to experienced gym-goers, Push, Pull and Legs is a simple, but very effective training split for anyone interested in building muscle across their entire body.
Here's a glimpse of one of the workouts in the rotation:
1 Assisted or weighted pull ups
2. Bent Over Rows
3 Cable rows
4. Rear delt flys
5. DB bicep curls
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 happened 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 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 Cryo freeze 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 on my website at www.sarahlucerofitness.com. It's the training plan I followed (in 1993!), 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, this is a great plan to follow. If you end up following the plan for about 8-10 weeks and you want to be challenged more with some speed work, I can incorporate that for you.
But the 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 sports resume.