Friday, September 21, 2018

4 Weeks Out - Staying Strong

I had made a promise to myself to really document this journey to my competition this time around.......oops.

Pictures have been taken, measurements have been taken, workouts are being done, check ins with my coach are happening and life is just crazy.  With only four weeks to go tomorrow it is time for an update!

The changes to my body are insane, I have never been as lean as I am right now and there are new striations showing up nearly every day at this point.  My coach does not have me on crazy low calories or insanely low carbs.  I do have three low calorie and low carb days, right around 1182 for my caloric intake.  Is that lower than I would recommend for your typical athlete? YES.  But this is not your typical sport and towards the end when you are trying to cut the final bit of body fat you have some low days.

A couple of weeks ago I had my first really bad workout.  I hadn't hydrated properly the day before and it was a leg day.  My husband knew from the start it would be tough so it wasn't a heavy day by any means and he ended up cutting my training session short.  I was mad at myself, frustrated and shed quite a few tears.  My emotions have been a bit wacky and that day nothing felt better than having him wrap his arms around me in a huge hug reminding me that days like this happen, it's ok to cry it out but then I have to move forward.  He captures moments for me on camera and got a really good one.

This was on September 9th, just two weeks ago.  In my moment of frustration he captured a photo showing how far I have come, that thick back and all of those muscles showing.  I was blown away and it helped me rebound from my pity party.  It truly amazes me the things we sometimes don't see ourselves, I mean I rarely see my back besides photos obviously and photo proof of hard work is rewarding.  I would like to share two more photos from that day in my front and back pose.


We haven't taken my body fat in weeks, my coach Chris likes to base things off of weight.  In these photos I was the same weight I was when I stepped on stage four years ago but much, much leaner.  I am currently two pounds below that weight with four weeks to go.  There have been times when I've felt maybe I should be pushing harder but I really am thrilled with how this process has gone.  Her different approach to this cut has definitely worked and brought about a much different outcome.

Last week I had a work conference in Florida, I was able to go early and spend a few days with my best friend David.  It was a much needed break even though I have to admit traveling while cutting can be difficult.  The Atlanta airport is amazing they had this restaurant that served salmon and eggs, it was perfect.  I also preplanned and was able to get groceries there for plenty of protein waffles, egg whites, chicken and David knowing this process had protein cookies and bars for me.  He went through my two previous competitions with me and knows just how tough it is and how important it is to stay on track, especially in the final weeks.  We had a great time, he is majorly into Halloween and I was able to help him get his Halloween stuff moved from storage to the garage.  Of course some fun photos had to be taken as well :)

I wish we weren't so far away from each other but the time together was completely rejuvenating.  I'm not sure about any of you but I hope you are lucky to have friends who are truly a part of your soul, that is David for me.  He cheers me on in every aspect of my life and helps me believe in myself on the days I have a really hard time.


After a few days in Sarasota with David I was off to Orlando for the Teamsters Women's Conference.  It was wonderful, my co-worker was with me with her family and we had a great time.  The classes were awesome and being surrounded by so many strong, hard working, enthusiastic women was just awesome!  Of course I had to get my gym time in while I was there as well and even left an awesome sweat mark on one of the benches with part of a saying on the tank tops we made for our summer events with our gym.  The back of the shirts say "Find Your Strong" in blue font and "In You" is in white font.  A funny moment happened that day as I walked on the treadmill to warm up.  There was an older gentleman next to me and he looked at me and said, "I know you aren't here to do cardio", it just made me giggle.  That led to a conversation about my participation in the sport of body building and he was so encouraging, it was a wonderful moment.

The stressful part of this cut has had to do with our gym.  We are short on trainers so I have had to fill in quite a bit which has led to some 13 hour days, which I am not used to in any way.  Sleep is very important during this process to help your muscles recover.  I am a sleeper normally but lately I have had a hard time getting good sleep.  I've added in Melatonin which is definitely helping.  The day I flew back from Florida I landed at 4:20pm and taught the 5:30pm and 6:30pm classes that night and the 6:00am class the following morning.  That day completely drained me and I am still working on recovering from it.

I am looking forward to a weekend of quiet.  Yes I have my normal kickboxing, weight training and posing with my coach but that is just a few hours of my Saturday and Sunday.  Having my husband as my trainer and knowing he fully understands this process, has gone through it with me before is such an insane blessing.  I know this weekend he will encourage me to nap, hydrate and recover.  Our daughter is the sweetest as she also remembers my last two competitions and how tough the final weeks can be.  She is now 11, and will be 12 in just three weeks!  It blows my mind how she just wants to help around the house, make sure I am getting rest and encouraging me so much.  She just told me last night how excited she is for the competition weekend and to watch me on stage again.  I have surprised myself with pushing through all that has come along during this prep and know that these next four weeks will fly by.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What is Natural Figure Competing?

Many people who are not into natural bodybuilding may not really know what it is all about.  I hope I can shed some light on the topic for anyone interested in finding out more about it.

As a physically active person my entire life part of that has been weight training.  I just love to lift weights, I always have and my husband is who first introduced me to the world of bodybuilding.  He had a personal training client that he coached for a competition and from there I chose to compete myself.  Now there are many different categories, the sport has grown quite a bit in the four years I have been away from it.

In order to compete in an any natural federation, there are many, such as NANBF, NGA, INBA, ANBF to name a few you must be a natural athlete.  That means you cannot take steroids, growth hormones, prescription diuretics and more.  Each federation has specific lists of banned substances that athletes are not allowed to take.  When you compete you are required to take a polygraph test before the competition and a urinalysis right after you compete.

I personally prefer to participate in natural competitions because I have zero interest in taking any of the banned substances to enhance my physique.  For me it is all about hard work, discipline and most importantly nutrition.  It takes time to build muscle and proper nutrition to fuel and help build those muscles.

This fall I will be competing in the NGA federation.  My choice was based on the timing of competitions.  I have a daughter and she comes first in my life, no matter what.  Do I dedicate a lot of time to training?  Yep.  Do I dedicate a lot of time to meal prepping?  Yep.  Do I dedicate a lot of time to posing practice?  Yep.  She watches me do all of these things and you know what, she ENCOURAGES me, she is PROUD of me and she is learning that a woman can work a full-time job, run a gym, make time for family and friends all while doing the "crazy" things it takes to compete.  I had chosen a competition in my home town but it fell on her birthday, I talked to her about it and she asked me to choose a different competition.  Without missing a beat I immediately looked for a different weekend to compete and it will be the weekend after her birthday.  

My very first competition happened to be the weekend of her birthday, the day of the competition was my mom's birthday and my sweet Bella's birthday was the following Sunday.  It was a wonderful weekend full of support from my family for my competition and we celebrated both my mom and Bella that following Sunday.  Bella even participated in the kids "showdown" and received her very own medal.

This sport certainly takes dedication but it doesn't mean it has to consume your entire life.  I am in cutting mode so yes there are days when I am not having that beer I may want or a piece of cake.  That is MY choice and honestly I do not feel deprived.  I have THE best coach with Chris Goodman of GPS Coaching guiding me, if I want that beer I can certainly make it fit into my macros.  20 weeks of cutting are part of the sport I choose to participate in, there are much worse choices I could be making.

Figure is the category I compete in because frankly I don't feel I have the size for physique and you really have to get LEAN in physique.  Bikini isn't really my style, I just don't have the "sass" it requires and I don't have the desire to put on the size required for the actual bodybuilding category and you must be even leaner than the physique competitors.

Figure judging encompasses symmetry of the physique, overly bulky and striated muscles are not encouraged for Figure but I have seen plenty of competitions where women do very well with striated muscles.  The idea is to have a toned, proportioned and feminine physique.  The tricky part is that for each judge they could have a different idea of what they are looking for in a competitor.  That is why it is so very important to go into this sport for yourself and to compete against yourself.  You may step on that stage presenting your best physique but another competitor could have slightly better posing presentation or the judges could prefer another competitors look to yours.  These ladies who compete together are all about cheering one another on and sharing in the joy of simply competing.

Starting off that was hard for me and a reason I took four years off.  I had to get myself into a better place mentally and life also had other plans for me.  As I go through this process again there is change in me.  I am relaxed and enjoying myself as I slowly change.  My mindset is on bringing the best ME to the stage in October, the outcome shall be what it may and I will be happy regardless.  

You have mandatory poses you must do on stage to present your physique to the judges.  You have your front pose, side pose, back pose, side pose.  It is a quarter turn into each pose and rather than make hard transitions making smooth "pretty" transitions are what you work for.  Even in my four years away I still practiced my mandatory poses, I can say that has paid off for me big time.

Now that you have hopefully learned a little bit about the sport I truly love here are some comparison photos in my first few weeks of cutting.  This is my first time doing a longer cut and I am so happy that Chris approached me to take me on as her sponsored athlete and guide me as she has.  Finding a good coach is HUGE, I can't possibly say enough good things about her.  She has her clients best interest at heart, she is honest and she is knowledgeable, continually learning as the sport evolves.

I am slowly leaning out and seeing more muscle definition.  I will continue to share comparison photos because it is truly is crazy how the body changes during this process.  Always remember, do what makes YOU happy.  As long as you are able to be present in your life and enjoy your hobby don't let anyone dim your shine or minimize your personal goals.  Those who truly support you in life help to bring you up rather than bring you down because they do not understand what YOU choose to do in your life.

Monday, July 2, 2018

My First Spartan Sprint

A week ago I ran my first Spartan Sprint in Richmond, IL at Richmond Hunt Club.  There was a lot of rain in the week leading up to the race which made for a very muddy course.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect and knew it would be tougher than any other obstacle race I've ran before.

We had a great team from our gym, I just love how involved everyone is becoming in running different events together.  I know personally it would be tough to get through a race like this without the support of my team.

This race was a birthday gift for my husband.  He loves this kind of stuff and he has wanted to run a Spartan for a long time.  Of course I signed us both up but I was the one who was a bit fearful of the race.

Thankfully the weather was perfect.  It wasn't too humid, there was no rain and the heat wasn't too bad.  I tried my best to hydrate a lot the day before and in the morning before we ran.  There was so much excitement on the bus as we headed to the race location.

We arrived early so we could get a few pictures before we got all muddy.  The atmosphere was amazing!!!!  There was just so much energy and people cheering on everyone my nerves turned a bit more into excitement :)

Starting off right away we had walls to climb over, thankfully they start off small.  I could not believe the deep mud we had to run through.  Having Traci to run with was such a blessing.  She is such a beast and I learned a lot from her on this course.  My expectations for myself were to just get through it, my grip strength in my right hand isn't the best.  I did not make it through the monkey bars or the twister, thankfully my team helped through my many burpees.  The up/down motion of burpees really gets to me and makes me nearly faint.

We got a nice group photo in the corn field at this point our group had kind of broken into separate groups with some going on ahead.  We also had the plate drag which was super easy for me.

The major mud came from the barbed wire crawl, SO MUCH MUD!!!!  It was fun though but man it was tough getting through that thick mud.  From there it was onto the dunk wall (which I was scared of from the name) but it was easy, especially when one side wasn't really under the water.

The bucket carry wasn't bad, I carried the men's bucket with Traci.  Seriously she pushed me to be stronger than I know I am and I was damn proud of myself for carrying that bucket.  I didn't make the spear throw, who would have thought that would be so difficult?  There were major moments of frustration but I don't practice throwing spears very often ;)

Thankfully one of our members had a little fanny pack with her and I had some glucose tablets in there and they were very much needed.  After doing the sandbag carry, which felt easy, when I took it off my shoulders I nearly fainted on the spot.  Another member who runs a LOT of Spartans with his wife had some Clif Shot energy gel and it was just what I needed to keep going.

One of the final obstacles was my biggest fear, the high cargo net A-frame.  I literally had tears as we approached it and was in my head before we even got to it.  Kyle grabbed my hand as we got to it, he and Traci just kept repeating to me that I could do this and they would be right beside me.  As we started to climb I was just freaked out, members who finished before us were watching and they didn't want to cheer me on because they could see me shaking all the way up and were afraid they would distract me.  Traci kept telling me not to look down, which was hard to do.  When I got to the top I wanted to climb back down but I didn't.  With their guidance I got myself over it and completed the obstacle with tears and big hugs from Traci and Kyle.

It took us just over three hours to finish.  I applaud everyone who runs these races, especially the regular Spartans and Spartan Beasts, I can't imagine running either of those.  There will be more Spartan Sprints in my future but not this year.  It was an awesome bonding experience for our members who ran it and everyone did so amazing!!!

Next year depending on my goals I may try for the Spartan Trifecta but we shall see.  For now I am back to focusing on my training for the October Figure Competition.  My bruises are healing and my heart is full, so many wonderful memories were made and I am proud of our accomplishment!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

20 Weeks Out

Saturday my journey officially began with Chris Goodman of GPS Coaching for the NGA Natural Peoria Championships on October 20th.

I am so excited to learn from Chris and prep in a different way.  She has started me off with a caloric reduction and varying days for carb/protein/fat amounts.  I will have two high carb days, two medium carb days and three low carb days.  Kyle is having me weight train five days a week.  Allowing 20 weeks for the prep will give us time to play around with the numbers and see what best suits my body.

With this prep I do have a "new to me" challenge.  My body seems to continually be changing, not sure if it is my age or what.  My menstrual cycle has changed dramatically which led to me talking with my doctor.  I have multiple fibroids and will be meeting with an OBGYN to discuss treatment options.  Having just had surgery to have my right thyroid removed last November I am hoping we can find a solution that does not involve surgery.  Regardless I am going to give it my all throughout this prep and deal with the not so fun time of the month and just get through it.

My weight starting off is 149 pounds.  Chris is not concerned with my body fat, she goes off of measurements and pictures/check ins rather than checking body fat.  That is a big change for me, I can still have Kyle do it because I am going to be curious about that number, it's just the way I am.

So here I was two weeks out from my last competition which was in May 2014.

Here I am currently, 20 weeks out from my next competition.

My weight training over the last four years has not been consistent the entire time.  I would have time frames of taking a couple months off due to health issues both physical and mental.  Even with that I am happy to see the growth in my back, my lats are much wider which helps to make my waist look smaller.  I really have been trying to grow my "wings" and what Kyle had me doing has definitely worked!

Since January I have been very consistent with my training and nutrition.  To see the pictures and know I have 20 weeks of cutting, it just gives me butterflies of excitement to see how I end up for the competition.  Now as I go through this journey I know there will be voices questioning why and judging me, it has already begun.  Even those closest to you sometimes cannot understand the journey you choose and will view you with eyes of judgement.  But this journey is for ME and I choose to compete because I truly enjoy it.
Even though comments can sting, and they may not be made with that intention, I will move on from them and remember I am not doing this for anyone else but myself.  My biggest piece of advice for anyone that considers competing is to know that there will ALWAYS be someone who judges you but as long as you are doing it for the right reasons you can move past it and ignore the haters.

This is going to be a fun journey for me and I am so pumped to see the changes in my body as we go along.  It is fascinating to slowly lose the body fat and see all of the muscles hiding underneath.  So here we go, a journey that may seem crazy and silly to some, but one that I choose to undertake with joy and love for myself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Gladiator Assault Challenge

One day long ago I was a runner.  I have ran multiple half marathons but after injuries and pursuing different goals running hasn't been a big part of my training.

However I do enjoy obstacle races but have only participated in small ones.  My husband and Traci decided to put a team together for our gym to participate in the Gladiator Assault Challenge.  I was all for it, then I realized it was six miles long with 31 obstacles and on a ski hill.  I went into it not really knowing what to fully expect but I was excited that we had 17 people on our team and knew everyone would be supportive and help one another through the course.

Our group consisted of runners, obstacle race participants and a few first time obstacle race participants.  As with any race there was a lot of excitement and adrenaline before the race began.  To get to the start you first had to walk up the very steep ski hill, no joke I was tired just walking up that dang hill.

Kyle and Traci were keeping me upbeat and excited before the actual start.  We began running back down the huge hill we walked up and went straight over two mud hills that you had to slide down into some cold water.  We got crazy muddy right off the bat and my shoes were so heavy with mud!

At the beginning we all stayed together pretty much running along and having fun in the mud.  Once we hit the timber area with some very steep inclines and muddy trails our group split into about three groups.  Traci, who I know could have just ran that race, stayed with me the entire time.  Encouraging me through each obstacle because there were some that I was simply fearful of.  Kyle would get ahead a bit and then circle back to make sure I was doing alright.  

My fears for this race were climbing over the walls, heights get to me and my biggest fear was going into water underneath a chain length fence and pulling yourself through.  I was fine climbing up the wall but once I was up there fear took over, they were slick with mud and I would freeze wondering if I could do it.  Traci was right beside me at the top guiding me down with Kyle at the bottom cheering me on and reminding me that I could do it.

Of course the final obstacle was the one I feared the most.  I stood there for a few moments contemplating skipping it.  Traci once again was right beside me, encouraging me and I just decided to go for it.  This picture isn't of me, it is one of our members who went through it but this is what it was.

I was actually doing great until I got to the end.  Another competitor accidentally bumped into me and pushed me against the side, I hit my head on the top part of the fence and was stuck for about five seconds.  That five seconds was enough to make me panic, thankfully he realized he had bumped me and he pulled me out.  It was so scary but I did it!!!!

Overcoming my fears was what this race was all about and I did every single obstacle.  It was such an awesome event and having our amazing Kosama team made it one of the best races I have ever participated in.

I could not have done it without the support and encouragement from everyone, especially Traci and Kyle.  Teamwork is what these races are all about for us.  Playing in the mud was fun, I was exhausted by the end but still smiling.

I am the girl who loves to dress up and wear high heels.  Traci is the girl who loves to get muddy and run.  We make quite the team and I know I wouldn't have been able to get through the race like I did without her.  Kyle encouraged me and as usual his belief in me is stronger than my own belief in myself.  

With that race in the books I move forward with my weight training and preparation for the October competition.  We are running the Spartan Sprint in Chicago in June, it makes me nervous just typing that out.  I know it will be tough and the obstacles will be more difficult along with the burpees you do when you can't pass an obstacle.  Traci and Kyle will be there along with other Kosamies and I know we will have fun.

Always believe in yourself, this was an awesome experience with some of the strongest, most supportive people in my life.  I am blessed!