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!