8 Weeks Out – Good News and Bad News

Good News

Prep has been progressing, as coach says,  “like clockwork”. So much so, that I started to wonder this week if my posing suit will still fit in a couple months.  Has to.  Can’t afford a new one.  Better get a couple cans of Bikini Bite!  Hahaha!

Up until about a week ago, my food intake goals were to hit my protein macros (1 gram per lb of  body weight) and use the bodybugg to keep a caloric deficit of 500 to 600 calories each day.  Carbs and fat grams have not been specifically set for me.  Calorie burn each day dictates how much food I will get to eat.  That naturally cycles carbs and fats up or down depending on my activity.  I was also given a weekly limit of 800 calories burned for cardio.  The bugg can track that for me, too.  That limit has been easy to reach with just walking.  A nice little dog walk after work.  Nothing crazy hard.  That was the protocol for a few weeks.  I’m probably due for a small diet break this next week.

Screenshot from Gym Buddy App

Weight on May 16th

I added a page to the blog for current progress pictures.  Check out the menu bar above.  This visual record will be useful for future contest preps.

Last week, Coach asked me to make a slight change.  Keep fat grams under 30% of total calories and increase cardio burn to 1200 calories a week.  I was happy to the get the extra movement.  More calories burned = more calories to eat.  My burn has been adapting downward a tiny bit for a couple of reasons – a) I’m smaller and b) I’ve been in a calorie deficit for a while, so energy is low so I’m not moving as much during the day.    Not worried about any of this – it is all expected because this is how the body works.  So the extra little bit of cardio has been good.  I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed my cardio time because I’m doing as much of it outside as possible.  Walks and bike rides.  If I have to do it at the gym, I’ve been using high-incline treadmill mostly, because it makes my legs feel pumped, but started with the rower last week.  I’m using cardio to relax and reflect – I’ve needed to do both of those things a lot lately.

Bad News – REALLY, really bad news

About 3 weeks ago, one of my 8th grade students from last semester committed suicide.





I haven’t been able to write about it. And I couldn’t write about anything else because nothing else felt important.

I loved that kid.  She was a tough little thing.  Made me laugh every day.  Foul-mouthed, funny, impulsive, and she wiggled into my heart and set up shop.  When I was given the opportunity to transfer, there was a very short list of reasons why I didn’t want to do it – and every one of those reasons was a kid.  She was at the top of that list.   I decided that transferring to the high school she and her classmates would attend would end up working out well because I’d be able to mentor them for four years instead of just one.  And those high school years are filled with so many more opportunities for a kid to get in trouble.  Even if I knew for sure why she did it, which I don’t,  I wouldn’t discuss it here.  The news reported that there were three suicides at that school in the last couple months, but the third child did not die.   My kid was the second one.   That is all I know.

I’ve been teaching for 19 years, have chosen to work at three of our district’s “tougher” schools for the past decade, and there have been plenty of tragedies.  We tend to steel ourselves to be able to help kids deal with things.  But this was the first time a suicide was one of ‘my kids’.  It has hit me hard.  I found out because one of my other students emailed me during school the next day.  I could not teach.  The Vice Principal got my last covered so I could go over to the middle school to check on my other kids.  I was able to talk to several.  Grateful for that opportunity.  Extremely grateful to see one who was in a bad accident last winter and has made a good recovery.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I will miss this kid for a long time.  I missed her and my other 8th graders since I left that school.  My current high school students knew about the situation because that middle school is our feeder school.  One baked me brownies over that weekend and brought them in on the next Monday morning.  How sweet is that?  Yes, I ate them.  Share a few, but they became part of my post-workout meal for a few days.  Prep or no prep – when a kid bakes you love, you eat it.

It’s bittersweet right now because many of my older kids are graduating from college this spring.  If you aren’t sure why that’s a major accomplishment, remember – I’ve been working at “tough” schools.  Many of my kids were the first in their families to graduate from high school, let alone college.  They beat the odds.  Nothing was easy for them.  They worked harder than their peers at other schools.  When I started my transformation journey, I looked at my kids and borrowed courage from them.  Each of us has our Mt Everest to climb if we choose to do it.  I asked them to try and not give up.   I told them that hard work, even on the ‘little stuff’,  pays off eventually, but doing nothing gets you nowhere.  And then they left high school and did it!  I wasn’t their only teacher, so I can’t take credit for all of it, but I will take credit for being smart enough to use them as my inspiration.  They are underdogs – I’m an underdog in my sport.  They are out there kicking ass and taking names – some have earned big, fat prestigious scholarships (ie I’ve had three Gates Scholars)  just because they knew that’s what they would have to do if they wanted to go to college.  Some grew up homeless and now are doing well.  Single parent households to apartments in Manhattan.  Oh yeah – they are doing it.  It’s really not a big deal for me to get up earlier to go to the gym because they got up early to do calculus homework.  I CHOOSE to be a little uncomfortable because I’m hungry when they didn’t always have a choice about being hungry.

I’ve been listening to this almost every day for the last three weeks.  It reminds me that there is always someone with a bigger obstacle who finds a way around it to reach their goal.  It reminds me of all the kids I’ve met during the last 19 years who overcame their childhoods to create the lives they wanted.  And so it will always remind me of the one who could not.

While all this real life stuff has been happening, I haven’t felt like writing.  Social media – it’s overwhelming sometimes.   Lately, I’ve felt like digging in and doing my thing semi-privately to keep life simple. Short posts are easy, but writing this blog, sharing what’s been going on – well, that’s been something I couldn’t handle.  My ability to handle stress has been a little compromised by the prep, but I’m also grieving.  (That’s why the walks have been therapeutic.)  My coach has helped me tremendously as I processed all of this pain, joy, and frustration.    His online presence is much larger, so he knows what it’s like to have to deal with  ___ (I’ll let you fill in that blank because I have nothing good to say right there).  It’s a little weird to have a mentor who is 20 years younger than I am, but that’s exactly what Berto has become to me.  Much more than a prep coach.  I am grateful.

OK.  So I’m 8 weeks out from the competition I think I will do.  Nothing is set in stone yet.  Life this last year has been a long roller-coaster ride, so I’m not willing to fully commit to a date just yet.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Cardio, Competing, Contest Prep, Life, Teaching, Weight Loss

Results of Max Test Week

Every fourth week in my program, I test the major lifts* I’m doing to set new 1-5 rep maxes for the next phase.  I also deload the secondary lifts.  It was nice that the test week landed on the first week of spring break from school.  I was able to get caught up on sleep and I also had a couple of days of maintenance calories.  The combination of rest and food made for a successful test week.

*We switched out the standard powerlifting exercises to ones that I could progress on with a lower risk of injury.

Bench Press

  • Last month: 105 x 2
  • Now: 110 x 3
  • All Time PR: 120 x 2 in July 2014

Hammer Smith Delt Press

  • Last month: 45 x 3
  • Now: 45 x 5
  • All Time PR: 55 x 4 in Dec 2013

Barbell Row

  • Last Month: 140 x 2
  • Now: 145 x 3 – New PR

Leg Press

  • Last Month: 410 x 5
  • Now: 500 x 5 – New PR.  This one is significant for me since I had three quad pulls from August to January.  This lift replaced squats and I started it in February hurt.


  • Last Month: 200 x 3
  • Now: 205 x 4 – New PR?  I’m not sure.  I think I have done 225 waaaaay back when, but I don’t know where the log book is right now.

Leg Extension (Ok, this is a secondary lift, so I didn’t test it last month, but since I’ve had so many quad pulls, I used this lift to get a feel for my recovery.)

  • Now: 220 x 6 – New PR.  (Actually did 220 x 7 this morning.  Yay! It’s just been increasing steadily, but 220 feels heavy, so I’m working on adding reps now.)

Screenshot from Gym Buddy App


I don’t know how long I’ve been in “contest prep” mode officially.  Did that start in January or February?  I don’t know . Some people (like my coach) keep track of these things, I don’t.  I know I’ve been doing some version of a cut/maintenance cycle since last September and it became a bit more aggressive in February.  Loss of strength was expected, but I like doing the unexpected.  I was very pleased to see legs are recovering and holding their own, but was not happy about the bench press.  I also wanted to see something more dramatic with the delts since I’ve been focused on bringing them up.

So, annoyed by what I perceived as negative data, I sent this information to Alberto (coach) last weekend.  His reply was that “usually two lifts going up is a great pace”.  I increased every lift over last month’s test and actually set 3 (4) lifetime PRs.

And I lost 3 pounds over that month.  As of this morning, I’m about 4 pounds over my weight one week out from the last show.  That makes me about 12 weeks ahead of schedule compared to my last prep, right?  Ok. That’s good.  I have more muscle, but let’s be real – I’m a 53-year-old, intermediate, female, natural lifter.  I don’t gain pounds of muscle anymore.  Ounces.  Maybe a pound or two.  The goal this time around is to improve conditioning without losing a bunch of what I’ve built over the last couple years.  I hope to appear bigger, but I won’t be.  Body composition will be different, though.  (Fingers crossed)

So yeah, I guess things are going well.

Soon, we’re going to pushing the bod where it’s never been before.  I’m not sure what to expect.  I’m mentally preparing for a roller-coaster ride.  I’m already experiencing and upsurge in mood swings.  Yay hormones.

On a side note, the cortisol seems to be playing nice.  That’s a relief.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, My Lifting Log, Weight Loss

14 Weeks Out – Distracting Myself with Internal Drama

Have you ever had one of those issues that you struggle with, thought you resolved, and then realized that, no, you’re not done with it yet?  Just can’t put it down?  I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing my stressors – I put them in little imaginary boxes and slide them off to the back of my consciousness.  I’ve had some snarly, slobbering, ugly ones, too.  The one I’ve been wrestling with for the last two weeks is not even in the major league of stressors.  It’s nothing.  But it has triggered something deep in me that I can’t quite identify.  So it keeps jumping out of it’s box.  It’s significant because it’s directly related to my program and it is a distraction.  I didn’t want to write about it, but I’m hoping this process will help me articulate what the nastiness is that I am not dealing with directly.

A couple weeks ago, I got an email from the organization that my coach works with asking me to review and sign a Code of Ethics.  I’m not going to share the details of that document, but the gist of it addresses how we athletes represent the sport of natural bodybuilding in public.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, and for all I know this is something they have always used, but I didn’t react well.  I was offended.  Since I’ve been working with my coach, I have been following a few of my other teammates online.  Most of them are guys and most post videos of their lifts, progress shots, and lots of pictures of food.  But occasionally, there are posts that I wish I had not seen.  There are comments made that are crude.  So they were asking this 50-something wife and math teacher to sign a Code of Ethics when I know damn well that my online behavior should not be an issue?  When I questioned the necessity of it, my coach responded quickly and reassured me that my online presence was never a concern for them.   My interpretation?  Someone crossed a line somewhere.  Shouldn’t have made me as agitated as it did.  My capacity to deal with stress, major or minor, will be reduced when I’m dieting.  After I got a couple of days with more food, rest from being on spring break,  I felt better about life in general, thought I moved passed it – but no.  So that means I still haven’t found the underlying issue.  I know my friends are going to make encouraging comments – trust me – I’ve told myself all these things.  And yet, I still feel like there is a sliver under my skin about this thing.

So I blog.  I’ve been using this tool since 2010 to process my thoughts.  Fingers crossed that it works this time.  It’s an annoying, noisy distraction.

Until they asked me to sign this thing, I was trying to have a ‘live and let live’ approach the few times I saw things posted by my younger teammates who play by a more relaxed set of rules than I do. Some posts have been so questionable to me at times that I would stop tagging the team name on my posts for a couple days because I know people who follow me would not like what they saw if they followed those tags.   So I tended to not follow those tags, either.  But yesterday I did and I saw things posted by female competitors that literally shocked me.   (If you’re following my posts on Facebook or Instagram, these posts are were the trigger for my question about sharing progress pictures.)   So I guess if those kinds of posts, made after this code of ethics was sent to us, are OK – well, I don’t know.  I’m confused.  It could be a matter of enforcement or battle-picking.  Or maybe my idea of “representing the sport” means something else.  There is so much fitspo out there that maybe they are all desensitized to the negative connotations of provocative images.

So is that my issue?  What is my issue??

I keep coming back to the idea that as much as I would like to feel like I belong, I really don’t fit in very well.  I don’t think it’s the team – I think it’s me and it might be an age thing.  Even though there are more middle-aged people competing, this is a young-person’s sport.  I’m certain I would have more in common with their mothers.   I follow some of my teammates on social media, “like”, and comment sometimes on their posts, but they rarely reciprocate.  I feel a bit ‘set-apart’ in this group.  I know the coaches are working to build a supportive online community, so this feeling creates a paradox that is hard for me to reconcile.  I am an introvert, you know.  I don’t jump into social things – I dip my toe in and see what happens.  After about a year of ‘toe-dipping’, my comfort level is the same as it was when I started.  I’m not sure why that is.  But it’s a distraction.  In 14 weeks, I’m on stage and if this isn’t going to help me, I can’t allow it to distract me.

So when this stressor crawled out of its box again yesterday, I reflected a bit.  Prayed a bit.  I’m still in the middle of it as I write this blog, but a thought popped into my head this morning during my lift.


Despite my personal aspirations in my sport, that’s not why I was put on this path and given this voice.  A few people who follow me are involved with competitions, but most are people in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who just want to be healthier and want to have an example to look at to know it’s possible.  When someone comments “I needed to read this today”, my heart fills up with gratitude.  My role is bigger than my aspirations.

And as far as this team thing goes, if I tag them in my posts, and someone follows that tag from someplace else, they might see what I post.  I have to use that thought to push back the negative stuff.  I might be different, but I’m a teacher.  I have something to contribute.

What matters is finding a way to get that stressor back in its box and shoved back in the corner.  It’s a dumb thing to stress about.  At this time, my path is well lit and I’m on it.


Filed under Competing, Life, My Lifting Log

16 Weeks Out – Things are About to Get Exciting

Contest prep is exciting.  It allows me to see in a mirror what I think I’ve built, but can only feel from the inside.  Prep is also a challenge.  It’s pushing the fat-loss process further than most need to go.  The goal is “shredded” not “bikini body”.   I can’t lie, I’m running on faith that someone like me can attain that kind of conditioning.  I haven’t done it before.  I trust my coach and the process, but I can’t visualize yet where this is going to end up.   It can be dangerous when people try to do this too fast with extremely low calories, use drugs, or use water manipulation to create a leaner look.  I’ve done two preps with water depletion and  promised myself that I would never do another one.  To avoid it, I need to be a lot leaner.  I’ve worked too hard to regain my health.  I appreciate what it has allowed me to do and I don’t take for granted that I can do extreme things to myself and bounce back at my age.  (I wanted to take a moment to say that before I get into the nitty gritty reporting of what’s going on.  I know most people who follow my journey aren’t bodybuilders.  I want to reassure everyone that even though my goal for this prep is to push my conditioning farther than I’ve gone before,  I’m feeling more balanced than ever this time around.  Kudos to coach for that.)

Quick summary:  I started cutting calories last September.  Coach has had me doing cutting/maintenance cycles since that time.  As of this morning, my total weight loss for that period of time has been 13.8 lbs.  I call the maintenance cycles “diet deloads”.  

The most recent diet deload started on March 4th and ended on March 13th.  During that phase, I used the Bodybugg to keep track of my calorie burn throughout the day and ate those calories.  The goal was to maintain my weight.  I always keep my protein stable and will adjust fats and carbs to do whatever I’m trying to do.   I just went back and looked at the reports.  Turns out that, on average, I ate about 100 calories more each day than I burned.  That’s OK.  It’s a recovery time.  And I am working hard to not get too OCD about things this early in prep.  (Hoping to avoid calorie/marco OCD entirely, honestly.)  During the deload phase, my macro averages were…

  • Carbs = 271 grams
  • Protein = 152 grams
  • Fats = 80 grams

During the week of diet deload, I gained a pound.  Not a care was given.  It was just a normal fluctuation as my  body healed itself.   (A year before, March 2014, in off-season, I was about 5 pounds heavier and eating about 70 carbs less and 10 fats more.  Just throwing that in here because I think it’s interesting.)

I took before/after pictures during the deload phase to see what happened.  Happy to say, not much.  Just some puffy water weight.

I’ve been back on a 500-calorie deficit cutting phase for a week.  A little cardio has been added into the program now, too.  My goal for the week was to burn 800 calories in cardio.  I think I did a bit over 900.  I figured out real quick that I got to eat more on days I had that little bit of cardio because the overall deficit was still going to be 500.  I do cardio for food.  (OK – it was kind of enjoyable, too.  It didn’t take long.  About 30 minutes of walking a day.)

I hit my lowest scale weight of this prep on Thursday at 144.4 lbs.  I usually lose weight in 0.2 pound increments and will bounce up and down after I hit a low.  Got up this morning and my weight was 143.2 lbs.  I expected 144.2.  I’m happy?  OK, sure.  I’m happy.  Its just mentally hard to shrink after spending years trying to get bigger.  The scale game/weight loss process is not linear and it’s not efficient.  Biology doesn’t favor bodybuilders.  Body likes fat.  It will burn new muscle before fat.  So when the scale drops, I am accepting the data as “good” because it’s progress and it has to happen.  And then I take the negative thoughts and put them in a box, shove the box in the back of my head, throw a blanket on it, and walk away.


The mental game is hard for me.  Pretty sure that comes from being an introvert and being a little nervous about the stage.   I’m not my biggest cheerleader.  Every day, I tell myself that I’m too small for bodybuilding and I’m just now approaching a decent “figure” physique – which is a good thing, by the way.  But that’s not the goal I have for myself.  But I am closer now than I was in 2013, that’s for sure.  I’m hoping that as the prep continues, I’ll see more of the FBB silhouette I’ve been working on all this time.

My attraction to this sport is the creativity of it.  The longer I do it, the less I’m attracted to the idea of ‘discipline  through deprivation’ and the more I realize that “discipline” for me is just a set of tools (lifting, nutrition, logging, rest, stress management) I use to create a living sculpture from the inside out.  I’m not really not in-love with the idea of suffering and making sacrifices to advance in the sport  I honestly don’t see the point of me, a 50-something female natural bodybuilder, of doing anything but enjoying the hell out of this as much as I can.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, My Lifting Log, Weight Loss

20 Weeks Out: A Happy Birthday Happened

My birthday was a week ago today.  53 now and I’m thrilled.  Year #52 was not great and I’m relieved it’s over.  Grateful to have had a year 52, but it’s going to be memorable for being difficult.   The difficulties of last year presented lessons I needed to learn.   I’m excited to compete again this summer.  I’m excited about the program I’m doing,  and how I’m learning how to do all of this with as little stress as possible.  I’ve learned a lot about how to be a balanced competitor from my coach, Alberto, but also from the other coaches and athletes at 3DMJ.  Not surprised by that – I did my homework and chose to work with them for this exact reason.  However, that decision was made about 6 months before the poo hit the fan last year.  Grateful to God for the timing on that.

These are the progress pics I took last weekend.

2-15-15 Front

2-15-15 Back

I’ve been doing some sort of calorie cut/diet deload since last September.  The cuts to this point have been gentle to engineer a slow weight loss.  I haven’t been tracking bodyfat percentages, so I can only discuss scale weight.  In that long span of time, I’ve had a net loss of 11 pounds.  As of today, I’ve been off the last ‘diet deload’ for two weeks.   We are being a bit aggressive with the deficits for 3-4 weeks before I take another diet break.  I’ve been shooting for a daily deficit of around 600 calories.  My daily intake has been between 1600 and 1800.  That’s low for me, but it’s not unsafe.  I keep my protein and fat grams consistent and let the carbs roll up and down depending on the burn, but carbs average around 200 grams a day.  (Even on a rest day when my intake needs to roll down, I’m getting about the same amount of food as I had on a “high” day during my last contest prep in 2013.)  I track this with the Bodybugg gadget and website.  The mobile interface for the Bugg makes it easy to see what’s going on during the day.  I’ve been using it since 2009.   I’m confident that it’s fairly accurate and I know it’s more accurate than guessing.


Yeah, I know. Not enough sleep.

I’ve still been eating fairly normally.  I just adjust the last meal of the day (bedtime) if necessary.

Last week, I felt good.  The expected water retention from the stress of the deficit didn’t happen until the middle of this second week.  It’s since released and the scale has been playing nice again.  My weight this morning was 146 even.  Coach told me to expect some visible changes in the next set of progress pictures next weekend.  I’m starting to see it in the mirror and clothes already.

However, I think the ‘feel good’ part is over for this phase for the time being.   The last two days have been – unpleasant.  Same volume of food, but it’s two weeks into it now so the body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing.  And it’s pissed about having to use it’s precious fat stores for energy.  Hunger hormones are raging.


My first thought is to revamp food choices.  I need more volume.  I want 1800 calories to feel like 2400 in my tummy.  I eat pretty clean, but once I take a look at it, I can probably find some spots to make some lower-calorie substitutions and increase the volume. Butternut squash, for example.  Love it and it’s friendly on the food log.  However,  I’m keeping those Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches in as long as possible during the prep.   I used to make a frozen chocolate protein shake as a dessert.  I’m willing to switch out an ice cream sandwich for one of those occasionally, I suppose.

Lifting is going well.  Because of frequent injury issues, squats and deads were replaced with leg press and RDLs.  I need exercises that are safer and something I can use to track strength progress. My lifting volume was increased, too, so these moves are safer.  Not as much fun, though.   It’s also an adaptation to my life – I don’t get enough sleep because it is very difficult for me to go to bed at 7 pm.  After a coupl e weeks with this change, I’m recovering better, even with a calorie restriction.  I will be able to move heavier weight safely.  (A few years ago when I didn’t pay attention to form and had not started pulling everything, I leg pressed 720 lbs a couple times.  Doesn’t count because my form sucked.)  I’m still doing the occlusion work with my legs, so I should be able to keep my legs from losing size.  <Fingers crossed>

Cardio is still not a regular part of my program.  I know it’s coming, but doesn’t seem to be needed right now.  If I need to burn more calories, I can get more activity at work.  My calorie burn at middle school was about 200 more than at high school.  Middle schoolers require a lot more ‘proximity management’.  I’ve been sitting more lately, because I can, so getting up and walking seems like a good idea, don’t you think?  (On the flip side, knees feel better.  Always a trade-off.)

I suspect someone reading this now is thinking “Ice cream?  No cardio? She must not be serious.”  Judge if you want, but I decided a long time ago to never go “Beast Mode” again.  I knew after my last show that I’d never do a traditional prep again.  The pictures from a day before looked so much better than my stage pictures.  I won’t cut water again.  If I’m not lean enough to compete, I don’t compete.  I knew I would never get lean enough without a completely different approach in my programming, because diet and cardio won’t get me where I wanted to go.   I knew everything had to change.  And ‘everything’ takes time.

A goal is to enjoy this process and have fun.  A goal is to have a contest prep be something I can do at anytime during the year.  I don’t want it to impact my husband’s life (too much) and I don’t want it to impact my ability to teach teenagers.  I also don’t want to compete very often.  I don’t have a physique that can sustain a prep every year.  Someday, maybe, but not yet.

Maybe no one doubts that this 53 year-old, post-menopausal woman can become shredded without a ton of sacrifice.  Maybe I’m delusional.  Maybe I just need to imagine doubters and critics out there to motivate myself.  Nah – they are out there.  Doubters, anyway.

It doesn’t look like I’m going to blog more frequently like I wanted to do.  If you’re interested, I’m documenting daily on Instagram.  I’ve been feeling quite joyful and hopeful about my 53rd year and have started a series of little videos about it.  Did I say I was excited?  I’m excited.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, My Lifting Log, Teaching

22 Weeks Out: Updates on New Job and Contest Prep

Sorry I haven’t written much.  It’s taken me a couple weeks to chop away at this blog, so if it reads that way, you know why.

New job is going well.  My new school’s class schedule is a rotating A-B-C block, for those of you familiar with such things.  It’s a little complicated, but the combination of the block schedule with the classes I’m teaching has made managing my life easier.  I spent the three weeks of winter break moving and setting up the new room.  School’s been back in session for another three four weeks.  I can’t lie – I have been a little lazy about working ahead with lesson planning and staying caught up with grading until this week.  I feel like I’m getting more organized and can start planning ahead.  It’s nice to be back in a system I understand.  It’s been a bit of a gear change to move from 13-year olds back to 17-year olds.  I have great students, but they come with a wide variety of motivation.  The first couple of weeks were fun, but the honeymoon was over for the kids as soon as notes were being taken every day, assignments were due, and the quizzes and tests started happening.  And yes, I will take your cell phone if you’re texting in class.  Even if you are texting your “mom”, which they tell me is happening every time I catch them.  Teaching is always a new job.  Every year you do it.

About the prep – things are progressing.  Feels a bit like two steps forward, one step back sometimes, but progressing none the less.   After about 6 weeks of dieting, the coach told me to eat maintenance calories for a weeks.  He looked at my pics and told me to eat at maintenance for another week.  YAY!    This diet deload was a nice break and it was effective.  I didn’t gain weight and it was psychologically rejuvenating.   However today, I’m back to deficit calories for at least the next month with no planned refeeds.

The ‘diet deload’ concept makes sense for me (and it’s why I researched and pick this coach – he’s smarter and more effective than most).  The body adapts.  There is no way my body would get through a long contest prep without adaptation (i.e. slower metabolism).   I have spent the last year increasing my caloric capacity (how much I can eat and not gain weight) and now is the time to use that increased capacity to lose body fat.  So far, I’m still not doing any cardio and I’ve lost weight consistently since last September.  Slow and steady so far, and it’s going to get interesting now that I’m about to start the last few months of digging.  I’m excited about this prep.  So far, doing things a little differently has been more effective and less stressful.

Interesting to compare my pics in the same suit from 2012 to last week.  In 2012, I had been lifting for two years and was following a traditional ‘bodybuilder’ diet.  Since July 2013, I’ve been more flexible with my food choices, but still tracking macros.  I am about five months out from a show in both pictures.  2012 was my first show and the one this summer will be my third.  (Learning how to pose makes a difference, too.)   This picture makes me wonder about where I will be for my fourth show in 2017?   (I think taking a year off between shows was a smart decision for me.  Seems like the most elite natural bodybuilders are patient like that, so I guess following their example makes sense.  More lean mass, improved conditioning.)

What Lifting Does Over Time


My lifting program is still using DUP (daily undulating periodization) where I work multiple body parts during each workout.  The volume and intensity change over the week for the same exercises.  Last month,  I asked coach to split things up to have more of an upper day/lower day focus because I wanted more recovery time for lower body.  Adjustments need to be made now to work around healing muscle pulls in my legs.  The last one was an abductor pulled doing sumo deadlifts.  Now, when I stand with feet shoulder width apart or wider, I’m hitting that spot I pulled so it’s preventing me from using weight heavy enough to work other parts of my quads and hamstrings.  So we are going to replace deads with RDLs and squats with leg presses for a while.   Frustrates me, but I know it’s OK.  I will still make progress with different exercises and I’ll stay healthy.   There is a Cybex leg press at 24 Hour Fitness here in my town that I like a lot.  The geometry of it fits my body well.  Other leg press machines are awkward for me to use.  I guess I’ll be driving into town for those lifts.  It’s a good thing – the little Anytime Fitness near my house has been too busy for the amount of equipment they have there.  (Over the last decade, I’ve accumulated three gym memberships.  I have one of those ridiculously cheap lifetime memberships at 24, so its basically free – $49 a year.   Can’t get those anymore.  If I had to go to the same gym every day, I’d probably quit working out.  I get bored and I need to move around.)

I know one reason I get hurt is because I don’t get enough sleep.  The job change has helped.  It doesn’t seem that I can actually get a full night’s sleep each night.  If I do one night, it’s hard to fall asleep early enough the next night.  So I’m trying to get a long sleep every two or three days.   As we age, sleep issues come up.  I know some of my problems are new and are related to being older.  I suspect most are related to my need to decompress every day.  I need at least two hours to sit quietly, talk to no one, do nothing but watch TV and turn off my brain.  (I’m an introvert.)  I also need a couple hours to visit with Hubby.  If I can come home from work right after school, I get those hours and I can fall asleep early enough.  If I don’t get home early, I’m up later.  After three muscle pulls now, it might be smarter for me to skip the morning lift if I can’t get to bed by 7 pm.  (Yeah, that early.)

About a week ago, I found out that my doctor died.  She was about my age.  I haven’t found out much info about what happened, but I did see a Facebook thread where someone said she had a heart attack.  That doesn’t really make sense to me.  It doesn’t fit with how I thought she lived.  If you read Dr. Conley’s bio, you will understand that she was a unique doctor and will be impossible to find anyone else like her.  I’m sad for her, for her daughter, for her patients, and for the people who worked for her.   I’m grieving my loss, too.  We were not personal friends and I haven’t seen her much lately.  I used to see her frequently.  She was the doctor who helped me when I wasn’t healthy.  She’s the one who tracked my transformation medically.  She’s the one who put me on blood pressure meds and took me off them .  I will never forget that visit.  She looked me in the eye, smiled, and said “no one gets off meds”.    I know I need to call the office and find out who is taking her patients, but I’m not looking forward to making that call.  I’m overdue for my annual – it was supposed to happen last fall.  I’m sad I missed my last chance to see her.

Well, that’s it.  Or rather, I need to be done writing today.  I don’t know how I used to find time to blog every week.  I miss it, though.  b Thank you for following and supporting my journey.  It’s been a tough year and knowing I’m accountable to others helped me stay focused.  Maybe as I get the new teaching gig calibrated I’ll be able to write more often.



Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Life, Teaching

26 Weeks Out: Monsters in My Head

The mental game is the hardest part of bodybuilding for me.  Probably for most competitors.  I haven’t wanted to write because I didn’t want to give the “monsters in my head”, as my coach called them, attention.  I would also prefer to write about successes instead of struggles.  But they aren’t going away, so I better address them.  But first…

Food Update

For about a month now, I’ve been cutting calories.  My daily deficit has been between 400 and 500 calories a day.  During most of that time, I’ve been packing, moving, and setting up a new classroom so the calorie burns have been high enough that I could still eat a decent amount of food and have that deficit.  Once the room was set up and I needed to spend a little time writing lessons plans, the calorie burn dropped off by about 600 calories – felt that.  I go back to work tomorrow and I expect the daily activity level to jump back up to normal, but to get through these last few days of vacation, I have split my workouts into 2-a-days.  That bought me an extra couple hundred calories to eat.

I have been on some kind of calorie cut since September.  Started pretty slow – 100 to 200 calories a day at first and a little more aggressive lately.  I just looked back on my logs and I have lost around 8 pounds since summer just from a little calorie restriction.  Slow and steady.

Lifting Update

Since last summer, all my training blocks have been based on Daily Undulating Periodization protocol with alternating hypertrophy days and strength days.  (If you want to know more about it, here is a nice place to to start.  There are a lot of resources that come up with a search on “What is DUP training?”  I did not design my own program, so I’m not a good resource.)

There are three main lifts and three secondary lifts.  This isn’t a ‘body part’ split.  Exercises change, but I’m usually working chest, legs, back, and shoulders every  other day.  Rep ranges and weights vary.  I like it.  It’s fascinating to me that my body has adapted to handle the frequency.  My capacity for work has increased.  When I can get sleep, I recover well.  So when I wasn’t sleeping – job stress – I wasn’t recovering and I started feeling it in my knees.  And then there was that quad pull.

For the last four weeks, coach had me working a program he named “Tammy’s Healing Block”.  I had a quad pull that needed time to heal.  My knees needed a break from squats, but I believe it was standing all day at work that was killing them.  I’m done with the healing block and I’m happy about that.  I’m bored with it.  It was nice to have a little back-off time to work on my Sumo dead lift technique.  After a couple weeks of form check videos and coaching, I think I’m on the right track.

Monsters in My Head

Before I wrote about these things, I waited to see if I would work through some of it so I could write about how I got around it.  Or just wait to see if it passed as I rested and healed up.  The negative thoughts do get worse when I’m tired, but they haven’t been going away, either.  It’s worse now than it’s been in a long time.

I can’t dismiss the possibility that I might be working through a mild depression because of some circumstances.  2014 was an incredibly difficult year.  I can’t write about everything because some things are private, but I have shared a couple things…

  • husband’s car accident (He’s OK, but we had to change our daily routines quite a bit.)
  • not one, but two, job changes (Moving a classroom is very much like moving an apartment.) If you haven’t seen it, here is my new room’s transformation.

The stress of these things have taken a toll.  I’m probably feeling it.   The structure of my training and having a goal for next summer help me quite a bit.  (Fingers crossed that this new teaching position is going to be a smooth transition and a nice place for me to be.)

The thing that is really hard for me lately is that I feel like a misfit.  I don’t really belong anywhere.  Most women I know don’t train or have different goals for their training.   Most people I know my age are busy being parents and grandparents.  Most bodybuilders I know are male, younger, and are in a different life stage.  People in general just look at me funny when they find out I’m a bodybuilder.  (One kid even said “You don’t look like a bodybuilder.”  Ouch. But that is what I tell myself almost every morning, too.)


I don’t toot my horn that much, but  I am an award-winning, accomplished, educator with a degree in mathematics, 19 years in the classroom – I’ve got some skills and damn near killed myself to get them.    I am just a few years away from retirement.  I’m at a certain point in my life that is different than many people I interact with in bodybuilding.  I say this because when I look at what is posted on social media by fitness people, I cringe.  There are very few things out there worth following.  Too many egos, too much soft porn, too much fat-phobia… not much intellect, grace, poise, or reflective thought.  A few exist, but not many.  But more often than not, they are social idiots.  Smart, but their arrogance or  makes them boring.  (There was one guy, highly respected and referenced, who I followed for a few days.  Didn’t take long for an argument to break out in the feed and his comments quickly deteriorated to using female genitalia in a derogatory way.  Boys posturing in the gym.  Not much different than what I deal with in the classroom, so in my mind, I see kids, not grown-ups.)

I haven’t written much about this feeling of isolation, but I think I should.   It’s hard to set goals and go after them because that separates you from the crowd.  There is a psychological need to “belong”, so pushing yourself out of the pack can be hard.  This year, I’ve had a couple of split-second moments where I thought about setting competing aside.  Pretty sure I’d get a lot of support for that decision, too.  It would make some people more comfortable.  But I can’t do that.  This is important to me. So I rely on my coach to keep things on track.  If I had to do the thinking and planning on my own, I would fall away.  Whatever is working is working because I’m just following directions.  There are weeks when that is a struggle, too.  (Like this week.  I felt like a slacker all week.)

The “You’re-Too-Old-What-Are-You-Thinking Monster” never goes away.  If I were 20 years younger, my story wouldn’t be the novelty in social media that it is now.  You probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if I were 35.   In a month, I will be 53 years old.     I struggle hard for every ounce of muscle now because I’m an intermediate lifter and have moved past the phase of “newbie gains”, but in my mind, I wonder if I’m struggling because of my age.   I have a meno-pot that is slowing converting to loose skin as I lose weight.  It will show up on stage in certain poses and I wonder about how that is going to hurt me in judging.

I feel a sense of urgency about chasing this bodybuilding dream because I don’t know how long my 53-year-old body will allow me to train this way.  The younger ones I follow online talk about how they can be patient because they will be able to compete into their 50’s.  (Yeah.  Until they are that old.  Wow.)  When I read comments like that, the more I feel like I’m working against the clock as someone who is just getting started in her 50’s.

Will I have time to build the physique I see in my mind?

Will I ever be competitive or will I always be the “Good-For-Her-Getting-Up-There” last place competitor?

And that’s the biggest monster in my mind – the one that comes out and tells me repeatedly that this is folly.  This is some kind of mid-life crisis.  It is a mid-life transformation, that’s for sure.  A course-correction.  But am I too late?  Am I a silly, female version of Don Quixote?  Having the phrase “World’s Oldest Bodybuilder” after my name is NOT the goal.

So that’s where my head is at.  Fighting it does no good.  Denying it doesn’t help.  I will find a way to snuggle up with the monsters in my head to quiet them down, I guess.  I’m going to keep my focus on the goal and train.  Lifting helps everything.


Filed under Competing, Life, Motivation, My Lifting Log, Teaching, Videos