As I sit with a cup of coffee to write this, I am waiting to hear my coach’s response to the update I sent last night. Today is day 3 of a three day refeed period after being somewhat low carb for a week. By “somewhat”, I mean my carbs were around 100 grams per day. “Low” carb is relative. I know many competitors wouldn’t think 100 grams is “low”. Is for me. I think I’ve talked about it before, but I don’t change my food selection much during these refeed, or diet deload, periods. I will add in a little more bread, add in some healthy fats, and a little more fruit, too. I keep the foods the same and increase portion sizes. Usually. But I screwed up the first day of this one and had to have TWO bedtime carb feeds. I always eat right before I sleep, but while my mouth was happy a double feed, my tummy was not.
To be frank – I have come to dislike refeeds. They were great last winter, but the last couple – and this one in particular – have been difficult. Set aside the psychological stress of doing something counter-intuitive this close to stage, but I feel beat up by them physically. My energy levels drop (???), moods swing, and I feel metabolically beat the heck up. I expect the next week will be really low-carb. The first day will suck. But once my body adjusts, I will feel hungry, but more stable.
I’m leaner now than I’ve ever been. It’s a weird feeling. I don’t really like it. There is more loose skin now than I’ve had before. Coach and I have already set an off-season goal of staying leaner permanently. I don’t see a problem with that. I’ve been hitting PRs in the gym all through this prep. Asked to not check max lifts last week when I was supposed to because I just didn’t see the point. Keep the goal the goal – and setting PRs two weeks before a bodybuilding competition was not my goal. I know myself – if my strength drops, I get frustrated. No point in risking a mental gymnastics session.
My days have been busy, even though I’m not working. Lifting, cardio, posing practice, food prep, helping Hubby with projects, walking Tippy, and housework. Some forced relaxing with reading. A few naps. Yesterday, I set up our recumbent bike in the living room so I could do some cardio at home. It’s not the greatest calorie burn, but it is something I can do while hanging out here.
Not sure how much time I will have to blog between now and the show. It has taken me days to make myself sit and write this much. In a few minutes, I need to head to the gym. I do post daily on Instagram and share it to the Facebook page. If you want to follow my journey during the last few days, it might be best to follow over there.
Ok – gotta run. Tippy is laying on the couch next to me and I just spotted a tick attached to his leg. Need to do a little “dog mom” stuff and then it’s gym time.
This past week was an emotional one.
- Two graduations to attend – my new high school and my old one. I don’t have enough words to describe how proud I am of my students. Every single one had to work hard to achieve what they celebrated on that day.
- Had to go back to school to clean up the room, print my grades, and turn in my keys for the summer break. It’s a short break in our district – we go back at the beginning of August. I’ll go back at the end of July. When I locked that classroom door, I was a bit overcome with gratitude to have finally landed in a spot that works with my life and where I feel appreciated.
- I dropped our parakeet’s cage in the patio by accident. It wasn’t hurt – but it flew away. I didn’t think I was bonded to that bird, but I miss it. I feel remorse that my clumsiness probably killed the little guy. I try to push back thoughts of how scared it must have been with the thought that, since he was kind of an old parakeet and never been out of a cage, that this was his great escape. He is off having an adventure.
- Life happened – no details – but for about half a day, it looked like I was going to have to pull out of the show because we would need to the money I have saved for show expenses to handle the situation. That made me a bit sad for about half a day. It worked out differently than I thought it would, so things are still a “go”. Competing is NOT a life-priority. I won’t let it be a consideration when we are making decisions.
- Since I’m not working now, all my daily routines are gone. It’s relaxing to be able to sleep without an alarm clock. Still working on getting my days to run a bit smoother. My training and prep activities do take up a chunk of time each day, but they aren’t the most important things I need to do each day. Hubby and home are my top priorities. I spent a lot of free time over the last year dealing with school transfers. I’m still juggling things a bit to make sure my priorities are reflected with how I spend my time each day.
Look what came today! I love it!! Fits great. I ordered the suit last Sunday night and it was delivered on Saturday. This is my fourth suit from Saleyla , they are affordable, they have all fit and are delivered in a week.
This week, I chose the song I will use for my routine. I had to download and learn how to use software to edit it myself. It was a little more involved than setting a start/stop time. I needed to figure out how to put three different chunks together and make it sound like it wasn’t three different chunks stuck together. It can only be a minute long.
This is the song I’m using…
I think I have a rough draft of my routine put together. Sent a video to my coach for his feedback. The next three weeks will include a LOT of practice time for the routine and for mandatory poses.
Diet break ended and I was back on deficit days this past Thursday. Body has dropped every day since. I was at a prep low of 132.6 lbs this morning. This is what diet breaks have done for me during this prep. Haven’t really hit any unplanned plateau’s yet. Those breaks are planned maintenance periods. Not exactly refeeds – I have to eat a little under my burn to maintain my weight. Months ago, these “diet deloads” were nice breaks. Now, they are stressful. Obviously, they are a psychologically stressful this close to a show, but the last two have also been physically stressful. It’s a gear change that I actually feel. But they are a break for my metabolism, though, which is the point. These breaks are pushing my fat loss to a place I’ve never been.
Lifting has been going well. Still no major loss of strength. There were a couple times during the last week of school when I pulled back a bit, but that was to stay safe when I knew I was sleep-deprived and stressed. This week, I’ve been able to do what was planned. I am supposed to test my max lifts next week, but I asked coach if I could skip that. I don’t need another thing to think about right now. And I know myself – I get a bit competitive with myself when testing. I just don’t see the point right now. Coach said I could just add 5% to my lifts and skip it this time. I’ll test again after the competition.
New progress pics were taken this morning. I’m still nervous about being as lean as I need to be, but I am happy that I have already reached my goal of having better conditioning than I did in 2013. I only post my progress pictures here on this blog.
File this one under the “BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR” category. I’ve been back on my diet for a week, with a seven day break before that, and today Coach tells me to go to maintenance for three days, wait two days, then take pictures on Saturday morning. This must be a test run to see how my body responds to carb-loading. But still, it’s annoying. Unexpectedly stressful to keep going on and off the diet. When the nerves flare up, I want to suffer a bit to feel like I’m making progress with the extreme fat-loss that needs to happen to be stage-ready. It’s a psychological thing. This prep is so different than my last two. Trust the process? Trust the coach.
Hahahaha! OK. If I must eat, I will eat.
About that – I am sad to report that ice cream is out now. I eat mostly whole foods anyway, so this won’t be an overhaul. Just pulling out things that have ingredient labels. Peace-of-mind, mostly.
Sent my registration. This is happening.
Found my posing suits in the closet. My black suit will still work for prejudging. The fancy night show suit doesn’t fit well and I didn’t like how the color looked on stage in 2013. Decided to order a new one from the same place, Saleyla, because they make great suits and turn them around fast. I liked this simple style with a little bling, but I changed the fabric to be turquoise velvet.
About teaching…school ended last week. Graduation is tomorrow. The end of a school year is always a bit nuts – especially if you work with seniors. Many ’emergencies’. But they really need to be given a chance to earn that graduation, in my opinion. I never want to see someone handed a diploma they didn’t earn, but I also understand how important it is to give that second, third, fourth chance to earn it. NOT graduating is a severe, life-changing consequence. So last week was all about trying to save as many as possible. Most stepped up and earned it. Can’t wait to watch them walk across the stage tomorrow! I am grateful to have landed at this school. Took the long way to get here, but it’s a good fit. Looking forward to next year – which starts in August.
In other news… I can’t share details, but it did impact me negatively, so it is that impact that I want to document in my blog. Much stress was felt over the last couple months about this issue. It’s not what or why that’s important. It’s another chapter in my never-ending journey outside my comfort-zone. I never wrote about this. I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say or even if it was appropriate for me to share my experience here. I felt stifled. Moved past it. I thought I had dealt with this issue and found an ethical compromise I could live with. However, last week, there was a new development and I felt it was important for me to speak up to the group to share my discomfort about the issue. Wasn’t sure how that would be received. For a few hours, I thought I might get kicked off my bodybuilding team – which is a possibility. Sometimes, coaches fire clients. I didn’t think it would happen, but it took a fair amount of courage and trust for me to say what I needed to say. Some things are bigger and more important to me than my own needs. My coach reached out to me personally. The other coaches were open to a dialogue with me and were sincere, understanding, and willing to revisit some decisions. You don’t see that happening very often. Most of the time, people get defensive, dig in, and hold their ground. I’m sure that was their initial response privately, so to move away from that was unexpected and impressive. The situation is resolved now, I guess. Or at least it’s been discussed and air has been cleared.
One of the reasons this one issue blew up into something uncomfortable for me is an unshakable feeling that I have little in common with most people on my team, other than things related to bodybuilding itself. I’ve only met a few of these people in person, so it’s hard to feel like I really know any of them. The demographic is mostly 2o,30-something males with athletic backgrounds. And then there is me: a 50-something female who is new to anything athletic. Heck, I don’t even follow professional sports! I workout by myself. I love to lift, but I don’t enjoy discussing the nuances of it. (I can talk about teaching ALL. DAY. LONG.) I understand intellectually that I’m on a team, but physically, I’m alone. I only interact with my coach regularly. For the last year, whenever I reached out and posted on our team page, very few interacted with me. That’s to be expected, I guess, but it still makes it hard for me to connect. Or to want to keep trying. The issue that prompted the drama is behind me, but because I rocked the boat, I won’t know if it is something the others will understand and forgive as the coaches have done. I hope some of that mutual discomfort will dissipate after my show since I will meet many of my teammates on that day. When I’m on stage, if my results are evident, others like me will want to work with these coaches, I hope. It would be wonderful if more women my age became part of this group so I won’t feel quite so isolated. Yes, that would be awesome. Logical, too. These coaches put health, balance, and life ahead of everything. Their philosophy fits perfectly with the needs of middle-aged athletes with adult responsibilities and lives to manage. And the results are impressive. I plan to work with Berto and 3DMJ for as long as I continue in bodybuilding.
Sorry for the testimonial, but it’s true. It’s why I’m willing to power through some stuff to make this work for me.
- I’m too small.
- I won’t get lean enough.
- I’m too busy and can’t practice enough.
- I don’t have a routine yet, so I haven’t been practicing that, either.
- I don’t know where I put my posing suit.
- Maybe I should just skip this year, too?
- I lost my pecs.
- My right calf is too small.
- Tanning, makeup?? Where IS my suit???
- I’m 53. Guys in their 40’s are talking about being old – and I’m just starting?? What the hell am I thinking? No one is going to take me seriously. I’m a joke.
- I am a wife. I have a demanding job – people depend on me. I don’t have time for this! What the hell am I thinking?
And all of this happened while I was on a diet break. Five days this week of eating at maintenance – which means I increased my food intake just enough to maintain my weight. Gave my body a break from the stress of dieting. And it is stressful. Body is basically chewing up it’s own reserves to keep functioning. When in a caloric deficit over time, brain doesn’t have enough energy to handle stress well – which is why dieters can be so much fun to be around!
I think the diet break was stressful for me because I’m feeling the time crunch now. 7 weeks. Less than 2 months. It’s already a stressful time because I’m finishing up a school year in a new building. I can’t bring work home. Training, resting, food prep, and life just doesn’t allow for that anymore. But there are piles of things to grade, final exams to write, study guides to write, lesson plans for kids who don’t want to work – classroom management is hard right now. Most of my students are seniors. They are excited and stressed about graduating and making the transition to adulthood. So I’m picking up on all the anxiety around me trying to not let it add to my own anxiety about getting everything done.
During this diet break, I maintained my scale weight better than I have on previous breaks. I kept the calories under my burn because the BodyBugg I wear is probably over-reporting the burn right now. I’m smaller so it takes less energy to move my mass through space. Processes adapt over time to use fewer calories when in a deficit situation. On the first day of the diet break, I noticed I wasn’t as tired at the end of the day. That’s a big clue that I needed to take the break, huh? I was ready for it, but I only wanted to do two days. When Coach said to do five days, I was surprised.
I was also surprised at how emotionally tough it was to eat more for those five days. I didn’t have this reaction to diet breaks before. It’s just my Bodybuilder Brain. I was happy to get back on the diet yesterday. I missed Hungry. Hungry = Progress. It’s not comfortable, true. It sucks some days, actually. But it’s necessary and it means I’m moving forward instead of standing still in my prep.
Now, I’m hungry again. So I’m happy. Moving forward and excited to be back on the ‘growling tummy grind’. Today. Let’ revisit that “happy to be hungry” BS in a week, shall we? Hahahaha!
Bodybuilder Brain also needs to be managed. It’s normal, but it cannot be allowed to run amok because one of my goals for this prep was to enjoy it. There are some things I can do to stay calm and centered.
1) Keep involvement with social media to a minimum. I do better if I focus on what I need to do and avoid looking at what others are doing. We’ve talked about that before over on the FB page. My “teacher voice” starts screaming when I see some of the things I see. (I’m going to refer those kids to the office for dress code violations.)
2) Go outside. Often.
3) Read more.
4) Sleep more.
5) Get caught up at work and ride the year out with as little effort as possible.
6) Find my suit!
7) Just keep grinding. Embrace the suck. I like it. I like the self-discipline. I like delayed gratification.
8) Keep perspective – yeah, sure, I’m getting on stage to be judged. Risking public humiliation, intorvert’s nightmare… yada, yada, yada. But it’s actually easier than you would imagine. It’s mostly just fun. The audiences at these shows are bodybuilding fans. They either know what it’s like to do it, wish they could do it, are family and friends of competitors, etc. I get more stressed thinking about the travel, the makeup, the tanning – all of that stuff. Stage is fun.
9) Blog more. It takes time, but writing helps me process my thoughts and emotions. I’ve been using it that way for the last five years. This prep is different than the last two. It’s been fun, for the most part. Life has been nuts for the last year, so the structure of this prep and working with this coach have helped me stay sane. However, these last 7 weeks could be…interesting.
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.
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.
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.
- 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
- Last Month: 140 x 2
- Now: 145 x 3 – New PR
- 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.)
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.