Category Archives: Competing

2017 Prep Update: Reflections Before Moving Forward (Video Included)

“So how did you do?”

How do I explain how this was my favorite “last place” of all?  How does that make any sense when validation is supposed to be about a scorecard?  Four shows now and four last place finishes, but my truth now is…

IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER.

It’s been 11 days and when I think of my time on stage, I’m overwhelmed with JOY.   I felt a little like this after my first show in 2012 because that one was truly a celebration.  I didn’t feel much of anything except a little frustration after my 2013 show.  And, as many of you know, the 2015 show was a kick in the gut.  Every insecurity I had about participating in this sport was validated that day.  To come back from that, I spent two years doing intense introspection that led to some inspired changes in my teaching practice.  Had I not had that humiliating experience, I doubt I’d ever understand how a fixed mindset can poison everything we attempt to do.  That experience helped me understand how some of my students feel – hopeless to break through and change anything.  Lost track of the number of books I absorbed.  I even took an online class on mindset in mathematics and could relate everything I learned back to my personal experience as a new, 50-something, athlete.

So how did I do?

Wonderfully!  I did wonderfully.  Almost every goal I set for myself was achieved.  What I’m most proud of is how I improved with posing and how I choreographed my own routine, kept it private until stage – and it didn’t suck!  There is still much left to do.  That’s exciting because I’ve proven to myself that I CAN improve.  After that 2015 experience, I fought a hard battle against the “what’s the point” bullshit-on-a-stick I was handed.

I can’t imagine that winning something will ever feel better than this feels.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.  Don’t misunderstand – I’m not “making lemonade from lemons” here.  A couple weeks before the show, my mindset switched from thinking of this as a competition to thinking of it as a performance.  I met every performance goal I set for myself.  I worked hard on it and I saw it in the pictures and videos.  I didn’t lose my composure or crack under pressure.  It’s very possible that I will always be moved into the last position after the symmetry round because my symmetry sucks a little bit – so be it.  Judges do what judges are supposed to do.  But I really don’t care anymore.  I’m up there DOING BODYBUILDING!  So much joy in that!!  I will set my goals and I will give the people who paid to watch bodybuilders the best bodybuilding performance I can muster up on that day.

I understand that being an underdog and winning would make for a great story, but I don’t think that’s my part to play.  Because I put in the work and participate in this sport publicly, someone somewhere borrows courage from me (which I’ve borrowed from others) to deal with their own health issues.  I never set out to be a social media fitness person and I’ve actually become more of an introvert in real life since all of this attention has landed on me.  I go to the gym, I do my work.  I go to work, I do my work.  But every so often, I suit-up and step-up to a mark taped on a stage and do a bodybuilder performance.  I don’t know why it fills me with joy – it just does and I’m grateful!

I made this video to celebrate the experience.  It took a little time because I really don’t know what I’m doing with this sort of thing, but I am learning as I go along – as is true for most everything I am doing these days.  If you followed the events of the day on Facebook as Michelle and I were posting, you’ll recognize most of what’s in here.

Thank you!!!!!!!

 

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2017 Prep Update: Day 275 of 275 – Show Time!

First off – I apologize, but I don’t have many show pictures yet.  Just ordered them.  I have the shots my coach took with his phone during pre-judging, so I’ll include those in this post.  Plus any other little things I grabbed with my phone.  I didn’t take many pictures myself.  I usually would, but I guess I was a little preoccupied looking for a quiet corner in a busy, small area backstage.

When I checked in on Friday afternoon and got my competitor number, I was happily surprised to see that it was…

I was born in 1962.  I like little things like that.

When I asked how many competitors were in the women’s bodybuilding division, the promoter told me that up until the week before, only one – me.  I didn’t think there would be many, but that was a surprise.  This is usually a big show.  People fly in from all over the world to do this show.  And it was just me?  She said that she worked on it and was able to convince four other women who were already doing figure to cross-over and do bodybuilding as a second division.  She was happy about that because if there were five, it would become a pro-card qualifier.  She was more excited about that than I was and that showed on my face.  I think that surprised her.   You see, at least three of the women crossing over were already pros in the figure division.   I’ve made improvements, but I know where I’m at on the continuum.  I am not at the point where I can stand in a line with figure pros and hang with them from the perspective of the judges table.  Oh well.  I was glad that more women were interested in competing in bodybuilding and grateful that there would be a line of athletes instead of just one.  Just one competitor in a category called “women’s open bodybuilding” at a show this size would be really depressing.

The next morning, we found out one dropped out, so the division was down to four, which meant it was no longer a pro-qualifier.  The three that were left were the figure pros.  So it really was going to me, an amateur, in a line with three pros.  Technically, they were amateurs in the bodybuilding division, but still farther down the road with training and development.  Having already earned pro cards means they have done better with judging panels at some point in the past, while I haven’t earned anything in a judged competition.  I reminded myself that it’s a logical progression for an athlete to change divisions as her physique develops and that they were probably excited to compete as bodybuilders because who wouldn’t be?  Bodybuilding is an amazing division with plenty of opportunity for an athlete to show the results of her efforts. And I was grateful.  I want them in that line.  I want that competition – it’s fuel for me to push.    I reminded myself that I have my own list of personal goals and my time will come.  I put on my headphones, read literally hundreds of encouraging comments posted on my Facebook page, practiced my posing, and stayed focused on what I could accomplish on that day…

  1. Stay calm, remember cues, and hit my poses.   I’ve been practicing every day for a couple of months, so I could lean on that.  I also made a playlist on my phone with songs I listened do during my practices so that I could trigger muscle-memory for posing.  (“Proud” by Heather Small was the main one.)
  2. Focus on enjoying the experience so that I can put 2015 behind me for good.
  3. Turn “stage” into my personal performance for the people who have been supporting me all this time.   I wanted to honor them by keeping it together and making them proud.  My friend Michelle from GarageGym107 flew across the country to be there to help me. (How amazingly generous is that?)  She was doing live posts on the LMS page so people could watch in real time.  I kept my focus on her when I was up there for that reason.

My 2017 General Goals

2017 Goal: Come in with better conditioning and be leaner.  Check

2017 Goal: Bring up quads and delts. Check

2017 Goal: Improve posing, look more relaxed, and don’t have a dizzy spell. Check 

2017 Goal: Earn a placing.  To me, that means to not be in last place.  I am not particularly interested in “beating” anyone – it’s not about that.  It’s just that “last place” is a given even if you don’t train, don’t prep, don’t practice…anyone who pays to play and get on stage can be placed last.  To move forward from there feels like a validation of work – but that’s not really what it is.  We are all compared to an aesthetic “standard” for a bodybuilder.  The closer a competitor’s physique is to that standard, the higher they are placed.  If I were going to be placed last, I wanted to make it harder for the judges to make that decision.   I wanted to get more than four poses in before it happened.  Nope.  That did not happen.  I was moved after the symmetry round just like before.  Can’t lie.  I’m annoyed by that because my symmetry round poses looked better in 2017 than they did in 2015, but there was no way to compete in symmetry against three figure pros.  Those symmetry poses are practically the bread-and-butter of the figure division.  I wasn’t surprised when I was asked to switch places.

Pre-Judging Photos

This is the actual judging round. Nothing from the night show is judged for amateur divisions.  (I’m the one with a half-shaved head who’s suit does not sparkle.)


After pre-judging, I knew the one goal I could not control – earn a placing – was out of reach on this day.  My placement of 4th was appropriate. I’m used to having goals that are just beyond me, I’m also used to last place, so I just let it go and focused on things that were in my control – courage to face fear,  improve presentation, and enjoy the experience.

Enjoyment

I was blessed to have had some enriching backstage experiences this time around.   Met a women’s bodybuilding pro and a figure pro that I’ve admired for a couple years.  Found out both were teachers!  How cool is that??  The first was a retired special ed elementary teacher and the other is a current US government teacher in a high school a little similar to my school.  The bodybuilding pro shared a little wisdom learned from her long bodybuilding career.  That was encouraging and inspiring.

These ladies are retired bodybuilders who were there helping competitors backstage.   This picture was taken after a fairly aggressive Bikini-Bite (body glue) session for my posing suit top.  What little I have left up top wasn’t cooperating.  At one point, one person was holding something in place while the other was applying the glue, and I flexed a pec as a reflex.  She screamed “OMG!  That was like feeling a baby move!!”  Holy crap that was funny!!!!

My Bikini-Bite Crew!

Last, but most certainly not least, was the time I was blessed to spend with this woman.

My bud, Michelle @GarageGym107

We’ve been online friends for years, but I was surprised when she said she was going to fly out to watch and support me.  Had Michelle not come out, I would have had WAY too much time with my own thoughts and it would have been much harder to stay grounded and focused.  Plus, she clued me in on the power of caramel M&Ms.  Holy cow they are yummy!!!!

Presentation

When I watched the videos Michelle took of the pre-judging and the night show routine, I saw basically what I practiced, which meant that my preparation paid off.  I can tell you that while I was on stage for pre-judging, I was shaking a bit, but it was not noticeable.  When I saw how my performance changed after something made an authentic smile pop up, I realized that was exactly what I needed to make happen as much as possible during the night show.  Not a stage smile, but a real one from my heart. I needed to stay focused on WHY I was doing this – why I changed my life and trained for this – I LOVE BODYBUILDING!!!  I needed to remember who I was on that stage for – my tribe – my husband, my coach, my friends, and the thousands of people I have never met but who graciously and generously offer encouragement and prayers whenever I feel afraid to do this thing.  (I did meet one person- thanks for coming out Heather!!!  That meant a lot to me.  It was not a free event and I’m sure you had plenty to do on a Saturday.)  My tribe gives me courage.  I remind myself often that this stage thing doesn’t take as much courage as it did to walk into the gym and ask for help.  Because I do this now, someone else will start and not stop.  I know this happens because they tell me.  It’s not my style to pump up my ego about something like this – this is how I’m paying it forward.  It’s my honor to keep showing up now, no matter what happens.  Plus, I promised to bring everyone along using Facebook Live, so there would be no edits.  That’s how I wanted it.  Real.  I’m grateful I can even do this thing.  I’m grateful for the people who step up to help me do it.  I had to keep that feeling of gratitude right up front in my mind so it would show on my face.  My face always reflects my heart and my fears.  I hope the good stuff eventually comes through when you watch those videos over on the Facebook page, because that’s where I wanted to keep my head at on that day.

Courage

Not going to rehash it, but if you’ve followed along, you know 2015 rocked me.  Getting back up on that stage and just doing it “better” – whatever that means – needed to happen.  I needed to feel my passion for this sport again.  I needed to feel it grow stronger than my fear.  I knew if my physical goals were met and my presentation rose up to present that physique, I would see a glimpse of the bodybuilder I’m hoping to become.  If I were afraid, I would appear timid and unsure.  Once I realized I could not compete against these athletes, I accepted what was coming, but was surprised to see that they were being coached back stage on how to do the posing.  It was then that I realized that they really didn’t think about crossing over until asked.  They only had a couple of days to learn poses and come up with a routine.  Based on some other things they told me that I won’t share here, they may not have considered competing as bodybuilder until the opportunity to earn another pro card became an option.  I can only guess as to how they felt when the 5th person dropped out and that was off the table.  (I still hope they liked it and will continue in the division.)  So at that point, I found a mental hook to hang onto to pull up my own courage to do this thing – this was MY division.  I trained for it.  I might be going down in flames in last place, but this is MY DIVISION.  I look like a bodybuilder.  I pose like a bodybuilder.  I trained my mind for this by watching videos of Ed Corney, Frank Zane, and all those female bodybuilders from the 80’s.  MY.  DIVISION.  So yeah – that’s why, during the pose down, I saw an opportunity to make a statement and I took it.   I moved to be in front of the woman who ended up taking the overall.  (She got the pro-figure overall, too, by the way.)  Yup.  I stepped up, turned around, and stretched my arms out and displayed my best feature – my back.  The whole time, two words were repeating my head…

“MY DIVISION”

During my routine, people in the audience cheered at the right spots.  I designed it to be an homage to “old school” routines where those big poses landed at the most dramatic points in the music.  Mr. Zane used to just hit those poses, hold them, and grin.  So I did the same thing to the best of my current ability.  Not nearly as epic, but I wanted to remind people of what this sport used to be.   No dancing.  No bouncing.  No floor rolling.  No hair and make up.  No crystals.   Old school bodybuilding.  That’s what some people still buy tickets to see.  That’s the direction I want to go.  That’s how I want to play.  Got some great feedback from someone I respect in this sport, Jeff Alberts,  about how he could see my improvements, and the effort and practice I put into the presentation this time around.

My coach, Alberto Nunez, and Jeff Alberts. Alberto and Jeff are two of the five coaches from 3DMuscleJourney.

At the end of this day, I was grateful and proud.  Not a boastful proud, but a humble sort of proud, if that makes sense.  I’m proud of what Alberto and I have accomplished.  I could not have done it without his planning, intuition, and guidance, but his coaching would not have been effective without my commitment, discipline, precision, and passion.  We are doing good work.

My husband’s support is “mission critical”.  Knowing he supports what I’m doing empowers me to improve.  He is an amazingly generous man, my best friend, and I love him dearly.

I am so grateful for my tribe from this blog and the Facebook page.  When I describe you to others in real-life, I tell them to imagine a few thousand “momma-bears” who will have your back when you need it, but will turn on someone when necessary.  That’s why I try to get to those trolls before anyone else sees them – not because they bother me, but I don’t want you all to turn on them using all your intellectual weapons!  That’s just not a fair fight!  And I LOVE that about you guys!!!  Thank you for the enCOURAGEment!!!!

When I get the pictures from the show photographer, I will share them.  I’ll put together a new before/after, too.

Also, there is another show coming up in October that I am planning to do.  I didn’t save up for two shows, so it’s possible that I won’t be able to pull the funds together, but I’m going to try and I’m going to prep for it regardless.  That means we are just inside of 12 weeks out now.  It’s an NPC show so I will be doing women’s physique.  The poses are similar, but I will need to practice to make the adjustments for the few poses that are different than traditional bodybuilding poses.  I’ve done two NPC shows before, so this is not new stuff for me.   The routine I have will work just fine.  Just need to keep practicing it and fix some bumpy spots.

And no, I won’t glam up for NPC.  I’m “old school” all the way.  Keeping the racing stripes in my hair, though.  🙂

Hair Coach: Nicole Page @CurlEnvy

 

 

 

 

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2017 Prep Update: Day 254 out of 275

About three weeks left until my competition.  So far, everything is still happening in a predictable fashion.  My nerves are coming up just as I knew they would.  My scale weight continues to drop.  Currently three pounds UNDER my previous stage weight.  I’m about 1.5 pounds away from my coach’s goal for my new stage weight.  I think I can beat that, too, because there are some things I’d like to see that I don’t see yet.  I think the glutes will lean out more because I tend to loose weight once food comes up a bit during the week.  Coach remembers that I lost weight during peak week last time, too.  Since we are this close, I’d like to find out where I need to be for the lower abs to be visible.  Not there yet.  It’s hard for me to talk about this stuff because I know the general population has a misconception about what “health” looks like.  Visible abs are not a measure of “health”.  Please read the disclaimer below.  This is part of my sport.  I really don’t give a shit if my abs are visible as a human walking around.  Doesn’t make me a better wife or teacher.   Doesn’t make me smarter or kinder.  It’s important only in context – there is a mandatory pose that I will be judged on called “abdominal-thigh”.  I would like to confidently have that one in my repertoire at some point.

DISCLAIMER: I share my story because I was able to transform my health after menopause using nutrition and exercise.  And the science is the same for general fitness as it is for bodybuilding – most of the time.  But remember – I’m now in prep for a competition.  My division, bodybuilding, requires a body fat percentage that is lower than what is considered “healthy” for the general population.  I’m post-menopausal, so I don’t have any issues with that to consider.  My thyroid function has been checked and everything is working optimally because that is a priority.  And for almost four years,  I’ve been working with a scary-smart and patient coach who I trust to prioritize my health over a placement.

Took progress pictures last week and realized that the suit I have that I wanted to wear is now, officially, too big.  The bottoms needed to be pulled up so far that it reminded me of that stereotypical “grandpa pants” look.  I’ve ordered my suits from the same place all this time and I know they can turn around an order pretty quickly, even a custom suit.  Sent them measurements and had the suit in a week.  I asked my coach to pick the color.  I really don’t care about my suit this time.  I just want it to fit and I want to feel comfortable.These are my pictures from this morning compared with my pictures from last August shortly after a mini-cut in my off-season.  Prep didn’t officially start until October.



I started a scheduled deload this week in the gym.  I haven’t noticed much of a loss of strength, but I’m a little paranoid about injuries right now.  Pulling back a little is just fine.  I can push a little on cardio and fat loss for about another week, after that, two weeks out, cardio is going to be cut back a bit.  I’ve been going to the gym twice a day for about a month now.  Things need to be lifted.  Posing needs to be practiced.  If I didn’t get enough activity during the day, I will do another cardio.  They also have a water-massage table that I need to use every couple of days.

Nothing has changed with food. I’m still running 4 days a bit lower in carbs (around 130 g)  and then 3 days a little higher (around 200 g) to recover.  Protein was dropped once early in the prep and I hated it.   Since then, we brought protein up to 160 grams a day and never changed it.  I do well without a lot of fat – less than 25 grams usually.  My food preferences are lean and veggies all the time anyway.  Prep isn’t really much of a change for me – just a couple of food swaps here and there.  Regular peanut butter got swapped for PB2.  Used to use a whole egg with whites in the mornings, now I use just the whites.  Traded my favorite Skinny Cow ice cream sandwiches for sugar-free popsicles.  (I’m not a ‘clean eater’.  I eat what I like.  I just actually like real food with a few exceptions.  I don’t feel like I’m deprived.)   Got a little more food-focused in the last couple of weeks, but I know that’s because I’m pushing myself to be leaner than I’ve ever been in my life.  I’m pretty sure I’m working on some fat now that I’ve had since high school!  That makes my fat older than my coach!!  LOL!!!  And getting this lean is a new, sometimes scary, experience. I see things I’ve never seen before and don’t always recognize. “What is THAT?” “Is that a TUMOR?” No.  It was a vein. Cut me some slack on that one – at 55, we start looking for things that 20-somethings would never imagine, right?

Most days, I feel really good – or at least “normal”.  That surprises me a bit.  Grateful for it.  One of my goals for this prep was to do it as gracefully as possible.  I think that the mindset of “this is voluntary – I’m doing it for fun” helps.  I also know that I’m working with a coach who puts my health before results.  Results are long-term side effects of science-based protocols.  I’m patient.  I trust the process most days.  On the bad days, I just have faith in the consistency of it.

Honestly, I’m not a diplomatic, sugar-coating, sort of person anyway.  I’m pretty blunt and straight-forward when I’m not stressed.  Physically, I’m stressed right now.  Keeping the mental game positive (if you’ve been following along you know why that’s a challenge for me going back to this show) is also a little stressful some days.  My tongue is sharper now.  And I’m faster to use it.  All I can do is promise that I’m doing my best to be a nice human – which is a challenge for me even when I can have comfort food.  😉

Started thinking about doing a second show this fall.  It’s local, so there won’t be transportation and hotel costs.  Let’s see how this first one goes.  I’ve been working hard for a couple of years now.  If I think there is a little more that can be accomplished with this version of my physique, I’d like to keep pushing.  It hasn’t felt like too much of a grind – teaching is harder, actually.   Isn’t that an interesting observation?

In other news, summer school started last week.  I have 26 kids working in the mornings until noon.  I set up everything so they could work at their own pace and get help from me as needed.  They jumped in and are doing great!  There were some stressful issues over the first couple of days since I didn’t have access to the district’s online attendance and gradebook program, but once that was fixed, I got things caught up.  And then the AC broke.  But again, our building’s maintenance staff got on it, had the district out to fix it by the end of the week.  I wanted to teach summer school to help keep my mind off the show.  Nerves are going to be an issue this time around.  I also knew I wanted to run bleachers in the morning – but even that’s not working out.  The track is being replaced and the field is locked up.  Plan B – walk around the school a few times in the morning before going in.  It’s a big building, so that’s not trivial.  Definitely safer.  Need to just trust that things are working out exactly how they should, right?

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2017 Prep Update: Day 240 of 275

School is out for summer!  Yay!!  I’m teaching a morning session of summer school starting on June 19, so I only get a week off, but that’s OK.  The summer school session will help me stay busy and that might help a little with the nerves I’m going to feel as the show gets closer.  The negative voice in my head keeps reminding me of the last time I was on stage, when basically, my biggest fear that I would not be taken seriously as a bodybuilder was confirmed.  So I’m getting back up there to be judged again.

Have I done enough?  I don’t know.  Improvements have been made.  I have worked hard and continue to work hard.  It’s impossible to know what will happen in a bodybuilding competition because some factors, like genetics and age, are beyond my control.  But no one will out work me.  I’m consistent and methodical.  I can control that.

July 2015, 128.6 lbs

A couple weeks ago, I lightened the loads on my leg press.  I’m smaller now and the loads I wanted to use started to strain some old quad pulls.  Better to lighten things up a bit and keep working than to risk an injury.   Coach took direct shoulder work out of my program for 4 weeks to allow for a full recovery in those joints.  I got my lateral raises back last week – so happy!  I felt like a kid who got her favorite toy back after having it taken away.  My back movements are still progressing, but progress is slowing down.  Tricep work is stalled out now and I have to keep using the same loads.  After this many years of lifting, I’m at the point when progress can take months or longer.  It did take me about 3 years to add 5 pounds to my bench press.  That’s another lift where I needed to drop the loads.  It seems I lose my strength there right away when I’m in prep.

But lifting is still going well and lifting is the thing.  Competing sets a goal for the lifting – which is something I need.  I don’t enjoy competing that much that I look forward to it.  It’s just a finish line for a certain phase of training.  I love the look of bodybuilders on stage – the tan, the poses, the lighting – but I’m an introvert, so spending the day hanging out with all those people…well, it’s a bit stressful.  The first two times I competed, the stage part was fun.  I’m getting back up there with the intention of fighting off a bunch of negativity and finding that fun part again.

DISCLAIMER: In order to be competitive in the division called “women’s bodybuilding” ,  fat loss has to be pushed to the extreme leanness that the athlete is capable of achieving in that contest prep. When I talk about what I’m doing, please keep that in mind.(Bikini and figure divisions have a different criteria for leanness.)    Even though I’m losing fat by creating a caloric deficit, which is how anyone who wants to lose body fat has to do it, I’m doing it longer and trying to lose more weight than is appropriate for general fitness.  Most people should not compete.  Anyone who struggles with food-related issues should not compete.    I’m not jeopardizing my health and would stop if I was because competing isn’t what is important.  I don’t use fat-burners,  I don’t cut water,  I eat well, and it’s all monitored by an extremely smart and protective coach.  And we will carefully reverse the diet afterwards to keep my metabolism healthy – like we did in 2015.

Ok, that said – my scale weight is currently fluctuating between 1 and 2 pounds below my previous stage weight.  Which means, assuming I’ve gain a little muscle in the last two years, I’m leaner, lighter, but might have more muscle density.  I think the fat I’m working on right now has been there since the 70’s.  LOL!!  Even so, the meno-pot on my lower abs is hanging in there.  I’m seriously on a mission to lose it just to prove it can be done, damn it.  The loose skin in various places is a bit discouraging, but there isn’t much I can do about it.  Just looks like my skin-suit is getting a little too big, like my clothes.  The plan coming out of the 2015 show was to limit the amount of weight I gained in off-season so that the skin wouldn’t be stretched more.  I did that, but I do think it will take YEARS to tighten up, not months.  I’m not interested in using fancy lotions, wraps, or anything like that.  Solid nutrition and time will either take care of it, or it won’t.  I’m 55 and I’m grateful to be 55, so if I look like a 55 year old bodybuilder, so be it.  I’m just getting started, so I expect to look like a 70 year old bodybuilder when I’m 70, too.

Hair game took a dramatic turn in recent months.  First, I asked my hair coach to shave off half of it.  Then I asked her to start adjusting the color so that my natural gray would blend better.  The current color looks gray in some light, but usually looks more ash-blonde.  I like it.  Still want more silver highlights in there, though.  Especially for stage.  And speaking of stage – decided to use my velvet black suit for pre-judging and night show.  No sparkles.  Might wear simple stud earrings at the night show, but that’s going to be the extent of the sparkle.  I’m going to do this one “old school”.  I’ve been watching video from the 1980’s, which is when I first fell in love with this sport.  Those are my peers – even though they are retired now and I’m just starting.  Doesn’t matter.  I don’t care.  Everyone else can sparkle.  I’m here to do this thing the way I want to do it.

My “Yay I’m FREEEEE for summer vaca!!” post on Facebook from last Friday…

Taken with a flash.

 

As I said before, I expect my nerves and battle with my internal self-doubts to be more of a challenge this time around.  Which is why I’m so grateful that my friend Michelle will be flying in from across the country to be there for this show.  In the last few months, I developed a little game I play with myself called “I don’t have to actually go to the show if I decide not to”.  Knowing she is coming out stopped that destructive little train of thought at least 3 times this last week.  Just in case anyone else is in the Sacramento area, here is a link to the show information.  If you’re up for it, I’d love to have some screaming support at pre-judging.  I think I can battle back the self-doubt by telling myself that because I gather courage from others to do this scary thing, others will be able to gather courage to do something that scares them, too.  If I can meet you in person, wow.  That would change the dynamic of this day in a big way.

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep, My Lifting Log

2017 Prep Update: My 275 Day Project

My prep will be 275 days long, but I changed my life 2750 days ago.  Started – didn’t stop.  I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments.  Things that worked for a while stopped working. Other things that were hard at first, like logging food, have become second nature.  Sure, some things have been disappointing and frustrating.  But this sport challenges me in unexpected ways.  It has made me a better wife.  It has made me a better teacher.  Training calms me and helps me handle life.  I’m careful and train safely.  I’m proud of what I’ve done and grateful that I’ve been able to do it.

I need to apologize for my long absence from this blog.  It’s true that I’ve been busy – I’ve retooled my geometry class to be one where all students move through curriculum at their own pace.  I have about 170 students who needed to master 38 skills before Christmas break.  During this break, I’m organizing the activities for them to do during second semester.  Yeah, I’m busy.

That’s not the only reason I haven’t been writing.  I spent most of 2016 learning how to disengage my ego from what I’m doing as a bodybuilder.  The problem isn’t that I think I’m so awesome.  It’s the opposite of that.  I don’t think I’ve accomplished much at all and have been battling the urge to give in and “be realistic” about competing.  I haven’t had a healthy perspective on this thing.  I’ve worked hard, so part of me feels like I “deserve” to have some tangible success, but based on some things I cannot control, it’s possible that I will always place poorly.  Hard work doesn’t matter.  That’s a given.  Everyone up there worked hard.  Do I keep going anyway?  Others have quit.  If this isn’t going to be about being competitive, what is it about for me??  The initial excitement is gone, I got knocked on my ass, and I’ve spent a long time finding a way to get back up.

It’s been a hard year and a half of self-reflection about what I can control, what I can’t control, and what is it about this sport that keeps me engaged.  The July 2015 show really rocked my confidence.  I am afraid to compete again.  I’m not getting younger – 55 next time I’m up there.  Genetics aren’t going to change.  How do I justify continuing when I’ve had so little success?  I have a full plate.  I have people who depend on me.  I have responsibilities.  Why am I spending time and money on this bodybuilding thing at my age?

Why? Because I love training.  And it keeps me from sliding back into my old, unhealthy habits.  Based on what the doctors told me back in 2009, it’s critical that I do self-maintenance if I want to have a normal life-expectancy.  I’m goal-driven and the scarier the goal, the better.  In my mind, it feels more like an individual quest for excellence.  If my measure of success becomes improving form, increasing strength, being consistent, grinding on days I need to grind, learning when to push and when to hold back, controlling all the variables that are mine to manage – can I do all of that?  And can I make myself stand there for another stinky spray tan, get back up under the lights, and be vulnerable again?  I think I can. I think I can keep doing this for a long time, too.  I also think there is something more I’m supposed to learn.  There is something more going on here – I just don’t know what it is yet.  So I’m “all-in” with this thing, I guess.

Ok, so how do I prepare for the next show when I have so much anxiety wrapped around the idea of it?  I’ve been working with the same online coach for three years, so he’s handling the nuts-and-bolts of the prep.  It’s on me to handle the mental game.  If you’ve been following the few posts I’ve made, you know I’ve been on it.  Lots of audio books.  Lots.  After some frustrating experiences, I’ve chosen to limit my exposure to almost everything online that relates to bodybuilding.  That alone has cut down on a lot of stress because my value system is a little different.  I never feel so old as I do when I look at what people post.  If I avoid it, it is easier to focus on what’s important to me and what I need to do.

Most people who compete talk about prep in terms of a countdown.  “I’m 20 weeks out”, etc.  I’ve done it that way before because I was excited about the destination.  Thing is, I’m not now.  Counting down to something that scares me increases my anxiety about it.   Plus, it’s too ‘future-focused’ for me.  I prefer to focus on what I need to do TODAY.  So let’s flip that around.  The project is now the prep itself.  It is not a “means to an end”.  It is the goal.  Can I do this?

The day I started prep on October 14th was Day #1 and there will be 275 days in this project.  The overall goal is to push fat-loss farther than before.  This is NOT something a non-competitor should attempt.  If you’re not going to compete as a bodybuilder – literally in a division called “bodybuilding” – don’t do what I’m going to do.   Can I, a formerly obese 55-year-old woman, get “shredded”?  I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t done it.   And can I do it safely so that I won’t have issues later?  I have a smart, protective coach and we have worked our way through a plan over the last three years to be in a position to make this attempt now.  But I can already tell we are way ahead of our 2015 prep.  Months ahead.  I don’t think July 2017 will be my ‘final form’, either.

The result of the 275 day project will be an accumulation of what I do each day.   That makes each day a separate challenge and the goal is to do that day as well as I can.  Did I make every rep of each set count?  Did I do what I needed to do with food?  Did I get enough sleep?  Did I have enough energy to take care of life?  AND… am I not getting my undies bunched up about how I do that day?  Yes, it’s true.  “Not caring that much” is really a daily goal.  I refuse to up-end my life just to get a little leaner.  Sure, there are some sacrifices to be made, but gosh, this is just for fun, right?  It’s just my version of climbing Mt. Everest.

I hope to find time to write every so often and update this blog on where I’m at inside this prep, my 275 Day Project.

CURRENT STATUS:

Today is Day 76.  This phase of the cut has been aggressive, but calories were increased a couple weeks ago and will be increased again soon.  So far, I’ve lost about 10 lbs.  I am also about 10 pounds over my previous stage weight, but the plan is to come in lighter.  There is more muscle, so coming in even a couple pounds lighter will look a lot leaner.  My personal goals are more about things that have been issues for me on stage.   There are certain poses that have always been hard for me because I wasn’t lean enough to perform them properly.  I don’t want to deal with that issue this time around.

I will do today as well as I can.  And I will do that 199 more times.  And my undies will remain as unbunched as possible.

Here is part of my video report to my coach last week showing my workouts for days 65 through 71.

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Transforming Into an Athlete in the Second Part of Life

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The first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  I’m now 54.

Some people say my age is an irrelevant point about me as an athlete, but they are wrong.  It’s extremely relevant.   I was a fully formed adult with scars and strengths from living life before I decided to live a completely different way.  And my decision impacted a lot of people who thought they knew who I was before I decided to be someone else.  I’m still working on making sense of all this.  Something yanked my chain this last week and I need to write to figure out what I think about things.  Sorry – I need to be a bit cryptic about it because it’s private.  But I believe humans have similar responses to things, even if details are different.

Please forgive me for veering into the past for a moment.   If what I’m going to say later is going to make any sense, I need share parts of my personal history.  I don’t feel comfortable doing that, because I don’t want to give the impression that I think my life has been difficult.  It’s just been a “life”.  But these things are a bit relevant to why I think what I think as I keep transforming into an athlete in the second half of my life…

  • My scoliosis was diagnosed early in high school and I was pulled from all sports. I was told to be “careful” for the rest of my life.  Between the ages of 17 and 24, I had at least two episodes when my back would freeze up and I could not move for about a week.  I remember my mother pushing me around in a wheel-chair at the hospital to get x-rays.   I believed all the adults who told me I was fragile.
  • In my 20’s, I got a job at a gym as a receptionist. That’s when I first saw female bodybuilders in magazines.  They were about my age, but they looked so strong – not fragile.  I wanted that, but I was intimidated by it for a couple of really good reasons.  1) I have scoliosis and shouldn’t lift, and 2) women aren’t supposed to look like that – guys didn’t like it.  I didn’t question those beliefs at the time.  I accepted them and set other goals for my life.
  • My mother died from a brain aneurysm when she was 56 and I was 28.  I was the family member who was tasked with the decision to remove her from life support.  I watched her die.  I know some of you have had to do that, too.  It’s not exactly like how they show it in movies or on Grey’s Anatomy.
  • I decided to get a degree in mathematics and teach math because I was intimidated by it. That was when I began to do battle with my fears.  The time span from my first day of college to my graduation with a degree in mathematics was 16 years.  Mom died during this time and I lost my job because I needed to take a leave of absence to handle my mother’s affairs out of town.  Once I could get back to work, I had as many as three part-time jobs to support myself and still have a schedule flexible enough to attend school during the day when the classes I needed were offered.  This was the first time I set a scary goal and achieved it.
  • For the last 20 years, I’ve taught math to teenagers, ages 15-18. Takes a little courage to show up and do that every day.   Not many adults would want to attempt to manage a room of 30+ teenagers.  Fewer can handle it when a whole bunch of them are anxious about what you are asking them to do.  Math teachers are in short-supply these days.  Burn out is high.  Many students believe they will fail before they try, so they won’t try.  They will do a lot of other things to avoid trying.  While teaching geometry, I teach a lot of other things, too.

And that brings me back to my first point – the first time I touched a barbell, I was 48 years old.  All of these other things happened years prior to that.

To decide to become a female bodybuilder at that point in my life, I had to challenge and beat down a lot of my own thoughts about what women can do, what a person with scoliosis can do, what a busy teacher can find time to do, and what a post-menopausal woman can accomplish in bodybuilding.  I’m not saying my journey has been harder than someone else’s, because I know it hasn’t been.  There is no comparison to what others have had to deal with to just get through another day.  I have not had to survive trauma.

That said, I’ve still accomplished enough hard stuff to feel like I can do more.  It’s my journey.   I’ve already lived a life and I’m still in the mix.  My ego tells me that I should be respected for that, but I can’t control what others say or think.  (Yeah, something happened a couple days ago. I was hurt by it, but I learned something useful.)  I remind myself what I’ve done to get here.  My ego wants to puff up – that’s what others do, right?  But that’s not going to help me do anything except become an asshole.  I don’t need to defend my thoughts.

I am sensitive.  I am scared.  I am brave.  I reflect.  I learn. I overthink.  I lose my focus sometimes, but I get it back.  I tell my ego to shut the hell up.  She just wants to generate negative thoughts that feed uncertainty about whether I will ever have tangible success as an athlete.  I may always be a novelty act in public, she tells me.  Ageism is alive and well, we all know that.  Is that my only obstacle?  Of course not.  But it’s there.  I can’t get younger, but I can improve.  I may always be switched to the outside of the youngest, most novice bodybuilder in the line.  If I’m a better bodybuilder than I was the last time I showed up, I guess that’s going to be enough.  My voice may shake when I say “my journey on my terms“, but I’m still saying it.  I’m still insisting on it.

“Why bother?”  I ask myself almost every day.  Almost every day, I quit.  And then I recommit to what I’m doing as an athlete.  The last year has been difficult.  I may not be able to break this cycle until after I compete again.  That last competition experience needs to be replaced by a new one before I’m going to get closure on what happened that day.  Simply getting on stage again will be a win because I will be able to put away two years of trying to make sense of what will now be called the “2015 WTF Happened? Blesson”.

And then I touch a barbell and I happily battle gravity.  I get a little bit of clarity when I’m at the gym.  Lifting still fixes me.  I love to train.  That’s why I bother.   Everything else is just distracting noise, whether it’s external or internal.

 

 

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Filed under Competing, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting

Binging On Audio Books

A year ago today was the day before my most recent competition and my nerves were off the charts.  I was unpleasant to be around.  I ended up having an EPIC anxiety attack that evening, sat in the bathroom of the hotel, texting my coach who calmed me down a little.  The next day, I had the most humiliating public experience I’ve had in my life.  You know that nightmare where you go to school in your underwear?  Yeah.  That.  To say my ego was dented and damaged – well that’s accurate.  I’ve spend the last year trying to sort things out.  If I were a normal person, I’d probably walk away from this sport.  But I’m not normal.  I’m stubborn.  And I love this sport.  What happened was a little bit shitty, yes, but it shouldn’t have rocked me like that.  Something about it kicked every single insecurity I’ve got like a gut shot.  No – more like drilling a tooth before you’re numb.  I did not see it coming.

After a few years of investing in my physical health and discovering that competitive bodybuilding added value to my life, I came home from that show wondering if I had it in me to ever step on stage again.  A long time ago, I promised myself to never let fear define me, or rather, never let fear stop me from doing something I wanted to do.  Unless I break that promise, I have to do this work now, too.  I might blog about the things I’m learning and how I will apply them, but I’m not sure yet if that’s something I want to share publicly.  A big part of my work is to disengage my ego and just do the work.  Haven’t really reconciled how to share that process in public yet.

However, the list of books I’ve devoured might have some value for others.  All audio.  I don’t have time to read, but while I’m grading, walking, or driving, I listen and learn.

Here is a list of the audio books in my Audible library that I have found the most enlightening.  “Enlightening” in the sense that I enjoy uncomfortable self-reflection and forced psychological growth.  Putting introspection on Beast Mode, I guess.  Hahahahaha!  They are in order of how I listened to them.  In some way, each book led me to the next.  Some I’ve listened to a few a couple of times.  I revisit parts when it seems I need a refresher on that particular lesson.  Each time I listen, I pick up something new.

Almost all have had an impact on my teaching, too.  I think that’s what has hooked me the most.  While following my own instincts about what I want to learn personally, I’ve enriched my practice as a teacher of teenagers.  I had a conversation with someone once who said he thought we were all stuck at 17 on the inside forever.  That might be true.

The last book, “The Ego is The Enemy” by Ryan Holiday, has been the most beneficial in addressing my competition experience, but I don’t know if I was ready to hear it until after I had listened to the others.  It also wasn’t published until last month, so it wasn’t available.  It’s probably that “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” thing, huh?

I’m grateful for the lessons in all of these books.   I got something from each.  (It’s a bit overwhelming to see the list together – this isn’t even all of them.  Just the best ones.  And there were a few fiction books in the mix over the last year, too.  Brain needed a break every so often.)

Pictures are linked back to Audible descriptions for each book.  Just click…

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