Tag Archives: natural bodybuilding

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: Day 164 or Why I Shaved My Head


Oh, hi!  Haven’t written in a long time.  Sorry.  Part of that is because I am a busy teacher.   But when I’m quiet, it usually means I’m having a difficult time and I just don’t want to write until I’m through it and can reflect back.   This might be a long post.  I’ll break it up into sections:  Training, Diet, and Hair (or why I shaved my head)

Training

That new training split I told you about in my last post in February didn’t work well for me at all.  It was too much…everything.  I’m an introvert who teaches high school kids – and right now, I have 189 student on my roster.  Each of those students is working at their own pace.  If you’re a teacher reading this – yeah.  It’s like that.  So to say my brain is fried at the end of the day is not an exaggeration.  Lifting is how I manage stress and bodybuilding gives the lifting a goal so I will do self-care when I realistically have no time for self-care.  That phase with whole body lifts pushed my central nervous system too hard each time.  And having to deal with RPEs at 4:30 in the morning – it was not fun.  It was stressful.  When I was in the middle of it and I could not make it work, I was frustrated. Using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a well-documented technique.  Many lifters like it and have had success with it.  It was hard for me to accept that I couldn’t do it.  I tried to communicate what was wrong to my coach, but I didn’t know how to explain what wasn’t working.  Initially, he thought I didn’t understand the philosophy, so we lost a couple of days trading emails about that.  There were days I hated going to the gym – and that never happens.  I was getting hurt because I was distracted from paying attention to my form.  I literally cried during a couple workouts.  I felt like my coach and I were not working together well and that bothered me more than the issue with the program.   I finally just quit that split.  I didn’t quit lifting.  I just put myself back onto a familiar split.  Told my coach what I was doing.  We agreed to just go back to an older split that worked well.  I updated a couple of exercises.  And since I’ve been back on that split, I’ve hit a couple PRs on accessory movements each week.

Reflecting, I’ve learned…

  • I hate whole body lifts. I can handle upper/lower splits, but not whole body.  It’s hard to describe, but it almost feels too “confusing” to my nerves.  I felt my stress hormones go up during the lift instead of feeling the expected dopamine release.  I haven’t done research on it, but I suspect it has something to do with the physiology of being a highly sensitive introvert.  The “highly sensitive” part isn’t about emotions – it’s literally about a heightened sensitivity to external stimulation of the senses.  Windy days annoy me because I feel like I’m being assaulted by air.  As much as I love my job, I crave/need those breaks in the day when I don’t have kids around so I can recharge a bit.
  • I hate RPEs because I mentally rehearse my major lifts for hours, or even days, before I do them. When I look on the spreadsheet and see I have a 520 pound leg press coming up in Week 3, I subconsciously psyche up for it.  I’m totally fine picking a weight for an accessory movement if you tell me I need to do 3 set of 12-15 reps.  Given two conditions, I can select the third variable without stress.  But when asked to pick a weight so that I’m using 60-80% of maximum exertion, I get too caught up in the mathematics of that and I stall out.  Honestly, I’m perfectly capable of writing my own programs, but I don’t want to think about my lifts other than everything I pay attention to just to execute them properly with correct form.  I analyze every part of a rep while I’m doing it to make sure I’m activating the muscle intended.   I just want to open the spreadsheet and do what it tells me to do.  I hardly ever miss a rep.  If it says 3 set x 12 reps x 100 lbs, I will lift that damn thing 12 times just because it’s on the spreadsheet.  I will also do 3 sets of 12 because it makes recording it easier.  A set of 12, a set of 10, and a third set of 8 looks like this… 1x12x100; 1x10x100; 1x8x100.  That’s just a pain in the ass.  So I move the thing.  Every time.  And I believe my laziness in recording is one reason I build muscle.
  • I’ve also told my coach that from now on, when things aren’t working, he can expect a text or a phone call – not an email. We’ve worked so well together for over three years that this really was the first time we had something go wrong.  I didn’t really know how to handle it.  As a result, I feel like I was on a deload for a month.  I didn’t lose ground – the number of PRs I’m setting now is reassuring.

Diet

Our school district has a two week spring break.  Today is Monday of the second week.  I told Coach that right now is the best time to dig.  I have time to workout and sleep.  So that’s what I’ve been doing.  Scale has been dropping a little every day.  I am now about 1-2 pounds over my scale weight before we did peak week for my last show.  I still have 3 months.  Conditioning this time will be better.   This isn’t a surprise to me.  We planned this back in 2015 after the last show.  Last week, I brought the calories down to about 10 kcal/pound of body weight for 5 days, then 2 days of slightly more to recover.  I will repeat that again this week.  Coach decides what happens after that based on where we are at.   The actual macro breakdown has my protein set at 160 grams, carbs range between 130 and 150 grams, and fats are coming in under 20 grams.  I don’t stress about hitting any number exactly except for the protein and the calorie.  I’ve got this thing dialed in most days, though.  Since Coach brought protein up, I haven’t felt super hungry.  I also figured out that if I split my morning meal in half and eat more frequently after my early morning lift, I feel better.

I’m satisfied with my progress.  There are 111 days left in this prep.  There is an end-goal for stage, but the real goal is just navigating through these next 111 days as an endurance challenge.  Can I do my life while pushing myself physically in ways I’ve never done before?  Will I be able to manage stress of life while under the stress of what I’m doing to my body composition?  And can I do this with a little grace and sense of humor?  I have stayed on course, but I haven’t been that graceful about it over the last month.  I hope to have learned a lesson I can use over the next 3 months.   This is all for fun, right?  Nothing life and death about this thing.

Hair

This next show is pivotal for me.  I’m heading right back to the same show I did in 2015 that wrecked me a little bit.  I have no idea what to expect after what happened the last time I was on that stage in front of those judges.  And then I had that frustrating lifting month in February.  In hindsight, I see it as a blessing now.  I had every reason to quit – lifting sucked, I turned 55, I’m busy, it’s hard to do, and there isn’t a tangible reason to compete… but I didn’t quit.  I couldn’t quit.   I don’t quit.  But there wasn’t much positive pulling me towards something instead of a general “I don’t quit” stubborness.  Then one day I woke up and a switch had flipped.  I needed to commit and commence with the “ass-kickin’-takin’-names” part of this prep.  That morning, I registered for the show.

I’ve felt different since then.  It’s about redemption now.  Maybe I will always be put in the last place.  So what?  I’m still showing up, aren’t I?  This is amateur women’s bodybuilding.  There is no real-world difference between “overall” and “last place”.   There aren’t cash prizes.  There will be no contracts or sponsorships.  Those of us who do this are motivated by something else.  If the width of my pelvis screws up my symmetry, I can’t give a fuck about that because I can’t change it.  But I can prep hard to lose enough fat so that the glutes attached to that wide pelvis will be visible.  If it’s possible, I can do that.   I have built my delts and quads a little.  That will help with the symmetry a bit.  And I can get creative with posing to emphasize some things and distract away from others.

But how can I be braver?  How can I make sure I hear that little voice in my head that reminds me to be a badass every day when the doubts can be so loud????

So that happened.  This is my signal to myself to remember who I am and why I’m doing this.  I get a reminder every time I see a reflection.  I get a reminder every time that side of my head gets cold, too.  Hahahaha!  To be honest, it was an impulsive thought at first, but I thought about it for a week.  I pulled my hair back and tried to imagine it.  I was beyond excited to get this done.  After I walked around with it for a few days, I figured out why I needed to do it. I’ve had it about a week and I love it.  Not a single regret yet.

Sorry about the length.  Thanks for hanging in there with me!  The support I get keeps me going.  Thank you!!

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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Contest Prep, My Lifting Log, Nutrition, Weight Loss

Oh Hey – It’s My Birthday Again!

Eight minutes from the exact time I started writing this post, I will precisely be 55 years old.  I always miss my mom on my birthday.

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Me and Mom

Took some progress pictures today.  I’m not competing until July, and based on how this prep has been going, it highly likely that my conditioning will be better than it was the last time I competed.  I’m humbled and grateful that I’m able to do this considering I didn’t become any kind of athlete until later in life.   I’ve become less comfortable sharing my progress pictures for many reasons.  But this blog started when I started this new life, so I also think it’s important to document where I’m at now.

Today’s pictures compared to October when I started this prep…

Oct 2016 - Started Prep

Oct 2016 – Started Prep

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10-8-16-back

 

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2-14-17-back-lat

Can’t lie.  I’m a bit freaked out about this birthday.  I remember being younger thinking that being 55 would be close to retirement – which I might be, but haven’t really decided on that yet. (2/16/17 edit – at the end of this day, I’m leaning towards “sooner rather than later” on that retirement thing.  Love, love, love the kids. It will never be anything about them that pushes me out.) Digging what I’m doing as a teacher right now and I passionately believe it’s a better way for humans to learn mathematics.  I’d like to hang in until I work out the bugs and evolve it.

55 is also a big one because my mother died when she was 56.  Intellectually, I think I’ve done enough to alter my own path, health-wise, to live longer than my mom did, but she died of a brain aneurysm.  We don’t know if that was a hereditary condition or a consequence of her smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress.

Did I say I am grateful?  I woke up today extremely grateful to be here.

My husband created most of the gifts he gave me.  Aren’t they amazing?  His time and the little things he included in these paintings (he used his thumb print to color the heart with the tree) made these the most memorable gifts I’ve ever received.

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Hubby had to work today, but I took the day off.  I needed to renew my driver’s license since it expired today.  Took my little girl pup with me.  We stopped at a local duck pond for a short walk on the way home.  Poor thing has been cooped up in the house.  Weather here hasn’t been conducive for walks.  I also have a nagging issue with my left ankle and foot.  Nothing serious, but long dog walks aggravate it.

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Started a new training phase this week.  It’s a very different split than what I’ve ever done before.  Coach has me doing full body four days a week for a month with a bit lighter loads.  It’s probably going to be good.  The first week will be bumpy because I need to adjust my habits.  My little gym doesn’t have everything I need, so I have to travel to another one for that one thing I do need on that one day – the logistics need to be worked out.   He also incorporated the use of RPE (Rate of Perceived Exersion) to determine the loads I use.  It’s an uncomfortable adjustment for me to make.  I mentally rehearse my lifts the night before.   When I don’t have an actual load given on the spreadsheet, I ruminate on it a bit – and that’s not relaxing at all.  It’s probably just difficult for me right now because I’m working so much and I’ve been dieting for 123 days.  I’m not mentally flexible right now.

It was a memorably wonderful birthday.  And I will have a carb hangover tomorrow.   It’s all good – I’m leg pressing in the morning.  I’ll turn it all into muscle.  😉

(I didn’t eat all of this candy today. Milk Duds are gone.  And there was a heart-shaped pizza. And a big slice of cheesecake.  This won’t be my last refeed, but it could be my last REFEED until July.)

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2017 Prep Update: Day 100

Day 100 was last Sunday.


An interesting, unsettling, and maybe a bit impulsive decision was made on Day 100…

Facebook deactivation.

I know – so what?  Who cares? (Is it ego to wonder if anyone noticed?  Probably.  Is it ego to write about it?  Definitely.)  It’s not a statement about social media – I’m obviously still involved since I’m writing this blog post.   I had to find a work-around to keep the Lifting My Spirits page up and plan to keep posting there. Thought about taking a hiatus from that page, too, but it has a purpose and the people who comment there are amazing. They inspire me.

I think I’ve been getting ready for this for some time.  Had a privacy violation a couple years ago that bled into real life.  I stopped accepting friend requests from people I didn’t know and have been posting less.  I’ve been more careful.  I’ve “unliked” or “unfollowed” pages that posted things that yanked my chain.  Deactivating for a time could be the next step in that process.

I like how it has forced some changes in my head the last couple of days.  It’s quiet in here.   I love my job, love the kids, but I am an introvert and working with full classes of teenagers all day drains me a bit.  I’m working about 55 hours a week, training, and I’m working on earning some CEU credits I need to renew my teaching license next year.   My plate is always too full.  (Figuratively, not literally.)  I started paying attention to things I did away from work that recharged my batteries and what cause my brain to spin.  I deactivated Instagram last year.  It took a few days to get out of that habit, but it felt good to share less.  I’ve been on Facebook a lot longer and this feels like I just fell off the planet.  It’s going to be a hard habit to break, but a good thing for me to have less external input in my day.

It’s hard, though.  I don’t want to lose touch with people, so I need to make a new habit to stay in contact.  Learned that Messenger still works and that’s a relief.  Fits my personality better to have private conversations, anyway.  This may be a temporary decision – when my prep is done and I have a little less on my figurative plate and more on my real one, I’ll probably activate it.  It does feel weird.  How did we do this before??  We didn’t even have email growing up.  Were we just…quiet?  The fact that it feels like I’m in withdrawal just confirms that it’s a good thing for me to do.

Whatever…what about bodybuilding??

Training went well this last week.  Got a PR on leg extension this morning.  Coming off the deload week, my loads were scheduled to increase.  Hamstring feels better, but the ankle below it is still tight.  Seems like the hamstring healing up might be pulling on everything below it.  I plan to do more stretching in that area.

Less walking needs to happen since my feet are feeling beat up.  We have a 20-year old recumbent bike at home.  Most years, it was out in the patio.  It’s weathered and a bit beat up.  This adorable puppy has used a pedal as a chew toy when she was working through separation anxiety.  It still pedals, so it’s all good.  Jump on there for a bit on days when my normal activity was low.  We’ve had many of those days here the last few weeks thanks to some winter weather.

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Oh, and weight is still dropping, but not fast.  Much more scale bouncing these days, which is expected.  So far, over the last 100 days I’ve lost about 12 pounds, give or take a daily bounce.  Stage weight goal is in another 13 pounds.  If I make it, this stage will be 4 lbs lighter than last one.  It probably won’t be easy to get there, but it’s part of the game.  The reverse diet out of this one will be just as hard.

So that’s my update for Day 100.

Recap…

  • Training is good.
  • I’m now a hermit.

 

 

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