Hold Strong: A Lesson in Fear

fireworksOK, so maybe the setting wasn’t exactly out of a movie. I wasn’t standing under the night sky with a backdrop of colorful fireworks exploding behind me in celebration of the Fourth of July. No, instead I was standing in Walmart in front of the sweet potato baby food crying in my boyfriend’s arms. The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holiday’s and I had just sat through a picnic eating lukewarm egg-whites and beef that smelled like it was a little past due.

A few more days passed and I was still a roller-coaster of emotion. I simply could not get myself in a strong positive mindset for more than a moment before it was replaced with negativity. A few nights later I hit a low and it seemed my Pros and Cons for finishing this prep were perfectly balanced. My head was swimming and I just could not find the right answer, I always know the right answer in my heart, but I simply could not find it.

 I tend to shut down when I have a problem, literally I will go silent- hard to believe I know. In desperation I had finally messaged my Coach to tell him how I had been feeling, but as usual I had protected it with a certain level of toughness. I never want to be a burden and instead of telling my Coach when things started to get troublesome, I let them internalize and fester until I was a clouded mess sitting on my kitchen counter ready to quit.

I realized I needed to be completely honest with him that this wasn’t about the diet, the training, missing out on summer activities or that my body wasn’t physically feeling up to the challenge of eight more weeks of prep- instead I needed to tell him that this was about doubt and fear of failure. I had to let go of my pride.

The acknowledgement of what was really bothering me sent a wave of relief that washed away the clouded thoughts. My Coach spoke from his heart and personal experience in response, it was the honesty and guidance that I needed. My heart and mind were finally in sync and I knew the right decision. Doubt and fear of failure were my reasons for wanting to quit, but the only way I can fail is by not trying. Stay strong, persist until you achieve.

Hold Strong

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Out of My Element : the Decision to Change

2 year progressionI knew I should have worn a cooler outfit, this one totally says “Hey I’m a Mom, I’m completely out of my element, yes I drive a minivan full of cheerios and half eaten french fries do you need a ride somewhere or perhaps we could make a macaroni necklace.” I stood outside the weight room of the YMCA nervously looking around. My trainer had already entered and stood there coaxing me in. She had told me to pick a goal and since I wasn’t going to be running any marathons, I had chosen what sounded like the lesser of two evils and very naively selected a bodybuilding competition.

The YMCA that I had been a member of was huge and consisted of a beautiful serene upstairs full of brand new machines and a dingy, dark dungeon downstairs where the free weights were located. Very few women ventured downstairs and even fewer members (3-4 men) were competitors. I was entering the great unknown, but I was determined to push myself beyond the comforts of my Rep Reebok Group Class.

With a deep breath and a feigned fearless look I walked into the weight room. A few minutes passed while Heather taught me how to properly dead-lift and to my surprise no one was surrounding me chanting out how silly I looked. After several successful movements it was finally time to use the barbell- this was it, my first real experience in bodybuilding. As soon as my hands gripped the bar and performed the first fluid motion I knew I had lit a fire. I felt empowered, alive and for the first time ever I felt strong.

That day in the weight room changed my life forever. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I made a decision to change that day, I took a chance at looking stupid and it has paid off every day for almost three years now. Listen to that nagging little voice that whispers “Just try”.  Every single person who is now proficient in any field of choice was once a beginner that took the chance at looking silly. Don’t let your fear of looking stupid hold you from who you might be.

Top 5 Secrets to a Successful Prep

It’s my favorite time of year, the start of Competition Season! I love opening my Facebook to see everyone’s progress pictures, motivational posts and countdowns! Every year I strive to prep a little smarter, taking lessons from previous years. The following is a list of ways I found to not go bananas!

1. Create a schedule.
During prep the majority of your days are going to be similar. There will be cardio, training and specific supplement times. Strive to wake up at the same time each day and follow the same routine. Your body and mind will fall into a natural pattern and you won’t be setting five alarms to remind you what to do throughout the day.

2. Order your shoes, suit, jewelry and all other accessories early.
The last thing you want to do is frantically order these important items and pay for rush delivery. Order early; take your time designing your look before you are a carb depleted space cadet!

3. Register and reserve early.
This serves two purposes. First, it cements your commitment to the show date- you WILL be ready. Second, it allows you to ensure that you will have the schedule you want on competition weekend. It’s both fun and convenient to stay in the host hotel. Generally both check-ins and the official spray tan company are located in the host hotel (We all know I’m getting my Liquid Sun Rayz appointment early!!) There is nothing worse than worrying about missing either appointment or having to tan super early or super late!

4. Write yourself letters.
Remind yourself that you CAN do this. Remind yourself WHY you are doing this. Remind yourself that you CHOSE to do this. Let it all out. I promise it’s better than tantruming around the house.

5. Remember that there is life outside of prep.
Not everyone you encounter will be going through competition prep and an even greater majority will have no idea what you are experiencing. Breathe. Take time to appreciate those people in your life that you love. Don’t forget to listen to their daily trials and triumphs. Celebrate them and thank them often- at some point they’ve all been the helpless victims of a “hangry” moment.

Happy Prepping! T.D.N.S. #Notimetowaste2014

Plan for Success: The Post Competition Blues

I sat there completely dumbfounded. This was undoubtedly the hardest task I had ever encountered. The options seemed endless and their outcomes complete horrifying mysteries. Forget my graduate engineering classes; deciding on the appropriate serving size of Cheerios was a true enigma.

I was unknowingly experiencing a common aspect of the “Post Competition Blues” following my very first competition season in 2012. After months of monitoring every single gram and ounce of food that entered my body, I was now faced with the daunting task of feeding myself once again. I was amazed that I had forgotten how to simply eat a healthy well-balanced diet that wasn’t structured. This past 2013 competition season I was prepared to do battle. I wasn’t going to fight through that confusion again and I’m happy to report that the transition from “in” to “off” season was smooth.

Here are my transition guidelines to avoid those Post Competition Blues:

  1. Congratulate yourself for your hard-work regardless of your placings! I’ve been last and I’ve been first, and I truthfully worked equally as hard to arrive at the stage both times. Don’t forget to give yourself the credit you deserve. You worked hard!
  2. Remember that stage leanness is not a realistic look year round. We all love being cut and lean, however, it is not feasible to remain this way indefinitely. You’re hungry, tired and cranky  the last couple weeks of prep (Don’t deny it, we ALL are.). Your friends and family would like their “heads” back ;) and I’m sure you would like to stop tantruming over wanting that cookie now and again.
  3. Plan a celebration meal with your friends and family a week after your last contest. Thank them for supporting you and celebrate your accomplishment with them when you are actually coherent, hydrated and not exhausted (We all know we only care if the food shows up to our post night show meal…) This also allows the excitement of the competition to last a little longer than a day, and really helps minimize the “let down” of the big moment being over so quickly.
  4. Create a detailed off season meal plan schedule. During my last couple weeks of prep I worked hard on preparing my “reverse diet”. This started to prepare me mentally for the fact that my contest diet isn’t a forever plan. This past season it took me four full weeks to get back into my full off season nutrition plan. Naturally I added my cheat meals back right away!! Slowly increase your carbs and fats through the weeks in steps. This will not only avoid a rebound, but also help you to adjust to bigger portions and the fear sometimes associated with eating more of these foods.
  5. Don’t be afraid to admit how you are feeling and seek out the support of other competitors. Chances are if a person has competed at some point or another they have experienced the Post Competition Blues at least once! We may not all be open about our difficulties, but more often than not if asked we will have a story or two to share!!

A New Dawn: Accepting Others Differently

iStock_000019146637SmallI shot straight up in bed. Unaware of it all, except for the strange reality that had settled over my home. My son stood outside my door calling for me, ready to start his day. I floated through the house, got him his breakfast and crumpled into my kitchen chair. The tears streamed down my face silently as I texted “Even though we’ve been living separate lives for years…now it is a reality.” The past couple months had been unequivocally the hardest, yet most emotionally rewarding of my life.  My Husband and I had faced the cruel truth, we were best friends who simply weren’t in love.

 Emotionally we are two people who aren’t even in the same book; we love and need love differently. We’ve spent our entire marriage trying to change the other, trying to change ourselves. Desperately trying for a deeper happiness that just wasn’t. Looking back there were many changes we should have made. A myriad of decisions that changed our fate. Yet, one overwhelming, undeniable truth remains irregardless of the decisions and the circumstances of life-  we both would have reacted in the same emotional fashion. Neither one of us can pinpoint the moment we fell out of love, but its been a gradual dissolution over the better part of our time together. Love was replaced with a dependency on the other to operate the family. We took pride in the fact that we were a great business team; the schedule became the focus and the promise of a financially secure life became the all consuming goal- the promise of “happiness”. 

We are the lucky ones, through this entire divorce process we have become an even better friend to the other. We don’t have to mourn the loss of the other. Rather we can celebrate the release of anger, frustration and an underlying feeling of inadequacy because we could never quite make the other person happy. Our children have become our focus, our lifelong bond to the other. They may not fully understand the why, but they do see our friendship, the way we treat one another now, and the respect we have for each other. The children are now noticeably happier and less stressed. It is easy in life to be blinded by the external, to create such a colorful exterior that it distracts from the internal truth. Be brave enough to accept yourself and those you love for the unseen. Do not demand that they change, but rather learn to love and appreciate them in a new light. Accept that life is uniquely beautiful, that even the most straightforward paths are not always the right option for your inner, personal happiness. Set aside fear, ask yourself the hard questions and do not settle for anything less than what is right for you.

Proud Peacock: a Lesson in Liking Who You Are

The door burst open, and she charged at me, her eyes sparkling. Excitedly my tiny little three year old puffed her little belly out like a proud peacock and triumphantly said “Look Mom, look at how good I am at this!” She had buttoned her shirt all by herself! She was ecstatic with her new skill and shared it with everyone we met that day. Her exuberant proclamation was something to be celebrated and everyone cheered her on. Somewhere within the aging process an action like this becomes a faux pas. It is more socially acceptable to pick ourselves apart, layer by layer than to exude confidence.

Admitting that you are good at something and/or happy with who you are physically and mentally becomes an act of bragging. Instead we discuss our weaknesses. We focus on our shortcomings. We convince ourselves that we aren’t worth it. We discuss with friends how skinny, fat, depressed, and/or anxious we are. We focus on the negatives and belittle the positives. There are days when I look at myself in the mirror and think “Augh, you are so small. You are never going to get big. You are a silly little girl, chasing a dream that is way to big for you.” These are my worst days in the gym. I completely defeat myself and subsequently have an awful training session. What I need to be doing is focusing on what I DO have. I need to be thankful for how far I have come. I need to be thankful that I have the ability to train. I need to be confident that I have the tools, support system, and dedication to achieve.

It’s time to focus on what is wonderful in our lives. There is no joy to be found in lamenting. We need to relish in the excitement of our mini victories and let those define us. We need to remind ourselves that we are worth it. There was once a time when we were all excited proud little peacocks. We believed we were amazing and could be anything. Find your inner peacock; allow yourself to be comfortable and proud of who you are. Celebrate your uniqueness. Exude a confident happiness that draws others in to your positive light and gives them the courage to love themselves too.

An Unexpected Gift

sand_hour_glassI sat mindlessly staring, lost in thought of the day. It had been overwhelming, exhausting and I was nearing my end. I suddenly realized I was no longer alone, there was an arm cuddled around my back holding me close. He squeezed me tight, rested his head for a moment and then took his hand and held my face. He looked me square in the eye and simply said “I love you”. In one profound moment my two year old son had taught me about selflessness. Forgoing the frustrations of the day’s “time outs” he had given me all he had in this world, his loving attention.

It is so easy to get lost in the daily grind; each day blurring into another week. Rushing from one thing to the next. Without a moment’s notice the mighty check mark on our To-Do List becomes the sole focus of our attention. We obsess with the goals- they receive our undivided attention. Conversations with those in our lives become dominated with the schedule and the end result.

We are a driven society. The first questions we often ask of others are in regards to their aspirations for success. What happened to the art of conversation? Knowing what memories in your loved one’s lives meant the most to them. Exploring the feelings of the moment for them, learning their story. We all love to discuss our goals, but is there anything greater than reminiscing back to a beautiful moment? Reliving the excitement, the emotion and sharing it with someone who is truly listening, giving you the gift of their undivided attention. It requires nothing of you but your time, but it may give someone the world and enlighten yours.