Saturday, November 19, 2011


Recently I wrote about my wondering if I should try a different sport. I love lifting, especially lifting heavy, and that doesn’t completely mesh with Figure. I like to squat heavy and that builds big quads and hams that are not competitive in Figure. I’ve been lightening up my leg routine with a lot of plyometric based stuff and low weight squats lately to start changing my leg muscle formation. The problem? I have the most fun lifting heavy. That’s what led me to start thinking about powerlifting.

I bench regularly and squat pretty regularly, but I almost never deadlift. I decided to see what I could be capable of two days ago and I managed a 230 lb deadlift, so I decided to check out powerlifting up close and personal. My university’s annual powerlifting competition just happened to be today so I decided to sign up and jump in last minute for the experience.

I hadn’t expected to be competitive today, but I’m happy with where I clocked in. Powerlifting is scored with a ratio. Your cumulative pounds lifted between your best squat, best bench, and best deadlift are divided by your bodyweight and then competitors are scored based on the highest ratio to the lowest. My best squat today was 190 lbs, best bench 120 lbs, and best deadlift 240 lbs (I lifted 250 lbs in my 3rd set, but I made a first attempt, repositioned and then got it off the ground so that disqualified the lift) and I weighed in at 143.6 lbs bringing my total score to 550/143.6 or 3.83. I placed 5th out of the 8 women competing. One of the things that makes powerlifting great is that it’s more about having fun together and rooting for everyone out there than being strictly competitive. I’m proud to say my friend Rachael came in first today though, with a crazy impressive 295 lb squat, 190 lb bench, and a 405 lb deadlift. It’s hard to not get all amped up about powerlifting with a friend who gets out there and rocks it to that degree. Totally proud of her today =)

I’m off to a good start, but I have a long ways to go if I want to become a real powerlifter. I have good squat form, but my bench and deadlift form need a lot of work. You can hurt your lower back very easily with poor deadlift form so my top priority is to start paying careful attention to my form at lower weights and then work up my weight after I have solid form. As for benching I just need to do it more often with Rich there spotting me to lift heavy for low reps. I also need to practice bringing the bar to touch my chest, pause, and then lift. Today we each got three tries at each lift and I failed the first two bench attempts by not being able to get it back up all the way after touching my chest. My third attempt barely cleared the good lift test (aka eyes of the judges). You can’t lift lower on your 2nd or 3rd lift than your 1st so you have to be careful to start with a number you can clear for sure. I started too high with 120 and was stuck with it, but I’m happy, today was a learning experience =)

Bye bye Figure Mommy? Hello Power Mommy? Maybe...We'll see! ;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Shoulder Strength! =)

Shoulder Strength

My shoulders are one of the main muscle groups I’ve been seeking to build both strength and mass in. One of my favorite things about training is getting my numbers up. Getting a new “heavy” (a new max weight for a particular exercise) pleases me like nothing else in the gym. This is what sometimes leads me to wonder if I should give up the notion of competing in Figure again one day and train for power-lifting instead. Power lifters compete on their max bench, max dead lift, and max squat. Maybe someday =)

When I first took up with weight-lifting I could only hoist 15 lb dumbbells, alternating arms, for the shoulder press. I then got stuck on 20 lb dbs for months upon months and worked up to a simultaneous shoulder press (both arms moving together). I was proud when I started doing 25s here and there. Then, 6 weeks back I said to heck with it it’s time to jack my weight up and worked through 30s to 35s. I’ve been able to do sets of 6-8 reps with the 35s for 5 weeks now. I tried last week, after a few sets at 35, to go for the 40s and could only get them up to 60% of one rep, fail. Today, I decided to go for the 40s fresh. I warmed up with cardio first and a quick 12 rep pump with 15s to prevent injury and then it was time to go for it. Success!!!

Nutrition thought of the day:

Do you go grocery shopping in November? Oh, say, in Trader Joe’s? And get a craving and a half for a huge plate of Thanksgiving helpings thanks to the elaborate pie ingredient displays, turkeys all lined up in refrigeration, and delectable cornbread stuffing with cranberries, chestnuts, and gravy being handed out at the sample table? Find yourself thinking it would be a good idea to make a “trial” Thanksgiving dinner now and subsist on the leftovers for the next 2 weeks? Nooooo. That didn’t happen to me on our way home today. Why ever would you ask? ;)


Buy turkey breast tenders and sear them off with salt, pepper, and Pam Spray in a 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes (until cooked through). Let cool and slice to apportion into Tupperware along with a handful of steamed asparagus, green beans, or broccoli, 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce and ¼ cup of Trader Joe’s turkey gravy drizzled over the top. 4 oz. of turkey breast tenderloin packs a lean 28 grams of protein for 120 cals, the veggies are innocent bystanders, the gravy is 20 cals of negligible macros, and the only naughtiness involved is the 12 simple carb grams of the sugar laden 50 cal portion of cranberry sauce. If you want to get hung up on that aspect make your own cranberry sauce with Stevia. I didn’t though; I just bought it at Trader Joe’s with the rest of the stuff. That’s what I had for dinner and I have 3 more servings all Tupperwared up and ready to roll in my fridge. Turkey is regarded as lean all year long until November hits, but with a little savvy you can keep that bird, and yourself trim!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Bulking Season

You may call it the holiday season, but Gaspari (the maker of my favorite protein powder, Myofusion) aptly calls it “The Bulking Season.” First comes:

1)Halloween – the holiday so oddly reminiscent of a figure competition. There are big bowls of candy everywhere just like in the backstage dressing rooms at a competition. Fantastical costumes, fake eyelashes, mass makeup, and fake nails abound on stage and on the streets of Halloween night alike.

2)Thanksgiving – Yoga pants are recommended wear for this holiday, not for their gym practicality, but for their easy waist expansion capabilities. M&F Hers and other fitness minded mags are happy to offer up turkey day trimming ideas, but apportioning out 4 oz. of white meat turkey, skipping the mashed potatoes and gravy, the green bean and sweet potato casseroles, the rolls, making your cranberry sauce with Stevia or Splenda while skipping dessert altogether does not sound like any fun at all! A true Thanksgiving meal should not be avoided, but ideally, the leftovers thwarted.

3)Christmas – The catalyst of the January gym joining rush. If only Christmas was but a day, but it is holiday parties galore, treats at the office, secret Santas bearing edible gifts, two days of decadent meals and the days of leftovers to follow.

Beyond the holidays Mother Nature and your own biology are seeking to bulk you up. As temperatures dip to frozen it becomes instinctual to crave comfort foods. Your body is purposefully seeking to increase body fat to stay warm. Not quite like a bear preparing to hibernate for winter, but close enough! This is warranted and healthy. Walking in the cold this morning I recalled how cold I was all the time last April when I’d plunged to 13.1% body fat for Emerald Cup. If I was at that composition currently I’d be too cold. One can see why there are hardly any bodybuilding competitions in the Northwest November – February.

Bulking has its purposes. It’s far easier to put on new muscle mass without trying to lean out at the same time. Really, there is no solidly merited reason to detest bulking. You can gain new muscle if you structure your workouts right. You can enjoy some foods, albeit in moderation, that you wouldn’t normally be allowed to touch. You can stay warm for the winter (that one’s making me laugh).

The drawbacks? You can’t wear your favorite jeans. You start to worry that you won’t ever get back on track. You realize you need to get a plan and set some goals.

The Plan

Limited to 5 – 50 minute workouts and 1 – 90 minute workout a week. Only working out once a day. Refusal to cut calories substantially.

What I’ve been doing:

Skipping cardio altogether most days of the week, only doing it 2x week, to allow more time to lift. Not counting calories or tracking macros at all, a don’t ask don’t tell policy of sorts, haha. Not packing meals every day, or in some cases, intentionally carbing up what I do bring. Bringing tasty cheeses and Wheat Thins into the house. Those are my #1 snack weakness and I know better than to make them accessible, but I’ve been disregarding better judgment. Eating a handful of Halloween candy most days. Shhhhh.

What needs to change for the next 4 weeks:

1)Each week 5 of my 6 workouts need to begin with 30 minutes of cardio and then have my weights session squeezed (through super sets and very short rest periods) into the remaining 20 minutes. The sixth workout will make up for the lack of traditional cardio with a plyometric and track workout session targeting the lower body.

Mon: Chest & Triceps
Tues: Shoulders & Abs
Wed: Legs
Thurs: Back & Biceps
Fri: Plyos & Shoulders
Sat: Legs
Sun: Off

The most ideal training split is to hit every muscle group twice a week, but by putting cardio back in the picture I won’t have time. Continuing to build shoulders and working on leg shape are my key work areas so they’ve been left in a 2x week split format while abs, back, biceps, chest, and triceps will only get hit once a week.

2)Nutrition. I’m going to be super lazy here and go in with the 40/40/20 macro split for my 1,800 cal budget. I’m going to throw allowances for a 10% macro variance and a 200 cal variance as the benefits of perfect meal planning don't surpass the costs.

What, by the way, is a 40/40/20 macro split?

40% of your cals come from protein
40% of your cals come from carbs
20% of your cals come from fat

1,800 cal budget x 40% = 720 cals for protein / 4 cals per gram = 180 grams protein
1,800 cal budget x 40% = 720 cals for carbs / 4 cals per gram = 180 grams carbs
1,800 cal budget x 20% = 360 cals for protein / 9 cals per gram = 40 grams fat

How do you catch and redirect yourself when you veer too far from your goals? What works? What doesn't?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Built to Last

C and I getting ready for our new routine.

Built to Last - a book that applies not only to corporations, but to anything worth building.

Built to Last

Anything that is not “built to last” will eventually fail. I’m about 30 pages shy of finishing the book Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras for a seminar class in cost accounting. The book details a six year study of eighteen corporations that the authors have deemed “visionary companies” They rigorously compared each company to a comparison company in the same field. The comparison companies selected were also successful, just not to the same degree as the visionary companies. The authors sought to ascertain what ideologies, traits, and practices were exhibited in the visionary companies alone. What ideals made (and continue to make) them timeless and stoic in an ever-changing business environment?

In the preface, Collins and Porras offer that the operating principles found in the visionary companies should not only be applied to the management of corporations, but to the personal lives of their readers. I wholeheartedly agree.

When it comes to the maintenance of a fit and healthy lifestyle there are those who seem to lead such a life effortlessly. For many though, it requires a concerted, even forced, effort where success is achieved in spurts without a feeling of sustainability.

In reading Built to Last I began to relate the business principles presented to my own attitudes about fitness and nutrition. Adhering not just on paper, but in action, to your core ideology is the essential basis of sustainability. Your core values, your personal acknowledgements are meant to get at the gut of who you are and stand the test of time and change. Mine are:

1) I am better at everything else in my life when I am training.

2) I am what I eat.

From your gut-level values stem your core principles, the guidelines with which you apply your core values to life, day in and day out.

My primary operating principle is:

To have time to work out no matter what else is going on. There is no time constraint or excuse to the contrary.

Fall quarter is less than two weeks old and I am already stretched thin. My class load is the most demanding, in terms of time commitments, since I began college. My time deficit is substantial. Nightly unwind time has already hit the chopping block, posts to my blog will be very sporadic, and I’m already shaving down to six hours of sleep to make it work. If I gave up working out I could gain a much needed six to eight hours a week to allot to other demands. Yet I don’t even view that as an option. The times in my life that I have given up regular training I have floundered. Built to Last lends clarity as to why. A fish without water cannot swim. Likewise, a corporation breaking from its core values will stumble, just as a Figure Mommy breaking from hers will.

We all have individual values beyond those of society’s accepted moral and ethical behaviors. We all have something that makes us tick, makes our hearts smile. Mine happens to be the endorphin rush, the stress relief, and the tangible reward of new muscle built from hard work and discipline that, to me, defines bodybuilding.

For a corporation, a clock must be built that can tick on, not missing a beat, through changes in leadership. For a person, a clock must be built that can tick on, not missing a beat, through changes in life.

What are your core values? Do you hold true to them?

This quarter has already thrown me curveballs. My son caught a cold and couldn’t start preschool when I started classes. My mom saved me there. I hurt my right heel, although I’m not sure how. It has been tender to any pressure for five days now, a bone bruise I’m guessing. If it doesn’t go away within a week I’ll go see a doctor about it, in the meantime I’ve canceled cardio to not aggravate it. I still get in and do my weights. I lessen rest time and focus on super-setting and giant sets. These tactics can get your heart rate up and sweat flowing. You don’t have to have traditional cardio to get your NO2 max up or burn fat. All things are adaptable…when you have core values to guide you.

Today’s 55 minute Chest & Triceps Training Session

Warm-up: Don “weighted vest” aka 4-year-old child in piggyback stance and proceed to jog from commuter lot to preschool entrance.

Chest and Triceps:

4 sets bench press maxing out at 100 lbs for 7 reps

Giant Set (repeated 4 times): dumbbell kickbacks 10-12 reps, dumbbell flies 10-12 reps, weighted bench dips 10-12 reps, push-ups to failure.

Super Set: (repeated 4 times: Barbell skull crushers 10-12 reps s/s with dumbbell incline bench chest press 6-8 reps.

Triceps Polish: One-armed dumbbell overhead triceps extensions to failure alternating arms for 3 sets.

Cardio: 2 laps...realized it was aggravating heel (still, ugh) and off to the showers

Thursday, September 8, 2011

What Keeps You Motivated?

I had some friends ask me about getting some diet advice recently. It led me to reflect and realize that I haven’t been eating well at all lately. At first it’s just a weekend of baked goods and barbecuing. Then it’s a few days with not much protein, and then all of a sudden you’re only eating three meals a day instead of the usual five or six. At first it’s fun to eat whatever you want, but then you realize why you’re not feeling your best: improper fueling.

The three big taboos of food land (in my opinion) are:

1)Not eating enough protein. If you’re going to turn body fat into lean muscle you need adequate protein to do it, weight training alone won’t complete the job. The rule of thumb is 1 -1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. I weigh 140lbs so that dictates 140-210 grams of protein daily. You should ALWAYS know what your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is. That’s how many calories you would burn in a day if you stayed in bed and didn't move an inch all day. My BMR, for example, is 1,439 calories. Add calories to your BMR to reflect your activities throughout the day. While training for The Emerald Cup my workouts burned 800-1,100 additional calories most days. If you’re looking to lose, maintain, or even gain weight you want to eat fewer, the same, or more calories than you burn. That being said, 1 gram of protein is 4 calories, 1 gram of carbohydrates is 4 calories, and 1 gram of fat is 9 calories. So if you plan to eat 140 grams of protein in a day that will use up 560 calories of your total calorie “budget.” When I’m looking to lose I aim for 1,800 calories daily. The rest you make up with carbs and healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).

Calculate your BMR here:

2)Not eating often enough. Eating 5-6 times a day better supports your metabolism, prevents you from feeling totally ravenous when you do eat, and maintains your blood sugar at a more even level throughout the day to prevent an energy crash.

3)Justifying the crappy food splurges as ”I deserve it because...” Yes, when you’ve been getting to the gym daily and watching your diet it is easy to convince yourself that you deserve a donut, or chips, or a cheeseburger or whatever your weakness is, but how is going against your goal a reward? If you feel the need to reward yourself after behaving for a month buy yourself a cute new piece of gym gear. Alternatively, you might think “I can get away with it.” Yes, you can get away with the occasional food splurges, but mentally utter that thought pattern too often and lo and behold, you’re not getting away with it anymore, it’s getting away with your skinny jeans ;)

I’ve been committing all three food land taboos lately. To start getting back on track I went out and stocked up on some of my staple proteins: lean ground turkey, Isernio’s chicken sausage, water-packed tuna, and tilapia. For an on the go snack I like to carry raw almonds and sliced strawberries.

My favorite Tupperware packing recipe is pictured above. It’s an easy batch recipe; one package of the turkey will net you 4 meals. I like to buy the frozen microwave steamer bags of rice at Trader Joe’s. Each bag is 2 cups and thus perfect to get divided and used up in this recipe, plus, no dishes ;)

1 serving:

5 oz. Jennie-O Taco-Seasoned Lean Ground Turkey
½ cup rice
½ cup diced tomato
1 cup mixed greens
1 T salsa
1 big squeeze lime juice

Stats: 354 cals 29 g protein 12 g fat 33 g carbs

It’s a splurge, albeit a healthy fat packing one, but I added ¼ cup diced avocado this batch which adds 60 cals 1 g protein 5.5 g fat and 3 g carbs.

Dependent on if I’m on a 5 or 6 meal split I like to make each meal 250-350 cals with protein allotted evenly and carbs stacked earlier in the day.

Today was rest day aka cardio only day (60 minutes on an elliptical) so I thought I’d post yesterday’s workout. Normally, I’m my own motivator, but yesterday I wasn’t. Trying to justify not going I had told my son I wasn’t feeling that good to which he replied, “We should go to the gym.” He was right and I’m glad I listened. I was never fully in the mood, but I know I would have felt worse had I skipped it

The “I don’t wanna workout I’m grumpy, tired, and the little voice in my head saying I won’t feel better until I do workout isn’t loud enough, but my kiddo’s voice is” legs and core workout ;)

I find that when I’m headed into the gym with a bad attitude and in stressed / tired / grumpy mode the best thing to do is to hit it hard.

I’m anti-cardio lately so when feasible I try to integrate cardio into my weights so as to justify avoidance of the elliptical, stepmill, etc. Running up and down real stairs will take your breath away and make you sweat much more quickly than a stepmill will anyways.

1)Run the Stairs
20 flights up 20 flights down

2)Parallel Squat in a Rack
Set 1: 95 lbs x 8 reps
Set 2: 115 lbs x 8 reps
Set 3: 135 lbs x 8 reps
Set 4: 135 lbs x 8 reps

3)Walking Barbell Lunges (these are equal parts cardio and weight training)
Set 1: 40 lbs x 30 reps
Set 2: 40 lbs x 30 reps
Set 3: 40 lbs x 30 reps
Set 4: 40 lbs x 30 reps

4)Machine Kickbacks (I prefer the cable kickback, but there are no straps for it at Gold’s right now)
Set 1: 40 lbs x 16 reps each leg
Set 2: 40 lbs x 12 reps each leg
Set 3: 40 lbs x 12 reps each leg
Set 4: 40 lbs x 12 reps each leg

5)Decline Bench Dumbbell Crunches

5 sets x 20 reps x 10 lbs

6)Run the Stairs Again ;)
20 flights up 20 flights down

7)Abs Giant Set
Shoulder Crunches 15 reps R 15 reps L, Vertical Leg Reverse Crunches 20 reps, Mini Crunches 20 reps
Repeat Giant Set 3X with no rest in between.

8)Last Round Abs

3 Sets Medicine Ball (10 lb) Side Twists x 30 reps superset with 3 Planks (45 sec hold)

What keeps you motivated?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Make em’ Hurt

Make em’ Hurt

My biceps are my best muscles. Weird statement to make? Eh, maybe, but I like to know my strengths and weaknesses. I call them my best muscles because they are my most visible muscles. I try to hit biceps 2x week, but my biceps routine has been pretty stale for a while. I used to just curl a 40 or 50 lb barbell both seated on a bench and standing and do dumbbell hammer curls. A few months back I took up with curling an Olympic barbell instead, it is over 7’ long so the need to stabilize it makes the muscles work harder. I usually just do the bar (45 lbs) so that I can go high rep (15-20/set), but my current heavy record for Olympic Barbell Curls is 65 lbs for 5 reps. I’m also a big fan of the hammer grip rope curl which is essentially a triceps rope pull-down flipped 180 degrees as a pull-up to hit the biceps instead. I love those last two exercises, but I know my body has come to expect them and that I need something new to keep my muscles guessing and adapting.

Today I added in a tip from IFBB Figure Pro Mona Muresan that I read in the current issue of Muscle & Fitness Hers. I have sporadically tried and then run and hid from standing high cable curls. I have to set the weight low and even then I feel like my form is off and I’m not doing them right, so I promptly quit. Mona, however, does a one-armed version which I tried today. You grab the side of the cable station with your resting arm to stabilize yourself and then focus on your working arm. By doing them this way you're able to carefully control the movement to ensure proper form. I did these only a few hours ago to polish off my biceps and they already have a quiet ache. My biceps do not normally experience muscle soreness, so this move is getting a big thumbs up from me. Here's hoping it hurts to hold up my blow-dryer tomorrow! =)

Today’s Biceps & Triceps Session:

1)Elliptical for 15 min to warm-up.

2)BT Superset 1, warming up the muscles:

Set 1: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)
Set 2: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)
Set 3: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)
Set 4: 15 reps Olympic Barbell Curls (45 lbs), 12 reps Dumbbell Standing Triceps Extensions (20 lbs)

3)BT Superset 2, make em’ work:

Set 1: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 16 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips (body weight ~ 140 lbs)
Set 2: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 18 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips (body weight ~ 140 lbs)
Set 3: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 16 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips (body weight ~ 140 lbs)
Set 4: 8 reps each arm (full set, then switch) Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curls (25 lbs), 16 reps Triceps Bodyweight Bench Dips ( body weight ~ 140 lbs)

4)BT Superset 3, cable station:

Set 1:
10 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (50 lbs), 10 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

Set 2: 10 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (45 lbs), 10 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

Set 3:
12 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (40 lbs), 12 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

Set 4:
12 reps Hammer Grip Rope Curls (40 lbs), 12 reps Triceps Rope Pushdowns (60 lbs)

5)Polishing off my Biceps:

Set 1: 12 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (20 lbs)

Set 2: 12 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (20 lbs)

Set 3: 8 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (30 lbs)

Set 4:
8 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (30 lbs)

Set 5: 12 reps each arm Standing One-Arm High Cable Curls (20 lbs)

6)Polishing off my Triceps:

1 Set 12 Dips on the Assisted Pull-up Machine with a 60 lb offset

3 sets Dumbbell Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extensions to Failure (10 lbs), failed between 6-10 reps each arm, decreasing with each set

7)Stepmill…5 min and then remembered I’m not on a lean out right now so I decided to be done and nix the cardio =)

My biceps may be my best muscles, but my right one takes the prize. Symmetry is important in bodybuilding and if I flex my right bicep pops up noticeably higher than my left one. I don’t think the inequality has anything to do with what I do in the gym as I work them equally there. My theories are kind of humorous. Just this week I’ve started wearing my iPod armband on my forearm for biceps day as I’m concerned that the tightness of it on my left bicep is restricting the muscle when I’m working it.

The second theory is my flexing habit. Since I took up with this blog adventure I’ve had many random conversations where I happen to mention that I’m into bodybuilding. Outside the gym in street clothes I really don’t look the part. I weigh 140 lbs and have noticeably big arms for my body, but I’m a size 4, relatively tiny in the scheme of the world. This always leaves me wondering if people think I’m a big dreamer when I mention being into bodybuilding, so I always tend to follow up the statement with a quickie right bicep flex. It pops up and that’s when people tend to react. It’s entertaining. As anyone who has practiced posing for a competition will tell you, posing is a workout in itself, so I wonder if always popping my right has caused it to be bigger than my left. Those are my two silly theories; the third and most reasonable one is simply that I’m right-handed ;)

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Leg Day aka Lunge Love!

Leg Day! =)

Leg day is one of my favorites. The flaw with it though is that if your energy isn’t there it can be pretty tough to get through, especially squats. Yesterday I was feeling pretty weak so the result was Smith Machine squats to the floor, but only 4 sets and never more than 35s on the machine (putting the weight at about 90 lbs). By contrast when I go into leg day feeling strong you might catch me at the rack doing a set of parallel squats as high as 165-170 lbs.

When I do legs I like to have at least one, preferably all three of the big compound leg exercises involved: squats, leg presses, and lunges. Many people will point out that the dead lift should be included in the big compound leg move list. I didn’t list it because I largely avoid them as they make my lower back tighter than I’m comfortable with. Then I round it out with more targeted moves such as hamstring curls, leg extensions, hip adductors, hip abductors, cable kickbacks, standing unilateral leg presses, single leg squats, dumbbell step-ups, stiff-legged dead lifts, good mornings, etc.

Lately without a strict gym goal to guide me I make up my workouts as go along. Yesterday worked out to be:

1)Smith Machine Squats

Set 1: 70 lbs x 10 reps
Set 2: 70 lbs x 10 reps
Set 3: 90 lbs x 8 reps
Set 4: 90 lbs x 8 reps

2)Leg Press

Set 1: 135 lbs x 20 reps
Set 2: 135 lbs x 25 reps
Set 3: 225 lbs x 12 reps
Set 4: 225 lbs x 12 reps
Set 5: 225 lbs x 12 reps

3)Walking Barbell Lunges
5 sets x 30 reps x 40 lbs on my back. The key here is finding a long straight place to walk out your 30 reps.

4)Leg Extensions (works your quads)
Set 1: 60 lbs x 12 reps
Set 2: 60 lbs x 12 reps
Set 3: 60 lbs x 10 reps
Set 4: 50 lbs x 12 reps

5)Prone Hamstring Curls

Set 1: 50 lbs x 20 reps
Set 2: 50 lbs x 20 reps
Set 3: 50 lbs x 16 reps
Set 4: 40 lbs x 20 reps

6)Stretching! I’m usually bad about stretching, but if I don’t make time for it on leg day I regret it pretty seriously the next two days. My hamstrings get especially tight so I focus my stretching on them.

If you’re brand new to weights and wanted to try a similar workout I’d recommend squatting to parallel with your bodyweight only, or perhaps one of the preloaded 20 lb barbells across your shoulders to get comfortable with the move. You can also place a bunch under your butt and practice squatting low enough to touch it without letting your knees go over your toes. For the leg press you would want to start out with the sled alone (most weigh about 45 lbs) and then add weight as you became comfortable with the movement. Walking lunges are known to be very hard. It has taken me a long time to work up to the rep counts and weight I currently use. Starting out with bodyweight only is smart. You want to focus on your form, making sure your knee doesn’t go over your toe, you don’t wobble on your ankle, but that you still feel a deep stretch in the movement. I’ve been stuck on the 40 lb barbell for forever. I occasionally grab the 50, but that tends to result in a lower rep count per set and I prefer to up my reps rather than up my weight with lunges. It’s a muscle group I’d rather tone and tighten as opposed to expand muscularity on, thus the lean towards high rep vs. high weight. The prone hamstring curl and leg extensions are machines and thus pretty straightforward to approach.

The leg workout detailed above hits the full legs and glutes with the compound exercises and then focuses in more detail on the quads and hamstrings. I hit legs twice a week and always include a handful of glutes focused exercises (such as cable kickbacks) on at least one day.

Squatting to the floor is an advanced move. Parallel is what you want to begin with if you're new to weights, but here's how I like to squat these days. This movie was made about a month ago and has been waiting for a blog entry!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gym Happy! =)

Whew! It has been a long time since I posted. A lot of different topics to write about have come into my mind and then filtered back out like wisps. That’s the strongest “dislike” I have about not being a daily blogger anymore. I’m blogging tonight mainly because it relaxes me. Why relax? Tomorrow I have to drive 2 hours, sit for a 4 hour exam that will make, break, or be a neutral factor in my admission or lack thereof to graduate school and then drive 2 hours back home.

I’ve put my time into studying so I took the weekend to prepare myself in the best way possible: doing the things I love most with those I love most. My son, my boyfriend and I made our own pizza last night and it was delectable. I’ve made pizza dough from scratch in the past, but we took the easy route and bought a bag of whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. Consider this a five star endorsement of that dough! I was in charge of proofing and stretching the dough, Rich was in charge of the sauce spreading, Charlie was in charge of the cheese sprinkling, and we all topped it. Yum =)

Rich and I got in a solid workout yesterday that my abs are still very sore from (2 person abs exercises kick the butt of most self-administered ones. I wish I had a workout partner on weekdays too =) Today all three of us hit the gym and I met one of my current goals! I got my one rep bench press max up to 135 pounds. That’s 96% of my bodyweight, awesome! I did 4 reps at 115 lbs just prior or I *might* have been able to bench my bodyweight. I want to get strong enough to do a set at 135 lbs for 6-8 reps. Then we switched and I spotted Rich for 2 reps at 305 pounds. That’s 149% of his bodyweight. Sure, he has testosterone on his side and he has been doing this for A LOT longer than I have (about 15 years longer despite only being 2 years older), but I’m can’t resist feeling proud of him. When you lift with your boyfriend, girlfriend, son, daughter, friend, husband, wife, etc. you can sponge a secondary endorphin high off of their lifts just by feeling pride in what someone you love has trained themselves to be capable of. I feel really blessed to be with someone who loves this hobby / lifestyle as much as I do. Beyond that, I feel very blessed to see my son influenced by this hobby of ours. He smiles when he talks about going to the gym, as do I =)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Triceratops! aka Triceps are Tops!

I’ve been doing a three day split this last week. Saturday was chest, triceps, and abs, Sunday was off, Monday was legs and glutes, Tuesday was shoulders, back, and biceps, and today was back to chest, triceps, and abs. Are you detecting a pattern here? =)

I’m not biased when it comes to grouping body parts, so next week I might do chest and back together and biceps, triceps and shoulders together with abs on leg day. You get the idea. You can change it up a 3 day split invariably. Beyond that combination you can change up what you’re doing to work each muscle group invariably. This will keep your body guessing and your muscles growing.

Triceps really exemplify the variety principle. They’re the one muscle I don’t find myself getting bored with =) I’m a big fan of various triceps moves you can do on a cable station: rope pushdowns, a single arm variation of the former, straight bar pushdowns, single arm with a D handle, dips on the assisted pull-up machine. There are more, but those come to mind at the moment. There are various machines that hit your triceps, although personally I’m not a big fan of machine weights for biceps, triceps, or abs, but I’ll mix in some for chest, back, shoulders, and legs. To each their own =) When it comes to triceps I’m a big free weights fan.

Today I managed chest, triceps, and abs as follows:


15 minutes Stepmill
Triple Set repeated three times with no rest:
20 dumbbell pushups
30 medicine ball wood chopper squats
40 second side planks – 1 each side

2)Flat Bench Press in a Smith Machine
(best substitute if your BF is unavailable to spot you ;)
Set 1: 75 lbs x 12 reps
Set 2: 95 lbs x 7 reps
Set 3: 95 lbs x 6 reps
Set 4: 85 lbs x 8 reps

My bench weight is not something I’m a fan of disclosing. It’s embarrassing! I’ve just started doing chest 2x week instead of only 1x. That and always including classic bench should help me build up my numbers. I’ve made a bad habit of subbing dumbbell benching too often. DB benching should ideally be used to augment classic bench, not replace it. My goal is to be able to bench 135 lbs on a free bench (not smith). Why that number? So I can have a 45 lb plate on each side and consequently actually look semi-buff. No, really. That’s my reason! =)

3)Triceps Time! Circuit Style
– circuit repeated 3 times
1. Overhead Triceps Extension – 20 lb DB (sometimes I do 25, as in the video, but I’m not always feeling strong enough) x 8-10 reps
2. DB Triceps Kickbacks – 15 lb DB x 10-12 reps each arm
3. Skull Crushers – 30 lb BB x 10-12 reps
4. Bench Dips with Plates (45 lbs + body weight) x 8-12 reps
5. Single Arm Overhead Triceps Extensions – 10 lb DB to failure 4-5.5 reps per arm per set today)

The skull crushers aren’t a regular part of my routine. I used to do them a lot as they’re a primary move in most Body Pump triceps tracks, but I’ve done them little since I took up with free weights. I’m doing them now to shake things up a bit. Kickbacks make my triceps feel really swollen in a good way; they seem to pump blood in most effectively and make the skin feel really tight. The extensions are a classic standby and the bench dips with plates are my favorite because they’re fun. I also love doing the same move, no plates, just body weight. That way you can go to failure which always puts a smile on my face. I just love it when a muscle gets stuck at a half rep and you literally can’t budge it without an assist from your other arm, another person, or just quitting at the partial rep. That’s why I do single arm overhead extensions to finish the 5 exercise set. My triceps always fail early at that point and it is easy to take down the little 10 lb DB with your free arm when the active arm gets stuck =)

4)Abs Circuit – repeated 3 times

1. Shoulder Crunches x 30 reps
2. Reverse Vertical Leg Crunches x 15, 15, 25 reps
3. Mini Crunches x 15 reps


20 min Elliptical

I don’t know what will be up next, but I think I will make a point of doing a video for each muscle and a corresponding post. In case you were wondering from tonight’s video…..yes I belong to 3 gyms. If you’re thinking of pointing out my gym “problem” it’s a little late, everyone already knows about that =)

Friday, July 29, 2011



I really hadn’t thought I’d convert to a “Fit Mommy” Blog, but when inspiration strikes one to write…

I was taking my last opportunity until fall quarter to workout at The Rec this morning. Today was both my last day of summer quarter and Charlie’s last day of preschool. I was in the downstairs weight room doing an upper body set (hitting back, triceps, biceps, and shoulders) when I saw Charlie walking in the main entrance with his class for their weekly round of swim lessons. One of his classmates had recognized me first and waved and then Charlie saw me and got all excited. There’s a big glass window facing out also I walked up and blew him a big kiss through the class. Seeing him excited and pointing with pride, “that’s my mom” means the world to me.

The reduced presence of required P.E. classes and funding for athletics in schools these days is something that bothers me. I think promotion of exercise at a young age serves so many positive purposes. It fosters the groundwork for a lifetime of healthiness. I’m not exactly writing a well cited research paper here or anything that formal, but over the years I’ve read many little blips about sports helping to keep kids off of drugs or drinking, more focused in school, less depressed, and healthier over their entire lifetime. I can see how exercise does all of these things, the endorphins create a rush to your brain making you happy, not desiring artificial and detrimental endorphins, and they relieve your stress and excess energy to allow you to sit down and focus when needed. My awareness of all these benefits is precisely why I was in the gym this morning instead of this afternoon. I had my last exam of the quarter at 12 pm and knew that the best way to mentally prep for it was to physically sweat before it =)

Naturally, I want my son to grow up with all of these benefits as well. I didn’t get into weightlifting because I’m a single mom and wanted to be able to teach stereotypically boyish hobbies to my son, but seeing his excitement and intrigue with the sport one more reason, and the best reason, for me to want to keep it up for the foreseeable future. A year ago when I first started with Body Pump classes he was exited to help and would proudly carry over the little 1 kilo plates for me. When we went to see family out of state and were caught gym-less he was pleased to be my weight for triceps stair dips and imitated me lunging across the courtyard. When we both began our new schools here last fall he most mornings say “I don’t want to go to school, I want to go to the gym.” When I was being a goof and set up a dumbbell at home to match his bodyweight ad curled it in one arm with him on the other he grinned. Around that same time he bent over and made an attempt, in what was essentially dead lift form, to hoist a 20 lb dumbbell at home. At that time that was 76% of his body weight, equivalent to my dead lifting 108 lbs…not bad for such a skinny guy. When I fixated on a YouTube video of Erin Stern doing a hang snatch with an Olympic barbell and wanted to try it he did too. Then, when I arrived home with myself and Rachael on video dong them at The Rec he REALLY wanted to try it. So he did, with his “horsey weight” and a HUGE smile. When I ordered Nicole Wilkin’s video we watched it together and then he started requesting the “girl with the big weights” movie over his usual classic kiddo movies. So when I saw him all elated to spot me in the weight room this morning it made my heart smile.

Whether we intend to or not we influence our children, even before they are born. It is said that a baby’s tastes begin to form around what you eat while you’re pregnant and what you eat while you breastfeed. When I was pregnant I ate a ton of veggies, whole grains, lean meat and dairy, oh and 4 Marie Calendar’s Chocolate Satin Pies (shhhh I’m human and those things are far too tasty to have come from the grocery freezer aisle). The funny thing is that is what Charlie willingly eats: veggies, lean meats, he prefers brown rice and 9 grain bread, likes his dairy, and is weak for chocolate. It is really hard to get him to eat more than two or three French fries, go figure.

I’m an imperfect mom: we watch a lot of movies together, don’t go exploring the outdoors as much as we should, etc., but I’m so immensely happy to be influencing him to not only see working out as an expected aspect of daily life, but to love it for what it is. I love that he gets so excited about trying the things he sees me do with weights. I absolutely cannot wait until I can take him with me, not to the gym childcare, but to the weight floor of the gym to show my little man how to lift =)

A side note: I expect my blog entries as “Fit Mommy” to occur sporadically with no predictable pattern whatsoever. I only write well when a tangent inspires me to do so =)

Monday, July 25, 2011

“There is a difference between giving up, and knowing when you have had enough.”

I quit. Actually, I quit a week ago, but I wanted to let it settle and make sure it wasn’t an impulsive decision before posting it here. I still train and lift and I intend to keep that up on a perpetual basis, but I quit the prep diet. The funny thing about the sport of figure is that it is essentially a dieting sport not a weightlifting sport. While it is true that to be competitive at it you must have both a solid training regimen and a very specific very restrictive diet plan, 80% of it is the diet.

There are many women out there who make all that work and are successful at it. There are caveats though; I recently ran into a woman I know who competed a year before I did and she said it well. She said that she loves the sport and the industry surrounding it, but that it is a selfish sport because it affects everyone around you. I thought she summed it up perfectly.

By training and dieting to gain the competitive edge I lacked at my first competition I was wiping out everything else in my life. I was really tired, coffee was useless, I was forgetful and lacked the energy to do anything else. At first I thought maybe I was just a wuss and would acclimate to 1,100-1,300 calories a day of very specifically combined and timed macro-specific mini meals, but then people in my life started commenting on my demeanor with concern. They all worded it various ways: “worried about me,” “that I was getting a bit loopy,” “figured you would want to stay in because your diet had you so drained.” It was costing me too much. My son comes first, doing well at school is important to me, I need energy to get my work done, and it is nice to be able to have a social life that includes dining without carting along little 4 oz. Gladwares and staring forlornly at your boyfriend’s or friends’ plates.

During and after my first prep, which will now be renamed my only prep, I started getting lackadaisical about other long-established goals of mine. I started questioning whether I should just quit with a B.A. in Accounting or just take random other classes to fill out a fifth year. I had pretty much moved a Masters off the table. Now that I’ve gotten my wits back about me I’ve become decisive and taken action. I had my major evaluation completed to confirm that I can graduate when I intend to with the class schedule I’ve planned. I also visited the Assistant Director of the MBA program to find out what I can do now to strengthen my application and undo the damage I caused to my transcript when I crashed after Ecup. Everything looked rosier than I had expected so I’ll be spending my free time before fall quarter starts studying to take the GMAT. That’s not something I could have done if I had continued on with figure. I’ve reordered my priorities and am much happier with myself now.

This does mean the end of Figure Mommy though. I’ve become pretty affectionate towards my blog so I’m sorry to say that. Part of me is tempted to cross out the “Figure” in my title graphic and rename the blog “Fit Mommy” sporadically posting tales / tips on maintaining / achieving a fit physique while balancing life with kid(s), but I’m not sure if the candor or quality would be there as that is after all a rather common theme.

For me, the whole point of my alter ego (for lack of a better term) Figure Mommy was to be rare, or most optimistically an exception to the rule. When people used to ask me, “how do you do it all?” I used to smile and minimize my obligations to deflect the compliment. The accurate answer is, “I can’t.” Sometimes saying it is the healthiest direction to take.

I saw this saying in my Google+ feed, the original author is unknown to me, but thank you to E.L. for posting it. I hope you don't mind my borrowing and embracing it =)

“There is a difference between giving up, and knowing when you have had enough.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Day 18 Ironman Prep

How do you Wasa??!!

Wasa is a word you can say very enthusiastically to the point of ridiculousness (if you want to). I however had never heard of a Wasa cracker until a few days ago when I got my second phase of diet dictation. I had to Google “Wasa cracker” to find out. It turns out they are a super healthful cracker with big dreams of knocking out bread and replacing its role in dietary society! Or, um, something like that.

I intentionally have been staying away from my blog since getting my latest nutrition plan because I was being negative about it and I try to not write if I’m not going to have a good attitude (seems a fair presumption that you don’t read this to hear me bitch right? ;) It was a pretty big downer to tally up the new meal plan and find I was getting cut another 200 cals a day and see that one of my six meals consisted of half a can of water packed tuna and 2 Wasa crackers (three others are equally tiny). Some plain tuna with 2 crackers? Really? I’m supposed to eat that and still do things like expend 50% of my total daily caloric intake on an hour of quality time spent with a stepmill? The notion almost turned me into a quitter! So I took a few days to digest it, pun intended. I got the details behind my nutritionist’s philosophy and I realigned my attitude. I don’t want to be a quitter who only ever competed once, didn’t pace, and gave up. I want to get better at this sport.

So tonight Charlie and I went to the grocery store in search of the mysterious Wasa cracker. There they were, bottom shelf mid-cracker aisle and they were big. BIG crackers! They have a slogan on the package, “How do you Wasa?” With tuna thank you! Wassup Wasa cracker?!? Really, try saying Wasa dramatically. It’s fun. Say it like you’d saw “wasssssssup?!?” Or, just say I’m WEIRD, but in my defense one must delve deeply to stay spunky and positive about their figure diet!

My new plan dictates eating exactly the same for four days and then a second meal plan for the next three days. I’m pleased with the boringness as it makes planning and prepping easier. Plus, the more monotonous it gets the easier it is for me to quell cheat urges. Any creativity or variety just begs for a fueled flame to cheat. Same old same old is thus desirable =)

Wassssup Wasa cracker…. wassup??! Lean muscle mass is up and body fat is down! ;) Hehe.

Monday, July 11, 2011

I love it when famous people remain real people and act as such

Day 15 Ironman Prep

I was having a bit of a little bit of a downer day today. I was tired when I woke up this morning and only did 25 minutes of cardio instead of my usual 30. After class I wanted to go sleep, but I went to the gym instead. When I walked in I saw Laura was working so that was a happy thing. Sometimes talking to someone who knows can really help. Most people just think you’re nuts with the diet and training, but Laura has five bikini competitions (the training for bikini is VERY similar to that for figure) behind her so she knows. She’s also used the same nutritionist I’m now using before and it was a relief to hear that she was also tired all the time on this plan; I’d been starting to wonder if there was something wrong with me.

Lately, I seem to forget something every day. A few days ago I got to the gym only to realize I hadn’t packed a sports bra. After I got creatively dressed I promptly realized I’d walked out of class leaving my favorite water bottle behind so I’d jogged back to that building and up to the third floor to retrieve it. Today I almost walked out of the house without my iPod, thankfully remembered, but forgot to pack RedLine. I bought some at The Rec. I used to be anti-supplement, but now that my nutrition is the figure norm I need them. I’ll stick to RedLine and then when it starts to lose effectiveness I’ll replace it with a different pre-workout supplement.

Awhile back I ordered Nicole Wilkins' DVD, In Pursuit of a Dream, from her website. It came in the mail today and I was shocked to find it in an everyday manila bubble mailer hand addressed to me. The DVD case was also signed by Nicole and matched the handwriting on the package. Her and Erin Stern are the biggest names, the top champions, in the Pro Figure world so I had been expecting it to ship in a barcoded package from a warehouse somewhere. Nope!

It’s a little thing, but I thought it was really great. I love it when famous people remain real people and act as such. The DVD itself is really good. I’d ordered it so I can put the portion on posing on repeat and emulate a zillion times with a full length mirror next to my TV. Posing is my biggest weakness, so imitating an expert at home for the next few months can only help me. I was also surprised to see footage of an F&M Hers article I read some months back. Nicole and her trainer, Kim Oddo, had a body transformation challenge competition. I distinctly recall the article because the winner, Shannon, was actually a single mom who did almost all of her workouts at home while her shorty slept. In the DVD when they’re talking Nicole compliments her for pulling it off as a single mom, committing to getting organized to eat right and be regimented with the workouts. Of course that struck a chord for me. Someone should do a study to see how many extra calories daily responsibility for a small child causes a parent to burn! Kidding (sort of, haha). All I know is every time I give Charlie a piggyback ride (he thinks it’s more fun when I run) I start getting goofy ideas about using him at a track for some sort of weighted sprint plyometric theme….you know the whole sprints with a weighted backpack or parachute thing … just with 30 lbs of 4-year-old instead ;)

It was really interesting to hear what Nicole eats. No foods I haven’t already used in my diet. The most encouraging thing I heard in the DVD was that Nicole has a tendency to hold a lot of muscle in her thighs. That’s me! Her trainer combats that with track workouts among other things and Nicole demonstrates one in the DVD. She is huge on cross-training: traditional gym/weights stuff, 1-2x week track workouts, 1x week gymnastic workouts, yoga. I’d like to try the hand stand step-ups from her gymnastics workout sometime; they work both your core and shoulders. If you’re at all curious about what Figure really is, what the lifestyle is, how it all comes together, I’d highly recommend watching this DVD. It’s pretty inspiring; I know, I was having a shitty day and it made me feel better ;)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Early AM Expedition

The quiet parking lot, cardio stats, and breakfast afterwards. The whole point in am cardio is burning calories on an empty stomach and forcing the body to turn to fat as an energy source to burn. This stage takes far longer to get to when your tummy is full and you're adequately fueled.

Ironman Prep Day 14

You know what is not tasty? A shot of RedLine and a grape berry glutamine chew before you’ve brushed your teeth. It flashed me back to the very first time I ever got up for morning cardio. I had been trying to be super sneaky and get on my machine as quickly and quietly as possible so I’d decided brushing my teeth could wait. Yuck! By day two I’d decided the extra few minutes of running water was worth the risk of waking Charlie. Now I have my routine: I set out shoes, clothes, my iPod, and water bottle the night before so that I can get up and get going as quickly as possible. I know the creaky spots in the wood floor by his room to avoid when heading to brush my teeth. Most mornings I estimate too conservatively and am up and done with cardio 30-40 minutes before he wakes, but on occasional mornings he’s up early and sneaks up on me in the middle of it. He finds it especially funny if he catches me doing abs because then I’m on the floor oblivious with a blaring iPod, he’s taller than me, and he likes to take advantage and sneak and growl like a big scary Charlie-saur.

Charlie was at his dad’s house last night though so I had a rare opportunity to try morning cardio the way most people do it, at the gym. Sunday is rest day on my current schedule which means no weights and 45 minutes of cardio. I ran off to Gold’s arriving by 7:20 am with fewer than five cars in the parking lot. Abandoned! I was definitely more awake than usual which was both a blessing and a drawback. I was trying harder to keep up my RPMs, but I was more conscience of being tired. In the end I did 50 minutes instead of 45 because I wanted to cross the 500 calorie threshold and then I did three sets of shoulder crunches, reverse crunches, and mini crunches with some brief stretching before heading home. I love the little elliptical I have at home, but it isn’t the greatest for longer bouts of cardio so it was nice to get my longer session done on a gym machine. I’ll definitely do it again given the opportunity.

P.S. I haven’t had any coffee today. I do, however, have a quart and a half of coffee creamer in the fridge. What in the world am I going to do with it if my coffee hiatus turns out to be permanent?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Natural Mindset vs. Fake Energy

Day 13 Ironman Prep

Ode to an Olympic Barbell

I know my weaknesses and I know my strengths. If I had to pick my top competitive asset it would have to be my biceps. Proportionately, they’re the most developed muscle group on me. They also show vein pop most easily which is something that ALWAYS boosts my mood. Yesterday, I briefly mentioned Olympic barbell curls. Today, I’d like to show them to you: the latest and greatest in my vein pop repertoire ;)

Natural Mindset vs. Fake Energy

The mental rush of visual muscle pump, like that above, helps to create the necessary mindset to get through a challenging workout when your energy level just isn’t there. Lately mine simply hasn’t been there. I drink my three sludgy cups of coffee in the morning and I don’t feel them at all anymore. Meanwhile I’ve sporadically tried various pre-workout supplements that pack a caffeine punch. I’d like to use them more frequently, but I worry about their caffeine content on top of that of my coffee. I think I’m going to try quitting coffee for a few days to see what happens. My favorite pre-workout supplement, RedLine (pictured above) will sub in. It doesn’t taste great, but it’s a small dose (like taking a shot), packs amino acids and a ridiculous amount of B12 in addition to the caffeine and is zero carb zero cal.

P.S. RedLine isn't quite that visibly powerful, although I like to think my picture edit above captures the potential energy of the supplement ;) I applied a "Space Textures" effect to it at, which is in my opinion, the best ever novice photo editing package =)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Encouraged and Intimidated

1) My biggest worry about competition remains my “wings” aka having big enough lats and pulling them out for an effective back pose come competition. As such, I was as entertained as could be when picking my son up at school one day this week. He’d made a set of paper wings and antennas with his teacher that he was wearing. He was super excited to show me his butterfly wings and I couldn’t help but wish it were that simple to create my own wings.

2) Me curling an Olympic barbell during a biceps workout this week. This is a recent addition to my repertoire. What makes it different is that an Olympic barbell is 7.22 feet long so your muscles are challenged beyond simply lifting the weight to stabilizing it as well. Also, an Olympic barbell weighs 45 lbs and my coach has me do sets of 15 reps. For perspective, I used to curl a 40 lb or sometimes 50 lb standard barbell in my EC training, but would only do 8-10 reps for most sets.

3) My coaching is primarily online so I have to take periodic pictures to email my coach so that he can assess my progress and base the next phase of my nutrition and training upon it. These were taken yesterday, 11 days into training. I have a long ways to go yet!

4) My freaky thigh picture. I snapped this while doing leg extensions on quad day this week. I really love the degree of quad definition I have built up at this point =)

Encouraged and Intimidated

Day 12 Ironman Prep

Having 5 days off from blogging has definitely shown me that I’m a better blogger on a daily basis. I’ve had many fleeting thoughts in the last few days, wisps of things to write about, and I’ve forgotten most of them. When I write daily I get to focus in and devote a few paragraphs to whatever little idiosyncrasy of this bodybuilding lifestyle has most struck my fancy that day. On that note, aside from sporadic days off I intend to go back to my daily entries. They kept me straight for my first competition and I’m finding I really need the routine of daily reflection on my sport to stay focused for my second competition.

I feel both encouraged and intimidated. I know where I erred last time (diet – allowed myself too much total intake) and I’ve remedied that by taking out the guesswork and acquiring a nutritionist. I’m also starting with a better base from which to build. There is substantially more muscle on me now than there was in January when I began my first quest. I find these facts encouraging. However, having some history now I know I have to take my game up a notch. Any cheating on my diet will have to be very small in scale and very infrequent, no decadent cheat meal events like last round. I will have to become very diligent about my sleep routine. I’m quickly realizing that I need at least 9 hours on this kind of calorie deficit. Getting in my workouts is easy to meet, but I need to jack up every rep to maximum effort, every cardio session to maximum rpms, and every set rest to the minimum plausible. I am intimidated by these necessary changes, but I can do these things and I will find the will and energy to follow through.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ginger Lime Chicken with Snap Peas

Grabbing a few things at the store. I hadn’t planned it then, but the ginger and lime turned into dinner and the cooking video below.

Day 7 Ironman Prep

I’m really tired today. I think I’ve likely shocked my body from a metabolic standpoint. New workouts, back on am cardio, a substantial caloric intake reduction, an elimination of all simple sugar or processed foods. I’m there mentally, but the change can take a body some time to acclimate to.

I decided to spice up my 5th meal of the day today without hurting its nutritional value. Check out my Ginger Lime Chicken with Snap Peas here:

I did my 30 minutes of am cardio at 6:30 as usual and then went back to bed till 9 am as I was tired and Charlie was still snoozing away. To deal with gym closures tomorrow I switched my Sunday and Monday workouts. Today was supposed to be my “rest day” aka 45 minutes of cardio, no weights. I can do that at home tomorrow if I need to so I did Monday’s hamstring workout today. It’s a toughy and I showed up at Gold’s with zero energy despite the ½ serving of Redline I decided to take. Let’s just say it’s comprised of 75 dumbbell push-ups, 72 wood chopper medicine ball squats, 6 side planks, 120 total deep stretch weighted walking lunges, 70 hamstring curls and 40 medicine ball squats and the whole thing goes down in just over 40 minutes. I had warmed up with 8 minutes of cardio and capped off the session with another 25 minutes of cardio.

I am so used to squats consisting of a rack or a Smith and plates and a bar accumulating to my body weight and more. So far in my coach’s style of training my squats are more like plyos: holding a medicine ball, focusing on the motion etc. I haven’t asked yet, but what I think is going on here is trying to shrink my lower half. I built up a lot of lower body muscle my squatting heavy throughout my training. To be competitive at figure I actually need to sacrifice some muscle in addition to melting body fat.

I’m debating whether or not to write another book. The video explains:

P.S. Don’t mind my voice in tonight’s videos, I sound as tired as I feel. My normal tone is much more chipper =)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

Ironman Prep Day 6

I was done with training by 11 am today. I broke a rule too. I’m not supposed to hit the gym until I have at least 2 of my 6 meals behind me. We had a Birthday party at noon to go to though and Gold’s only has am childcare on weekends. So I set my usual alarm for 6:15 am and had 30 min of cardio, breakfast, and a shower behind me before Charlie woke up. Then we were off to Gold’s where I warmed up on a rowing machine, did triceps and biceps, and wrapped up with 15 min on the stepmill.

A few of my favorite (fitness related) things:

1) Suits by Amy
– Amy Ardizzone designed the suit I wore at Emerald Cup. She’s great to work with and turns out beautiful custom suits.

2) Gaspari MyoFusion
– My longstanding favorite protein powder. I should warn you though, once you go MyoFusion the texture of all other proteins will suck by comparison. It’s a mix of whey, casein, and egg albumin. This makes for a good all-purpose protein, the only caveat being that it is a little higher on cholesterol than some other protein powders. It’s available most places: Amazon, GNC, and to name a few.

3) Dave’s Killer Bread The Good Seed Sprouted Wheat – I love bread in general, but the DKB brand makes extra scrumptious bread you can actually feel good about eating. The one mentioned above has 110 cals / 17 g carbs / 3 g fat (0 sat fat) / 6 grams protein / 4 grams fiber. Higher protein and lower carbs than your average slice. Yes, there are a zillion 70-80 cal per slice breads out there, but they aren’t satisfying. This slice is satisfying, and it had better be; my current nutrition plan only nets me 3 slices of bread a week. DKB bread is available at most grocery stores. Just stay away from the loaf called “Sin Dawg.” It is a little cinnamon loaf, maybe 10” long with a 2” diameter. That tiny loaf has 1,600 cals and tons of fat! Scary! I tried it once, prior to reading the stats. It is DELICIOUS, but deadly ;)

4) Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Whey and 100% Casein
Protein Powders – I have a 5 pounder of the whey in Cake Batter (great flavor!) and a 2 pounder of casein in Chocolate Peanut Butter. These are great protein powders because they’re reasonably priced and are loaded up with 4-5 grams of glutamine and 5-5.5 grams of BCAAs per serving. I prefer this over taking a bunch of separate supplements.

5) GNC Glutamine 2500 Power Chews in Grape Berry
– I know I just said I don’t like taking separate supplements, but glutamine is one that I sometimes take in contexts where I’m not eating, such as prolonged exercise. These chews are handy to pack and they’re as flavorful as a grape Laffy Taffy.

6) HTC Incredible
aka my phone – Think this is an odd thing to list? Not really =) Each and every video clip posted on this blog and just about every picture has been captured with my phone. I also have an app on it called JEFIT Pro that shows me animations for a ton of different exercises and sorts them out by muscle group for easy on the fly referencing. Lately, I’ve started using the stopwatch to time my rest time between sets. Naturally I scan Facebook and catch up on emails on it during my am cardio. My Amazon app lets me cross-check prices when I’m in GNC and sometimes save a lot on my protein, I’ve even ordered it from my phone. I love my phone; it’s a figure girl’s best friend ;)

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Favorite Abs & a Snazzy Bike

The bike kept making me laugh because it would scroll across the screen and tell me to “ease back into a relaxed state.” What?! No cardio machine is supposed to tell you to relax, lol, that is not my idea of an interval! I wish I could take actual spin classes, but the schedules at both my gyms always have them super early in the am when I don’t have any childcare options.

Day 5 Ironman Prep

I am tired. I had five or so more interesting things to ramble about earlier in the day, but I’ve forgotten what they were, haha. You probably believe me about being tired now =)

The usual took place this morning: 30 min of elliptical plus some abs (3 sets each shoulder crunches and medicine ball side twists). I hit The Rec at 2 pm for a full chest session with a splash of shoulders and 5 sets of weighted crunches to failure at the end. I wasn’t sure what specific weighted crunch I was supposed to be doing as there are about bazillion variations on that one, so I went with weighted decline bench crunches with a 10 lb plate. I’ve been a fan of these for a while now; they’re tough, but you get results. I had sore abs this morning already from my daily 10 minute morning sessions so I expect it will feel more pronounced tomorrow. My calves are doing that thing where you walk and they sort of tighten, almost like a cramp, with each step, especially downstairs. I even have lines of muscle soreness running down my forearms which is not typical for me. I’m pleased with all this; it means progress =)

My favorite abs:

I was supposed to do 20 minutes of cardio on a bike after my weights so I chose this snazzy teched out spinning bike. It had a cool feature where you can plug in your iPod and it will create a workout to the rhythm of your music. I tried, but the plug in for my headphones wasn’t producing sound (or likely I just didn’t know what I was doing ;) I went with an interval program on it instead. I’m really not a bike fan, but by the end I was entertained enough that I’ll try it again. My top 3 preferred cardio machines are ellipticals, AMTs, and stepmills. I think I’m going to have my 6th mini meal and go to bed. I’ve been not getting to sleep till 11:30ish the last few nights, but still getting up by 6:15 for am cardio and it’s catching up to me. I really need a solid 8 hours when I’m training. Night!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Film for Myself

I have something in common with Erin Stern and Nicole Wilkins Lee. I know I'm nowhere near their level, but it pleases me to know I share a commonality with them. They both have history as track athletes. I never made it farther than tri-district, but I was all about track in high school. I did hurdles, sprints, and the long jump. Today’s jump filled plyos had me thinking about track and I decided to go digging around my nostalgia box in my basement to see if I could find this pic, and look! I did. That's me about 11-12 years ago, yeah, not to date myself or anything ;)

Day 4 Ironman Prep

I film for myself. It sounds funny, but the root reason behind my filming sets at the gym is threefold. I find that by watching myself after the fact I can spot and correct errors in form (and consequently long term results) that I wouldn’t otherwise have been aware of. Secondly, stockpiling these 30-40 second clips keeps me motivated and also reminds me of things I haven’t done in awhile and should do again because they’re fun (hang snatch is a prime example here). The third reason is that I have fun making this blog a multimedia one and making amateur mini movies to post on it.

I’m completely in the zone with the diet now and I really like not counting. I did my own nutrition for Emerald and got downright neurotic the last two months tallying up my cals and macros and maintaining my desired protein/carbs/fat ratio. While I still ran a deficit I was taking in too many calories for figure, feeling starved all the time, and getting buried in the details. Being told what to eat is great. I’m given a week of dietary recommendations at a time and literally just eat what he tells me to at the frequency I’m told. I think 70% of the battle of a competition prep diet is all the time spent contemplating it and questioning what you’re doing. Are my cals too high? Is my protein too high? My carbs are on track, but I ate half of them at night, shit. That kind of thinking. I also have a background as a sous chef so I got creative when I did it myself. That actually was a hindrance. You’d think it would be great to cook up something delicious and interesting, but still clean. Nope! The less interesting your food is the better. If you make something craving worthy you start craving more and viewing food as something delicious. To be successful on a prep diet you must train yourself to view food as fuel and nothing more. It has a purpose to fulfill, changing your body composition for competition.

My boyfriend happens to make REALLY great waffles from scratch that he then smothers with peanut butter and drizzles with maple syrup. I know this because he made them on Mother’s Day and brought me a plate before I’d made it out of bed (he’s pretty wonderful like that :) and I’ve had them a few times since then. Those waffles represent loving food for the enjoyment it can bring. Tomorrow morning my Kashi 7 grain waffles are up on the breakfast rotation. I’ll be having two of them with 22 grams of protein powder in water. I won’t need a plate as there will be no butter, no syrup, they will be plain. I can walk around and treat them like frisbees if I want to ;) That may sound boring, but I’m looking forward to it because those waffles represent one of many tiny steps of progress towards my goal :)

Today I had my 30 minutes of am cardio and 3 sets of bicycles (30 reps/set) and 3 sets of mini crunches (20 reps/set) done by 7:15 am. I hit Gold’s at 11:30 for some lower body plyos and a back session. The last plyo exercise was doing a long jump off a bench. My coach had told me to make sure to use a bolted down bench or it would go flying. I had no clue where I’d find one and Laura said there were none at The Rec and then, helpful fitness genius that she is, suggested using a cable seated row bench, so I did. They were 3rd up after 4 sets each of lateral bounds and bench jumps. I’ve had a quad session and a separate hamstrings session within the last few days that already have me noticing substantial muscle soreness each time I walk, sit down, bend…so I’m really excited at how I’ll feel by tomorrow. I love being sore because then I know my session was really effective. My body got used to my old training style so I got to a point where I’d only get sore if I lifted really heavy. Doing new things keep my muscles guessing (and sore ;)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shoulders, Quads, and Cheap Protein!

The "upside down" leg press which presumably has another name beyond that which I've made up ;)

Day 3 Ironman Prep

I’m feeling good about being back on the diet. It takes about three days to get in the swing of it and I’m there now. I had 30 minutes on my elliptical and 10 minutes of abs (3 sets of dumbbell side bends (30 lbs) superset with 45, 45, and a 60 second plank) behind me by 7 am. That is the best feeling to start the day with. It makes me energetic and can do vs. sluggish and wondering when I’m going to get my sweat on.

Today I trained my quads and shoulders. I again found myself doing things completely differently than I would on my own. I am quite liking it actually. It almost feels like it’s making the gym new again. One of my tasks today was four sets on the leg press, but the reps per set were 18, 20, 30, and 40 for the last. Unfortunately the traditional leg press at The Rec was out of order so I used the sort of upside down one upstairs and managed 130 lbs for the 18 and 20 rep sets, 115 for the 30, and 100 for the 40. The rest between sets was only 40 seconds. I’d like to know what weight I’ll manage when I do it again next week on the traditional leg press machine (translation: I’ll plan ahead and go to Gold’s).

I have honestly hated lateral and front raises for shoulders for months. They strain me easily and you have to use the weeny (10-12 lb) dumbbells for them so some twists on the standard versions were very welcome. I was to do my laterals leaning which I found I really actually liked a lot. Yay! The front raises were with a barbell instead of the usual dumbbells, also an improvement.

I popped by GNC after my workout to acquire some pure Casein powder. I’m a longstanding MyoFusion lover as it has the best texture / taste hands down amongst protein powders, but it’s a mix of whey, casein, and egg albumin. I also have some Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Whey that I’m happy with. When it comes to dairy derived protein you have whey and casein. The whey digests quickly and thus is good for before and/or after workouts when you’re seeking to feed your muscles promptly. Casein is a slow digesting protein and thus ideal as a last mini meal before bedtime as it will feed your muscles through the night as it slowly digests.

As anyone with a bodybuilding habit knows protein powders and other supplements can start to add up quickly. That is why I always comparison shop before buying. I have the Amazon mobile app on my phone so if I see a product I want while at GNC I pull it up on Amazon on my phone to compare the price and also so if reviews are positive or negative. I was looking at a 2 pounder of Optimum Nutrition 100% Casein Chocolate Supreme for $44.99 at GNC and Amazon had that exact one for $25.52 and a 4 pounder of Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard Chocolate Crème for $46.29. The 4 pounder will be here Friday to the tune of saving almost $20 or 48% of the sale price. That being said GNC had a lower price by about $12 on another product I eyeballed while there. It pays to shop around! The only flaw being that I can’t start on Casein until then.