Training for NPC USA in Las Vegas

Exciting, came with a unique set of challenges

By: LaDawn T. McDay
Magazine 16 #1

A few years ago, my involvement in the sport of female bodybuilding was limited to being a spectator, admiring the physiques of everyone on stage. I never envisioned that one day; I would enter my first bodybuilding show and years later compete in such a prestigious show as the NPC USA.

I took the plunge from spectator to competitor six years ago. My mentor and personal trainer, Jermichael Pratt of Jay’s Infinity Fitness, encouraged me to enter my first show, the 2004 Western Michigan Championship. He implemented a training, diet and supplement program that enhanced my physique and people immediately began to comment on my condition. Jermichael believes that it is crucial to use high quality supplements and introduced me to Beverly’s Muscle Provider. That was the first of many BI supplements that I have used and it is still one of my favorite meal replacements. I realized that more contests might be in my future when I won the light weight class and overall at that first show.

Five years later, I had the privilege to compete in the NPC USA. I worked my way up through the ranks from 2004–2009. I started at the local level, then the state show (Michigan Overall Champion); the next step was at the regional level, (NPC Central States Overall) and finally the 2009 USA. I placed 3rd out of 25 light–heavies in 2009. My goal was to go back in 2010 and make first call-out again, and hopefully qualify for an IFBB pro card. (The NPC USA, held annually in Las Vegas, is the first IFBB pro qualifier of the contest season and draws upwards of 500 competitors hoping to attain their pro card.

Some Unique Challenges for the 2010 USA

My journey to the 2010 USA’s although exciting, came with a unique set of challenges unlike any other of my precontest experiences. I had made a number of professional commitments for 2010. I’m a 5th grade teacher and to add to the challenge, took on an after school program as well. Although my principal and students were supportive of my bodybuilding career, and empathetic toward my prep, it was my duty to stay until the last child was picked up.

LaDawn McDay front pose

Believe you me, my parents were always late! (Editor’s note: I spent 27 years in education myself and I can attest to what LaDawn is saying. If you are in charge of an after school program, you’ll end up staying after everyone is gone with that one child whose parent is late at least 4 nights out of 5.) As if that wasn’t enough I also committed to teach summer school for an additional 6 weeks after the school year ended. Did I mention the USA is in mid July? And summer school ends in mid July? Oh, and by the way, my school had no central air and even the windows in my classroom seemed to be plotting against me by refusing to stay open. The day summer school ended I had to literally rush from school to make the direct flight to Las Vegas for the weigh–in.

Another challenge that affected my contest prep was a leg and lower back injury that required physical therapy. My typical day now included my professional demands at school, trips to the physical therapist after completing my duties at school, multiple cardio sessions, and finally, my late night workouts at the gym. But, this show was extremely important to me. I had to keep going and see beyond the piles of papers that needed to be checked, the agonizing throbbing in my leg, the constant posing sessions, and that third cardio session of the day. If I wanted to be the best, I just had to do it!

Jermichael could see that I was wearing down. He adjusted my training and cardio schedule to help me meet both my time and physical constraints. My new schedule allowed me to attend all my scheduled therapy appointments without missing workouts or cardio sessions. I also recruited some of the older students at school to assist me in checking papers during my lunch break. That helped me get my meals back on track. Once these changes were implemented, my results accelerated. I finally began to relax and started to feel confident that things would be okay after all.

Contest Diet Supplement Cardio Schedule

Okay, enough about my troubles. You probably want to know what I did to achieve my best condition despite the unique challenges I faced this year. I’m going to lay out my exact nutrition program and I recommend you give it a try if your goal is to harden your physique, lose fat, and build muscle. That’s exactly what my diet and supplement plan did for me. Don’t think you have to be a competitive bodybuilder to follow my diet it will help any female improve her physique. That’s what we all want, isn’t it ladies?
Daily pre-contest schedule
4:45 am – 3 Lean Out, then 45 minutes cardio on the Rolling Stairs at level 3–5
Meal One: 7 am
3 oz. lean protein, 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg and ½ grapefruit
3 Ultra 40, 3 Mass and 1 Super Pak
Meal Two: 10 am
2 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein mixed with water
3 Ultra 40, 3 Mass, 3 EFA Gold and 1 Advanced Antioxidant
Cardio – 45 minutes on the Stationary Bike
Meal Three: 12:30 pm
5 oz. tuna in water and 3 egg whites
3 Ultra 40 and 3 Mass
Meal Four: 2:30 pm
6 oz. chicken breast, small green salad with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons vinegar
3 Ultra 40, 3 Mass and 3 EFA Gold
Meal Five: 5 pm
Same as Meal Two
3 Lean Out, then training session – 2 scoops of Glutamine Select during workout Cardio – 45 minutes on the Treadmill (when my leg permitted), Incline 12.0, Speed 3.0. Alternate walking backward and forward or Stationary Bike
Every 4th day Meal 5 is replaced with: 1 tablespoons almond butter, ½ cup oatmeal, small banana and 1 tablespoon safflower oil. This carb meal was removed 8 weeks out from the show.

Cardio Schedule

My cardio schedule changed periodically and was adjusted based on my progress. Once in full contest prep mode, I did two 45 minute sessions per day, six days per week. As the show got closer, a third daily session was added to improve conditioning. My daily condition determined the number of minutes that I would do during my third session. If I looked behind schedule, I might do another 45-minute session, but if I was right on I would do substantially less for my third session of the day, sometimes even skip it. My favorite cardio machine is the rolling stairs. This piece of equipment is insane for targeting that all-important glute and hamstring tie-in.

My first and last cardio session each day was not over until I included mandatory posing drills. I included these extra posing sessions from 8 weeks out up until the show. The more I posed the better my conditioning would get.

Training weight workouts

My trainer, Jermichael Pratt, varied my weight workouts to keep me motivated and improving.

Here is a sample Leg Day workout:
5 minute warm up on the Glider/stretch
5 sets of Walking Lunges
Smith Machine Squats 3 x 30 reps w/105lbs
Smith Machine Front Squats 2 x 25 reps w/55lbs
2 more sets of Walking Lunges
Leg Curls 3 x 20 reps
Leg Extensions 3 x 20
DB Dead-lifts 3 x 20 w/15 lbs dumbbells

I’ve included the weights I use on some of these exercises as a guide or possibly a goal for your own training. My training is all about quality. If the weight is too heavy, I couldn’t get the rep target in perfect form.

Presentation Tips

There are many tips that I have learned along the way. One of the most important tips to remember is the importance of posing during your prep. Remember, I included mandatory posing as part of my cardio sessions. Your posing ability can definitely improve your placing. It could easily make the difference between placing in the top 5 or not placing at all. It could even be the difference between placing 2nd or 3rd and winning the overall show. One way to improve your poise and stage presence is to practice posing at least eight to ten weeks out before your show date. If need be order posing DVDs or hire a professional to teach you how to pose correctly. It would be a shame to let all of your hard work at perfecting your physique be overlooked because you didn’t know how to display it.

One other piece of advice for female bodybuilders in particular is to remember that it’s more than okay to show how beautiful you are. Take pride and time to prepare your hair and make up. Make sure that your suit selection and color flatters your physique and complexion. It is also important to make sure that you use some sort of competition color and oil on your skin. One other tip that comes to mind is that your music selection and posing routine should fit your personality and project that image that you want to portray to the audience and judges. The judges notice your overall appearance not just your body.

NPC USA 3rd in competitive class

The morning of the show, I stood proudly among a group of amazing competitors as my number was called in the first call out. It made my road to the USA’s and the bumps along the way well worth it. I was very pleased to place third in the most competitive class and prestigious bodybuilding show in the United States. From my journey I learned that there will be obstacles along the way and the experience confirmed, "if it doesn’t kill you, it can only make you stronger."

LaDawn T. McDay at a Glance
Age: 37 years young!
Occupation: 5th grade Elementary School Teacher, Mentor
Family: Ruby (Mother), Jay, and Team Infinity
Birthplace: Detroit, MI
Current Residence: Detroit, MI
Height: 5′3″ on a good day
Weight: Off Season Weight: 150-155; Contest Weight: 140
On my iPod: I enjoy 80’s and 90’s music, Eminem, and a little R&B.
Most inspiring book: Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren
Hobby or interests outside of bodybuilding: I enjoy watching the Home & Garden Channel, long walks in the park and curling up with a good romance novel.

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