I remember thinking to myself, "Just go for it. You have nothing to lose." I sent the email.
It was October of 2011 and my 30th birthday was approaching. I was a single thirty year-old who loved the gym, but hadn’t seen progress in months. I needed a goal. I am very competitive. I was reading the No Nonsense Magazine and came across some articles written by Julie Lohre that piqued my interest. What was all this hype about contests and figure shows? I checked out her website and saw she offered online workout and nutrition programs. How perfect! Could I train for one of these shows? I already knew asking myself that question that I had to do it! So I went for it. I emailed Julie and let her know I wanted to train with her. I sent her pictures so she knew what she was getting herself into, we spoke on the phone, and within a few days had my first workout and nutrition program.
I was pumped! Julie was energetic and positive on the phone and we discussed my workout history, diet struggles, and goals. We decided I would begin training for a show in March. When I received my workout and nutrition program I could not believe how much information I had at my fingertips. The workouts were challenging and left my body sore, but it was incredible to see how my body changed shape along the way. The nutrition plan was also a pleasant surprise.
Nutrition an supplement
My nutrition and supplement plan continually evolved throughout my training, based upon how my body is responding. The majority of my pre-contest preparation included gaining lean muscle mass. Preparation is key. Meals were measured and I packed meals in my cooler every time I left the house. My daily supplements include Ultra 40, Density, Lean Out, Glutamine, and UMP, along with fish oil and the multi vitamin. Here is a look at a sample day.
- Daily Meals & Supplements
- Breakfast –The Katie Protein Oatmeal Loaf: mix (together) 5 egg whites, 1 scoop of UMP vanilla protein,and
- ½ cup of oats, then bake for 20 minutes in a small cake pan at 350), top with 1 cup of strawberries.
- Snack –1 scoop of UMP, 1 cup of mixed berries, 1 pack of almonds
- Lunch – The Katie Protein Oatmeal Loaf and a large mixed salad
- with Mrs. Dash
- Snack – 2 low carb yogurts, 1 cup of strawberries, 1 pack of almonds
- Dinner – Grilled chicken salad, asparagus, and 2 slices of Ezekiel bread
- Snack – 2 low carb yogurts, 1 cup of strawberries
While temptations are everywhere, and trust me, I love ice cream and pizza as much as anyone, the nutritional component of contest preparation wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. One reason I have been successful on my nutrition plan is because there are so many choices. This really helped me not get in a rut with food choices, allowed my body to constantly adapt to new, healthy clean foods, and let me eat what I liked, when I wanted. Eliminating processed “junk” from my diet has not only changed how I look but also drastically improved how I feel, giving me more energy and keeping me full all day long.
My plan also included one "cheat" meal a week. I was able to enjoy holiday celebrations and special occasions. The strange part was, after making a commitment to myself and to Julie to train for a show, I really didn’t want to cheat. Sure I had cravings and foods looked good, but "cheating" on a meal hardly seemed worth it.
An unexpected delight throughout my journey has been watching everyone around me react to my food choices. Friends, family, and co-workers are often asking what I am eating and why. I always stress to them how genuinely healthy I am feeling and how I attribute this feeling largely to how I fuel my body. I have seen them make big and small changes in their diets and it warms my heart. Seeing people around me choose strawberries in place of chips or pack carrots instead of running to McDonald’s for fries is a winning moment for me. Being able to positively influence someone else based on my actions, what could be better than that?
Training & Cardio
- Here is what a typical week looked like during a muscle gaining/lose fat phase:
- Cardio – 2 sessions per week for 15 minutes (I like the Stairmill or Treadmill)
- Day 1: Legs and Biceps
- Squats 4 x 6-8
- PlièSquats 4 x 6-8
- Walking Lunges 4 x 6-8
- Hammer Curls 4 x 6-8
- Leg Extension 4 x 6-8
- Cable Curls 4 x 6-8
- 15 minutes of the Stairmill at a high resistance at end of workout
- Day 2: Back and Chest
- Pull-ups 4 x 6-8
- Lat Pulldowns 4 x 6-8
- Lat Pulldowns 4 x 6-8
- Reverse Decline Crunches 4 x 6-8
- Incline Bench Flyes Hammer Curls 4 x 6-8
- Bent Over Barbell Rows 4 x 6-8
- Day 3: Yoga
- Day 4: Delts and Hamstrings/Glutes
- Lateral Raises 4 x 15
- Seated Overhead Press 4 x 15
- Leaning Single Arm Lateral Raises 4 x 15
- Barbell Deadlift 4 x 15
- Pli′Squats 4 x 15
- Glute Kickbacks 4 x 15
- Switch Lunge Jumps 4 x 15
- Day 5: Triceps and Calves
- Cable Pressdowns 4 x 6-8
- Close Hand Pushups 4 x 6-8
- Alternating Arm Rear Delt Raises 4 x 6-8
- Standing Calf Raises 3 x 15-20
- Leg Press Machine Calf Raises 3 x 15-20
- 15 minutes of high intensity Treadmill at end of workout
- Day 6: Rest
- Day 7: Sprinting and Plyometrics
- Jog, 3 minutes
- Sprint and recover, 3 minutes
- Push-ups, 3 minutes (30 seconds
- Push-ups, 15 seconds rest)
- Long Jumps, 2 minutes
- Crunches, 2 minutes
- Rest, 1 minute
- Repeat 2 more times
Part of training with Julie can involve participating in her Team FitBody program. Team FitBody is a group of women who train with Julie and meet several times during the show season to go over contest preparation and presentation. I met the team for the first time in January. Let’s just say it was a great day! It was amazing to meet a group of women who are so motivated and inspiring. Some are very experienced and others have never touched a stage – they are all committed to a healthy lifestyle and I loved it. I couldn’t wait to get to know everyone and I was confident I had just made lifelong friends. I also learned about posing – which WOW! ∇ did I need work on, suit selection, and I also had my body fat composition done. The moment I got home after the meeting I was so ready to go, I went online and looked at suits. Be prepared – they are not cheap. I ordered a red suit, had it altered and it turned out perfect! Definitely start looking for a suit as soon as you decide you are going to compete. Some custom suits can take several months to receive. I also ordered my 4.5–inch heels and booked my tanning, make up, and hair appointments for show day! Planning is essential during your journey.
I’m not sure where time went between my Team FitBody meeting and stepping on stage March 24, 2012. Time absolutely flew by. I made it through the challenges of traveling (just check a suitcase – TSA with pills, powders, and Tupper Ware containers is a huge hassle), suffered through the stomach flu, busy times at work, and the usual craziness that life brings. And then before I knew it, I was on my way to Kentucky.
My first show, the NPC Northern Kentucky arrived! Was I ready? Could I do this? It was everything I had dreamed about and more. No I didn’t win, I didn’t even place, but I felt by stepping on stage I had won. I had my spray tan on (my skin was darker than I thought possible), my makeup all glammed up, and my hair done! The day of the contest began with a competitors meeting at 9am. Following the meeting, the pre–judging began. The show was huge with almost 400 competitors! Talk about overwhelming. My moment came at about 1pm when I finally got to take the stage after anxiously awaiting my moment. I was shaking. I messed up my posing. But it felt glorious! I had made my dream come true. All of the hard work was laid out on stage and it felt great. The rest of the day was filled with meeting competitors from all over and spending time with my family. Finals took place at 6pm that night and I got to step foot on stage one more time. This time, I corrected my posing and wasn’t quite as nervous. It was surreal to see such a large crowd. One of the best parts of the evening was watching several of the Team FitBody women win. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing about that day. It will be a fond memory in my heart forever. I cannot wait for the shows to come!
Advice for a first-timer
My advice for first time competitors would be to take this journey for your self. Realize that the reason you began your journey to stage may change along the way. Embrace this change. Accept you may not win your first show, or even your second.
Step out of your comfort zone. It will positively change you in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Take pride in your accomplishments, big or small. Shake off your failures and turn them into successes.
Take time to reflect on how amazing you are. Share your experience with someone who has never set foot in the gym and the woman who has won numerous shows. Embrace the changes your body makes along the way, and never take for granted what your body can do.
Don’t forget to thank everyone who helps you along the way, or to apologize for sometimes having a bad day. Remember most people will think you are crazy for carrying chicken breast in your purse and waking up at 4:07am for your first cardio session of the day. Realize everyone may not understand your journey, but it is yours to share with the world, and one that is certain to forever change your life and those around you in the most positive way.
- Hire an experienced trainer. Find your “Julie.”
- Become a planner. Plan your meals. Plan your workouts. Plan for show day!
- Be ready to laugh one minute and cry the next. This is just as much and even more of an emotional journey than it is a physical.
- Learn to pose. You will work too hard to get to the stage to not know what you are doing. Buy a DVD or attend posing classes.
- Have a support team. You cannot go through this journey alone. Family, friends, co-workers and your trainer will serve as your biggest advocates if you let them.
- Have fun! You are blessed to be able to take this journey. Enjoy it.
› Hyla Conrad Always dreamed of competing but I didn’t know where to start
› Danielle Smith Once committed to the Master’s Figure contest I needed a game plan
› Jonelle Baglia Figure Contest in 4 Different Countries, How I Did It