For as long as I can remember, I have always been an athlete. I was always up for a challenge and was hardly a "Barbie doll" type of girl. I was obsessed with movies like Rambo, Rocky, Conan the Barbarian and The Incredible Hulk. It’s funny now, to look back on the fact that I watched the icons of bodybuilding before I even realized my future passion.
I joined my first gym nearly 20 years ago. I loved weights and I wanted to learn as much about it as I could. 3 years later, I had my first secret thought of someday competing. I never told anyone of my competition dream, instead I just ignored it for fear of failure. A year later I became pregnant with my first child. At this point, I was hit or miss at the gym, and I gave myself permission to eat whatever I wanted. On August 17, 1998, the day Hunter was born, I weighed 200 pounds. I was completely at a loss. I didn’t see any hope for ever being 125 pounds again. I worked a full-time job and spent every free moment with my baby. I felt disgusted with my appearance and I even questioned my husband on how he could possibly still love me. Of course, he supported me and loved me no matter what size I was. It was at this point that I knew I had to make changes. I started training again. I became an animal in the gym, hitting the weights and cardio with a vengeance. By the summer of 2000, my goal was met! I had finally made it back to the mid 120’s. We went to the beach that summer, but I still found myself wearing shorts over my bathing suit. I’ve just never been comfortable in my own skin, and especially in a bathing suit.
So, fast forward to , the day my daughter was born. After a pregnancy of continuous exercise, weight training, and healthier eating, I delivered Kaylee at about 180 pounds. It was unbelievable to me that I had still gained over 55 pounds with her. Four months later, my daughter was diagnosed with Bacterial Meningitis and we almost lost her. She was near death when they took her off in the ambulance to UK Pediatric ICU. Those were the scariest two weeks of my life. She did recover and is now nine years old and perfect in every way.
Now, I was overweight again, but consumed with "mommy guilt" about hitting the gym. My only exercise was when I taught my group exercises classes. Years passed, with me once again feeling down on the inside about my appearance. I gradually started to add weight training back in to my routine, but not with the same passion that I had in the beginning.
It was a planned Florida vacation in 2009 that finally sparked my passion again. My goal was to be as lean as the women featured on the cover of Oxygen. I "secretly" went on a competition diet that I found online and by the time we left for our trip, I had managed to reach 126 pounds. While on vacation, I exercised every morning at sunrise. I ran the stairs of our condo, 25 floors, multiple times. Then at 7am, the gym opened and I circuit trained for another hour. I actually came home from our trip weighing 3 pounds less than when we arrived.
I finally decided to enter a Figure Competition. I picked a show, discussed the details with my husband and set my plan into action. I had 12 weeks to get ready. I continued to follow my now, "not so secret" diet plan and made tremendous progress. I stepped on stage at 112 pounds and took two overall titles (Masters and Open) at the East TN Expo in Knoxville, TN. My next show was seven days later where I placed 5th at the Tricky Jackson Classic, an NPC National Qualifier in Lexington, KY. I was hooked! I’ve continued to compete ever since and just got home from the Arnold Classic Amateur where I placed 4th! Pretty much a dream come true. As you can probably tell by now, I am in love with the sport, and the stage and I plan to compete for many years to come.
Now, I’d like to share some insight into my nutrition, cardio, and training with you. I hope it will help you to start or advance your own journey into fitness. 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 and Meal plans
My meal plan was developed by "Fit To Be In Your Kitchen" and Ruben Sandoval. I eat 7 small meals every day. I implement a carb-cycling plan where I do two-low carb days, then a medium carb day, followed by three low-carb days, followed by a high carb day.
My calories during my Arnold Classic show prep ranged from 1650-2050 throughout the week.
My low carb day looked like this:
3:45 am: Wake up, three FitTabs (previously called Ultra 4), one scoop Glutamine Select, two Lean Out and three 7-Keto
4:30 am: Workout and posing practice
8:00 am: UMP chocolate with ½ cup of strawberries and another scoop of Glutamine Select
10:30 am: 4 egg whites and ¼ cup of oats plus 1 tbsp natural peanut butter and two Lean out
1:30 pm: 3 egg whites and one granny smith apple
4:00 pm: 4oz. chicken, ¼ cup brown rice, ½ avocado and lots of veggies plus 2 Lean Out
6:00 pm: Quest bar, 2 Lean Out and three 7-Keto
7:30 pm: 4oz. Tilapia (pan fried in 1 tsp of olive oil), 7 asparagus spears, a bit of cauliflower and a tbsp of salsa, 1 tbsp of Chia Seeds sprinkled over Tilapia, lemon juice squirted over everything and 1 tsp of Parmesan cheese sprinkled over everything
9:30 pm: ¾ scoop of Chocolate UMP and 1.5 tbsp of natural peanut butter, two Lean Out and three FitTabs
On my medium and high carb days, I have a variety of recipes including egg pancakes, slow-cooker chicken tacos, egg muffins, and a quinoa, chicken and spinach meal that is really tasty. I also get to use some mayonnaise!
I prep my foods in advance. I boil a big pan of chicken, after it’s finished, I place individual servings into sandwich bags and add seasoning. I make a whole box of brown rice at once as well as many servings of Tilapia. I keep two days’ worth in my fridge and place the rest in the freezer. As I need more, I remove it from the freezer and allow it to thaw inside the fridge. The key is to be prepared! I know what I am going to eat every day, and plan accordingly. I pack all my foods in a cooler if I am working or at ballgames with my children. I even pack my digital scale everywhere I go just in case I need to measure anything. I am very diligent about my food measures, it’s the only way to know exactly how many calories you are consuming. I drink at least one gallon of water each day. It’s healthy and a good way to help control hunger pains. I use sea salt enriched with iodine on most of my foods as well as Mrs. Dash seasonings.
Cardio Indoor Cycling
I am a Group Exercise Instructor. I teach 4 days of classes per week including Indoor Cycling, Step and Bodypump. I’m lucky to be able to use these classes as my cardio. My only other cardio is one extra day of treadmill hill climbs or outdoor stair running. The Group Exercise classes are a great way to burn a lot of calories and have a ton of fun. The atmosphere is motivating and the participants are encouraging to one another and to me.
Training split routine
I usually start show prep with a split routine where I weight train 5 days a week, working one muscle group each day. I train each muscle with 5 exercises doing 4 sets of 8-12 reps for each exercise. I hit abs at least three days a week. Hanging knee raises is one of my favorites. As my show gets closer, I train 6 days a week. I do full body, circuit style weight training on four of the days. On these days I utilize supersets, tri-sets and quad-sets. I like to train at a fast pace, keeping my heart rate high, and breaking a good sweat during these sessions. On the other 2 days, I focus on legs one day and shoulders the other. These are two of the most important body parts for figure.
Presentation and Posing
I practice my posing at least 4 days a week, starting at 6 weeks out from the show. I visualize myself on stage. I hold each of my poses at least 30 seconds and repeat multiple times. I practice my walk, my smile, my model pose and even my curtsy.
I also video myself once per week and use it to see where I need to improve or make any corrections. When on stage, my goal is to appear super-confident and relaxed. I think it really makes a difference if you take your posing practice seriously.
In closing, I would like to say to everyone that the journey to being healthy and fit is not easy, but it’s so worth it. The feeling of meeting your daily goals, each and every day, is very powerful. I strive to lay down every night, proud of what I have accomplished that day. I sleep sound and wake up excited to do it all over again the next day! Maybe you too have a secret competition dream. Set small goals, take it one day at a time and be an example to those around you. Competitions may not be for everyone, but feeling good in your own skin is, and that’s a trophy in itself.