My initial introduction to weight training was tagging along with my family to the Vic Tanny spa at an early age. My mom was the sales manager there and would let us in the gym after hours. I loved being in the workout area, picking up different weights, and trying to use the machines. I still love it today.
Ten Years Training Still Evolving
When I grew older I began working as a personal trainer. At the time, a female’s only choice was bodybuilding and I just didn’t think my physique was right for competition. Then I heard about a new division, Figure. I thought, “This sounds like something that might be just right for me.” After attending my first local competition I knew my intuition was correct. I began to train for my first figure competition.
Improve my physique
That first competition was scary and thrilling both at the same time. At that time I weighed about 105 lbs and placed 5th in my class. After the show two things were sure; (1) I knew I wanted to continue competing, and (2) I needed to focus on improving my physique. Seeing how serious I was, Jesse Dale, the manager of the facility where I worked, recommended I try Beverly. I’d used various brands of supplements before, but was blown away by the results I got.
That was over ten years ago and my physique has improved constantly over the years. I’ve learned and evolved with each competition-prep. But, one thing has not changed; I still use and recommend no other brand but Beverly International. As you read on,I’ll tell you more about how I prepared for my latest contest.
Nutrition Contest Prep
Because I tend to stay fairly lean year round I typically start my show prep 8-10 weeks out. I take a very moderate approach to my prep. In fact, not much really changes for me other than slowly adding in cardio and adjusting my supplement regimen at the 6 week mark.
One tenet I follow both off-season and pre-contest is my family comes first. That means I am careful that my preparation for a contest does not interfere with their lives. Preparing meals in and advance is vital. Since I love anything grilled, turkey burgers, chicken, strip steak, and hamburgers (97% lean) are a staple in our house. Along with the grilled meat I also prepare an assortment of grilled vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, onions, and squash). I usually fix two or three days’ worth of meals at one time.
For my contest diet
I follow Figure Plan A from their Pre-Contest Manual, here is a copy of that plan direct from the manual:
Figure Plan A
1 whole egg + 3 egg whites, 3 oz. very lean meat,
cup oatmeal – (both meat and oatmeal is measured/weighed before cooking)
Choose an option
Option A: Protein shake with two scoops Ultimate
Muscle Protein, one tablespoon healthy fat source
(olive oil, flax oil, almond butter) or heavy cream
plus very cold water
Option B: 1 can tuna, one small apple or orange
5 oz. lean meat (chicken or other lean protein source),
½ cup cooked brown rice or 4 oz. sweet potato, 1
cup vegetables or 2 cups green salad with 2 tablespoons vinegar
and oil dressing
Two scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein in 16 oz. water
6 oz. salmon or very lean meat (chicken breast, fish,
turkey breast, lean beef – sirloin, filet, etc.)
1 cup low carb vegetables and salad with 2 tablespoons vinegar
and oil dressing
(This is an option if you reduce meal #4 to one scoop
protein; you get to make up the rest with meal #6.
Which is better? – Whatever works better for you.)
Option A: Protein Shake or Pudding: 1 scoop Ultimate
Muscle Protein, add enough water to make a
shake or pudding the consistency you desire
Option B: 6 egg whites with 1 cup of vegetables
This plan provides me with a ton of food, and lots of needed energy. I can honestly say I am never hungry during prep. In fact, I find myself not finishing some meals. I also switch up some of the foods if I become bored. (Jasmine rice, red potatoes, etc.) I also like to keep jello cups (sugar free) on hand in case of a sweet tooth emergency.
A key success factor for me. My year round lifestyle supplements are Fit Tabs, UMP, Glutamine Select, Creatine Select,and Mass Aminos.
UMP – I can’t say enough about this product. I don’t know what I would do without it. I religiously make protein pancakes and shakes for my entire family. The taste is incredible, it keeps you full and is perfect if you need something sweet.
FitTabs – No explanation needed here, they are a well-rounded vitamin that everyone should incorporate into their diet.
Glutamine Select – At first I wasn’t noticing much impact from Glutamine Select. Then I stopped taking it! My workouts became less intense; I was sore and run down all the time. Now it’s definitely on my top three list. Creatine Select – I have only added Creatine Select into my arsenal this pastyear. What a difference! I have put on five pounds of solid muscle and onmy small frame that makes quite an impact.
Mass Aminos – I’ve been taking Mass Aminos year round for years. Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle and I love knowing that I have theseworking for me day in and day out.
At the 6 week point I add in 7-Keto, Lean Out, and Muscularity.
7-Keto MuscLean – An amazing product! I get an energy boost and it keeps my metabolism cooking, helping me to get the extra fluff off.
Lean Out – another key product in tightening up. It really takes your body up a notch.
Muscularity – has been a secret weapon of mine. I get an extra sharpness to my physique in just a couple of weeks when I take it.
New exercises training goal
My training has evolved over the past ten years along with my body. I used to do a typical gym workout – 30 minutes of cardio, 3 sets of each exercise, a bit of stretching, and go home. Don’t get me wrong, this is agood workout plan, but I got to the point where good wasn’t good enough for me. What about great?
I knew I would have to further challenge myself and my training slowly began to evolve.
My current workout and cardio can best be described as “quality over quantity”, while continually trying to break through old limits. I set goals for my training and as soon as I achieve one I set a new goal. For example, one of my original goals was to be able to perform one wide grip pull-up without assistance. Now I can doten. My new goal is to do twenty. I use this same goal setting process for nearly every exercise that I do. It could be to achieve a certain number ofreps, use a particular poundage, or even reduce rest intervals between sets of a particular exercise.
I currently workout six days a week with Sunday off as follows:
Tuesday: Back, Shoulders
Wednesday: Chest, Biceps, Triceps
Most of my workouts incorporate a variety of basic exercises. I add in ab specific movements a couple days a week. One of my current workout innovations is to alternate various plyometric moves with my standard exercises.
Here’s an example of how this works on my Friday leg workout.
Squats alternated with low jumping jacks
Sumo squats alternated with woodchopper lunge
Seated leg press alternated with split squat jump
Standing hamstring curl alternated with bench jump squats
Lying hamstring curls alternated with various high knees exercises
Note: you can Google these exercises to view proper performance. Work into them slowly. At first, you might want to do each plyo exercise for 15 seconds. Slowly work up to 30-45 seconds per exercise. A great device to measure your “work” and rest intervals is the Gym-boss. I’ve been using mine every workout to set pre-determined rep and rest times.
My cardio is minimal compared to many competitors’ standards. Off season I do 15-20 minutes, 4-5 days a week. Pre-contest I typically do 20-40 minutes, 5-6 days a week. I add it in a little at a time to make sure I don’t compromise my hard earned muscle. I tend to use the stair mill most often and work in 1 minute on – 1 minute off intervals. I also enjoy spinning and doing lunge intervals on the treadmill at a high incline.
In Closing I often have people asking me why I work out as hard as I do. Well the answer is simple, “It’s fun!” If I could give one piece of advice to people looking to change their bodies it would be, Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Figure out what will inspire and motivate you and keep that in your mind every day. Don’t set an end goal or a finish line– reach one goal, set a new one, and keep going.
Sarah Sweis at a Glance
Family: married to the man of my dreams, three children, Gus 7, Greyson 6, and Saylor 2. And one very large poodle, Romeo.
Current Residence: Washington, MI
Years training: I began consistently going to the gym at age 16, and began competitive bodybuilding at 21.
Hobby: My world revolves around my family. I spend all of my free time doing fun things with my kids. We are a big soccer family, so lots of our time is spent at the fields practicing, playing, or at games.
Words to live by: “Pain is only temporary.” This quote can be applied to so many things in life, its simple and to the point.