My 9 Year Journey

to an IFBB Figure Pro Card

By: Karina Rhode, IFBB Professional
Magazine 20 #3

“You’ve just won a trip to the most amazing place you ever wanted to go! Oh, and your plane leaves.. NOW!“

Cue me with “deer in the headlights” expression as my brain tries to process, “Wait! I have nothing packed, and none of my laundry is done!”

That’s how it felt winning my IFBB Pro Card at this season’s Masters Nationals and then launching right into prepping for my first show as a Pro at the Pittsburgh Pro Masters. Well, let’s just say that if I have nothing else packed, the first thing on my list is going to be my Beverly supplements! I started this journey [*] back in 2007 and many things have changed over the years. The one that hasn’t changed is that Beverly has been with me ever since I began and I’m not going anywhere without them!
[* Karina NNM 15 #3 ..two overall figure titles and earn your natural pro card. ]

I’ve always been very active and never had any real weight issues until I got married. The reality of getting a desk job coupled with matching eating habits with a husband who is blessed with a lightning fast metabolism scored me a weight gain I’d never experienced before. It happened slowly, and I didn’t really notice it since I gained it symmetrically pretty much everywhere. So as a result, I didn’t think much about it until one day I nearly fell on one of my clients while doing a Thai massage. I was horrified. It was at that moment I realized how weak my core had become and how unaccustomed my body was to all the additional weight. My peripheral awareness for balance with these two factors in play had become seriously compromised! The next day I hired a trainer and haven’t looked back.

Karina wins trophy and pro card
Photo by: Dan Ray

I had no intentions to become a bodybuilder. When I started, I simply wanted to get back to a weight where I was comfortable in my body again. Along with the weight gain, I was also noticing premenopausal type symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. I was only in my early to mid 30’s so I knew this was wrong. My first trainer worked with me on balance and beginning strength maneuvers and prescribed cardio. I started tracking calories and serving sizes and getting a better handle on what to eat for myself rather than blindly matching portion sizes with my husband.

Developing strength Kettlebell training

It didn’t take long to master the basics and soon I was on to trainer #2 who coached me in developing strength through heavier lifting and kettlebell training. I was fascinated by the connection between muscle function, development, and metabolic activity. I got hooked on Oxygen magazine and admired the physiques of the gals on the pages. They looked strong and healthy. When I realized that these ladies were Figure competitors, I had to know for myself how it felt to train like that. Enter trainer #3, an old school classic women’s bodybuilder. I told her I just wanted the experience of training “LIKE” a bodybuilder but had no interest in competing. Well that was enough to open the door for her.

Before long, she was hounding me to compete. She said I had the symmetry and the drive and encouraged me to consider it. I still remember the phone call I made to her one day while standing at the gas station filling up the car. “Are you just blowing sunshine up my skirt about me being right for competition or are you really serious?” After she stopped laughing over the choice of words I had just used, she swore she meant every word so I gave in and we picked my first show.

I quickly realized I was going to need help. Preparing for a contest wasn’t your everyday style of eating and training. I was going to need help in metabolism and recovery (especially at 37 years old). I had a good trainer but I needed a nutrition plan. Suddenly I was facing uncharted territory: an ocean filled with protein powders, BCAA’S, pre-workouts, and fat burners. I knew enough about the human body to know that most of this at the local sport supplement store was pretty much flotsam and jetsam. I needed a company that actually cared about the people who used their product. Enter Beverly International.

I had been introduced to UMP by trainer #1. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites! Between the taste and the fact I actually could see changes as a direct result of having it as part of my diet, I contacted them directly. I was able to speak to a real human being who actually sounded passionate about the product from more than a commission standpoint. We spoke at length about what my goals were and by the time I was done, I had my first stack of supplements geared towards my specific training program!

Two years after this conversation, I won my IFPA card. If I wasn’t hooked before, I certainly was now! I did one show as an IFPA Pro and pretty much got my booty handed to me. Up until now, I’d been writing my own diets and had gone as far as I knew how to go. It was time to get serious and hire a diet coach. In addition, since I’d scaled the mountain of that particular competing club, I figured, while I was at it and changing stuff up, I might as well go for what I considered to be Mount Everest (a.k.a. NPC/IFBB). Now I was on to trainer (& diet coach) #4. I was a little concerned when I first hired him because I had a comfort zone with Beverly. I knew it worked for me and I was a little apprehensive the diet would come back with a bunch of supplement garbage on it. To my surprise and relief, when I opened my diet document, there were a host of their supplements (including my beloved UMP)! Well, that made me feel really good about hiring my coach! Obviously this man knew quality when he saw it!

Four years after signing on with him (also my last and still my present coach), I finally claimed my IFBB Pro Card! Like I said, a lot of things changed over the years but one thing has stayed the same. Four coaches and two pro cards later, the core of my supplement program has always been Beverly. Consistent and faithful. And we’re just getting started!

Diet meats veggies

I stick to the basic meats and starches. For variety, I swap out my veggies. I use onions, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and celery all for good crunch and satisfaction. Another trick for changing up my menu is the vast variety of spice mixes I have on hand. Broccoli, rice, and chicken can go, Mexican, Cajun, or Asian quickly with just the shake of spice! I also love quantity, which is why I limit carbs during the day so that I can have popcorn at night. I love eating it one piece at a time, and I split a bowl of it almost every night with my husband. It gives us both the feeling of something normal when we can share a treat in my contest prep! And as for sweets, thanks to their protein powders, I’m never at a deficit!

All values are pre-cooked with the exception of the rice.
Meal #1
70 grams Steel cut oats with a mini pack of Sunmaid raisins, stevia, cinnamon, & pinch of Penzeys Spices sweet ginger bits
150 grams raw egg whites & 18 grams raw egg yolk scrambled (1 whole egg + 4 whites)
Meal #2
Muscle Provider shake or Chocolate Muscle Provider Sweet Potato Cake
Meal #3
150 grams chicken breast and 50 grams brown rice over cabbage salad (served warm with salsa and Cajun spices)
Meal #4
150 grams chicken breast
Meal #5
130 grams beef cubes with oven roasted onions and asparagus
2.5 ounces air-popped popcorn sprayed with olive oil
Meal #6
UMP shake or UMP soft serve ice cream

Fortunately for me, I like to arrive early for a lot of things including Peak Week. As a result, I don’t do a traditional Peak Week because I’m already stage ready. I just stick to my weekly prep.

Supplement Schedule
Morning Cardio – 6 GH Factor + 3 Lean Out
Meal #1 – Super Pak + 3 Joint Care
Morning Lifting Session – 2 scoops Muscle Synergy Powder + 1 scoop Creatine Select
Meal #2 – Muscle Provider as a shake or cake
Meal #4 – 2 Lean Out
Evening pick me up drink – 1 scoop Glutamine Select + 1 scoop Muscle Synergy made into a slushy (Hey! You can never have too much recovery support!)
Meal #6 – UMP shake or UMP ice cream and 2 Lean Out
Bedtime – 6 GH Factor

Cardio HIIT LISS

During off-season, I try to build and spare muscle as much as possible so my cardio is relatively short consisting of four 20-minute sessions per week. 2 HIIT & 2 LISS

In prep, I’ll do as many as 6 sessions per week alternating HIIT & LISS. 3 HIIT sessions at 15 minutes (including 5 minutes each warm up and cool down for a grand total of 25 minutes) and 3 LISS sessions for 40 minutes (where I’ll feed my spiritual, self inspirational literature while reading on my recumbent bike!)

Training challenge v-taper

As a Figure competitor with short collarbones, my biggest challenge has been to create a great v-taper. Doing my best to widen my chest, back, and shoulders while tightening and narrowing my midsection has been a quest akin to hunting for the Holy Grail!

For me, every upper body workout begins with 30 wide grip 1-½ pull-ups. Begin with hands set wide and overhand grip on the bar. Start in full extension and pull up above the bar. Lower your body so your head is just below the bar and then pull back up. This is one rep. Return to full extension and repeat the sequence as many times as you can (no kipping!). Rest when you need to but get in 30 total.

As for the waist, I’ve stopped using weighted abdominal exercises. Instead, I’ve implemented two kinds of abdominal work that have made big changes for me in less than 10 weeks!

Abdominal Vacuum

“Shhhh.. she’s had a hard workout. She’s probably sleeping.” Ha! Nope. I am doing my abdominal exercises! The beginning of this prep season I found an article about how the old school bodybuilders such as Frank Zane and Arnold Schwarzenegger trained to get tiny waists. The technique is referred to as “vacuum training” and may be done lying down, standing up, sitting, or even on all fours. The muscle trained here is the transverse abdominus. It’s the body’s deepest of the abdominal muscles and its function is to hold in and support the abdominal contents. By pulling the belly button in towards the spine as hard as you can and holding it there for a duration of time, you’re training the transverse abdominus to become tighter and better conditioned. The result is a smaller waistline and it’s easier to hold your tummy in while you’re on stage.

Sequence:
25 basic crunches concentrating on keeping belly button pulled in tight towards the spine
1-minute vacuum hold
Repeat sequence 3x’s without rest

Great thing about vacuum training is you can do it anytime and anywhere without folks knowing you’re doing it! I like to do it in the car on my drive home from work. I try to hold the vacuum for as long as I can or between certain major intersections just to make the drive home more entertaining.

Seated Twist

Another exercise I’ve found beneficial is the seated twist. This helps on two fronts: 1) it tightens the oblique muscles, and 2) it helps you get a better range of motion when you twist in your posing on stage which, in turn, contributes to the illusion of a smaller waist.

Sit on an exercise ball that allows your knees and hips to be at 90-degree angles. You may do this with a broomstick or dowel rod across your shoulders or just holding your arms out. Keeping both feet on the floor and hips level, twist using only the oblique muscles. Twist as far as you can and look behind you. Your body will follow your eyes so the further you attempt to look behind you as you twist, the more range you will gradually achieve. Hold and squeeze at maximum range and then rotate to the opposite side and repeat. I do 100 of these (50 per side). I also employ vacuum holding while I do so for the added benefit!

Muscle Provder Cake

Chocolate Muscle Provider Sweet Potato Cake
130 grams raw sweet potatoes
35 grams Chocolate Muscle Provider
½ tbsp baking powder
2 packets Stevia in the Raw
5 grams Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp vanilla extract
¼-½ cup brewed coffee

Spray foil with cooking spray. Seal sweet potatoes & one ice cube in foil packet & bake at 400°F for 55 minutes (yes, they›ll burn a little but that’s ok – you want them to caramelize). Leave sweet potatoes sealed in foil pack until they cool (keeping the moisture in the packet will help release the caramelized potatoes from the foil).

Mix together baked sweet potatoes, Muscle Provider, baking powder, stevia, cocoa powder, & vanilla until blended well & no chunks of sweet potato remain. Add in enough coffee to make a pourable batter. Pour mixture into a baking dish sprayed with cooking oil. Put dish in a cold oven & set temperature for 375°. Bake for approximately 25 minutes.

Eat the whole thing! It’s one serving for your meal! If you want to share or save some for later, just split the macros below.

You can make this with as little as 125 grams of sweet potatoes or as much as 175 grams. More or less than that and it tastes a little starchy or the consistency is a little lacking.

Off-season you can add a little more fun:

Add 5 grams Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips to the batter before baking

Top with fat free whipped cream

I’ve made 4 batches at the same time when traveling and just cooked them all in a 9 x 16 pan. Then did my best to cut them into 4 EQUAL serving days (refrigerate unused portions). You’ll be testing your willpower with this approach, however, trying not to mooch some from the next day because they’re that good!

Ultimate Muscle Protein Ice Cream
35 grams vanilla UMP
9 grams sugar free Jell-O instant pudding powder (butterscotch is my favorite)
2 pkts Stevia in the Raw
half cup crushed ice
half to 1 cup water
half cup frozen cauliflower

You’ll need a beast of a blender to pull this off.
I have a VitaMix so if you haven’t invested in one yet, you might want to consider it.

Put all ingredients in the blender. Start blending speed on medium-high and use plunger to keep pushing ingredients towards the blades. Use more water if you need but this mix should be VERY thick and will take a little time to work into the blades. Keep mixing until smooth and a steady vortex forms. You will also notice the mix doubles in size (let’s hear it for increased volume – HOORAY!).

Using spatula, scoop out ice cream. Eat right away or freeze for up to 2 hours for a firmer set.

No blender? Skip the ice and cauliflower and add just enough water to get the mix to a pudding-like consistency. Blend all ingredients using a whisk and freeze for 2 hours.

In Closing

I got into competing to see what my body could do and man, have I learned a lot! After every contest, I love going over the elements of the journey. I learn something new about myself every time and I’ve grown not just as a competitor but also as a person. Win, place, or show, I encourage you to enjoy the ride. Take the time to look at where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished regardless if you have hardware in your hands for the effort. My ultimate goal every time has been to learn something about myself that helped me to grow stronger in life. If you can do that, you’ve won!

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