Saturday, November 16, 2013

Overcoming More Than The Scale

Oh no!  What have I gotten myself into?  I really wanted to encourage a coworker to succeed in her weight loss journey while getting started on my own reclaiming of my goals.  So, when Sport & Health promoted a "Lighten Up" challenge, I agreed to join her team to keep us both accountable and on point.  This required weighing in at the front desk where I work, and making those numbers known to more than just me and my bathroom scale. 

So, I stepped on the scale Wednesday evening, feeling uneasy about others seeing that very high weight number.  Those mean, horrible numbers---146.6 (heavier than my 9-months-pregnant weight).  Before my hysterectomy, I was much lighter.  I'd even lost some weight due to loss of appetite.  But I increased my macros a bit too quickly after the vocal chord surgery.  Upon seeing those numbers, the self-soothing silly thoughts started playing in my head, "Well, I've been up for 16 hours, I just worked out, am dressed...  This morning I was 142 on my scale...  Maybe the scale is broken--perhaps I should go pee and come back to weigh in again." 

Regardless of the tough journey my health has taken me through, regardless of what anyone may say, 146.6 is a big set of numbers for me.  To some readers, the numbers seem like a ridiculous thing to get worked up over.  But to me, those numbers represented something very scary, intimidating, and upsetting to me.  This is the first time that I'm admitting that I cried as soon as I found solitude.  The positive me wanted to be strong and act confident in front of others but the vulnerable me could not wait to be alone to take it all in.  It took days to admit it, but it is true.  Part of me felt ashamed for the sadness I felt over the whole ordeal and another part of me felt ashamed of the numbers themselves.   This is my heaviest non-pregnant weight since I was struggling with my max-allowed weight in the Air Force when I was only 18 years old (over twenty years ago).  Did you know that I gained so much weight in the Air Force that I had to work hard to lose it so that I would not be in a position of getting kicked out?  Back then, I was a homesick kid binging on donuts, pizza, candy bars, Mountain Dew, and whatever else I found empty comfort in.  I hated the chow hall food and I loved my junk (in large quantities). This time, the weight gain wasn't from binging, carelessness, or throwing all caution into the wind....  It was from a whacked out few months of surgeries, loss of appetite, and then too quickly increasing my macros after a long-lasting severely diminished appetite--not to mention the liquid diet after the vocal chord surgery.  Logic told me that I should slowly reintroduce more food but I ignored it thinking somehow I could immediately return to those high macro numbers I was taking in (while losing weight) before my hysterectomy.  My metabolism is pretty healthy, but now I find myself tempted to return to old habits of hours-long cardio, quickly dropping foods from my diets.  Of course, I don't give into those temptations, but I can't help but think that I'm not the only IIFYM follower who occasionally gets tempted to return to the self-destructive past behaviors (from before they knew better).

Why am I sharing this?  Well, selfishly I think it's going to help me if I admit to others just how insecure I am feeling right now.  There is another reason too.  Even though I am experiencing this whole screwed up, miserable feeling of self doubt and am petrified to see the cellulite staring me down in my bathroom mirror, I am going to beat this!  There is no quitting!  No backing out!  Time to believe in me the way that I believe in my clients.

Friday, October 11, 2013

And now what?

If you've ever had something, anything, that put a kink in your plans for the "what's next" in your life, then you may understand what has been going on with me.  As I've said in previous blog entries, I'd been really looking forward to competing this Fall.  Well, with a hysterectomy just six weeks behind me and the laryngoscopy with biopsy just two days behind me, it's obvious that there has been a change of plans.  I'd also been hoping to finally have my NASM CPT certification (I'm a certified personal trainer, but I really want this next one).  I was convinced that I would have all kinds of time and focus to study and prepare for the exam; however, with the body recovering and an active house of kids and school activities, I'm not so sure I will have that certification as quickly as I wanted to.  I also thought that, in just about three and a half weeks, I would be seeing my oldest son graduate from USMC boot camp.  Well, administrative headaches have put that off for him (which means he is experiencing what it is like to make big plans and have things out of your control make you take a big step back--waiting game).  With the many unexpected things in life, I'm learning what it really means to not give up.

As a personal trainer and life coach, I have had countless individuals hire me for various goals and then allow life's difficult challenges completely derail them.  Sure, many of my clients reach and even exceed their goals.  But I would be a liar if I did not mention that there are those who back away from their dreams for physique transformation, better health, better time management skills, improved communication in their relationships, or more consistency in their parenting.  I do not believe that this is because they do not have what it takes to overcome; as a matter of fact, I am convinced that everyone who has ever hired me has what it takes.  The tough thing is getting people to believe that they are worth it and that the challenges that are sure to be encountered are worth overcoming.

See, when it became apparent that taking a step back from my competition and professional goals was a necessity while taking care of my long-term health, there was a sense of urgency.  With so much going on at the time, I initially just ran on auto-pilot, not even thinking about what I was about to experience emotionally.  It really hit me the first time that I returned to work just a couple of weeks ago.  Deep inside, I really wanted to get that first workout in.  But just a light workload of training very few clients and being on my feet was just all that I could safely handle.  Then, starting the first few safe workouts meant lifting less and with less intensity.  With a very reduced appetite, my strength had been temporarily but significantly reduced.  To many, this may not seem like a big deal.  But to someone who is a natural bodybuilding figure competitor with big aspirations, this was a bit demoralizing. 

Admitting how discouraged I felt was something I really did not want to do.  Fear set in that perhaps I needed to put my dreams aside and just find a way to create new ones.  Do you know what fixed that?  Time to think!  Just two days ago, I had the laryngoscopy with biopsy to remove a cyst which left me very hoarse and at times with absolutely no voice whatsoever (especially in the evenings).  Not realizing how serious this could become permitted me to put it off until I faced the truth that I must deal with it.  The greatest benefit has probably been the many hours left to my thoughts and silent prayers.

I've got another couple of days (today and tomorrow) with no talking.  What most don't realize is that a great deal of my day is actually just talking to others about their workouts and then sitting in silence by myself planning workouts or planning what my kids or husband need me to do at home.  An exclusive focus on husband, kids, work, and errands that must be done made me start to forget the value of having my own aspirations.  Not being able to give all of me to them while recovering from the hysterectomy made me feel so guilty.  So, I spent weeks thinking of all the things I needed to do to make things better for everyone but me.  Now, sitting in silence while everyone is pretty much good to go, while I have very few clients (starting over again), and while being banned from talking has done wonders for me.

This is probably the most amount of time I've been able to think and pray in my life.  One thing I prayed is this, "Lord, please remove the desire to compete if you want me to focus on something else."  Immediately, the thought (perhaps from my Lord) came to me, "Why on Earth should you not want to compete?  You've been a source of motivation and inspiration every time you took on the journey to the stage?  Your kids love it, your husband loves it, your clients love it, and your friends love it when you come back with life insights.  Don't quit!  You have so much to offer and so much to gain!"  Then the thoughts filled with doubt, "Well, with weeks of not lifting, do you think you really could make up for the lost time?  What about that crappy diet?  You can hardly stomach food and you can't even swallow solid food."  But then the seeds of doubt are killed by more positive thoughts like this, "Quit that negativity.  It's really only been a short period of time and your metabolism is responding great to all it has been through.  In a few days, you'll be back in the saddle.  You are strong and there is no reason to think negatively."  I can feel the spiritual warfare of the mind and am loving that doubt and fear are being killed by believing in myself again.  My God is an awesome God and He will help me overcome my personal battle with doubt.

Admitting that I struggle with this can be tough.  There are some who may feel that I am being too "open" with this.  Well, if you are that person, you can know this. I will be honest!  With so many who trust me with their health, with personal goals, with the battle of believing in themselves, I want them to know that I struggle to and that I understand what it is like to battle the demons of discouragement, derailment, and self-doubt.  I want them to know that I know what it is like to sabotage myself because I did not believe in myself. 

And now I am putting it out there.  I will compete in 2014!  I will step on stage and smash my personal best!  There are big differences this time.  This time, I will have taken care of my health first.  This time, I will not wait until I'm near the end of a competition prep and feeling depleted to admit that it is tough from the very beginning.  I will do as one of my favorite bodybuilders, Ryan Doris, says, "Grind it Out."  When I want to quit, when I doubt that I have what it takes to overcome and win, when others tell me that I am just not cut out for this, I will get back to the grind and outwork.  I'm putting it all out there now. 

I know it'll be a feat finishing up my college degree, getting the NASM certification that I want, continuing to be the best mom/wife I know how to be, rebuilding my personal training business, and getting stage ready...  But it can be done!  It can be done without compromising my priorities! 

I believe that I have what it takes to compete in the Spring/Summer of 2014.  I must wait until November to really get into stage-prep readiness.  I will not allow myself to be discouraged by the "Well, my delts are too small," "My glutes are not tight enough," "My symmetry may not be on point."  NO!  I'm going to outwork every single day.  Whether it is in recovery or in work!  With Team Norton, my family, and the most awesome group of encouraging friends a woman could hope for, there's no reason that I cannot win!  Let's roll...

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Sure, sometimes change is fun and exciting, but more often than we may desire, it can be very difficult.  Whether it is a change in relationship, career, a big move, even a new baby.  Whether the change is big or small, wonderful or emotionally challenging, it can rock the status quo that you've grown accustomed to.  At times like this, emotions can start to take over reason.  Feeling scared, excited, overwhelmed, discouraged, exhausted, disappointed, unsure, or even elated can cause us to make decisions that are not the best for us or our loved ones.  This has been my challenge lately.  Fortunately, some past life experiences have prepared me to reign in my emotions, step back and think things through, and trust that things will all be okay. 

"Gretchen, what on Earth are you talking about?"  Wow, where to begin...  Let me start by saying that I really do not like change!  As a matter of fact, there have been seasons of my life when I felt that I must have done something horribly wrong to have unexpected, almost devastating changes happen in my life.  I would question God, "Lord, things were going so well.  I have lived life as I thought you wanted me to?  Why are you doing this to me?  Why are you allowing my life to become unraveled?"  It just did not seem fair!  What I didn't know is that during those trials, I was growing to become the person that I am still becoming, and that person that I like!

If you have been following this blog then you know that I had really been hoping to get back on the figure competition stage sooner than later; as a matter of fact, I was hoping that I could compete this Fall.  My metabolism was on-fire in the best way ever, my upper body strength gains were unreal, and my focus was impenetrable.  What changed?  Well, I quit procrastinating on some routine healthcare issues that a lot of us tend to take for granted.  Some health concerns that I had became things that my husband refused to allow me to procrastinate on anymore.  From my persistent hoarse voice to my extremely difficult menstrual cycles.  Oh yes men, I AM going there--unapologetically too!  When I finally addressed those concerns, I had to accept the fact that long-term health problems would happen if I did not set those competition dreams aside for a little while.  The emotional me wanted to justify ignoring those concerns for short-term gratification of getting on stage again.  I was tempted to do as I'd done before as I said to myself, "It's okay.  Just one more competition season and then I can take care of those things."  Thankfully, reason was the victor and I immediately decided to put my health first.

In July, I made long overdue medical appointments with my dentist, my gynecologist, and my ENT doctor.  My husband must have been shocked that I made all of those appointments because he had been asking me to for years.  The last time that he asked me, my heart ached as he expressed his concern for me.  I do not know how many  moms are reading this, but I doubt that I am alone in my reasoning for the procrastination.  I just did not see how I had the time!  Between running five kids all over the place, to commuting to and from work to train my beloved clients, to working on my college assignments, to trying my best to accomplish at least some household tasks, I did not see how I could afford to spend the time going to the doctor.

First stop, the dentist...  Those of you who know me well know that it has been the one thing that I hate more than anything.  I used to get really freaked out by the thought of someone putting their hands in my mouth.   As a kid, I actually bit my dentist (my dad probably remembers it better than I do).  I cannot tell you how happy I was to learn that I had no cavities and that overall, everything looked excellent!  It was the single best dental experience I have had in my entire life.  If you are in Frederick, check out Kopit Dental; you will absolutely not regret it!   I sincerely believe that my dental phobia is completely gone thanks to that dental experience. 

Second stop, the gynecologist...  Unlike going to the dentist, I did not have any phobias regarding the gynecologist.  No doubt, giving birth to five children (the youngest by C-Section) has something to do with that.  Dr. Martin, commented that I had not been there in three years.  Three years ago, we had discussed my difficult menstrual cycles and he wanted to do further tests.  Stubborn me wanted to compete.  So, I put it off.  That first season of dieting down actually caused my menstrual cycles to go away for about ten months.  I do not recommend this sort of thing at all; as a matter of fact, it can be risky for your health.  It was not until I hired my coach, Dr. Layne Norton, that my diet became less extreme and more balanced.  When my cycle returned, it was not long before the periods were bad again.  Being stubborn and wanting to compete again, I put off going back to the gynecologist to address my problems with this.  Bad choice!  I tried various dietary and homeopathic remedies but nothing helped at all; as a matter of fact, I often felt worse.  By November 2012, my periods were lasting almost two weeks and by June 2013, they were lasting even longer.  I would not sit down at work for days because I may embarrass myself, I drove sitting on towels, I slept on towels, and I had to change clothes several times a day.  Intense fatigue plagued me to the point that I actually fell asleep at the wheel one day on the way to work.  The discomfort was honestly so bad that it would compare to early stages of labor (no exaggeration whatsoever).  Dr. Martin examined me in late July 2013 and determined that a hysterectomy was my best option.  Because I had adenomyosis, other alternatives were not things that I could consider. I would be able to keep my ovaries thereby avoiding going into early menopause.  The sooner the better because every month was worse than the previous month.  We scheduled surgery for August 29, 2013. 

Third stop, the ENT doctor.  On my way to my appointment with Dr. Hart, I was certain that I was going to be told that the cause of my hoarse voice was something like acid reflux or maybe even unresolved allergies.  But that was not the case.  No acid reflux whatsoever and no sinus problems.  He discovered a sizeable cyst on my vocal chord which would have to be removed.  When I told him that I was having a hysterectomy, he recommended waiting until I was well beyond the initial recovery stage for the sake of my health and pain management.  That surgery will take place on October 9.  The biggest inconvenience will be not using my voice in any capacity whatsoever for a few days and then limited talking for several days later.  No talking, whispering, coughing, laughing, grunting, bearing down, straining, eating solid food for four days.  Then I will slowly resume talking to allow the surgical site to heal properly.  The likelihood is that the cyst developed back during a bout with strep throat while I was still working and teaching indoor cycling classes before I was fully healed.  The lesson learned is this:  Sometimes quitting is the right thing to do, especially when your health is at stake.

Okay, I am going to back up a bit to when I learned that I needed to have surgery.  Just days before that, I had spoken with the fitness director at North Frederick Sport Health about the possibility of transferring there from Bethesda.  I felt a bit like a traitor to my Bethesda Sport & Health family.  Yes, I do mean family.  Never had I worked with so many individuals that I genuinely loved and felt that it was reciprocated.  That being said, my increased exhaustion was taking a toll not only on me but also on my marriage and children.  There was no energy to spare when I was home.  Additionally, I had no time or energy to invest in building friendships and growing in my faith.  When I learned about the hysterectomy and the vocal chord issue, I knew that I needed to make the change sooner than later.  Literally, I cried off and on for days.  I prayed that God would strengthen me and be with me, that he would give me peace as fear regarding these changes began to consume me.  I did not want to tell my boss and friend, Lee, that I needed to make the move.  I did not want to tell my clients that I would be leaving them.  I became worried about the transition from one club to another after I had so comfortably settled into the other club.  When I did tell Lee, my other co-workers, and my clients it was not without a lot of tears.  What I was ashamed to admit until now is that it also was not without self-doubt.  Would I be able to rebuild a client base?  How would our family make it without my income for no less than a month?  Would those I was leaving behind feel upset with me?  It was easy to admit that missing those I was leaving was hard; admitting fear was not! 

Ok, so, I had the hysterectomy.  Silly as it may sound, I really did not realize how quickly it would take the wind out of my sail.  Thanks to meals provided by my church family at Frederick Christian Fellowship and my very supportive friends and family, I made it through those first difficult weeks.  As much as I could, I followed my doctor's orders (maybe for the first time ever) by not doing the lifting and other physical activity.  It was intensely difficult to lean on others as I felt guilty for not being able to do much.  Once again, the financial impact of this was weighing heavily on my mind and I was determined to get better so that when I returned to work.  That being said, I was also determined to recover so that when I did start working again, I would not be putting my health at risk. After the hysterectomy, I learned that when they sent my uterus to pathology that the very earliest stage of uterine cancer was detected.  Had I put off the hysterectomy for another season, it is possible that it could have spread.  The hysterectomy did not only get rid of the adenomyosis, it also got rid of cancer that I did not even know that I had.  It was contained to my uterus; nowhere else!  Wow!  What would have happened if I had decided to put this off until just one more competition season?

In about a week and a half I will have the vocal chord surgery (laryngoscopy with biopsy).  There is really no fear or anxiety over it right now.  The greatest lesson that I have truly taken to heart is that I have to be my own priority sometimes in order to keep doing the things that I am needed for at home and to keep striving toward my personal ambitions.  Humble pie actually tastes pretty good when you are willing to digest what you are taking in.

Financially, not going to work is difficult.  If any of you reading this earn a salary versus an hourly pay wage, imagine losing your entire salary for a month and your salary dropping to less than half for several more months.  This has taught me to learn to count my blessings, to take note of how much I actually do have, and to be content in whatever circumstances I may find myself in.  It is a difficult part of the journey, it is a change I would have certainly not chosen for myself, and it is humbling in the best of ways. 

Personally, the time I have had with my family over the past month and a half has been the greatest of rewards.  I realized how much I missed having the time and energy to stay up to spend time with them in the evenings, how nice it is to help get them ready for school in the mornings, what a blessing it is to sit and just watch a movie on the couch together, or to play an impromptu game of UNO.  Now that I am starting to work again, I will remember to keep space in my schedule so that I do not risk neglecting my family and so that I can invest in the friendships I have longed for.

Professionally, I'm starting over.  Balance is going to be my new norm.  Just three days ago, I started working again.  My first day at the new, closer gym was Wednesday.  My body is still recovering and I can feel it as my energy levels are a little low.  As hard as it was to leave the gym I was training in, I was a little nervous about starting over with new coworkers and rebuilding my client base.  There's no denying that I really miss the training team I was blessed to be a part of in Bethesda, but I'm looking forward now.  The staff at North Frederick is great, they're young and friendly, and the facility is the best I have ever seen.  I can't deny that driving 450 miles less each week will be blissful; that alone buys back thirty hours a week.  Whether I am doing mom-taxi duties, going to voice therapy, sleeping in past 4:00AM, or just hanging with the hubby and kids, I'm sure that I can find good use of thirty additional hours a week.

Physically, the body reminds me to take it easy if I'm tempted to overdo it.  This time, I'm listening.  My appetite is only just now starting to return since the hysterectomy.  I was able to do light workouts this week with no difficulty.  I am not able to lift even half of what I was lifting before as this body is working toward recovery right now.  I'm not doing high intensity cardio yet because the impact would be a bit much on this healing body; however, I intend to do that about two weeks after the vocal chord surgery assuming that my ENT doc gives me the go-ahead.  From what he has told me so far, that should be fine.  If it was just the hysterectomy and no other surgeries, I'd be waiting until then anyway.

Competition goals are in limbo for now.  I will wait to see how my metabolism and overall strength is after the recovery from vocal chord surgery.  In the meantime, I am looking forward to hearing more about your health and fitness journeys.  Living a fit life means putting your health at the top of your priority list.  If you happen to enjoy the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle ( or any other competitive sport), remember that listening to your body when you need to slow down is important.  There will always be another bodybuilding event, another race, another MMA fight, another game.  But you only get one body!  If this blog is a blessing to you, please share it with others and leave feedback. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Soon...but not yet

It was not long ago that my coach, Layne Norton, recommend that I hold off competing to repair my metabolism. He did not feel that it was in my best interest to start dieting the excess body fat away at that time. In only three weeks (probably less time actually), I experienced 20-lbs of weight gain after my first competition season in which I placed high in all three shows.  I'd even won an overall Masters Figure title in my first show.  

The excess weight was brought on by a combination of binging post-competition and metabolic issues I'd created by following typical advice and published work of "gurus" in the bodybuilding world before hiring Layne. It was difficult to see all of the added weight after working so hard! I wanted to get lean again! Boy was I thankful for his caring guidance. 

I waited until my body was in a better place and then another journey began which was more challenging than before.  When I competed this past November, the only thing that really kept me from my ultimate goals was my own inconsistency.  I will take that over metabolic damage any day!!  

Over the past eight months I have not done the expected get-lean/stay lean dieting.  Some life events took precedence. There was zero free time to focus on competition or measuring food for months.  So, I just had to make sure I was getting my workouts in around personal training clients and taking care of family/friends who needed me. I don't regret it for a second! It would be a lie to say that I have been consistent and doing everything as recommended Between competition seasons. But I do not regret eating pizza with my best friend's children in the days following their dad's death, I do not regret taking that same friend out for dinner and a drink, I do not regret missing the gym and eating vending machine crap or fast food when I was in clinics and hospitals with my kids (cellulitis, influenza, broken bones, stitches, asthma, gastrointestinal troubles--mom stuff), I do not regret taking my kids to ihop for their birthdays while guessing whether macros for my egg white omelet and toast were under or over, I don't regret missing workouts to have time alone with my children to nurse broken hearts... It has been an extraordinarily challenging time and it is a blessing to have finally given myself permission to give myself a break. 

Don't think that I don't have my share of glum "I feel fat days!"  The truth is that I've had those off and on throughout my life since puberty-regardless of how big or small, lean or softer... In my opinion, most women have these from time to time.  The difference is that those moments do not dictate my peace or my sense of self-worth anymore. 

Whatever we do, we need to keep perspective!  My metabolism seems to be thanking me for this.  I'm heavier than I wish I was but have maintained and even lost weight eating twice what I was able to eat after my first competition season, there is fullness in my muscles that shocks me, and I'm recovering from intense workouts with great ease.  I have stayed injury free for a very long time and have greater knee and back stability than I did as a teenager even though I'm lifting very heavy weight!  

Now, life is getting calmer and thoughts of competing again have resurfaced. Someone recently told me that I don't have what it takes to bring a winning physique to a national stage because of my curviness and that even trying would be selfish for a mother of "so many kids"to do.  Well, guess kids and husband got fired up about that because they've always loved being a part of this process.  It's going to happen...soon!!

My goal is to bring my best-not only to the stage but also to the entire prep process.  I have seriously contemplated competition dates only to dismiss them soon thereafter.  So, I'm giving myself until the end if this semester (because algebra is kicking my but) to settle on a date and prepare for it. I'm not binging, but I'm also giving myself more edible liberties. The picture here is me 25lbs ago, two days before stepping on stage for the first time ever. The next photo shoot/stage will see me at least as lean but with fuller delts...and more confidence!

Join me in this journey! But before you do, buckle up because it's going to be a wild (and at times bumpy) ride!

Friday, May 10, 2013

What do you measure your self-worth by?

Like so many women, I daily fight the battle of the scale. There are moments when I can allow the slightest scale weight fluctuation to really mess with my head! Silly, I know...  There was a time when I'd have been too proud to admit to struggling with that. So why am I sharing this now? Well, it's because so many assume that competitors or other fitness professionals have an elitist attitude about their overall fitness levels or that they have overcome the body image issues so many women struggle with. That's understandable when we are only telling others about when the scale is down, when our training goals are reached, or when our diet is perfectly balanced.  But that can give others a false idea of who we really are, what really makes us tick, or where our hearts truly are.

I'm taking a big step today and putting my scale away. I just started taking creatine again and 
added more sodium in my diet (actually hard for me to take enough in because I forget to add more to my foods). After running out of creatine in December, I'd just not repurchased it til recently and then started to forget to take it. Additionally, becoming lax on drinking enough water was no help either. It all messed with my mindset when my weight fluctuated more than expected. I'm still staying on point with macros, but not worrying about the scale for a few weeks, until the next prep starts. Tape measuring weekly instead should be good enough to assess my progress and make any adjustments in my training program.

I certainly don't have it all together when it comes to believing in myself, but I've come a very long way. There was a time when I would not wear shorts in the gym out of fear that others may see the unwanted dimples in my thighs and negatively judge me for it. There was a time when I would eat desserts or burgers in hiding out of fear of what others would think of me if I didn't eat what others expected a trainer or competitor to eat.  Those days are over!  Praise God for that!  It took a while to see myself as good enough. It's a sad thing when women (or men for that matter) find themselves consumed with worry over how others will view them based on their external shell.  It may be considered shallow by others, but often it can be based on truly deep hurts or self-confidence issues that must be overcome.  It's less from being shallow and more from feeling that they truly have self-worth.
Learning to love myself for the woman I was designed to be took a long time. Honestly, it is a God thing and is an ongoing process. It dawned on me that loving my loved ones with my whole being is part of what makes me lovable. These people love me and they need me to love me too! My desire to see others encouraged and motivated in life's difficult journey makes me lovable. My dedication and work ethic, passed down to me from my grandparents and parents, was nurtured through my faith in God, and are part of what makes me, me!  My will to overcome trials and to use those experiences to to live life to its fullest are worthwhile. Once I embraced those realities, I realized that allowing the numbers on a scale or perceived physical imperfections to dictate my peace is just losing the opportunity to feel joy and to live life with true purpose.
So, in a few weeks, I'm going to start contest prep again.  There are Fall shows that I want to work hard for.  In order to stay on-point and have the right dietary and training recommendations, weekly weighing will be important.  When you see my updates which are likely going to seem purely physique focused, keep in mind that my chosen sport requires me to believe in myself, to give no less than 100% effort to my training, and to use the science of diet and exercise to maximize my efforts.  Reaching the physique goals require me to believe in myself and doing that healthfully is of great importance to me!  
My hope is that whoever reads this will spend some time thinking about the beautiful intangibles which make them who they are.  Seek out ways to make a difference in the lives of those you come in contact with, wherever that may be by being the best you! 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Learn from Setbacks. Don't quit because of them!

It's so easy to share the successes in hitting macros or progress pics which show muscles growing and fat stores diminishing...but what about if you're not there... Post comp in Nov, I returned to roller coaster dieting for a bit and really struggled even more than normal to get everything reigned in. Knowing that waiting til life got easier to start focusing again would mean I'd never get around to achieving my dreams. I started reverse dieting on my own and reached 285g carbs...I quit thinking I'd wait til I lost weight again to do that. So, at the same weight I was at 9months preggers with my fifth child, I determined only I could ruin my pro-card hopes and only I could make my elite physique goals become reality. I managed to reach the higher macros without any weight gain. After that, I decided to do a mini cut and dropped six pounds in two weeks still on more carbs than I ever was able to lose fat before. Here's where I realized my own weaknesses. I'm calling it a Eureka moment. This past week, I self-talked myself into more edible liberty than I should--right after seeing that my metabolism was on fire. A little ground was lost, but only on the scale. Discovering when I'm my weakest was important. I figured out that late nights and being alone really mess with my head. Being accustomed to being pulled in many directions between training clients and running all my kids around, sitting alone doing algebra homework late at night triggered something-the munchies. Having five kids to occupy my time, running around all the time...quiet/stillness feels incredibly strange, actually makes me feel a little anxious. There's no satisfaction in losing ground after doing well; so I'm refocused. Lessons learned? Use setbacks to learn something about yourself so that you can be better prepared and remember you're worth whatever effort is required to achieve your dreams.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Compassionate Competitor

Im posting this, hoping we all remember to be compassionate to others who may be risking their health in their quest to achieve and succeed in bodybuilding. I completely trust Layne's coaching. When I first hired Dr. Layne Norton, I had no clue how much I would learn about myself that would help me in other aspects of my life.

Layne's coaching style is one that is direct, firm, and honest while also being understanding, tender, and encouraging. Without a doubt, he would rather not take on a paying client than help them win a trophy if it means they would damage their metabolisms. That makes him a rare breed in the world of competitive bodybuilding. That being said, I'm often tempted to take drastic measures to lose weight instead of doing what I know is best. Thankfully, I fight that temptation and let good sense win. I haven't re-hired Layne yet for this off-season, but I printed every email he's ever sent me and have followed what I think he'd recommend.

I competed in November quite a bit softer/less lean than it takes to win (looking back, I wonder why I didn't do the bikini division). I'm glad I did not quit, but I knew I would not be lean enough. Inconsistencies did me in. To make matters worse, the second show I did this past competition season, I stepped on stage with the flu and stayed sick for a bit. Determined to stay on track-I told Layne I really (for the first time ever) did not even crave the celebratory post-competition binge meal. I just wanted to be healthy.

Two weeks later my ex-husband and his wife (she's become a beloved friend and she's an amazing step mom) separated. The very same day, my best friend's husband went missing and was found dead days later in the trunk of his car. Before I knew it, all of my focus was on helping my children who were falling apart, comforting/praying for my two best friends, and helping plan a funeral. I ate whatever was at my friend's home, ordered pizza since I didn't have time to cook, and grabbed food on the run. Then came Christmas... My weight skyrocketed and my desire to workout nearly disappeared. Life can throw you for a loop sometimes; that is okay. The important thing is that you don't lose focus of the things that truly matter like family and friends. I learned that in this process.

After things calmed down and normalcy returned, I reluctantly stepped on the scale. Knowing my weight had gone up, I knew it was time to address it before it got out of hand. Sure enough, I packed on the pounds. Fifteen pounds up and uncertain if I could regain my discipline, I was tempted to start doing hours of cardio and virtually drop carbs completely. I knew this was not healthy, but it was still tempting. Here I am, a personal trainer who wears spandex for work; surely my coworkers must be thinking negative things about me. And I didn't want my clients to think I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to diet and exercise... I'd list focus of what mattered; i struggled to give myself room to be human. See, that disordered thinking can plague so many people (especially competitors who have seen themselves in elite physical conditioning); it's only a problem if you give into the foolishness of dangerous extremes. On the other hand, it can help you learn to be compassionate toward others who walk in your shoes. I can't tell you how many women have encouraged me with their stories about working through body image issues, slow metabolism struggles, or worrying about what others think of them. Having come to the other side of this, I am certain that I am a better trainer/coach because of these experiences.

Now, some months have passed. My ex-husband and his wife are working on their marriage beautifully, and my kids are doing so much better. My best friend is mourning and I've learned to balance being a friend while taking care of myself too. My weight is still up a bit more, but I'm actually dropping weight with a lot more carbs than I'd have imagined. For example, I'm nearly at 300 carbs daily and dropped 2lbs this past week with only a minuscule amount of cardio. Slow and steady truly does win the race!

Now, we competitors often come across other competitors who frankly do not handle their post-competition rebounds well. Instead of remembering the difficulty of our own journey, we may be tempted to lecture or judge them. Some competitors do not rebound-ever; then they make sure the rest of us know it. We do not know the journey or circumstances of others. Just as many did not know what I was going through this past November and December, we may not know what they are going through. Let's learn to be supportive in a way which is void of condescension or judgment. You never know when one of those people may reach out to you when you are at a low or cheer you on when you are standing on stage holding your trophies.