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The adventures of a girl brave enough to step off the treadmill and into the weight room.

I'm Moving.....

By FigurePrincess · April 7, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Hi everyone! It seems I am getting serious enough about this blog idea to get my own hosted website.  Please come visit my blog in its new location at: www.figureprincess.com

Thank you for following me and for your continued support!

~Cara

There's No "Off" in Off-Season

By FigurePrincess · March 16, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

When my competition season came to a close last year, I was so excited to hear the words "Off-Season." I had dieted for the previous 37 weeks and the idea of keeping my diet clean but eating more carbs sounded like heaven. I knew I wanted to make a lot of gains in the four months that were to follow and I couldn't wait to get started.

In the first month we replaced  fish with steak and added in some sweet potatoes, rice, oats and black beans as carb sources. We only made a small jump in calories so my body didn't go into shock, but I did have a really hard time eating the extra food. It took me a couple weeks before I ever felt hungry when meal time came around.  Having those extra calories and carbs made an immediate difference in the gym though! I saw my strength bounce back quickly from competition time. We switched up my training style to fewer sets, lower rep ranges, and heavier weight to get my muscles growing. 

Subsequent months brought more challenging workouts and more calories. I was gaining muscle but the definition  was disappearing, my clothes were getting tight and although I was working hard and eating clean, I was starting to feel fat. Logically, I knew that this is just part of it, but there were days that I couldn't help but feel like I was undoing all of the hard work of the past year. People at my gym were noticing my weight gain too and after a few weeks of comments I contemplated getting a T-shirt that said "Back off, I'm bulking!"

None of this was made easier by the fact that my boyfriend, Adam, was prepping for his show in November. I swore he was burning fat just blinking and somehow it was all migrating to my hips and thighs.

One night, while staring at my food wishing I could skip a meal, Adam decided it was time for some tough love. I distinctly remember him telling me that I had a decision to make. I could either be a fit, skinny girl year-round and quit competing, I could spend the next few years doing mini-off seasons but only putting on small amounts of muscle, or I could suck it up and make as much gains as possible and trust that if I could drop the weight once, I could do it again, especially now that I had a coach.  He vowed that he'd support my decision no matter what but he couldn't watch me continue to cry and complain about "getting chubby." 

"Jerk" is one of the nicer things girls might say upon hearing something like this but to me it was a wake up call. I sat down and really thought about how much competing has changed my life for the better and what it would mean to quit. I simply couldn't. I'd come this far and I wanted it too much! I know I'm not the most genetically blessed for this sport but what I don't have in my DNA, I do have in determination. That weekend, I began investing in an off-season wardrobe and reminded myself to enjoy all this food because these months of feasting would be over before I knew it.  I allowed myself to see some of the humor in the weight gain. When someone would joke about comparing abs, I'd say "That's too easy, so let's see who can look more pregnant."  Overall, I was learning to trust the process and know that taking a big risk (which was only a risk in my own head) could reap big rewards.

In the end I put on 29 lbs, but my coach estimates that I'll compete nearly 10 lbs heavier than last year. Now that I've started prep again I am starting to peel away that cocoon I've been hiding in. I have made visible improvements in my upper body, particularly my shoulders and back. Within the first two weeks I started seeing that long lost muscle definition again and with each passing week I am more and more thankful that I stuck to it. I truly believe that off-season is where your true dedication and strength is tested. You have to train just hard, if not harder, and yet unlike prep, you don't look leaner and better every week. You simply have to believe in yourself and keep charging on. Prep is more about revealing what you've worked so hard to gain throughout the rest of the year. 

Now that I've survived my first off-season, I'm just anxious to shed the last of my off season insulation and bring a better physique to the stage this year!

 

The Wall

By FigurePrincess · March 12, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Many athletes are familiar with the term "hitting the wall."  It is perhaps most commonly used in distance running to refer to the point at which a runner's body literally seizes up and it feels like they can't take even one more step. They may know that their body is capable of completing the distance, but at that moment it becomes nearly impossible. According my marathoner friends, this takes a great toll on the psyche in addition to being physically painful to try pushing through.

Runners are not alone in this kind of experience. Any athlete who dedicates themself to their sport can reach a point either during training or competition where they feel they can no longer go on.

 It happened to me on Monday.  It was leg day and although the workout is brutal, its my favorite training day of the week. Unfortunately, once I got to the gym, some of the excitement had worn off but I was still determined to make the best of it. I made it through my first exercise (2 high rep sets of leg extensions) and moved to the squat rack. I loaded the weight I had done last week but could barely do half a set. I tried to stay positive, dropped to a lighter weight and pushed through. I thought my diet changes for the week were having an affect and tried not to worry. Soon my focus was slipping and before I knew it, my mind had wandered to a completely different zip code.  Usually when this happens I give myself a pep talk about how these are the sessions that count, the ones that seperate the winners from the runners up. I normally snap out of it, up the volume on my iPod, and hit it hard, but this time was different. This time the weight wouldn't move.  I had hit the wall. I tried another exercise, then another but it was all with the same result.  I was so completely discouraged that I did the unthinkable....I gave up. Cara 0, Wall 1.

Later that night I tried to analyze what caused my strength to decline...my diet had changed that week, I didn't get to have my intra-workout protein drink anymore, I had been worn out from the previous weekend, etc. Those sound like pretty good reasons, but they were merely excuses. The truth of the matter is that it was all in my head. Despite the need for a physical capacity to lift weight, the majority of it is mental.  That night I let doubt, insecurity, and pride chip away at my mind, and it didn't take long before my physical ability crumbled along with it.

Now, rather than focus on how it happened in the first place, I'm taking a look at the things I do on the days I don't hit the wall. Aside from keeping a much better focus on my training, here are some of the strategies I'd been subconsiously using:

1. HAVING FUN - This is critical. The day that training stops being something you want to do will be the day the Wall will appear. Enjoy the time you spend working towards your goals. For that brief time let go of everything else you worry about in a given day and focus on your dreams. They deserve as much attention as anything else you do!

2. MIXING IT UP - Tired of your routine? Change your rest periods. Perform your traditional workout in a circuit. Look for alternate exercises or modifications that can breathe new life into your training sessions. http://exrx.net/Lists/Directory.html is a fantastic resource for new ideas.

3. SEEING SUCCESS - Goals, not matter how big or small, are what keep us going. Whether it's to lose 5 more pounds,  drop a dress size, win a figure competition, or increase your max bench press, keep the idea of reaching your goal fresh in your mind as you train. When I'm tired and really struggling to finish a set, I like to count down the last 5 reps as places I would win if it were a figure competition. It never fails that I make it to first place! Sometimes I can even do an extra rep...which counts as winning overall!

4. ALLOWING TIME TO RECOVER - Remember that recovery is as important as training. Your body needs rest to rebuild muscle, repair connective tissue and to recover from central nervous system fatigue. When we push ourselves without allowing sufficient recovery time we're practically begging for a wall to appear.

5. REPEATING A MANTRA - Athletes have all sorts of creative sayings to get psyched up. Ronnie Coleman is known for two of my favorites "Light weight, Baby!" and "Ain't nuthin' but a peanut!"  Another great one is credited to Lance Armstrong, "Pain is temprorary, quitting is forever."  Find some that work for you and feel free to yell 'em out loud next time you need some extra adrenaline! 

Armed with these realizations, I was back in the gym the very next day, with my mind in the right place (1st place!) and digging deep for one hell of a shoulder workout!

What are some of the tips and tricks you use to either avoid hitting the wall or to get around it once it appears??

 

Competition Countdown - 12 weeks out

By FigurePrincess · March 8, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Ok, this last Saturday was the 12 week mark. I was really happy with my progress pictures this week and can see my glutes and hamstrings starting to catch up. Like many women, it's typically the last place I lose fat from and the first place it comes back. Thankfully some modifiations in my cardio routine have  jump-started the slimming process!

The big changes for this week are that my two steak meals are gone and have been replaced with three meals of tilapia. This of course happens the day after I buy up all the flank steak at the grocery store, but hopefully it will be back in the plan at some point. Until then, I'll just bury it in the back of the freezer so I don't miss it so much. Aside from that, things are staying consistent. I'm still getting ample amounts of protein along with oats, sweet potato and fibrous green veggies every day. Training sessions are still solid and I'm continuing to see some strength gains week to week.  Also, it's FINALLY starting to warm up outside so I'll be able to do my morning cardio with my dog outdoors. It's hard to drag myself to the gym at 4:45 each morning when I have to see this:

 

This little guy is in for a big surprise!!

 

Every day is what you choose to make it, so make it a great week everyone!

 

Competition Countdown - 13 Weeks Out

By FigurePrincess · March 8, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

I'm 3 weeks into my contest prep, and have about 13 weeks left to go. I feel great, and although I miss chocolate, I haven't had too many other food cravings. I get to eat my favorite carbs - oats and sweet potatoes - everyday, along with occasional cheat meals. This past weekend I splurged on some really tasty mexican food and may have eaten my weight in freshly made guacamole.

My energy level is staying up and I'm still seeing strength gains in the gym.  I'm using a pre-workout drink (Jack3d), along with Kre-Alkalyn and Glutamine,  During my training sessions I take whey protein and BCAA's. Post workout, I take additional Glutamine and ZMA before bed. I've noticed the ZMA, along with my new "white noise" machine have really helped my sleep but also might be contributing to the really bizarre dreams I've had lately. I'm not sure it's true but I've heard that dreams are a sign of getting good sleep, and I  DO know that sleep is when your muscles recover, repair and grow so I'll take it all as a good sign.

2010 Competiton Plans

By FigurePrincess · February 22, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

My off season is officially over! I worked hard, ate big and lifted heavy to put on some muscle mass after the 2009 season.  Now it's time to peel away some of this insulation and see the results of my efforts!

This year I will be competing in three NPC figure competitions:

  • Hub City Fitness Quest - Jackson, TN (May 29, 2010)
  • Battle at the River - Chattanooga, TN (June, 12, 2010)
  • Southeastern Gold's Classic - Gadsden, AL (June 19, 2010)

 

This is certainly not a solo project and I owe so much to so many. This year I am training under the guidance of Tony Haines, who I worked with for the last few weeks of my Chattanooga prep last year as well as for my off-season.  I am also very blessed to be sponsored by my favorite supplement website, Get Ripped Nutrition. Along with my wonderfully supportive network of family and friends, I owe a great debt of thanks to my love, Adam, who created a monster by talking me into that first competiton.

I can't even describe how excited I am to get this season underway. I look forward to taking the stage and really hope I'll have some hardware to show off soon!! Thanks to everyone for your support!!

 

From Fat to Figure Competitor - Part 1

By FigurePrincess · February 21, 2010 · 0 Comments ·

Whenever I talk to people about being a figure competitor, those who aren't familiar with the sport always ask, "How on earth did you get into something like that." Well, the story goes like this... It started with a desire to get back in shape for my 30th birthday. I was naturally skinny growing up, but excessive consumption of pizza during my college years put my physique into an extended hibernation. Although, never obese, I was unhappy with how I looked. On top of that, I felt awful and was sick all the time. In 2002 I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and chronic pain disorder. Since I could barely walk up a flight of stairs, I was given multitudes of prescriptions and was told that one day, I might get things under control enough to exercise.

One day?!? I couldn't live with that. I was miserable. and the drugs only served to make me sleep away my pain. Something had to change. I began taking a gentle yoga class for people with arthritis at the local YMCA and immediately started to see benefits. Within a year I had advanced to a power yoga class and had taken up mountain biking and kayaking. I hadn't lost much weight but I was MUCH more mobile. I graduated college in 2003, began working for a major food company and was transferred to Kentucky in June of 2004. This fresh start in a warmer climate got me motivated to start losing the weight. I started keeping a food journal and began the Couch to 5K program. 5K's led to 10K's and soon I thought I'd have 1/2 marathons under my belt too. I quickly became addicted to running.

So how did I decide to step away from the treadmill? Stay tuned....

Gift Ideas for the Physique Competitor

By FigurePrincess · December 21, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

Knee-deep in the holiday spirit, I've started compiling a list of gift ideas perfect for the Bodybuilding, Fitness, or Figure competitor. Many of these would be wonderful as pre/post- competition presents, birthday gifts, holiday presents or my favorite....just because. Shopping for any fitness enthusiast can be a challenge. With so many products on the market, everyone has their personal preferences when it comes to supplements, training equipment, methodologies, etc. If you want to include these kinds of items in your gifts, I highly recommend doing some sneaky investigating first. :-)

Help capture and preserve competition memories by:
* Pre-loading a digital photo frame with competition day pictures
* Make a shadowbox containing memorabilia from their show. Items such as pictures, competitor number, ticket stubs, and results or scoring sheets can help to create the perfect addition to their trophy display.
*A photo shoot just before or after a competition to capture the hard earned results of dieting and training.

Preparing to compete is expensive! I can't think of a competitor who wouldn't appreciate help with the costs of:
*Coaching fees for contest prep or off season diets and training.
*Gym membership dues
*Competing organization membership dues
*Contest Entry Fee

Other items that make great stocking stuffers or pre-contest gift basket:<stong></stong><stong></stong><stong></stong><stong></stong>
*Resistance Bands - These are easy to lose back stage and it's always great to have a few spares
*Flip Flops
*Fitness themed jewelry - check out www.gymgems.com for some great ideas!
*Books or Magazines
*Tanning Kit and/or Posing Oil
*MP3 player or playlists
*Makeup bag, brushes, or M.A.C. Gift Card
*Snacks such as Almonds, Protein Bars, Gum, Mints, Trail Mix, etc.
*Manicure/Pedicure Gift Card
*Gift Certificate for Massage

And what's the Number 1 gift you can give to your favorite competitor???   Your love and support :)

Happy Holidays!

The results are in...

By FigurePrincess · December 16, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

This past weekend I participated in my first powerlifting competition and I am now the proud owner of a cute little deadlifting trophy! Although I lifted the least amount of weight, I took second place with a best lift of 250 pounds. For those unfamiliar with powerlifting this is how it works:

Each competitor gets three chances to lift the most that they can. Scoring is based not on raw weight lifted but on relative strength which takes into consideration things such as body weight and gender. A great resource for and explanation of relative strength and its calculations can be found here: http://tsampa.org/training/scripts/relative_strength/

My strategy was to lift a good amount that I knew I could get in the first round, lift my current personal best in the second round and if I got that then I'd go for a new PB in the third round. It's a bad idea to go all out with the first lift because you can only try the same amount or go up in weight for subsequent lifts. I opened with 215 lbs, lifted 235 for my second attempt and finished out with 250 on my third. I'm pretty sure I could have pulled more weight on that last attempt but since there was over 200 pounds separating me from a first place win, I decided to be content with a new personal best!

Filed in: Powerlifting

What? Me? Powerlift?

By FigurePrincess · December 11, 2009 · 0 Comments ·

I have only been lifting for about two years now but my energy has been focused on competing in NPC Figure events. Figure girls seldom talk about how much they lift, we just all know that our muscle definition didn't come from a 3 pound pink dumbbell and a home workout DVD.  Having completed my first competition season this past July, I made the decision to take the remainder of the year to build muscle for the 2010 season.  Off season can be a struggle for many. You work just as hard as the prep season but instead of looking leaner and more defined, you see a softer physique and just ahve to trust that there is more muscle underneath waiting to be revealed for the next season. For me, shifting my focus to increasing how much weight I can lift helps to distract my mind from thinking of the weight I'm gaining.

Recently I've considered trying to prove that I can lift a few pounds more than the next girl, and have decided to enter a local powerlifting meet. Events typically consist of Bench Press, Squat, and Deadlift with the option of competing in all three or single events. Since it's my first meet, I think I will only enter my best event: the deadlift. Hopefully this time tomorrow I will be dusting off a place on the mantle for my first trophy!  

 

Filed in: Powerlifting

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