Barbells and Beakers

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Mini Goals

Lately I’ve been setting a lot of “mini goals” to keep my focused through prep and beyond. I’m not talking about my powerlifting goals or aesthetic goals – those are self explanatory. Lately I’ve set out on some performance based goals that are pretty independent of things I’ve done in the past. For example, pull ups, weighted triceps dips, etc. These will help my bigger picture goals but also make me feel like a badass.

Yesterday, I hit one of my goals.

tumblr_ncl1rdtBQo1qck3nso1_500It was my first time attempting it and I was surprised I got it! Of course, as I practice these I want to eventually straighten my legs completely and not hunch my shoulders so much. Those sort of body weight calisthenic exercises have been all the rage lately and I’m interested to try out a few!

Heart Rate Training: THE BEST

As I’ve said before, HIIT is my preferred way to train cardio. If I can spend 30 minutes throwing the barbell around and never once stepping foot on the treadmill I am 100% happy. Hell, I’ll voluntarily do box jumps before I get on any sort of machine.

However, lately I’ve been feeling like…behind. Like I’ve been putting in this extra work for my HIIT routines and not seeing much progress. My body has stalled, my weight loss has stalled, and while I look great I’m not where I want to be for my show. At 3.5 weeks out this is always startling to me. No, my diet hasn’t been 100% – but a lot of that is because I’ve found myself saying “What’s the use?” All in all, I’ve been feeling discouraged.

Then I was reading something the other day and realized that I’d been going about this all wrong. See, I’ve been doing “baby HIIT.” I’ll “sprint” for 40 seconds, rest for 20, etc. and do this for 15-20 minutes and it’s whatever. Last year this was the best way for me to lose fat. This year? Nothing. It’s because I’m not really getting to that high intensity level, and it’s my own fault.

Bring in: my heart rate monitor. I sat down and figured out my max heart rate using this calculator. Once I did that, I figured out 75% of my max heart rate. It’s 140 bpm, based on my age and gender. When I’ve been doing my “HIIT” I’ve been getting my HR up to about 145 – that’s not max effort! I’m not saying I should be all the way up to 188 every time, but for a HIIT workout 145 is kinda wimpy. I vowed not to let this become the norm so I’ve changed the way I do my HIIT.

Now, I’ll do the 40 seconds of sprints, then rest until my HR is down to 75% of max, or 140. Then I’ll sprint again for 40 seconds, and repeat. I’ve only started training this way this week, so I’m not sure if it’s working, but I have a feeling it will. Why? Because when it comes to cardio I am a notorious slacker. If you tell me to do an hour of cardio I will get on a stairmaster, put it to a low setting and watch TV for an hour. My powerlifting training taught me to rest a lot between sets, which is great for strength, but not so great for the fat burning effects of HIIT. ESPECIALLY when my HR isn’t getting high enough to do any good.

I’ll see how this heart rate training goes and try to implement it in the off season. I mean, what good is a strong girl if she has no endurance, right?!

So…What Do You DO? (Bodybuilding)

Concerned friends and family members are always confused as to what I’m training for. Why do I go to the gym twice a day? Why do I cook 500 pounds of chicken in one sitting? What does 8 weeks out mean and what is a “cheat meal”? There’s no easy way to describe it, so normally I just smile and say, “I’m 8 weeks away from wearing a bikini and heels on stage with a bunch of other girls – this is what needs to be done!”

But it’s not that simple. Let me break it down as best (and easy!) as I can.

What is it called?

When I tell people about what I do, I refer to it as “Body building,” though to be technical I’m a figure competitor. If you think of a bodybuilding show as having 4 “levels” (I’m talking about your traditional NPC show here), I’m a “Level 2.” I’ll explain.

Level One-  Bikini

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Bikini athletes, like the beautiful Nikki Blackketter above from NikkiBNation, are the “level 1″ of body building. These girls are slim and athletic looking, but not overbearingly so. They have smooth lines and firm bodies. They don’t have a ton of muscle and they’re not terribly lean. Their bikini’s show off their glutes, their poses focus on their small waist and proportionate upper body. They are “level 1″ because, in the scheme of the shows, they’re the least muscular. They still lift weights and do cardio and count macros etc., but they’re expected to be lean without being “cut.”

Level Two – Figure

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Figure athletes are what I consider a “level 2.” Above is Ava Cowen, who’s considered one of the top figure athletes in the game.These girls have more muscle than bikini, and that muscle is more prominent due to their lower body fat. They have strong, wide backs that are showcased in their poses. Additionally, they have to do a number of poses that show off these different muscles. Since they’re leaner than bikini they require more conditioning, and since they’re more muscular they have stricter diets to maintain this muscle. Judges like a strong back, good shoulders, and symmetry. Posing also focuses on the “X” shape – that is a wide upper body, small waist and proportionate lower body.

Level 3 – Physique

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Physique is figure, but with more muscle and even leaner. Where figure athletes should have lines, physique athletes have striations. Their posing routine is more fluid and very similar to mens body building. The focus is their conditioning, size, and vascularity. They even have a 30 second routine to music much like mens bodybuilding does. Pictured above is Dana Linn Bailey, who’s considered the queen of physique. She’s won the Olympia (the Holy Grail of bodybuilding) in physique multiple times. These women are truly dedicated, their conditioning and diet is spotless. As you’ve probably guessed, the higher you go up in “levels” the harder the look is to achieve.

Level 4 – Bodybuilding

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The final level of body building is body building itself. Often when I mention bodybuilding to the average person this is what they ultimately think of, mostly due to the greats like Arnold and Lou. Above is my coach Judy Gaillard, an IFBB pro women’s body builder. As you can see, they are even more muscular than physique and even more defined. The ideal is big, symmetrical muscles that are easily visualized from one muscle to the next. They, too, use similar poses as mens bodybuilding and have a 30 second pose to music routine that they do.

That’s a simple, quick and dirty break down of the 4 “levels” of body building!

Total Body Championship 2014

Hello all – what a whirlwind of a weekend!

First, my senior “project” was on Friday right before my show. Basically, you spend 2 weeks (more than that, really) writing a paper and preparing a presentation about a case you saw during your time in veterinary school. You then present it in front of the faculty and students – anywhere from 10 to 300, depending on how many show up. I had a packed audience! I wasn’t too nervous for it, except the entire tanning process had me orange and deodorant-less. That part was sketchy. Overall, I got a pretty good review for my project (I did mine on Coccidioides Mycosis in the canine – osseous form if you’re interested). My entire family flew in from Arizona to watch that AND go to my show! I was very lucky!

Getting ready to present my topic, just chilling with my mom and boyfriend before everyone showed up. I tried to hide my tan well with some tights and a long sleeved dress, I don't think I looked too bad!

After that, I showed my family around the very, very small town before heading north to the location of the show. We went to check ins (where I magically gained 1/4 and inch-  when did this happen?!), tanned me some more, ate at Outback (Everyone complains about peak week, but the carb-up and ability to eat red meat and fish every day is really, REALLY up my alley!) and then met with my coach. I knew I wasn’t as lean as I wanted to be, but my coach was supportive as always. Some of the other girls on my team commented on my muscles and I had the warm fuzzies after that!

The next morning I woke up at 5am and started on my hair. I used this tutorial about Victoria’s Secret hair and I think it turned out pretty well! I applied the last of my tan and wasn’t happy with how dark I was, I also had a less than helpful assistant. Ahem. Then it was a light breakfast of carbs and protein and off to the morning check in!

For the second show in a row I pulled a “repeat digit number.” Last time I was 66, this time I was 33. I wasn’t sure if it was some type of omen, but I thought it was cool.

Figure was towards the end of the morning show and was at the bottom of second call outs. I’m not going to lie – I was a little disappointed. I KNOW shows are about how conditioned you are, but I thought my muscle would have almost made up for it? Conditioning beats size every day. I was also upset because that 1/4 inch I came in versus my last show put me as the shortest girl in a class of 10, instead of the tallest girl in a class of 5. You see why I was a little upset by the entire process? These things are no one’s fault (especially not my own) and I tried not to let it affect me.

10548107_10203973437969729_5585720118210173783_oAfter the morning show I met up with my boyfriend, his grandma and brother, and my entire family and we went to get lunch. Another great thing about my coach is that she’s pro burger and fries between morning and night shows. Hella thumbs up from me! We went to the Neon Pig, a small grocery that had rave reviews, and I got a buffalo burger. My west coast family didn’t understand what a grocery was and found it fascinating that people were coming to buy their cuts of meat and veggies from a place that also made food. Sure, we have cafe’s inside of restaurants back home, but not quite like a grocery. Then, of course, I passed the hell out at the hotel.

The night show was awesome because figure was one of the first classes up! That meant less time to wait until I could devour the Gigi’s Cupcakes my family got me. I did not place top 5, so when they called that I ditched the rest of the show to EAT with my family! I did stay to watch my amazing coach and her husband do their posing routines, which I’m always in love with.

The results came out a few days later and I learned I was 9th out of 10 girls. I was a little disappointed (okay, a lot!) but it did light a fire under my ass for the Dexter Jackson, which is in 8 weeks. So the prep begins again!

Front pose, one of the mandatory poses

As always, I'm in love with my back!

Competition Tans

Last night I started the tanning process for my competition. A lot of people wait until the day before their show and get a professional to spray them, which is a great idea for your first show. Just make sure these people know what they’re doing because it can end really, really poorly.

My first show was almost a year ago exactly and I used the tanning salon recommended by the show. The problem? This was the first body building show in Northern Mississippi EVER so none of the tanning salons were equipped with the know-how on competition tans. They didn’t know how dark to make girls, nor did they have the correct technique. My tan ended up very splotchy and ended with me calling my coach crying because I looked like I had leopard spots. I ended up having to go back in to get it fixed, which is way too much stress the night before your first show. I ended up being almost the lightest girl on stage and I was docked for it.

My second show I worked with a coach that recommended doing the tan yourself. She gave great hand outs that my previous one didn’t have (exfoliate with non-oil based exfoliants, shave EVERYTHING, no soaps/deodorant, etc) and it made the process a lot easier. Not only that, it was WAY cheaper. Paying someone cost $100, but I’ve seen the real professionals (Liquid Spray Tanz, etc.) cost upwards of $150-$300. They do a great job and take out the guess work (and do touch ups on show day) but most of us don’t have that cash lying around.

My coach recommends a step-wise tanning fashion where you slowly apply your tan over a few days. Not only that, but I paid $80 for 2 shows worth of Pro Tan and 5 shows worth of Jana Tan. WAY cheaper than the spray job, and for my second show I was one of the darker girls on stage.

Do what works for you. If you’re getting your tan sprayed, make sure these people have done it before. It’s so stressful to be there the night before a show and have a shitty tan or not be dark enough. You WILL get marked down if you’re not dark enough.

As for spraying your face – I’d say it’s 50/50. I personally do it because I’m so pale and putting on foundation that dark makes me look horrible. I don’t do the same number of coats, just enough to get my face within a shade or 3 of my body. Others don’t at all.

As for bed tanning – also at your own discretion. Competitions tans are basically body paint, you can get as dark as you want if you just keep layering it up. One of my coaches refuses to tan, the other is a tan-a-holic, so even in the industry there’s variety. Go with what makes you comfortable.