Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding doesn’t define me, but it most certainly is a very big part of who I am as a woman, an athlete, an entrepreneur, a fighter, a hustler, a survivor. The path I have walked my entire life is one that is paved with very difficult challenges which I had to work hard to conquer… From Karate to Ballet to a Mechanical Engineering degree to Bodybuilding to taking up CrossFit… each of these things involve putting in a lot of work… countless hours upon hours of focused, detail oriented work.

My first karate class, I learned how to do a front kick… just a front kick which in Japanese is mae geri keage (snapping front kick). For one hour, I practiced that kick.  I was 7 years old and that was my first real taste of life.  What an experience.  Sometimes in life we have to do one single thing over and over and over until it is perfect and then what happens next? Well, do it on the other leg of course! and after that? do it faster, do it while transitioning from another stance, do it while hitting a still target, do it while hitting a moving target… So, you get my point right? and this is how my life has unfolded before me.

Bodybuilding was very similar for me. I started lifting 20 years ago. I studied magazine articles and stared in awe at the fit women I would see in the gym.  I had a long way to go, but I knew it would take a dedicated effort and I couldn’t miss scheduled gym sessions.  One summer that I was home from college, I used to walk  a few miles to the gym if I missed the bus or couldn’t get a ride.  I would be totally drenched in sweat and exhausted by the time I got to the gym, but that didn’t matter to me.  I wanted to look like Monica Brant and would stop at nothing to get there.  For those of you who may not know who Monica Brant is, she is the most photographed woman in fitness.  She has been featured on more magazine covers and in more advertisements than any other woman in the world of bodybuilding and fitness.  Please, allow me to share THE PHOTO that kicked my butt into high gear…

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So, I ripped this photo out of a magazine and taped it onto my wall.  This was my motivation then and I still absolutely adore her physique to this day.

I will never forget my boyfriend at the time saying to me, “You know, you have a really good shot at looking like Monica some day.  Your body types are similar.  Even though she is taller than you, your structure is almost the same.”…. Are you kidding me? That was all I needed to hear.  The bodybuilding addict was born!

For years, I would lift weights 5-6 days per week… I did a little cardio, but not much and if I only had time for weights or cardio, but not both… I always chose the weights.  It was a love affair between me and the weights, especially once I started to see results.

Now, I still love my weights, but a few years back I did start to notice that I wasn’t as enthusiastic about my training.  I was bored working out alone and I was not enjoying staring at myself in the mirror every which way I looked in the gym. At this time, I started dabbling in other types of training such as Boxing, Powerlifting, Yoga and CrossFit.  The latter of this list has really captured my heart recently.  I love the constant new challenges and I love working out with a supportive group… but don’t get me wrong, I will always be a bodybuilder at heart.  So, while I may not train like the bodybuilder I once was, it is a very big part of who I am.  Right now, my fitness goals are different… and that’s ok.

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3 months

My transition into CrossFit has been interesting and exciting.  The perfectionist in me has such high expectations, high standards, and a relentless drive to not only succeed but excel.  The 20 years of bodybuilding I once loved and adored have made this transition very challenging… I have a lot of stiff muscles and joints with a limited range of motion.  So I suppose some of you are wondering where did things change.  When did I walk away from my romance with bodybuilding? And what is it about the controversial sport of CrossFit that I like so much?

Well, it all started with a promise I made to a friend over 3 years ago.  She was a former cardio queen who, in her quest to find a new challenge, found CrossFit and got hooked!  Ironically, I know the owner of the affiliate location.  So, I joined her a handful of times, but it just didn’t grab me.  I was still hung up on my weight and what I looked like. A lot of the movements were challenging for me and my health was not 100% after competing so many times.  I also was not sure how to incorporate that style of training into my bodybuilding training split.

Fast forward to July 2015… Things started to fall into place for me with my health and I gave CrossFit another chance.  The first workout was FILTHY FIFTY which is one of the brand’s well-known workouts.  Although it was brutal, I had a lot of fun.  When I was able to join my friend, we would have a blast.  In fact, I liked it so much, by the time March 2016 rolled around, I rearranged my schedule so that I could attend WODs (Workout of the Day) regularly.

After today’s WOD, I was sitting with my friend talking about where I struggled during our workout and what I need to improve.  The owner asked what we were chatting about and I clued him in as to how my cleans suck and the main issue is upper body tightness  (which we all know I’m working on daily).

He said, “Well, you’ve only been coming here on a consistent basis for about 3 months… You gotta be patient.”

He’s right!

It’s the same thing I tell my clients… The body will only do but so much and sometimes you just have to give it time to adjust, to change.

Everyday there is a new challenge for me to tackle.  My weaknesses are exposed and nag me, but my strengths are equally present and give me a fantastic sense of accomplishment when I conquer!  I love turning a weakness into a strength, so facing these challenges during workouts does not discourage me.  Some things are improving faster than others… I just have to keep working hard and get better. NEVER GIVE UP!

Brief Look Back

My last time on stage was in 2013. It was a roller coaster of a year for me as I made a huge career change, said goodbye to my favorite car (it died on me after 10 years), and I made my IFBB Pro Figure Debut… What a ride! These pics are some points along the way… April in the top left, November in the bottom right.  22 weeks and 25 lbs difference.

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This show was my first show as a Pro and might turn out to be my last.  Although one never knows what the future holds, it is safe to say that going through one more competition preparation might do some major damage to my health.  In 2010, I earned my pro status at the Team Universe show held in Hackensack, NJ.  It was a momentous day and I really put my heart and soul into making my dream come true… What unfolded in the next few weeks post show was a nightmare I thought I would never experience.  Extreme water retention, weight gain, cravings, gastrointestinal issues, irregular periods, aching joints, exhaustion… I went into hiding and hated leaving my apartment for anything.  I had done major damage to myself by overtraining, undereating, and doing way too much cardiovascular exercise… 3 hours per day, 7 days per week for 9 weeks straight… No complex carbohydrates, too much protein, very low-fat… DISASTER!

I worked with several doctors and hired a coach based out of Canada to help get me on track.  We had success and after 6 months of working together, I thought I could try things on my own for a while, which I did successfully.  By fall 2012, when I made the decision to change careers and put an action plan together, I had gotten my body to a place where I wasn’t hating myself anymore, but I was trying very hard to continue working towards the body, the image, the shape that I recognize… the one I feel comfortable in.

Fast forward about 8 months… Now I’m a Personal Trainer working at a gym, running my online business Fit by Tiana, and coaching athletes with their stage presentations at local competitions.  It felt like maybe I could saddle up and compete one more time. Maybe documenting my experience on social media would help build my following and also show clients, friends and supporters how transparent I am… which would ultimately help my business long-term.

So, I jumped into another show prep with the help of a different coach.  We took things slow at first, not a ton of cardio, eating a lot of food, training very heavy weights… A recipe for success, if you will.  I knew this could be dangerous… being as I had already experienced countless doctor visits, MRIs, lab tests, detoxes, etc… I made a deal with myself….

“If I start to feel shitty at any point during this process, I will drop out of the show”

What do you think happened??? 🙂 Yup… I felt fine…. all the way until I was about 3 weeks out.  Can you imagine preparing for 19 weeks and suddenly

… you look 5 months pregnant after every meal?

… most meals make you nauseous?

… you break out in hives or have severely dry skin?

… your energy plummets (like way more than you’ve ever felt before) you can barely lift your arms or keep your eyes open?

… you want to drop out of the show?….. but…… you don’t….

I went through with the competition… not feeling well… not looking my best… not confident… and ashamed of myself… for something completely out of my control.  My body was not happy with me… and here I was having flashbacks and reliving similar bad experiences from 2010.

Was there glory in finishing the process? yes… absolutely! Did my business pick up after the show? yes… it did.  Did I secretly hate myself again for being foolish? YES!

Those few minutes on the stage were glorious in some ways… but the price I paid was not.  So, while I am very proud of what I have accomplished, and I miss the stage very much… I know my purpose is not to compete.. but rather to help other people who want to compete and to aid them in not making the same mistakes I made.  I recently was told by an old acquaintance that she felt competing was “completely self-serving” and “nothing good comes out of it”.  I would have to disagree wholeheartedly.  I learned so much about myself through every single show I competed in from 2000 to 2013… and I would not trade that knowledge for the world.  My clients are better served because of my personal experiences, good and not so good.  The simple fact is no one forces anyone to do anything… we all make choices in life and we need to own them.

Eating Clean May Not Get You Lean

Everybody thinks they “Eat Clean” and some that “eat clean” feel it’s pointless because they do not see results.  That term is used too often and means something different to every person you ask.  For some people, not drinking alcohol on weekdays or not having any dessert after dinner is what they consider eating clean.  For others, they might follow a plan that is gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb, paleo, or some other type of dietary lifestyle and that is what those people view as eating clean. Again, too vague of a term to define.

If you want results, you need to be accountable.  First, establish your goal(s).  Are you looking to lose some body fat? Do you want to perform better when you go to your Crossfit box? Would you like to add some muscle to your body?

After you determine your goals and determine which type of nutrition plan you want to follow (if you are not hiring a Nutritionist or Coach) you should examine your current intake so you can make adjustments where necessary.  Keep some type of log… use a journal or one of the many free smart phone apps that will not only keep a log of your food intake, but also break down all of the macronutrients and micronutrients.  I tend to go for the latter of the two.

Few more simple tips that will help you dial in on your nutrition…

Make a list prior to going grocery shopping – this will help you stick to the new plan and not buy snacks/foods that you should avoid.

Prep food in advance – I’m not big on making an entire week’s worth of food, but I do like to have enough prepared food in my refrigerator to last 2 or 3 days.

Pack and bring your food with you in a cooler if you’re away from the house for several hours – Some people might view this as extreme, but if you want to be sure to eat on time and avoid impulsive eating, having your own food is the best option.

One more thing… When you do embark on a new Nutrition plan… I strongly suggest sticking to the plan 100% for 2 weeks before determining that something isn’t working and making any changes.  COMPLIANCE is usually the biggest issue for people… and it doesn’t matter how flawless a plan is, if the individual is not following said plan.

All or Nothing

That is my personality… it is my way.  I loathe mediocrity and laziness.  That doesn’t mean I demand 100% uptime all day and night.  Everyone needs down time, of course. But when I venture into something new, I dive right in and do a lot of homework.  Yoga is my latest addition, and I must admit, this is one that is staying long-term.  It is one month into my practice and I am in love with my journey thus far.  Of course, there is so much I don’t know… like the names of poses… but I follow along in class very well and having a good sense of body alignment/positioning, we call it proprioception in Personal Training, has truly helped me cruise along.

I am still lifting weights and doing HIIT cardio 3-4 times per week, but the Yoga is really my priority at this time.  Some days, I do both types of exercise, and it has been really interesting.

I implore you to try something out of your comfort zone, even if only temporarily… You just never know, there could be something you wind up truly enjoying… Go for it.

Yoga – The Beginning

2015 started out with some interesting twists and turns pertaining to my health.  I managed to keep things under wraps for the most part and only shared what I was going through with a handful of friends, clients and family.  Rather than get into all of the details, I will just say that the worst is behind me now and I am on the road to recovery, Thank Goodness!  During the days that I was home resting, I realized that it was time for me to take action with one of the goals I set for myself for the Year 2015…. Start practicing YOGA.  Over all the years that I have studied Dance, Karate, Bodybuilding, Strength Training and Powerlifting, I have not spent much time taking care of my Mind/Body and stretching out all of the tightness I created.

I have taken a handful of Bikram Yoga classes, which are the classes conducted in the heated studios, as well as some Hatha Yoga at the gym where I work.  So far, I am loving the way I feel.  It is rejuvenating to say the least.  I am more clear, more at peace and more complete.  I will continue to share my experiences, observations, and anecdotes as I see fit.  Thank you for being a part of my journey.

 

NAMASTE

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Photo Shoot DOs

Your photo shoot is approaching, it’s your first time working with a photographer… Here are some things to consider:

Several weeks in advance

  1. Book the shoot – Confirm the date and meeting time.  Be sure if you are doing your own hair & makeup, you arrive ready to shoot.  If you are getting hair & makeup done by a professional at the site, be sure to arrive early and give yourself time to primp.
  2. Confirm the location – You will need to know if you are shooting outside or in a studio.
  3. Clarify who will be at the shoot – will it be just you and the photographer? will the photographer have an assistant? will you be bringing someone?
  4. Confirm how many looks you plan on shooting – Most photographers have a limit on the number of outfits/looks per shoot.

Week before shoot

  1. Stop tanning or using a spray tan – both can cause your skin to look very dry.  Tanning beds can also cause minor water retention under the muscles, which is the last thing you want the day of a photo shoot.
  2. Eat clean – no need to deplete yourself and get stage-ready (unless you happen to be shooting the day or two before a show).  Often times, the very-depleted look does not photograph great.  Most people wind up showing a lot of wrinkles and dryness because of being depleted in pictures.
  3. Drink water – cannot emphasize this enough.  You have to stay hydrated and continue flushing out toxins to help maintain a clear complexion for the shoot.  GOOD SKIN goes a long way in photos.

Morning of shoot

  1. Eat small meals – cut back on vegetables and anything heavy. Last thing you want is a full stomach or any bloating.
  2. Wear loose-fitting clothing – nothing too tight, including undergarments or a bathing suit.  This will prevent markings on the skin.
  3. Continue to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water.
  4. Bring something for the photographer to drink – I usually bring coffee and a large water.
  5. Be on time, if not early.
  6. Relax and enjoy the shoot – SMILE!