While I was in Miami last week, I had the pleasure to collaborate with Coach Johnna at Reebok CrossFit Miami Beach… check out Part 1 below:
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…
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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
This is a common question for many people who are interested in competing in a Bodybuilding show, but perhaps do not know what category to enter. The more people you ask, the more confusing it can become. The wave of Social Media “celebrities” combined with the generation of required instant gratification, has really made competing even more convoluted than before. Here’s my suggestion… After watching a few shows, decide which category you think would be most enjoyable for you to compete in… now I use the word enjoyable cautiously here. Let’s be straight, competing is NOT all enjoyable, fun, rainbows and gold coins. It is a lot of hard work. We know this. But the only way a person will get any valuable feedback is by going through the preparation process, getting on stage, having some photos taken and getting a critique from the head judge of the show (This is something you would do post show by sending a polite email introducing yourself along with a stage photo showing your number).
Now, if you have your heart set on a specific division, but perhaps you just need more time to develop a certain body part, than humble yourself, put in the work (which may take years) and focus on that end goal of getting on stage in the division of your choosing. If you decide to keep competing without giving your body ample time to recuperate and develop, you will not evolve and your chances of success may dwindle. Bodybuilding (and all of the other divisions included) is one of those beautiful hobbies that will afford you the opportunity to improve over time. The body cannot develop while under a caloric restriction. So the idea of dieting for a show and trying to “build up” a certain body part at the same time is illogical and foolish. Hypertrophy (GROWTH) requires proper amounts of fuel and a specific method of training.
If your heart’s desire is to get on stage and you are willing to do a little trial and error until you find the right division for yourself, you might have a little easier time… doesn’t mean you won’t diet as much as the next person, or be able to skip training certain body parts… But you may wind up placing or having a good competition experience because you chose a division that may be the right fit for your body type/structure/build.
Again, it’s about having clear goals and utilizing resources to achieve the best outcome possible… and that term “best outcome possible” I leave to interpretation. One person’s best might be a Top 10 placing. Another might want to win an Overall title… and another person might want to just be onstage and bask in that glory. There is no right or wrong, it’s about personal goals.
Find someone experienced and honest to consult with, if you feel unsure. I am willing to give my input.
Email me: email@example.com
Remember… Everyone starts somewhere. Never give up on your health and fitness goals!
It is so disturbing as a veteran in the Bodybuilding world, to see so many people searching for instant gratification and shortcuts to success in competing. I hate to tell you, but if your body lacks muscle maturity, density, or size, there is no shortcut to develop that. Of course there are things people turn to in an effort to speed up the process, such as anabolic steroids, but… if used improperly, disastrous and sometimes irreversible, effects will show up… and nothing can be done to go back. I see it often with women who have trained for a short period of time but want to put on muscle. Instead of training heavy, eating more food and giving the body time to grow… they take something recommended to them and a few weeks/months later, freak out when their voice gets deeper, the jawline changes, certain parts of the genitalia become deformed, bald spots form on the head, and then unwanted body hair in other places develops… and this is just to name a few of the visible side effects.
Why do this to yourself?
Oh, that’s right… Some guy from your gym told you if you did “just a little” you would be fine. I’m sure all of his experience with the female body and hormonal system have made him an expert. (insert sarcasm)
It’s tough for me to watch this go on, but I learned many years ago that I cannot get involved, because most of the time the party I’m concerned for will tell me to mind my own business.
Sad… But hey, a plastic trophy and maybe a Pro Card are certainly worth enlarged female genitalia and a beard, right? I know… Horrible… and yes, very true.
Be patient, put in the work and allow your body to develop naturally… You don’t get any bonus points for being a freak of nature or for getting to wear some t-shirt representing a company that will never be in the Forbes 500.
As a miniature person, standing tiny at the height of 5’1″… it has been a never ending battle with my weight as far back as I can remember… From the early days of being in ballet class and getting my booty swatted because my instructor thought I was tilting it back and arching my back (meanwhile, it was tucked under as much as I could possibly tuck it) to the later days of Competition Prep after Prep where my coaches would tell me that the back of my legs are a “Problem” area and need to “COME DOWN” or I’m not going to place well. Yes, it’s safe to say having a naturally muscular build with freakishly developed legs has been a battle, particularly when you are genetically predisposed to hold a little more bodyfat on top of that muscle.
When a person is as shrimpy as I am, even a gain of 5 pounds can look like a lot… I mean, come on… I am short, so where is that weight supposed to go? I recall being a Junior in Highschool and weighing close to 140 lbs (this was before I ever picked up a dumbbell) and my mother saying to me, “Oh Tiana, you have such a beautiful face, it’s too bad…”….. excuse me? TOO BAD WHAT? Oh, that’s right… It’s “too bad” I’m overweight, right? Imagine being 16 years old and your mother telling you this… or even better, the time I came home from a football game my Senior year wearing my boyfriend’s hooded sweatshirt and my mother asking me if I was pregnant…. No… I am not kidding.
The messed up part of all of this is no matter what I weigh, how tight my pants fit, or how many positive (or negative) comments I get from clients, friends, members of the gym… My feelings about myself are not going to change much… what makes it even worse is when someone points it out.
“Damn, you have huge legs!”…. No shit dude…. tell me something I didn’t know and don’t already stress about all day everyday from the moment I wake up, to the minute I need to squeeze into a pair of pants, to the constant tugging, pulling, stretching I do all day at work, to the moment I am going to sleep… no, not once at all did I think to myself, “wow, I need to lose some weight”…. (INSERT SARCASM).
Can’t wear baggy clothes, because that makes me look fat… but I can’t wear tight clothes without people giving their unsolicited opinions… some of it is jealousy and some if it is just stupidity, because pointing out the obvious is the only thing some people know to do.
I wish more people knew how to be kind… how to bite their tongue and show respect… Everyone is fighting private battles, so try to be nicer the next time you want to remind someone of the obvious.