Lean Goggles

It is November, we are nearing the end of the bodybuilding competition season… a time that can prove to be a slippery slope for many competitive athletes.  There is an underlying feeling among many that they have to keep things under control, not lose their grip on the lean physique they just recently presented on stage (or presented earlier this season), and the psychosis sets in…

The inner voice may say… Take your weight measurement… Track your food intake… Pack your meals everywhere you go… No days off from the gym… Fasted cardio every morning…

The list goes on and on. Are these things inherently bad?… Some will argue “yes” and some will say “no”.  It truly depends on the individual, on his or her goals, and on the person’s resilience.

You see, for many women, myself included… we work so hard, for months, for years… to attain a certain look.  One that has our bodies at an incredibly low body fat percentage… This look that I love so much… Broad, rounded shoulders, thick veins running down both arms, visible abs, separation of the quadriceps muscles, a small waist, a thinned out face and chiseled jaw line were always the obvious indicators that I was on track during my competition preps in the past.

Many of us will be at the pinnacle point for a few mere days (some even less time than that)… and most lose it in a matter of hours after some yummy treats, salt, and a few liters of water.

It can be devastating… Even if it’s not your first show, even if  you have been fairly warned, even if you have read several posts online about what happens to most athletes and what to expect… There is no greater shock than when you see it first hand… as you look in the mirror and it feels like all of your hard work is out the window.

RELAX… It’s not! That shredded physique is not something you can sustain.  Of course there are some athletes out there with robust metabolisms.  They are genetically predisposed to stay lean, even after putting themselves through the hell of a severe physique cutting phase. BUT most… I REPEAT most athletes are not built that way.

So, why do you feel like you’re the only one that put on weight really fast post show?

Here are a few things to remember…

  1. You are not alone.  Everyone puts on weight post competition.  Some people are honest about it, some people never discuss it.
  2. We live in the Digital Age of people sharing their highlight reels. Many athletes take a stock pile of photos when their physiques are in tip-top shape.  The images are stored and posted throughout the course of the off-season.  So while it may appear that your favorite fitness model or athlete is ALWAYS shredded… chances are, he or she is NOT.  It just appears that way based on social media.
  3. Most professional athletes are contracted to maintain a certain look all year round… even if it is not the same as stage-ready, it is relatively close to that.  They are being PAID… it is part of the job requirements.  You are probably NOT one of these people and are NOT getting paid based on your physical appearance; therefore, CHILL OUT and stop the crazy self defecation because you don’t have abs anymore.
  4. For some competitors a weight fluctuation of anywhere from 10 up to 30 lbs post show is “normal” for them.  Now, if you are a 5’1″ woman like myself, no… 30 lbs post show is not normal at all and is certainly NOT good for your organs.  But if you are a Pro Male Bodybuilder, then yes, 30 lbs up is not a terrible place to be in the off season, especially if gains are to be made.

Please remember that while it is important not to fall off the deep end and let yourself go during the off season, it is recommended to chill out with training and give your body a chance to recover from a show prep.  It’s even more important if you want to put on some muscle size… which most likely will not happen successfully if you try to put on a decent amount of size in a few months (hate to break the news to you).

So, you may not love having some extra weight on your frame while you are in a building phase, but it is a necessity! The body cannot grow if you try to stay in a caloric deficit…. Translation… If you want to add some muscle size, you need to EAT!

You also need to accept that you probably will not have those veins running down your biceps while you are in your growing phase. Perhaps you can enjoy the process of sculpting your dream body and appreciate what your body is capable of.

Celebrate Personal Records of various lifts… Enjoy eating wholesome food and filling meals… Bask in the joy of pushing heavy weight around and appreciate the fact that your incredible body can do so much more than just look good naked.

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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.

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.

What division?

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: fitbytiana@gmail.com

Remember… Everyone starts somewhere.  Never give up on your health and fitness goals!

Journey

 

Bodybuilders Need Patience

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.

 

 

Big Legs

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.

Team

I train every Thursday night with a group of people from all walks of life, various ages, different ethnic backgrounds, and all sorts of experiences, battle scars, injuries, and stories that could leave one speechless.  When we join together at the gym, this shift happens, and we are all there to help each other, push each other, and keep improving.  All we see are lifters helping lifters, working hard to get better.

Check out this video to get a taste of what Adrenalin Powerlifting is all about.  I’ve been with the team for 13 weeks and what I have done in that short time is outstanding.  I have surprised myself many times over… Thanks to Steve Adams for creating this video.