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.

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.

Teach & Learn

Often in life, the best way to test your own knowledge of a particular subject is to teach to someone. I have had the pleasure of training clients and helping people in the gym for years. I recently had the opportunity to help two lovely young women prepare for Competitions and it was fantastic.

The first show was in New York City. The client competing in that show had experience and was a veteran. Some things were a no brainer for her and she really just needed me on show day for support and finishing touches.

The second show was this past weekend in Westchester County and the client competing in that show was a newbie. This was her first competition ever and she had been through a lot over the past couple of years to get to this point.

Both young women competed in the Figure Division of the Bodybuilding shows. Figure is near and dear to my heart because that is the division I have competed in for the last 10 years or so. Figure women typically have overall muscularity that is comparable to a gymnast. Broad, rounded shoulders, a wide back with a nice V-shape taper into a small waist, which then leads to a full, round gluteus, thick muscular legs and shapely calves. Basically, a muscular hourglass shape. I love the majority of the physiques because they have to be earned through hard work, yet the ladies still look feminine and curvaceous. This is not to take away from the other divisions, I just happen to be somewhat partial to this one.

It was incredible to be present at these events, backstage with rubber gloves and tanning lotion splattering on me at some points, and body glaze sprinkled all over my clothes by the end of the night. I had an endless number of competitors asking me “Excuse me, does my tan look ok?… Which way should I hit my pose?… Do you like these earrings?…” And so on and so forth. I made it. Yes, I am now a veteran. I am now a Coach, which is still not a word I use lightly. I am now leading people and guiding them through the process. Amazing.

While it is somewhat bittersweet because in some ways I wish I was up on a Pro stage somewhere, I am grateful for the opportunity to help others. I want to warn people of the bad practices that can lead to long term adverse affects. I also like to help people understand the ins and outs of this lifestyle. It certainly is not for everyone.

My clients have recognized that I’m different than many other “Coaches” out there. I hope I have made a lasting impression and that I continue to build my legacy one client at a time.