Swarovski Crystals and Stiletto Heels: The Journey to My First Figure Competition

It was my first figure competition, my first time going out on a stage in front of people who were going to judge me based on my overall appearance, symmetry, muscle, etc. I had to attain a much lower body fat than I had ever imagined being. In fact, I’ve never given my body fat a first thought, and merely went based on the size of my clothes.  Not to mention, I was never athletic, never competed in any sport unless you consider jumping over hurdles during track and field in 7th grade. Then, okay fine, I was athletic.  Nope. I was just skinny-bony. Skinny to the point where people used to question whether I ate or not. And I ate a TON. I don’t know where it ever went, but it got me to never be concerned with body fat that’s for sure. People used to warn me when I was younger, that one day all of that crap eating was going to “catch up” to me. Of course, I didn’t believe them. Fast forward to 32 years old, and I had 2 kids, partied hard, attended school full time, worked at a customer call center for 11  years, and turns out,  that shit does really creep up on you out of nowhere.  I guess that’s when I decided that I should probably join a gym.

So there I was, full time student, unemployed, and I was just beginning to discover this newly found passion for fitness and health, when one day, I stumbled upon the idea of competing in a fitness competition! A what? Yea, that’s what I said at first too. But hey, it seemed like a challenge, and I like challenges, so what the hell!? I hired a trainer, and then the days went on pretty much the same; eat, gym, eat, gym. Yep. Minus the tanning and minus the laundry…I picked out the color, ordered my suit, tried it on and sent it back for the finishing touches here is a picture of the first suit pre-bedazzled:

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have much support, felt kind of depleted and started to look like I was that scrawny girl back in middle school. Plus, I was craving serious food. I’m talking fried, sugar, greasy…It. Did. Not. Matter. Ultimately, I threw in the towel, or “the suit” shall I say, and fortunately, I was lucky enough that a girl who went to the same gym, wanted to buy the suit from me right on the spot. Phew!  I dodged that bullet. I wasn’t ready, and I knew it.

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Clearly, the way you feel on the inside really does reflect on the outside. Don’t I look so happy? I might have been hungry here, who knows!? (pale as a ghost too)

Afterwards, I relaxed on my strict eating approach, still eating 6 small meals, but just having a cheat meal once or twice a week. And I ate more. So it went on, and on.  Fast forward a year later, and I felt that I was ready for round 2: Operation Figure Competition.  I didn’t tell anyone. I worked my ass off in the gym, ate and dieted until about 4 weeks out from the show when I hired a different personal trainer than the one I had the first time. It was a 2 hour drive out to meet her, but it was well worth it. She gave me a workout plan and nutrition plan to steer me towards the next couple of weeks leading up to the show as well as the day of the show. AND LET ME TELL YOU, I was hungry, eating the same boring food, irritated, whiny, bitchy, moody, you name it. I felt weak and I dropped to such a low body fat, I didn’t get my period, and that made me feel like I was heading out on the next bus to looneytoon town. Plus, it was summer, I swear I felt like I was a pregnant lady about to pop in the heat. NOT HAPPY.  I took my kids to a zoo and felt so bad because I had very little energy, and all my little boy wanted to do was play on the jungle gym. But I had no energy left in me to sit and wait because there were so many hills at this zoo. I was super hungry and I wanted to cry.

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I’m pretty sure the look on this bear’s face is exactly the way I feel. Coincidence?

Needless to say, I went to Red Lobster and then went to get ice cream. In my mind I was done. But…that was the hormones and crazy talking….

I remember laying out by the pool-not even thinking about it- oh lets get a tan duh!? I sprayed Clarins progressive tanning oil all over me to prevent a sunburn, as it had successfully done for the past 2 years, but nooooo! Not this year! Not this time!  So not only was I low on carbs, eating little calories, my hormones were raging, brain seemed as though it was on a very long pause, it was hotter than Hell,  and 3 weeks prior to the show, I had a major sunburn.  Awesome. I read on the trusty ol’ Internet that Hydrocortisone cream would help speed up the healing process of a sunburn. Nope. Didn’t happen. Instead a rash happened. Yep! My sunburn slowly turned  into a rash.

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My Awesome rash

With the support of my husband, I made it through to the weekend of the show, and we began our 5 hour drive to Newburyport, MA. Stressed and nervous. I had to get the spray tan, go to the hotel, check in, and then go to the HOST hotel to take a Polygraph test. FUN. We were staying at a hotel approximately 15 miles from the Host hotel, but it was not at all what we expected. 15 miles was more like a 45 minute drive with all the traffic. We decided to just go to my spray tan appointment first and then go to the hotel to check in.

I was quite surprised at how fast I was ready to just take my clothes off to get a spray tan; I’m usually quite modest. Seriously.  I had to turn, and bend and turn and bend. It felt like a power washer grazing my backside and that shit was freezing.   After that room, I was led to a different room to stand in front of a tiny floor fan to dry with 2 other girls…Naked. All of us naked in a room; “drying”. And the room was the size of a room in a tanning bed salon. After waiting impatiently for two hours while generating casual yet awkward conversation, I was pretty much unrecognizable having my skin turned into a color I had never seen before! I was ready to leave. I walked outside and I was freezing!  Next was the polygraph test. Since it was getting late, and there was a cutoff time for the polygraph test, we had to head over to the host hotel to get that in. Holy shit! That line was soooooo long. I waited 3 hours to take the test, and by the time I got to the hotel, I was exhausted and tired of eating cold food out of plastic containers and bags. I was ready for bed. I brought brown sheets and a blanket so that I didn’t ruin the hotel sheets. I couldn’t sit on the toilet, but I also had to be careful not to let the water splash. I know, TMI, but there were some pretty strict rules to follow as regards to this spray tan. Even at the host hotel, we weren’t allowed to lean on any of the walls or sit on the toilet there either!

5 a.m. Alarm goes off, and it’s time to eat more cold food, brown rice with some salt and steak. I could only drink a certain amount of water, and only do a light warm up on the treadmill or go for a walk. It was freezing in the hotel’s fitness room, but I sucked it up and hopped on the treadmill. Once that was over, I had to do my hair, and then head over to get my makeup done and my false eyelashes applied, and then it was over to the show venue.

When we arrived at the show venue, I realized that I should have brought a long mirror and I felt that I didn’t do enough to get my hair ready, but hey, I suck at doing hair. Oh well. Once I got into the venue, I had to have an umpteenth coat of spray tan applied. Apparently, my skin is super sensitive around my neck and the spray tan wasn’t going on evenly. No nudity this time though! Hehe. I was lucky that the competition spray tan was dark enough to cover the portion of left over rash or whatever the hell it was. Not only that, the tan lines on the bottom portion lightened up enough and the bottoms of my suit along with the number I was given covered it up anyway. After the spray tanning was finished, there was a photographer there to take pictures of all of the people who were competing. I felt very awkward and nervous posing in front of other people. Plus, once I got my pictures in the mail, I couldn’t help but laugh at how I was revealing a little underboob. Oh well. You win some, you lose some.

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A little underboob never hurt no one! (Suit by Saleyla)

Once all of that was out of the way, I was extremely relieved at how relaxed and comfortable I started to feel; just being around people who were there for the same reason. Not to mention, we were all hungry and probably all just ready to let our stomachs hang out from lots of sodium in the form of carbohydrates or some really yummy sugary dessert. I still was extremely nervous about getting on stage, but it felt incredible just being there. All of the girls were super nice, and the promoters and everyone involved in the show also made it a very relaxing place to be. The best part was when they got everyone together before the show and announced that they discourage any type of negativity; just have fun! Of course, that still didn’t shake my nerves about walking on a stage in front of everyone. It turned out to be an extremely long day, but nonetheless, everyone was real encouraging to one another; it was inspiring and welcoming.

While there were many different classes to enter, I only entered Figure Debut, which meant I would only have to get on stage one time! Once I found out that I could still crossover to another class, my husband tried to get me to enter into the others, but my nerves weren’t ready for all that. I know, looking back, I should have done it; after all, I did work really hard to get to that point. There were 10 girls in the debut class and I placed 8th, but I didn’t care. I was just so elated that I did it. I completed my figure walk, and it was over.  I received feedback from the judges and they told me that for future shows I needed to work on posing because I appeared too stiff and robotic!

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I agree with the judges! I was sooooo stiff and nervous!!!
Needless to say, it was a long, fun, and memorable day. And I met some really cool people!
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Once the show was over, the promoters for the show invited everyone out to celebrate, but I was craving food big time and I wanted something that I was familiar with so my husband and I headed to Chili’s instead. I splurged on a chicken sandwich, french fries, ( I ate my husband’s fries too!) and a Blondie for dessert. YUM! After dinner, we just went back to the hotel.  Even though I was so exhausted, I still couldn’t sleep because my mind was on instant replay of the entire day’s events. I had such an awesome time. The promoters, Joel and Justin Napolitano were so relaxed and fun throughout the entire day that it was impossible to regret having picked that particular show, The OCB Natural Yankee Classic as my first!
The next day we woke up early to head to NYC to get the kiddos from my mother in law. Before leaving though, I wanted to check out the beach, and I think I found my next vacation spot!!
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As for right now though, I’m ready to do another show! This time I know what to expect and what I’m getting myself into so I cannot wait! As for my supportive husband pictured below (maybe not so much!)
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My husband was so supportive that day; helping me and making sure that I had everything I needed! Sadly, however, we didn’t get a picture of us together. I have no idea how that happened?

Ouch! My joints hurt!

When it comes to medication or supplements, I’m extremely careful in what I decide to take. I try to rely on the standard symptoms of stress, but add anxiety, hormones or (for men) testosterone to the mix and it becomes extremely difficult to decipher whether it’s all in your head or if it really is physical.  I know I’m not the only one.

Not everyone who is beginning an exercise regime embrace the idea of taking supplements.  With merit, of course, after all, most supplements are not approved by the FDA and have very little information about side effects, interactions with any medications that your doctor may have prescribed, or any real science behind its claims.  For a long time, I was apprehensive about supplements as well. In fact, I’ve always been a bit reluctant to take any medication for a cold or something that could be cured with just time and some rest. I never liked the drowsy induced state or other potential side effects that accompanied most medications.

When I started exercising, like any ‘newbie’,  I just knew I wanted to lose some weight and that was that.  I did some cardio, lifted weights and thought I was making progress.   Fortunately, losing weight and exercising wasn’t the hard part for me; growing up, I was always a replica of a stick figure carelessly drawn on scratch paper.  Unfortunately, however, at the same time, there I was, I had put my time in at the gym, sweated every calorie, every morsel of food that went into my mouth, was doing every exercise I knew, until people were starting to mention how thin I was getting; was I doing it on purpose? Was I sick?  It was then that I knew I had to take a step back and evaluate my nutrition and my time spent in vain at the gym.  I thought I would just eat more and train harder/differently.  However, as my strength increased and my endurance improved, and I started to achieve my goal in adding muscle, my joints from head to toe started to ache.  Frustrated and discouraged; knowing that I had the potential to go further, I knew that I had to give certain supplements a closer look so that I could continue to support the active lifestyle I was quickly immersing myself into. If I just ignored the signs from the stress that I was placing my body under,  I would eventually end up with an injury or the inability to achieve any of my fitness goals.  After some researching, I came across Fish oil and Glucosamine/Chondroitin, and have been taking it for about 3 years now.  It has helped with my training, and I can honestly say that my joints are in a much happier state right now!

I’m not saying supplements are for everyone, I’m just telling you to slowly place your body under the stress you (and your doctor) know that it can handle physically.  Eventually, as you continue to challenge yourself physically, you will eventually find yourself engulfed in a mental warfare. However, you will eventually grow stronger-more mentally than physically- and your mind will try to outdo your body. You’ll start to challenge yourself a little harder, but your body may start to signal that it’s tired or even resist your efforts entirely.  And then there will be that time when you’ll feel let down; hopeless even.  But rather than give up and watch your hard work unravel because you’re mind starts to get the best of you, maybe supplements would be something you might want to consider? Not because you’re too weak or not good enough, but because your body is telling you that it needs support.  Ultimately, your mind won’t give up, unless you first allow your body to.

Listen to your body; it’s your house and you’re in charge!

For women: How to look HOT and Irrestible at the gym.

How to look hot and undeniably irresistible in the gym.

Of course, that’s not to assume that’s why you are going to the gym. Nor is it to suggest any form of inappropriateness within. I mean well, folks. I really do. After all, the reality is that we’re all a bunch of sexy bitches waiting to be unleashed, we just sometimes need a little push..or shove. Pardon my language, or my unwillingness to hold back, but don’t we all just want to be free. I don’t mean running around the streets stark naked free, there are definitely more ways than that to feel completely unscathed and liberated. Exercise and eating healthy is what I’m talking about. No dodging that bullet. No siree…Of course, looking sexy doesn’t require that you are skinny, or have certain measurements, hell, I’m just talking about holding your head up high and feeling that unwavering, unfaltering breeze of euphoria that comes from doing something you love. Unfortunately, I’m a pretty simple person, who rarely comes up with recipes in the kitchen, and when I do, rest assure that I got my husband wearing that frontal man cape. I think of things individually and like quick and easy, so I usually end throwing it all together and if it’s good, I’ll share. If not, I’ll just eat my plain, simple, boring food to myself and keep my mouth shut. BUT…I do love to exercise!

I certainly don’t claim to be the know all and end all of exercise, but I can attest to you that it gives me a rush; that unwavering sense of freedom that nothing else has been able to provide. And truthfully? I think everyone should exercise and try to eat better. I think we all deserve to become healthier.  We can all come together and share our mashed-whatevers and benefit from it, why not? But for now, I’m going to skip talking about nutrition and focus on the exercise part. The way to feel so damn confident in a gym when you walk in there, and look over and see just a bunch of men grunting and lifting hundreds of pounds up over their head, and run away in dismay. Hey, there ARE men who feel this way too though. It’s one of the many stereotypes that prevent you from unleashing your inner strength and super powers to do what you think is unachievable or unattainable. Well, ladies, (in particular) I’m telling you not to be afraid of the weight lifting room. Get in there and do it! 

 

Step 1. Throw hair unevenly and unkempt with thick elastic rubber band in a messy bun…seriously, it’s not about your hair or makeup. Let the pieces fall where they may.

Step 2. Throw on a comfortable sports bra-one that doesn’t weigh the girls down. One brand, I like, although a tad pricier, is Lululemon. Trust me, their sports bras provide awesome support for any size. You want them secure. You don’t want them trying to lift the weights for you. Next, throw a tank top or tshirt on over it (I prefer tank top, because it gets all hot and sweaty in a t-shirt) but again, it’s really about what you feel most comfortable in wearing. Add some gym pants, leggings, something breathable. Again, another brand I am fond of is Underarmour; it literally feels like your working out in your own skin. Of course don’t forget your sneakers. Seriously, I’ve seen women come to the gym wearing heels. Um. No. We’re going to actually have to sweat!

Step 3. Make sure you plaster a look of steel on your face. You mean business. So practice your “back off look” in the mirror several times in the locker room mirror if you have to.

Step 4. Walk around like you own the gym. Make eye contact with NO ONE.  If you make eye contact, this will:

a. Open up a forceful discussion, with your mind racing as to how you’re going to politely escape.

b. Make you look vulnerable. If you’re a girl in a gym full of dudes, you want to look like you know your shit, even if you don’t.

(If you’re a newbie..follow above instructions, except walk over to the weight rack or machine-don’t actually pick anything up though-no injuries here. (think back to middle school cafeteria and you being the one knocking all of the trays onto the floor) Further newbie instructions: Never. Ever. Remove the face of steel. You will not falter. You will not fail. You will not give up or be intimidated. You OWN the gym. Make sure you have a water bottle, your workout programmed on your phone or in a notebook tracker. This will provide you with something to glance at in case you feel awkward or feel your gaze drifting towards any one person (whatever you do, don’t follow the most muscly guy in the joint, he’s probably a tad experienced for you at this point).  

 Step 5: for intermediate to advanced: Complete your entire workout, sweat and all, Trust me, the harder you work, the more weight you lift, the sweatier you will be, the more fat calories will drip off of you, pour from you, seep off you like a bedroom of hot steamy makeup sex.

Step 6: Go home, lather, rinse and repeat.

Guaranteed: the more you follow these instructions, the sexier you will get. 

Warning: You will end up the hottest bitch at the gym. Or so you may think so. I’m pretty certain you will be though. Making direct eye contact with yourself in the mirror whilst working out will only exacerbate feelings of sexiness within.

Side effects:  Soaking wet clothes-(think sweaty cleavage) Tousled bedroom hair, increased camera phone self-portrait shots, (which can cause a potentially hazardous stream of photos plastered on the internet), sultry rock hard body.

Most important, rock hard body or not: A healthier you!

 You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.