Cut Yourself Some Slack. Please.

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Photography by Jared Lee

“Get Off The Scale!

You are beautiful. Your beauty, just like your capacity for life, happiness, and success, is immeasurable. Day after day, countless people across the globe get on a scale in search of validation of beauty and social acceptance.

Get off the scale! I have yet to see a scale that can tell you how enchanting your eyes are. I have yet to see a scale that can show you how wonderful your hair looks when the sun shines its glorious rays on it. I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humor, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life.

It’s true, the scale can only give you a numerical reflection of your relationship with gravity. That’s it. It cannot measure beauty, talent, purpose, life force, possibility, strength, or love. Don’t give the scale more power than it has earned. Take note of the number, then get off the scale and live your life. You are beautiful!”

-Steve Maraboli

This statement is pretty easy to understand. It’s pretty straight forward but also pretty easy to overlook and disregard.  I don’t want to always relate my entries to fitness and competing, but it is very much a large part of my life so I kind of have to.  I love being able to challenge myself everyday.  I like the monotony of living a lifestyle that I can plan, schedule and understand (most of the time, haha).  But the most difficult thing I come across is being able to be completely happy with myself.  With how I look each day.  With how I feel.  With how I performed and what I accomplished.  And no matter how heavy of a weight I pick up, or for how long I run, if I can’t pick myself up each time I fall physically and mentally, none of it really matters.

I believe our lives are made up of moments.  Some moments we pay more attention to than others and we let them linger longer than they should.  So then, those moments turn into long, drawn out moments that just create more problems for us.  Being human in moments is normal.  Feeling anger, guilt, sadness, grief, frustration, disappointment and other emotions that aren’t “good” for us, are all normal.  They are healthy.  They are what makes us react to a situation, they are opportunities, they are a chance to push us further than we would choose to push ourselves.  How you handle situations is a direct correlation with how a moment will progress.  If you let the said emotions consume you and your life, that is where you will stay.  If you accept situations and moments for what it is, take time to understand and logically compute what is at stake, then you are on your way to being  back on track.

I try to advise my clients and friends to always take your situations head on.  Look at it for what it REALLY IS, not misinterpret it, make assumptions or contort it into what makes you comfortable.  Don’t twist words, don’t become blind to the truth, don’t make excuses and more importantly, don’t avoid it.  Take on whatever monster it is that is holding you from your real potential.  I am terrified of failure, I am terrified of making a fool of myself and I am constantly trying to talk myself out of ever getting back on stage.  I am embarrassed of my last showing.  I am mortified of it happening again.  BUT, what happened definitely happened and the possibility of me moving forward and progressing is impossible if I refuse to see those moments for what it was.  I’ll know when I am ready to get back on stage.  And right now I’m not sure I am since I find myself torturing my self-worth by nit-picking my day to day physique. It has been crippling my progress. Take for instance these photos:

image1You would think that these may have a couple weeks in between them.  But in all actuality, this is a ONE DAY DIFFERENCE (May 20th, 2016 to May 21st, 2016).  I have been stressed out this last week, my water intake was a little low, I just finished my woman cycle and I think I’ve been angry at TM like 12 times this week. image3 So, you see, moments take a toll not just mentally, and emotionally and psychologically, but also physically.  I am addressing this and relating it to the fitness world because you fitness nerds (myself included) are ruining your ability to reach your full potential because you’re doing the same thing.  This is also applicable to anyone who is trying to reach any goal.  Stop getting in your own way.  Moments are going to throw you off your game and you need to be prepared for them.  image4You need to be able to have proper coping mechanisms in place to avoid digging yourself into a deeper hole.

For instance, I have learned that if there is a day that I might be feeling a little “fluffy” I avoid mirrors and wear long sleeves.  It might be a little extreme or maybe even a little sad that I have to take such measures to save my psyche, but it’s worth it.  Because this is how I have learned to handle it.  I know it happens, I know why it happens and I know how to fix it.  I am aware that I am going to fluctuate from day to day (AND SO ARE YOU).  I am aware that I gain 3-5 lbs of water weight when I am having my cycle and if I have a high-stress day, I probably won’t see my abs the next day.  Or if I don’t sleep well for a few days, my legs might look like marshmallows. These are all things I KNOW are going to happen.

Life is going to happen and life is going to be really hard. It’s going to come in and turn itself upside down and wait for you to fold.  But it’s a good thing you’re tougher than that.  It’s a good thing that you believe in yourself and know that you are bigger than any moment life might challenge you with.  Whether that it is getting through a prep, dealing with relationships, having a difficult conversation, death in the family or whatever else might try to trip you up and attempt to take down your self-confidence, you’ll be ready.  Because even though you’re human and the very real raw and painful emotions you might experience, these moments are only going to make you more beautiful and more powerful than ever.  So understand that moments are going to happen and it’s very normal and necessary for you to react, just don’t stay there for too long.

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10 Things I Think You Should Learn to Accept

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I just wanted to highlight some things that I see on the daily that make me either laugh, scratch my head, scream, cry and lots of other emotions that don’t make sense.  These things come from my followers, clients, potential clients, friends, family or other random people I don’t know but I know I’m not the only one that experiences this.

  • Social Media is a liar.  Fitness “Role Models” are fake.  Magazines are misleading.
    • It would be unfair for me to group all and everyone into this situation and I do not believe that their intention is to lie to you.  But I don’t think they are concerned with the actual truth.  Meaning, I don’t think that they have a strict honor code they follow.  I love filters.  I’m all for them.  I know my angles well and I know to concentrate on those regardless if I am posting a selfie or at a photoshoot.  Magazines need to appeal to the masses with what is trending, what a celebrity might be into at that time, or whatever else might bring their sales up that month.  They aren’t actually concerned whether it will bring you LONG-TERM changes or if it is a proven, scientific “healthy” approach.  Don’t give into fads.  Don’t do what everyone else is doing.  Find the healthiest and smartest approach FOR YOU, ask questions and don’t pay attention to the photoshop gurus of the fitness world.
  • Your body is REALLY, REALLY good at adapting.
    • New workout programs will typically heed really good results and quickly.  Just the same as if you are implementing a new diet or removing a not-so-good meal from your diet, you’ll see initial results for the first few weeks.  Which is nice when you’re trying to get excited about new plan.  The closer you get to reaching your physical threshold, you’ll find that changes are harder to come by.  Your programs must be continually progressing and challenging you to a more advanced level.  This is typically where I see people get impatient and frustrated and fall off the wagon, because everything is sunshine and happiness when you first see the weight fall off.  Being uncomfortable and patient is crucial to reaching goals.  So don’t think that purchasing a 4-week plan is going to change your life.  It may initially, but after your body figures out what the heck you’re doing, you’re going to become pretty stagnant, pretty quick.  You cannot expect to do the same program in week 10 as you did in week 1 and continue to see results.
  • Learn the term, Progressive Overload.
    • “Progressive Overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.  It was developed by Thomas Delorme, M.D. while he rehabilitated soldiers after World War II.” (Wikipedia)  As noted before, your body is REALLY good at adapting.  So without progressive overload, your body will soon become really good at whatever program you’re doing if there is not a progression set in place.  You will not continually make progress as you did when you first began the program if you do not make it harder as your body adapts to the current program.  Having one or two personal training sessions a week without going on your own or sporadically hitting the gym completely messes up the stages of progression. There can be no progression when there is no consistency.  Without consistency, people will be bouncing around a program meant to kickstart your progress and before you know it it’s been 6 months before you’ve gotten in a rhythm.  So, if you want progress, you need to keep challenging yourself, starting with being consistent and pushing your limits each time you workout or you’ll find your goals will be just a wish and a waste of time.cropped-cropped-image6.jpeg
  • Walk into the free weight area, mess things up, and leave.
    • Learning to become comfortable with weight training is how you ensure progressive overload.  Simply because you’ll be able to push yourself to use more weight and become stronger each time.  Cardio bunnies, hear me roar right meow.  It is almost impossible to keep progressive overload going when it comes to cardio.  Initial results will happen when beginning a cardio program, however, it becomes physically exhausting and demanding and near impossible to keep pushing limits.  Your little legs can only go so fast and you can only add so much resistance.  And in fact, after a certain point in time, a cardio program with this much intensity can become counter-productive.  When you reach that “maximum” effort level, you will soon burn out and/or plateau and in order for you to just MAINTAIN where you’re at, you’ll have to continually kill yourself on a cardio machine for hours. Not fun for anyone.  So unless you’re a professional cardio athlete, be sure to incorporate weight training.   The reason why we hit the gym and the weights is to ensure long-term changes.  Not just immediate, temporary ones.
  • Everyone can replicate how to move a weight.  But not everyone can properly move weight.
    • I preach and preach and preach to my clients about having a proper mind-muscle connection with EVERY movement.  Even when we stretch.  Finding effective cues to get them to understand we are firing muscles to get them to actually work is crucial to getting them to see results, prevent injury and actually TEACH them what we are doing.  Close your eyes and really think about we are trying to do.  What we are trying to achieve.  You could be lifting the heaviest weight in the gym, but if the muscle(s) are not awake and listening, it will never grow!  Use that big brain of yours and really focus on what you are doing.  “Being mentally engaged means using your brain to create maximum muscle tension dial in your form, push your limits and get your movements sharper, cleaner and tighter.”  Workout sessions have become too much of a social hour.  Get your plan in place, focus on what you’re doing and handle it!
  • Don’t eat like I eat.
    • This means, that everyone is different when it comes to what their body needs, likes, and dislikes.  If you are not well educated in nutrition, here is a quick review:
      • All the “healthy” foods in the world like fruits, vegetables, meats, beans, oils, greens, etc. all have positive influences in the nutrition world.
      • All the processed and “not-naturally occurring” foods in the world tend to have negative influences in the nutrition world.
    • Some people respond well to certain types of diets.  Some people are able to maintain a healthy weight and see better results in a low-carb, high fat diet.  Some people can carb-cycle until the cows come home and never have a problem.  Some people are paleo-peeps and love it and function well on it!  Everyone is different.  Educate yourself by paying closer attention to what you’re doing when it comes to your eating.  This might not mean you need to have a strict diet plan, but take note if something bothers your stomach, if you feel light headed, if your energy is drained, you look bloated, etc.  Learn how your body responds to what you’re feeding it.
  • Your weight IS GOING TO FLUCUATE.  FOREVER. AND EVER2014-12-19-Scale_091312_vr_tif_-thumb
    • On any given day, your weight could fluctuate 3-5 lbs or more!  There are so many factors as to why this might be.  Water intake, stress, hormones, menstrual cycle, food intake, etc.  So stop obsessing over whether or not you are losing or gaining a pound or two every morning and letting it ruin your day and everyone else’s for that matter.  Focus on how your clothes fit.  Focus on how you feel.  Focus on everything BUT that stupid scale.
  • Be mindful of the company you keep.
    • Developing a self-love is SO important to your overall health.  You’ll find life doesn’t seem so complicated when you can actually come to peace with where you’re at.  This isn’t meant to be a hug-it-out type point.  If you’re overweight and need to lose some weight for your health, don’t tell yourself that you’re “happy” and comfortable in your skin, when your health is on the line.  Be realistic here.  Just like when you’re shredded to pieces and you think it’s necessary to maintain this year round and when you don’t you feel like jumping off a cliff.  Just stop.  Find people who can be real with you.  But who are also real with themselves.  Find people who are positive but can also give you a stern talking to when you need it.  If you surround yourself with people who are chronically negative and can’t get a grip on their own life, these typically aren’t the right people to be seeking support and advice from.
  • Your mindset will dictate EVERYTHING.
    • A lot of people I have worked with tend to get in their own way.  I do it all the time.  We get so wrapped up with their “what-ifs” and made-up situations that we just get stuck.  We can’t see past a certain obstacle because they park their stubborn ass right in front of their own progress.  We should probably stop doing that, haha.
  • You have the ability to give your pain and fears life.
    • I believe there is a direct correlation between your mindset and reality.  This isn’t some far-fetched thing I just made up.  I strongly believe that things you give the most time and energy, is exactly what will flourish.  So if you spend most of your time focusing on the terrible and painful things that are happening in your life, you are allowing them to thrive.  I’m not saying to pretend they don’t exist, rather, acknowledge them, find a way to address it, and move forward.  If you only approach challenges with the fear of failure, then that is exactly where you will stay.
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“Stop Staring at Me, Susan.”

This entry isn’t for anyone to tell me their approval of my physique, or rather, their disapproval of it.  In fact, the very reason I am writing this is because I recently was body shamed while traveling home from vacation, very blatantly.  Funny thing is, I’m no where near stage ready, but I would say it’s noticeable that I don’t have a typical body type.  I would say 8 times out of 10, my body type when I am closer to getting on stage, is received rather negatively.  I have veins that stick out, I have visible striations, and it all gets “worse” after a workout and/or after I eat.  In all of these photos, I can remember a moment of when I was perceived as “disgusting”, “too much”, and “clearly going to regret my body type later down the road”.  Whatever that means.  I have been snickered and sneered at in public, at the gym, at a baseball game, at a restaurant, and more easily targeted on social media.  I have been pointed at and whispered about.  I have seen heads shake and been stared at for more time than should be allowed.  I’ve had to learn to adjust to this.  I’ve had to accept it as all part of the deal and that’s why I want to write this.

When we were in the airport, I almost broke down in tears in frustration.  Not because my feelings were hurt, but because I was SO ANGRY that people have the audacity to publicly humiliate others (whether on purpose or not) just because their lifestyle is different.  I’m pretty sure if I went around pointing out my perception of flaws on people, I wouldn’t be receiving many invitations to anywhere.  Being judgmental towards others, in my opinion, is exhausting.  My point is, the people who are being asshats are the ones who could never fathom reaching the type of goals I have set out for myself.  And that’s okay.  It doesn’t make me any better or any less than them.  I have my goals, and hopefully, they have theirs.  It was difficult for me to bite my tongue when I experienced people gawking at me, not in a flattering way, either.  Had my fiancé been there, it would have been a different outcome, I’m sure.  I’ve learned to cope with people being unable to control their actions and facial expressions.  If I were to ever let the feeling of being a little outside of the “norm” dictate whether or not I continue my journey, I would be essentially paving the way to failure.  I don’t live my lifestyle for the approval of others.  You shouldn’t either.  The same people who are calling me gross could have been one of the people that say I’m attractive if they saw a different photo of me like the ones below.  These people see me in one moment, one aspect, one stage of my life.  Like I said before, I refuse to be stagnant in life.  So if they want to judge me in one moment, so be it.  Don’t listen to others and their “opinions”. I’m not saying you won’t get to a breaking point, I certainly did.  But be sure you have a way to positively cope with it.  Opinions are EVERYWHERE.  Everyone will ALWAYS have them.  Someone will ALWAYS find something they hate about you.  You need to learn to be okay with that.  Serena Williams is a monster on the tennis court and has a record to back it up, but off the court, people call her names and say she looks like a man.  I don’t think their opinions bother her, the girl hangs out with Beyonce.  Frickin, BEYONCE.  If you can return one of her serves, then MAYBE you can say something.  Supermodels (i.e. Victoria Secret Models, Sports Illustrated Bikini Models, etc.) are not body types I can relate to, and some might say they are too skinny or look unhealthy.  However, the girls get paid and they love what they do.  For goodness sakes, let them.  They slay the runway.  They aren’t out trolling others and judging them for not being able to glide in 6 inch heels while wearing a 1,000 lb blinged out bikini on National Television.  Eat your cheetos and be quiet.

Find the one person (or group of persons) in life that you want to love every aspect of you, every pound of you, and every thing about you.  I found that and it makes dealing with Keyboard Warriors and Judgmental Jonny’s in the world more tolerable.   Do not return their misunderstanding with hate.  Shrug your shoulders and tell yourself that they do not determine whether or not you succeed in life or whether you love YOURSELF.  YOU DO.

 

Hi! Here I am!

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It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with you guys.  Well, it’s now April and I am still alive and with each passing day have been able to become happier in life while still learning how to enjoy a balance of food and the gym.

Choosing to be in the fitness industry comes with it’s own problems and tests which I think many of us fail miserably.  We are surrounded by abs, striations, vascularity and jaw-dropping beauty.  It has made it almost impossible for anyone to be able to see their body, outside of competition prep, in a positive manner.  The template of what an “in-shape” person looks like is so grotesquely skewed that sure you as hell better have strength in our own self-confidence to look past it.  Here is what went through my mind recently  when I saw an athlete or other fitness expert in public or on TV: 1.  Do they have nice, broad shoulders with distinct definition with their delt insertions?  2.  Do they have small waist with defined abs? 3.  Are they symmetrical? 4.  Do they have a Lululemon/Nike/*enter any designer brand* outfit on that matches? 5. Do they live and breathe in the gym and the kitchen? I mean, my list could go on.  But it’s REALLY sad.  It’s REALLY petty.  And I am REALLY ashamed of myself for letting my idea of what “in-shape” is, get so misconstrued.  I mentioned this in a post I did on Instagram before.  Some of the hardest working athletes in the world don’t have abs.  Some of them will never land a modeling gig.  Some of them might never be on the winning team.  But what is a big difference between them and me?  They get paid to be an amazing athlete.  I pay to attempt to be one.  Haha.  IMG_0748

Anyways, long story short, I have been re-evaluating my relationship with food and with the gym.  I currently do not have any stress or obligations to anything pertaining to either, which to be honest made me feel quite lost at the beginning.  But I slowly found my way.  I got into learning some powerlifting, changed the dynamics of my workout and trained more as an “athlete” than a figure competitor.  I love feeling strong in the gym.  I love eating an extra helping if I want.  But I haProcessed with MOLDIVve also learned the value of taking time off and eating in moderation.  I’ve learned portion control (outside of prep) and appreciating my food more.  I had been sick for a week with the flu and completely lost my appetite.  I didn’t get it back for about 6 days.  I just wanted to get back to my 5-6 meals a day, but I could only force down 2.  It was terrible.  Don’t ever take your health for granted.  Whether you’re trying to cope with illness or recover from an injury, the gym will ALWAYS be there.  And it’s only temporary. But you need to make sure you take care of yourself so you don’t prolong your “setback”.

I have been able to strengthen myself in relationships with TM, my friends and my family. TM and I go out on dates and can have normal human interactions instead of avoidance and irritability.  I even managed to put people clothes on, proof is down below.  It was tricky. But it happened.  Haha.  Anyways, I suppo

IMG_0016se I tell you what happens next.  That, I’m not really sure.  I just want to continue growing and learning and being the best trainer/coach I can be.  There is always the possibility I could end up doing a show this year, but that’s only if I am psychologically, emotionally, physically and financially ready.  So for now, I will cheer on those of you that are prepping for shows and helping those who want it.

Get Your Mind Right, Before You Get That Body Tight

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From Top Row Left to Right (2012 NPC North Star)(2013 MN Iron Viking) From Middle Row Left to Right (2013 MN State) (2013 Jr Nationals) (2013 Battle of the Midwest)(2013 Nationals)  From Bottom Row Left to Right (2014 Badger State) (2014 Nationals) (2015 Jr Nationals)(2015 Nationals)

Can I toot my own horn for a second here? Okay I will anyways. As the competition season is getting itself well underway, I want to keep things in perspective for you as you’re about to embark on your journey up Shred Mountain.

I love competing. I love the people I have met and the things I have had to go through to see myself as successful in this sport. Does that sound narcissistic? Meh, probably. But I just want to make sure you understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.

You’ve probably read my background story before so I will make it short and sweet. I started competing in 2012.   I have done 10 shows. All of my local shows I have done I have won. 2 of the 4 National level shows I have done I have placed in the top 5. But this isn’t what has made me successful in my eyes. I’ve learned to love the process and embrace it for what it is, what it is making me and for what I will become. I have learned to love my body when it’s super shredded and when it’s not. That’s right, soft and a little squishy I love it all the same. To be honest, I probably get more rude comments when I am lean than when I’m not. I get called “fit” and “in shape” when I am not competing, but called “disgusting” and “nasty” when I am weeks away from a show. The time when I am giving everything I have to achieve a certain physique. That can mess with you a bit if you’re not secure in what you’re doing in this sport.

The most rewarding thing for me is to be able to be comfortable with my body. This is the only one I get. I like the challenge of getting on stage and the affirmation of a win is a plus. I enjoy eating cake and being okay with my abs being distant, I don’t have a committed relationship with them.

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Heres a portion of my trophies.  In the garage, among the clutter, collecting dust.  There are a couple swords somewhere too.  

So, as you begin your journey, love each stage. Love your time on stage. And then go back to your regularly scheduled program. Trophy’s are plastic. Lights and spray tans fade. And all you’re left with is your body you just beat up for the last 3-4 months. Before you even start, make sure you have your reasons solidified and you have a plan after the pumptastic party is over.

 

My Vibe is Slowly Dying 

Sometimes I re-read my posts and realize I have made myself sound very anti-competing. I have moments of being bitter. And I feel like I have the right to be. That’s me being pretty brutally honest. The truth is, I don’t like losing, 3rd place is more difficult for me to swallow than 5th call outs. I recently received my issue of the NPC News Magazine (see below)  

 where I stood in my kitchen staring at it for a bit and then threw it on the floor. Childish? Yeah. But like I said, I don’t like losing. And 3rd place to me, is losing. I wont go on and on about how hard it was for me to prep and all the hours I put in and blah blah blah *eye roll*. You know what it takes and the difference between 1st callouts and 5th callouts.  2015 was a tough competing year for me. But, I’m taking the year off to re-coop, not because I lost. I’ve competed for 4 years. My body needs to be reminded that I can still live this lifestyle outside of prepping for a show. 

  These photos (top: June 2015 to bottom: November 2015) show 9 months of prep in one year. My body was telling me to take time off after June. I didn’t listen and my physique suffered for it. 
 I’m going to step outside of the competing world for a second, well, for the year at least. I’ve struggled a lot with this thought of not competing. It’s been all I’ve done for the last 4 years. This is weird for me. But I’ve learned a new perspective outside of it to make me a much more of an effective athlete when I get back into the ring. 

Everyone can get to the gym. Everyone can follow a meal plan (yes, I’m saying everyone. Some people choose to believe they can’t). BUT not everyone can handle the mentally destructive aspect of the sport. Women especially have a very skewed sense of self, regardless of what their lifestyle choice is. Men tend to bottle their emotions up and act like nothing can touch them, feelings included. Take every insecurity you have and blow them up ten fold when you’re a week or two out from your show. Armageddon!!!  There I go again, being a competitor-hater. No, what I’m trying to do is make you understand that if you’re not capable to handle the fluctuations of your weight, the incomprehensible mood swings and unbearable hungry pangs, I strongly urge you not to compete. Nope, still not hating on the sport. However, I want to simply spare those who only THINK they want to compete. When I say my vibe is dying, it’s only because I see the sport I love so much being damaged by false promises, ruined metabolisms, borderline pornographic “models, over “prescribed” dosing and assumptions that pro cards will make you a famous bazillionaire. Trust me when I say, your bills are still coming whether you win the overall or not. Your “followers” aren’t going to pay them either. 

Everyone wants to compete. It’s a great goal to set in sight. BUT it’s not meant for everyone. If I tried to pursue a great acting career everytime I nailed a dubsmash, I think I would be in for a rude awakening. 

  

You’re Exactly Where You’re Supposed To Be

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Here’s what you deserve in life…nothing. You don’t deserve a raise at your job just like you don’t deserve losing a loved one. DESERVE is the word that I dislike. The beauty of life is being able to choose HOW things will happen, not WHEN. Let me explain before you think I’m completely cold-hearted. 

I’m learning a lot each day and it’s been a goal of mine to continually keep learning and searching for more. Since deciding not to compete this year (granted I’m only 15 days in so far), I have struggled quite a bit with this decision. I go from moments of happiness, to panic, to confusion, to helplessness and then to despair. I feel like I have no purpose, no structure and am aimlessly walking around in the gym. Dramatic? Maybe. But it helps I have good people around me reminding me that I don’t have anything to prove anymore. So slowly, I’m learning. But I want you to know my biggest revelation…I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I am in complete control of what direction my life will take next.

 

Mom and Dad

 
My parents instilled great morals and values in my life and I strongly believe in God and that the talents He has given me are meant for a bigger purpose than walking across a stage in a tiny suit, dazed and confused and actually  kind of miserable. This has taken me some time to figure this out. Just like it took me some time to figure out that drinking entirely too much wasn’t a good path to take. Maybe that’s why I started this blog, to regurgitate some words of (my) failure so you can avoid them. 

What I have learned in life so far is that people will try and see how much they can take from you without having to give anything back. Significant others will degrade and downplay what you go through or have gone through because they refuse to see your point of view. Friends will walk away because they don’t understand your journey. If you haven’t figured it out already, really terrible and unfair things are going to happen to you. I’m here to tell you that you MUST have an action plan! Are you going to use them as a crutch for the rest of your life and expect situations to unfold a certain way because you barely made it through? Or will you face it as best you can and leave it behind you and know it made you a better person? Terrible and horrific situations can shape you into a really amazing person, just as beautiful and amazing situations can turn you into really awful one. 

Too many people feel so entitled in this world. They have decided somewhere along the way that they no longer need to work really, really hard because of their past. Not just in fitness and competing, but in life in general. It’s as if they are the only person in the universe that has had some “things” they had to go through.  I think our society loves exploiting weaknesses and failures and I think it’s made too many of us bitter and demanding. It’s like we celebrate tragedy. I’m all for using unfortunate situations to propel us forward and letting it perpetuate a comeback.  My point here is I think we need to change our perspective and not use our setbacks as an excuse for our future. So, I challenge you to make a commitment to take every moment, good or bad, and be a better person for it. 
 

Read This!

 

Are Swolemates Real?

 

Tiger Man (TM) and I

They certainly can be. Some people swear that they are destined to meet their swolemate in some magical moment inbetween sets or backstage where their Prince of Aestetics calms their nerves by sharing their rice cakes. I’ve heard of love stories of people meeting via social media DMs and the rest is history. I like these stories because they are atypical. 

I cannot speak for other people and how their relationships work (or didn’t work, because I have heard some nightmares) within the industry but I can give you some insight from what I’ve learned in my personal life. Everyone is different, so that saying you might hear, “you can’t date someone else in the industry” is complete BS. 

For the Beasts:

  • If you meet a girl at the gym and your pick up line is asking her if she competes, this is technically your verbal acknowledgment of what you’re getting into. In my opinion, every female competitor, has a varying degree of crazy. Well, that’s just females in general. But this type of nutso is on a different scale. Hormones, diet, PMS, self-image problems, life stress and more are going to be stacked up against you. Be prepared and be aware.
  • If you’re dating a gym babe you’re going to need to be prepared to be her photographer. And support her desire to post some stuff online, especially when she’s close to her show. Now, there should definitely be boundaries set in place, based on what you deem appropriate (within reason) so it will not later cause unnecessary insecurities. Communicating this is imperative to being on the same page and preventing arguements in the future. If you’ve met your Swolemate on social media, well, you should already know what she’s about since you’ve probably already stalked her a bit (I always say social media is now the first date).

For the Babes:

  • Don’t make him workout with you all the time. For reals. TM and I never workout together. We would kill each other. But we do like going to the gym together. 
  • Cut your man some slack. Although it’s prevalent with men, I find women tend to get much more emotional and knit-picky about what they choose to hear and who they choose to listen to. If your man is in prep, you both need to be mindful and are hopefully empathizing with each other’s crazy moods, however, IF HE DOES NOT or not currently prepping, be open and willing to giving yourself a time out. I got mad at TM one time because of the sound of his yawn. Like snapped. Lost it. Was legitimately screaming. Uhmmmm…yeah. I sat in the corner for a bit for that one. 
  • On the same note of what social media is to guys, ladies, please have some discretion when it comes to what you are posting and sharing with world. I ask before I post. If you’re going to post half naked pictures, then you better be okay with him doing it too. Keep in mind how they would feel reading comments on what people are saying about you and your body. When I see an amazing physique, half naked in an artistic pose, I appreciate their hard earned, sculpted body. But, I think sometimes we forget that our society sexualizes EVERYTHING. So even if you’re trying to just show progress or whatever else, more often than not, the first thought in people’s head might not be appreciating how hard you had to work for those quad separations. Be mindful of your partners feelings.

For both of you:

  • Being open and communicating should be something that should be required in any relationship, but in this industry it is even more crucial. If you have done a prep before, prepare your partner of what to expect. Ask them to help you with your attitude (that when it stinks they tell you, nicely). There will be moments of selfishness that will need to be taken but you need to be willing to communicate that. People are sensitive and take things personally so be sure to educate each other on what you need during that time. 
  • Plan a break. Haha, not in your relationship. But in competing. There are moments I want to punch TM right in the mouth, even when I’m not in prep. So the added stress of competing can prove to be tiring after a while. Plan a break so you can  both enjoy each other, time and food! 

 

After NPC Badger 2014

 
 

After Jr Nationals 2015

  

You Are Not Perfect. And It’s Okay. I Promise.

 

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Turning my head away from the “norm” 🙂  (Photography by Will Edwards of TLR79)

Please step away from this idiotic notion that you need to conform to some sort of book of attraction. Stop thinking that you need to change who you are and how you treat others in order to reach a certain status. Do not give in to false hopes and empty promises of fame and fortune in this industry.

I see time and time again people falling naively to the sneaky and persuasive coaches, uneducated competitors and other so-called influential “role models” in the fitness world. “Get implants”. “Take this” “You NEED this” “Only I can get you there” “Do that for me and I’ll do this for you.”

Can I give you some suggestions that might not make you feel so crappy at the end of the day? If you said no, close your eyes and look away.

 

  1. Always ask questions. Ask why, what and when. Ask. Ask. Ask. Your health and your wellbeing depend on it.
  2. Think about WHY you’re choosing to compete. Make sure you have a definitive, logical answer about what you’re doing it for YOU. Not to influence someone else, not in hopes it will bury your negative self-image problem or magically make you feel better about your life as a whole. Make sure that its not just sweeping your real problems under the rug.
  3. Make peace with the fact that you’ll never truly be satisfied. The same thing that drives you to be better will be the same thing that will drive you mad.
  4. Do not lose your values and morals when you’re on your journey. You can wear a turtleneck and corduroy jeans and still be inspirational.
  5. Work really, really hard. Some of my greatest inspirational people I look up to have less than 200 followers or aren’t even on social media. They work really effing hard and don’t even care who knows it.
  6. Stop thinking you’re entitled because of who you know and what you’ve done. But don’t let others walk all over you and use you for your talents or stunning physique.
  7. Be kind to those who support you. Be patient and learn that no one is holding a gun to your head to do this. Real life and real people will continue to go on, do your best not to mess with that or put yourself above that.
  8. Research and ask for help from those who have put in a considerable amount of time and effort into helping others and furthering their own education. They might not be “world renown” or have 9 million Pros under their belt, but you find some people you’d trust wholeheartedly with your health, don’t let them go.
  9. Be prepared to face the things you fear the most. You cannot progress in your circle of comfort. Be willing to push yourself and surround yourself with those who can challenge you when you need to be.
  10. Stop cheating on your diet. But if you do, pull yourself together and know that life will still go on. Don’t be so dramatic because chances are you’re being REALLY annoying.

Is Competing Your Crutch?

The first photoshoot I felt 100% comfortable with my body in front of a camera. Photography by Will Edwards of TLR79

This is going to be an entry that might seem a little self-loathing. I want you to know this is a very real realization I came to in the last month. I have been competing for 3 years, have done 10 shows and have been fortunate to build some great friendships through this hobby.   But my journey has had its fill of disappointments, frustrations and moments of defeat. And I’m not talking just about on the stage, but in my personal life.

First Check-In Ever. 2012. I weighed 117 lbs in this photo.

I have a very addictive behavior and am the type of person who is either 110% committed or moving on to the next thing. I’ve mentioned how I began my fitness journey when I finally made the decision that waking up on my kitchen floor would probably never end in a positive and happy way. It took me a while to look my problem in the face, but eventually I realized I was worth more than how I was treating myself. At that time, I had a friend who had done a show and could tell I was searching for a “replacement” for my previous addictions of drugs, alcohol and smoking. She introduced me to competing and I was intrigued. I went to a local show and I was motivated! I quit everything cold turkey. The gym was the perfect rehab for me. But I wasn’t exactly in the clear after I started getting into it. I know I’m not alone with this story and I’m sure there are plenty of other battles you have had to overcome to claw your way out of your self-dug holes. As with anything, there are always the bad that come with the good. Even though I traded in my blackouts for sweat sessions and put my hard earned money towards better food choices then late night binge sessions, I had a lot of other demons show their ugly faces because of this life change.

Since I can remember, I have been terrified of gaining weight, I mean TERRIFIED. I would like to blame our society for this but as I’ve grown older, I am learning that I have allowed this type of thinking to take over my approach in life.  It has taken me 15 years and counting to love my body the way it is despite what society tells me. I am concerned for people who have eating disorders and damaging insecurities when they join the competitive bodybuilding world. I mean, think about it. It’s one extreme to another.  DO NOT get me wrong, I am not demeaning anyone that overcomes this feat and not downplaying it’s seriousness.   But it is a scary thought to me because personally I have to battle with them every time I decide to step on stage. I have been pushed to moments of quitting, terrible self-doubt, skewed perceptions of my body, depression, feeling absolutely defeated, like a failure and tons of psychological crushing thoughts. Although I have not been clinically diagnosed with an eating disorder, I know I haven’t had the greatest relationship with food and probably still don’t. I was diagnosed with depression in about 2012 (previous to competing) and was medicated for it. I am no longer medicated but a lot of the same “symptoms” show their teeth when I get closer to shows. In fact, if I am not prepared, they will completely destroy me. I am my worst critic, I am never satisfied with how I look and want to quit before I ever step on stage.

Photography by Will Edwards of TLR79

Here is what I am trying to say without writing my entire life story. Competing can be VERY rewarding and I would go as far as saying it saved my life. But I have learned a lot of nasty things about myself, the sad reality of how people treat others and that I must always be in control of my behavior (physically and psychologically) in order to find my joy in this sport. When I first started, I shut people out, I isolated myself, I said “No, I have a show I can’t do that.”, I even broke up with the guy I was dating at the time of my very first show and when he asked why I legitimately had no answer (sorry guy). As the years passed, my love for competing started as genuine and hungry to win and then turned a little narcissistic and selfish.  And now I am almost 30 pounds heavier, educated, happy but just plain burnt out. I feel like this last year and a half I have been trying desperately to compete in fear that if I took a break (my body was trying to tell me to), that I would be “quitting” and that I’d somehow turn myself in a real life chubby Panda.   So, in the beginning, competing was my crutch to overcome addiction and not have to take responsibility for my attitude while more recently has become my barrier from seeing the bigger picture. I am not going to compete forever and I know I need some time off this year, but I am challenging myself to love this lifestyle outside of the pressures of competing and stress of prep. Took me a hot minute to get to this conclusion, but I’m a gazillion times happier and more motivated than ever.

2015. I am 136 lbs in this photo. I think I was tired after 40 minutes of this shoot. Haha. Photography by Will Edwards of TLR79

Remember, that YOU make the choice to put yourself through this. You cannot be a jerk to everyone because “you’re low on carbs” or “you’re tired” or some other BS reason as to why it’s okay for you to treat people like garbage. YOU choose to eat the food (or not to), go to the gym and live this lifestyle. There will be moments of selfishness that will eventually need to happen and there will be times where you just need to be alone. But before the stage lights and tans fade, make sure the ones you love still want to be around and support you even after the madness.