Thursday, May 16, 2019

My Journey to a NPC Bikini Competition: Part One (The Facts and Figures)

I want to blog about my journey through my bikini competition but the task has seemed so daunting.  How do I appropriately describe what has transpired in my life over the past 4 and a half months?  How do I put into words so many thoughts and emotions? Where do I even begin?  This part will basically talk about the facts and figures.  All the numbers-- the calories, the workouts and my weight.

MY journey to my bikini competition started long before January.  It started in February 2018 when I finally took control of my life and my eating.  I worked side by side with my nutrition coach, Tracey from Clean Eats Coaching.  (You can read all about that journey here.)  Tracey undoubtedly changed my life.  I learned how to fuel my body properly.  I learned what foods to eat when and I truly lead a clean eating lifestyle for almost a full year before I started my body building experience.  Had I not done this with Tracey first, I can honestly say I don't think I would have been as successful in my journey.  It was because of Tracey that I had the tools and know-how to even start the body building journey.  I owe a lot of my success to her.

February 2018 to September 2018 working with Tracey 
When I got the bright idea to enter a bikini competition, I did ask Tracey if she wanted to be my coach.  Tracey thought it was important that the person who coached me through my nutrition also coach me through my workouts.  She encouraged me to ask my CrossFit coach, Alex to be my coach.  When I did, Alex called on fellow CrossFit coach, Jess to be my nutrition coach.  Alex would write my programming (workouts) and Jess would set my macros (calories:  proteins, carbs and fat) and follow my nutrition.  And so we started MY journey.

Jess, Me and Alex 
When I first started I weighed in at 136.2 lbs.  Fresh off the holiday, I had definitely added a few pounds.  I was also sitting at about 22% body fat.  Jess and I discussed what show day should possibly look like and we were shooting to be around 12% body fat which would be about 115 pounds.  The thought of losing 20 poundds over 4 months seemed overwhelming from the get go.  I felt so much pressure to hit that 115 pound mark.

Jess set my beginning macros at just over 1600 calories (148 protein, 127 carbs, 57 fat). I was starving all the time.  It was definitely an adjustment period.  First, because I never tracked my macros before, but second because I clearly had been eating a LOT more than 1600 calories per day and WAAAAY more fat.   I had to make some adjustments to the amounts of food I was eating and obviously had to pay attention to macronutrients.  I never realized how much I liked fatty foods like nuts, olives and ALL THE FATTY MEATS.  The one thing I told myself through MY journey is that I would not compromise my clean eating lifestyle.  I wanted to body-build but do it by eating clean foods AND foods that I enjoyed.  I didn't want to take the "if it fits my macros" approach.  Meaning I didn't want to fuel my body with pizza and cupcakes just because it would "fit" my macros.  I kept wheat, dairy and sugar out of my life like I had the whole prior year. On the other had, I also didn't want my diet to consist of only white fish and asparagus.  I wanted to eat clean foods that fueled me properly but also kept me satisfied.  If I'm proud of anything throughout this journey, I'm proud of my ability to keep my clean eating lifestyle and not compromising my beliefs.  I still cooked.  I still made recipes.  I still ate salmon, red meat and the occasional taco.  This isn't to say that I didn't have to change anything.  I definitely did.  I had to eat less intuitively and more according to "hitting my macros."  I had to eat egg whites when I felt like eating rice cakes with nut butter.  I had to eat less veggies (hello carbs) and cut a lot of fun (fats) out of my life.

Pretty soon, hitting my macros became easy.  I knew what to eat when.  I knew the macronutrient content of my favorite foods.  I knew what combinations to eat to hit my daily goals.  However, week by week, my macros decreased.   You know what this means right?  Feelings of being hungry would happen with each adjustment.  I started to accept that being hungry was part of the process.  I mean how can it not be?  There were some days I felt like I didn't have enough and I was always starving.  But other days I would space my eating so I could eat every few hours and it kept me more happy.  Regardless there were many nights I went to bed early just because I was hungry and there were no more macros to eat.  Many days sucked.  I'm not going to lie.

My goal from the beginning was to lose 1.3 pounds a week over the course of the prep with a 2 week buffer built in.  This would hopefully have me at my goal of 115 pounds on show day.  Things went along pretty well.  Like clockwork actually for quite some time.  It was a slow process for me and I stalled out a few times.  Things don't just happen overnight people.

My workouts. My favorite part!  Throughout the month of January I stuck to typical CrossFit workouts.  I did whatever was programmed at the gym plus normal accessory work.  I worked out 5 days a week.  4 of those were spent at CrossFit and one day was dedicated to running.

Come February, I stopped my beloved CrossFit and focused only on bodybuilding.  On a typical day I spent anywhere between 1.5 to 2 hours at the gym.  I'd do mostly weightlifting and followed it up with 15 to 20 minutes of cardio.

As time went on I really started to focus on adding extra cardio.  After my sessions in the gym I'd do at least 30 to 40 minutes of other cardio a day.  That could have been a ruck walk (walking with a 25 pound pack), rowing, my bike trainer or just walking my dog.

I also focused on NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis).  That's just a fancy way of saying all the activity you do that is not working out.  I really focused on MOVING MORE and not allowing myself to be complacent.  10,000 steps a day or bust.  Every far away parking spot was mine.  I stood when I wanted to sit, etc. etc.

The workouts were honestly the easy part.  I enjoyed it.  I looked forward to it everyday.  I never thought I'd be happy NOT CrossFitting, but I was.  I was content in my own corner of the gym doing my own thing.  I felt like I was getting stronger every day and I liked it.

Toward the end of my journey (beginning of April) my weight loss had stalled.  My calories were around 1368 calories with HIGH protein and low fat and carbs.  Panic began to set in and I decided to up my game in the gym and started personal training with Alex.

Alex and I trained together  two days of the four I was at CrossFit for the last 6 weeks of my prep and I really think it made a HUGE difference. I started seeing real changes in my physique.

I have to say, I didn't know one single thing about how to get where I was going with the whole body building thing.  I trusted Alex's expertise and I trusted the process and the workouts he wrote for me.  I saw BIG changes in my body.  I have no doubt my workouts were exactly what they needed to be.

Through my diet and my workouts, I was able to lose a significant amount of weight without losing a ton of muscle.  Often times when you're in a deficit, it's hard to hold on to your muscle.  I'm so proud of the work I put in (inside the gym and in the kitchen) to hold on to my muscle.

In the end, I didn't quite make it to my original goal of 115 pounds and 12% body fat.  I made it to 118.7 (a weight I haven't seen since I was 20 years old) and 14.5% body fat.  While I didn't make my original goal, I'm still tremendously proud of where I ended up. I honestly don't think there is anything I could have done better in the gym or in the kitchen.  I did everything Alex and Jess asked me to do and this is all my body had to give in the 4 and a half months of prep.

I lost 17.5 pounds, 7.6% body fat and only 2.7 pounds of muscle. I held on to my muscle and that makes me so happy!  I didn't just waste away.

I want to say thank you to Alex and Jess for the time and energy they put into my workouts and nutrition. I tried to be an excellent student of their tutelage.  I can tell you, I hit my macros 95% of days and even if I didn't hit my macronutrient goals I always hit my calorie goals.  I can think of ONE time I actually "cheated" on my diet and that was super bowl Sunday when I ate a piece of pizza.  I also had 2 glasses of wine (one on each of the vacations I took) as well as some Tito's and soda one night while visiting a friend.  Other than that I was on and on all the time.  I can honestly say, my nutrition was spot on.  I did pretty much EXACTLY what Jess told me to do.  As far as my workouts... I missed one workout and one long run due to illness.  Other than that, I worked out 5 days a week every week (plus additional cardio).

There's not much more I could have done based on what my coaches asked me to do.  I hope, if nothing else, I've made them proud.

So there you have it.  There are the facts and figures of my bikini prep.  Stop back next time where I'll talk about about the EMOTIONAL journey!


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