Tag Archives: 3D Muscle Journey

2017 Prep Update: Reflections Before Moving Forward (Video Included)

“So how did you do?”

How do I explain how this was my favorite “last place” of all?  How does that make any sense when validation is supposed to be about a scorecard?  Four shows now and four last place finishes, but my truth now is…


It’s been 11 days and when I think of my time on stage, I’m overwhelmed with JOY.   I felt a little like this after my first show in 2012 because that one was truly a celebration.  I didn’t feel much of anything except a little frustration after my 2013 show.  And, as many of you know, the 2015 show was a kick in the gut.  Every insecurity I had about participating in this sport was validated that day.  To come back from that, I spent two years doing intense introspection that led to some inspired changes in my teaching practice.  Had I not had that humiliating experience, I doubt I’d ever understand how a fixed mindset can poison everything we attempt to do.  That experience helped me understand how some of my students feel – hopeless to break through and change anything.  Lost track of the number of books I absorbed.  I even took an online class on mindset in mathematics and could relate everything I learned back to my personal experience as a new, 50-something, athlete.

So how did I do?

Wonderfully!  I did wonderfully.  Almost every goal I set for myself was achieved.  What I’m most proud of is how I improved with posing and how I choreographed my own routine, kept it private until stage – and it didn’t suck!  There is still much left to do.  That’s exciting because I’ve proven to myself that I CAN improve.  After that 2015 experience, I fought a hard battle against the “what’s the point” bullshit-on-a-stick I was handed.

I can’t imagine that winning something will ever feel better than this feels.  I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.  Don’t misunderstand – I’m not “making lemonade from lemons” here.  A couple weeks before the show, my mindset switched from thinking of this as a competition to thinking of it as a performance.  I met every performance goal I set for myself.  I worked hard on it and I saw it in the pictures and videos.  I didn’t lose my composure or crack under pressure.  It’s very possible that I will always be moved into the last position after the symmetry round because my symmetry sucks a little bit – so be it.  Judges do what judges are supposed to do.  But I really don’t care anymore.  I’m up there DOING BODYBUILDING!  So much joy in that!!  I will set my goals and I will give the people who paid to watch bodybuilders the best bodybuilding performance I can muster up on that day.

I understand that being an underdog and winning would make for a great story, but I don’t think that’s my part to play.  Because I put in the work and participate in this sport publicly, someone somewhere borrows courage from me (which I’ve borrowed from others) to deal with their own health issues.  I never set out to be a social media fitness person and I’ve actually become more of an introvert in real life since all of this attention has landed on me.  I go to the gym, I do my work.  I go to work, I do my work.  But every so often, I suit-up and step-up to a mark taped on a stage and do a bodybuilder performance.  I don’t know why it fills me with joy – it just does and I’m grateful!

I made this video to celebrate the experience.  It took a little time because I really don’t know what I’m doing with this sort of thing, but I am learning as I go along – as is true for most everything I am doing these days.  If you followed the events of the day on Facebook as Michelle and I were posting, you’ll recognize most of what’s in here.

Thank you!!!!!!!



Filed under Competing

Long Time, No Write

I haven’t written in so long!  I miss it.  Life is very busy.  Very.  Busy.

Not sure where to start.

Right after my last post in July, I had to go back to work.  School didn’t start until August 10th, but at the end of July, I was asked if I wanted to move my classroom to a larger one with windows.  YES PLEASE!! (I think I’ve written about this before, so I’m backtracking a bit for continuity.)  It’s an awesome room.  I’ll be there for a while, I hope.  The move wasn’t far – just about 100 steps from door to door.  Still took about a week to move my stuff and get things organized.  The week after that, teacher meetings started.  The week after that, kids arrived.  There hasn’t been much time to do anything.  In fact, I shouldn’t be doing this right now.  I have food to prep, laundry to do, grades to enter, lessons to plan… that’s my non-gym life now.  There are 200 students on my rosters as of yesterday.  Not sure if I’ve ever had that many students.  And most are 10th graders.  It’s not the same as having 200 12th graders.   If you’re a high school teacher, you have an idea of what my days are like.

My days are long.  I am settling into a routine of going to bed around 8 pm and getting up at 3 am.  It’s too early, even for me.  I can’t keep that up for more than a couple of days without losing brain function.  But there is rarely time during the school day to do lesson planning or grading.  Now add in the workouts.  Yup.  Very.  Busy.

It’s been two months since I competed.  Lifting is going well.  No injuries.  Haven’t tried to hit PRs yet.  I’m focused on improving form.  Bench press form has gotten better, so I’m expecting strength gains there.  I’m not even trying to push myself through a full workout on any given day if the time is crunched.  I look at the spreadsheet Coach sends me as a “to do” list for the week – and the week might take 8 days to finish.  There is increased volume in the program.  Most secondary exercises are done in sets of 15-20 reps.  And 15’s suck, btw.   Lifting is how I cope, so I won’t allow it to be a source of stress.   My strength is coming back.  I won’t test it for another month.  Should see some PRs then.

Coach has been working with me as I transition from tracking food to eating intuitively.  It’s been fun and weird and scary.  I like it.  I need to have less stress, so not tracking food and not trying to hit macros makes like simpler.  I had a good reverse diet and didn’t gain a lot of weight post-competition.  I’ve had a couple challenging weeks with intuitive eating, so the scale has crept up a little more, but I’m still less than 10 pounds over stage weight, which is OK.  In fact, my weight now, two months post-show,  is about what it was two months before the show, so I guess that’s also evidence of a good reverse diet.  That’s about as heavy as I want to get during this entire off-season.  So my challenge is to learn how to use the mirror and the scale to adjust my activity and food intake without tracking anything.  There is no way I could have done this in 2009.  Or 2012.  Or last year.  But now I can.  I hope.  Still working on “dialing it in” as they say.

May-Sept Same Wt

My mental game is improving about life and bodybuilding.  I can’t lie – what happened at the show rocked me.  Every time I look at one of the videos I post, I’m reminded of that “you have a normal female pelvis” comment I got as one explanation as to why I didn’t place higher (one of several reasons why I didn’t place higher) – and that just brings up all the helplessness feelings I have about not being able to change things.  And then I push it off.  I remind myself that I love what I’m doing and I will continue to improve what I can improve.  I wrestle with it a bit, get it back in a box, and push it into a corner of my mind.  Coach and I both know that we will have to open that box and deal with the stinky thinking at some point again.  What has been helping me lately is a suggestion from a friend to listen to an audiobook called “The Power”, which is the sequel to “The Secret”.  I loved “The Secret”.  I show it to my classes.  This new audiobook has some parts that are a bit too silly, but the overall message is one that makes sense to me.  In a week, I’ve listened to it twice.  It’s a reminder of something I already knew – focus needs to be on gratitude and love.  I like how it makes me feel and how it helps me navigate my life.  Remember those 200 students?  And then there is the rest of what’s involved with being a government employee that makes no good sense… I need to work on staying patient, calm, and internally balanced.

As busy as I am, I have thought about discontinuing my social media involvement.  Thing is – every time I consider it, I hear from someone I’ve never met, someone who hasn’t ever commented before, who has borrowed a little courage from me to do something that is important to them.  I didn’t start all of this to be anyone’s “inspiration”.  I did this for accountability.  I knew if I told the Internet that I was going to do a thing, I would get it done.  Decades of hiding kept me from fully committing to change.  Had a conversation with a friend about the quote “I want to inspire people…” etc – you know that one?  I realized when we were talking about it that, to me, wanting to be an “inspiration” might be a form of approval-seeking?  Probably doesn’t come across that way for anyone else, but it just doesn’t feel right for me.  I spend my whole day pushing kids and I suppose that’s the same as trying to “inspire” them, but inspired or not, I expect them to work and learn a little geometry before the bell rings and they bolt off into the hall.   I’m a teacher.  I’m a teacher in my day-job and I think of myself as a teacher online, too.  Just don’t assign homework here.  (Maybe I should?  That’s an interesting idea.)

So here I am, writing instead of grading, writing instead of food-prep, writing instead of laundry.  If we attract what we put out into the the universe with what we feel and say, then posting online must have power, too.  I’ve been mindful of that before, but more so now.  It’s important to me to make positive ripples online.  I know that negative rants and such things get more attention, but they don’t add anything positive to anyone’s life – certainly not mine.  I can control that.  I intend to control that.  🙂


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Life, Teaching

Show Pictures and Reflection: Subtracting Negatives is Addition

You have already seen some of the gorgeous pictures my husband took at my show.  (He did the ‘behind-the-scenes’ shots for our team and the really nice ones of me on stage.)  In this post, I want to share the pictures that were taken by the show’s photographer.   I’m using all the pictures to evaluate my performance, celebrate my progress, and identify things I want to improve so I can set new goals.

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to sort out the emotions and get some perspective.  Coach has had to work a bit to help me process some things.  It helps somewhat to learn that many competitors go through a similar mental process after a competition.  The farther I get away from it, that doesn’t surprise me.  We train hard, we diet hard, we invest so much in this ‘hobby’.  Perspective is easily lost.  Two weeks later, I’m starting to feel more like myself.  And for those who are thinking it – yes, it is worth it to me.  Competitive bodybuilding tests me physically, intellectually, and emotionally.   But it also provides a structure to my life that keeps me physically and emotionally healthy.  It’s a paradox.

My previous goals were to come to this show leaner and with more muscle than I had at my previous shows.  I accomplished both – not bad for a 50-something, post-menopausal, high school teacher who’s only been lifting for five years, huh?  And for that, I need to give credit to my coach, Alberto Nunez at 3D Muscle Journey.  Freaking brilliant programming and prep protocol.  Remember – we never went low-carb and I didn’t cut water.


Coach Nunez and I finally met in person! Thank you, Berto!!

It’s important  to remind myself that I accomplished those goals on stage at a big show, in the open class of female bodybuilders with more competitors standing on that stage than I’ve ever had before.  People flew in from other states, other countries in order to participate in this show.   You will see the pictures below, my personal critique will follow, but it’s important to remember that I’m happy with the results and proud of what I’ve accomplished in a short amount of time.  The size of this show and the caliber of the other competitors were a bit intimidating, but as my coach said, I “looked like I belonged up there”.  After I saw the pictures my husband took, I thought “I look like a bodybuilder”.  When I got these pictures this week and I could see how I looked in the line, I think I looked OK considering the experience of the ladies up there with me. (The woman who won was a figure pro in a different federation.)

Here are slideshows documenting my inaugural appearance in the open class of female bodybuilding.

These are just me:

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These are Me vs. Me:

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These are the entire open class at pre-judging.  (The young lady in purple next to me was the only novice competitor.  She is 17.  So, the oldest, a high school teacher, and the youngest, a high school student, female competitors were lined up together – how cool is that?  Well, I thought it was, anyway. A nice memory for me.)

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Post Game Analysis – Time to “Subtract the Negatives”

I’ve spent too much time focused on the “negatives” of this experience.  I lived in that negative place for a few days.  One day this week, I remembered – removing negatives is the same thing as addition.  I can turn these negatives into something positive.  (I’m a math teacher – go with it.  Hahaha!)  When I reflected on the show and looked at these pictures, I identified the “negatives” that need to be removed in order to “add” to my progress as a bodybuilder:

  • Symmetry is a negative.   My pelvis is too wide.  My waist is too wide.   But I can’t change my skeleton.  Stalled?  No.  To remove this negative, I will need to create the appearance of a smaller midsection by increasing the size of myi delts, my upper back, and my legs.  I can address some of this with posing, too.
  • I screwed up the timing of my pre-stage feeding.  It’s a bit tricky to figure out when you’re going to be called to get on stage.  I got the first couple of meals that day in on time.  The last one was supposed to be a candy bar about an hour before stage.  The first part of pre-judging went by quite slowly.  I thought I had more time, but things sped up a bit and I ended up shoving that candy in while I was pumping up.  Big mistake.  Should have just skipped it at that point.  When the sugar hit, I was on the third quarter turn of the first symmetry round.  My blood pressure dropped, I had a dizzy spell, and I spent the rest of the pre-judging time trying to not faint.  I was trying to save energy by not smiling on every pose.  I’m sure that’s also why I forgot some of my posing ques.  I couldn’t hear my coach or my teammates in the audience because there were a lot of people in the front rows yelling.  The negative to remove is to do a better job of tracking the progression of the show and getting my food in me at the right time.  This was the first time I’ve had this pre-stage feeding protocol, so now that I’ve done it once, the next time should run a bit smoother.
  • Posing – I did not hit some important poses well.  I did better with posing during my practices, but forgot several ques when I was on stage.  Even had I been at my best posing, I don’t think I practiced posing in a way that would create the appearance of better symmetry.  That is something I will need to figure out and practice.
  • Body Composition – I still had fat on my lower abdomen and glutes.  Totally fine for life, so please don’t think I’m calling myself “fat”, but I wasn’t lean enough for stage.  To achieve stage-leanness for the competition,  I need to be able to maintain a lower body weight through the off-season so that when I start my next fat loss phase, whenever Coach decides that is going to be, the precious stored fat in those areas will slowly go away.  So far, I’ve only gained 3-4 pounds since the show.  I’m supposed to maintain this weight now.  When we started my cut back in Sept 2014, I was about 157 lbs.  The morning of the show, I weighed about 128.5.  Now the plan is to keep my scale weight between 130 and 135 lbs during the off-season.

What’s Next?

I do not plan to compete again until at least 2017.  I will be 55 that year.  I have a lot of work to do to subtract the negatives.  Life loses a bit of balance during prep, too.  That’s not fair to Hubby or my students.  But I’m a competitor.  I’m happiest when I’ve got a goal to work towards.  Now that I’ve been on the Mayhem stage, I have a vision of being on it again, but he next time, I will have fewer negatives.  I’m excited to get back to work.  If Berto’s programming can do what it did in the first 18 months of our collaboration, I’m 100% confident about what we can do now that we’ve developed a solid foundation for our athlete/coach relationship.  I’m enthusiastic about what my 55-year-old self will be able to accomplish.

It was a fun day overall.  I’ve had more fun on stage before – that is true.  The dizzy spell during pre-judging was a bit scary.  And the anxiety attack I had the day before was not fun for me – really not fun for my husband.  But Hubby did a good job to find humor in the situation and calmed me down.  On show day, there were 16 of my 3DMJ teammates competing that day, so the atmosphere backstage was like a reunion.  We all met up for dinner afterwards – I think there were 40+ people there?  Competitors, coaches, significant others, friends, and former competitors all together to eat too much, share stories, and laugh.  I had a great time, got to meet people I’ve only interacted with online, and made new friends with people I’d never meet in real life if not for this competition.  A special day with great memories.

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Oh – and I almost forgot – here is my night show routine.  The song is “Shatter Me” by Lindsey Stirling.

Photo Credits: KodaMax Photography and Better Aesthetics Bodybuilding


Filed under Competing

My Competitor Self

Had a great conversation with my coach this week.  It’s similar to one we’ve had before.  I think I need to share it with people who are following my journey so you will have some context to apply to some things I say or do.

There is a difference between who I am in the the world and who I am as a competitor.

My top priorities about things are about who I am in the world.  That is who I am with respect to my health, self-care, my marriage, teaching, and being a friend.  Some things I share – like my health transformation story and how I practice self-care through nutrition and exercise.  Those are things that most people who follow my posts on social media are interested in, which is how you probably found me.  Like most people who have pages or blogs, I separate who I am in person from who I am online.  I’m more transparent about things than some, but that is only because I remember how isolating it felt when I started my transformation.  No one in my real life had done this.  It’s hard to know that what you are feeling is “normal” without something to compare it to.

I am also a competitive bodybuilder.  There aren’t many women doing that, so I suspect most of the people who follow my journey don’t compete.  Most of the time, it does not matter.  And the massive amount of support and encouragement is humbling.  When I want to quit, I think about that.  When I think it’s “hard”, I remember the stories from people who are really doing something “hard” who, for some reason, find what I’m doing inspirational.  I’m accountable – which was the point of starting this blog in 2010 and the Facebook page in 2012.

Coach’s advice to me was to make sure I keep “Tammy in the World” separate from “Tammy the Competitive Bodybuilder” in my mind.  But the competitive side of me is why I’m driven.   It’s what gets me up at 3:30 in the morning to go train before work.  It’s how I handle the crazy OCDness of weighing a handful of almonds and then putting some back.

Lessons learned from my journey to transform my health…

  • the skill to track food (which took about 6 months, by the way)
  • how to set a realistic, measurable, attainable short term goal
  • discipline required to reach that goal and set another one
  • patience when results aren’t predictable – because they usually aren’t
  • dedication to the promises you make yourself
  • be MORE patient
  • determination to stay consistent and do the work even when you don’t want to
  • learned that no matter how crappy you feel, you’re going to feel better afterwards
  • learned that nutrition is science and what the body does with the food is also science
  • learned to be more objective and less emotional about what I eat or what happens in the gym

… and a bunch of other lessons if I were to continue

These lessons prepared me to follow my dream to be a competitive bodybuilder.  Please realize that my goals for my sport are specific to that part of my life.  When I talk about my disappointments in not reaching a bodybuilding goal, it does not diminish what I’ve done as “Tammy in the Real World”.  But there will be times when I share my thoughts, successes, and failures from the perspective as a competitor.

As a competitive bodybuilder, I have improved a lot.  I am pleased and proud of that.  However, I’ve done three competitions and I have yet to actually earn a placement.  I am lucky to have two trophies and a medal because there were just enough to go around for the number of women who registered for my division.  Again – as “Tammy in the Real World”, I am proud of my progress.   But I’m not done.  I have not reached a goal that I have as a competitor – to earn a placement in an open division as a 50+ female bodybuilder.  It is because I’m competitive that I train harder, I diet precisely, and I practice posing.  If my goal was to participate as a woman in her 50’s, I did that in 2012.  To keep training diligently, I need a new goal.  I hoped that this time I had done enough,  but I knew the day before I had not. Improved, but not there yet.  I need more time.  It wasn’t a matter of work or coaching – I presented the best package I have ever presented.  Especially for someone who has only been lifting for 5 years.  At the show, I was moved to the end of the line during prejudging after the first round of posing.  There were three rounds, I think.  Went by quickly.

A few days have gone by, I’ve reflected, talked with Coach, and I know what I want to work on.  Because I’m competitive,  I was discouraged at first, but have since become fueled by it.  I like being an underdog.  I like being in a position of having something to prove.  Just like when I started – there were people in my life then who didn’t think I’d lose the weight, much less compete.  And now I’ve done three competitions.  (Yes, that’s empowering.)  I got back into the gym right away this week because I needed to.  I’m having a little harder time dialing in my recovery macros, but each day I’m getting a bit closer.  I’m determined to have a successful recovery from show prep and transition into another long improvement season.

So just because I’m disappointed with my performance last weekend, that’s only “Tammy the Competitor”.  “Tammy in the Real World” sees things differently  – I am grateful, proud, and joyful that I’ve been blessed with the capacity to do it.  I also have a secret weapon that no one I’ve competed against has had – the people who follow my journey.  When I needed a pep talk the day before, they were there for me in a way that was overwhelming!  I swear, I had almost made the decision to drive home, but it was the interactions we had on the page that gave me the courage to follow through.

And these pictures comparing my first show to my third reassure me that I’m on the right track.





Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep

4 Weeks Out: ANOTHER Diet Break! Really?

File this one under the “BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR” category.  I’ve been back on my diet for a week, with a seven day break before that, and today Coach tells me to go to maintenance for three days, wait two days, then take pictures on Saturday morning.  This must be a test run to see how my body responds to carb-loading.  But still, it’s annoying.  Unexpectedly stressful to keep going on and off the diet.  When the nerves flare up, I want to suffer a bit to feel like I’m making progress with the extreme fat-loss that needs to happen to be stage-ready.  It’s a psychological thing.  This prep is so different than my last two.  Trust the process?  Trust the coach.

Hahahaha!  OK.  If I must eat, I will eat.

About that – I am sad to report that ice cream is out now.  I eat mostly whole foods anyway, so this won’t be an overhaul.  Just pulling out things that have ingredient labels.  Peace-of-mind, mostly.



Sent my registration.  This is happening.


Found my posing suits in the closet.  My black suit will still work for prejudging.  The fancy night show suit doesn’t fit well and I didn’t like how the color looked on stage in 2013.   Decided to order a new one from the same place, Saleyla, because they make great suits and turn them around fast.  I liked this simple style with a little bling, but I changed the fabric to be turquoise velvet.


About teaching…school ended last week.  Graduation is tomorrow.  The end of a school year is always a bit nuts – especially if you work with seniors.  Many ’emergencies’.  But they really need to be given a chance to earn that graduation, in my opinion.  I never want to see someone handed a diploma they didn’t earn, but I also understand how important it is to give that second, third, fourth chance to earn it.  NOT graduating is a severe, life-changing consequence.  So last week was all about trying to save as many as possible.  Most stepped up and earned it.  Can’t wait to watch them walk across the stage tomorrow!  I am grateful to have landed at this school.  Took the long way to get here, but it’s a good fit.  Looking forward to next year – which starts in August.


In other news…  I can’t share details, but it did impact me negatively, so it is that impact that I want to document in my blog.   Much stress was felt over the last couple months about this issue.  It’s not what or why that’s important.   It’s another chapter in my never-ending journey outside my comfort-zone.  I never wrote about this.  I wanted to, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say or even if it was appropriate for me to share my experience here.  I felt stifled.  Moved past it.   I thought I had dealt with this issue and found an ethical compromise I could live with.  However,  last week, there was a new development and I felt it was important for me to speak up to the group to share my discomfort about the issue.  Wasn’t sure how that would be received.  For a few hours, I thought I might get kicked off my bodybuilding team – which is a possibility.  Sometimes, coaches fire clients.  I didn’t think it would happen, but it took a fair amount of courage and trust for me to say what I needed to say.  Some things are bigger and more important to me than my own needs.  My coach reached out to me personally.  The other coaches were open to a dialogue with me and were sincere, understanding, and willing to revisit some decisions.  You don’t see that happening very often.  Most of the time, people get defensive, dig in, and hold their ground.  I’m sure that was their initial response privately, so to move away from that was unexpected and impressive.    The situation is resolved now, I guess.  Or at least it’s been discussed and air has been cleared.

One of the reasons this one issue blew up into something uncomfortable for me is an unshakable feeling that I have little in common with most people on my team, other than things related to bodybuilding itself.   I’ve only met a few of these people in person, so it’s hard to feel like I really know any of them.  The demographic is mostly 2o,30-something males with athletic backgrounds.  And then there is me:  a 50-something female who is new to anything athletic.  Heck, I don’t even follow professional sports!  I workout by myself.  I love to lift,  but I don’t enjoy discussing the nuances of it.  (I can talk about teaching ALL. DAY. LONG.)  I understand intellectually that I’m on a team, but physically, I’m alone. I only interact with my coach regularly.   For the last year, whenever I reached out and posted on our team page, very few interacted with me.  That’s to be expected, I guess, but it still makes it hard for me to connect.   Or to want to keep trying.  The issue that prompted the drama is behind me, but because I rocked the boat, I won’t know if it is something the others will understand and forgive as the coaches have done.  I hope some of that mutual discomfort will dissipate after my show since I will meet many of my teammates on that day.     When I’m on stage, if my results are evident, others like me will want to work with these coaches, I hope.   It would be wonderful if more women my age became part of this group so I won’t feel quite so isolated.   Yes, that would be awesome.  Logical, too.  These coaches put health, balance, and life ahead of everything.  Their philosophy fits perfectly with the needs of  middle-aged athletes with adult responsibilities and lives to manage.  And the results are impressive.  I plan to work with Berto and 3DMJ for as long as I continue in bodybuilding.

Sorry for the testimonial, but it’s true.  It’s why I’m willing to power through some stuff to make this work for me.




Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep, Life, Opinions, Venting, Ranting, Teaching, Weight Loss

7 Weeks Out – Body Builder Brain

  • I’m too small.
  • I won’t get lean enough.
  • I’m too busy and can’t practice enough.
  • I don’t have a routine yet, so I haven’t been practicing that, either.
  • I don’t know where I put my posing suit.
  • Maybe I should just skip this year, too?
  • I lost my pecs.
  • My right calf is too small.
  • Tanning, makeup??  Where IS my suit???
  • I’m 53.  Guys in their 40’s are talking about being old – and I’m just starting??  What the hell am I thinking?  No one is going to take me seriously.  I’m a joke.
  • I am a wife.  I have a demanding job – people depend on me.  I don’t have time for this!  What the hell am I thinking?


And all of this happened while I was on a diet break.  Five days this week of eating at maintenance – which means I increased my food intake just enough to maintain my weight.  Gave my body a break from the stress of dieting.  And it is stressful.  Body is basically chewing up it’s own reserves to keep functioning.  When in a caloric deficit over time, brain doesn’t have enough energy to handle stress well – which is why dieters can be so much fun to be around!

I think the diet break was stressful for me because I’m feeling the time crunch now.  7 weeks.  Less than 2 months.  It’s already a stressful time because I’m finishing up a school year in a new building.  I can’t bring work home.  Training, resting, food prep, and life just doesn’t allow for that anymore.  But there are piles of things to grade, final exams to write, study guides to write, lesson plans for kids who don’t want to work – classroom management is hard right now.  Most of my students are seniors. They are excited and stressed about graduating and making the transition to adulthood.  So I’m picking up on all the anxiety around me trying to not let it add to my own anxiety about getting everything done.

During this diet break, I maintained my scale weight better than I have on previous breaks.  I kept the calories under my burn because the BodyBugg I wear is probably over-reporting the burn right now.  I’m smaller so it takes less energy to move my mass through space.  Processes adapt over time to use fewer calories when in a deficit situation.  On the first day of the diet break, I noticed I wasn’t as tired at the end of the day.  That’s a big clue that I needed to take the break, huh?  I was ready for it, but I only wanted to do two days.  When Coach said to do five days, I was surprised.

I was also surprised at how emotionally tough it was to eat more for those five days.  I didn’t have this reaction to diet breaks before.  It’s just my Bodybuilder Brain.  I was happy to get back on the diet yesterday.  I missed Hungry.  Hungry = Progress.  It’s not comfortable, true.  It sucks some days, actually.  But it’s necessary and it means I’m moving forward instead of standing still in my prep.

Now, I’m hungry again.  So I’m happy.  Moving forward and excited to be back on the ‘growling tummy grind’.  Today.  Let’ revisit that “happy to be hungry” BS in a week, shall we?  Hahahaha!

Bodybuilder Brain also needs to be managed.  It’s normal, but it cannot be allowed to run amok because one of my goals for this prep was to enjoy it.  There are some things I can do to stay calm and centered.

1) Keep involvement with social media to a minimum.  I do better if I focus on what I need to do and avoid looking at what others are doing.  We’ve talked about that before over on the FB page.  My “teacher voice” starts screaming when I see some of the things I see.  (I’m going to refer those kids to the office for dress code violations.)

2) Go outside.  Often.

3) Read more.

4) Sleep more.

5) Get caught up at work and ride the year out with as little effort as possible.

6) Find my suit!

7) Just keep grinding.  Embrace the suck.  I like it.  I like the self-discipline.  I like delayed gratification.


8) Keep perspective – yeah, sure, I’m getting on stage to be judged.  Risking public humiliation, intorvert’s nightmare… yada, yada, yada.  But it’s actually easier than you would imagine.  It’s mostly just fun. The audiences at these shows are bodybuilding fans.  They either know what it’s like to do it, wish they could do it, are family and friends of competitors, etc.  I get more stressed thinking about the travel, the makeup, the tanning – all of that stuff.  Stage is fun.

 9) Blog more.  It takes time, but writing helps me process my thoughts and emotions.  I’ve been using it that way for the last five years.  This prep is different than the last two.  It’s been fun, for the most part.  Life has been nuts for the last year, so the structure of this prep and working with this coach have helped me stay sane.  However, these last 7 weeks could be…interesting.  


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Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Competing, Contest Prep, Life, Opinions

8 Weeks Out – Good News and Bad News

Good News

Prep has been progressing, as coach says,  “like clockwork”. So much so, that I started to wonder this week if my posing suit will still fit in a couple months.  Has to.  Can’t afford a new one.  Better get a couple cans of Bikini Bite!  Hahaha!

Up until about a week ago, my food intake goals were to hit my protein macros (1 gram per lb of  body weight) and use the bodybugg to keep a caloric deficit of 500 to 600 calories each day.  Carbs and fat grams have not been specifically set for me.  Calorie burn each day dictates how much food I will get to eat.  That naturally cycles carbs and fats up or down depending on my activity.  I was also given a weekly limit of 800 calories burned for cardio.  The bugg can track that for me, too.  That limit has been easy to reach with just walking.  A nice little dog walk after work.  Nothing crazy hard.  That was the protocol for a few weeks.  I’m probably due for a small diet break this next week.

Screenshot from Gym Buddy App

Weight on May 16th

I added a page to the blog for current progress pictures.  Check out the menu bar above.  This visual record will be useful for future contest preps.

Last week, Coach asked me to make a slight change.  Keep fat grams under 30% of total calories and increase cardio burn to 1200 calories a week.  I was happy to the get the extra movement.  More calories burned = more calories to eat.  My burn has been adapting downward a tiny bit for a couple of reasons – a) I’m smaller and b) I’ve been in a calorie deficit for a while, so energy is low so I’m not moving as much during the day.    Not worried about any of this – it is all expected because this is how the body works.  So the extra little bit of cardio has been good.  I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed my cardio time because I’m doing as much of it outside as possible.  Walks and bike rides.  If I have to do it at the gym, I’ve been using high-incline treadmill mostly, because it makes my legs feel pumped, but started with the rower last week.  I’m using cardio to relax and reflect – I’ve needed to do both of those things a lot lately.

Bad News – REALLY, really bad news

About 3 weeks ago, one of my 8th grade students from last semester committed suicide.





I haven’t been able to write about it. And I couldn’t write about anything else because nothing else felt important.

I loved that kid.  She was a tough little thing.  Made me laugh every day.  Foul-mouthed, funny, impulsive, and she wiggled into my heart and set up shop.  When I was given the opportunity to transfer, there was a very short list of reasons why I didn’t want to do it – and every one of those reasons was a kid.  She was at the top of that list.   I decided that transferring to the high school she and her classmates would attend would end up working out well because I’d be able to mentor them for four years instead of just one.  And those high school years are filled with so many more opportunities for a kid to get in trouble.  Even if I knew for sure why she did it, which I don’t,  I wouldn’t discuss it here.  The news reported that there were three suicides at that school in the last couple months, but the third child did not die.   My kid was the second one.   That is all I know.

I’ve been teaching for 19 years, have chosen to work at three of our district’s “tougher” schools for the past decade, and there have been plenty of tragedies.  We tend to steel ourselves to be able to help kids deal with things.  But this was the first time a suicide was one of ‘my kids’.  It has hit me hard.  I found out because one of my other students emailed me during school the next day.  I could not teach.  The Vice Principal got my last covered so I could go over to the middle school to check on my other kids.  I was able to talk to several.  Grateful for that opportunity.  Extremely grateful to see one who was in a bad accident last winter and has made a good recovery.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I will miss this kid for a long time.  I missed her and my other 8th graders since I left that school.  My current high school students knew about the situation because that middle school is our feeder school.  One baked me brownies over that weekend and brought them in on the next Monday morning.  How sweet is that?  Yes, I ate them.  Share a few, but they became part of my post-workout meal for a few days.  Prep or no prep – when a kid bakes you love, you eat it.

It’s bittersweet right now because many of my older kids are graduating from college this spring.  If you aren’t sure why that’s a major accomplishment, remember – I’ve been working at “tough” schools.  Many of my kids were the first in their families to graduate from high school, let alone college.  They beat the odds.  Nothing was easy for them.  They worked harder than their peers at other schools.  When I started my transformation journey, I looked at my kids and borrowed courage from them.  Each of us has our Mt Everest to climb if we choose to do it.  I asked them to try and not give up.   I told them that hard work, even on the ‘little stuff’,  pays off eventually, but doing nothing gets you nowhere.  And then they left high school and did it!  I wasn’t their only teacher, so I can’t take credit for all of it, but I will take credit for being smart enough to use them as my inspiration.  They are underdogs – I’m an underdog in my sport.  They are out there kicking ass and taking names – some have earned big, fat prestigious scholarships (ie I’ve had three Gates Scholars)  just because they knew that’s what they would have to do if they wanted to go to college.  Some grew up homeless and now are doing well.  Single parent households to apartments in Manhattan.  Oh yeah – they are doing it.  It’s really not a big deal for me to get up earlier to go to the gym because they got up early to do calculus homework.  I CHOOSE to be a little uncomfortable because I’m hungry when they didn’t always have a choice about being hungry.

I’ve been listening to this almost every day for the last three weeks.  It reminds me that there is always someone with a bigger obstacle who finds a way around it to reach their goal.  It reminds me of all the kids I’ve met during the last 19 years who overcame their childhoods to create the lives they wanted.  And so it will always remind me of the one who could not.

While all this real life stuff has been happening, I haven’t felt like writing.  Social media – it’s overwhelming sometimes.   Lately, I’ve felt like digging in and doing my thing semi-privately to keep life simple. Short posts are easy, but writing this blog, sharing what’s been going on – well, that’s been something I couldn’t handle.  My ability to handle stress has been a little compromised by the prep, but I’m also grieving.  (That’s why the walks have been therapeutic.)  My coach has helped me tremendously as I processed all of this pain, joy, and frustration.    His online presence is much larger, so he knows what it’s like to have to deal with  ___ (I’ll let you fill in that blank because I have nothing good to say right there).  It’s a little weird to have a mentor who is 20 years younger than I am, but that’s exactly what Berto has become to me.  Much more than a prep coach.  I am grateful.

OK.  So I’m 8 weeks out from the competition I think I will do.  Nothing is set in stone yet.  Life this last year has been a long roller-coaster ride, so I’m not willing to fully commit to a date just yet.


Filed under Bodybuilding Journal, Cardio, Competing, Contest Prep, Life, Teaching, Weight Loss