Friday, May 29, 2015

What a Week of Fitness Competition Training Workouts Look Like

I’ve been asked quite a bit lately about my training regimen. My coaches have me on a 5 day on, 2 day off program - also known as a “lean bulk” phase. has a great article if you’re interested in learning more about lean bulking. Essentially, the goal is to build as much muscle mass as you can without putting on fat in the process. Everything from timing your carb intake to keeping track of macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein and calories) play a role in how we effectively gain muscle in a slow and steady way. With that being said, here is what a typical week of workouts look like:

Legs: 4 Sets, 10 Reps
squats - medium stance
leg extensions - two legs
hamstring curls - standing, single leg
reverse lunges - standing, bar, all on one leg then the other
inverted leg presses - medium stance
Back & Triceps: 4 Sets, 12 reps
pull ups - wide grip
tricep pushdowns - standing, cable, rope
pull ups - close grip
tricep pushdowns - standing, cable, v-bar
bent over rows - bar, wide grip, pronated grip
close hand presses - bar
single arm rows - knee on bench, dumb bell
nosebusters - lying, dumb bells, two arms
Calves 4 sets
calf raises - standing, L/R/Both - 15/15/15
Abs 4X15
roman chair - bent knee raises
Glutes & Chest: 4 Sets, 12 reps
flat bench presses - dumb bells, two arms
pullovers - lying (across bench), single dumb bell/two arms
butt blaster
reverse hyperextensions
hip lifts - body weight, lying on floor, single leg
pop squats
sumo squats - dumb bell/kettlebell, standing on two elevated step benches 2-3 blocks high, go deep allowing weight to drop between benches
split squats
Shoulders & Biceps: 4 Sets, 12 reps
side lateral raises - standing, dumb bells, two arms
preacher curls - ez-curl bar, close grip
arnold presses - seated, dumb bells, two arms
bicep curls - standing, bar, close grip
high rope pulls - split stance, cable, rope
bicep curls - standing, dumb bells, two arms, hammer grip
military presses - seated, machine, wide grip
preacher curls - dumb bell, single arm
Calves 4 sets
calf raises – seated
Abs 4X15
basic crunches
Legs: 4 Sets, 15 reps
walking lunges - body weight
box jumps
step ups - from floor, body weight, single leg, all on one leg then the other
jump squats
squats - body weight

As you can see, my training sessions are long! Legs and Tush are my favorite muscle groups to train, with shoulders and triceps coming in dead last (when will lateral raises get easier?!). Most workouts take at least an hour, sometimes 90 minutes as I find myself bopping around the gym from machine to free weights and back again.

All in all, I love my training. In addition to the lifting schedule you see above (that my awesome coaches change every week), I am doing 10 minutes of stairs 4x per week. Doesn’t sound like much – but head on over to one, crank that bad boy up, stand tall and DON’T hold on. 10 minutes feels like a lifetime! I’m also still teaching my barre classes which I just love. Not only do I feel like it helps keep me lean, but I just LOVE the studio – my fellow instructors and our awesome clients bring a huge smile to my face.

I do miss running. My coaches have taken away all forms of cardio other than stairs (these really help develop the hammies and tush if you drive through your heels) in fear I’ll just burn off any muscle I put on. Someone please remind me of this when I’m a month or so out from my show and living on the stairs. Mental note - enjoy eating 6-7 meals a day and lifting heavy with minimal cardio while I can! 

I've also been asked about progress pictures. While I plan to continue updating everyone, posting half naked pictures of myself still feels funny! But in the spirit of y'all being as awesome as you've been with your texts, calls, emails and words of encouragement - here is a little progress shot from this morning before my workout. The difference between the pictures is just TWO shoulder workouts. TWO! Amazing how fast our bodies respond when we listen and fuel ourselves with proper nutrition, lift heavy and recover as necessary!

Don't mind the shameless 5am, no makeup selfie!
Not sure if the progress is as obvious to anyone else, but I see a huge difference in my delts. The "before" picture was taken right before I began prep, and you can see those little pencil arms/delts (speaking of - check out the sexy ass cap on my girl Melissa!!!). I think just two shoulder workouts have already grown my delts, which is significant since bikini competitions are won on:
1) Delts 2) Hamstrings 3) Glutes

As always - thanks for reading, and for the words of encouragement. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate them all SO much. You guys are the best.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It Doesn’t Take a Whole Day to Recognize Sunshine

There are very few times in life when someone says something to me that stops me in my tracks. That silences my voice and makes me go "Hmmmm."

It was during a heart to heart with a best friend earlier this week when he said something so simple that it nearly brought me to tears.

To put it in context, I was sharing my thoughts on a repeat pattern in my dating life. Men I meet often seem to want exclusivity before truly getting to know me. Date #3 seems to be the magic number for “the talk" (and no - the goodies are not always given up so early!). While I’m usually not the one to bring it up, I have agreed, on a few occasions, to be exclusive so soon in to dating someone (I've actually also been proposed to on a first date, but that relationship broke a lot of rules from the beginning!). The problem? Well for starters, how well do you really know someone after three dates? Neither person has proven themselves worthy of exclusivity yet. Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe there still needs to be a period of “woo-ing” – where flowers are bought, doors are opened, calls are made instead of texts being sent. The problem with jumping into exclusivity too quickly is we bypass courting and go directly into a relationship. It was when I asked Eric why he believes (from a guy’s perspective) I keep finding myself in these “exclusive talks” with guys locking it down. And that's when Eric said it. 

“Jenn. I've dated a lot in my day. I've met all kinds of women. Trust me, men are simple. It doesn’t take us a whole day to recognize sunshine.”

Heart. Melted.

While I think Eric may be biased, I do agree that faults considered, by the whole, I am a breath of fresh air to date. I’m open and try to be a good communicator. I’m secure in myself and know my worth – therefore rarely do I ever get jealous for no reason, or act possessive or controlling. I love to laugh and have fun – and try not to take things too seriously. So while there are times when I reflect on past relationships and wonder why they didn’t work out, I think it’s actually time to thank those relationships for the lessons they bestowed upon me. 

Thank you for reiterating that our gut instincts never lie.
Thank you for showing me that wanting you and needing you are two different things entirely. 
Thank you for showing me that no one deserves to be treated as an option, while the other is treated as a priority. 
Thanks for taking care of me when I physically couldn't take care of myself.
Thank you for reminding me that I deserve to be included in your life.
Thank you for showing me new parts of the world.
Thank you for showing me places I’ve already been, but through an entirely different lens.
Thanks for sharing your small hometown with this big city girl.
Thank you for opening up your loving family to me.
Thank you for making me feel safe to talk and be vulnerable.
Thank you for showing me where you fell short. And where I did.
Thank you for showing me what I need. What I want. And what I can and can no longer accept.  

And thank you. Thank you for making me courageous and brave. And a believer in loving one more time. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lessons Learned: 2nd Week of NPC Bikini Prep Complete!

Happy Tuesday, Readers!

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Memorial Day weekend. I'm happy to report today is the mark of week #3 of my road to my first NPC bikini competition and I'm feeling great!

Memorial Day weekend was full of fun events - I taught a great barre class in the park (awesome group of ladies + sunshine = happy me!), went to my first pig roast at a friend's farm where I brought and ate my own meal - cheated with a tiny glass of rose (sorry Coach Steve!), had some great downtime with Lucy, hit new PRs in the gym (WOO HOO!) and finished a yummy meal prep with new recipes! Some fun photos from my weekend :)

Much like I mentioned in my previous post, I am still relying on my coaches for support on everything from weighing my food (is it ounces or grams?!) to motivation (am I progressing enough week over week??). I have my first posing class this Saturday - and can't wait to get in the gym and meet some like-minded folks who are working towards the same goals as I am.  

Prior to competition prep, I loathed rest days. Now, my body actually calls for it. On my current program, I rest on Sundays and Mondays - but I still manage to stay active somehow. Yesterday I hit the trails with a friend, walking the 5 mile route I ran pre-comp prep. It feels great to have an active rest day to stretch out these sore muscles of mine. I am still training legs three days a week (one day heavy weights/quad focused, one day glute focused, one day body weight/HIIT) and I can already feel the strength increasing (new squat and leg press PRs hit this morning!).

After sending my progress pics to Coach Steve this morning, I received news that this weekend I can have my first cheat meal! SO looking forward to checking out a new Mexican restaurant here in Atlanta: Skinny margs, steak fajitas and fro yo have my name ALL over them :) Steve said go enjoy an appetizer, entree and dessert (with a cocktail or two to boot!) and I plan to savor each and every bite! This past Saturday I went to a Braves game; chicken, cucumber and sweet potato in tow. It's a bit funny lugging around a bag of food everywhere I go, but my friends don't seem to mind and I haven't bat an eyelash at watching other folks eat foods that are not part of my meal plan. Interestingly enough, my chocolate cravings have diminished substantially!! Each night (for my 6th meal), I blend up half a frozen banana with ice, water, and a scoop of protein powder and I swear it tastes even better than a frosty! Healthy cheat that completely satisfies my sweet tooth, sans guilt! #winning

Mental State
I'll say it's not easy waking up at 5:30am to hit the gym hard before a demanding work day, saying no to wine/sweets, or going to bed at 9:30pm - but I'm proud of myself for staying focused and determined. The sacrifices I'm making each day are a drop in the bucket when I think about my larger goal - bringing my best package to my show, but more importantly, proving to myself that I am strong and capable of anything I set my mind to. Today may only be day 16, but I feel great and am excited for the weeks and months to come!


Monday, May 18, 2015

6 Lessons Learned: First Week of NPC Bikini Competition Prep

Fitness is 100% mental. It's not easy spending hours in the kitchen prepping meals. It's not easy leaving an all day music festival to eat a piece of salmon out of your car. It's not easy socializing with friends at a weekend cookout with lobster tails, cake, and snacks flowing - and saying no. I've begun eating before social gatherings, making bottled water my best accessory, and discovering creative ways to push the temptation that comes to the forefront of my mind aside. I've had dreams of fro-yo and medium rare filets, but I remind myself of my goal, of why I started, and the temptation melts away. My desire to get in the best shape of my life, to challenge my mind to push harder than it ever has before is much more powerful than a piece of cheese, roll of sushi, or glass of wine. Sometimes people don't understand, and that's ok. It's been a challenge figuring out how to keep up a social life during prep (and I'm only one week in!) but I'm realizing those that love me and respect my goals are more than understanding and supportive. 

It's you vs. you, but a great coach helps. While I wholeheartedly believe prepping for a bodybuilding competition (bikini, figure, or otherwise) is a mental sport and test of willpower and determination, I do believe a great coach and team can make all the difference. Beyond writing up my meal plans and training schedules, my coaches provide me 24/7 support with any and all questions I have along the way. Sometimes it's a motivational quote, other times it's an alternative suggestion for foods I used to rely on (quest bars, coffee creamer, flavored yogurt, etc) that I have since eliminated, I feel as though I have experienced, knowledgeable cheerleaders in my corner. And it's awesome. 

I have a new found love for sleep. Maybe it's the two-hour, heavy-lifting sessions in the gym, or the sugar deprivation, or the mental exhaustion, but I have NEVER slept better than I did the first week of prep. Come 9pm, my eyes are so heavy I found myself asking Lucy if she'd walk herself just so I didn't have to. 

Hello, my name is Jenn and I am a chocoholic. My Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Coffee Creamer. A small square of chocolate after lunch. A handful of chocolate chips after dinner. I never realized how much chocolate I was eating until I couldn't eat it anymore. These days, the only form of "chocolate" I am allowed is the flavoring from my whey protein powder. As luck would have it, I happened to be PMS-ing throughout my entire first week on prep. Queue the chocolate cravings! During the first few days, I felt like I could push a small child out of my way for a brownie. Walking through the grocery store, my eyes immediately darted to the fresh baked cookies. I had to remind myself why I started, wipe the drool away and keep on keeping on. 

There's no substitution for lifting heavy shit and putting it down. Over and over again. On day one of prep, I had to throw deuces to the notion that 10lb dumbbells and light leg days were going to do squat (pun intended) as I get ready to compete. I needed to increase my weights and challenge my body to push outside my comfort zone - making the last 2-3 reps of each exercise extremely difficult, without compromising form. I may have reluctantly groaned as I slid a few more plates on my squat rack, grunted as I heaved heavy dumbbells overhead during shoulder day, but I got it done. I have NEVER been as sore as I was after my first leg day (heavy squats, deadlifts, leg extensions, hamstring curls, weighted front lunges, etc). I'm talking four days of wondering if I'll ever be able to pee with decency again. And just when I finally feel like my legs and glutes are feeling better, leg day has rolled around once again (I'm currently training legs twice and glutes once per week)!

It's working. I'm happy to report in just my first week, I've lost almost 5 pounds! I'm not supposed to be paying much attention to the scale, as it'll probably stay the same as I put on more muscle, but the good news is whatever body fat I do have stored up is coming off. This'll help later on as I lean out right before showtime. As you may know, the more lean muscle mass we have, the more fat we burn. More muscle, less fat - win win!! I'm slowly becoming more comfortable getting more creative during meal prep (every meal doesn't have to be ground turkey and green beans) and I'm getting even more comfortable politely saying no when I'm offered a plate of food, invitation to dinner, a drink, etc. On my weekend Costco run, I busted out a container of bell peppers and cottage cheese and ate it - no fucks given! I'm coming into my own and taking my competition prep seriously. I haven't had one "cheat" or "slip up" in my diet or training regimen yet! Mind > Matter all day errry day.

Did someone say pizza?!


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Meal Prep. Like.A.Boss!

The Plan
For the next three weeks, My coach Steve Payne has me on a strict nutrition/workout plan so we can see how my metabolism and body responds. The diet is super clean, and thankfully I've never been a fan of condiments, sodas, salad dressings, etc. so eating plain/bland foods is fine by me. But my sweet tooth?! The struggle is REAL. For the next three weeks, there is ZERO room for cheat meals. That means for 21 days (you know I'm counting!) there is no margin for error. Luckily, Steve has allotted me some fruit and protein powder... so those will have to sustain me. I'll be eating 7 meals a day, with specific measurements for all the food categories below. My digital scale has quickly become my new friend. And speaking of new friends, I may have just raised Tupperware's stock yesterday. If you're interested in embarking on a similar challenge, I definitely recommend reaching out to Steve or another certified coach. He can help design a plan custom tailored to you and your goals! Below is a list of what I purchased in preparation for a fun-filled afternoon of cooking to last me the next three days.   

What I bought:

My cart!
Prep in full effect!!

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Sweet potatoes
Green beans
Prenatal (I’m trying to grow out my hair)
Three packages of lean ground turkey
Brown rice
Egg whites
Old fashioned oats
Broccoli medley

Non-fat plain greek yogurt
Brown rice cakes

2% fat cottage cheese


Whey protein

What the aftermath looked like!!

Thoughts during prep…

“I’ve been cooking for an hour. Surely I must be close to finished.”
“Holy shit, this is a lot of food.”
“Wait. Where did all the groceries go?”
“How the crap do I use this digital scale?”
“Surely this must be 4 oz of grilled chicken. Mother f’er, it’s 9 oz.” Sad face as I cut it in half and put the other piece back in the pan.
“Okay, three hours later and I’m done. I have to do this again three days?!?! I need a nap.”

How I Feel
I wonder if anyone else leaves themselves cute
motivational notes?! :)

The good news is, I have time to get show ready. Some women opt to squeeze comp prep into 12 weeks, but I'm about 22 weeks out. Steve and I agreed best to ease me into this lifestyle. Despite working out 6 days a week beforehand, I ate clean-ish during the week but totally let myself enjoy the weekends - indulging in desserts, burgers, wine galore... You catch my drift. Those days are behind me for now and while I am quite honestly terrified, I am thrilled nonetheless. This will be trying physically for sure (I just completed my first leg day workout this morning and nearly tossed my cookies when I finished!), but for me - this is a test of my mental state and spirit. I want to be strong enough to motivate others, show that we can do anything we set our mind to. I want to show women that strong is sexy and you don't have to always be a size zero (although Steve does think my tiny waist and already small frame will be assets come show time!) - so long as you're healthy and confident in your skin. I've always been reticent to share, but I spent over a third of my life struggling with an eating disorder that had a vice-like grip on me. It prevented me from living life to the fullest, starting at the age of 13, and my journey to becoming healthy has taken time. I still consider it a work in progress, but I get closer each day. Now, instead of looking in the mirror analyzing my body for flaws, I see strength and resilience. A small waist, big brown eyes, toned legs, a huge smile... I've taught myself to look for all that is beautiful - and accept the few things I cannot change. Because loving your body will get you further than hating it ever will.

Any questions? Anyone out there in prep mode or looking to compete? I'd love to hear from you!


Monday, May 4, 2015

The Time I Tried… To be Fearless

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If you know me, and/or read this blog, you know I'm a goal-oriented person. So it’s no surprise to hear that yes, I do like to set resolutions. Every December I typically write a whole slew of things I’d like to accomplish in the coming year (along with the things I’m grateful for in the year prior). My 2015 resolution?

Do more of what scares me.

Honestly, when I set my resolution, I didn’t even know what it meant. I just knew this year would be the year I’d push myself out of my comfort zone. And here we are. Almost halfway through 2015 – and I’m ready. I’m ready to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for years, but never had the guts to do.

I am prepping for a Fitness Competition.

And I am fucking terrified.

Whenever I feel scared about something, I try to understand exactly where the feelings are originating from. To help myself rationalize and put these fears to rest, I came up with the top three things that scare me most about competing:

1)    No wine. Sorry not sorry, I love wine! This will be something I will legit miss. And margaritas. Summer is coming – how can you NOT want to drink a skinny marg on a patio somewhere?!
2)    Not being able to eat out. That’s my social time – with friends, family, a special someone… I’m going to become the girl that busts out a chicken breast out of her purse at a nice restaurant. And I’m going to need to be OK with it. So will whoever is sitting across the table from me.
3)    Feeling isolated. I’m a bit nervous that my friends/family/loved ones will not be able to understand/appreciate/be supportive of my new lifestyle. After all, it will require so much dedication and determination on my part. I don’t want to add another layer of complexity by feeling like I need to justify my decision to anyone. I also don’t want to feel that I’ll be missing out on social activities just because I won’t be able to partake in a few libations, cheat meals, etc.

The funniest part? None of the above fears have anything to do with my physical appearance. I’m not scared my body won’t respond to the training. I’m not scared I won’t make the time to hit the gym and log long sweat sessions. Why? Because I’m a bad ass J Really though, I am so determined to crush it in the gym – and watch my body transform over the next few months. I know I can do it, and with the help of my coach, I feel confident that come show time, I will get up on that stage and see all my hard work pay off!

If you need me, you now know where to find me!

So there we go. This has been THE loftiest goal I’ve always been too chicken shit to pursue. And now, thanks to a little NYE resolution, I am about to embark on a 5 month long journey to push my mind, body and spirit to places I have never experienced.

Bring it.



Friday, May 1, 2015

Three Things to Stop Romanticizing

1)  The Past 
You want a surefire way to be the thief of your own joy? Live your life consumed by your past. How much fun you had in college, how little pressure you felt before becoming financially responsible, how amazing that ex was (news flash – they really weren’t!). The past is the past. The door is closed. While memories carry over the years and last us a lifetime – that is precisely what they are. Memories. Isolated events that have shaped us to become who we are today. Rather than running back to toxic friendships/relationships just because they're familiar, embrace the unknown of the future and let yourself live in the present moment. The uncertainty can be terrifying, but so is continuously giving time to things that no longer exist.

2)      The “Perfect” Relationship
As amazing as I’d like to think I am, I’m not perfect (although my sarcasm is on point!). So why should I expect to find someone without faults of their own? Call me cheesy (or a realist, perhaps), but I believe there is no perfect person, but a person perfect for each of us. I have some quirks – I lick my q-tips before I put them in my ears, I snore and occasionally drool. I don't dry off after showers and leave sopping pools of water around the house. Sometimes I feel the burning desire to plan life days/weeks/months in advance. I’m sure these traits could drive some men nuts. But the right man? He’ll let me drool on his shoulder, jokingly make fun of me as I pull out my planner, and find all of my other idiosyncrasies downright adorable. This goes for all of us. Stop thinking you need to be perfect, and they need to be perfect. There’s a reason Seinfeld was single. He had completely unrealistic expectations of a partner and a relationship. The lesson? Be picky, but not unreasonable. Life isn’t all unicorns shitting rainbows, and life can become mundane. If you’re looking for a woman to be your arm candy, or a man who wines and dines you – you’re in for a rude awakening once the “honeymoon” phase is over and “real life” sinks in. An evening-long House of Cards marathon should sound as appealing (if not more!) than getting dolled up for a fancy evening out. Find someone who brings a smile to your face and contentment to your heart. Find someone who you miss when they’re not around. Find someone you want to lay next to, talking about everything and nothing all at once.

         3) Your Bank Account Balance
      Have you heard of the “lottery curse?” Time Magazine wrote an article a few years ago chronicling tragic stories of past winners – and how playing (and winning) turned out to be the worst decision of their lives. My point? Money isn’t everything. We’ve all known someone, dated someone, or loved someone who poured all they had in to work. They were their jobs. And other than the money in the bank, what did they have to show for it? This brings back memories to an event that occurred two years ago – I woke up in the middle of the night with the most extreme chest pain I’ve ever experienced. Given the fact that both of my parents have suffered life-threatening heart conditions, I immediately panicked. I felt my chest constrict and my breathing was so shallow, it felt like I was taking in shards of glass with each inhale. I drove myself to the ER at 4 am and was rushed back for immediate, invasive tests to rule out emergent conditions such as a heart attack. The good news? I didn't have a heart attack. The bad news? My blood pressure was dangerously low at 70/40 and I couldn’t take a breath without screaming out in pain. I was diagnosed with double pleurisy in both lungs and immediately admitted to the hospital. Alone. Once the team of physicians stabilized me, I didn’t call my parents or friends. I took my iPhone out of my purse and emailed my boss. That’s right. I emailed my boss and co-workers to inform them I wouldn't be making our 9am meeting. I drafted a lengthy email, updating the team on my projects and requesting meeting minutes so I could stay abreast to project timelines. How sad is that. G-d forbid something really awful had happened to me that day, who would have been more devastated? My co-workers or my parents? I had a light bulb moment that day, laying in my sad gown in a cold hospital room alone. Success is great. Striving for a powerful career is wonderful. But let’s not all lose sight that when we come to the end of our lives, it won’t be our co-workers surrounding us. It’ll be our friends and family. So be fiscally responsible, but don’t ever let those you love (and love you) become anything less than your top priority. You can’t take the money with you – but love will last forever.