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Slow and Steady and Making Strides

There’s no doubt the summer of 2019 will have a special place in my memory. Above all in the journey toward my first bikini competition, the one thing that continues to amaze me is the speedy passage of time. Needless to say, I’ve had next to nothing on the social calendar for the past 10 weeks. Yet, each day disappears into night and I gasp a little louder when each Saturday arrives and I realize I’m that much closer to stepping on stage. With a little less than six weeks to go, I now find myself not only excited about the actual event, but I’m also getting downright giddy thinking about the treats and time with family and friends I’ll be able to enjoy when it’s over.

Let’s Do This!

One of those events takes place exactly two months from today. On October 20th, I’ll lace up for my second Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Central Park. As you longtime readers know, I’m a former Avon39er and this marks the fifth year I’m pounding the pavement in the fight against breast cancer. Once again, I’ll walk to honor warrior survivors like my Mom and in memory of those who lost their brave battle, including my friend Elizabeth Leonard Barton. The routes may have changed over the years, but the mission remains the same: raising money to kick breast cancer to the curb and to help fund the services assisting patients battling the disease today. If you’d like to consider making a donation, please click here to check out my personal Making Strides page. Remember, every dollar really does help. (A big thank you to all the generous people who’ve helped me raise more than $24,000 since 2014.)

While the Walk is still a couple of months away, the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix is just around the corner. The past week challenged me to use a little extra caution with my upper body workouts as I continue to nurse some aches, pains and strains. The good news is I listened to my body -and my coach!- and let my upper body rest for almost a full two weeks before attacking the weights again. This training has pushed my body to new limits and part of the learning process has been knowing when to step back and make adjustments.

Posing Practice Continues…

Meanwhile, the meal prep and posing practice continues. My current struggle is trying to   get consistent, solid shut eye. Though I fall asleep pretty easily, it’s getting back to sleep after a wakeup that’s causing the biggest disruption to my sleep schedule. So I’ll be looking for ways to improve my important overnight recovery sessions in the days and weeks ahead.

I wrap up this Transformation Tuesday like so many others: with a big thank you to all those who continue to cheer me on this journey. Here’s to making the most of what’s left of the summer of 2019 and the opportunities we have yet to discover on the never-ending road to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

More Tweaks & Turns

45 Days to Go!

After today, there will be only seven Transformation Tuesdays left in my first-time fitness journey toward the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. As show day creeps closer, I’m facing new challenges and changes in my nutrition and training programs.

I’ll start with my diet, since that still generates the most questions. I continue to eat five meals a day and while the food options haven’t really changed, I did make one switch that has been a game changer. I’m now eating almond butter because I can actually eat the prescribed serving size of one tablespoon and put the lid back on the jar. You may recall peanut butter became my kryptonite starting around week four. I simply couldn’t resist the temptation of having multiple spoonfuls. Now in addition to my breakfast portion, my coach moved a second almond butter serving to pre-bedtime. On such a restrictive diet, having a “treat” to look forward to at the end of a long day has made a world of difference for my mind!

There are other minor adjustments to some portion sizes to reduce my overall calorie intake. Here’s what this week looks like:

Monday / Thursday (Glute / Leg Days)

Breakfast (still my favorite meal of the day!):

  • 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 3/4 egg whites
  • Cinnamon

Meal 2:

  • 4 oz (weighed raw) chicken breast
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup greens (spinach, broccoli, arugula or other leafy greens are my go-tos)

Meal 3:

  • 4 oz 99% lean turkey
  • 5 oz sweet potato
  • 1 cup greens

Meal 4:

  • 4 oz (weighed raw) chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup greens

Meal 5:

  • 4 oz tilapia (or sometimes, I’ll have egg whites again)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice or quinoa
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup greens

Bedtime: 1 tbsp. almond butter (YAY!)

Tuesday / Friday (Upper Body) / Saturday (Lower Body)

These days are basically the same as above. However, my second meal includes only a half-cup of brown rice and the third includes four ounces of a sweet potato instead of five. Everything else is a carbon copy – including the bedtime almond butter treat!

Wednesday (Active Recovery Day) / Sunday (Total Rest Day) :

Since these are my low activity days, they are also my lowest calorie days. Breakfast never changes (thank goodness!), but the carb intake does. I’ll have a half-cup of brown rice as part of meals two and three, but meal four consists of just four ounces of chicken or turkey with as much spinach or leafy greens as my heart desires. For the last meal of the day, I’ll eat tilapia (or egg whites), a tablespoon of olive oil and a cup of greens. (And yes, I still get the almond butter for “dessert.”)

This No-Salt Seasoning Goes on Almost Everything I Prepare.

As to my gym time, while I’m happy to report I’ve got my groove back in the weight room, the amount of cardio has steadily increased. On the first Tuesday of this contest-prep training back in May, I spent 20 minutes on the treadmill for low-intensity steady-state cardio. Today, I’ll walk uphill with an incline of 10 at a speed of three miles per hour for 50 minutes. At this stage in the game, each upper body or lower body workout takes approximately 90 to 110 minutes from foam rolling to finish and the cardio sessions on either the treadmill or stair master are an additional three hours and ten minutes spread out over six days.

The grind continues for another 45 days. I know there will be more challenges, but I’m feeling more excited than ever to make it to the main event. I never could have made it this far without the overwhelming support I’ve received on so many levels. Thanks for sticking with me through one crazy summer and here’s to what lies ahead on all our journeys to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Baby Steps…

Eight weeks out!

This Transformation Tuesday brings me to the shocking halfway mark in my journey toward the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. It’s been eight weeks since I began easing into prep mode using my coach Jen’s nutrition and training programs. In the beginning, I had a little wiggle room and a few “cheat” meals factored in for special occasions. Fast forward to today, and the calendar shows just about eight weeks left before I step on stage. I’ve decided to refer to the remaining time as super-crunchy crunch time.

The past week brought new challenges, as I nursed some muscle strains and also plateaued on the weight loss front. Just like facing any other uphill battle, instead of getting caught up in what didn’t go right, I tried to focus on the little victories. The two biggies:

  1. Making it through my Goddaughter’s graduation party without sampling any of the delicious catered food (which never would have happened without meal prep!) and
  2. Hearing my coach’s encouraging assessment that my posing practice is paying off. As predicted, posing remains my biggest challenge, but I’ll continue to practice, practice and practice some more. Hoping to provide some comic relief in your workday, here’s a look at last week’s session complete with my coach’s cues on what I need to work on moving ahead.

 

In addition to smoothing out the rough spots walking around in my platform heels, I’ll also be banging out some new lower body moves to get my glutes in better shape for the show. I’m also mentally preparing for more restrictions in my diet as the days wind down. Luckily, my unbelievable supportive network of family and friends continues to cheer me on and remind me the hard work will be worth it in the end.

As I wrap this up, I realize this marks the first time I haven’t taken an August writing hiatus since the summer of 2011.  Of course, bikini competition prep process has given me a lot more to write about than my usual seasonal tips about  bringing healthy snacks to the beach and the importance of staying hydrated. Whether this month is a carbon copy of last year’s August or if you’re also finding your footing on an uncertain journey, here’s to all of us making the most of what’s left of the summer of 2019 and every chance to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Highs and Lows

L to R: June 28 v. July 25. More Work to Do!

At the beginning of my competition prep journey, I promised to to be candid about the good and the not-so-good parts of the process. So on this Transformation Tuesday, I offer a short and sweet account my first truly difficult week to date as I attempt to put my best self forward at the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix.

I think it was Thursday when I hit the wall. That day’s workout and the remaining ones for the week tested me beyond the norm of getting near the end of a set and asking myself “Can I really bang out two more reps?” My breathing was more labored simply walking up and down the stairs in the gym; cardio sessions seemed interminable and from the moment I woke up each morning, I struggled to get psyched up to walk one block to the gym.

Then peanut butter became my kryptonite. The good news is my metabolism seems to be fired up, as I am basically hungry all the time. (Basically, I’m hungry one hour after a meal.) The bad news is when those hunger pangs hit an hour after my last meal for the day, I found myself grabbing a spoon (and no, I don’t mean a measuring spoon) and hitting the peanut butter jar. Let’s just say I didn’t stop at one spoonful and this didn’t happen just once.

Finally, after a much needed Sunday rest day at the beach, I found myself filled with fear and self-doubt. I traveled back to the city questioning whether I could make it through another nine weeks on this schedule, especially since I know my training will remain intense while my nutrition plans will become more restrictive. (I’m pretty positive nighttime peanut butter feedings won’t be part of the program.) I also thought about how much I miss sipping a glass of wine at the end of the day, going out with friends and taking kickboxing classes.

Then after hearing some loving, reassuring words from James and getting a good night’s sleep (something else that eluded me several times last week), I woke up Monday with a new mindset. I realized it’s a new week and time to forget the “sins” of the past and remember this is something I’ve wanted to do for myself for more than a decade. The bottom line is challenges, by definition, aren’t supposed to be easy. With help from my coach and the abundant supply of love and patience from family and friends, I’ll keep pushing on. As a fitness friend reminded me, there’s a reason they call it a grind. Sacrifice and perseverance are part of the process, so I have to keep telling myself one wine-free summer will all be worth it in the end.

I’d like to close this week’s post by thanking everyone who’s been supporting me along this journey on social media. The likes and comments on my musings and photos are another source of encouragement and inspire me to keep going. Here’s to tackling whatever goals we have this week with extra gusto and seizing advantage of every opportunity to have fun, be fit an feel fabulous!

 

So Many Choices…So Little Material!

One of Sheri’s Creations

Now that I’ve crossed the threshold of the 10-week mark until the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix, I thought I’d share a super fun part of the journey. There’s no heavy lifting or food portion measuring required. It’s all about color, style and a little or a lot of bling. I’m talking about shopping for the perfect bikini.

During the past week, I took a trip out to New Jersey to visit Sheri Frazier, an amazingly talented seamstress and co-founder of PaShe Suits. I met Sheri when I attended the OCB Garden State Championships back in April. She had a dazzling display of glittery bikinis, shiny jewelry and other accessories, and she was so patient answering my many, many questions about how you go about picking out the right suit. Last week, I got to sift through boxes and boxes of beautiful fabrics in a rainbow of colors, looking for just the right one to match my style and personality. It’s amazing how many brilliant colors, subtle and not-so-subtle patterns and textures exist to create something that will probably be made out of the smallest amount of fabric I’ll ever wear in public!

Leaning Toward One of These…

Sheri sent me home with a bunch of swatches in teals and blues, and I’ll make a decision by the end of August. That’s when Sheri will take my actual measurements. At that point, I’ll be one month away from show time. As everyone who’s done this before keeps telling me, my body will transform a bit between now and then. (Well, at least that’s the goal of all this meal prep and time in the gym!) I’m beyond excited to see the changes in my body composition and to make my bikini fabric selection. I’ll also get to choose the amount of bling I want Sheri to add to the chosen fabric for the top and bottom bikini pieces. I’ll also pick the rhinestone connectors to be used as straps around my hips, chest and neck. Finally, I’ll choose some other accessories including earrings, bracelets and maybe a ring. I’d say this process is a lot like buying a wedding dress and all that comes with it. (Again, with a lot less material!)

So stay tuned for the big reveal of Sheri’s creation closer to September 28th. In the meantime, I know I’ll have plenty more to write about including changes to my meal plans and weight training program and yes, the ongoing challenge to get more comfortable posing in my platform heels. Here’s to all of us making this a summer to remember by crushing our goals and all our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Abs ARE Made in the Kitchen!

Getting a Handle on Meal Prep

Time seems to be flying by faster than ever this summer. I imagine it’s a combination of being on a more rigid schedule than the past few summers and the fact that each Saturday, I see the numbers dwindle to how may weeks remain until the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. At 11 weeks and counting, I thought I’d answer the most common question people have asked me so far: “Laura, what are you eating?”

The truth is I’m eating more real food than I have in several years. I’ve come to realize before this prep began, I was relying on shakes and protein bars to get through the day. Now, I aim to eat five meals a day and I space them out every three to four hours. I attacked the nutrition part of the prep process like any other deadline or production timeline for other projects in my life. Give me an itinerary, schedule or instructions and I’ll follow them to the letter. So I asked my coach to offer some meal plans, and Jen gave me several easy-to-follow options. By the way, kudos to all of you who add up your macronutrients for the day (commonly referred to as “macros” in today’s nutrition lingo) and hit to the right number before bedtime.

Here’s a look at what the different days of the week look like for me based on my workout demands:

Leg Day

Breakfast:

  • 3/4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 tbsp. organic peanut butter
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon

Meal #2:

  • 4oz 99% lean ground turkey
  • 1 cup greens (broccoli; spinach; arugula; asparagus)
  • 2 oz avocado
  • 1 cup brown rice

Meal #3:

  • 4 oz 99% fat-free chicken breast
  • 5 oz sweet potato
  • 1 cup greens

Meal #4:

  • 4 oz 99% lean turkey
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup greens

Meal #5:

  • 4 oz tilapia
  • 1/2 cup quinoa or brown rice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup greens

Upper Body Day

Breakfast is the same. The only difference is a slightly lower number of carbs for the day. So for my second meal, I’ll have a half-cup of brown rice instead of a whole one. Everything else is pretty much the same.

Active Recovery / Rest Day

Again, breakfast is the same. (Luckily, it’s my favorite meal of the day!) If I’m too rushed to make breakfast, the smoothie I still love as an alternative includes:

Always Ready to Eat on the Go…

For the rest of the day, the protein portions remain the same; but for my second and third meal, I’ll prepare a half-cup of brown rice. For the fourth meal, I get to enjoy three ounces of a sweet potato and finally, for the last meal of the day, it’s just protein, greens and a tablespoon of olive oil. (Sometimes I swap out the oil for 20 raw almonds.)

Needless to say, the most important tools in my kitchen are my food scale, measuring cups and measuring spoons. I realize I am fortunate to have time to prepare meals ahead of time, sometimes for an entire day. I also try to get a day ahead if I know I’ll be out for an entire day, such as the glorious rest day I spent at Jones Beach.

Jen has warned me as crunch time winds down, my portion sizes will change. In the meantime, the workouts, the posing practice and the overall nervous excitement continue. Here’s to what’s next on all our journeys to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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