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The Main Event

3rd Place Bikini Novice C (My Height Class)

Wowza. It’s been four days and I’m still at a loss for words that truly describe the experience. While I spent nearly 16 weeks preparing for my first bikini competition at the Brooklyn Grand Prix, the surprises I faced throughout the process and particularly on the big day made this journey all the more amazing.

I’ll start with show day. As you can imagine, I barely slept Friday night. Still, I was up and raring to go early Saturday morning equipped with my base coat of spray tan and a rolling suitcase filled with everything from a pillow and blanket to rice cakes and peanut butter. Arriving at the venue before 8 am, I met three women in the gymnasium that served as backstage. We were all first timers competing in the novice category, and three of us also signed up for the 40 and older masters’ division. As the day wore on, I didn’t look at these women as my competition. I got to know them as fellow warriors who shared the same ups, downs, cravings and jitters I experienced through the prep process. Thanks to the tanning and “glamming” process that takes place in an open space with very little privacy, Stacey, Kelley and Melissa saw more of me than some of the friends I’ve known since grammar school. By the time we lined up to take the stage for pre-judging nearly six hours after we arrived, we were practically holding each other up – both literally and figuratively.

My Amazing Squad!

Once on stage, I put on my biggest smile and truly had a blast. Nearly four months of posing practice came down to less than 20 seconds of doing my thing in front of the judges, which you can see in the video below. The extra boost was having my fiancé, James, in the audience along with my coach, Jen, and a whole row of friends whom I’ve known from various stages of my life. They cheered, they clapped and even held up signs. To my show squad: James, Jen, Elisa, Keith, Jeannine, Barry, Molly, Jim, Rita Joan, Adam, Sue and Andrew – a huge thank you. Your presence, along with all the texts, emails and messages I received that day and those leading up to it from family and friends near and far still overwhelm my heart. My eyes are actually tearing up thinking about it as I write this post. As I regain my composure, you can check out my stage swagger:

After pre-judging ended, there was nearly a three-hour break before finals. During that time, I happily enjoyed every morsel of my first hamburger in four months and some downtime with some of the squad. The day ended around 9:30pm, and when it was time to go home, I didn’t want treats. I simply wanted to take a long shower. Sweat mixed with two coats of spray tan, glaze and bikini “bite”(the glue they use to help your bikini stay in place) had my skin feeling like a potential biohazard. After the shower and one glass of bubbly – which went straight to my head – I slipped into a blissful sleep and woke up to the most amazing realization: I had nothing on my agenda for the first time in 16 weeks. The only thing I had to do was rest, enjoy a couple of cheat meals and get to Church.

My Rock!

During Mass, I had a major emotional moment as I acknowledged how blessed I was to make it through this journey. Back in May, I set my mind to attacking the prep process like the other projects and assignments I’d tackled as a journalist and producer and followed through on the directives to meet my deadline. I pushed on through the cravings for wine and chocolate; the pain of a few injuries and less-than-optimal workouts and more than a handful of days of potential mental sabotage when self-doubt threatened to get the best of me. The hardest part of it all was how I missed spending time with family and friends and skipping all the usual social outings that define my favorite season of the year. However, it was those same friends and family members who checked in on me – some every single day – to offer words of love and support.

So now for one final and heartfelt thank you. To my parents, family, friends, readers, followers and fellow “fitfam” members: while this journey was extremely personal, I couldn’t have made it without a strong community behind me. I know some of you never understood why I wanted to be in a bikini competition, but you respected my decision to turn a dream into reality.

I am beyond happy to have crossed this item off my bucket list. Will I be back on that stage again? Probably. I’ll share more about post-show life next week. For now, I leave you with the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this experience: if there’s a goal you’ve had on the back burner for too long, stop making excuses and take a first step toward making it happen. No one is guaranteed tomorrow, so go big today. Taking a chance can be a game changer in this ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Couples Who Sweat Together…

I guess you could call this my least favorite Transformation Tuesday of the entire year. That’s because now that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, the unofficial end to my favorite season has arrived. While most New Yorkers enjoyed gorgeous weather for the majority of the holiday weekend, it’s been a devastating time for those affected by Hurricane Dorian. My thoughts and prayers remain with all those in her path.

The top of Col du Glandon: 6,300 ft.

As my bikini competition prep reaches the four-week-out mark, I have to share another unprecedented highlight of the summer of 2019: I wasn’t the only one crossing an item off the bucket list this season. As you read this post, my fiancé, James is experiencing a once-in-a lifetime journey of his own: the DuVine Cycling + Adventure Company’s French Alps Tour. He and five other cyclists (led by DuVine guides David and Ernesto) are riding from Geneva, Switzerland to Nice, France. They’ll climb 50,000 feet and clock more than 400 miles in six days. The group will climb several mountain passes including Col de Glandon, Croix de Fer, Alpe d’hues Lauteret and Galibier. (You avid cyclists may recognize some of these names from the Tour de France.) I’m so proud of James’ discipline and dedication to his training over the past several months to get to the starting line. I can’t wait for him to get home and hear about every mile of his adventure!

The grind…

The bonus to having James go after his own goal this summer was being able to push each other on days we wanted to just slug it on the couch rather than labor though another workout. That kind of support is one of the pillars in our relationship. And support is exactly what you need no matter what you set your sights on a turning a longtime dream into a reality. Whether they come from a partner, a parent, a bestie or an online social network group, small words of encouragement can go a long way when you’re just about at the end of your rope. It’s also nice to have someone to share in what may seem like the smallest of victories.

Thanks for your support!

So as I trudge through the last four weeks leading up to the Brooklyn Grand Prix, I’ll be relying on James and my team more than ever. I’m also asking for one more layer of support: I’m now a contestant in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest and I’m hoping I can count on your vote! Please click here to cast your vote, and feel free to share the link with family and friends who might be willing to the same. Maybe you’ll even be so kind as to set a daily reminder on your phone so you can vote every day until September 12th.

I close this first post of September as I have so many the others during the summer: with a huge thank you to all of you for the unrelenting support. Here’s to a new month and new chances to cross an item off your own bucket list. What are you waiting for? Remember, each and every time we are lucky enough to open our eyes and face a new day is the perfect chance to tackle your goals 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!

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!

A Whole New Adventure…

Let the Transformation Begin!

Fifteen weeks out. I’ve always wanted to say those three little words, but until now, I’ve either been too scared or simply made too many excuses to utter them outloud. However, when I turned 45 earlier this year, I decided it was time to cross this item off the bucket list. No more excuses. In late September, I plan to walk on stage as a bikini competitor at the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix.

Some of you who’ve known me for decades may think, “No problem, Laura, you got this!” Sure, I’ve loved exercise and tried dozens of different sports and fitness routines since taking my first gymnastics class at the age of six. I’ve also adopted a relatively “clean” diet over the past five years. However, what many of you also know about me is I do like my cocktails, my desserts and fried, cheesy things are pretty great, too. The next fifteen weeks will involve a totally new nutrition and workout plan, and it will require more discipline than I’ve ever exercised before. One important note: I’ll be doing this 100-percent naturally.

Here’s a candid reveal: I haven’t really lifted weights in a long time. I didn’t plan for that to happen, but when I turned 40, I found myself gravitating toward group fitness classes that focused on cardio and body weight exercises. My routine became a mix of extended elliptical machine sessions; barre workouts; Tabata derbys filled with push-ups and core moves; and finally two years ago, I discovered kickboxing – my all-time favorite mix of a physical and mental workout. For the next three months, I need to put those activities on hold and get back to lifting. I thought I’d be able to sneak in a kickboxing class here and there, but after one week of what feels-like-the-first-time weight training, I realize I need to focus my energy on the longer gym sessions, allow my body to recover properly and do all I can to avoid any injuries.

Back to Some Basics…

I also need to focus on finding my groove again in the weight room. Even the biggest fitness fanatics can feel intimidated when stepping into a space filled with so many people adjusting benches with ease and executing reps in perfect tempo. During this past week, I repeatedly told myself what I’ve written about many times over the years: The time I spend in the gym is for me and only me. I do not have to lift what the fitness chick is lifting two benches down from me. I need to breathe, focus on my form and remember, I’ve pulled the trigger on turning a longtime goal into a reality.

I’m so happy to have found Jen Carlson, a Team D1scipline coach, to guide me on this journey. Not only will she offer nutrition and training plans for the weeks ahead, but she’ll help with what I consider my biggest challenge in this entire experience: posing. I’ve never been the most graceful gal, so the thought of walking across a stage, executing turns and posing – in platform heels and a bikini – honestly scares me to death. I’m sure there will be some fun blooper moments to share from that part of the prep process!

I plan to use future “Transformation Tuesdays” to post updates on my progress. Knowing this prep time was going, I used the past month to drop some of the pounds I truly enjoyed putting on during an amazing croissant-filled vacation in Paris with James. At 134 pounds, I am eight pounds lighter than when we returned to New York at the end of April, and my body fat is just under 20 percent. Moving forward, I’ve been warned I may see drastic changes one week, plateau the next and feel totally depleted during another. I’m excited and nervous to experience it all.

Getting a Grip on Meal Prep

I couldn’t do this without the support of my fiancé, my parents and my dear friends. (I hope they’ll enjoy some of the margaritas I won’t be sipping this summer.) Stay tuned here and on my social media channels (@fitnesslaura) for more about changes to my diet and workouts; posing snafus; bikini shopping and more. I plan to provide a 100-percent honest account of the whole process – the good, the bad and yes, the ugly.

So do you have a dream that’s been sitting on the back burner for far too long? Remember, tackling a new challenge is a surefire way to stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

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