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Let’s Do This!

Wow. My peak week Transformation Tuesday has finally arrived. All the weight training, cardio, meal prep, self-denial and discipline come down to this. With only four days to go until the Brooklyn Grand Prix, my feelings run the gamut: I’m excited, nervous, scared, pumped, sore, tired and definitely “hangry.”

While this week involves grinding through a few more workouts and practicing some extra stringent discipline on the nutrition side, I’m also doing all I can to stay healthy and manage some serious fatigue. My coach wants me off my feet and resting as much as humanly possible when I’m not working, training, practicing my poses or cooking. In order to conserve some brain power for the main event, this post will be short and sweet, too.

A few details about this week: I’m eating my lowest carb meals until Thursday; there’s no more mustard in my meals or artificial sweeteners in my daily iced coffee and my water intake will start decreasing after tomorrow. Daily posing practice continues and I’ve started started stocking up on show day essentials ranging from safety pins to rice cakes. I’m also beyond excited to pick up my bikini tomorrow, along with some sparkly accessories. I’ve been seriously exfoliating my skin and will get my first two coats of my spray tan Friday evening. Then it’ll be time to try and get some sleep before arriving at the show site and getting dolled up for the stage.  Of course, I’ll be sharing much more after the event is over. I do ask for a little patience as it may take an extra day or two for my brain cells to recover along with the rest of my body.

For now, I want to send an enormous final thank you via my blog for all the incredible support throughout these past fifteen weeks. While some of those weeks seemed to drag on longer than others, I realize now the whole summer truly went by in the blink of an eye. If you happen to be in Brooklyn on Saturday and want to check out the show, click here for information on the venue and ticket prices at the door. To my friends have already made arrangements to be there, I can’t wait to see you!

I also need to thank everyone who’s helped me advance to round three in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest. Please keep those daily votes coming! (Click here to be taken to my Maxim profile page.) This contest will go on long after the Brooklyn Grand Prix is behind me, so I appreciate you putting up with my constant barrage on social media to help me stay in it to win it!

And now…here’s to the final countdown in this unprecedented part of my relentless journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Mind Over Matter

Rest Days ARE the Best Days!

At the start of this journey to my very first bikini competition, I promised to share the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, last week marking the transition from six to five weeks out from show day was one hell of a long haul.

I thought I hit a wall before, but this was more like a full-body slam into a mountain. The numbers on the scale stopped moving, and that plateau really messed up my head. One day, the number even went up. That’s hard to digest when you’re following every step of a nutrition and training plan to the letter. As I stepped off the scale every morning with a heavy heart, the workouts started to feel like torture sessions. And sleep? Forget about it. I was up half the night partly because I was hungry and partly because I was stressed over things seemingly going in the wrong direction. Then a totally new problem started (spoiler alert: here’s the ugly): constipation. Overall, I felt pretty lousy and less than motivated. I felt self-doubt creeping into my brain fully understanding the temptation to simply say “Screw this!” and throw in the towel.

Onward!

Luckily, I have a great coach, fiance and support team who helped me get over the mental roadblock. In addition to positive feedback and  a reality check on the difficulty of maintaining such discipline, my coach Jen offered one directive that really helped me get a grip. She told me to stop weighing myself every day. She also reminded me (along with my amazing support team) progress is measured by way more than just a number blinking at you from a digital read out. She also asked me a question composed of the six best words I’d heard in almost 12 weeks: “Do you like a good steak?”  Do I ever! So, Saturday I enjoyed a “feast” of lean red meat, sweet potato and arugula. This “re-feed” not only sent my taste buds into orbit, but I also slept better than I had in days and woke up refreshed.

Then came Sunday: my total rest day. Mother Nature has been super kind to me this summer as I’ve been able to enjoy some quiet time by the sea pretty much every week since this all started. This week’s beach time was a little chillier than usual and a mighty sand-pelting wind sent me home early, but those two hours of “vitamin sea” therapy gave me time to breathe and reflect on the challenges I’ve overcome so far. I left the beach with some added strength for my mind and spirit that will help me get through the next five weeks. I’ve come this far. No way I’m giving up now.

So onward I go knowing full well there will be more hurdles, aches, pains, hunger pangs, serious cravings and plain old difficult days ahead. This is when I’ll really rely on the power of upbeat music, motivational quotes, self-affirmation and any other source of positive energy to get me through. Eye on the prize. To all of you who reached out this past week via text message, emails or posts on social media, I offer an extra hearty thank you. You helped more than you’ll ever know to get over that mountain and back on a somewhat steadier path in this unprecedented journey 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!

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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