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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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
- 4 oz (weighed raw) chicken breast
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens (spinach, broccoli, arugula or other leafy greens are my go-tos)
- 4 oz 99% lean turkey
- 5 oz sweet potato
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz (weighed raw) chicken breast
- 1/4 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens
- 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.”)
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!
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:
- 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
- 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!
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!
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!
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!
Another holiday weekend filled with 4th-of-July fun has come and gone. Suddenly, I find myself amidst the most crucial prep time in my journey to the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix. I’ve now officially entered the 12-week mark from the competition on September 28. All the pros out there know this is the time when the physical and mental challenges hit a new level. I’m excited and nervous to see what’s in store for the rest of the summer.
I can tell you the holiday weekend was tougher than I expected. I planned on the holiday being my last real “cheat day” before the competition. However, on Friday and Saturday, I had some wine and even indulged in some chocolate chip cookies and more than a couple of servings of honey mustard pretzels. I realize these “slips” aren’t major, but I can tell you this: when you eat “clean” for weeks at a time, throwing a bunch of extra sugar and sodium into your diet can make you feel sluggish, fatigued and downright lousy. Aside from wanting to keep my weight in check, I simply don’t want to feel like that in the weeks ahead – especially when I need good fuel for my workout regimen.
The other slip in my schedule was not making time to practice posing. As I mentioned in my past posts, it’s the scariest part of the competition. I think many of us shy away from what we’re afraid of, but having a deadline to take action can also serve as the motivating factor needed to conquer that fear. As crunch time winds down, I’ll get back in my shoes and let the mirror be my guide to what I hope will be a more graceful presentation on stage. We’ve all heard that old saying about how we’re not defined by how many times we stumble or fall. It’s how we pick ourselves up move forward that makes all the difference.
As far as my workouts go, yesterday marked the start of week five on my coach’s program. Three things have changed in the past two weeks:
- An increase in the number of sets for certain exercises: For example, during week one, I was doing three sets of hip thrusts at 15 reps. I’m now up to five sets.
- An increase in what I’m lifting: As I continue to re-discover my groove with weight training, I’ve kept the increases between five to 10 pounds from week to week. One example: at my first attempt at dumbbell step ups during week one, I held five pound weights in each hand. Yesterday, I used 15-pound dumbbells.
- Where I can’t add weight, I add speed. Since my legs and glutes continue to scream during and after every lower body workout, I have decreased my rest time between sets when upping the weight just isn’t an option. One final note about those dreaded leg days, the stairs at my gym are also becoming extra painful. (The “bonus:” there are two sets of stairs between the locker room and the check-in desk.)
So on this Transformation Tuesday, I’d say my mental focus has undergone the biggest change within the past week. I look forward to using this sharper mindset to continue making my meals, hitting the gym and getting quality sleep. Thanks for all the support so far! It’s amazing how a little encouragement can go a long, long way when it comes to tackling our goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Wow! We made it to July! I seriously can’t believe we’re past the halfway mark of 2019. Perhaps even more unbelievable is in four days, I’ll be just 12 weeks away from stepping on stage for the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix!
During this past week my coach, Jen, was kind enough to meet with me before a well-deserved vacation to start teaching me the ropes in what I consider the most terrifying part of this entire process: posing. Let’s just say I need all the help I can get!
This is completely different from maintaining poise and composure in front of a camera even in the sweltering heat or bone-chilling cold during my TV reporter days. This is about mastering a routine that includes four poses in a blur of 10 to 12 seconds. That’s the amount of solo time I’ll have in front of the judges. The poses themselves are totally foreign to me, and then there’s the added challenge of executing those moves wearing four-and-a-half inch platform heels and transitioning between each move as gracefully as possible. (Oh, and of course, I need to do it all with a smile!) Needless to say, I was a little overwhelmed during that first hour of practice. However, Jen encouraged me to simply practice, practice and practice some more. If you want a good laugh on this first Tuesday of the new month, click the play button on this video to see how I did.
All you pros out there know I have a lot of work ahead of me! However, I hope sharing this not-so-perfect video serves as a gentle reminder that anytime you try something new, you can’t expect to be perfect right out of the gate. Whether it’s a new job, maybe even a totally different career; a new fitness or nutrition program or a new hobby, we can put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect. We’re usually the first to beat ourselves up when we slip and fall. So, I’m going to try and remind myself to do what my coach and so many other people who’ve been through this competition prep have told me: trust the process. So, I may stumble and fall – literally! – practicing my posing routine, but I’ll get up and try again. I’ll keep the faith that with some serious effort on my part and the ongoing support from my family, friends, my coach and the fitfam universe, I can make this happen!
I close with a wish for everyone to have a safe and Happy 4th of July! (Click here for a reminder on how to get through what could be a long weekend of food-filled fun without totally falling off the healthy lifestyle wagon.) As for me, the holiday will be my last real “cheat” day before crunch time begins. That doesn’t mean I’ll go totally crazy with the food and drink. I’ll get to the gym super early, eat a couple of my prepared meals before heading to the annual pool party my family and I look forward to every year and I’ll choose my “cheat” foods with care. (I do see a cheeseburger and one or two cocktails in my holiday future…) I’ll also be sure to drink my gallon of water or more throughout the day.
Here’s to celebrating America’s birthday, a fitastic July and all the opportunities ahead to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
As this post goes live on another Transformation Tuesday, I’m at the start of one of my few morning workouts in this NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix show-prep journey. My normal routine usually allows me to get two meals in my system before a lunchtime workout. However, one thing I’m learning early in this process is how crucial it is to make adjustments when life takes your routine in a different direction. So today, I’m training early so I don’t miss my workout and I’ve shifted my meal times accordingly. Here are some other valuable lessons I learned during the past week:
- Helpful Hardware: My food scale, measuring spoons and measuring cup have become my new best friends to keep track of portion sizes.
- Smoothie Solution: As my coach keeps reminding me, real food is always best. However, one morning I just didn’t have time to cook up the egg whites and oats. So I threw the following ingredients in my blender and enjoyed every sip of the creation: 1 cup Amazing Greens Super Greens; 1 scoop Vega Sport Chocolate Protein powder; 1/2 cup oats; 1 tbsp organic peanut butter; ice, 16 oz water.
Timing is Everything: Tonight before I go to bed, I’ll write down tomorrow’s meal times and the actual meals I plan to eat. This allows me to map out how to hit my nutritional targets for the day and make sure I have enough time to digest before a workout and also replenish my fuel supply after. So far, I’ve been able to keep a relatively steady schedule of eating every three and-a-half to four hours.
- Favorite Meals (So Far): Many of you have asked about what typical meals look like. Here’s my go-to breakfast: 1/2 cup liquid egg whites and 1 whole egg scrambled; 1/2 cup oatmeal; 1 tbsp. organic peanut butter. My go-to pre-workout meal: 6 oz chicken breast; 1 cup brown rice; 2 oz avocado and 1 cup of greens. I’ll keep you posted on any adjustments to my meals as the weeks continue.
- A Harsh Reality: I’ve simply ignored my legs for far too long and being 100- percent honest, I still dread lower body workouts. I remember even 25 years ago in college, I’d bang out a couple of sets of leg extensions and prone leg curls as fast as I could and call it a day. Getting back into the groove of serious squats (so many squats!), glute bridges, hip thrusts, leg presses, walking lunges and more has required a lot of energy and discipline. I don’t think there will be a day between now and September 28 when my legs and glutes don’t ache.
Support is Key! I am still blown away by the messages of encouragement from friends and family near and far thanks to the wonder that is social media. Thank you all for the amazing support! Let me know what you’d like to know more about as the weeks continue. Later this week I’ll have my first posing session with my coach. Yikes! Stay tuned for what I’m sure will be an eye-opening experience on that front…
I look forward to falling into more of a groove at the gym and in the kitchen in the days and weeks ahead. Here’s to the best laid plans and the surprises that always come along that keep us on our toes along the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
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.
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.
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!