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Seven Weeks To Go…

I hope you will forgive the mini-hiatus. Since I didn’t take my usual break over the summer so I could share my weekly adventures of bikini competition prep, I needed a brief reprieve from writing. On this Transformation Tuesday, I’m back just in time for what I consider the pre-holiday, holiday rush.

Thanksgiving lands as late as it can on the calendar this year. That means the onslaught of decking the halls, shopping and celebrating (which most likely involves eating and drinking) arrives in just two weeks and continues at lightning speed for the last four full weeks of 2019. So now is the perfect time to take stock of your healthy habits and consider taking them up a notch before the holly, jolly and high-calorie time of year kicks off.
For this short and sweet return to the blogosphere, I offer a few tips to help you feel better when the holiday season officially arrives. Exercising a little caution now could help with feeling not-so-guilty later when the holiday splurging begins.
  1. Drink water: Hydration is crucial year round, regardless of the weather. Not only does water helps regulate our body temperature and distribute nutrients and oxygen to our cells and organs, drinking water can actually alleviate fluid retention and decrease appetite. I’ve been doing my best to keep up my competition prep habit of drinking at leas one gallon of water each day. To make it easier to track how much water you drink in a day, treat yourself to an early Christmas or Hanukkah present and get water bottle that measures for you.
  2. Make Necessary Adjustments to Your Workout Schedule: The end of Daylight Saving means darker days are here till the spring of 2020. For many people – including yours truly – fewer hours of sunlight can wreak havoc on motivation to workout at the end of the day. If that includes you, consider switching to a pre-work workout. With so many on-demand fitness programs, you can even roll out of bed and right onto a yoga mat in your own living room to break a morning sweat. You can also consider designating a workout buddy to help you stay accountable for getting exercise sometime during the day. Finally, this is also a chance to check your gym’s group fitness schedule for that class you were curious about but never got to while you were outside running or walking during the summer and early fall.
  3. Be Prepared: I’m doing my best to continue cooking chicken, turkey, brown rice and veggies in bulk so I have several go-to healthy meals available each day. Just like you may know what time you’re working out on any given day, it can help to also have a game plan for what your meals will look like. Make sure you have healthy snacks with you at work or in your purse or gym bag. Raw almonds and green apples travel well. If you have access to a fridge, hard boiled eggs; non-fat plain Greek yogurt and of course, full meals with a healthy balance of protein, carbs and veggies can always be close by.
This year has been a whirlwind of unprecedented events, but it’s still impossible to believe we have less than two months left until we usher in a whole new decade. Here’s to wrapping things up knowing we made every effort possible to have fun, be fit and feel fab!

Loose Ends

Cheers to the Day We Don’t Need The Walks Anymore!

As I continue to recalibrate in this post-bikini competition life, I imagine you’ll forgive this short and sweet Transformation Tuesday post. As this unprecedented transformative phase continues, I’ve come to realize it’s good to embrace change in this life. Sure, it can be scary, but it can also open the doors to so many opportunities and experiences you never even knew existed.

One welcome form of normalcy came over the weekend when I joined a sea of pink zig-zagging its way through Central Park for another American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Each year, I find myself in awe of the warrior spirit that pushes a great deal of walkers to complete the course with the assistance of a cane or the steady arm of a loved one. We differ in age, race, religion and political beliefs. However, on that Sunday morning, we were united with survivors, sons and daughters of survivors and those who lost a loved one to a disease that I hope will one day be nothing more than a footnote in an old textbook. To that end, it’s not to late to make a donation for this year’s Walk. If you’d like to join the fight as another Breast Cancer Awareness month winds down, simply click here to be taken to my Making Strides page. Every dollar counts in the fight against breast cancer and to help those battling the disease with everyday challenges. To all my generous supporters to date, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

The other event most likely coming to an end this week is my unexpected run in the Maxim Magazine Next Cover Girl contest. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support that helped this 45-year-old make the quarterfinals in a competition filled with beautiful women more than half my age. I ask you to continue casting those free daily votes for two more days so I make a strong finish in my group. (The quarterfinal round ends on the 24th at 11 pm ET.) Simply click here to view my link on the Maxim page. Thanks again for making this a surprising and fun ride!

As the fall marches on with lightning speed and we continue to adjust to cooler temperatures and a little less daylight every 24 hours, let’s get psyched for the challenges and surprises that lie ahead. Thank you to all my readers for sharing in so many big adventures in 2019. Cheers to what’s next in all our efforts to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Home Stretch…

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!

Eleven Days To Go…

So Close!

I am in a serious state of disbelief now that I’ve hit the less-than-two week mark until the main event. As I approach the final countdown to the NPC Brooklyn Grand Prix, my emotions range from sheer excitement to sheer exhaustion. Before I know it, I’ll be up on stage wearing my sparkly bikini and platform heels, doing my thing for the judges. The reality is both exhilarating… and scary as hell.

Yesterday, I traveled to New Jersey for my second-to-last bikini fitting with seamstress extraordinaire, Sheri Frazier. (I can’t wait to pick up the final masterpiece next week!) Like many of the other commuters, my body felt the same tired, bleh effects associated with a typical Monday morning. Then I realized how close I am to show time and the adrenaline kicked in. It gave me just the amount of energy I needed to make my final selections with Sheri, make the trip back to New York City, get my 70 minutes of cardio in and get my food prep done.

As I climbed away on the stair master at the gym, I realized working toward this goal has given me a more laser sharp focus in general during these past 14 weeks. No matter what your goal may be, I say go after it. Making a game plan and setting it into motion can surprise you in the best of ways. Not only will you draw strength from places you never knew existed deep within your spirit, but hopefully you’ll have a similar experience to mine and be blown away by the amount of people there to rally around you. While you should find that support from your spouse or partner, family and lifelong friends, you may also find it in places you lease expect: classmates from grammar school; an old flame or even a childhood pen pal.  As I come to the end of this journey, I am so thankful for all the unexpected moments that came amidst a rigid schedule of training and meal times.

I regard this week as the calm before the storm, as Sunday will mark the beginning of peak week. Based on what I’ve learned from my coach Jen and other veteran competitors, it’ll be more challenging than anything I’ve experienced in the process so far. However, Jen also gave me a positive way to look at what’s around the corner. She says there will be a couple of days where I feel my absolute worst before I look my absolute best. Jen also reminded me now’s the time to acknowledge the hard work I’ve put in, the sacrifices I’ve made and feel good about what’s to come. Last but certainly not least, this is the time I need to listen to my body more carefully than ever. This is definitely not the time to get injured or sick.

Please Help Me Advance to the Top 15!

Thank you again for all the amazing support not only on this journey, but with another unexpected happening during this contest prep process. I know I’ve been bombarding many of you with texts, emails and social media messages to keep those votes coming in the Maxim Magazine Cover Girl Contest. Well, here’s another request for your daily vote. Please click here to help me make the cut for round three.

Here’s to another week of crushing our goals in the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

So Many Emotions

The calendar makes it impossible for me to write my usual Transformation Tuesday post. It’s hard to analyze the daily struggles and little victories of the past week as I continue to prepare for the Brooklyn Grand Prix. Instead, I find myself overwhelmed yet again with the eternally vivid memories of the day that changed the world forever. It seems impossible that tomorrow will mark 18 years since the heartbreaking events of September 11, 2001. Despite the passage of time, each year this date creeps up on so many of us like it all just happened yesterday.

As my longtime readers know, back then I was working as a reporter at News 12 Connecticut. My colleagues and I watched the newsroom’s multiple TV screens in horror as the second plane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center. That moment when we realized it wasn’t an accident was the first and only time I can remember a newsroom being completely silent. There were no lessons from my journalism classes at Northwestern or past experiences as a reporter that could have prepared me for that unfathomable day. Before leaving the newsroom, I left a message on my parents’ answering machine telling them how much I loved them.

In that age before Facebook and Instagram, many of my friends tried to reach me on my cell phone – when the circuits weren’t jammed – to see if I could help find any information about a loved one who worked in the city. Receiving those messages in between countless live reports broke my heart. I learned later that several of those people being searched for were indeed gone. In the days that followed, I also learned a friend and former News 12 Long Island colleague, Glen Pettit, was killed. A videographer and NYPD officer, he was last seen with his camera on his shoulder running toward the towers to capture footage. Glen was 30 years old.

Along with the sadness, shock and anger felt around the country after the attacks, I also remember another unprecedented turn of events. Stores couldn’t keep Americans flags on the shelves and random acts of kindness were reported everywhere. Eighteen years later, I realize my three Goddaughters – all born after that fateful day – have probably never witnessed that kind of unity in the country they call home. Today, they see social media feeds where bullying takes on a whole new level as people lash out at others who don’t share their views on everything from politics to fashion. Honestly, when I think about the state of our world today, it makes me want to cry all over again.

Never one to be political in this blog or on my social media channels, I can’t help write about what’s in my heart. As we mark another 9/11 anniversary, we’re bombarded with headlines surrounding the latest discord in Washington and the destruction in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian. Meanwhile, despite more acts of senseless violence, we’re no closer on this anniversary than the last to resolving volatile issues in our country including gun control. With the 2020 campaign looming closer, I fear our divisiveness will only get worse. What a mess.  

As we commemorate another September 11th this week, let us all stop and pray for all those lost on this day 18 years ago. Let us also honor their memory by remembering the power of love and compassion. 

God Bless America.

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!

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!

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!

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