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:
- 3/4 egg whites
- 1/2 cup oats
- 1 tbsp. organic peanut butter
- Sprinkle of cinnamon
- 4oz 99% lean ground turkey
- 1 cup greens (broccoli; spinach; arugula; asparagus)
- 2 oz avocado
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4 oz 99% fat-free chicken breast
- 5 oz sweet potato
- 1 cup greens
- 4 oz 99% lean turkey
- 1/2 cup brown rice
- 1 cup greens
- 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:
- 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.
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!
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!