Two Weeks In & You've Already Quit - 3 Steps to Get Back on Track with Your New Year's Resolutions

You watched the ball drop, you blew a few horns, kissed your significant other and then vowed to do better this year. Maybe you've started using your phone less or spent more time with your kids. You started eating healthier or vowed to quit smoking. 

But then the holidays came to a dreadful close, life happened and you just light up a Camel Crush and swore you'd never try to quit again. Perhaps you hit the Dairy Queen drive-thru after work because you just had a rotten day. Or the fact that your local Sam's Club is closing and you need to find out when the next round of sales starts so you're glued to Facebook. 

Resolutions are a resolve to do better. Do more, do less or do nothing. Regardless it's a "resolve" -   Merriam-Webster defines it as "to make a definite or serious decision to do something." It does not define it as "a life or death, all-or-nothing decision that must be done perfectly or else you're ruined and can't start again until next year." (Get my drift?) More often than not, people fail sooner rather than later when it comes to a New Year's Resolution. Fortunately, because it is merely a decision and not a unbreakable vow, you are allowed to mess up and try again. 

Rather than quitting or putting your goals off to another time or a better circumstance, here are a few tips that have helped me stay (or get back on) track. 

1. What Caused You to Slip-Up? 

What exactly happened that steered your car into that drive-thru of dairy deliciousness while you unconsciously sat behind the wheel? A rotten day? A disagreement with your spouse? An unkind word from a co-worker? What happened the moment before you lit up that cigarette? If you merely couldn't stand another second with nicotine withdrawal symptoms - they make products for that. But what exactly happened? Once you identify that, was it in your control? If it was, how can you avoid that same situation next time? If it wasn't, you can you better handle your reaction next time? Which leads me to Step 2...

2. What are your Alternatives? 

So if the situation was in your control, the next step should be simple - avoid creating that situation again. Easier said than done right? If it wasn't in your control, what's a better reaction? If your impulse is to smother yourself with a jar of peanut butter, maybe next time try going for a walk. Write down your feelings or confide in someone that will be objective. I love the show "Nashville." It's very soap-opera-y but I've been invested too long to get out and I have a girl-crush on Hayden Panettiere. This season, Panettiere's character, Juliette Barnes, who is known for her hot-headed, impulsive starlett public breakdowns, seeks counseling from an infomercial therapist. One exercise he has her perform when she feels threatened is to count to 10 in her head before she answers. That way she has time to avoid an outburst and she can put together an honest or deflective response. Pretty smart logic when you think about it right? Before you reach into that candy bowl or pick up your phone to tell social media EXACTLY what you think, stop and count to 10. Will your next course of action lead to regret? Will it serve you in anyway? Can it solve the problem? (probably not.) Take those 10 seconds of clarity before you act impulsively. 

3. What will it take to start over? 

If you're going for that lightning streak on the Bible app or consecutive days logged on MyFitnessPal - Dude once you mess that thing up, you've messed that thing up. Just gotta start over and hope for the best. Thankfully, most things in life do not work like that. You caved and hit that Cookout Drive-Thru for lunch? Have a healthy meal for dinner and move on. If that one cigarette was enough to stifle you for a few more days, then maybe it wasn't that bad. Cutting back from several cigarettes a day to one every now and then is a pretty big feat. Realized you've been on Facebook for the past 30 minutes rather than doing the laundry you swore you'd get to today? Put the phone down and get to work so you don't waste another 30. 

Starting over is really not that hard and it's really not that big of a deal. Most people will never know you slipped up and you'll be back on your feet before you even realize it. Perfection is not attainable so doing "Pretty good" should suffice. Do Step 1 & 2, make a plan for Step 3 and get back to work. 

 

Wait....3 steps? That's it? Pretty much. Don't overcomplicate things people. It's not very easy for someone that doesn't know how to cook to be given a complicated recipe with a lot of steps and expect things to turn out well. If you've messed up on one goal once, it would be silly to say "Oh here's 10 more steps to help you reach that one goal." Bite-sized pieces. 

Thinking of bite-sized pieces, here's a little extra credit step:

If your goal seems to big, make it more attainable - make it smaller (bite-sized pieces), make it SMARTer (Google SMART goals), or make it more realistic. We all tend to dream big, especially when a brand new year that just happened to start on a Monday is knocking at our door, but there's no reason you can't reevaluate. I can assure you your iPhone 8 was not the 8th iPhone ever created. More like the 8 thousandth prototype. 

Here's to getting back on the horse, finishing the race or whatever other cliche punchline I can throw in here to inspire you to get back after it! 

The Voices in My Head

I decided to make 2018 the year of MC. Figuring out what the heck I'm supposed to do and going after it in blazing fire. We're 15 days in and I know very little. Last year I decided to go back to school, so there's that. Am I supposed to be a nurse? I sure hope so -- so we go after it with blazing fire. Took the pre-requisites, became a CNA, aced my TEAS test. Just waiting on that acceptance letter. Fitness has been a major part of my life for the past 6+ years and there's no doubt that I am supposed to do that and have been. But to what extent? Am I capable of pursuing it with blazing fire? 

 Part of making 2018 the year of MC has been to read more and read things that matter. Ironically, I chose the first book of this endeavor and it is titled "Start" by Jon Acuff. I've tried to read 1-2 chapters per day and I love his style of writing and the insight already. My first time reading I literally laughed out loud and shook my head after flipping to the back and seeing an appendix titled "10 Things to Do if You're Unemployed." In case you haven't picked up on that yet, I'm self-employed/unemployed. More on that later. 

Chapter 3, which I just read, discusses the "voices" that we all hear in our heads. These voices are the "dragons" of our journey, the things that aim to derail us and put doubt in our minds on the quest to "Awesome." The author encourages you to identify these voices; write them down as soon as you hear one and then share it, as chances are someone else is hearing the same one. So this is me, sharing my voices, negating them and hoping that maybe, just maybe someone else can benefit from knowing that you're not the only crazy person that hears voices. 

Voice #1 - You're not going to make it

This voice applies to a lot of scenarios in my life. The most glaring and ugly being my current employment situation. I was raised to be smart with money. My dad was an accountant and I was the youngest of 5 so my parents were very good at managing money and they did their best to pass that skill along to their children. (I also just want to say that it makes me nauseous to think about how much money my parents spent on various things for me throughout my life and dependence upon them and when I hit the Powerball or become Awesome, whichever happens first, they will be top priority and living in a mansion on whatever beach they prefer debt-free.) Now I'm not saying I haven't made some impulse purchases and such, but my husband hates shopping with me because I will have arms full of stuff and put all of it back because I can't commit. I read reviews on everything I buy and I have to crowdsource for big purchases. I don't like to stress about money. Let me preface the next few sentences by saying that I was not "fired." My current state of employment is unfortunate but it was something that was inevitable and was foreseen, but came several months earlier than anticipated. That being said, when I became self-employed/unemployed I was terrified to tell my husband. I waited for the "You need to find another job immediately" and the "We're eating Ramen for every meal until you're done with school," and by the Grace of God, I got a completely different answer - "We'll make it." 

.....

Say what? My frugal husband was calm as a cucumber and said "Just keep personal training and worrying about getting into nursing school and we'll make it." Ya girl had already started working on her "Welcome to Hardee's, Can I take your order?" and my husband had basically said "You can be a stay-at-home dog mom/part-time personal trainer until August when you become a full-time nursing student." TAKE THAT VOICE. 

That voice has also peeped up numerous other times in my life - deciding to compete in bodybuilding, shooting for powerlifting Nationals last year, boarding a flight on a sunny Thursday morning and just knowing it's going to go down with me on it (is anybody else like this? please let me know because I always think I'm going to be on the next Sully movie.)  This voice might creep up on you when you decide to take on a new goal or a new project. Don't listen to that voice - you will make it. You might not make it like you initially planned, but you'll make it. 

 

Voice #2 - You waited too long.

I got into fitness in 2011-2012 and started an Instagram account when Instagram had just become a thing. When I got on Instagram, the Amanda Bucci's and Christian Guzman's of the world had basically as many followers as I did. I tried the whole 50 hashtags thing and even tried to make a YouTube video once or twice but thought I looked stupid and quit. Now I look back and think man, these people who were once my equals are now making 6+ figures off of social media and get flown to Fitness Expos all expenses paid (granted they are also walking around holding a camera to their face the whole time but I mean they're making money doing it). And here I sit in North Carolina still propping my cell phone up against a dumb bell to film my workouts. I regret not pursuing that because if you ever look at their first few videos/posts - they looked pretty stupid too. The difference in them and me? They didn't listen to that voice and as a result they didn't quit. 

My decision to go back to school at 25 with a very expensive degree from a top Journalism school was scary. I started having those thoughts around this time last year and it took me until August to finally register for classes. "You're too old." "You waited too long." "It's stupid to go into more student debt." But, I tried using that degree, there is little opportunity to do so where I live and I don't like sitting at a desk. Oh you work at a fancy PR Firm and don't sit behind a desk? Good for you. I live in the middle of a corn field. Maybe that's just an excuse, but I just don't think it's something I could do the rest of my life and be happy. Unfortunately I didn't know this at age 20 before my brain fully developed and I knew what it was like to live in the real world. (I'm advocating for 18 year olds to go to community college and work for a few years before deciding on a major because I am also an advocate for the saying that you "Change a lot in your 20s" because it's true. Go to college late and figure out who you are when your brain isn't going to form another lobe and throw everything for a loop.) 

Powerlifting....oh boy is this a can of worms. I was squatting and benching in high school and I was good at it then. Unfortunately no one told me there was a competitive outlet for that. So I continued to be a sort-of decent athlete and thought I'd have to body build to be able to find a competitive outlet for fitness. I'm not going to say I wasted 4 years of training on bodybuilding because I do think I owe a lot of my strength to that, but I kick myself for not starting sooner. Can I go back and control time? No. Could I have possibly been injured or burned out by now? There's a good chance. So I just have to squash this voice and aim to be a pretty good mid-20's powerlifter. Only 10 ish years out from Masters. I'm coming for you!

 

Voice #3 - It'll never happen to you

Man if there's one voice we all hear I feel like it's this one. "You'll never be slim." "You'll never be financially stable." "You'll never be a mom." THIS VOICE SUCKS! Do we know what our life holds? Absolutely not. I say all the time now that I wish I could go back and tell 16 year old me what I know now. I shouldn't have gotten so mad about this thing or I shouldn't have wasted my time on that guy or you really should've switched your major, but I can't and I guess that's the big lesson learned of life. But there is no reason to doubt that something wonderful can happen to you. If you get fed up enough, you'll stick to your diet and you'll figure out how to be healthy and happy. Trust me because I've been there. I never thought I'd be to the place I am now where I can eat without stressing myself out. It takes time and lots of good people, but you will get there. If you work your butt off and are smart with your money, you can be financially stable. No, I don't have a direct line to the Stork but if it is God's will for you to have a baby, no doctor will be able to deny you that. And there are so many cute babies that need adopting so "Mom" is not out of reach for you.

This one is one of the hardest for me. Part of me says I want to be awesome and I want to be able to reach so many people and do something incredible and then part of me says "You know, I would be okay being a middle class American with a quiet life, a successful marriage and a big kitchen." And I don't know which part I will be, but I do know that I can only effect what is within my reach and the rest is out of my control. I can work hard and type up long blog posts that people probably don't even read and I can share more information about my life than I probably should and hope for the best. And I can annoy people with posts about my macros and my lifts and my dog because that is within my control. Can I control who sees it and what becomes of it? No. But I know that those voices are just voices. And that I AM in control of how I interpret them and how I respond to them. I decide if I quit or keep blazing along.

What are the voices in your head saying? What goals are they trying to talk you out of? Let 2018 be the year that you acknowledge those voices, negate them and share them. Don't fight them alone. So what if people think you're crazy? Everyone is. 

If you're interested in this book, find it on Amazon here.

What's going on at age 26?

Today is my birthday. Yep, one of the world's greatest wonders was born on this day 26 years ago. You can thank me below in the comments. I figured what better way to commemorate such an occasion than by giving everyone an update on where I am in my boring, uneventful meathead life. I'll bore you with the powerlifting stuff first and then brief you on the rest of my life further down which you probably don't really care about either.

So where am I? Where do I start? Honestly I don't really know. Last year I updated you along my 10 month long prep for USAPL Raw Nationals and since then it's been just a weird period of monotony. We worked through some technical issues/muscle weaknesses at Team Pro Physique Camp in Tampa the weekend after Nationals (we being my Coach Ryan Doris & I) and since then it's been those terrible blocks of excessive amounts of reps that feel like cardio and/or death. I played around with some things with my diet and was supposed to do a mini-cut that never happened because #holidays #yolo. So now, we're finally past the really terrible blocks of excessive amounts of reps (I.e anything over 5 :P) and we're looking to 2018 meet prep. 

The plan for now is to get through these birthday celebrations and then start an actual real cut next week. I really don't have much weight to lose but It'd be nice to not feel like I'm going to pop my belt every time I put it on. Several people have asked when my next meet is and right now it will be March 31st. Rhino's Gym in Fayetteville started a really great "Fayetteville's Strongest Gym Meet" last year between several gyms in the area and and it's basically a non-sanctioned powerlifting meet. It was ran so well last year and after sitting it out I vowed to not do that again so I'm planning to use it as a benchmark meet before competing at the USAPL NC State Championships again in June. And then, Lord & budget willing, I will be heading back to USAPL Raw Nationals again in October, this year in SPOKANE, WASHINGTON (THATS WASHINGTON STATE IN CASE YOU DIDNT KNOW OMG I'M GOING TO HAVE TO LEARN TO LIFT ON PACIFIC TIME). 

Beyond powerlifting, life has been weird. October was such a roller coaster of a month that November just felt like limbo. My brother married one of my best friends December 9th and we crashed their honeymoon so November was one big countdown until Mexico (which was wonderful by the way) and finals. Finals? Oh yeah, that's right I haven't told blog world that I'm officially a student again. 2017 was a weird year because I kept getting these feelings like I was supposed to change something professionally. I looked into several graduate programs and even looked at getting a completely different degree in something healthcare related. If you had asked 16 year old me I would've said "Eww gross I could never work in healthcare" but the more I've become involved in fitness the more I've realized just how interconnected fitness, nutrition and medicine are (duh).  I was back and forth about a lot of things when one day someone mentioned Nursing to me. My mom is a Nurse Practitioner and I just never thought about that career path for me but the more I researched and thought about it the more it all started to make sense. There are so many potential career avenues for a nurse in so many fields. I decided to just start knocking out pre-requisites that I would need for any healthcare program at our local community college in order to prevent wasting any more time, so I became a full-time student on top of everything else. I got my Certified Nursing Assistant Certification on the weekends and that surprisingly helped me realize that this was something I really wanted to do. Want a new found appreciation for your physical and mental faculties? Become a CNA.

As of December 1st, I was no longer working full-time in marketing and was trying to figure out what to do next for most of the past month. Right now, my priority is my training business until the Nursing program begins in August. I am hoping to be able to offer more services to more people in more locations than I was previously which is really exciting. I've had some people help me bounce around ideas and give me some opportunities to grow which I am so grateful for. Hopefully, as those things start to happen I can share more of it with you here! Also, I'm hoping to be able to expand my online business and make online coaching more accessible and more accountable than it has been up until now. I also want to post more content on here that is helpful to those of you that actually read it, including workouts, recipes and information that will help you on your fitness journey. 

While it all sounds great and exciting in print, December was a really scary month for me. No longer having a steady income and more or less being self-employed terrified me, but sometimes you just have to be pushed off of the ledge to take the leap (or in my case, the fall). And I'm grateful for those that pushed me and have helped me navigate this territory over the past month. Helping people and sharing the fun of fitness and the joys of self-love is my passion and nothing gives me the warm-fuzzies like helping someone accomplish their goals. 

That being said, be on the lookout for more stuff from me and I hope to be able to keep you posted on the things to come. Thank you to everyone that has tagged along on this little journey of mine and continues to read these long, boring blog posts about things that are probably irrelevant to them. Here's to 2018 and year 26 of life!

In Between - 3 days out from USAPL Raw Nationals

I started writing this post in August. And it was like I couldn't gather a clear thought to put it down. So we will just pick up where I left off and any insight gained since then. 

Oh hello. Yes I am still alive. Yes I know I am terrible at updating my blog. 

Last time you heard from me I had just wrapped up my last meet prep for USAPL NC State Championships and had walked away qualified for Nationals and with a pretty successful meet. And I wish I could tell you that I let that win propel me forward with a new found intensity for my Nationals prep. Unfortunately that has not been the case.

Now that has not to say that life has been terrible and I've hardly lifted. That's not the case at all. I've just been in a "in between" space - both as an athlete, a person and a professional. I read a devotion recently that described it as "one foot nailed to the floor and the other is running around it in a million different directions" and that's exactly how I feel. Transition blocks for Powerlifting are kind of weird anyway. I felt like I was going through the motions and kind of just doing a thing. As we got closer to October, I definitely found my focus narrowing in on the task at hand and I've really prioritized things the last few months. And as programming does, momentum has built and tomorrow is my last day of my taper before I compete Friday at Raw Nationals. 

Raw Nationals. It is surreal considering this was just a goal in January and now it's almost a reality - I leave tomorrow for Florida. I brought Ryan Doris, my coach, on board in January and Raw Nationals has been the goal the entire time. We are at like Week 39 of working together and so much has happened - I moved up a weight class, qualified for Nationals, fixed my deadlift, broke it, then fixed it again, and fixed my squat. If you think about it we've basically made a baby - a full-term 9 month incubated powerlifting baby that's bout to be born Friday (This is the weirdest analogy ever, but let's roll with it).

Unfortunately during my little weird life time and as Summer typically goes for me I've gained a little weight. Only about 5 lbs which still leaves me several pounds under my weight class, but I've had to really rein things in the last couple of weeks to make sure we stay in that position. I've been shifting towards more of an intuitive eating approach, eating more of a particular macro if that's what I'm feeling that day while sticking to a calorie goal and eating less when I'm not hungry. I've also been walking 30 minutes every day during the work week with my coworker which has been great for recovery and my mental space. I have a noon weigh-in Friday so I should drop another pound or two just thanks to that, but I want to be as low as I can for the sake of my Wilks (while not doing anything extreme because that would just be dumb on my part).

So that's training - we're doing the thing and shooting for PRs. I'm excited to have Ryan there to handle me, as well as my nutrition coach Paul and lots of my strong friends there. I know so many amazing athletes that will be competing and I can't wait to see everyone crush it. Two of my best friends are coming along for the ride and we have a lot of fun planned (I hear there's a really famous Mouse in Orlando that has a castle?) and my parents are also going to fly in Friday to watch me compete. Then the next week is Team Pro Physique Camp in Tampa so basically two weeks of meathead things :) 

As far as life.... it's been weird. Training is my constant and once my cut ended and the June meet was completed, I had a lot of mental capacity up for grabs. When training for something it tends to take up a lot of your focus so once that's over you have to kind of figure out what to do with the excess. The past few months I've felt like something needed to happen/change/evolve and I couldn't really figure out what. I think this period of "in between" has been part of what has led to the lack of luster in my training. I'm not sure that I ever figured out quite what it was that needed to change, but I've been really examining many areas of my life and paying attention to my thoughts about each one. A lot of prayer and soul searching and just focusing on me and my little family lately. I don't know that any progress has been made one way or another, but I do feel less of that stirring lately. 

In the month or so its taken me to finish this post and the small, if even worth considering, amount of clarity I've had, it's made me truly appreciate this fitness thing. The gym is my constant. No matter how I feel physically or mentally or what's going on in the world around me, 200 pounds on the bar will always be 200 pounds. The task never changes - the execution, the focus, the technique will - but the task is the same. Lately I've had to fine tune some issues with my squat and deadlift and while that can be frustrating, I'm grateful to be able to do so. I have this thing that I love that consumes me and causes me to focus more than I do at 90% of the other things I do in life and it has no expiration date. It doesn't affect my finances, my marriage or my relationships. It is a challenge that will always be a challenge but brings a peace and level headedness to life. 

When I first made the goal for Nationals I was worried about where I would fall in the rankings - would I be a little fish in a big pond or would I hold my own? I guess that's a common thought among rookie powerlifters but now I see things in a new light. I'm grateful to say I met my goal - I'm going to Nationals and that I get to experience it with some pretty special people. I get to do this thing that I love, this constant consuming thing, at a high-level of competition in a room with some of the best in the nation. If nothing else in life makes sense, this makes sense. I will squat, I will bench, and I will deadlift and then the current challenge will be the old challenge and we will start working towards the new challenge. And life will continue to be weird and confusing and my feet will continue to go in opposite directions. But on Friday, October 13th, they will be planted on the floor and moving weight. Regardless of what happens before or after that day, for those few hours life will be moving weight and it will be peaceful.

What No One Told Me About Powerlifting Meets

In case you don't follow me on any other social media platform or you have been under a rock, I competed in my first USAPL meet last weekend in Raleigh, N.C. While I've done a smaller meet before and have spectated at several, I had never actually competed in a legit sanctioned meet of this magnitude. While I had a great day, walking away with a 2nd place finish in the 72kg class and Best Female Lifter (the only time a diet has done anything nice for me), it was a HUGE learning experience for me. The days since the meet has been a big time for self-reflection for me so I've been writing down my thoughts and takeaways so I don't forget them next go-round! 

I also feel like some of these things I was left in the dark about - not that it was anyone's fault or anyone's responsibility to tell me these things - but because a lot of it are things you don't know until you experience it. I am a research junkie. Online reviews, blogs, YouTube videos, etc. - I will research whatever big thing is happening in my life until I feel like I am prepared for it. (Nothing gave me more satisfaction than half of the plane asking to borrow my pen to fill out their Customs paperwork on the way to Mexico for my honeymoon. How did I know to bring  a pen you ask? THE GOOGLE.) However, most of the things listed below are things I did not see on any post, video, or Q&A about powerlifting meets. So I thought I would save the next hopeless online researcher that happens to enjoy lifting heavy weights some post-meet grief and let you in on some secrets. 

1. Kilo Math is hard. This is America, most of us operate in pounds, but being that USAPL & USPA fall under international sanctions, they operate in kilos. While they try to make it super easy for you with the conversion chart, many times you will have kilo plates in the warm-up too. Nothing is more fun than sitting around with your fellow competitors staring at each other trying to figure out how we use a 45 lb plate, a 20 kg plate, a 10 kg plate and a 10 lb plate to make 250 lbs. It is also both a blessing and a curse when picking attempts because you have to make a decision between hitting 198 lbs or hitting 203 lbs in order to achieve your 200 lb bench press. Moral of the Story: Learn how to multiply in your head or get familiar with working in kilos prior to the meet. 

2. Warm-Ups - Moving off point #1 into a slightly related topic, be prepared for warm-ups. While my coach had sent me my warm-ups written out and I have done that for myself in the past, the environment in general is a little awkward. It's a really easy way to make friends, don't get me wrong, but until the initial ice is broken you have to ask strangers to let you work in and you have to pick strangers near your height for squat & bench. I tried to wear headphones during warm-ups to block out some of the noise and help with nerves but that wasn't very beneficial as you have to be able to hear what said strangers are saying, as well as keep an ear out for where the flight ahead of you is. By deadlifts, warm-ups were a breeze but it was definitely a bit nerve wracking for squat and bench. 

3. Attempt Selection - Chances are you will have your attempts pre-determined going in to the meet. My Coach was even awesome enough to give me a "low" option - i.e. not feeling the best - "goal" and "high" - feeling above average - selections. Unfortunately, you will most likely be hypersensitive to everything the day of. So be prepared for everything to feel heavy in warm-ups and then your first attempt may feel super light. Some weird stuff goes down on meet day. I remember saying that everything felt heavy in warm-ups and then thinking that 349 lbs felt "not that heavy" while doing my walk-out on the platform. I then proceeded to fail that attempt so like I said - weird stuff happens. I also learned what kind of jumps work best for me. Mentally a 15 lb jump feels okay to me, but a 25+ lb jump causes me to doubt. I really can't tell you the best way to learn this as it's individualized but pay attention to your thought processes when testing maxes whether in a meet or gym setting. If something really gets you on edge - make note of it and try not to do that on game day. 

4. Write Out Cues - If you've been at this sport for any length of time, you probably have cues that you tell yourself while training that work for you. For me, that's "Knees Out" "Drive Hips Forward" during squats. Like I stated previously, I failed my 3rd squat attempt. Do you think either of these cues popped in my mind while on the platform? NOPE. I don't even know if they crossed my mind all day to be honest. Maybe I'm not the best example, but when you're on the platform and 3 judges, several spotters, and a crap ton of people are all watching you, your brain can go to mush. And mine did. I have watched the video of that squat over and over and over again and could kick myself for not trying harder. I feel like if my brain had worked, I would have gotten the lift. So my plan for October (my next meet), is to write out the cues I normally use during my workouts the final weeks of training and memorize them, recite them and study them during warm-ups. That way they are at the forefront of my mind when I walk up there and the nerves kick in. 

5. Food - Everyone has a different philosophy about eating during a meet and I feel like it's something that evolves as you progress in the sport. First meet you normally pig out on everything you love - and feel like crap after. Next meet - you make improvements but still figure out something else. For me, I had never participated in a meet that was this long. I ate a meal after weigh-ins and then snacked during warm-ups, but I wish I had brought a meal to eat between each lift as the waiting period was close to an hour each time. Luckily my friend was able to run to the Chic-Fil-A next door and get me a sandwich before deadlifts and I seriously cannot tell you how much life that sandwich gave me. Uncrustables & trail mix can only do so much. 

6. Drink more water than you ever thought you could - Duh, but it does help to come over prepared with water. I was concerned I wouldn't have enough with me the morning of as I saw no water fountain in sight, so my friend thankfully brought me another gallon. It was a good thing she did because I drink 90% of the fluids I had with me that day. Be prepared for it to be hot and to pee all day.

7. Over exaggerate everything - Obviously you are told to practice commands and hold things longer than you think you have to. So the weeks leading in to the meet I was practicing waiting for a squat command, waiting for a rack command, holding the pause on the bench press longer than anticipated, etc. The bench pause tends to be the biggest one. What I failed to think about was the static hold at the top of the press while you wait for the hand-off person to get out of the way. While having Jennifer Thompson hand off for me on bench was the best & most terrifying thing that could've happened to me that day, and she was super speedy about getting out of the way, I had not considered the seconds that it would take her to get out of the way. So while I practice taking a big breath in to brace during the hand-off, holding your breath for several seconds waiting on the start command is not recommended. I failed my 3rd bench attempt and I think that is why - I merely ran out of breath. So now, I unrack the bar, hold it for a few seconds, take a breath and then go down. And this will be my protocol moving forward. Maybe thats why Jen is such a fan of static holds....

7. Equipment Checks - And no I'm not talking about the standard federation equipment check. I'm talking about your own personal equipment check AT LEAST a week prior to your meet. The Wednesday night before my Saturday meet I took my deadlift slippers off to find a huge rip in the toe of my right one. *Side Note: I have a hole in the toe of every right shoe I own because I walk with my toe up apparently.* So this should not have been a surprise to me, yet it was. And if you've ever seen a Metal brand deadlift slipper, the material is a type of rawhide that cannot be sewn. And if you've ever ordered them you know that 2 day shipping is as much as the actual slipper. So I frantically ordered another one without paying $35 for rush shipping, sent them a sob story email and hoped for the best. The hole was obviously not new and if I had checked over my equipment a week before I probably would've noticed it. My advice is to give your equipment a good once over for any damage a few weeks out so you can make note of anything that could be detrimental to your performance and/or mental state. My slippers did not make it before the meet but I was able to use mine and get by (with a PR too!). 

9. Winning isn't everything - wait what? If you're competitive like me you're probably rolling your eyes. We all love this sport because you're essentially competing against yourself. You want to hit PRs and be better than you were last time. So at the end of the day if you don't win, who cares? You hit some new numbers and are feeling pretty swell. 9 times out of 10 people don't come to win. If you do win, you get a medal and the satisfaction of saying so and a little bit of glory for a short time. I have been in a very weird state this week. While social media has seen my Best Lifter plaque and all of the pictures, I've been silently kicking myself in the butt. People have asked how I did and I say "I did okay" and then they find me nauseatingly humble when I'm not trying to be. In reality I'm kind of maybe just a little bit disappointed. I wanted a squat PR and while it was a meet PR and a bodyweight PR (last time I hit 325 I was 10 lbs heavier), I've hit that number before and it wasn't a challenge for me on the platform. I wanted a 200 lb bench and I didn't get that either. Sure, there will be a time when I will get it, but when you go in with expectations, you want to meet those. If I had hit everything I wanted to I could've possibly won my weight class AND done better than 7 for 9 AND had new PRs. But I can't say that I didn't go for it and give it my best shot (minus brain not working but we're working on that lol). 

10. It will never go as expected and that's okay - If my meet had gone as anticipated, you would not be getting all these nuggets of knowledge from yours truly. You will more than likely fail at least one attempt at your first meet. You will pout about it, but you've gotta be able to pick yourself up and move on from it to the next lift. Each workout and each meet is a learning experience. You gain more insight into yourself and the sport each time and that's why we love it. The outcome is almost entirely up to you if you come prepared to do your best. My friend Nicole also competed Saturday and she went 9 for 9. She has been powerlifting for 6+ years and she said she thinks that was the first time she had ever had a perfect meet. A meet environment is going to be so much different than a gym, but I can assure you the environment is addicting and it's energizing. If you love powerlifting, you will more than likely not let your first meet be your last. 

So here's to research, preparation, failing and learning - may we always strive for 3 white lights and never take the red ones for granted.  

Meet Prep Update - 1.5 Weeks Out!

Nope. Not dead yet. 

Some days I feel like I might be, but I just keep moving right along. Survive and Advance. I do feel like I need to give a brief (or not so brief) update and a little insight into what is to come. 

It feels like I've been prepping for this meet for forever, in reality just since mid January, but it almost doesn't feel real that it is a week from Saturday! This will be my first USAPL meet so I'm nervous about that but also excited to get back on the platform. I think the biggest difference has been my mental state since making the decision to stay in the higher weight class. Once I flipped that switch my training got significantly better just because I wasn't so stressed about my weight and we have gradually added in food which has given me more fuel for my workouts. I ended my cut around 145 lbs and I've been hanging out around 147 most days. I'm pretty consistent with my food during the week and then allowing a few splurges on the weekends. My weight class cuts off at 154 lbs so I should be well under for weigh-ins. 

My training has gotten significantly harder the last several weeks, but that is to be expected when prepping for a meet. I've had heavy singles for the last two training sessions each week so I've really had to be mindful about my rest and nutrition prior to going to the gym. I have not done that once and it did not end well. With the increase in training I've hit a few milestones. Squatting 300 lbs for reps has been my "kryptonite" this prep - i.e. it messes with me mentally and I have failed at least one rep almost every time I've attempted it. Today I managed to squat 300 for 3 sets of 3 reps and did it fairly easy. I also squatted 315, aka 3 PLATES, on Saturday for singles which was terrifying but also exciting. I have 190 lbs for bench singles this coming Saturday which is so close to 200 that I feel like I'm going to explode. I can't wait to be able to say I bench 200 haha! 

The powerlifting team I am apart of, Team Chubby Unicorns, has had several seminars on visualization and performance anxiety thanks to the awesome Coach Tarra, so focusing on the mental aspect of things has also helped tremendously. I've literally visualized every aspect of my lifts prior to executing them and it has definitely helped make them better and less scary. (If you're interested in Performance Coaching you can get more information at https://www.rhinosgymnc.com/performance-enhancement-coaching)

My body has definitely felt pretty beat up these last few weeks, but my workouts have felt good. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water and doing the extra stuff - massages, epsom salt baths, heat/ice - has become a priority. I'm sure I'll appreciate a break once the meet is over. 

All in all I'm really excited. I love this sport and each day I'm pushing myself to do things I never thought I could do. The goal for this meet is to experience and learn and hopefully hit a few PRs as well as qualify for Raw Nationals in October. I'm not going to Nationals to win it obviously - I've only been at this seriously for a year - but more for the experience. Being able to qualify is a victory in itself, but I want to get experience lifting in a meet of that size and understanding how they are run so that when I am more competitive the nerves and unknown will be lessened. Competing in bodybuilding for the first time was nerve wracking and it was amazing how much calmer I was going in to other shows with one under my belt. I knew what to expect and I was so much more relaxed which no doubt affects performance.  I also want to know how I size up against the best lifters in the country and have the opportunity to compete with friends that live in other parts of the country. Team Pro Physique (Paul Revelia) and Fortis EQ (Ryan Doris) will be well represented and it's always fun to be able to hangout with teammates. And lastly, I'm 25, a wife of 2 years (as of yesterday, love ya babe) with a husband that wants kids. While I'm trying to stall as long as possible and don't see kids in our near future, who knows what could happen in a year. I want to check it off my bucket list before those crazy life changes. Not to mention injuries and other things can always happen (could happen before October. who knows?) 
*And no, kids and injuries do not mean you are no longer capable of achieving your goals, but it is easier when you have less priorities*

So what happens at a powerlifting meet? Most meets start mid morning (10 am usually) with squats. Lifters warm up and are put into flights based on weight class and their opening squat attempt. Each athlete is given 3 attempts at each lift (Squat then Bench then Deadlift) and the goal is to lift as much as possible successfully and cleanly as determined by the judges. Each lift has certain commands that must be followed and the judges can declare it a bad lift based on certain criteria. There are three judges - one in front and one on each side - and they each have a "light." If they give you a white light they have declared your lift is good. If it's a red light then they found something wrong with your lift. Two red lights and the lift does not count. You must have at least one good attempt per lift in order to be on the scoreboard. At the end of the meet they total up your 3 attempts and do awards for the highest totals.

The atmosphere at powerlifting meets is unlike any other and is honestly one of the best parts of the sport. Most athletes are competing against themselves rather than each other. The goal is to hit PRs (personal records) or qualify rather than winning the weight class so everyone is super encouraging and friendly for the most part. Plus the spectators typically get really involved. I always tell people "If there's 100 people in the room on your 3rd attempt, 99 of them will be screaming at you to lift the weight." It's awesome to see people be successful and lift a ton of weight so it's really just a motivating and empowering place to be. I have as much fun watching a meet as I do participating in one!

This will be my last really tough training week and then next week we will taper (reduce the intensity) to allow my body to rest before the meet. The plan is to kill it this week and then really prioritize rest and recovery next week to make sure I'm ready to give it my all. 

If you're interested in watching a meet and are local to NC below is information about a meet this coming weekend (June 3rd) and then my meet (June 10th). 

June 3rd - USPA Rhino Bash
Rhino's Gym - Fayetteville NC
Lifting Starts at 9 am
*I will be there working the merchandise table*

June 10th - USAPL NC State Meet
Crossfit RDU - Raleigh, NC
Lifting starts at 10 am
*I will be lifting*                              

2017 Cut - Week 15 - The End :)

Yep. You read it right - That's all folks! If you read my last update you probably knew it was coming, but after a lot of wrestling with my coaches & dragging my feet, we made the decision to stop cutting. Ultimately, my goal is to be as strong as possible for my June meet. Once the realization that I wasn't going to make weight sunk in, my focus shifted from that to "Well crap I gotta lift against bigger girls - time to get strong!"

Last week we began reverse dieting - tapering my cardio and adding in a few calories. Nothing major only 12 grams of carbs to my training days, but man what you can do with 12 grams of carbs. My cardio decreased significantly which was great because we all know how I feel about it. I am going to keep some cardio in my plan moving forward though just for endurance and mental health reasons. Cardio is my zone out time so it's nice to have a few minutes to do just do something monotonous without thinking about it. 

Once these changes were made it was like my entire circumstance shifted. I was less stressed, my lifts were moving the best they have yet and I felt at peace about everything. This entire meet prep squatting 300 for reps has been my kryptonite - I could do 295 no problem but make me do 300 and I'd fail at least once. So Saturday when I saw 300 for several sets of 2 on the books, I went in determined and sure enough they felt good. Still a grind, but I felt confident. 

So with just 6 weeks left to go, we're focusing on getting as strong as we possibly can and slowly adding in food. My weight actually went down the first week of my reverse, but I had a couple of untracked meals over the weekend so it was back up. As a result, we're not adding calories this week, but cardio is reduced again. 

And all this is probably useless information for you, but the takeaway is that sometimes you have to take a step back and look at every area of your life as a whole and really evaluate what is important to you. Everything we do carries over into other areas of our lives and if our overall quality of life is diminished - what are we even doing it for? 

So with that, I leave 13 ish pounds and some inches behind and focus on the goals ahead. 6 more weeks until I prove myself on that platform and I'm going to give it everything I've got! 

If reverse dieting is of interest to you, let me know in the comments and I will potentially document that as well. It is an unknown area for a lot of people so I'd love to give you a first hand look at how it works. 

Starting Macros: 2080 Calories/ 140g Protein/ 245g Carbs/ 60g Fat
                            1915 Calories/ 140g Protein/ 215g Carbs/ 55 Fat
                            1750 Calories/140g Protein/185g Carbs/50 Fat

Ending Macros: High Day 1830 Calories/145g Protein/ 200g Carbs/ 50 Fat
                            Low Day 1465 Calories/145g Protein/120g Carbs/ 45 Fats

Start of Reverse: High Day 1878 Calories/145g Protein/212g Carbs/50 Fat
                             Low Day 1513 Calories/145g Protein/132g Carbs/45 Fat

Starting Cardio: 4 days of Steady State Cardio for 20 mins
Ending: 4 days for 25 minutes/1 HIIT Session on Saturday
Start of Reverse: 4 days of 15 mins Steady State (Reduced to 3 days 5/2)

Measurements: 
                         Starting                  This Week
Waist                   32.5"                         28.5"
Hips                      39"                           35"
Quad                     24"                          23"
Bicep                    12.5"                         12"
Upper Hip            36"                            34.5"

2017 Cut - Week 14/Day 93

Yes I've stunk at updating this. Sorry, I know you all were sitting around biting your nails wondering when you would know the latest on my diet. If you're still hanging in there at 90 days, I commend you (including myself for still being here).

This cut has definitely been trying. And while it has been trying it has also been an insightful experience. Cutting for powerlifting is definitely not a walk in the park. The quality of life is better than dieting down for a bodybuilding show, but training, the reason we do this sport in the first place, definitely suffers. In the words of Ryan Doris, "If you feel like you're dying, then it's working." Having a good training session occurs much less frequently and you really have to be strategic about when/how you train. Bodybuilding prep - you go in, get a pump, it was a good day now let's suffer through cardio and eat asparagus. There have been several times in the gym that I've thought about ditching the diet and going back to eating so I could feel strong again, but mama didn't raise no quitter.

In the back of my mind I've often had the thought that I might not make weight. I had a good bit of weight to drop and honestly the cut was partially to put me in a more competitive weight class and partially because I wanted to feel comfortable in my clothes again. The cool thing was that even at 158 lbs, I wasn't really self conscious. I was the strongest I'd ever been in my life. I fell in love with this sport because of the fact that my entire focus shifted from what I looked like to what I could do. I was training because I genuinely loved it, not because I wanted to look a certain way. My entire life I've been insecure with my body and it was so empowering to not care. I hardly ever looked in the mirror at the gym because I honestly didn't think about it. 

So here we are, just over 3 months in, just over 10 pounds down and the realization that there's a really really good chance I won't make the lower weight class is now at the front of my mind. And that's been hard to swallow. I'm an all-in kind of person. When I become interested in something, I am SUPER interested in it - I do research, I watch videos, I talk to others about it and I genuinely want to know the ins and outs. So when I got into powerlifting, what's the first thing I did? I looked at results from National Level meets for my weight class. And I was surprised to find that my numbers were comparable to the Top 15 at last year's USAPL Raw Nationals in the 63 kg (138.6 lbs) class. That's been the driving force. I would be competitive, possibly even great, if I could make that weight class. 

Great. I feel like that's something everyone wants to be at some point in their lives. I had a mentor tell me when I was 16 that "I was good at a lot of things, but not really great at anything" and those words have never left me. They stung and they still do, but it's true. I was a good kid, a good student, a good athlete, a good equestrian, a good employee, heck maybe a good/mediocre/she-managed-to-get-on-stage bodybuilder - but never great. Does that make me a failure? Well no, it makes me well-rounded. But when I looked at those results I thought that maybe I could be great at something for once in my life. I'm probably the reason that I've never been great at anything. I'm the world's best at getting in my own way. Obviously, I need to keep in mind that I've only been doing this for a year. The people that actually ARE great at powerlifting have been at this for years, if not decades. 

I'm sure the greats of this sport went through a similar season as I am in right now. Katie Anne Rutherford (@katieanne100) is one that comes to mind. She tried to hang on at an insane level of leanness in the 63 kg class and managed to place, but it wasn't until she finally decided to embrace a higher weight class that her lifts really exploded. Alessandra Daniele (@fitgirlmoves) is another person I admire that made her decision to go up a weight class after suffering through a cut for last year's Raw Nationals. She now looks phenomenal at a heavier body weight. 

I was 128-130 lbs when I competed in bodybuilding last year. I was 135-138 lbs when I started powerlifting. The very first time I maxed I was around 140. My lifts have increased drastically over the past year, but my weight has also gone up. More body weight = more body mass = more strength.

Of course, me being the kind of person that I am, sat down and did the math and thought "Okay I sit comfortably weight wise in the low 140s. If I can diet down there and then manipulate water and sodium, pee/poop right before, weigh-in naked, I could probably make weight." While that could very well be true, it's not the smartest from a performance stand point. Almost every seasoned powerlifter I've talked to has told me not to try to cut down a weight class. And then others have said "Oh I've lost 12 lbs in 2 weeks doing a water cut." Unfortunately USAPL has a 2 hour weigh-in so that only gives me a 2 hour window to rehydrate and get as much food as possible in and that can very easily backfire (literally) on you when you're super depleted. So the dilemma that my coaches have presented me with is either A) Just weigh-in wherever you weigh-in and have a great meet or B) Make weight and potentially have a terrible meet because you cut too much weight in a short amount of time. 

The goal of this meet is to qualify for this year's Raw Nationals in October. If I make the 63 kg class, I could go up to the 72 kg class (158.4) if I also meet that qualifying total if I make the decision that I don't want to try to hang on in a lower weight class. If I end up in the 72s, I qualify for that class, but do not qualify for the lower class. Essentially you can go up but can't go down. If you know anything about powerlifting, the 72 kg class is stacked (looking at you Katie Anne and Kimberly Walford). The 63s are also very competitive too, but I felt that I would be able to hold my own a little better there. (I'll unfortunately probably never been 300+ pounds so Jen Thompson will forever be in the #1 spot) But, on the flip side of that, powerlifting has exploded in popularity over the past couple of years and there have been more and more super strong females on the scene which will just make the entire sport that much more competitive. 

Now that I've given you all this insight that probably makes no sense, does this mean I'm no longer cutting? Not necessarily. Does it mean the goal still isn't to make weight? Not necessarily. My coaches, Ryan and Paul, have both been very straight forward with me about this process and have put my performance in the gym as a top priority. At this point, making any more adjustments for fat loss would probably be detrimental. I've already had to change my training schedule to allow more time to eat/drink beforehand and am already struggling through workouts so adding more cardio would only inhibit recovery and cutting food would add to the struggle. 

So for now we hold steady. If my body continues to drop weight which it very well could then great. If it doesn't, but I am still able to train intensely then great. All I can do is give my workouts 100% and listen to my coaches. Ryan was honest with me in my check-in Sunday night about the fact that making weight is not likely to happen and that's what prompted this post. But like I said earlier, it has been in the back of my mind for some time now, he just had to say it for it to really sink in. I hired him for his honesty, for his objectivity, and his guidance. If he told me "Sure add cardio, cut food and we will do a water cut" and then I bombed on meet day (my first USAPL meet ever to be exact), I would probably be even more disheartened than I was/am when I accepted my current reality, but I love this sport because I'm encouraged to be strong. So by putting so much emphasis on the scale (again, like the last 15 years of my life wasn't enough) I've taken the fun out of it. I'm training to survive instead of training to improve. And only a dingus would do that. 

I also have to take a second to look at how far I've come. I have dieted since I was 10 years old. Powerlifting helped me learn how not to diet and those 9 months in a caloric surplus has done wonders for my body and my metabolism. I cut on less than 100 carbs almost my entire bodybuilding prep last year. My carbs have been no lower than 185 grams on my heaviest training days now. I'm also doing minimal cardio compared to then. And my body has responded well. In 13 weeks I've dropped 11 pounds and several inches and I can honestly say I like how my body looks right now. Sure I'd like to be a little bit leaner, but I'd get in a swimsuit. My legs look muscular again and not just massive (still massive but we have lines now ya'll.) My clothes fit and I look jacked in a sleeveless dress. And I'm still enjoying life here and there without completing blowing my diet.  I ate Easter lunch with my family Sunday and didn't stress over it. I was mindful of what I ate but I didn't deprive myself or have anxiety. Basically my body type is "Trains hard but likes fro-yo." 

So maybe I won't be great at powerlifting. Or maybe I won't be great at powerlifting RIGHT NOW. One other awesome thing about this sport is that as long as you can stave off injuries, you will just get better with age and experience. So for now I'm going to put my focus back where it should be  - training. I'm going to train because I love it and because I want to be strong and let things play out how fate allows. I'm going to stop being a dingus and I'm going to leave the gym and say that I was great for that training session. And in the meantime, I'll focus on being a great human that is good at a lot of things. 

Starting Weight: 158
Current Weight: 147.6

Starting Macros: 2080 Calories/ 140g Protein/ 245g Carbs/ 60g Fat
                            1915 Calories/ 140g Protein/ 215g Carbs/ 55 Fat
                             1750 Calories/140g Protein/185g Carbs/50 Fat

Current Macros: High Day 1830 Calories/145g Protein/ 200g Carbs/ 50 Fat
                            Low Day 1465 Calories/145g Protein/120g Carbs/ 45 Fats

Starting Cardio: 4 days of Steady State Cardio for 20 mins
Current: 4 days for 25 minutes/1 HIIT Session on Saturday
 

Measurements: 
                         Starting                  This Week
Waist                   32.5"                         29"
Hips                      39"                           34.5"
Quad                     24"                          23.5"
Bicep                    12.5"                         12"
Upper Hip            36"                            34.5"