The dust has settled. The aftermath of an epic whirl wind storm has set and I can finally think clearly…well as clearly as I did before. To say that last weekend was the most incredible weekend of my life would not even come close to explaining the magnitude of which this experience holds in my life up until this point. It STILL has not hit me that this is actually MY life. I have to keep reminding myself that the badass pictures I can’t stop looking at of the chick that looks pretty familiar and is smiling from ear to ear are actually ME!
Two years ago I remember sitting across from Laurie at a sushi restaurant and telling her that I was going to compete in bodybuilding. I had just made that decision earlier that day when I stepped on the scale and realized I had hit my goal weight. I had been hitting the gym heavy and hard for the years leading up to that moment and absolutely fell in love with the iron and loved how strong my body was getting. I wasn’t even sure where the spark of the idea came from within the depths of my imagination but I was just crazy enough to trust my gut and decide that this was what I wanted and this was going to be my next big challenge. Once I said it and put it out into the world…I was determined to do it!
If you have been following the blog for some time you are aware that I gave it a solid effort last year and started a prep and even made it through a bachelorette party weekend in Vegas as well as a 10 day trip to Israel and stuck with the “plan”. I hired a coach and had all plans of getting on stage last June. However, my body had other plans and I was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery that put a hold on that plan. You think that was going to stop me? Hell no. I’d have to be dead. Even then… I’d figure it out! Fast forward to January 5th, 2015…the first day of my contest prep. This time, come hell, high water or a stampede of angry buffalo, I was GOING to compete and I was GOING to prove to myself that I could do it.
In my mind I knew this process would be difficult. I planned ahead of time for the diet to be hard and the training to get harder and harder. I planned for energy levels to be low and to push myself through massive amounts of cardio. All of the things that I have read about in magazines and on the forums and heard from people who have done this before were things that I planned for. I wasn’t 100% sure how I was going to approach these issues but I figured I’d cross those bridges when I get to them. The diet was the easy part. Training was the thing I looked forward to MOST and the cardio became my most favorite time of day. BUT! This was by FAR the HARDEST thing I have ever had to do mentally in my entire life. I came to realize half way into this prep that this wasn’t going to challenge my strength physically and wasn’t going to challenge my body as much as it was going to challenge my mind and my mentality and my relationship towards food. THIS was 5 years of transforming my mind finally put to the test.
The biggest test didn’t come when I was at a social function with tables of food all around me and people eating and drinking and enjoying. The true test of inner strength was when I was alone. When it was just me, alone in the kitchen with my chicken in one hand and cookies in the freezer. I would consider it a small victory every night when I went to bed knowing I didn’t give in. I never did. Not ONCE did I let myself have an unplanned treat, never ONCE did I take just a BITE of something not on my diet and never ONCE did I chew and spit something I was craving (you know where you take a bite and chew it to get the flavor and then spit it out….brilliant idea right?!) Was I perfect? NO! There were days I ate a few extra ounces of chicken and an extra strip of bacon and even *GASP* a VERY rounded tablespoon of peanut butter but I’m not beating myself up over that.
My relationship with food has officially been transformed. I don’t DEPEND on it to make me happy or to offer comfort. I don’t think about it constantly and wonder when and what I will be eating next. Food is my fuel. Food is what nourishes my machine to keep it running and efficient. Food and I have come to a loving and understanding relationship after YEARS of our dysfunctional, Jerry Springer type affair!
SO! A few details about that ONE week! The one week where, if you’re not careful or you get a little too comfortable or over confident…your whole physique can appear different than you were expecting. NO PRESSURE RIGHT?! *TERROR*
The most popular outline during peak week incorporates one or all of the following situations; carb load, sodium/potassium load and taper, water taper, pumping/full body workouts instead of heavy lifting and of course the glorious tan. Some people incorporate all of the above, some do one or two and some do all of them. In the weeks leading up to peak week, I was giving myself a hernia trying to figure out what I was going to do for this week! The questions and “what ifs” and “well what about this” that were racing through my mind were absolutely NUTTY!
“Well what if I carb load on only low GI carbs the week before?”
“Well maybe I should stick with quick digesting carbs and keep a candy bar or something with me the day of the show.”
“How about if I go 4 days with just sipping water just to make sure I’m EXTRA dry!”
“I’ll increase cardio to three hours instead of two the last week”
“Should I incorporate creatine this last week to help bring water into my muscles?”
Of course these thoughts were all going through my mind at night when I am trying to fall asleep! *not cool*
I decided less is more in this situation. I decided not to change too much since changing things dramatically was what got me into two swollen legs earlier in this prep. I decided to just stick with what I was doing. The last week I lowered my calories to 900 and removed all greens from my diet. I stuck with fats and protein with keeping protein lower than fats and making fats the main component of my diet. I also decided that starting Wednesday into the show was when I would taper water and sodium at the same time. I never cut salt out completely but stopped adding it to my food.
I kept all supplements the same, cardio stayed the same up until Thursday before the show and training was more of a full-body pump type of workout starting Wednesday and Friday I was off completely.
Wednesday-Friday I took off from work which was the BEST decision I could have made. Work causes extra stress and I think my body just needed the break. Wednesday and Thursday I was stir crazy of course. I HATE laying around doing nothing so I ended up walking around the mall, cleaning and organizing my room and the kitchen and prepping meals. It took EVERYTHING I had not to bake something haha!
Friday I went and got my beautiful tan which was hilarious! The federation does tanning services and I figured I would just use their services to avoid having Laurie rub me down in my garage with tanner! The federation set up little tents inside the host hotel. We walked into the hut room, went full balls to the wall naked and got sprayed with the gun from head to toe. Since I did Physique, I needed a few extra coats…at least now I know what I would look like as another race. Pretty cute actually.
We had out employee check-in where I found out that there was only ONE other women’s physique competitor. The CEO told me she was 69 years old. Hell yeah! This is going to be an awesome group! The former fat girl and the old timer! That was when it hit me…I might actually have a chance at winning this thing. My goal originally was just to get on stage and NOT make a fool of myself. THEN my goal became to get top 5! Which I did! YAY ME! Then, I decided that I wanted to WIN!
After my tan I had to go to a retirement party for a very good friend of the family…THAT was hilarious! It was a fancy affair of course at Maggiano’s and my poor friends and family’s faces were PRICELESS when I walked in! Thank goodness they were all good sports and didn’t make me leave! Haha!
Side note- I think the HARDEST part of peak week wasn’t the food or the training or being tired…it was having to limit my fluid intake. OH MY GOD! That was TORTURE! I normally drink water like a mermaid and having to limit that to 30 oz. in a WHOLE day…I thought was nearly impossible. There were two times where I was ALMOST like “fuck it… I’ll be watery on-stage,” and then I had to mentally bitch slap myself and think, “NO LYSS! You’ve come THIS far… you can’t ruin it because of WATER.”
Saturday morning comes around and it’s show time! My amazing brother did my beautiful make up, my bestie Stephanie drove in all the way from Indiana, my family and friends made t-shirts for me to cheer me on and I was on my way to the auditorium.
The whole day almost seems like a blur. I tried to slow down and take in every single moment and savor it like a juicy steak… mmmm steak! I digress. The other competitors were SO wonderful and friendly. The mood back stage was happy and positive and supportive. We were all talking to each other and supporting each other and helping each other out backstage with our bikini bite. Yeah… we all had to get right into each other’s butt cracks to get that stuff in there!
It was my turn to get on stage and pose. They called my number, I heard the cheers and I walked out there with my head held high and I did what I know how to do best…I put on a fucking show! They called the first pose and I hit it with every ounce of my body. The second pose was called and I hit it from toes up to my forehead. My muscles were ready for this. This was what I was practicing twice a day every single day for WEEKS for. *Shallow breaths, don’t forget to flex your calves, squeeze your ass cheeks, and for god sakes…SMILE!*
The MC announced that I had lost over 200 pounds and the audience cheered and the other competitors back stage cheered and I wanted to cheer! They called the last pose and thanked us. I walked off the stage into the arms of the other competitors and just burst into tears. The culmination of years of hard work, sweat, doubt, fear, excitement and every single workout, drop of sweat just welled up inside of me and came out of my eyeballs. I did it. I got on that stage and I didn’t make a fool of myself… I was PROUD of myself and the body I presented on stage. As soon as I walked off the stage I wanted to get back on! Just a few more poses!!!
After the morning show, Steph and I went back to my house for a nap. Johnny touched up my make-up and I went back for the evening show. I walk into the back stage area to a HUGE tray of carol’s cookies! MY WEAKNESS! That is the cookie I bought myself and have waiting in my bag for after the show and here was sitting a HUGE tray of them! That is just evil!
The night show started and we were off again. Waiting around back stage was less intense this time. I knew I was ready. I felt good, my body felt strong but mother effer I was so thirsty! Women’s Physique time. My competitor got on stage first and killed her routine! You show me another 69 year old who can get on that stage in a bikini and dominate a posing routine? Pants off to Priscilla for her amazing performance!
Then it was my turn. I walk on that stage, my music skips and my butt cheeks clench in a moment of panic. Finally, the music starts and my body takes over. My smile plastered on my face, I go through the routine I have been practicing to DEATH! I finish and walk off stage to the ENTIRE crew of competitors screaming and cheering. The audience booming behind me and I’m in heaven. They bring everyone back on stage to announce the winners and hand out awards. They announced that my buddy Priscilla got second place which meant that I WON! I WON!!!!! Holy shit…. I won.
After the show, I just wanted to be with family. We went home where I ate my cookie! YAY! I ate the fruit salad that my mom makes that I had been waiting SO long for and had some pizza. The whole day was still glowing on my face and I still couldn’t believe this was my life.
My family and friends have been incredible during this whole experience. Mom and John who had to live with me during this and put up with my food needs and my evenings where I was too tired to talk or in a crabby mood because my body wasn’t making the progress I wanted. My best friend Laurie was an incredible workout partner. Offering medical advice when she could and listening to me bitch and moan more often than I cared to make her listen to me. Marc was an amazing support in giving me feedback when I didn’t always want to hear it, taking my progress pictures and surviving two emotional break downs. The endless flow of love and support on my social media has been overwhelming to say the least. It is so encouraging and motivating to see all of the people out there who believe in me and want to see me success and who are inspired by my story.
It has been over a week since the show and I’m still on cloud nine thinking about the whole experience. I have swollen ankles the size of baked hams, my body is loving being back in the gym and I couldn’t be happier with myself. Just in case THAT wasn’t a great enough experience. I have been offered a job in Phoenix where I will be moving in two weeks. How many amazing things can possibly happen at one time?!??!
A few post-experience reflections:
- I cannot WAIT for the next show. Finances play a HUGE role in when/where the next show will be but you better believe I’m getting on that stage again
- I got back the judges report and I absolutely have to work on getting leaner for the next show and work on my legs (I knew my legs would be a problem area…between not being able to work them for two years and having so much excess skin… I think the judges were very kind in their feedback about my legs). I also need to work on the size of my upper body. Hello heavy everything!
- In the future, I will continue to do this on my own. I LOVE the relationship I have built with myself over this process and everything I have learned about me, my determination and what I am capable of. I may reach out to a coach/trainer for some feedback along the way but I loved doing this.
- I may add cardio in a bit slower in the future to avoid losing as much muscle as I think I lost this time.
- I can do ANYTHING I set my mind to. I said a long time ago that I was going to do this… and I did.
- I finally made it from Bariatrics…to Bodybuilding.