Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Greater Gulf States Recap

Greater Gulf States Recap

I’ve been remiss in getting this post up. No excuses other than it took a bit of time to recover from the show and, of course, I’m knee deep in getting ready for Masters Nationals on July 24. Nonetheless, I want to make sure I give the highlights of the Greater Gulf States show and share my learnings along the way.

When we arrived at the New Orleans airport we met up with my bikini competitor friend, Jen, who was arriving at the same time, to share a cab. It took a good 15 minutes until we got one. He stowed all our luggage in the trunk (about 6 bags) and we all piled in. We went no more than 50 feet, telling him where to take us, when he pulled over and said he wasn’t going to take us there, something about it was too short of a drive (20 min) with that much luggage. What?! Yep, I kid you not. We all piled out and he set our luggage on the curb. We had to wait for another cab – another 10 minutes or so. That cabby took us to our hotel but unceremoniously dumped our luggage on the street. My husband had to put it up on the sidewalk and load it all up on a cart. Welcome to New Orleans!

We were concerned that this was going to set the tone for the entire weekend but luckily we were wrong. Everybody else from that point on was super nice and hospitable. This was a FUN show! Check in went smoothly and quickly. All meetings were on time and short and to the point. It was the fastest prejudging ever. The night show was a little slow at times, but really, in comparison to other shows, it wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I believe we were finished before 10 pm (with 189 competitors, that’s pretty darn good). The only negative comment I have is that in order to hasten things along, the competitors didn’t get to do their individual posing. In figure, we each came on individually and struck one model pose and then as soon as the full line of girls was on stage, we went into quarter turns. This was especially a bummer because some of us paid for photos and we won’t get any individual shots, it’ll all be comparisons. :o(

The stage had a huge step that we had to navigate in our 5 inch heels. We were concerned about that at first, but they had expeditors who were wonderfully adept at giving us a hand each and every time we had to go up or down that big step.

The competition was tough. I think a lot of people were surprised at the caliber of the athletes. I love it when it’s a challenge so I was in my element. I placed 2nd in Masters 45+. The girl who won first deserved it hands down. She has a beautiful physique.

I was a little bummed at first since I was hoping for 1st place, but my disappointed was quickly replaced with elation when I won 3rd place in Open Class D. The girl who won that class was the same girt who beat me in Masters and the girl who came in 2nd is one of my teammates (Oddo’s Angels) and she is 15 years younger than me and absolutely beautiful.

Especially sweet is the fact that due to my placings I have qualified for Nationals at all levels!!! I’m still in shock! I’ve qualified for Nationals before but who would think at age 51 that I’d qualify for Nationals in the Open Classes. Rock on!!!

Following the show I indulged in champagne and jelly beans – my favorite post competition treat. We then went out and I had some shrimp and bread – yummy! We spent the next day in the French Quarter and although I was careful to keep my tastes of local fare to only tastes rather than large helpings, I enjoyed a bit of gumbo, jumbalaya, red beans and rice, and then a wonderful salad with shrimp and crawfish. By mid-afternoon I was feeling a bit odd. I looked down at my feet and found my ankles were HUGE! I had edema big time. I texted a picture of my feet to my friend. Her husband’s a doctor and he immediately called me and told me that I needed to watch out for deep vein thrombosis, a potentially dangerous condition. He told me to put my feet up, put warm, wet compresses on them and drink water. He said that if the swelling wasn’t gone by the morning to go to Urgent Care and ask for a venogram. Potentially I wouldn’t be able to fly home if I still had swelling. Who knew?!

Luckily, the swelling was almost gone by the morning. After talking with my trainer, I was reassured that the swelling was most likely a combination of sodium intake in my very clean body, humidity, lots of walking and perhaps the plane flight too. I’m happy to say that I’m back to normal and will be extra careful with my post competition treats following Masters Nationals in July. :o)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dealing with acidosis during competition prep

It started a couple weeks ago. My stomach felt hollow, empty and slightly raw between my mini-meals. At first I thought, “Ah, my metabolism is speeding up and I’m getting hungry sooner.” And yet, something wasn’t quite right. The feeling in my stomach wasn’t exactly hunger. And, even worse than the hollow feeling was that although my stomach would feel better upon eating, within about an hour after my meal the pain would start up again. I also found that although I was hungry at meal time, within minutes of beginning my meal, I’d feel a little nauseous.

What the heck?! I didn’t understand it but chocked it up to comp prep stuff and ignored it the best I could.

After about a week, things got worse. The pain became more intense - burning, deep in my stomach, a hard belly, uncomfortable, painful. I started waking up several times per night in pain. It was becoming very hard to eat – and not to eat. I decided to email my prep coach to see if he could give me some insight.

Kim immediately emailed back and said it sounded like my body was turning acidic. He told me to stop taking my digestive enzymes and exchange all my poultry meals (3 at that time) for white fish and to add lemon and alkaline drops to my water. Hmm?! I thought that was odd, especially because, well, aren’t lemons acidic?

I did what he told me to do. The first day it didn’t make much difference but by the second day I could tell it did indeed make a difference. The burning feeling wasn’t as bad. I did some research and found out that it actually isn’t unusual for bodybuilders to develop a bit of acidosis from a diet that is so heavily protein based. The natural ratio in a normal healthy body is about 4 parts alkaline to 1 part acid. That ratio helps our resistance to disease. Being alkaline aids in healing too. Our bodies normally keep a reserve of alkaline but when the ratio and reserves are skewed, acidosis can develop, causing unease, discomfort and as the condition worsens, disease. Obviously competition diets are high protein and, well, for some reason my body decided that this time it wasn’t going to stand for it.

So, how do our bodies get acidic or alkaline? Well, the way I understand it, as our food is digested it leaves an ash. The food ash can be neutral, acid or alkaline depending on the mineral composition of the foods. Some foods leave an acid ash, some alkaline. Acidosis results when there is a depletion of the alkali reserve. (visit for more info.)

What foods leave an acid ash versus an alkali ash? There are tables of common foods on the web that list food according to alkali, neutral and acid-forming and when I looked at those tables I was a bit worried. Most fruits and vegetables are alkaline forming while most fats, oils and animal proteins are acidifying. What’s a competition-prep athlete to do?! I quickly saw that cold water fish is the lowest of the acid producing animal proteins, chicken and turkey next and beef was ranked as the most acidic. That must be why Kim ordered me to change my poultry meals to white fish. Made sense. The problem soon became how the heck do I eat that much fish. I mean I like fish okay, but not that much! I found myself not finishing the meals and otherwise skimping on my calories a bit. I tried putting vinegar on the fish, but vinegar is acidic so that wasn’t good either.

Within 3 days my stomach began settling however my weight dropped 1.5 pounds, a bit much this close to competition. Kim has added salmon into my diet since it has more fat and that’s what I need right now to keep me from shredding over the next 3 weeks. Hopefully, my stomach will handle the salmon every night and to be honest, I’ve added a bit of chicken back in the hopes that my system is stabilizing enough to handle it.

A half lemon in each litre of water plus 10 alkaline drops three times per day (I put them in my coffee in the morning too to help neutralize the acid) really make a big difference so I’ll continue with that indefinitely. (BTW, what’s interesting is that even though fruits such as lemons are acidic, the ash that they leave in one’s stomach is alkaline.)

This morning my weight is back to where it should be at this point in comp prep. My stomach is fine in the morning but tends to gradually worsen during the day and is typically at its worst about 5:00 pm, following my two afternoon snacks which are both more acidic ash forming. It tends to calm a bit following dinner (I eat almonds with my dinner and almonds are alkaline).

An additional note: Protein sources that are more alkaline include: whey protein, tofu and cottage cheese. Eggs are so-so. Also, watch your sweeteners. Stevia is alkaline but aspartame, Sweet n Low, Equal, sugar, etc. are acidic in your system.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Traveling during comp prep

I’ve had to go out of town on business twice so far during this comp prep. It’s a bit of a challenge but I’m getting it down. Preparation is key. It starts with booking a hotel that has a fridge and microwave in the room. I then pre-measure and cook my food and pack it in ziplock bags and tuck them all into a soft sided cooler that I can carry on the plane. It’s a toss-up as to whether TSA will let blue ice blocks go through security. I usually bring the small ones and figure it’s only a buck if TSA throws them out. I’ve been told by several agents that they are supposed to let blue ice through as long as it’s frozen. If it’s thawed out, they throw it out. But, I also know that not all TSA agents play by the same rules so I never really know what’s going to happen.

On a recent trip to Tulsa, Oklahoma, TSA pulled my cooler aside after it went through the xray machine and pulled everything out of my bag. I explained that I’m a body builder and that this was my food for the next two days. They scanned my 3 blue ice packs and had a short discussion before deciding to let me keep them. The woman TSA agent was asking me all about my sport. She wanted to know when the last time was I had pizza (it’s been years) and asked to see my abs. We had a great conversation and she happily helped me pack up all my food. When she saw my oatmeal egg white pancakes she wanted to know how to make them.

As a matter of fact the oatmeal pancakes are the BEST thing I’ve discovered in awhile. I got the recipe from IFBB pro Nancy Georges. I tweaked it a bit because I needed it to fit my needs for my afternoon snack. Here’s Nancy’s original recipe:

6 egg whites
1 yolk
½ cup oatmeal
Stevia or splenda

Mix stevia or splenda with the eggs then add the oatmeal and cinnamon. Pour into a small (6 to 9 inch) pan and cook like a regular pancake, or make several if you want them thinner. DELICIOUS!

4 ½ weeks out and my body’s really starting to come in now. My lower body is lagging a bit but that’s to be expected. I haven’t decided if I’m going to post any progress pics or just wait to unveil the finished project come show time. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’m working my butt off to make sure I’m bringing my best self to the stage. I just love comp prep!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

6 weeks out – a true athlete

I can’t believe it’s only 6 weeks and I’ll be standing on a stage at the NPC Greater Gulf States Figure Competition in New Orleans. This prep is going sooo fast! Following several months of rehabbing injuries incurred during the summer months I went into this comp prep cautiously optimistic. Deep down I wondered if this would be my last competition, my body was just so beat up. However, with the help of my Z-Health master trainer and my massage therapist, as well as the expertise of my competition coach and the support of my wonderful husband, I’m happy to say I’m in the best physical shape ever and I have full confidence that I’ll be bringing my best self to the 2010 competition season and beyond!

There have been so many thing I’ve learned this year. I’ve learned that being an athlete doesn’t mean to push yourself beyond all measure. It doesn’t mean to train when your body is screaming for a break. It doesn’t mean that the way to success is to eat right, lift weights and do your cardio. Rather, I learned that a true athlete is someone who listens to his/her body, taking rest days and realizing that those days are actually the best days as they truly take you closer to your goals. I also learned to take a holistic approach to reaching my goals. Training, cardio and eating properly aren’t the only pieces to the puzzle. In order to be the best I can be I must stretch (a huge learning for me) and take care of my joints because if they fail me it doesn’t matter how strong my muscles are, I won’t be able to lift to their capacity.

So, as I head toward the stage I must say I’m thankful in a strange way for the trials I’ve faced this past year. I’ve learned a lot and my body is so much healthier for it. I now have a fantastic team of body workers and fitness professionals working together to help me be the best I can be With their help I will continue to learn how to be a true athlete.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

You want me to do what?!

Three weeks down and nine more to go til show time. Things are going very well. I’m enjoying every minute of my training. There is simply no better high. I love seeing the daily changes in my body and I can really feel it start to dial in. It’s like it remembers what to do for prep.

During the past week my coach noticed that the right side of my back/shoulder area was “bound” and suggested I get a deep tissue massage. He asked when the last time was I had a massage and I had to admit I’ve only had one professional massage in my entire life and that was several years ago. He recommended that I get a professional massage at least every other week between now and my shows - every week if I could manage it – with the idea that it would keep my back muscles loosened (makes it much easier to do a back pose if you can actually spread your lats!).

My physical therapist for my elbows recommended a massage therapist who works on a lot of the Chargers and other professional athletes so I made an appointment. When I arrived, I filled out some paperwork and then Shane, the massage therapist, came out to meet me. Shane’s a pretty big guy, which makes sense since he works on football players, but I’m an itty bitty 120 lbs so I was a little apprehensive when I thought about him giving me the massage. :o)

I told Shane about all my injuries, the joint mobility work I’m doing and the binding up of my right shoulder/lat, which is most likely related to my right hip/low back issue. Things went well until he asked me about my stretching. My what? I asked him. Ummm. I don’t stretch. I know that’s bad but it’s just sooo boring and I’m so unflexible and it hurts to stretch so I don’t do it. He gave me this look that said, “Ah, I’ve got this lady’s number. She and I have a lot of work to do.”

He proceeded to use a combination of deep tissue massage, sports massage, myofascial release and stretching on my back, shoulders and legs. My back (both sides but especially the right side) is so bound that all the muscles in my back around my scapula are acting as one unit. Not good. Plus my piriformis and sacrum are so tight he said no wonder I have such bad back/hip pain. This all ties in so well with what Z-Health Master Trainer Lou McGovern (the joint mobility specialist) said about my messed up gait and – get this – backwards reflexes. I’m a mess!

Shane worked on me for an hour and although I felt like he had beat me to a pulp, he said he wasn’t able to completely free my back and hesitated to put me through much more during that session. He then showed me a piriformis stretch where I’m standing and must put my leg up on a table about hip height (not an easy feat in and of itself). I bend the leg at a 90 degree angle and try to get my knee flat on the table, while leaning my opposite shoulder toward the knee. He demonstrated the stretch and all I could say is "You want me to do what?!" It looked impossible. Well, I swung my leg up and tried. In a word - excruciating!! I couldn’t even come close to putting my knee flat and of course the right side was way worse than the left.

The good news is that he thinks he can help me fairly quickly. I’m going to see him once per week for the next four weeks and then we’ll re-evaluate.

Now for the good news – the second day doing the piriformis stretch I was able to get my left knee flat on the table!!! Not so the right knee but it’s definitely getting closer. I love being able to get results so quickly. It almost makes the pain bearable.

Between my trainer/nutritionist, joint mobility trainer and massage therapist I really feel like I have a great team helping me to be the best on stage ever!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two weeks into prep and feeling fine!

Just two weeks into prep and I'm already seeing the changes - leaning down, muscles filling out. God, I love comp prep!

We increased my cardio to 30 min six days/week. Bleh, but I know I shouldn’t complain. It’s not near as much as a lot of girls have to do. Kim said he likes to get me ready early and then just feed me til show day. My body reacts well to that strategy and I like that plan! :o)

I can definitely tell my metabolism is getting faster. I’m finally hungry for my last meal of the day. That ground sirloin and egg white meal was really hard to force down the first week but now I’m hungry for it and it’s a great way to finish the day.

My energy level is fantastic. I’m not taking any fat burners at all and at first I thought I might need some green tea extract to help keep me peppy during the day but I’m absolutely fine. In fact, I have more energy than I did just a few weeks ago before I started prep. Partly that’s because I’m actually eating quite a bit right now. It’s also because I’m just so darn excited to be prepping.

I’m also very pleased with the way my body is holding up so far. My elbows are doing great! The osteoarthritis in my knees is only troubling following legs days (2x week) especially if I do hack squats. The other injuries – my hamstring and hip – were somewhat troubling me when I started prep. I went to see Z-Health Master Trainer Lou McGovern. He worked with me for 2 hours and taught me a few joint mobility drills to help reset my nervous system. I do these very simple drills three times each day and then go for a walk for about 5 minutes. It’s pretty amazing. My hamstring pain, which I’ve had for 6 months, is entirely gone!!! Poof! Just like that. It’s hard to explain what this joint mobility work is all about but I’ll try. Let’s say you get an injury – perhaps a hip injury. Your gait changes as you walk to accommodate the injury. This can affect other parts of your body too as your posture, lifting form, etc. all work differently to compensate. Over time the injury itself heals. But – your nervous systems holds an image of the “old” way you moved, the change in your gait, the compromise in your lifting form, and you may not go back to a normal gait (and you may not realize you haven’t normalized). Eventually you may even get another injury which could be due, in part, to this new programmed way of moving.

The joint mobility drills work to “reset” your nervous system. Sometimes improvement is immediate (such as with my hamstring). Other times, it takes more work – and time – to reset the nervous system and make the pain disappear. Such it appears is the case with my hip injury. I’m still in a bit of pain, even with the drills. When I do the drills the pain definitely goes away but it comes back, sometimes within minutes, other times in a few hours.

This resetting can be done virtually anywhere. I’ve begun using it in the gym if I feel my hip act up. I do the ankle lateral tilt and then walk a little around the gym. Magic!

I’m going back to see Lou again in a couple weeks so he can check to see how I’m doing and learn some more drills. This stuff is fascinating and if it can take all my pain away, I’m all for it.

One of my friends on Twitter was complaining that Figure competitors don’t have much junk in their trunks. I asked my husband what he thought and he said I should post this picture. While I’m sure there are girls out there who need to boost their booty, I think it’s safe to say mine is not flat. :o)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Week one complete!

I just completed the first week of competition prep. It went GREAT! My elbows and knees are holding up nicely. The only challenge I had was in holding dumbbells while doing wall ball squats. I want to hold at least 25 lb dumbbells in each hand but the weight is just too much on my elbows. One of my Twitter friends, @FitnessGirl911, suggested I wear a weight vest. I think that’s a great idea and today I went shopping for one. I found a 40 lb weight vest. It’s a bit lighter than the 50 lbs (and more) I want to use but it certainly will help the elbow issue. The only problem I have now is figuring out how to lug the 40 lb vest plus my gym bag plus my cooler into the gym twice a week (or more). I have to climb stairs to get to the workout floor and I think slugging the vest around is going be hard on my elbows!! Geez. I guess I could wear it :o) My current plan is to ask the gym manager if I can have a locker assigned to me for the next few months. That way I can leave the vest there and not have to lug it around.

The food part of my comp prep is super easy so far. I’m still at 1830 calories which is a lot. We upped my cardio to 25 minutes, 5 days per week to help jump my metabolism a little more. The goal is to keep the muscle I’ve built this last summer while leaning down and keeping my joints healthy. So far so good.

Tomorrow I am having an evaluation with Lou McGovern, a Z-Health joint mobility specialist. He was referred to me by Mike T. Nelson (@MikeTNelson on Twitter). I don’t know a lot about this type of thing but basically Lou is a performance coach and Z-Health “is a cutting-edge exercise system that helps people improve their health, alleviate their pain, and maximize their athletic performance.” (via . Also, from Lou’s website: “Z-Health focuses on the whole-body approach with training principles that have the goal of re-educating the nervous system for maximally efficient movement patterns. Z-Health is very precise, uses a low number of repetitions, and emphasizes the perfection of movement skills. As a result, the program will help you improve joint lubrication and function AND will teach you how to eliminate poor movement patterns that may have developed over time.” I’m excited to check it out – plus a little nervous. I’ll report on how it all goes.