So this is less of a “how-to” and more of a “I-freaking-did-it” post. And this is even less of a “I’m-gonna-win” and more of a “I-made-it-through” post. I think you’re getting the picture. But you can still pick up some tips from my journey. Don’t worry, I’m not going to write Day 1: I cried for lack of cheese. No, no, but an overall view of the contest and my journey through it. Let me start by saying that I, an already-fit personal trainer, dropped 6.5% body fat and 10 pounds. Anyone can do anything they put their mind to. That’s what I love about humans, we can always adapt to become stronger, better than what we are. This may be a long post, but it for me it was a long journey (that I can’t believe is over). You can skip to the end for tips or take a few minutes and read the whole thing.
If you aren’t sure what contest I’m talking about, read this briefly. I completed a 6-week (plus a 10-day cleanse before that) “Strong to the COR” transformation contest. It was sponsored by Cellucor, a popular supplement company. The grand prizes for one male and female are 10k a piece along with supplements, apparel, and a free cruise. Sounds pretty nice. But I wasn’t in to win. I know that sounds bad. I was in it to win it for myself and complete it all the way for myself, but I had an inkling I wasn’t going to win as other females came in weighing 200lbs with 30%+ body fat percentage. Much easier for them to complete a transformation than a 135lbs, 20/22% body fat percentage gal like me. And 6-weeks isn’t a proper time for a true transformation, most contests include bulking and cutting that consist of maybe 6 months. But here I am, coming in at a fit weight and body fat to prove to myself that I can do anything.
And I made it to the very last day. Despite vacations (ice cream, you are my downfall), dinners out, and moving, I stayed on track for the most part. Sure, I did have ice cream in Iowa on vacation, sure I did have a slice of homemade pizza, but I stuck to my macros. And I killed it with my workouts. For the last 3 weeks of contest, I used Ashley Conrad’s 21-Day Clutch Cut. Basically, shredding workouts in addition to the clean-eating I was doing. Her program consisted of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) that was slowly built up (last week was awesome torture) and strength circuits to keep the heart rate up and the body strong. She put in rest days, but I wasn’t so good at listening to those. I always had to do something, even if it was a trail run with the dog we were taking care of.
Around Week 3, right around/before I started the 21-Day Cut, I started to feel not as focused, not as dedicated. I was still killing it with the workouts, but my eating habits were slipping. I was still sticking to my perfected clean-eating, but I started to pick at bad foods. That’s my bad habit. My friends all know this—I pick at things. Which is one of the reasons I wrote this post. After I slapped myself into shape, I really buckled down with the eating. Sure I’d pick here and there once in awhile, but when I saw Hope Solo diving across my screen, I knew that it wasn’t worth it to mess around. Chris always says, “Keep your eye on the prize.” And I did, and it helped. I started seeing results, my back became beastly and my abs visible.
The last week and a half was my super clean-eating, low-carb, high-fat week. This was probably the most monotonous with meals, but I was okay with it. I was in it to win it (not ACTUALLY win it…but you know what I mean!), and there was no room to mess around. I went longer on my circuits, harder on my HIIT, and cleaner with my nutrition. Peeling hard-boiled eggs became my bane. My meals normally consisted of tuna, avocado, eggs, nuts, protein shakes and hot sauce. And I made it work. No actual carbs, but I would get them from things like vegetables and such. I really started seeing the results by this time and I turned in to a lean, mean egg-white-eating machine. And I made it all the way to the very last day, even though we were moving the last 2 days that made it tough to squeeze workouts in.
I couldn’t have done it without support. Every step of the way, Chris was there to push me on and catch me if I fell. He was a great coach (even though he never thinks so). He provided me with meal plans and workouts before Ashley Conrad, and supported and encouraged me to just finish that last circuit. It helps to live with your coach, and he really made the difference for me. As did my friends, and family (whenever I talked to my dad, he would cheer me on and say he’s behind me the whole way)–jeez, I have a great ring of support. I would text my friends in anguish during my workouts and they would tell me to finish that last set, that I would regret if I didn’t and they would send me strange picture messages through emotes (COUGH—Kathleen).
What did I do on Monday, the day of contest completion? WENT CRAZY. Just kidding…kinda. My stomach had felt a little weird from eating bread the night before (carb loading to fill out my muscles for pictures), so I didn’t feel like having a huge breakfasts. I greased myself up, did some exercises to pump up my muscles, and Chris photographed me in my poses. We went to Spruce Confections, our favorite bakery, and got warm croissants. Mmmm! I can’t describe how good it was to have one.
I went through the day not feeling great after eating a brownie, some yogurt, and peanut butter. I shocked my system a little too much. Once I ate some Wahoo’s tacos, I felt better—real food helps, I think. For dinner, my cousins, my cousin’s boyfriend, Chris, and I went to our favorite Italian place in town to get a wonderful dinner. We were seated outside and just had a great time—I got pesto gnocchi. However, I couldn’t fill up too much because Chris had challenged me that I couldn’t eat a pint of Glacier cookies and cream ice cream. Who are we kidding, does he know who I am? So after that Italian feast, we headed to Glacier and I finished the pint in 12 minutes. That’s right, I always make my Powell family line proud (we are known for our love of ice cream). Not to say I felt great afterwards (rather, I’m still feeling the effects of dairy, which I hadn’t had for at least a month, sitting in my stomach 12 hours after), but it was fun to finish and celebrate with family and friends.
So what the heck should you learn from this? How to complete a transformation contest
Find a support network. Whether that means your partner, your friends, your family, even online—find that support group. On bodybuilding.com (where this contest was hosted), there was a forum for all of us doing the contest, and there were loads of supportive people all helping each other to make it to the end. You may think this is all about your body, but you need support to keep going.
Find a meal plan that works for you. I happen to enjoy nuts, eggs, tuna, and avocado—but maybe you don’t. It was tough for me being a vegetarian on a bodybuilder’s diet (it’s much easier with meat), but I made it work. If you aren’t sure what to eat, search online for resources, ask a trainer, nutritionist, or someone you know that’s into the fitness industry.
Don’t only do cardio. This is a transformation. It’s not just about weight loss. You want to build muscle. If I had no muscle, I would look pretty horrible. My muscle is what makes me look good, what makes me stand out, and look strong. And I am strong Stronger than I look too. You do cardio, you’re just going to run your butt literally off and have no structure to your body. Incorporate strength training and cardio.
Don’t starve yourself. I know you want to win. I know you want to see a difference in your body. Starving yourself is not the way to go, see the point above: you won’t build muscle, you won’t look good. Don’t become a stick, it’s not very attractive, and people who lead transformation contests do not appreciate it. They appreciate muscle, definition, toning, and HEALTHY effort.
Give yourself some breathing room. It’s okay not to be on the ball every single second—especially if it’s a 6-week contest! I wish we could all be paid to do these contests, but we’re real people with real lives and real work. Things come up, you may not be able to hit every set of that workout you wanted or you may have to scarf something down on the go. Maybe you go to a family reunion and can’t resist Grandma’s strawberry pie—it’s okay. One cheat meal isn’t going to kill you. Breathe, and continue on.
Count your macros. Working out is important to build muscle and lose fat—of course! It’s a big part of this transformation process. However, without proper nutrition, all that hard work isn’t going to go too far. Check this post out to learn more about macronutrients and comment if you have more questions. If you count your calories, carbohydrates, fats, and protein, you will be fine in the eating realm. It comes down to pure science, and there’s something beautiful about that. Stick to your macros and you will see a difference.
Keep your eye on the prize. Like Chris said—this is so important. Want to pick at the brownies you just made for everyone? Keep your eye on the prize. Weigh decisions. Is it actually worth it to eat that piece of cake or lick of frosting? Probably not. Reject those animal impulses and use that willpower muscle. It’s my favorite muscle.
Measure yourself every week. I might’ve thought I wasn’t making any progress, but then I had my fellow trainers measure me and I was seeing the body fat drop. We are hardest on ourselves so get the real hard facts of the progress you are making through your hard work.
Focus on the positive. This could be one of the most important things. I’m very hard on myself, and sometimes I can get negative with how hard I’m working. This is bad. We don’t want to be negative about ourselves because it will lower our motivation level. Look at the positive things that you’ve done—you actually got to your workout, you resisted that candy, and you are staying on track. Don’t look at the negative—it’s not going to help anyone.
So here I am, at the end of 6 weeks, transformed and happy. I’m proud of myself for going all the way and happy with my results. It has felt like a long journey, and I learned new things about myself. But now I’m wondering…what’s next? Compete in a contest to stay hungry and fit!
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