Once upon a time I was an IFBB Bikini and Figure Body Builder.
This sport changed my outlook on fitness, and proved to me that you can do anything you set your mind to!
I have received many questions about this journey. It was such a pivotal point in my life professionally, physically and emotionally - I'll share my experience with you!
I have been a fitness fanatic for a very long time, but it wasn't until I moved to Boston from Nashville in 2016 that I took it beyond recreational. I had always enjoyed the gym as a form of therapy, and desperately needed "me-time" after long days working in a fast-paced, highly competitive corporate job. I was able to silence my mind from the constant work chatter, drama, and judgement.
I enjoyed trying new exercises, pushing my weight goals, and learning about nutrition. Eventually this hobby became my passion, and lead to my risky exit out of corporate America. My career transition is a long story, but we're skipping to the good stuff.
In May 2019, after settling in as a full-time fitness instructor at four different Equinox's in Boston I decided to commit to a challenge that scared my socks off. I began prep-work for my first body building competition with zero idea what to expect.
I met with Geri Villalona, a total badass and a past Pro competitor who had been referred to me by her fans from Equinox. That May Geri took me on as her client and I began a 21-week prep to prepare for the NPC Jay Cutler Classic in October. Btw, most preps are 12-16 weeks long. I was on a mission to put on lean muscle and focus on building my glutes and hamstrings. Surprisingly I was also encouraged to eat A LOT.
The beginning of the prep was pretty awesome - even felt guilty about how much I was allowed to consume. My expectations were that I'd be starving myself. I learned you ‘gotta feed the booty’ to build the booty! For 3 months I ate roughly 3,000 calories a day, did zero cardio, and got to lift heavy as f*ck.
I loved it!
Not everyone’s journey looks the same, but this is how mine began.
Keep in mind, as a full-time instructor, I taught at least 25 classes a week, and walked all over the city as a traveling personal trainer without a car. (Shout out to my OG Boston clients! I Miss you.)
I was terrified to mess up Geri's plan for me - meticulous about everything. If I ate a single gram over or under my macros, skipped a gym session or client check-in, I'd beat myself up.
I was most terrified of embarrassing myself on stage by competing before I was ready.
Personally it was a much bigger mental challenge during prep than physical - most competitors experience this dark mental place too.
During the "bulking" weeks I hated putting on weight especially over the summer months...
I'd say "I can't wait to put the fork down and start cutting!" (If you compete - never ever wish this! You will quickly regret it.)
Because of my job I was a very active, and burned 3,000 + calories a day. I had a hard time keeping muscle weight on but was able to cut pretty quickly, so my "bulking" part of prep was about 17 weeks of the 21 week prep period.
During the first 3 months of prep I enjoyed a nice cheat meal weekly - very important to reset your hormone receptors for metabolism and insulin regulation. It also replenishes glycogen for higher energy. Sadly, those cheat meals became less and less as I approached show day.
At about 5 weeks out Geri put me on a new diet and workout plan. I ate so much chicken, white fish, rice and egg whites that I’m just now able to enjoy them again.
Frank's Red Hot really lived up to its motto those weeks because I put that sh*t on everything! I ate 5 meals a day every 3 hours.
No sweets. No alcohol. No substitutions. No Fun. LOL 😂
At the peak of bulking season I reached 138lbs (I am 5'2"). During this crucial cutting phase I was assigned 30-60 minute fasted cardio sessions 5x a week, and heavy lifting gym sessions. I dropped at least 3lbs a week, and became obsessed with getting competition ready!
What I didn't expect was the cost of everything else. My body type was considered a "hybrid" for bikini and figure divisions so I decided to compete in both categories to know my strengths against other competitors. This required double the equipment, outfits and fees.
For anyone considering competition be prepared for those costs. Each suit can range anywhere between $220 - $550. I purchased a used bikini suit, but had a custom figure suit made - grand total of $700! 🤯 ...and then I added shoes, jewelry, spray tanning, make-up, professional coach and posing fees, plus costs to compete. It's not a cheap sport ladies! 😬
Fast forward to the last week of prep - "Peak Week." It is by far the hardest 7 days.
I was encouraged to get my group fitness classes covered and rest because I wasn't fueling my body for high intense training. Since I had recently quit my corporate job and lived in an over-priced apartment in Boston...not working wasn‘t an option.
My water intake instructions went from 1 gallon/ day for 3 days, to a half gallon, and then to merely sips for the last 2 days of prep. Losing water weight was key!
I was on zero carbs consuming about 600 calories a day and still teaching 4-5 classes on top of my own training and posing schedule.
I can laugh about this now, but the daily melt downs and fainting close calls were draining.
I wasn't emotional because I was a wimp, but because my body was so tired, sore, weak and dehydrated - all I could do was cry.
The final week of prep is the biggest roller coaster of a week you'll ever experience.
Still worth it.
Finally, show day arrived! I woke up on October 26th, at my lowest weight, 112lbs - down 26lbs in just 6 weeks of cutting. I was ready to get the show on the road.
I wanted to eat everything is sight!
The morning of the show my make-up and spray tan appointments were at the ungodly hour of 4am, and I couldn’t eat or drink a thing until Geri gave me the green-light. It’s a good thing my nerves were worse than the hunger pains - I managed to survive.
I chose 2 divisions, Bikini and Figure, and 3 categories - Bikini Open, Bikini Novice, and Figure Novice.
The divisions we're called out one by one starting with the men. There were a zillion divisions before Bikini and Figure, so I didn't step on stage until about 1pm.
All around me everyone was either eating or working out to get their final "pump" before taking the stage. I was instructed to eat 5 gummy bears, and drink a few sips of red wine brought to me by my coach, Geri. 😊
The sugar in the sweets causes your muscles to pop from the glycogen which is glucose stored in your muscles from carbohydrates.
I savored my treat, got my resistance band pump on one last time, and walked on stage. (Figure division final call out video above)
I must have blacked out, because before I knew it the competition was over...all 3 divisions plus 1 Figure division pose-off. All the long hours of prep work, blood, sweat and tears, and the moment ended in a flash.
When it was all said and done I had won all 3 divisions AND placed 1st for Overall Figure Competitor! Such an incredible feeling!
I was grateful for the tons of friends and family that tuned in virtually, and my best friends Nicole and Blake that had supported me all day. Icing on the cake was my dad flying in from Texas to surprise me! My roommates spent hours cheering me on during finals, and helped me devour about 10 courses from Cheese Cake Factory after the show. Best. Day. Ever!
The post-competition journey is a story all its own. I’ll tell that one down the road.
I drank the kool-aid and planned my next 2 competitions for April 2020.
Then life happened.
Covid-19 dropped a bomb on everything just 5 weeks out from show day...talk about disappointing. (Photo taken 5 weeks from April competition, working out with jugs of detergent!)
I have hopes of competing again, but I have fallen in love with lifestyle fitness, and building my own business.
I enjoy life without the pressure right now, but still challenge my mind and body in a happy, healthy, balanced way.
I loved walking down competition memory lane, but I kept it short and sweet for y’all.
If you want to know more details about my journey, or thinking of competing yourself I’d love to chat! Just drop a comment or email!