I've been ruminating on this post for awhile. Now that I have the experience of training for and competing in an NPC bikini contest behind me, I've been on my own to try to maintain the body I built in those six months. I made significant progress, going from about 25% body fat and 115 pounds to probably 15% body fat (I'm not 100% sure on that number because we stopped measuring at 17 or 19%. I was supposed to get my body fat tested at the Bod Pod, but they cancelled because the machine wasn't working), and I competed at 100 pounds.
Although I wasn't grossly out of shape at the beginning of my competition prep, I was surprised at just how hard I had to work and for how long. The changes don't come easy, but they do come. You can count on that if you're doing the exercise and eating properly. So, I've been reflecting on exactly HOW I made those changes and how I stuck to it for so long and I realized five key things about how to get in shape.
1. Decide that you are going to make a change. First and foremost, you have to commit to not only wanting to make a change, but that you are actually going to make that change. For me, a big motivator was knowing I did not want to end up in July 2014, where I was in July 2013. I wanted to be in great shape and not feeling bad about myself. So, the new year of 2014 marked the beginning of implementing those changes. I knew if I started in January, I'd have significant results by July. If you set a goal (a family or high school reunion, a birthday, anniversary, vacation, or bikini contest) and back the time out so you can work towards it, keeping that goal in mind will help keep you committed and focused. Our minds and spirit are very powerful. When my body would tell me it didn't want to work out or eat another piece of fish, I just treated it like a child that doesn't get to tell me what to do. It didn't know best since I had already decided months ago what I wanted to achieve. Instead, I did what I knew I needed to do to get me to the goal I set. In those "weak" moments, listen to your "higher self", the one that already made the decision to get in shape and create a new life.
2. Fit your day around your workout instead of trying to fit your workout into your day. The last couple of weeks I have fallen off of the workout train and I just couldn't seem to get it to fit into my day. I'm home with my son for the summer and I wanted to spend those days with him, so he's not going to camp. I used to workout first thing in the morning, but now, our mornings are lazy, and we're chilling out in pj's watching cartoons (him) and drinking coffee (me) well past 10:00 a.m. And then I need to be fueled up for a strong workout, so I figure, we need to wait until after lunch to head to the gym. But, after lunch finds us heading to swim class or running errands or just not feeling like breaking up the day with a workout, so I tell myself, "I'll go when my husband gets home." But, then it's time to make dinner and eat, and then get my son ready for bed and it gets late, so I say, "I'll just go tomorrow. . . . " Sound familiar??
If you continue like that, you'll never make it to the gym, or you will, but your efforts will be sporadic and you won't get the results you want. You must decide in advance when you will workout (whether it's at 5:30 a.m. to Insanity home videos like my friend Angela) or at lunch, or after work, or after the kids are in bed. Then, you decide how to fit your day around your workout. Yes, it requires planning. Yes, some other things you might have to say no to. But, once you get into your routine, it just becomes part of your day. I did best to actually schedule my entire day on paper so I could visually see how my day would fit around my workout and meal plan since I ate five meals a day. The RED indicates cardio and training sessions and the pencil circle marks indicate when I needed to eat. I had to prep meals in advance and often eat in the car or at my son's swim lessons, etc.
3. Consider hiring a trainer or finding a workout partner. A trainer isn't absolutely necessary, but if you need that person to keep you accountable to your workouts, it's worth it. You could have a friend as your accountability partner, just make sure she is reliable and won't flake on you. You need someone tough who will keep their appointments and also, not just chat with you during the workout. You should be making the most of your time in the gym, working those muscles, huffing and puffing, and sweating!
If you aren't familiar with the machines, or a beginner when it comes to lifting weights, it is a good idea to use an experienced trainer so you don't get hurt. I've had good and not-so-good trainers in the past, but John Sherman and Monica Isles were the best. I saw the best results with John though, because I worked out more often with him and because I followed his meal plan. Which leads me to the next point.
4. Working out consistently will cause you to eat better. Working out will only get you so far in changing your physique. You have to eat better too. Something about having physically worked out so hard and sweating and hurting will make you say, "That piece of cake or pizza just isn't worth it." You start to understand how eating those extra calories and fat will translate into that much more work to get it off and you don't want it! That is why I kept finding myself saying, "The diet isn't that hard." Or at least not as hard as I thought it would be. You'll look forward to (and enjoy more) the "cheat" meals on the weekend. You can go HERE to see my bikini contest meal plan.
5. Once you start, small changes will keep you motivated, just stick with it! My trainer casually remarked to me when we first started working out together, "You're gonna like your body way before the competition." I didn't give it too much thought at the time, but man was he right! Although, it took a long time to get to "bikini contest" ready, I felt great in my skin long before that. Your clothes will start fitting better, your face will change, you skin will be brighter, your energy will be higher, you will have more confidence and inner strength and that feels so good. I started noticing changes in my body within just two weeks of working out and eating better, but the changes kept coming as long as I stuck with it. In time, you WILL reach your goal.
If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments and I may use them in a future post. Have a great weekend!