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My Perspective: 25 Values and Lessons Learned

I’m going to get a little personal here and share with you 25 lessons / values that have developed for me over time. I personally feel that if I stick to these and keep them in perspective regarding all goals, challenges and the day to day, I am doing alright.

Over the past 3.5 years, I feel I have really learned a lot about myself and life. It has been a dense couple of years for growth between experiences with death, relationships, career choices, figure competitions and the journey inward.

I thought I would share some of my personal findings with you – take what you want from them, after all, they are personal to me. Though I may be not “old” enough to be “wise,” I believe living through experiences and taking a deep look at them (and yourself) can really provide a lot of opportunities for growth. I’m sure there are a few I’m missing on this list, but it was getting long enough 🙂

1. I train to be strong. I eat to be lean. – With this simple rational, it’s easy for me to justify why I do what I do. It helps me make the choices I make on a daily basis. I have also found that no matter how hard I train, I will not have the body composition or the physique I want if my intake and diet do not match my efforts in the gym. To me, proper eating is equally important as the time I put into my activity – and to be honest, proper eating requires a hell of a lot more round the clock effort than my training.

2. Habits – After competing for 2.5 years, I’ve learned that good habits die hard too 🙂 It now feels unnatural for me to eat crap or skip training. Put in the time and consistency to develop good habits, they are just as hard to break as bad habits.

3. Believe In Yourself – If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else?! If you want to achieve something, expect that you deserve it and believe that you will attain it until you do.

4. Follow Your Heart – This can be a scary thing, sometimes the road less traveled – but do it. Be true to you, you will feel so rewarded. There may be days of challenge and your strength and positive attitude could waiver, but dig deep to move through those moments. Don’t lose sight of your passion and continue to pursue / create what makes YOU happy. You only get one life, you ought to live it for you and for what drives you to fulfillment.

5. Consistency – Whatever you want to be or do, wherever you want to go, however strong you want to be or lean you want to look – I’ve found consistency will get you there. Just apply appropriate efforts and repeated daily.

6. Training Is A Gift – I heard this one from Martin Rooney years back and I tell it to myself and clients all the time – Training is a gift you give to yourself. It is your time, your money and your body. It is also a gift as not all people are capable to train. Appreciate your training.

7. Strength – is so important in every capacity. Strength in character and internal strength are equally important to cultivate just like physical strength.

8. Sacrifices – be prepared to make them. To have great things, you must do great things. It’s likely you will go against the grain at times and you will have to stand strong and or make choices and sacrifices that are not easy. Keep the bigger picture and goal in mind.

9. Eliminate the Negative – get rid of the negative people, places or things from your life as best you can. We can’t always avoid such people or circumstances, but have your antennae up and steer clear when you can. It’ll make the day to day much lighter.

10. Integrity – Be honest with yourself and others. Act according to the values, beliefs and principles you claim to hold.

11. Drive – the relentless pursuit of the goals and things you want to achieve. You must have this in order to achieve your visions.

12. Hard Work – Be prepared to put in the extra time and energy. To achieve above average, you have to do above average and most often, above average is not easy.

13. Death – I hope most of you reading this haven’t had to experience a death so close it leveled you. I did unfortunately, back in 2008. Today, I can finally reminisce about him with smiles and be grateful that I knew him for seven months rather than zero. I wouldn’t trade one minute of my time with this person to spare any of the pain and loss I felt as a result of his untimely death. What I did learn however, was that life is precious and short. That bad things happen to great people and most importantly, if we care about someone, we ought to value our time with them always and tell them often.

14. Injuries – We’ve all had them. Some we can work around, others we must learn to respect and let heal. It can be frustrating to sit out of activity, training or sport in order to let the healing process take place – but considering longevity and quality of lift / activity down the road – respect the injury. Just like the heart needs time to heal, so does the body.

15. Life Goes On – I’ve arrived at a pretty peaceful and happy place in my life. Despite challenges – whether loss of loved ones, loss of security or a hard practice in general – I’ve come through to the other side a few times and found with hindsight, that life does go on, all things pass and we will get through.

16. Stand Strong and You Will Grow – Stand up for yourself. Whether it be in a work environment, in a relationship or for something you believe in – it’s empowering to stand up for yourself and you will grow from it as it makes you stronger from the inside out.

17. Support Systems Are Great – sharing things with family, friends, colleagues and coaches, helps double the joy and lessen the difficult. Also, it often “takes a village” when aiming for a big goal, so work people into your support system that can help you towards your goals. Besides, if you don’t have loved ones to share life with, what good is it really?

18. Networking – can serve as gasoline to your fire. Not only does it help you grow, it can be uplifting and inspiring! Especially if you are on the road less traveled. Also, no need to reinvent the wheel – seek those who can help guide you.

19. Passion – passion, one of my favorite words – it fires our souls and lifts our spirits. It breeds enthusiasm and enthusiasm turns into a positive energy which attracts success. Passion is a great navigational tool if you will listen to it. I am driven by passion and to create the environment and day to day tasks / activity that make me happiest.

20. A Positive Attitude – We live our day and lives through the attitude and perception we have. You can focus on the difficulties and annoyances or focus on the good and be grateful. Having a positive attitude makes life so much more peaceful. You may not be in control of circumstances, but you are in control of your thoughts and actions. During tough times, aim to keep a positive perspective in order to keep your chin up and eyes on the things in life that are going your way (whether it’s the big picture that everyone you love is healthy or the small simple pleasures like a beautiful day or a good training session.)

21. Adversity – it’s going to come and will do so in all different shapes and sizes. Having the ability to stay the course and plow through — as Winston Churchill says “if you’re going through hell, keep going” – You will hopefully come out of the challenge stronger, more empowered and with more experience to handle the next difficulty. It can also make us more empathetic to others.

22. Failure – Failing can be an opportunity to learn, grow and gain perspective. Aim not to blame others and not to be too hard on yourself. Rather, recap your strategy, your efforts and move forward with additional experience and a positive perspective.

23. Let Go Of Expectations – When you have expectations of something – you put it in a predetermined box that has little to do with reality. You set up an idealized version of the thing (or person) and then try to fit the reality into this ideal, and are often disappointed. Instead, try to experience reality as it is, appreciate it for what it is, and be happy for what it is. (took this wording from Leo Babauta)

24. Always Aim To Be Fair, Honest and Kind – to yourself and to others.

25. You All Keep Me Inspired – I have realized in the pursuit of my goals and dreams, I am most inspired by all of you. To continue eating, training, studying, coaching, writing, creating and living through example. If it weren’t for the fellow passionate fitness friends and professionals, the process wouldn’t be half as enjoyable. 

 

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Strength In Numbers

This past week has been a really exciting week for networking! It all started when Bret Contreras wrote a blog post titled “Where My Ladies At.” Be sure to check it out for yourself because it’s a very inspiring compilation of 13 strong women training hard in the gym!

Bret’s post was a take off of Nia Shanks Beautiful Badass movement. Nia is one STRONG female!! She can deadlift 300lbs and ladies, one look at Nia and you will see she is FAR from “bulky” – so get that silly myth out of your head right now if it’s your reason for not training heavy! I suggest you witness this for yourself, check Nia out here.

Monday after Bret’s post ran, Molly Galbraith and I were tweeting back and forth about lifting. That quickly turned into an idea of training together. She mentioned that she and Jen Comas Keck  were getting together to support Julia Kaufman Ladewski in a meet in August. I thought, let’s get some more ladies involved and one thing lead to another – now the weekend of August 20th evolved into a gathering of some serious brains, beauty and brawns! We will all be joining for one hell of a girls weekend to support Julia, train together and have a girls night out…including but not limited to Molly Galbraith, Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic, Jen Comas Keck, Mandy Stafford, Nia Shanks, Jen Grasso, Julia Kaufman Ladewski and possibly Neghar Fonooni. I am SO stoked to meet these amazing women, train, talk shop and hang!

Bret also connected a handful of us from his post (Thank you Bret). I can tell you readers this, great things are ahead. We are all going to put our strength, passion and brains together as we join forces to create a bigger movement for females and strength training.. REAL STRENGTH TRAINING.

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these Beautiful Badasses yourself. I have previously mentioned Jen Grasso, but make sure you bookmark the rest of them as they all have great knowledge, passion and hard work ethic!

Your valuable list of strong female resources:

Elsbeth Vaino – Her Blog and Female Fitness Forum
Molly Galbraith – On Elite FTS
Marianne Kane – Free Fitness Workouts
Rachel Guy – Rachel’s Website
Nia Shanks – Nia’s Website
Jen Grasso – Renegade Fitness, Jen’s Blog
Neghar Fonooni – Neghar’s Blog
Jen Comas Keck – Jen’s Blog and Interview on Robertson Training Systems
Cassandra Forsythe-Pribanic – Website (and link to her blog)
Julia Kaufman Ladewski – Blog
K
ellie Davis – Mother Fitness and Get Glutes

If I have missed anyone or another valuable website, please feel free to add them in the comments section!!

Again, I am so STOKED to begin networking with these incredible women of strength! Together we are going to bring new meaning to STRENGTH IN NUMBERS – we are joining forces to bring you all the best in the female side of the strength and conditioning industry.

In the words of Bret Contreras “It’s about time you gals made some shit happen” — AMEN!

More exciting news to come!

p.s. For those of you who want to check out the original Beautiful Badass post – you can check them out on Nia’s site. She is also in the works for creating great T Shirts. Join the movement!!

I Must Eat My Words

I have a confession friends: for the first time in a while, I must eat my words! I am however, very excited to arrive at this current decision and I can’t wait to shout it from the roof tops and start hustling in a semi-new and refreshed direction 😉

Just last week, I gave a long-winded spiel about having goals, training for them, mastering new disciplines or methods, etc. I was forecasting over the next four months, I would live on as a Figure Competitor aiming for Team Universe (figure nationals) in July.

Well, I am a thinker and have continued to spin that wheel of thought in my head. I continued to do some “soul searching” and took a hard look at what my bigger goals really were. How I wanted to train myself? How I wanted to spend my time and energy? Where I wanted to grow my career? And ultimately – what I saw myself identifying with most?!

As of Monday, I actually arrived at the decision to take a break from competing for an indefinite amount of time (Gasp!) 😉

Over the past two and half years, I have had a really good time entertaining the challenges of the Figure Competitions and gaining a lot of knowledge about myself, nutrition and training. Not to mention, changing my physique and the wonderful people I have met along the way…all great experiences and gifts.

What became more clear in the last few days however, is my love for the strength and conditioning industry. That’s where I feel I belong right now. That’s how I want to spend my time. That’s how I want to train and what I want to study and that’s the direction I want my career to go in.

When I came home from the Arnold, I was in full speed momentum from the show. Naturally, I shifted my sights to the very next challenge and progression. As the dust settled (and just after I wrote last week’s blog post of course) – a few things became more clear….

1. In order to get an ultra competitive physique for the national level, I was going to have to change the way I was training in order to streamline my physique more – come in tinier. This meant trying a new method of very high reps (20-30) and naturally, less weight. After giving a few weeks to this style, I wasn’t feeling as satisfied with my training sessions and thought to myself- ‘I started in Figure because I love to train. Now that Figure is dictating how I have to train – do I want to do this right now??’
 
2. Figure competitions are also a whole-hearted commitment. I was getting mildly concerned I may lose touch with a bit of my involvement in the strength and conditioning industry if I continued this path to the top and I was missing it – so it became apparent where my heart was and where I need to spend my focus in terms of my career.
 
3. Finally, for the past two plus years, I have given a lot of energy and structure to the sport of competing. Now I’m excited to turn my attention into manifesting my life in other areas, especially my career in hopes to expand myself with the clients I train at FX Studios and bigger opportunities / responsibilities with Under Armour. Not to mention, I think I am going to enjoy taking a little bit of the pressure off and living a 28-year-old social life!
 
I embrace and respect the physique community so much – for their passions, how hard they work and for everything they dedicate to the sport. It has been a tremendous learning experience and has provided me the tools to really change my shape. I would never say I’m retiring, but I‘m excited to see where this new direction takes me.

What can you expect in the future???

Well, for starters, I am on my way to completing my C.S.C.S. I’ll also be working on the return of my athletic training in the gym (which will of course, have a plan!). I don’t want to stop being one of the stronger girls in the gym! I want to continue to look the part and move the part. Today, someone wrote me a line asking if I ran with the tires… he said “you’re such a small bundle to be that powerful“…that made me laugh because that‘s exactly how I want to be perceived!

So welcome back deadlifts, back squats, front squats, DB snatches, cleans, pull ups, push press, sled drags, prowler sprints, hill sprints, 300 sprints, etc! In the meantime, I’ll still be working hard on the dietary side to keep myself lean and performing optimally.

You can also expect I‘ll be posting more on my own training again, interesting finds on the topics of strength / conditioning and of course, motivational thought. I‘ll also be sharing my dietary efforts to stay in ship-shape and what meal plans, recipes and food pairings I come up with after having learned so much from Body Transformation expert, Carter Schoffer.

As with anything in life, things change. 🙂 It’s been a long time since I’ve broken out of the routine of a Figure Competitor. In fact, over the past year, I have taken only eight weeks off. I am excited to see my dreams more clearly and pursue them freely. My client and I were chatting this morning about how so many adults wish to be a kid again. We were saying how great it is to be an adult and have 100% freedom to make the decisions and changes we desire in order to create the life we want. 🙂

More strength and conditioning to come!! 😀

p.s. If you haven’t seen her yet, check out Jen Grasso’s website, Renegade Fitness. She is an extension of Jason Ferruggia’s Renegade Strength and Conditioning. Jen combines ultra femininity with being a badass chic in the gym! Check out her stuff!

Running Like A RockStar

Growing up (from age seven through seventeen), I was a soccer player. In between soccer games, I ran. I started strength training at the age of 15. Once graduating from high school and soccer, I pulled away from the strength training and challenged myself to half and full Marathons. After my first (and last) full marathon in the spring of 2005, I shifted gears back to the weight room. Despite putting away my time chip(s) for running, any way you slice it, sprints or marathons, running is in my blood.

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Today, I turned a corner with my training. Since my injury flared back up on April 1st, I’ve not been able to run comfortably–not even across the gym floor. Today is a beautiful day in Baltimore and something told me to give running a shot. I geared up with my latest Fresh Karat headband, running sneakers and MJ on the ipod. I walked through the back parking lot of my place and off I went. Wait.. No pain! My stride felt smooth, the sun was hot and the first song on my Michael Jackson play list was “…Keep on with the force don’t stop, Don’t stop ’til you get enough” …how appropriate 🙂

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They say injured athletes break records. Maybe world records, maybe league records and maybe just personal records. I was thinking about this as I have turned a corner in my training for my next Figure Show. Despite a herniated disk, I’m able to run again.. and comfortably!! This is a big deal for me in my training satisfaction / enjoyment. Not to mention, what new records may I break?!
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I think MJ is trying to give me messages here because the next song that came on was “Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it ..No one wants to be defeated, Showin’ how funky and strong is your fight, It doesn’t matter who’s wrong or right, Just beat it, beat it” (I thought appropriate regarding injury and the physical / mental frustration that can go along with them).

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Running, to me, is like food to my hungry fitness soul.. I don’t do it as often as I used to, but it is therapeutic to me. I love the freedom to move anywhere, the sweat that pours and the lack of any true equipment needed. Hence this song was next (and appropriate again Re: Running!)…

“Go on Girl…
The Way You Make Me Feel
You Really Turn Me On
You Knock Me Off Of My Feet
My Lonely Days Are Gone

…I Like The Feelin’ You’re Givin’ Me
Just Hold Me Baby And I’m In Ecstasy
‘Cause You’re The One For Me
The Way You Make Me Feel”
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That about wraps up my post today…just happy to be running again.. to me, it’s progress and satisfaction! Lastly, I couldn’t leave this song off my playlist nor out of my message…

“Well They Say The Sky’s The Limit
And To Me That’s Really True
But My Friend You Have Seen Nothing
Just Wait ‘Til I Get Through . . .

Because I’m Bad, I’m Bad- Come On

And The Whole World Has To Answer Right Now
Just To Tell You Once Again,
Who’s Bad . . .”

😉

News Alert!

Some exciting news to share! Nick and I will be talking tonight with Kevin Larrabee of The FitCast. We are going to cover a wide variety of training information including everything from programing, philosophy, diet and personal specifics! Make sure to check back soon for this informative interview!

Alli in Wonderland

I feel this title is appropriate as it refers to a very current fairytale that involves a girl who must “eat this” and “drink that” to change size. Well my friends, I am about to do just that as I am preparing to drink lots of water & protein shakes, limit my diet to essentially lean protein sources and vegetables and once again, shrink down to a stage ready physique…only this is no fairytale! 😉 

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In about 4 weeks, I will embark on Season Three of Fit to Figure! With Nick in my corner again, I have started to map out the details of prep timing, training, diet, travel and stage day! This is exciting! I have had roughly five months off since my last show. In those five months Nick, Marc and I have been training HARD. My diet has been moderate and I’m excited to tighten that up so that this hard-earned physique can start to unveil all of it’s new cuts and curves! We are hoping to incorporate a nutritional powerhouse for consulting but no final word on that just yet.

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The show I have set my sights on will be the NPC Maryland show on August 21st, 2010. That means I’ll be sharing several months of cutting edge Physique and Performance training with you all. Not only is it important to me to reach my physique goals, but it’s equally important to maintain (and even improve) my foundation of athleticism — that’s what makes our training programs killer and effective…we don’t just look the part, we continue to operate like a well-oiled athlete.

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Nick and I will also be traveling to some exciting conferences within the next few months so even more training material to bring back to you readers. In April we’ll be attending the AFPA Fitness Conference in Ocean City, MD. In May we’ll be at the JP Fitness Summit in Kansas City, MO. In June, you can find us at the Perform Better Seminar in Providence, RI. And just booked, we’ll be attending the Kettlebell Concepts Galvanized Convention and Trade Show in NYC in July!! Wow, an exciting list of travel, networking and learning!

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So YES, in case there was any question, I’m BACK! That said, I will leave you with this… I was running today and have many staple songs on my ipod for motivation. One being Jay Z’s “my first song.” In that song he says:

“The key to staying, on top of things is treat everything like it’s your first project…

It’s my life – it’s my pain and my struggle
The song that I sing to you it’s my everything
Treat my first like my last, and my last like my first
And my thirst is the same as – when I came
It’s my joy and my tears and the laughter it brings to me
It’s my everything”

Happy New Year!

Although two weeks into January already (wow), HAPPY NEW YEAR! I must say 2009 was filled to the brim with both change and accomplishments. Nick and I capped off 2009 with a great trip to Las Vegas for NYE. I am now enjoying the “normalcy” that comes along with January. I’m also eager to live and see what will unfold, plus what I will manifest, in 2010!

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Now, for training! To be real with all of you readers, I am working diligently to get my mind transitioned out of the holidays and temptations back to the competition stage. I was hoping to come back to the stage as soon as possible. After heavily weighing the level of committment I am ready for at the moment, I have decided that I am not going to pick a show date just yet. I love it and I will, but I am not ready to marry the zero deviation policy yet. I feel if you’re not fully ready to embrace those choices, you’re NOT ready yet.

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On the contrary, nothing great comes easy and if it were easy, everyone would do it. What separates my healthy lifestyle from competition season are even greater sacrifices made, more planning, prep and complete dedication to the stage. I am gearing up for the HUNGER (no pun intended) that will come when I’m ready. When the passion for the goal and committment outweigh any other choices and temptations. So to all you Physique Competitors that hit the ground running January 1st (or before) for the early spring shows–more power to you and I wish you allllll the praise I can send. 🙂

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What can you expect from me over the next few months?? Well, I AM on a progressive 15 week training program. I just started this past Monday. I am still training “as if” and dieting clean. I am training Monday through Saturday with two of the best partners I could ask for–Nick and Mark. My goals are to continue to create my best physique through hard training and a good diet/lifestyle. That way, when I DO chose a show, I will be closer to having the best that I can bring to the stage. Stay tuned to the blog, I plan to deliver training highlights and education over the next 15 week training phase.

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I will leave you with this…Today was an upper body day with an emphasis on pulling. We superset our pulling exercises with push exercises. I am happy to report that I am still able to crank out 3 sets of 8 one arm push ups (4 per side)  😉  

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Happy 2010!