This Above All Series

This Above All: I Did This

Reading Time: 8 minutes

5 shows. 4 suits. 3 seasons. 2 pairs of heels. 1 goal. just be better.

Just getting healthy means hours in the gym. As a competitor hours in the gym are strategic and meticulously planned. I’ve lifted millions of pounds since June 2014. I’ve also lost 50 pounds. I’ve consumed more asparagus than any normal person should and my tolerance for water consumption could make a lake run dry.

I did this.

I started competing because I needed a challenge. I needed something to push me and make me go out of my comfort zone. I needed something new. I needed something to help me find myself.

It seems that whenever I find myself needing to find myself I pick up something different. A few months ago I talked about how through this sport I did just that and I feel ready to move on. It’s sad and exciting at the same time, but I’ll get into that a little later.

On and off because even when there’s not a show in view, you’re revolving around the sport, I have been dedicated to figuring out what will shape my body, fuel my body and drive me mentally. It’s not about staying stage lean all the time, but the eating habits, the workout habits – they stay with you all the time. When you’ve been tracking your macro nutrients for as long as I have you can cut something in half perfectly and gauge 4 ounces of chicken just by looking at it. It takes time to get there, and while I won’t be as strict with tracking now that I’m not competing, I think it’s beneficial for everyone to track in some way for a period of time.

This season meant everything. I wanted to do shows I had never done before. I wanted to push myself. I wanted to get as close to placing in the top 10 as possible. I wanted to get close to a national bid.

I did two shows that were smaller than the Boston shows I had done in the past. I knew they were smaller, but my classes were smaller than last year. I was still excited, but I didn’t know what to expect. In Connecticut, the day flew by and I felt like it didn’t happen. I had 6 women in one class and 7 in another. I placed 4th in both my classes and that was the best physique this season.

Vermont was a few weeks later and I had 6 women in my class, but there was only a 3 point difference between me and the 5th place woman. Everyone looked amazing and I knew going into Vermont my head wasn’t fully in the game. There had been a lot negativity after the Connecticut show online from trolls and it had me questioning myself and why I compete. It had my anxiety amped up. My eating wasn’t perfect and there were days I didn’t workout because I believe if your head fully isn’t in it you’re more likely to hurt yourself. I know some people believe you should push through it, but you know what – what’s going to piss you off more: having a shitty workout and hurting yourself or skipping the gym?

I was up a few pounds and I was okay with that.

The week leading into the Cutler Classic was a cluster fuck to say the least. There are things that were positive like finishing two exams with mid-level B’s, getting an A on my final paper and supporting my own clients. However, there are things that didn’t go according to plan like staying on track with peak week or getting into the gym. I chose to focus my time on things that weren’t optional because those things felt more controllable. I was having panic attacks every day after being attacked by relentless trolls that thought digging online and creating multiple accounts was a solid way to spend their time. I know, ignore the trolls, but it was more than saying I’m ugly or fat or shouldn’t compete. If you’re new around here I’m sure you’re confused and that’s fine, but if you’re not, then you understand that there’s a line between trolling and stalking and harassment. It got into my head and I found myself binging because that settled my anxiety. I had insomnia at the beginning of the week and lost my appetite at random. It was one extreme or the other.

I’ve said it before and so have other competitors – it’s not necessarily prep that’s hard, it’s the things outside of prep that impact you. When my anxiety is bad, it’s bad. It’s not just one attack and done. I had multiple attacks in a row and I had some while in classes. Thankfully, I’m overly open and my professors know I have PTSD and anxiety so when I needed to step out they knew to not ask what was going on, they just let me remove myself, calm down and re-engage as able.

From Connecticut to Boston, in 4 weeks, more like in 2 weeks, I was up between 7-10 pounds. Essentially the weight I had lost, but as of this morning I’m down a pound, so I know there are a lot of factors impacting true weight and added retention such as hormones released during stressful situations – they prevent other processes from occurring, sodium and water intake – water was definitely not where it should’ve been the past week or a so and that means that if I was consuming more sodium I’m retaining some water too. Sleep impacts stress, which releases more hormones and then finally, yep, binging, those calories count. But you know what, I’m not truly mad about it.

JP sat in bed with me and ate a pint of ice cream with me. He asked what was wrong because he knows the behavior is different than normal. I gave him a look and he said “I know, so do you want me to tell you to stop or should I just let you do what you need to?” I tell my clients this: sometimes you need to ask yourself is this going to help right now, am I’m going to feel guilty about this or can I do something else to solve the problem. In a few of those moments: movies, puzzles, a walk, a nap, a cup of tea, texting a friend – weren’t enough. So yeah, the pint of ice cream in the moment – completely necessary.

Am I comfortable, not quite. I would like to be around 129ish. That’s comfortable, so really that’s only 3-4 pounds.

Any who…

So the last show of the last season:  Jay Cutler Classic.

At the Jay Cutler Classic someone said backstage “you compete in Boston to be competitive, you compete at a small show to get the trophy.” That couldn’t be more true. You will never see more hard working and lean bodies in one area than at a competition in Boston. You will never feel more drive and determination than in those halls, those rooms, by the vanity mirror.

Many compete for the trophy, but when you’re in Boston and there’s 35 just in one height class – you know it’s cut throat. Everyone is nervous. No one knows if they should do their routine every time they hit the stage or just the first. No one knows what the judges look for and when there’s a lot of abs and well shaped glutes around, it’s hard to say what will make someone stand out.

The guy on the stage lining us up apologized that when he pictured our line up in his head, it worked, but he had never seen so many people in a height class.

You compete in Boston because the energy is exciting and if anything you showed up and stayed for finals.

Bodybuilding is an individual sport where individuals can support each other, lift each other up, drop jaws at shared stories. It’s ok to be selfish, want to be the best and want the trophy, but it breaks my heart that there are competitors who think it’s a waste of time to stay for the night show when they don’t think they’re going to place. I think that speaks volumes.

Side note – they rejudged my 35 person height class at the night show… there were a number of people that didn’t show up and had been called for first and second call outs that weren’t called in prejudging – that’s their loss.

I found myself in my first season and it lead me to JP. I showed myself that I could learn something new in lifting. I coached myself and read everything I could and dabbled with a bunch of different things. I started macro counting and now I have it down to a science. I wasn’t super comfortable eating out at first, but that summer I learned how to balance what I needed to be fueled with what I wanted as a treat. sprinkles on everything please. I experimented a lot in the kitchen and discovered a lot of new foods that I had refused to try prior…like fish. I reminded myself that if I put in the hard work and am willing to go out of my comfort zone good things will come.

In my second season, I learned to trust someone else. I did use a coach and for prep it was fine. Then it wasn’t. Nonetheless, the experience taught me that you need to be able to let others guide you, but you also need to question directions so you can have understanding. You should always know why you’re doing what you’re doing. I also learned that I didn’t have to live uncomfortably in my skin. I know this one is common sense, but at the same time it’s not. In March of my second season, I had my body fat tested and I learned that I was hovering around 16% body fat. That was a lot lower than I thought it was and it meant that parts of my body I thought were fat, were actually skin. I met with my primary care doctor and asked for names of private practice plastic surgeons so I could start the conversation of excess skin removal. I qualified for a lower body lift and tummy tuck, but after talking about my fitness lifestyle, my surgeon and I decided that just a tummy tuck to remove almost 2 pounds of skin was enough.

While it’s a struggle sometimes to see myself in this body, it was harder to hold my stomach in my hands. It was harder to be aware of my body when I was naked or running or trying to buy clothes. Wearing a size 0 and also wearing Spanx was ridiculous.

This season I learned that you never know who is going to show up, but as long as you do and you give it your all, that’s what matters. I have received a lot of love this season. I have received a lot of hate. Because I like saying this so much… I’ve said it before, I am a normal person with extraordinary hobbies. I finally can admit that I want to show other normal people that they can do extraordinary things. You can dream big and it’s not a joke. You may need a little more time, but even in a competition setting – you determine how long you will give yourself to be ready, it’s not a race.

Thinking back on April, as a whole, it was still really good. It wasn’t in good in ways I expected, but it showed me that growth is measured in many ways.

I’m currently sick in bed, and I’m getting ready for finals.

I’m excited about summer classes. I’m taking anatomy and physiology as well as nutrition this summer. I’m excited about the work I’m doing with my clients. I’m starting a new lifting program – you can find it here. I want to hit a new PR with my deadlift, I can do better than 155. I’m going to do some running this summer, maybe a few 5Ks. I think I’m going to really dig into my Pinterest account too – we want to make ravioli from scratch.

I do have a plan and since Sunday, it’s been fine. I know that’s only a few days, but hey, you need to start somewhere. I’m leveling my nutritional goals out so that they are just above what my prep macros were. Just because I was eating like an asshole doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have some structure to get control back. Prep macros were 50F/145-155C/130P. First step – 50F/177C/125P. We’ll see how these go for the next week or two then increase. Like I said, I would like to lose a couple pounds that I gained back and compared to my activity levels this is still a cut, just slower. Being comfortable isn’t going to be a race.

This isn’t an off-season. It’s the rest of my life. It’s re-learning my body. Figuring out balance in a life setting that doesn’t include competitions. I think that’s a pretty good challenge.

<3 Cristina