Even when not training for a race or competition, I have always found weekly meal planning the key to ensuring myself and my family eat healthy. Without a plan, it’s too easy to go off track or be tempted by doughnuts at work, and happy hours with friends. When not training, my weekly plans usually start with a healthy family dinner, with leftover lunches and breakfast and snack fillers in between. Knowing what the week will look like ahead of time ensures I can cross utilize ingredients and save time by prepping what I can on the weekends.
In my last competition, one of the big mistakes I made was not committing to my meal plan fully. It was not that I didn’t trust my coach, I just trusted myself more – too much. It wasn’t until about 2-3 weeks before the competition where I followed the plan 100%, which is also where I made the biggest gains. This time around, I was determined to follow my meal plans 100% from day 1.
If you’re not familiar with Competition meal plans, this "following the plan 100%" may not mean much, or seem that difficult. Let me fill you in on the madness. Traditional comp plans have you eating the same daily "menu" of 6-7 meals per day, for 3-4 weeks (21-28 days), at which time you change up and start a new menu for the next 3-4 weeks and so on (except the week of the competition which has its own specific steps). Yes, read that again. This means, you eat the SAME THING for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all meals in between (usually you are eating 6-7 meals a day).
There is a method to this madness, which I won’t go into fully from a physiological stand point. More important, to me anyway, is what this method does for your mindset . Because you are eating the same 6-7 meals 7 days a week, you can cook, chop, and prepare all your meals in advance on one day (generally the weekend). Placing all meals in their own little containers and labeling with the time of day or meal # (e.g. "Meal 2: 10am: Tuna with green pepper). Three really important things happen with this approach:
- Stress Less: You don’t have to think about constructing every meal for the right nutrient balance, are you getting enough protein, when should you be eating carbs, etc… Because your meal plan is already balanced, you don’t even have to log your calories anymore! What a relief that is.
- Avoid Temptations: Choices a piece of cake (except there is no cake on the diet ) – for example if you typically go to the corporate café at lunchtime, you are not tempted by the smell of pizza as you walk by – you don’t even have to go near it. Especially if you’re like me and don’t like to waste food – you know you’ve already got a meal ready to go.
- Save Time: The 2-3 hours it takes to prep everything on one day is hands down faster than the 30-60 min each day you normally spend cooking or preparing meals. And again since you’re not logging calories, lots of time saved there.
At week 2, my current meal plan is going great. I have a lot of energy, I am never hungry (honestly), I’m not too bored with the menu (at this stage I’m allowing for 2 cheat meals each week which helps), and the mental relief I have from the one day a week prep is well worth it.
As I start my training this time around, I come to it gratefully no longer a novice, having 1 regional competition under my belt last year. A sense of not being in the complete unchartered territory is creating a greater sense of calm, and also energy that I hope will last the next 12 weeks.
The first area I’m already seeing my previous experience help is in knowing the importance of Planning. Now that I have in mind which competition and the date, getting my nutrition and training plans in order is the first step. Because I was going on vacation the last 2 weeks of April, and I know my end goal is the Master’s National in Philadelphia late July – May 1st seemed a logical training starting point. I contacted both my Training coach and my Posing coach in early April to get things set up so I was ready to roll come May 1.
While they were formulating plans, I used April to get my mind right about everything. I developed a “5P” formula that would help me shape my approach over the training period. This is what I want to come back to anytime I am questioning what I’m doing, explaining to someone how it all works, or just need an extra boost:
PURPOSE: Another way of saying Goals – Why am I doing this? What does it mean to me?
PRIORITIES: Where does this fit with all priorities or goals in my life? How does my family/friends/work fit?
PLAN(NING): What plans will I follow and how will I use those plans to my advantage?
PERSEVERANCE: How will I stick with the plan; what are my motivation reliances?
PATIENCE: A constant reminder that nothing happens overnight – especially muscle development and fat loss!!
I’ll blog more about how I’m using these “5P’s” in my training as I go. For now, I’m hoping this framework might help some of you as you approach your own new goals!
Sorry about the nearly monthly long hiatus I just took from my blog – if you noticed that is . I was on vacation! And had a fabulous time not working out, not being on a meal plan, and not caring about any of it! Really.. everyone needs a break sometimes.
But now.. WE’RE BACK! And with a vengeance. It’s time to start Spring Training. For me, this means beginning training for upcoming competitions. After my experience with the Oregon State NPC’s last July, I wanted to take a step back, rest, and attend to foot surgery and recovery. The break gave me a chance to re-center on Priorities, and consider whether I wanted to compete again.
Weighing up all the Con’s (investment in training, diet, a new suit) and the Pro’s (having a solid goal to aim for, my need for an outlet to ‘perform’… and the new suit!), I’ve decided to take a run at it again. But of course, I have to step it up – so this time, I’m aiming toward a National Competition in late July, with a lead up Regional show late June.
So over the next 12 weeks or so, I’d like to take you along with me on my journey. Competition is not for everyone, but I know there are some discoveries and lessons that many people can relate to, and learn from. So with that… I invite you to share my journey on this blog.
Here we go!
If you’ve met me – even once – you know my sweet tooth just as well. I LOVE sweets and it takes every bit of my being to resist a sugary temptation. As a kid after school most days you could find me either scrounging through the couches to find $0.40 in pennies if I had to, in order to buy a Reese’s peanut butter cup at the local 7-11. If my sisters had got to the couch change first, cinnamon and sugar on toast was usually the cheap way to satisfy the sugar craving.
But now that I’m in my 30’s my body fights back when I have sugar (either in just feeling crappy, weight gain, or sluggishness), I’ve started a mission to try and kick the addiction once and for all. It’s not been easy, and I have had a few set backs. But having some go-to substitutes has really helped. And I find the longer I go without it, the easier it gets. Trust me, you sugar fiends!
My top 5 “ingredients” for whenever I have a craving are as follows:
- Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- Unsweetened, raw coconut flakes
- Low Carb, chocolate protein powder (yes, most have artificial sweeteners but the low carb ones have minimal amounts). Casein is thicker and better to bake with, but Whey is good too (reduce the water in my recipes below).
- Natural Almond Butter (and raw Almonds)
There are an enormous amount of treats you can make with the above 5 ingredients. If you put a little time and effort into it, you can really kick the sugar to the curb! Here are my favs:
1) Banana “ice cream” (see my recipe here). To die for! You’ll never need ice cream again.
2) Mock Chocolate “fondue”: Simply mix 2 tbsp raw cocoa powder with 1 tbsp warm water (add more if too pasty). Slice up some apples, oranges, or bananas and dip into the chocolate! *Note, to get some extra protein, try mixing chocolate protein powder in with the cocoa powder(you’ll need a little more water). Delish!
3) Chocolate (or vanilla) protein pudding: Mix 1 scoop protein powder with 1 cup 0% greek plain yogurt – whisk until smooth and enjoy! *Note you can add 1/2 tsp sea salt to cut the tangy flavor of the yogurt.
4) Coconut “frosting”: Whisk together 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder + 1 tsp vanilla extract + 1/2 cup 0% fat cottage cheese, until smooth and all the lumps are gone. Add 1-2 tbsp raw coconut flakes
5) Almond butter balls: These are AMAZING!! Combine 1/2 cup chocolate CASEIN protein powder + 1/2 cup warm water – mix until smooth. Then mix in 1/4 cup almond butter with a spoon until smooth – put into your clean hands and roll into bite sized balls. Roll into a plate of cocoa powder or coconut flakes to coat the outside; refrigerate for 30 mins.
Have a SWEET day!
This workout will engage all of your arm muscles in one move, to develop your own bionic arms!
Muscles worked: bicep, triceps, shoulder
Time to complete: 8 minutes
You will need: A pair of medium to heavy dumbbells (10-15 lbs)
- Begin by standing with your feet wider than shoulder width, toes pointed out at a 45 degree angle and dumbbells at your sides.
Ok ok that’s about the dorkiest blog title I could come up with.. but hey! It’s almost Friday.
So last weekend I was in a bootcamp with my Competition training coach Mike Davies (hard core!) and aside from not walking for 2 days following, I learned some really cool new exercises to fit into any routine. Here, I borrowed a couple from Mike and added some of my own flair, to give you a GymCoach HIIT special.
If you don’t know HIIT – that’s High Intensity Interval Training. Don’t worry, I hate cardio too… but this stuff is fun, fast, and super effective.
Here’s a tip: Do this as a short workout on its own, or following a weight training routine
Workout Type: Cardio (High Intensity)
Time to Complete: 15 Minutes
You will need: A step bench (6-12”); 1 set of medium weight dumbbells
Do 3 sets in each Circuit
|Circuit 1 (3 rounds total)||Exercise||Reps||Notes|
|Exercise A||Jumping Jacks||30||Set 1: no weight
Set 2: use 5-10 lb d-bells held at your waist
Set 3: Hold the d-bells overhead
|Exercise B||Push ups||10||Count to 4 on the way down, push up quickly|
|Exercise A||Lunges off the bench||20||Set 1: No weights. Start with both feet on the bench and then step one foot off into a back lunge
Set 2: Hold weights at waist
Set 3: Hold weights overhead
|Exercise B||Mountain Climbers||40|
|Exercise A||Wide jump squat onto bench||30 / 20 / 10||Set 1 no weights: Straddle the bench; bend into a squat then jump off both feet and land on the bench.
Set 2: hold weights at your waist
Set 3: Hold weights in a “W” position – elbows parallel to shoulders
|Exercise B||Plank jacks||30||Get into a push up (plank) position – jump both feet out wide then back together.|
|Circuit 4 (Repeat 3x)||Exercise||Reps||Notes|
|Exercise A||Elbow plank hold||30 seconds||Keep a straight line from neck to toes – tuck tummy and keep butt down|
|Exercise B||Straight leg decline||10||Lie on your back with hands under lower back; legs straight up to ceiling – count to 10 on the lower, repeat 10x|
|Exercise C||Crunches||30||Lie on your back with knees bent feet close to butt. Hands behind head to support head – keep shoulders off floor and contract abs to lift chest.|
I know I know, I’ve been posting more food than fitness lately – sorry, I’m on a bit of a cooking and baking fix these days! Not that I haven’t been working out – in fact tomorrow I will share with you the workout that has my glutes and hips in agony tonight!
But for now, let me share my glorious love for salmon and kale!! I’m telling you this is the best combination ever, and with orange… well – you’ll feel like healthy culinary genius!
- 2 fresh salmon filets
- 1 mandarin orange
- 2 tbsp. gluten free flour
- 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup organic veggie stock
- pepper & parsley flakes
- 1 bunch kale – chopped into small bite sized pieces
- 2 tsp chopped garlic
Smash the mandarin orange and put it in a wok or large frying pan with 1/2 cup veggie broth, and turn on med-high. Place salmon in the pan and poach for 5 minutes, then flip – sprinkle with pepper and parsley – and poach 4-5 min more. Remove from pan (leave the juice), place on a plate and cover with foil.
In the same pan, add the garlic and kale and let sauté.
Meanwhile, combine the GF flour with the extra 1/2 cup veggie broth and whisk until smooth.
When the kale is ready (about 3-5 mins), remove from pan and place next to your resting salmon – recover with foil.
Back in the pan, add the flour mixture and cook until it is somewhat a solid sauce.
Serve 1 salmon per person – topped with your lovely sauce, divide up the kale and voila! you are a culinary genius.