“Do You Still Compete?”

First Place Masters Bikini 35+ B Class, Team Universe, July 2013

First Place Masters Bikini 35+ B Class, Team Universe, July 2013

Whenever I hear that question now, I have mixed feelings, which range from a sense of longing for the stage, to complete relief that I have not stepped onto a bodybuilding stage for close to two years now. My short answer to the question, “Do you still compete?” is “Probably not.”

Though I competed in four Pro Bikini events, I was struggling so much with metabolic damage and perimenopause that I often think it wasn’t the best idea to jump onto the Pro stage only 4 months after I won my IFBB Pro Card. That sort of strategy might work for a twenty-something competitor who is at the top of the heap, but it didn’t work for my 47-year old body which had been beaten down physically, emotionally, and mentally. I honestly needed a break, but I pushed through, and as a result had ho-hum placings.

It has taken over three years for my body to return to a level of leanness which I feel comfortable with. I know you might assume that I was in a massive spiral with my weight and body fat, but it wasn’t THAT bad, at least not compared with many other competitors who spiral. Nevertheless, I spent over two years with excess fluff that I was not accustomed to at all, and I couldn’t stand how I looked or felt.

Here’s the breakdown of my stats throughout the years:

From age 21 through 43: Between 104-109 lbs., 11-13% body fat
2010 – Age 44: 112-113 lbs., 12% body fat
2011 – Age 45: 114 lbs., 12% body fat
2012 – Age 46: 115 lbs., 12% body fat
2013 – Age 47: FIRST HALF OF YEAR: 117 lbs., 11% body fat SECOND HALF OF YEAR: 119-126 lbs., 13-18% body fat
2014 – Age 48: 121-125 lbs., 14-18% body fat
2015 – Age 49: 119-123 lbs., 12-15% body fat
2016 – (soon to be 50): 115-119 lbs., 11-13% body fat

It has been a veritable see-saw for me over the years. I also firmly believe that I would not have gone through menopause as early as I have if it had not been for all the metabolic insults I made to my poor body as a result of competing. Since 2013, I have investigated every possible cause for the water retention issues which rather suddenly hit me. This year I have FINALLY been able to rid myself of the excess fluid around my midsection, but somehow that was at the cost of the fullness in my glutes which I had worked so tirelessly to achieve during the years in which I competed.

If you ask me what my plans are for competing, don’t be surprised if I evade the question. I realize with each passing day that competing is no longer something which I rely on to define who I am. I have paid my dues and proven my worth, and though I completely understand why people have a drive to compete, I am no longer chomping at the bit to throw on a ridiculously expensive, blingy bikini and stripper heels and put myself at the mercy of a panel of judges.

So Excited For Everyone Competing At NPC Nationals This Weekend!

The NPC Nationals will be taking place this weekend, with over 1,000 competitors! This is the largest NPC National event in history. The best way to get a glimpse of what is occurring in Miami this weekend, I have included a video introduction here from J.M Manion. For those of you who don’t know who this awesome man is, here is his Twitter profile description, which I absolutely love:

Professional Photographer & Journalist for NPC News for 30 years. Owner of multi-media company J.M. Manion Productions, Inc. & Jedi Master

Yes, indeed! He IS a Jedi Master! Or wait, isn’t he Batman? Those of you in the loop will get the reference!

Best of luck to everyone competing!

Pushing Through – Dealing With Troubling Times

Life is not about how hard you can hit, but how much you can get hit & still keep moving forward. -Rocky Balboa
It is commonplace these days to hear people say that times are tough, and indeed they are. Truth is, there will ALWAYS be something we will be forced to contend with. At times those challenges can be so trying that they threaten to break our spirit and obscure the light at the end of the tunnel. However, it is imperative to push through those trials and tribulations while remembering what our goals are.

Your goals may be long term and centered around a career aspiration or the pursuit of an avocation for which you have great passion. Perhaps you have a weight loss goal or want to improve your general health. Or maybe you compete and are chasing after that elusive Pro Card or Olympia qualification. Chances are that any challenges which hit unexpectedly have no direct correlation to these goals, so why allow them to push you off course? You may get knocked around a bit, but the important thing is to get back in line with that prize you have set before you.

It always amazes me to hear patients and clients describe how they abandoned their meal plans and exercise regimens, and thus their fitness and health goals, when they were forced to deal with stressful life events such as divorce, legal issues, job loss, or family illness. What goes through my mind when I hear such things is that these people are doing themselves a disservice by dropping a regular regimen which has immense long term payoffs. A thread of stability is established when there is consistency with food intake and exercise which can actually lessen the impact of life stressors. Energy levels are boosted, depression is minimized, and an individual can assert his or her own personal needs in the face of adversity.

So if tough times are getting you down, remember to put the oxygen mask on your own face and take care of your own needs. Those who persevere will be rewarded after the storm passes. Hang in there!

A Note To Pro Card Chasers

I had to step on the national stage fourteen times before I won my IFBB Pro Card, so I know first hand how frustrating it can be to ALMOST get that Pro Card, and how irresistible the Pro Card hunt can be. This post is for all of you who are chasing down that Pro Card, and is meant to remind you of what you represent and what you have accomplished.

You are AMAZING. You have already won in the eyes of your co-workers, spouse, children, friends, fans, etc. There is no need to feel validated by the contest judges. Just because you hit the stage and you aren’t selected for the glittering top prize does NOT mean you have failed. You are WOW. You are among the best bodybuilders in the world, and are just stuck in that bottleneck with other elite athletes who are vying for the top rung. So don’t take your placing personally. It really ISN’T about the Pro Card.
You already ARE a champion!

Pushing Away Fears And Slaying The Dragon

There is no question that I am a chronic overachiever and a very stubborn and determined woman. As a result of these personality traits, I have been able to accomplish every large goal I have set in front of me. However, the process of making my dreams come to fruition has, on occasion, been peppered by self-doubt and procrastination. I know that I have a definite fear of failure and of being average, both of which are traits commonly found in the fitness and bodybuilding industry, and that is part of the reason why I find the industry completely irresistible. However (and this is also quite common in the industry), I have also suffered from a fear of success, and know all too well that such a fear can be even more crippling than any other fear.

If I were to dissect my journey to an IFBB Pro Card through a filter of fear of success, I can see that although I never really wavered from chasing that goal, certain thoughts floated through my head at times which threatened to derail me from my focus. The most prominent aspect of my fear of success was the concern that I might not deserve to become a Pro. It seems strange now, especially since I have been a Pro for almost two years, but I definitely remember thinking that maybe I didn’t have what it took to be a Pro, especially when first place national finishes were stacking up for me without the final reward of IFBB Professional Status. I remember hoping and wishing that the next national contest would be “the one” that would make me a Pro, but in the back of my mind, there was always that kernel of doubt that I didn’t deserve such a reward, and that somehow, I couldn’t deliver what the IFBB expected in their Pros.

Thankfully, everything changed in April of 2013, when my mindset shifted dramatically. Instead of thinking that I wanted a Pro Card and how I wished it would happen, I decided that I ALREADY WAS A PRO and began to embody the attitude that Pros had. Interestingly enough, my attitude change also coincided with the best physique of my life. I trained like a complete machine, never once allowing myself to get rattled or distracted by anything that threatened to sabotage my belief in myself. I was no longer afraid of success. From April until July of 2013, I kept using the hashtag “alreadyPro” to keep myself on track, and it worked like a charm, because on July 6, 2013, I reached my goal and became an IFBB Pro.

In the back of my mind, I was afraid of how things would change once I reached my big goal, and of how I might change as a result of the new status. Reflecting on that now, I fully realize how ridiculous that concern was, because I am still the same person, just with four awesome letters after my name. I had a similar concern when I was in medical school and concerned about how I would change as a person when I finally became a doctor. Though I know that the advanced degree made me somewhat more reserved, I still retained the sarcastic sense of humor I always had and was still just Stacey. I am no better than anyone else because of what I have accomplished, nor has the core of who I am changed in any way. I have been given more opportunities since achieving success in the world of bodybuilding and fitness, and the climate of my daily life has shifted, but all of it has been extremely positive.
knight fighting dragon
On another note, I remember one aspect of my fear of success with the Pro Card hunt which had been a minor concern during my journey, but which became more compelling AFTER I had reached my goal. The day that I won my Pro Card was one of the most incredible days of my life, and I found myself floating on a cloud in a state of wonder, disbelief, elation and relief for a couple of weeks after that event. Then suddenly, I was struck with the realization that since I had slain the beast and finally succeeded in getting that Pro Card, I no longer had a goal to chase. The sword had to be placed in the scabbard and put away. Once that realization set in, I went into a funk for months, and my body followed suit by retaining water and exhibiting signs of metabolic damage. Instead of feeling victorious, I was depressed because I didn’t know what to chase after anymore. I was able to move on by setting new goals, and surprised myself by changing the game plan and focusing on non-contest related pursuits. This shift in goals has created a whole new set of fears and challenges, but my past successes have strengthened my belief in my abilities, and I now feel confident that I will accomplish every one of my new goals.

What To Do After You Have Slayed The Dragon

Originally published on mensphysique.com on Saturday, 08 February 2014

Pro Card (2)
The enticing waters of the competition world can truly rule a competitor’s life, especially when a national qualification is won at local and regional shows and the national stage beckons. In fact, most of you probably already have your national contest strategy in place and are prepared to hit contest after contest to maximize your chances of getting a Pro Card.

Every year competitors continually squirm through that national level bottleneck in an effort to go Pro, accommodating and prioritizing the NPC national contest schedule and scheduling work and vacations around it. Believe me, I can relate. The national contest lineup was so etched in my brain over the last few years that I would maneuver my work schedule and everything else around it, year after year.

A profound shift seems to occur for many competitors as they pass into the Pro ranks. When I went Pro in July of 2013 at Team Universe, everything in my life took a radical shift. I am sure many of you who are IFBB Pros understand what I am talking about. Suddenly you are cast into a wide ocean, with more contests, more opportunities, and more ventures. It can be downright confusing, overwhelming and a bit depressing once you realize that the battle you waged to slay that dragon is now over, and that unless you wish to slay a bigger dragon by earning a spot on the Olympia stage, you might not know what to do now.

Probably the best advice I can give to new IFBB Pros is to enjoy the moment and float on the cloud for a while, then be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work. I honestly believe that becoming a Pro actually means you have to work harder to reinvent yourself and make your mark in the world. You are in an elite group, surrounded by many driven and incredibly talented people. How will YOU stand out?

Maybe competing is still very much in your blood and you want to collect wins and points, or you want to remain relevant in the competition world. That’s fine, but just make sure to look at the bigger picture. The people who didn’t give you a second glance when you were an amateur might suddenly be fussing over you, but don’t let the attention get to your head. You need to leverage your Pro status and your unique talents and position yourself in such a way that you truly make an impact on your followers and potentially build business and a name for yourself. Think beyond the stage, push your brand and your message, and you may indeed become one of those Pros who really stands out.

Get out there, PRO!

How To Choose Your Next Show

Originally published on RxGirl on Saturday, 03 August 2013

If you compete then you know that prepping for a contest keeps you focused on a singular goal. But what happens when that show is over and your placings compel you to shift your strategy? Financial considerations, geographical logistics and time needed to improve on your physique are variables which can come into play. This is true regardless of whether you are an Amateur competitor or a Pro.

Whatever you do, refrain from jeopardizing your financial security or your job security and only do those shows which you can truly afford. If you need to work on building muscle, leaning out, or improving balance or symmetry, you need to be realistic and give yourself enough time to make those changes before you hit the stage again. If you know that you have weak points with your presentation (posing, competition color, suit selection, makeup, hair), make sure that you correct these issues so that you bring a noticeably improved package to the stage.

If you are competing locally and have yet to qualify at the national level,I always advise selecting a national qualifier for your next show. If you are near the bottom of the barrel, choose an event which is at least 12 weeks out so that you have enough time to make improvements. If you are nationally qualified but have never stepped on the national stage before, you might want to compete in a local or regional event in a metropolitan area so that you get more of a feel for how a large scale show is organized. It is important to bear in mind that national level events have stiff competition, so make sure you practice your posing and get everything lined up in time for the national stage.
NPC Team U teaser
Master’s level competitors always face a bit of a disadvantage because of their age, so I always advise them to confine their national appearances to pro qualifiers which feature Master’s divisions. Keep in mind that a Pro Card is a Pro Card, regardless of whether you get it as an open or a master’s competitor. I also advise master’s competitors to enter as many divisions as possible to increase their chances.

For Pros, it might be a good idea to consider Pro events in different parts of the country so that you are seen by different IFBB judging panels. This also enables you to increase your exposure and fan base. If you or your sponsors can handle the expense of international contests, you may consider traveling out of the country. If you are chasing after an Olympia qualification, you could stack shows so that you increase your chances of getting into the top five and getting points.

Whatever level you compete at, remember to have fun and enjoy the journey!

Maintaining Focus In The Midst Of Chaos

Originally published on RxGirl on Thursday, 04 July 2013

If there’s one thing I have learned during my life, it is that there will always be challenges to face and overcome. Such trials can be immense and carry the power to derail us from our daily routine. However, maintaining consistency in a daily routine, especially during the most difficult times, provides balance while also keeping an individual on track with contest prep or other fitness related goals. In some sense, such a structured routine can almost serve as a welcome haven when everything else is chaotic, provided it does not make excessive demands on one’s time or energy resources.

This year has been an extremely rough one for me, characterized by both my parents being hospitalized, the dissolution of a two year relationship with a man I was very much in love with, job loss, etc. I think most people would have buckled from the pressure, but I was so incredibly stubborn about staying on track that I pushed through the emotional and physical pain and became more creative about how to fit my ever increasing workout loads into the chaos that defined my life. If anything, the trials I went through made me all the more determined to get the job done with my contest prep. I put the horse blinders on and headed down the track at a full gallop. Ironically, though I have been working less in the past month, I am busier than ever and often go through my days in a bit of a fog. It is commonplace for me to forget whether I am at the gym for my third or fourth workout, or which office I was at yesterday. My attitude lately has been, “hold on tight!” which is indeed what I have been doing as I have ridden the crazy crests and troughs of each day.
Horse Blinders
I know that those of you who compete are Type A personalities, driven, committed, strong and stubborn. I also know that some of you will abandon your plans to compete in upcoming contests when life throws you a curve ball. I honestly think this is a mistake. Why forgo the pursuit of a goal (i.e., prepping for a contest and competing in it) when things get nuts? We are in a unique position to inspire and lead by example, so when we give up on achieving a competition or general fitness goal, we are sending a message that it is acceptable to adopt an off and on approach to the “can do” attitude which is common in the fitness world. I am not saying that we should be burdened by the responsibility to carry the hopes of others, but that we best serve ourselves and others when we adopt a tenacious determination to reach our goals. If you can remember why you are driven to compete and to reach your personal best, and make a decision to hold yourself to your regimen in the midst of adversity, your victories will be sweeter than ever.

That Ever-Elusive Pro Card

Originally published on mensphysique.com on Friday, 09 August 2013

Pro Card (1)
There have been many occasions in which I have heard a freshly nationally ranked NPC competitor declare that he or she will hit the national stage and easily snap up an IFBB Pro Card. While I applaud the competitor’s enthusiasm and drive, I cannot help but snicker to myself when I hear such a statement. Honestly, if it were that easy to earn a Pro Card, there would be Pros populating the country in droves. Alas, there are only a finite number of Pro Cards given out each year, and the competition for them is fierce.

I will often see competitors who have made such a declaration months later who are shocked that they have not yet achieved Pro status. They mention being stunned, frustrated and dejected, and often will state that they are considering leaving the sport altogether. Let me tell you something: I stepped on the national stage fourteen times before I earned my Pro Card.

There certainly were times that I was discouraged, and there were moments during which I had pondered the possibility of walking away from the sport. Yet I kept getting back on the stage, improving my game each time and proving to myself that I was strong enough to overcome the roadblocks that kept Pro status at bay. Thankfully, all of my dedication and stubbornness finally paid off, but it was a long and arduous journey.

I think it is very important to bear in mind how competitive national NPC bodybuilding contests are. There are over 100 national qualifying NPC local contests across the nation each year, with some events in large metropolitan areas bringing in more than 100 competitors in each of the most popular divisions (Men’s Physique, Figure and Bikini). Since only the top five competitors in these divisions are given national qualification, such contests can be brutally competitive.

These nationally qualified competitors then hit the national stage, usually competing against an average of thirty other competitors (there were a record 72 competitors in one Men’s Physique class in 2011) who are considered the best in the nation. So what makes you think you can easily snap up a Pro Card? You may prove me wrong, but it is foolish to boast that you will easily get one from your first foray into a national NPC contest.

By no means am I trying to discourage anyone from competing. What I hope to do is to encourage competitors to be realistic yet unrelenting in their pursuit of personal excellence as they reach for Pro status. It is always a good idea to talk to the judges after a contest to obtain valuable feedback. It is also important to look at your contest photos, especially the comparison photos. If there are changes which need to be made, make them before you hit the stage again. Most importantly, do not get discouraged. Good things come to those who persevere!

Great Bombshell Poster From Team U 2013 When I Went Pro

bombshell TU

The titles here aren’t completely correct here. I was the Over 35 B Champion as well, with a First Place finish to complement my Over 40 B First Place finish and my Overall Title in Over 40, but because I had already won my Pro Card, Second Place finisher Lindsay Oxford got her Pro Card as well. I guess that is why they decided to make it sound like Lindsay Oxford had won her class.