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The journey to a health is one of many paths. Everyone has the choice to begin a path and change course. Christine was on a path of cardio and a low calorie diet for the majority of her life. After having 3 children, thyroid issues, and lack of satisfaction with her physical state she chose a different road to her ideal body. That road was paved with iron. I had a sit down with my friend of 10 years to find out what she did to achieve her fitness goals and where she plans to go from here.

1) Were you always into fitness? Growing up I swam competitively, and during my college years I got into running marathons. I spent most of my adult life trying to do as much cardio as possible while simultaneously eating just enough to survive. I was never satisfied with my body and in the process I destroyed my thyroid and had a difficult time getting pregnant.

2) What got you into lifting?
Fast forward to my mid twenties, where I put my body through the ringer by having 3 kids in 3.5 years and used the same destructive ways to lose the baby weight in between. After having my third child, I knew something needed to change, not to mention I was ready to sell my diamond wedding ring as it no longer fit.

In March of 2014 I decided to ditch everything I knew about getting into shape (cardio, cardio, and more cardio) and try something new. I found an online workout that would guide my body through a 12 week crash course on bodybuilding. I decided to commit to finishing every workout despite having a newborn, a full time job in the operating room, and 2 other toddlers to care for. The very first rule of the program was “No cardio” for the first 4 weeks. It took everything in me to stop myself from jumping on the treadmill to try and run off all the baby weight, but I knew if I stuck to the plan, I would get lasting results.

My body changed rapidly through those 12 weeks and my strength increased significantly. Through the help of a personal trainer, I became hooked on powerlifting and lifting heavy in general. For the first time in my life, none of my goals were based on the number on the scale. All of my goals were strictly strength based. 1) Be able to do 5 unassisted pull-ups 2) Be able to deadlift 225 lbs 3) Be able to back squat 225 lbs. As I conquered these goals, the number on the scale went down, but it was never a focus of mine.

In August of 2014, I had followed a few girls through their competition prep for a bodybuilding show (using social media). I was standing in the mirror at gym and I said out loud “why not you?” When I couldn’t come up with an answer, I got to work and hired a coach. I have never looked back.

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3) What was your training program and diet leading up to the competition?
In the off-season the focus was on building and calories were high. There was more flexibility in my diet because I was building my metabolism through adding muscle mass. I tripled my calorie intake and quit doing cardio during my off-season and actually lost 3 pounds because my new muscles were gobbling up the extra fuel. Awesome right? Everyone wants to hear the words eat more, weigh less. The key is muscle mass. During competition prep, the diet is very strict and scientific, which taps into my nerdy side. I eat clean while prepping for the show and slowly add cardio and cut carbs and fats. My meals were always balanced with lean protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables. I indulged in one cheat meal a week (1000 calories), which I nicknamed myself the “cheat meal connoisseur” with endless creations using every bit of the thousand calories. Peak week (the week before the show) is an entire blog post in itself, haha.

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4) Now that the competition is over, what are you doing to stay in shape? Is it possible to be competition ready all the time?

Now that the competition is over, you would think I’m probably kicking back and eating burgers and cheesecake after 20 weeks of strict dieting. I wish! When your body fat gets that low, over-indulging can easily amount to 15 pounds of fat in a few weeks. Your body is trying to put fat on, so you have to be really careful the first 4 weeks (especially with sugar). Our coach puts us on a strict reverse diet (slowly increasing carbs and fats again) to bring metabolism back up to speed. Meanwhile, cardio slowly gets cut and its “beast mode” in the gym to build muscle and increase metabolism again while putting on as little fat possible. This is where my heart is, I love to lift heavy and I love to eat! And ironically…cardio is my least favorite now! It is NOT realistic or healthy in any way to try and stay “competition lean” year round. It suppresses your immune system, slows metabolism, as well as other negative health effects. This is where a lot of competitors have issues referred to as “post show blues”. Body image can be very distorted when you have seen yourself “competition lean.” Immediately after the show, you add about 5 pounds of water weight from the dehydration alone. Everything gets puffy for a few days as your body is sorting out. Slowly your body reaches an equilibrium where you feel fit and strong, but not “comp lean.”

cardio vs strength 35) What advice would you give other women who are struggling to achieve their fitness goals?

Focus on strength, not the scale. Take a lot of selfies to compare progress. Hire a trainer (Blueprint Fitness lol) who is knowledgeable in powerlifting and strength training. Find a supportive atmosphere or even fitness friends through social media (I’m @lilbuff02 on Instagram). I get a lot of training and nutrition ideas there. I joined a bodybuilding team and my teammates are now some of my best friends. We encourage each other everyday and support one another on the hard days. And my biggest piece of advice is to “Love the process.” I truly enjoy everyday whether I’m building or cutting. I’m amazed at what my body can do and finally feel strong both physically and mentally!

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