Adventures in Fitness, Fashion and Fabulousness


As I enjoyed breakfast with a colleague during a business trip, I ended up having a chat about fitness.  Being that my colleague and I are both into healthy nutrition and exercise, the topic of body building came up.

“So, you compete in figure shows?” she says. “That’s so cool!”

“Why, thank you.  I am currently trying to put on weight so I can grow muscle.  So far, I am 20+ lb over competition weight, and I am trying to keep it up.  It’s very weird, but I am learning a lot.”

“Oh,” she says. “So you are supposed to drop all of that weight later?”

“Eventually, yes.” I reply. “But only for the show.  It is not sustainable to keep it that way.”

“So, this is not your real body, is it?”

That got me thinking.  This was not the only time in which someone tells me that this is not my real body, presumably because my real body would be the one I show up on a stage during a figure show.

Except that the rest of the year, I have the body that I have today.

The question also makes me feel like the Pod People from Attack of the Body Snatchers.

If I am not wearing my real body, whose body am I wearing?  My neighbor’s?

I find the question really amusing.

My back at the August 2012 Figure Show.  Weight: 110 lbs. soaking wet.

My back at the August 2012 Figure Show. Weight: 110 lbs. soaking wet.

My back today, April 2014. Weight: 134.

My back today, April 2014. Weight: 134. A lot more muscle, and honestly, a lot better.

So what is my real body?

The answer is simple.  My real body is the body I have today.

And the body I had in 2012.

And the body I will have a year from now, provided I don’t kick the bucket.

We are issued only one body, and we’d better take care of it because it’s the only one we have.

One of the weirdest experiences is that of the post-show blues.  Nobody tells you about that, but any competitor, whether a newbie or a veteran, knows what I’m talking about.

When you are prepping, you get a lot of compliments. “Wow!  You are losing so much weight!  You look great!”  And in our culture weight loss equals beauty.

However, once you are done with the show, you cannot stay in that weight and body fat levels without running the risk of damaging your metabolism.  Hence, you must slowly but surely bring your weight up to a more realistic level, and start building muscle again.

Why? Because you cannot grow muscle if you stay at that ridiculous level of low body fat.

On the other hand, eating for growing is such a change from eating for losing that it takes some time to get used to it physically and psychologically.

So after panicking after going up two sizes (from 0-2 to 2-4), I have come to the realization that the goal is not in being slim for the sake of being slim, but to be in the best shape of my life and get even better if I can.

Exhibit A, my back.  One of the major things in bodybuilding is to develop a nice “V” taper.  Back in 2012, I managed to get in great shape, but my muscles were not on par with my goals.  If you notice the two pictures above, you will know what I am talking about.

The first is a picture from my 2012 show.  I was 110 lb. and my “V” taper wasn’t that great.

As you can see from the second picture, the “V” taper is a lot more noticeable.  True, I will still need to drop body fat before strutting around on a stage in a posing suit, but I have a much better base to start with.

And there I am.

Yes, both of these pictures are of my real body.

I love my body.

I love dressing up that body.

And at the end of the day, it is all about taking care of that body and see how far I can take it.

~ Belfebe out.


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I am not dead…

Good grief!  I just noticed that I have not updated this blog in about a year.

Bad, bad Belfebe.

This does not mean in any way that I have abandoned my fitness goals and that I have stopped going to the gym and eating healthy.

Not in the least.

The thing is that I spent 40% of last year in foot braces, first because of the bunion surgery and then because I managed to break my other foot.  And while I could have blogged about the wonders of hobbling around in orthopedic boots, I was so fed up that I simply couldn’t bring myself to write about it.

So there.

So what am I up to these days? Still working out and figuring out my nutrition.  Currently, I am trying to put on weight in preparation for the next season.  As per coach’s instructions, I am eating as much as I can and lifting heavy.  Hopefully, that will get me to grow as much as I need before preparing for this year’s show.

“Wait! ” I’ve been asked. “What do you mean gaining weight? Wasn’t losing weight the whole point? Why do you want to gain it back?”

Hah! Not only I need to gain it back, but I probably need to put some extra.  The thing is, I need to build muscle mass before cutting fat for a show.  And you can’t put on muscle mass if you are not eating.

“But wouldn’t you get huge like a guy?”

Not really. Muscle is more compact than fat.  You can weigh more, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you get huge.

Exhibit A:  At this point I am 134 lbs, and I am heavier than I have been in years.  Yet, I can merrily zip my size 2 pants, no problem.  If I can get to weigh 150 and still zip my size 2 pants, I’d be golden.  But it would take a lot of time and effort to put on that kind of weight all on lean muscle.  So I take what I can get.

In the meantime, I am enjoying the eating more.  Once I get to diet for the show, I will miss the food.

This doesn’t mean that I am eating pecan pies and donuts to gain the weight.  That would not be helpful at all.  The whole point is to eat lean protein, lots of greens, plenty of complex carbs, and a good allotment of good fats.

Easier said than done.  Those kinds of foods are very low in calories and rich in nutrients.  So in order to pack the kinds of serious calories that I need to get in, I need to eat a lot in terms of volume.

It’s not easy being me.

But I like to eat, and like to lift.  I will enjoy it while I can.

Hah! 134 and still a size 2. I call that a win.

Hah! 134 and still a size 2. I call that a win.


Leave your pride at the door, or going back to the gym after surgery

Five weeks ago I underwent bunion surgery.

It’s been a process.

It all started with a bunion that had never bothered me until it did.  And when that happened, it went all out.  Given the fact that at this particular time I had enough leave to take time off and recover comfortably at home, and that it is winter time, my doctor and I decided to go for it now rather than in the summer.

Besides, summer is for bike rides, figure shows and rapier tournaments.  The last thing I want to do six months for now is to stare at the window and lament that I can’t go out on such a gorgeous day.  So there, the decision was made.

The Foot in the Boot.  Merry Christmas, ho ho ho.

The Foot in the Boot. Merry Christmas, ho ho ho.

I will not bore you with the details of the surgery.  Suffice to say that the first two weeks were as painful as it sounds, but I was more mobile that I would have expected.

A piece of advice, even if they give you a boot, if they offer you crutches, take them.  You will be happy you did during that first week.

At any rate, for an active girl like me, the hardest thing was to stay home and off your feet.  Admittedly though, I did a lot of sleeping and resting and that was not too bad.

On the other hand, by the end of week two I decided to venture out to the gym in the understanding that I had medical clearance as long as a) I didn’t do free weights; b) I only did upper body; and c) I exercised sitting down.

That went great while I was at the gym (and it felt like a million bucks!).  However, by the afternoon my foot was pretty swollen and going back to the gym was not something I was looking forward to.

That’s when I decided that I was not going to drive myself crazy.  Despite my little inner voice calling me a sissy, I decided to give myself permission to not go to the gym until my next doctor’s visit, namely 3 weeks from then.  In the meantime, I watched my nutrition and caught up with sleep.  No point in putting on more fat than needed with the excuse that I was “off” my exercise plan.  My criteria was that as long as my clothes fit, I was doing fine.  Which I did.

The 3 weeks came and went and, much to my chagrin, my doctor told me that I would need 3 additional more weeks in the boot.  I had suspected that much when the night before I gently tried to coax my foot into my sneaker, and my foot refused to cooperate.

The question was, what to do next?

First things first, not to despair.  This is, after all, temporary.

On the other hand, I didn’t think that I could stand 3 more weeks without any exercise. Taking into consideration that I feel a heckuva lot better than last time, I gave it another try today.  My strategy? Do what I can, even if I had to do only half of a routine.  And if it felt wrong, painful or scary, stop right then and there. The last thing I need is to drop a weight on my foot or risk injury. That would set me back even more and it would not be productive.  Better to push what I can within reason and build up from there.

Another thing to consider is that I cannot do yet a lower body routine.  However, there are a couple of things that I can do.  One of them is good mornings, which is a great glute/hamstring/lower back exercise and it does not put a lot of pressure on my feet.  I tried it this morning and it worked like gangbusters.  Then I went on with my back and biceps routine and adapted it to my new situation.  Drop weights and running the rack works great. Supersets? Unless everything is right then and there and it doesn’t involve going back and forth between machines, it is doable.  Anything else, not so much.

I also had to back off the weight quite a bit.  It’s amazing what you can lose after 5 weeks of inactivity. However, I decided that how much I lift (or not) it’s nobody’s business but my own.

Rule #1 is don’t be stupid.  Rule #2, check your pride at the door.  If you follow those two simple rules, you will be okay.

My lesson for today? I can do this.

It will take me a little longer than I thought, but I will be okay.

And if I need to take a day off, I will.

After all, this is not the end of the world, and as long as I build up to regain my strength and go back to my routine, I will be fine.

And now, for your entertainment, I will leave you with a nifty video of how to do good mornings.

Stay tuned.



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In which Laura’s ankle behaves and she goes back to the gym

Looky there!  Two posts in two days!

I feel accomplished.

At any rate, I went to the gym today and my slightly banged up ankle barely gave me any trouble.  It is still sore, all right, but it is getting better. 

It does help that today it was shoulders and biceps day, with some LISS cardio.  Tomorrow is quads, with lots of squatting, lunging, etc.  That should be interesting.

Q. So what is this LISS you speak of?

A.  LISS stands for low impact steady state cardio.  It burns a lot of fat at a steady pace, and you want to do it always after your lifting, not before.  It is more efficient this way.  It is great for fat loss in bodybuilding, combined with clean eating and strength training. 

Q.  Can you give me an example of LISS?

A.  A classic example of LISS is walking on a treadmill, on incline, at a steady pace without holding.  The idea behind this exercise is to walk at the highest incline you can without having to hold on to the treadmill handlebars, while rising your heart rate at a steady pace.

Q. So what incline is the perfect incline in this case? 

A. The one you can sustain without holding.  In my case, I like to kick it at 4.5 during the first minute as a warmup, and increase it within the next 5 minutes to 7.  The idea is to end at 10 or higher. 

NEVERTHELESS, this changes from person to person.  If for now 4.5 is the highest incline you can sustain without holding, keep that.  Try to go 5 next time and so on.  Sooner than you know, you will be sweating like a maniac at 10 without touching those handlebars.  It is a gradual thing.

Q. What is the perfect speed?

A.  Between 3.2 and 3.5.  Height is better than speed, at least in this case.

Q.  I have heard of HIIT (high intensity interval training), as opposed to LISS.  Which one is better?

A.  Both are excellent.  We can touch on HIIT on a different entry.

And that’s it for today.



Figure Show Aftermath: Lessons Learned

So last Saturday I did my first figure competition.  I had a great deal of fun, met a lot of really cool people, and got not one, but two shiny trophies.

Yay me!

Will there be pictures? You ask.

Why yes!  There will be pictures!  There was a professional photographer available and I did purchase the package.  I have not gotten the photos yet, but I did get the notice that the CD is in the mail.  Horay!  So pictures will be up as soon as I receive them.

Which brings me to the section of … *drumroll*


Lesson Learned #1:  If there is a photographer available, purchase the package.  Especially if this is your first competition.  After all, you are probably looking the best you have looked in your life, and you don’t know if you will have the opportunity to compete again.  So yes!  Get the pictures for posterity!  Bonus points if you have children!  Nothing like leaving photos of you in a tiny posing suit for future generations!  (Holy cow! Is that Grandma?)

Lesson Learned #2: If you think that your spray tan is too dark, it probably isn’t.  I got only two coats of that stuff  plus a retouch, and I was one of the palest competitors onstage.  Not that I was terribly pale, mind you, but the darker you are the better you look under those bright lights and the more your muscles can be seen from a distance.  This is important because you want the judges to see those muscles.  It can be all the difference between placing or not.

Lesson Learned #3: Spray tan gets into everything! Once you have been spray tanned, the stuff will take a while to dry.  And even when it does, it will stain everything you touch – from your bedsheets to your toilet seat.  Plan accordingly, and warn your significant other.  You may not want to get hand prints in funky places and then try to explain that that to your spray tanning technician (although I suspect that these folks have seen everything!)

Lesson Learned #4:  Water is not your friend. At least, when it comes to spray tanning. Shower several hours before your session and leave it alone afterwards.  Otherwise, the stuff will come off, look awful, and make a mess in your shower.  Your spray tan will be fixable, but the mess in your shower may not be your idea of fun.

Lesson Learned #5:  Aveeno and Bag Balm(TM) rock.  When it comes to moisturizing prior to your tanning, Aveeno on your body and Bag Balm on your knees and elbows are awesome.  There are many other more expensive products, but Aveeno and Bag Balm trump them all.  CAUTION! Do not moisturize the day of your spray tanning! Any moisturizer will leave a film and mess up your tan.  But moisturizing several days before that is highly recommendable.

Lesson Learned #5: If you think that your makeup is too dark, it probably isn’t.   Purchase a shade that is only one shade lighter than your spray tan, and bronzer that is as dark to provide dimension.  I had purchased makeup that I thought that was dark enough for my purposes until I got out of my tanning session and learned the error of my ways. (My coach had warned me about it, but would I listen? Nooooo.)  In the end, I had to make a run to the MAC store, show them what I had, have them shake their head and agree with me that it would not work.  Luckily, I got a really cool African American makeup artist who hooked me up with the same shade of makeup that she was using.  It worked great.

Lesson Learned #6: Watch your bootie! No, really, watch your bootie.  I was so paranoid making sure that the top of my posing suit was properly aligned that I forgot about my bottom.  I had not realized that it was crooked until I saw the proofs of the pictures.  I am sure that it cost me points.  So from now on, I will be policing my bootie like nobody’s business!

Lesson Learned #7: “S” Hooks are your friends. Unless you are a big fan of ties in your posing suit, go for “S” hook closures instead.  Sooner or later you will have to pay a visit to the ladies room and getting in and out of that thing, and having to re-tie it, is a royal pain.  It may also lead to ending up with a crooked suit when going onstage (see “Watch your bootie!” above).  If your seamstress does not offer the “S” hook closures, have your suit altered as soon as you get it.  It is quick and easy and even your local dry-cleaner can do it.  I wish I had known that.

Lesson Learned #8: Speak softly and carry your own exercise bands.  Before you take the stage, you may want to “pump up.”  This means that you will exercise with rubber bands or dumbells in order for your muscles to “pop” at the very last minute.  Often, the promoters of the show will have equipment available for everyone.  However, it is not guaranteed that they will offer it and, even if they do, there may be too many competitors having to share equipment.  So bring your own.

And I think that’s all for now.  I am sure I will think of something else, and post it later.  But these are the ones that come to mind.

So, would I do this again?  You bet your bootie!  And next time, mine will not be crooked!


What Do You Get when You Do A Figure Show?

Tomorrow, I take the stage for my first figure show.  I have been preparing for this for almost a year and a half, with a grueling last 12 weeks of work and dieting for “D” Day.

It feels good.

And today, for the first time in 12 weeks, I am not going to the gym.  Instead, I will take care of my spray tanning, my hair, and I will be practicing my posing (a lot!).

Oh, and when I’m not practicing, I will be spending a lot of time with my feet up.


At any rate, I keep being asked in regards to my show “So what do you get?” (Ostensibly, if I win.)

It is a very good question.  In fact, the thought has never even crossed my mind.  However, since folks have asked, I have come up with a list of stuff that I believe will answer that question:

By prepping for a figure show I get:

  1. A banging body
  2. To be in the best shape of my life
  3. To feel like a million bucks
  4. Bragging rights
  5. And if I get to place in any category, a shiny trophy (see bragging rights above)

For a 55 year old woman, that ain’t bad.  It ain’t bad at all.

I have also learned a lot about myself, my relationship with food, my ability to accomplish those things that I never thought I would, and I have also expanded my capacity for making things work by juggling gym, nutrition, and a demanding career.

I have learned to appreciate my husband even  more.  His patience and support have been a godsend to me.  And I have met a lot of fun people.

And of course, there are always those bragging rights.  We cannot forget about those.

For this senior citizen, it doesn’t get much better than that.

PS.  Yes, there will be pictures.