Mighty Mermaids: Team Sky’s The Limit

I had no idea what I was walking into when I stepped into the community room of a local church to participate in my first group class since I started my fitness journey. I was there to try a new type of workout that my friend Giana Aragon had been trying to get me to join for over a year.

I was never big on group workouts because I felt self-conscious about working out in front of other people. But writing down my own journey has pushed me to branch out and try things that make me uncomfortable. So there I was in my Nikes, t-shirt and spandex shorts (it’s a volleyball player fashion thing I just can’t give up) ready to get started.

The workout was from Beachbody the company that advertises their workouts like INSANITY and 21 Day Fix. Giana and I had agreed to do an interview about her own health journey and becoming a Beachbody Coach after I got to see for myself what it was like to participate in a class.

I went into the interview with the intention of only featuring Giana for my Mighty Mermaids series but after participating there was so much more to write about. After attending one class I met some amazing women with some very motivating stories to share.

Team Sky’s The Limit

Giana had been tall and lean for most of her life so there wasn’t a huge amount of pressure on her to watch her eating habits and exercise. But her health took a turn into unknown territory after giving birth to her second child.

“After I had my second son I couldn’t get the weight off and was actually continuing to gain weight. I was having thyroid and autoimmune issues too,” Giana said.

It wasn’t until she heard about Beachbody that Giana started her fitness journey: “I can’t go to the gym. I have 2 kids and my husband is always working. But then I saw a 25 minute [Beachbody] workout and said ‘I can do that’.”

GianasProgress

Here is a look at Giana’s progress from sticking with her exercise routine

Giana made a commitment to try Beachbody for 10 weeks and post about her journey online and it exploded into something she never imagined.

“Now 3 years into it I continue to love it every day. It becomes a huge passion and a healthy addiction. It changes your life,” she said with a big smile. As Giana progressed on her journey, she became a Beachbody Coach and, along with others, created Team Sky’s The Limit.

Giana and other coaches bring their teams and friends together for weekly “Fit Club” workouts. They meet at a designated place and workout together to a Beachbody program chosen by the coaches. These “Fit Club” classes are free to the community and you can be at any fitness level because you just follow the modified version if you’re not quite ready for a certain exercise.

The coaches create Facebook groups to talk about upcoming workouts and bring participants together. I joined one of the groups and have seen people of all levels reaching out and helping each other stay on track. Coaches post workouts, and recipes that help to build your progress. Participants share their victories or when they hit a plateau, vision boards, and even plan outside activities to bond as a fitness community. They like to call it their “Fit Family” which is important to exercise motivation.

It’s through these classes and Facebook groups I’ve met women of all fitness goals and levels who shared their journeys with me.

Make me accountable

“It’s all about building each other up. There are people in your life who you love but aren’t uplifting. You get support here . . . it’s a place to turn to when you feel like you’re getting off track,” explained Giana. That’s just what Abbi Massey said she needed to start getting in shape.

Abbi started doing Beachbody programs on her own at home as the program intends you to do. But she wasn’t sticking with it and because of this wasn’t seeing the results she wanted. Gianna’s Facebook groups and the community of the Beachbody team changed all that.

“I needed accountability. Gianna got me into this and now I’m motivated. I love seeing all the progress on the Facebook groups, it helps me to stick with it,” said Abbi.

What Abbi went through completely resonated with me, and may hit home for you too. Truth be told, this was not the first time I tried Beachbody but it was my first time interacting with a fitness accountability group.

Like Abbi I ordered the program to do at home. I started with INSANITY trying to get in shape for an upcoming sports season. In hindsight, I probably should have started with a little less intense program. But mostly I wish I had started the program with a partner or group because I might have stuck with it.

Second time around

Ashley Batlle works out using Beachbody and became a Beachbody Coach for the second time around nearly 10 weeks ago. When she became a coach the first time she lost 40 pounds during her first journey with Beachbody.

It had been a struggle for Ashley and her husband to have children before she started working out and lost those 40 pounds. She said that one day she was working out and felt unusually sick so she decided to take a pregnancy test. After nearly 5 years, she was finally pregnant.

Now 10 months after her baby was born she’s starting to coach again. Within the first 8 weeks she lost 25 pounds and is continuing to work toward her health goals.

I asked her what it was like to get back into being a coach. “As a coach, I love it because I help people get healthy and reach their goals. [And] you document what you’re doing. People don’t want to see the perfect person, they want to see the overweight mom who’s working hard,” said Ashley.

Modifying is a good choice

Sarah Meara started out always following the modified version during the workouts. Sarah follows this version of the Beachbody programs because she had chronic issues with her back and hips. But these continuing issues motivated Sarah to get strong and healthy.

“One thing I noticed since I started, I needed hip and spine surgery, and now I don’t need it anymore because of the strength I gained in my core,” explained Sarah.

She still knows when she needs to modify the moves but she can walk into a workout with confidence and feel good about finishing the program. Plus Sarah said she loves the community of women she gets to work alongside as they all push through together.

Fit fam support

TeamProgress

A compilation of several group members and the milestones they reached.

As a new participant and observer it was amazing to me to watch the supportive atmosphere this group was cultivating. One group member mentioned that although she saw some progress, it was not as quickly as she had hoped in comparison to others in the group. Immediately everyone started sharing positive advice so that they could lift each other up.

“I’ve learned to not let the scale psych me out. There are small non-scale victories. The other day I put on a pair of jeans I haven’t worn since before I was pregnant,” shared Ashley Batlle.

I was very moved by all these people openly sharing their own struggles to make sure no one in the group felt alone.

Make time for you

I hear it all the time, “I don’t have time for exercise.” I’ll admit it’s something that makes me cringe a little. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean it in a judgmental way but instead it makes me sad. Those excuses allow you to miss out on something that’s a good experience to add to your day – especially when you find a workout or activity you enjoy.

Giana works as a dental hygienist, is a mom to two boys, a wife, and now a Beachbody Coach. So I needed to ask how she and the other team members balance all of this.

She put it very simply: “You just have to choose to make health a priority. There are pockets of time in your day to take 30 minutes.”

Sarah Meara also talked about the mental health impact exercise has on your life. “Wishes don’t make things happen, actions do. When I invest an hour in myself each day I feel better,” she said.

You don’t have to be a Beachbody fanatic

You don’t even have to do Beachbody on your own time to join groups like this one. If you’re just looking to switch up your routine or join a group that loves fitness too, that’s what it’s about.

Right now I’m trying Beachbody On Demand to participate in yoga for the first time. I’m starting the second week of “3 Week Yoga Retreat.” It’s about low-impact slimming and toning of muscle while working on balance and stretching. I’m someone who lifts and runs regularly so this has been helping me to get a deeper stretch and some relief for my muscles.

I like being able to have these workouts anywhere because at times life gets crazy and driving to the gym just isn’t an option. This is also allowing me to mix up my routine. I lift at the gym some days, run outside on others or head to a “Fit Club” class to get a total body workout. This helps me to find balance in my fitness journey. The take away here is to not shy away from group support, it could be the reason you’re able to kick it into high gear and finally reach your goals.

 

You can learn more about Beachbody programs here. This is not an endorsement of Beachbody and you should always consult with your physician before trying any fitness and/or nutrition program.


Mighty Mermaids: NPC Bikini Competitor

I’ll admit it, like many people I have no idea what it means to be a part of the bodybuilding world.  All I knew was that competitors are completely ripped and it looked like a lot of hard work. But there had to be more to it than just working out a lot. I wanted to learn what it was like for a woman to compete in a division of this sport. Although I didn’t know much about the process I was sure that I had a lot of misconceptions.

Choose your division

So I reached out to my friend Lauren Watson who is a National Physique Committee Bikini Competitor.  If you’re thinking, that sounds cool but what does that actually mean?  Let me break it down for you:

There are several divisions you can compete in and each division relates to how much muscle definition you have as an athlete. To view all the potential divisions click here.

Your personality is a big factor in which division you’ll excel in as well. Bikini is a division for less muscularly defined females but, as Lauren describes it, “[they] can pack a punch with stage presence.”

She told me that when you think of bikini competitions, picture fitness models or the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. “I chose to compete in Bikini because of the glam and sassiness you need on stage . . . Bikini fits me best because I have a string-bean body type that is more athletic genetically,” Lauren said.

But it’s not just body type and sass to consider, competitors are also divided into height classes. Grouping the athletes with other women of similar height allows the judges to fairly assess the physique of each competitor. Lauren competes in the 5’9” class and explained that if she were standing next to someone who was 5’0” the body lines and definition the judges look for would be completely different.

It’s all about the angles

Competing is very dependent on the “angles” you use to present your muscle definition. Lauren describes posing for competition to be a lot like a dance rehearsal with a little acting thrown in. Once you figure out what angles enhance your muscles you work on a routine that you use to showcase yourself on stage during competition.

Lauren described her own routine for her first competition: “For me, I have more muscle in my legs and store most of my fat there. But my upper body loses fat almost too fast, so I have to train my legs more than my upper body. When posing, I need to keep this in mind and choose angles that make my lower body appear leaner while making my upper body appear fuller muscularly. What looks good on my body might make another competitor look too top-heavy.”

Coach’s corner

This led me to thought (and it may have crossed your mind too) how do you put that perfect routine together? The answer is a kick ass coach. I was surprised to find out just how crucial having a coach is to be successful in this sport. Many times these coaches are not only certified in fitness to put together specific workout plans but are also certified in nutrition. This helps their athletes follow a specific meal plan to reach the desired level of muscle definition.

When I asked Lauren if she’d recommend an amateur competitor teaming up with a coach she had this to say: “YES! And a qualified one on top of that! There is a common misconception that competing just means being in really good shape, but there is more to it than that. For the physical aspects of competing, having a coach is beneficial because they can see things about your body that you cannot.”

The “meathead” misconception

For many people, hearing that someone is part of the sport of bodybuilding immediately gives them flash backs to that guy at the gym who grunts his way though reps or asks you how much you lift. Lauren said there are many misconceptions and unfortunately this happens to her all the time. “Literally the second I mention I’m a competitive bodybuilder, I usually get a comment like ‘but you’re not muscly and jacked like a man.’ Either people are surprised that I don’t have the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger or they’re surprised that I’m not stage-lean at the given moment,” she explained.

LaurenCU

Here is a photo of Lauren outside of competition season

Truthfully, the classic stage shots you associate with bodybuilders are taken during what’s referred to as “peak week.” This is the time when carb and water intake are drastically cut for a few days to pump up muscle definition. No one’s body can sustain that type of diet for long so that’s why when someone tells you they’re a body builder but they don’t look stage ready that doesn’t mean they’re not competitive.

 

Getting through your first check-in

One of the crazier times during the competition is the check-in process. This is where you stand in line with the other women competitors to let officials take your height. Lauren shared that during this time at your first competition it’s easy to feel out of place or start worrying how you measure up to the other women:

“My number one tip here is to stop comparing yourself to the other athletes. The cool thing about this sport is that there are so many different journeys and body types that no one will have the same competition training experiences. Because of this, it is impossible to compare yourself to someone else because no one goes through the same journey. Everyone has worked hard in their own way and you deserve to be there just like them.” – Lauren Watson, NPC Bikini Competitor

The perfect 10: being mentally tough during competition

I wanted to dig a little deeper into the issue of body image in this sport. When Lauren first told me she was competing I wondered what it would feel like to take part in a sport where the goal is for someone to judge your body. But Lauren pointed out that it’s mental toughness and body acceptance that can make or break a competitor.

“For me, I centered my focus around being thankful to my body for working so hard as opposed to being nit-picky about my body. The thing that no one tells you about competing is that you will have coaches poking you, your measurements will be taken every week, you will need to take progress pictures, and amidst all that you are trying to work against your own biological tendencies. You simply cannot help how your body responds to the stimuli you give it and if you cannot separate your own self-worth from your body, you are in for a rough ride,” Lauren said.

“Growing season” is the “off season”

Like most sports there is an “off season” in the bodybuilding world.  But this is not the time to put your feet up and say, “I’ll just work out tomorrow it’s not like I’m in season.” The time when an athlete is not competing is referred to as “growing season.” At this point the athlete is focused on gaining healthy weight and adding muscle. This means their diet could be higher in calories and more focused on strength training. This is in contrast to when they are in competition season where the goal is to lose fat and maintain muscle tone. So the diet could be lower in carbs with the training focusing on cardio and high repetitions on lifting days.

No matter the season, Bikini Competitors are always working toward a new goal and Lauren is no exception. But it’s her love of competing that keeps her motivated. “Seeing all of the other athletes made it real and I was seriously shaking the minute I put on my suit. Even though I love competing, I really loved the backstage vibe with all of the coaches and athletes. We all trained so hard to be up on stage, it was time to enjoy ourselves and I actually made so many new friends along the way,” said Lauren.

Now, Lauren is currently training for another competition this fall, and plans on continuing until she receives her Pro Card to compete at the elite level.

Lauren Watson is a NPC Bikini Competitor and Certified Personal Trainer. You can read about her fitness journey, get fitness tips, and connect with her at laurenwatsonfitness.com