Fitness, Health, Weight Loss

So you want abs (or awesome legs, arms, butt…)?

Ever since I began taking my fitness adventures more seriously, more people approach me asking for advice. There are a few types of questions I get the most: How do I get abs? What exercises should I do to slim down my thighs? What can I do to tone up my arms? These are all valid questions. These are the type of questions on which many mainstream personal trainers or fitness programs have built their name. The promise of “10 Pounds in 10 Days!” or “Leg-Toning Workouts!” have many people desperate to work their legs EVERY TIME they go to the gym in order to see some kind of a result.

Abs

Now, I’m not going to pretend to be a certified expert here. I have a L1 CrossFit Cert, and that definitely does not cover bicep curls or lateral raises in order to reach a particular aesthetic look. However, I have made fitness the center of my hobbies and research for quite some time.

The truth about how to slim down your legs, get toned arms, or obtain that six pack?

Caloric deficit = overall fat loss = a more defined physique

You cannot do a million squats or crunches and expect to see toned legs or abs. As awesome as that would be, it simply doesn’t work that way. An overall loss of fat will lead to slimming down your legs or gaining definition in your arms. That means calculating how many calories you need in a day, creating a negative, and incorporating an appropriate amount of cardio.

I’d like to include another disclaimer: you CAN do more leg exercises to gain more muscle in your legs, etc. BUT, you will not see that definition until you reach a lower body fat percentage.

Back Before After

Being the honest person that I am, that is how I generally answer the questions I began this entry with. Sure, I could tell people I do legs twice a week because I’m trying to make improvements there, but I want to make sure they are aware that hard work will go totally unnoticed if they don’t wrangle in the diet and cardio as well. I hope this was helpful to some of you, and let me know what you think below! 🙂

Always,
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Fitness, Health

The Most Important Fitness Secret

Diet “quick-fixes” are a pretty common aspect of the fitness world. Everyone wants to have a great body, but they don’t always have the motivation or desire to put in the work. So they think some Hydroxycut or wrap bullsh*t is going to give them the body of their dreams. I’m not making fun of those people. Don’t get me wrong; I bought my fair share of money-wasting products when I first started working out. I wanted it to be easy, too. That leads me to what I’ve learned is the best kept “secret” of the fitness industry.

Flashback to four years ago: summertime 2013. I was 22 years old. (Wait… that can’t be right. I was definitely younger.) I started my “fitness journey” roughly one year prior (2012), and I typically worked hard in the gym. Sometimes I’d go in there and mess around, or my workouts weren’t super intense simply because I was not yet aware what I was and am capable. On the other hand, my food intake was… sporadic. I’d do so well all day eating my fruits, veggies, complex carbs,  and lean proteins. And then it was dinner time. And so I ate a lot of food: pizza, burgers, chips, you name it. I wouldn’t really call it binge eating because it was controllable. I just knew I’d worked hard, so I wanted to eat some food! I earned it, and I was hungry. I sometimes ate “good foods” for dinner, too. I also bought fat burners because I loved to waste my money.

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#tbt to spring break in PCB in 2013. I was in decent shape, but I was always upset that I didn’t “look fit.”

 

Flash forward to present day: summertime 2017. I am 26 years old (I’m probably just going to stay 26 forever – still need to figure out how). I go to the gym almost every day. I eat my prepped meals the vast majority of the time. I take vitamins. I look completely different than I did three years ago.

Secret
This photo is from just a few weeks ago.

The biggest fitness secret? Are you ready? Consistency. That’s right. Reliable, boring consistency.

The biggest difference between my “before and after” story is just that: consistency. I thought I was working hard and being consistent years ago, but if anyone offered me a margarita, I ALWAYS accepted. If anyone wanted to go out to eat, I assumed my diet for that meal was trashed before I even got to the restaurant. If a friend wanted to hang out in the evening (my regular gym time), I simply didn’t have time for the gym that day. I did work hard in the gym. I did eat well. I just didn’t do these things in a regular manner.

Consistency can be boring. Consistency can be tiring. Hell – the other night I dreaded going to the gym. I’d already been up at the crack of dawn to do cardio, meal prepped, worked eight hours, and got home around eight PM. I sat on the couch & debated simply staying there and hanging out with Jim & Pam (any Office fans?). Then I made myself consider a few things:

  1. There are a million thousand hundred tons (I love a good hyperbole; it’s fine) of people out there who are busier than me.
  2. Consistency not intensity.

I didn’t have the energy for a goal-crushing, life-changing workout, but I had the energy for a workout. So I got off the couch and went.

That’s what you have to do to truly make a change in your physical appearance. GO & be consistent. You don’t have to kill it every time. You don’t have to make yourself so sore you can barely walk the next day every time. You just have to get yourself there (all together now) every time.

You’ve got this 🙂

Always,
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Fitness, Health

What is worth more than all the money in the world?

I want to take a minute here to share something I tried that really opened up my eyes. I have been feeling very stressed & busy lately. I was convinced I didn’t have any spare time for what I want to do. I was too busy running around from work to coaching to the gym and back home for dinner. All I wanted to do was schedule a freaking hair appointment, but my schedule was stuffed to the brim. This happened the other day when I was trying see my chiropractor. I simply cannot fit everything in. I don’t have TIME to work on my blog. I don’t have TIME to try to change careers. My twenties are slipping away! I don’t have time for anything, and I don’t even have kids (like seriously though – how do you moms do it?).

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I decided I needed to look at things a little bit more objectively and with less emotion. I decided to do some math. Yes. Math. Awful, panic-inducing math. No worries though – it’s just simple addition and subtraction.

There are 24 hours in a day. I took what hours I dedicate to the various things in my life and added them all up. I even decided to tackle one of my busiest days.

30 minutes: get ready for work/eat breakfast
30 minutes: drive work work
8 hours: work
30 minutes: drive from work to coach
1 hour: coach
20 minutes: drive from box to my regular gym
1 hour: workout
10 minutes: drive home

That is a total of almost 11 hours. So I truly do have 11 hours of the day where I am busy with things for which I have committed myself. Now, lets add in sleep. I do not function well with less than 7 hours of sleep, so that is a new total of 18 hours where I am booked.

That means there are SIX hours left. What am I doing with that time? Granted, sometimes that is spent grocery shopping, meal prepping, etc. but honestly… much of it is also used cruising Instagram or vegging out while re-watching The Office. I could make wiser use of that time. Here I am panicking that I don’t have enough time in the day to spend doing anything I want to do, but I somehow managed to find six extra hours. I then took some time to write down what I want to accomplish during these six hours, set a specific bedtime, and actually commit to getting up earlier.

Think of your time as a budget. After all – time is worth more than money. Time is why people work so much. Having time means having freedom.  I encourage you to go through the same process I did; add up all of your “busy” hours and see what you have left and effectively budget the leftovers to things you need to accomplish or things you just simply WANT to do.  This was a nice reminder that I am in control of my life, regardless of how much I think I have to give away to other engagements. You make time for what you want to make time for.

Always,

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Fitness, Health

Help me I’m hungry: diet hacks

Okay – so I admit. I’m still a newbie at the whole bikini competition thing. I have competed in two shows (Illinois State Championships & Indiana GNC Classic) this year and total in my life. However, I do know one thing that I excel at (drumroll please): eating. Therefore, I decided to construct this blog to let you all in on my favorite products to use while dieting – my “diet hacks” if you will.

Before I get too into the actual meat of today’s discussion, I want to make a little disclaimer. I recognize that just because something is low or zero calorie does not equate to it being healthy. The ingredients in some of these products might be a bit questionable. I totally get that, but when you are dieting crazy hard for a show, all you want is some freaking FLAVOR! I cannot tell you how often I told my husband, “I just want something that makes me happy to eat. I want something that tastes good.” Eating the same foods day in and day out while on prep can mess with you mentally. Or maybe not, maybe you have superman/woman mental strength. Kudos to you. I sometimes did, but many times… I just didn’t. So, without further ado, here are my top four products to use while dieting. Enjoy!

Walden Farms Pancake Syrup

Image result for walden farms pancake syrup with nutrition facts

This product is seriously my number one, MVP, one true love when I’m on prep. I’ve mentioned before on my Instagram, but my favorite meal I ever had on prep was always breakfast. I’d have three egg whites, one whole egg, about 18 carbs worth of oatmeal (measuring things in carbs is a complete other topic – ya feel me?), ½ tbs of coconut oil, and I’d mix it all in one bowl with THIS MAGICAL PANCAKE SYRUP. I know it sounds weird, but I promise it is a game-changer. Even if you don’t like the idea of putting eggs in your oatmeal, this stuff tastes pretty good on protein waffles, regular oatmeal, whatever you normally smother in syrup. Oh, it’s also literally zero calories. Your eyes are fine.. I did write zero calories. I don’t know exactly what that means for my overall health (I’m not going to pretend to be a nutrition expert), but I do know what it means for my macros.

G Hughes Sugar-Free Hickory BBQ Sauce

This was another total game-changer during my prep. I was having an immensely difficult time choking down 99% lean ground cardboard (oops… turkey), but adding some BBQ made it taste a million times better. The best part? There are only 2g of carbs per two tablespoons. Praise.

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Fudgcicle Original Fudge Pops and Popsicle Brand Tropical Paradise Pops

Alright so I didn’t eat this on prep. I didn’t know they existed yet. Well, I knew they existed, but I just kind of forgot about them between the time I turned eight and twenty-six. The calories and macros on these are also mind-blowing. The fudge-pops only have 40 calories and 9 carbs per popsicle, and the tropical ones only have 15 calories and 4 carbs per popsicle. They definitely taste like quadruple those numbers.

Flavored Water

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Pretty much any brand I’ve tried here tastes pretty darn good… except for La Croix or whatever. I just can’t do that stuff. I really like True American or Sparkling Ice. I also love that they have a thousand time five hundred flavors, so your taste party opportunities can be endless.

Kernal Season’s Popcorn Seasonings

I love adding these to my veggies! The garlic parmesan on cucumbers is by far my favorite. These seasonings will definitely add some flavor to your foods! However, they can be a little high in sodium, so be careful with that!

Sugar-Free Jell-O

I have been a candy fanatic for as long as I can remember. To my dentist’s dismay, sour candy is my favorite. Warheads, Sour Punch Straws, Sour Patch Kids… my mouth is already watering. I always laugh when I read those statuses: “Fruit is nature’s candy” IT ISN’T THE SAME! IT JUST ISN’T. Well.. candy is a big no for most dieting (or most healthy eating), so I had to find something that provided me with a fruity flavor. Sugar-free Jell-O to the rescue! My only tip here is to use less water than the package suggests, otherwise it gets super runny and less satisfying to eat. Plus you can put it in fun shaped silicone molds and then you feel all kinds of fancy. If you want to be super extra, use part regular water and part flavored water. Taste. Bud. Party. 

Alright crew – that’s it! Next time you have a craving for something, I hope one of these products can help you out! Until next time,

Han

Fitness, Health

CrossFit: Is it for you?

Hey party people! I have wanted to write a blog post that centered more on the other aspect of my fitness relationship: CrossFit. I’ll start with my background in relation to this oh-so wonderfully obsessive hobby.

I remember when a friend of my husband’s suggested that we try CrossFit. We gave him a look that screamed how dare you suggest something so stupid? After all, CF was for people who didn’t know how to lift weights properly. Crossfitters were always getting injured. They didn’t care at all about form, but rather they just wanted to write up a good score. Have you noticed how I’m writing in past tense? Well.. our friend finally dragged us to his box, and I got my rear handed to me. It was awful! I felt like I didn’t even know what a gym was. I cannot recall the specific WOD (workout of the day), but I do recollect the feeling of inevitable death after the workout. I might be acting a tad dramatic, but HOLY CRAP this CrossFit stuff was tough.

Well, as you I’m sure you guessed, we apparently thought it was “fun.” I distinctly remember a conversation with my husband a few months into our CF adventure. He described the major difference between the atmosphere of box vs a regular gym perfectly. I’ll attempt to paraphrase (and probably butcher) it here: he stated that in a regular globo-gym, everyone has their headphones in. People are in there to get a serious workout (or at least look/act like they are) and are not there to support others or make friends who obviously have the same interests. He argued that regular lifting now seemed incredibly dull compared to the loud music, sweat, shirt-ripping-off, atmosphere you encounter in a CrossFit gym. I agreed.

We were obviously hooked. I’ve done four local competitions now. CrossFit has a way of doing this to people; it is similar to a cult mentality, but man oh man do we LOVE it. And for good reason, too. I’ll go more into that later.

Anyway, we had been doing CF for about two and half years when I realized my obsession with the health and fitness spectrum was getting quite serious. I decided that it made sense for me to get my Level One (the basic certificate you can get to coach at a legitimate CF box). I completed the course and I now coach at my local gym. I am still working on a way to balance CrossFit with my bikini competition training, but I think that it will be a great way to add some conditioning!

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Okay – that short background ended up being longer than I intended – my bad. Moving on:

Is CrossFit for you? When I tell people that I coach or do CF, I am often met with the same response: “I could never do that!”

THAT STATEMENT IS SO FALSE THAT I DON’T EVEN HAVE WORDS. Just kidding. I always have words 🙂 CrossFit is for everyone, and I’m going to explain why in just four reasons.

  1. Modifications/Scaling: A regular workout is generally programmed as “RX,” and this means that the workout has a specific weight, number of reps, etc. that should be performed. However, most people at our gym do not do RX workouts. They will scale or modify the workouts to meet their needs. For example, a common WOD in this community is called “Fran.” RX Fran calls for 21-15-9 of thrusters and pull ups. This means you would complete 21 thrusters, 21 pull ups, 15 thruster, 15 pull ups, 9 thrusters, and 9 pull ups. The score for this workout is the time in which it took you to complete. For RX, men would use a weight of 95 and women would use a weight of 65 for the thrusters. If you are a female who wants to do this workout but there is no way you can do thrusters at that weight, then all you have to do is lower the weight. You can do 15 pound thrusters for anyone at your box cares – as long as it is a good workout for YOU. Anything in these workouts can be shortened, scaled, changed, lightened, etc. according to whatever that particular person needs. Hell – you can do air squats if you can’t do thrusters! All anyone asks is that you do something that you find challenging as an individual.
  2. Community/Camaraderie: Okay guys.. I’m honestly not kidding when I say that CrossFitters have the most bomb social aspect to their gym. Seriously. Go drop in at a gym and you’ll see everyone high-fiving after a workout (there are some people who immediately run around after tough workouts high-fiving everyone. I’m like… laying on the floor dying. How do they do it?). I never tried to hit a PR at my regular gym and heard anyone cheering for me while I was stuck in the middle of my squat. It truly is that environment and those people that can push you to hit your personal bests. I’ve also made some awesome friends through CF. My gym had an intramural competition during the Open (a big national competition). It was an absolute blast! We completed workouts with most of the people from the gym gathered, cheering for you to PUSH HARDER! How can you not crush it in type of atmosphere?!CF7
  3. Self-Confidence/Goals/Accomplishments: Before CF (and bikini competitions), I never had any clear goals in the gym. Look good naked? Idk. Once I started doing CF, I was able to start setting goals according to performance. I wanted to deadlift 220, squat 200, and clean 140. I didn’t give a flying hoot what I looked like during it. I think that this concept is especially important in our social media-obsessed world. Many women (and men) base their gym goals from what other people look like, and that is neither a positive nor achievable goal. CF allows you to set goals that are specifically tailored to the individual and based on specific, measurable numbers. It also provides you with an insane feeling of accomplishment when you finally do hit that goal. The day I back squatted 200? BEST. DAY. EVER.  
  4. Lifestyle-Encouragement: I never realized this until I obtained my Level 1, but CF is a “fitness-class” that honestly endorses fitness as a lifestyle choice rather than something you do because you feel guilty that you ate a whole pizza yesterday. That is how fitness should be. It isn’t something you can switch on and off or decide you’re into for a week and expect some crazy results. The CF community encourages consistency (PREACH) and solid nutrition with some freedom as its background. I specifically remember an instructor at my L1 saying something along the lines of (oh lordy, here I go trying to paraphrase again): Follow your nutrition plan, but not down to the minute detail where you miss out on life experiences. Don’t be so obsessive about hitting your nutrition numbers that you refuse to take part in Thanksgiving dinners or have a beer on the weekend.

CrossFit truly is for anyone. It encourages a community that will push you to be your best and still support you when you feel like giving up in the middle of a workout; it creates an environment of high expectations and good examples. You can’t find that at just any gym.

Fitness, Health

Why I’m Here…

Hello friends! I figure it is finally time to let you know why I started this whole blogging ordeal. Hopefully this gives you some insight about why I’m here and helps you decide to follow along on my journey! I have four major reasons for starting – keep reading to find out more!


Try NEW Things

One of my big goals for 2017 is to branch out and broaden my horizons. I do not want to be the person who goes to the same job, same gym, same hobbies, same everything for fifteen, twenty, thirty years. I want to try new things and continue to build myself. In order to do this, I need to take some risks! Starting a blog is one of them. You make be thinking to yourself: but Hannah… starting a blog is not taking a risk! I say that is bologna. I’m putting myself (and my thoughts) out there for the general public (as well as people I know personally) to read and scrutinize. I remember seeing people on Facebook doing things (like starting blogs, businesses, pages, etc.) and thinking about how they wouldn’t be successful doing that, they look like a dummy – why are they trying? Yes – I will admit. I was a freaking asshole. I would never think that now, and I regret having them in the past because those people were WAY ahead of me! I wish I would have put myself out there sooner and been willing to let other people judge me and simply not let it have an effect. The personal growth I’ve already gained from starting my blog and fitness Instagram have made it totally worth it.

Improve my writing capacity

I graduated in 2014 with my degree in English – specifically English education. My strong suit here lies in performing research about time periods, novels, authors, etc., evaluating this research, applying it to my needs, and then writing about these topics. This is vastly different from writing personally or creatively. It is within those fields that I need improvement, so it is those fields I am trying to cultivate and practice! I have a tougher time being a little more flexible in my writing; I generally prefer to write in a more academic manner. Also, I can always use more exposure to grammar and its application. The English language is weird, ya’ll.

Educate

I spent the first year or two of my fitness journey making the dumbest mistakes. I spent a lot of time working really hard at things that weren’t working for me. I followed ridiculous workout plans I’d found on Pinterest, or I’d eat things that were marketed as “healthy,” but were actually just as macro-friendly as a couple of oreos (damn you food industry). If I can prevent others from making the same silly, unknown mistakes I did, then I’d say I’m making some serious blog gains.

I also have plans of getting a nutrition certification through either AFPA or ISSA. If you have any experience or insight with either of these programs, please comment and let me know! Regardless, I will have a lot more to say about the nutrition side of fitness after this. I know I have a lot of experience and knowledge about fitness nutrition just based on my background, but I am not the kind of person to take advice from someone without credentials to back up their statements, so I don’t expect my readers to do that either. That’s my English degree coming out… USE GOOD SOURCES! 🙂

Motivate and Inspire
When I first started my fitness journey, I looked up to several girls for inspiration. They were so lean, had a six pack, ate rice and chicken… or so I thought. I love the makeover that the fitness industry seems to be going through. Everyone is much more down to earth and real – or at least the people I follow. That transparency and honesty is vital in truly being helpful. I followed a lot of stupid advice and bought a few worthless products because some people I looked up to suggested it. I don’t want to be that. I want to motivate others to become the best version of themselves. I spent too many years trying to mimic other girls and wishing I could have their legs, eyes, hair, butt, what have you. F that. Seriously. Say it with me now… F*** THAT! Be you. You’re already freaking awesome; you just might not realize it yet. 

My other goal here is to inspire people to find what makes them excited to be here on earth. Amanda Bucci’s tagline or slogan of sort is “ignite your fire.” I could not possibly agree with that more. Find what you love. Find what motivates you. Find what inspires you. Find what makes you happy and gives your life purpose and then give it everything you’ve got. It is seriously life changing to arrange your day and focus around the things that make YOU (not your friends, boss, or even significant other) happy. I want to show people that.

Well – those are my four reasons. I hope they give you a little more insight to who I am as a person, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading! Always,

Han

Health, Uncategorized

My First NPC Bikini Competition

As you can probably guess from my last blog title, I recently competed in my first NPC bikini show. Before the show, I scoured the internet and YouTube for articles, blogs, and videos discussing show day and what I could expect. I found some useful resources, but I wish I could have read or watched more. So I decided I’d make my own blog entry about it, and hopefully someone else will find this insightful (and as always, a tad bit amusing). Enjoy!

Morning/Athlete’s Meeting

I woke up bright and early to start getting ready. I didn’t have a difficult time waking; I slept awful from trying to stay on my back and just general nerves and excitement. I sent pictures to my coach and he said I could have a cup of coffee and a couple sips of water (coffee = heaven). I did my own hair and makeup, so I started with makeup first. Let me know if you want any details on show hair/makeup! 

Ace and I headed for the venue around 7:45 for the athlete’s meeting at 8:30… which didn’t actually start until 9:00. The competitors spent this time scarfing down rice cakes and various other carbs. The meeting included the basics about the schedule and expectations, but I was thrown for a loop when they told us that bikini and physique were only allowed to hit a front and back pose on stage THE END. They were extremely adamant about it. A lot of people were looking around kind of irritated because they (myself included) had practiced a bit more of an elaborate routine. I made a mental note to modify with some minor changes later.  After all this, the meeting concluded and they warned us prejudging started in forty minutes.

Prejudging

Prejudging taught me that there is a lot of “hurry up and wait” in the bodybuilding world. There was a general level of chaos backstage, but people kept making comments about how the show was running smoothly. I suppose the chaos is normal! I did Open Bikini B class, and we went on around 11:30. They called out that we had five minutes before lining up, so I went over to get “glazed,” or have oil applied. I had just walked over when they started yelling for us to line up (five minutes, my ass), so the glaze guy was literally trotting down the hall with me while I made my way to the stage (shout out to that guy). Once I made it to the waiting area before going onstage, I realized I would be standing there for a while… hence the “hurry up and wait.” I didn’t have time to pump up before, so I did about fifty push ups (thanks CrossFit and adrenaline surge) so at least my arms would pop a bit more.

I felt confident and ready! Bring on the stage! As soon as I went up there and hit my front pose, I started shaking/trembling like crazy. What. In. The. I’m not sure what or why it happened, but Ace told me you couldn’t tell – thank goodness!

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1st Call Outs!

They lined up 1-7, 8-14, and then lined everyone up to the side. There were fourteen numbers, but only twelve girls (two didn’t show up). I was thrilled when I heard my number for first callouts! I started in the middle, worked my way to the outside, and then they had me shift back in. They say the closer to the middle you are, the higher your placing. I’d say that was pretty accurate based on my experience.

Downtime

Between shows, Ace and I went back to the hotel. Some girls ate burgers and fries between shows, but my coach had me stick to my prepped foods. I passed time by watching TV and attempting to nap (haha – yeah right). I was allowed another cup of coffee (hallelujah) and I touched up hair and makeup before heading back to the venue.

Night Show

Finally! It was time for the night show. I was ready. I knew I’d gotten my jitters out during prejudging, and I was ready to kill it. I ate my rice cakes with IMG_6624plenty of time. I spent a lot of time pumping up, got oiled, and pumped up some more. I was ready when they called for my class.

Overall, I was happy with my posing routine and how the night show went. It took a bit longer for me to get on stage since everyone was getting more stage time. Regardless, I got up there a did a slightly modified version of my routine, which wasn’t even necessary. They were letting people take as long as they wanted in their routine – the complete opposite of what they’d warned us about at the athlete’s meeting.  They had all bikini classes go up and complete their routines, and then they called up the top five for awards. I ended up with 4th place, and as I said before, I was absolutely THRILLED with this placing for my first show!

Post-Show

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Ace & I after the night show. Can you tell he was afraid of touching my tan? 🙂

You better believe I had myself a big bacon cheeseburger, fries, ketchup, and a glass of wine afterwards! I didn’t finish the cheeseburger or drink hardly any of the wine (Ace had to finish it for me), but I was feeling pretty darn good. We topped off the treat meal with some birthday cake ice cream with a brownie mixed in, of course. Annnnnnd I still didn’t finish that.

What I Learned

This blog is already much longer than I meant, so I’ll keep this part short!

1 – Get prepared soon. Take plenty of time to eat your carbs, pump up, and get ready right before getting on stage. You don’t want to feel rushed! I think that is part of what contributed to my shaking during prejudging.

2 – Take your time in posing! I didn’t rush as bad as I thought I would, but I still could have gone much slower. I worked so hard – enjoy your time up there! I also think my stage shots would have been better.

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Alright guys! I hope this was helpful. If you’d like further details on anything, let me know!

Always,

Han C