Friday, August 30, 2013

Ready Set Shoot! Fitness Photoshoots

by Kris Pitcher

You're in the best shape of your life and you'd like to capture it with some photos. How do you get ready for that? There are a few things to consider when planning for a shoot.

What will you use the pictures for? Will you have them for yourself and your family to capture a goal? Will you use them for social media promotion? Are you trying to market yourself in the fitness industry?

All important questions to ask. These kinds of considerations will help you decide what kinds of shots you'd like to capture, and what you'll wear. The first thing you'll want to do is find a photographer that will meet your needs. Do your research.

There are plenty of shady characters who will shoot scantily clad women. This isn't what you're looking for. Ask for referrals, then check them out. Look at portfolios to get a feel for someone's style. Are they familiar with shooting physique work? Sports photography?

Once you find someone you'd like to work with, determine the specifics. Will you have two or three outfit changes? Will you shoot exclusively indoors, or outdoors, or both? Work out the details and be direct with what you want. This is a business transaction and no one is going to read your mind.

You should always be welcome to have someone accompany you at a shoot. Meaning you and the photographer wouldn't necessarily be alone if you weren't comfortable with that. No reputable photographer would say no, you couldn't bring your friend/spouse/partner etc. Red flags should go up with anything like that.

Once the details are set and you have scheduled you have some choices to make. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WEAR!!!???

Depending on how you're going to use the pictures you'll make some decisions. One suggestion is you want these to be classy and timeless. Nothing too "costumey". A cowgirl outfit is going to look silly in about three weeks.

An athletic look with shorts, a tank or sports bra is a great look. It's a look that you can be proud of and you can use to market yourself in the industry or just show off the great progress you've made.

A bikini with heels is another great look. Not crazy heels, but clear competition heels, or something that is going to create a head to toe look vs. a "wow those are some HEELS" look. You want the photos to highlight you, not a specific piece of clothing.

A dress can be another good look. This is really up to you. You want something you feel pretty or sexy in, but again think about creating a timeless look that highlights you, not the clothes.

When you are getting ready for your shoot, you want to remember that you'll need to apply make-up specific for photography. Matte colors work well to absorb light vs. reflect it making you look like you're glowing. You'll also want darker make-up, lashes etc. to accentuate your features for the camera. It's a bit like stage make-up.

I would recommend getting a spray tan. You'll have a nice healthy glow, and the tan helps to show the detail in your physique. No glitter, it reflects the light back at the camera. It's a lot like prep for the stage.

As you get ready to go to your shoot, put each of your outfits with shoes/accessories in a zipper bag so you're organized and can change quickly. Take your make-up or different lipsticks so you can quickly change a look. Starting with your athletic look, you can build on your make-up for a sexier or dressier look. You can add make-up quickly, but you can't take it off and have that work very well. Think these things through.

You may want to pump up for your athletic and/or bikini looks at your shoot. You'll want to put a band in your bag for that. Pump up your shoulders and back for a nice pop. Also think about any props you may want. Again, the idea is to focus on you, not stuff. But sometimes you may want to have your team jacket, or a trophy.

Photo shoots are a great way to capture the great accomplishments in your life. I would schedule a week before, or the day or so after your show. You'll need to stay on task with your diet after your show if you schedule after. So, deciding when to schedule is up to you and what you're comfortable with. I've had plenty of seasons when I wished I had scheduled shoots. So, don't let this opportunity pass. The window is SHORT.

Have fun with it and just remember you want to be classy and timeless in what ever you choose for location, and outfits. The first step is to decide what you'll use them for, and remember in this digital world...they'll be out there forever. Make good choices you'll be proud of.  Ready, set, shoot!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How To Survive Your Diet

by Kris Pitcher

Survival of the fittest is no joke when it comes to getting through contest prep. There are some key factors to surviving your diet and why not share them? Here we go...

  • Your Diet is Not a Diet. This is tip number one and the main way you're going to survive prep or any kind of "diet". Creating a long-term attitude around the way you eat is critical. Successful weight management works as long as you do it. This is not to say the components of your eating plan won't change along the way. But if you think this way of eating is going to "end" just quit now.
  • Get Organized. Having what you need when you need it, where you need it is the only way you'll eat what you're supposed to eat. Sounds like a no brainer. Shop in bulk, prepare your food in bulk, and find a travel system you like. We are constantly "monitoring" our food situation to make sure we have on hand, ready to eat, what we need.
  • Spice it Up. People tell me all the time they get bored eating the same thing. Guess what? Your entertainment does not come from your food. One way to change things up is to spice it up. Find different non-caloric spice blends to lend some flavor to your food.
  • Food is Fuel. It's not medication. It's not entertainment. It's not celebration. It's not love. It's fuel. Food provides the nutrients to get you to your goal. Period. The foods which do not meet your needs, do not fit in your plan. Period.
  • You're Not Missing Out. All the garbage other people are eating, and you see on TV, will be there later. You are not missing anything. Marketing is very strong. You don't need to be influenced by it. All that stuff will be there later. Do what you need to do now.
  • Your Competition Isn't Cheating. I've always adopted an "on", "off" switch with prep. It's either on, or it's off season. There's no cheating once it's on. I have a number of reasons why I take that attitude. But here's just one, your competition isn't cheating on his/her diet. You have a plan, stick to it. You are the only one accountable to your choices. Do you want to leave anything on the table when you stand on stage? Me either. :)
Whether you are prepping for competition, or changing the way you eat to make composition changes for a healthier lifestyle, you are making choices about how you choose to fuel yourself. Your choices are yours. No one is making you do this. Think about your goals. Reconnect to them.

When you do, survival will seem easy. They are after all, your goals. Go get them!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sports Injuries, Stop Being Mad About It

by Kris Pitcher

Dealing with the setbacks of an injury are frustrating at best. You're managing both the physiological and the psychological aspects of your limitations. These are both real, and managing through sports injuries is no time to put your head in the sand.

Whether you have experienced an acute injury, or an over-use injury, either way you may be down for the count. Most people begin with denial, "It's not that bad, I can work through the pain." In most cases, this is what got you where you are. Injured.

Let's assume you've taken care of your situation by consulting a professional, a physician of some specialty, and worked through your course of immediate care and recovery. Now what?

Foremost, you're not who you think you are. What I mean is, an injury changes you. Injuries to tissues and joints change the way you are able to carry out the things you "used" to do. You need to approach your workouts differently.

Knowing this is an important starting point. If you think you can go right back to the very things which caused your injury, without getting hurt...well, that's just crazy talk. For instance, if you've been nursing a shoulder injury and you continue to flat bench with poor form - you're never going to rehab that shoulder.

But if you go back into the gym and work some different movements, protecting the joint instead of chasing big numbers, you'll eventually get the joint in good health. There comes a time in our lives when we can't keep up with the Jones' in the weight room.

Just because everyone else is squatting, if we have a back injury, we need to consider our own situation rather than just do what everyone else is doing. The point is, we have to work out smarter, not harder.

When we are coming back from an injury we have to start slow. One of the frustrating things for people is we loose the gains we made. Well, that may be a reality. But guess what, we can control certain things.

Control your diet so you don't gain excess weight while you're out of commission. Maybe you can't run, but can you walk? Or swim? You may not be released to do EXACTLY what you want, but chances are, those are the things that led to your injury in the first place.

Do what you can. Take advantage of physical therapy, massage therapy, do the things your doctor has told you to do in order to recover. Don't come back too soon. More isn't better. Remember that recovery requires good nutrition.

Sitting home eating pints of ice cream because you are sad you're injured isn't going to help you recover. Eat the nutrients you need to repair your tissues, and control your weight gain while you aren't expending as many calories. Do yourself a favor here.

Knowing there are as many psychological hurdles to be overcome as physiological when coming back from an injury is half the battle. Give yourself a break. Know you need to do what YOU are capable of right now. Not what you could do a year ago, or what your friends at the gym are doing.

Also know that you might need to learn a few things. Your chosen activities might be a little hard on your body, your form might be less than great, and you might be neglecting good form for big lifts. You may be over training leading to over-use, and not recovering properly...leading to injury.

Be gentle with yourself as you are coming back from an injury. You are not who you used to be, and that's OK. You are going to have to change your mindset to meet yourself where you are. Stop being mad about that. It is what it is. In plenty of time, you'll heal.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stage Make Up for Figure

by Kris Pitcher

At o'dark thirty, while I was getting myself ready for the USA's several weeks back...I thought it would be a good idea to take some selfies as I put my stage face on. Getting yourself made up for competition takes some practice, and I've found a look that I like.

from start to finish!

Here's a progression of what I call "crazy eye". My first selfie, which I'm not a fan of (selfies that is)and I'm not good at, is one of me relaxing. I think it's funny because it shows the difference in color between my competition color, and my face. Shock! Awe! Yawn. Moving on...

Before I go on, I should show you the mess of stuff I laid out on the counter the night before.

that's a lot of stuff!
Competitors like to be organized, and this is a sure sign of organized chaos. There's a lot going on there, including my little bit of coffee in that cup (very important). These are my essentials. Tools of the trade. And having everything out in front of me, I was ready to get started. The second crazy eye picture is of the base I apply in my crease. Doesn't look very pretty at that point. Even the third picture showing additional layers of color packed on...still not real pretty.
You have to trust the process, and if you've practiced your look, you know it's going to turn out right. See all those brushes? I love them for blending. In my initial application I use a combination of glycerin and water with my powdered colors to create a bright and lasting product on the eye. But as you can see, it's harsh.
Blending is your friend. Creating depth is important, and keep in mind the judges are a good 20 feet away, and you are under very bright lights. I can always relax once I've successfully applied my lashes. There's nothing quite like wrestling lashes...
I am happy with my finished look and it works well for me. I've found products I love, that last, and last, and have perfected my application to about 30 minutes. Whether you do your own make up, or have the luxury of having it done professionally, getting it right brings your package together. Go figure! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Thou Shalt Not, Competition Commandments

by Kris Pitcher

There should be vows taken prior to entering the sacred relationship of contest prep dieting. I've thought of a few, and you've likely heard these from me before. No judgment here, simply suggestions. Maybe this is like religion, or sex...topics you just shouldn't, but here we go.

Thou shalt not:
  1. Cheat - Start your plan and stick to your plan, it's your plan. Stop cheating on yourself.
  2. Lie to your Coach - Exclusion of information, not telling them things that MIGHT impact your progress, and outright pants on fire tactics put you at a disadvantage.
  3. Repent with Cardio - You cannot absolve your sins with cardio. Period.
  4. Procrastinate -  Your fellow competitors are already up getting going on their day, motivate.
  5. Blame - Actions and choices are yours...even when you have a coach.
  6. Whine - Choose how you present yourself, your competition is watching. If you are whining she's smiling.
  7. Skip - Eat. Your. Food. Eat all of it, your coach knows what they are doing and have designed a program for you. If you aren't eating your food because you think less is're going to stall and they won't be able to figure out why. You're doing #2 - liar.
  8. Underestimate the Power of Rest - You must get your rest, and your sleep. You need recovery and repair. This happens at rest, while you sleep. Get your eight hours if you want to make gains and loose fat.
  9. Drop the Details - The fine details matter in this sport. Get organized.
  10. Leave your Cooler at Home - Take everything with you. Always. Have the meals you need, take an extra one on errands. Be prepared.

These are the 10 "thou shalt not's" for you to think about. Adopting these philosophies will help make you a better more prepared athlete with a stronger resilience. It takes a lot to compete, keeping your head together is a big part of that. You don't have to do everything perfect all the time, but keeping the important things in line makes a big difference. Keep these competition commandments in your back pocket. Happy training!  

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Meat Hair Era

by Kris Pitcher

"Your hair products smell slightly smoky." he said as he hugged me close to his thick chest. The giggles erupted inside of me. We had settled in to watch a movie. As of late, a rare event.

I went on to explain I had grilled close to twelve pounds of chicken, and two huge steaks on the bbq earlier in the day. That smell wasn't my hair was the mark of my "meat hair".

My reality is we just closed the books on our stove project. Projects take time. And in all fairness, we had some travel during the time frame as well. Not that I was marking time on the calendar...but I was without a stove for over six weeks.

I grilled eggs, greens, and any kind of meat you could throw at me. Please, don't throw meat at me. You get the idea. I was pretty handy with the bbq. I did have some "burn incidences", there was the terrible finger nail incident as well...but that only happened once.

All in all I fared pretty well without a MAJOR appliance. My husband grilled too. But, apparently he didn't smell his own hair. He doesn't have that much hair.

So I thought it was pretty hilarious that he assumed my hair products were scented with the succulent smoky smell of meat. Maybe there's something there? A million dollar idea? Bacon glaze for curly hair? Anyone?

And so ends my meat hair era with the successful installation of our new stove. May there be fewer burn incidents, zero tragic nail breakages...and lots more snuggles. Cheers to major appliances, and baked meat!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What's Next?

by Kris Pitcher

If there's one question I've heard a lot lately it's, "What's next?" It almost makes my brain hurt. What's next...what competition is next for me? The other iteration is, "Are you done?" Done? I'm not exactly sure what that means either...

Done implies finished. I am not finished competing. I am however "done" for a while. It's called off season. We've talked about that. I have goals to work on, things I need to accomplish to make me more competitive.

What's next is a fair question. I will need to re-qualify. If you place in the top 5 at a national show you are still qualified at the national level. That's not where I placed. As such, I will need to compete at a national qualifier and place in the top 3 to re-qualify. That's what's next.

When will that happen? Also a fair question. A year out. Potentially next fall. I'll take a year to grow and make progress, then I'll diet down and compete. I'll get that re-qualification then it will be time to pick a national level show.

My husband and I have talked about getting on the same diet/competition schedule. There's a concept. It works for us to diet together so there's no problem there. And it's nice to be able to vacation and eat together. We're working toward that. Getting on the same competition schedule.

That's what's next and I'm pretty excited to be moving forward with my off season plans and goals. The work begins and we'll see if we can't make some significant improvements this year. It's always exciting to see what you can do given the focus and attention to diet and training.

What's next? Getting bigger and better! Here we go! Stick around for the journey, let's see what we can bring to the national stage next year.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Karma Corn

by Kris Pitcher

It was a random week night. Nothing special was going on. There was no celebration, no movie...just a week night. Quietly, I removed the cellophane wrapper and put the package in the microwave.

Knowing it would only be moments until I was "found out", I waited. Then the reaction came as the kernels began to pop. "I smell karma corn!" he said.

Caramel corn? I wish! We didn't have any caramel corn. What was he talking about? Then I walked into the living room with my bag of steamy hot corn. "It's karma corn because I ate that during your ENTIRE prep." he said laughing at me.

Yes, karma is, well you know. Now it's my husband who is dieting while I am not. The tide has turned. And I guess it's pay back time for those trips to McDonald's, for the grocery lists containing dark chocolate, for the raisins and dried cranberries...for the almond milk, and for the peanut butter slathered english muffins toasted to perfection.

But to tell you the truth, none of that phased me during my prep. I never felt deprived, or as if I was dealt an unfair hand. I had chosen my lot. My goals were mine.

This little bender of mine isn't going to last either. Don't get me wrong here, I haven't gone off the rails. The week after the USA's I packed my 4 meals and headed off to work each day. I simply added some extra goodies. Once I was home I finished my last 2 meals eating what I was supposed to eat.

I took a rest from cardio, but got my lifts in, ate my protein and enjoyed the mental break of restriction. Now I am back on plan. A new plan. My off season plan. It is structured, just as structured as a prep diet. The goals are just different.

There will still be a cheat meal each week where I can have something I've been looking forward to (or seen an ad for on TV). I'll still keep gluten and dairy out of my diet, it's working for me. But for my week of relaxed eating...I did enjoy my karma corn. Sorry honey, pay back is...well, you know!

Friday, August 2, 2013

What is an Off Season?

by Kris Pitcher

Recently I was asked, "What is an off season?" While it was a question from someone prepping for their first competition, I thought it was something worth thinking about. It's certainly a topic people think about in a lot of different ways.

For some, it simply means they are not dieting and training for a contest. They aren't specifically doing anything structured, and may even be off the rails elbow deep in chocolate martinis and tapas three nights a week.

For others, off season is a very opportunistic time to make changes in their physique. It's opportunistic because following your dieting and competitive phase, your body is primed to make gains. I've blogged about the chemistry of that.

People are comfortable with different levels of structure during their off season, and depending on the level at which you compete...that may be fine. I've never understood the person who starts working out at the 16 week point when they begin dieting for a contest. I don't get that? Why aren't you lifting all year?

Anyway, my off season is VERY structured. I want to take full advantage of the opportunity to make gains. And making gains takes time. That's why you can't compete month after month, provided you want to look any different. If you just want to look the same, go for it, although your metabolic systems may not be in great shape. That's another story.

I follow a structured diet seven days a week. My diet allows for a cheat meal. This season, we'll play with my macros a bit more than we've done in the past to see how my body reacts. It's a project. A fun project.

Our goal is to put some muscle on me. I've already said goodbye to my competition body. I've been too lean, for too long. I know that's gone. Bye-bye. No abs will be showing. Gone. Adios.

You need to be able to get your head straight during your off season. Adjusting your focus and your goals is critical. I'm fully aware I don't get to keep that contest ready body, and eat more. That would be crazy think.

It will take a solid year to make the changes we want to make in my physique. It. Takes. Time. Then I'll diet down and pick a contest. That's so far out, it's out of my head right now. My job is to rest, eat, and lift, and work, and clean, and cook...oh tangent...

But you get the idea. I need to focus on my off season. I need to put in the work to make my goals happen. Keeping my head straight as the competitors around me are getting all cut and lean, getting up on stage and bringing home the hardware will be my job. That's not where I am. I am in a different place. (A place where no skin will be showing, and where my cheeks will be full.)

You can think of time as a big circle. You may be prepping for a contest, you may be in off season, or you may be taking a short break from all of it where you aren't concerned about anything. But you can't be dieting all the time. You need to take time off, an off season, to make progress. It's when you give your systems a break.

You and your coach, if you have one, should be thinking about your off season BEFORE you hit the stage for your contest. If you don't have a plan for the days following your show, and the weeks after leading into your off season, I'd say you need a new coach - or you need to get a coach.

Knowing what you'll do right after your show will mean the difference between a horrible rebound, and taking advantage of your opportunity to make gains. It's all up to you how you utilize your off season. And what you bring to the stage next season will show all of us just what you decided.