Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Tag Archives: bodybuilding

Today I got to practice my first rule: If you can’t be nice on my profile, I’m going to delete your comments and block you. That was liberating.

So the comment was about how the person felt that “body shows” were degrading and didn’t understand how I could feel empowered by participating especially when the poses are suggestive and I have to wear “stripper” heels.

Well. Here’s my take.

The level of competing I participate in is bikini, this is the lowest level of bodybuilding and is the most attainable. For women, the next levels of bodybuilding are: fitness, figure, physique and bodybuilding. Each one requires more muscle than the last and bikini, fitness, figure/physique/bodybuilding require different suits. Bikini and figure require heels to be worn while the upper levels don’t. Wearing heels help accentuate the muscular definition in the lower body without flexing. In my opinion, from what I’ve read the judges are looking for symmetry or balance, fullness and some curves for bikini competitors. As the levels become more muscular they continue to look for balance and fullness, but more about the definition of the muscles over curves. This also is why the poses for bikini to figure to physique and bodybuilding are so different.

Now, for the men because the comment doesn’t mention much about if it’s degrading to men. Men’s physique is essentially the most attainable for their gender. They wear board shorts and go barefoot – personally I would love to see a man walk in heels, but the point of this level is upper body. How do their latissimus dorsi look? Oo that’s a sexy word. How full are their biceps and how defined are their abs. Their poses are to help accentuate these features. If you look at higher levels such as bodybuilding you’ll see men in speedo-esq suits that barely cover their glutes and they equally do a back pose to flex and show off the definition of these muscles.

Now, do I think it’s degrading or empowering?

Below is the definition of degrading, in case you wanted to know.



It definitely seems very subjective and very personal. I don’t think this is degrading, if it was I wouldn’t be participating. What I think makes it appear degrading is the lack of understanding and knowledge of the sport – why women AND men do various poses for the different levels. Why each has a different suit or costume – whatever you want to call it. Similar to a beauty contest, which I personally have no interest in – long dresses and heels are asking for disaster when combined – presentation of yourself is important. If you look miserable, why would you place well or win? So yes, I may bounce slightly as I turn, but I make sure that my poses are helping me show of the hard work I’ve put in. I’ve worked hard for this booty and I purposely want the world to see it.

Now here’s the definition of empower.

definition 2

I believe this sport is empowering, not necessarily for the 15 seconds I get on stage, but for the 12 weeks, 17 weeks, 22 weeks that have lead up to those 15 seconds. Don’t get me wrong, I emailed three friends, texted JP and asked a coworker before I ordered my suit on Monday because nothing is more exciting and nerve racking than getting the colors right. That suit color can make you feel good especially when you have your hair and make up done up in a way that you never believed possible, but it’s the discipline for proper nutrition (for this sport) and training that makes you feel on Cloud 9.

In my first prep, I not only taught myself how to lift, macro count and design workouts, but I went from lifting 25 pounds in a back squat to 125 pounds. I lost 24 pounds over 22 weeks, went from a size 8 to a 6 and never hit below 1500 calories daily during prep. I didn’t feel like I was overworking or under-eating. I learned everything I could about the sport. It gave me a new appreciate for what my body was capable of and I had a new perspective of exercise. I had broken all the myths I believed about lifting and women in one summer.

In my second prep I hit a new personal record of 165 for a back squat at my lowest weight at the time of 130 pounds – 35 pounds over body weight for 3 full sets of 5. My sprint was the fastest it had been at the time of 7:50/mile. I learned how to fuel my body and push my macronutrients through volume foods. I learned new recipes and gained even more confidence by openly talking and showing off my loose skin. I lost 20 pounds over 17 weeks and was the lowest weight I had been in almost eight years. I also set myself up for a successful tummy tuck, which lead to a successful recovery.

In between my second prep, surgery and surgical recovery I have learned how to maintain my weight without large amount of cardio a week, but by eating enough for my body and varying my lifting. Today I am nine weeks post surgery and my back squat is comfortably at 145 for full sets, pushing it at 150 and I hope over the next few months to get back to 165 and then break that PR.

Through my second prep for the Cutler Classic I learned how to trust someone else. I had coached myself through my first prep and was hesitant to have a coach for my second, but having had worked with Alaina Sanders for three months prior to the start of prep, I felt like she would have the best of intentions. I have trust issues and she helped me see that there are people out there willing to work with you, not against you. There are people who will support you and help you figure out the next step.

Since having surgery, I am now at my lowest weight on this journey and I have been maintaining it for 7 weeks (since being cleared to go back to the gym). At 127.6 pounds and a size 0, I’m getting ready for my third prep (starts Sunday!). I can’t wait to see what my body can handle as far as weight because a new PR sounds fantastic. I also can’t wait to see the science experiment that is refeeds. I’m maintaining at a higher caloric rate, which means I’ll be able to cut at a higher caloric rate. It’ll be new to me to eat this much and lose weight without over doing it in the gym.

The weeks leading up to the show remind you that you can do anything if you work hard and put your mind to it. They also show you that as long as you’re willing to learn you will be successful even if you don’t walk away with a piece of metal.

I have a better question – why does society still believe that they need to protect women from what they believe to be sexual objectification, but they don’t believe the need to protect men? Does the sport not objectify their bodies in any way? Just because they don’t wear heels doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain things being looked for in order for them to win, but they aren’t being questioned about their desire to compete. While the sport does have a sexy component to it, why does that mean it must be bad or degrading? There are women who are proud of being porn stars and see themselves as artists, they see it as a job. There are women who feel empowered by being strippers or exotic dancers – whatever you want to label them as. They acknowledge it’s a job and they feel sexy doing it. Obviously this isn’t the thought of everyone in those industries, but why is it okay for someone who thinks negatively about these jobs or roles or athletes to push and/or assume that everyone else should?

Go find a hobby that involves turtlenecks and rock yourself in the corner. I’ll be in the spotlight with my hip popped to the side and a smile on my face.

❤ Cristina


The past two weeks have been a little trying for me personally and it’s been affecting my workouts and my eating habits. I don’t like making excuses for sticking to the plan, but I’m only human and we all have those times when we need a break and reach for the burger.

My workouts were pretty solid around my birthday, a few days after the last post, but then my boyfriend lost one of his friends. He was devasted and I felt lost trying to be his support system. We had always talked about what we would need when having a hard time with life, but there was nothing he could’ve told me that would’ve prepared me to help him through his roaster coaster of emotions. The went through all of the stages faster than light.

I was exhausted and wasn’t sleeping like I usually do. It was easy to over do it on the coffee in the morning and sleep in past my alarm because I had been up late the night before. There was actually one morning where I slept through two alarms, woke up and fell back asleep while sitting up – who does that?! This girl!

I didn’t meal prep and it’s true what they say “fail to plan, plan to fail”. This made grabbing a breakfast sandwich on the way to work easy, it made going out to dinner even easier. I would grab a protein bar, but we all know that those aren’t meals. They aren’t all the nutrition we need to fuel our bodies. After calming down and getting some sleep, I’m back on track with my water and food. I’ve been slightly bloated since my body is readjusting to clean eating, but this week has been solid.

I weighed myself this morning because  it’s Wednesday and that’s my day to benchmark. I had only gained 1.5 pounds. So hello 154! I’m actually not upset about this like I know I would have been if this had been a year ago. That’s progress. I mean, I was thinking I gained a small child since the bloat was so bad. Hands in the air, praise something holy that’s not the case!

To keep myself in track, I’m changing up my routine again. I’m still going to be lifting heavy, but after talking with my friend Sarah about the Bikini Body Guide I bit the bullet and bought it. After a quick skim, I was sold on the exercise circuits and the schedule. I do a lot of the exercises currently and that made me relieved… One less thing to learn. I can still lift extra if I want to. I can also adjust the weight or resistance for the workouts to my personal needs. It’s a 12 week program and I’m only using the workout guides. I’m still following IIFYM. I’m hoping to adjust my macros when I hit 149. So a 5 pound loss. I know it’ll be tough, I’ve been struggling to get under 150, but this is something I’m hungry for – pun intended #carbsoncarbs. If I work hard and stay focused while having fun I know I won’t feel the same pressure I did during prep. I also believe I’ll learn to handle my stresses in a more effective manner.

This is my journey and it’s challenging at times, but I’m excited to change it up. I’m excited to work over the summer and bring a better package to competiting this fall. Stay tuned to see how my progress looks with the new routine!

❤ Cristina

When I decided I wanted to start lifting and prepping for a bikini competition I had no idea where to start. There’s so much information out there about what to eat and how to train; everyone had a different opinion. I think we all can agree that different opinions are good because it shows us many perspectives, but it also reminds us that what works for one, won’t necessarily work for another.

I had been told to get a coach, so I looked into it. It was not something I could afford and it wasn’t something I was willing to stretch myself for. So I started researching.

My biggest research tools for exercises was This helped me discover new exercises that I never would’ve thought of; it also helped me learn correct form so I wouldn’t hurt myself. I researched HIIT and Tabata and found some pre-made workouts- these were great and over time I was able to change them up with exercises I thought would be effective for my goals.

When I started looking into a diet to follow it was clear that I had to go all in, I couldn’t just do something for the summer, this was going to be a lifestyle change. Throughout my journey I had been adjusting my workouts and my food to meet new goals so another adjustment was just part of the plan. I had been clean eating before I started prepping so when I learned about IIFYM, I figured I macro counting would be a breeze and I could be more flexible with my food.

I have fallen in love with IIFYM and while my relationship with food isn’t perfect, I have a much better relationship now. I know that you need fat to burn fat. Protein will help rebuild your muscles that your smashed in the gym and carbohydrates are an important sources of fuel. The body is like a machine, without fuel the machine shuts down. With IIFYM, I learned to focus on nutrition versus calories. While weightoss is all about calories out verses calories in, all macronutrients have calories; as long as I hit my nutritional needs, I will have enough energy for the day. Eating in a deficit still provides me enough food to meet my nutritional goals and have energy.

I learned what water could actually do for me and what hydration means for the body’s development.

Even though I didn’t have a coach, I had a few people who helped me along the way that I believe played a huge role in my success. My friend Monolina, @monolina12 on IG, worked out with me a few times a week. Together we figured out workouts, corrected each others form and pushed each other to lift heavier than we ever thought we could. This gave us both something to look forward to at the end of the work day, and hitting new PRs together helped us bond. We get the funniest looks in the gym!

Laurie, @tinygymrat on IG, helped me figure out how to adjust my macros for cutting throughout the process, she also introduced me to drop sets and super-setting. Both of those things helped me discover how much physical strength I had and push myself harder than I had been.

Brittany, @brittbaine on IG, and I met when I decided to give Beachbody a try… yeah, that didn’t go so well for me, but we’ve maintained our friendship. She has definitely helped me stay on track and stay realistic in my goals and what I can accomplish. When I have doubted myself, she has been blunt and told me to stop thinking that way. She has never once told me that I can’t do something or that my dreams can’t become reality. This is what a friend is.

When I got closer to the competition, I started meeting other women I would be competing with in the New England Championships. Sam, @baconbarbellsbikinis on IG, helped me figure out how to find my flair for posing. I had mostly gotten over the idea of not being the smallest girl in a bikini, but I was fearful of eating the stage. This girl helped with that a ton, probably more than she realizes.

By not having a coach, I had to do the research, I had to ask others questions. I discovered what worked for me, what didn’t work and how hard I was willing to push myself. I found out how strong I was, both mentally and physically. I was doing this for myself, which is how it should be, but I was doing it because I wanted to meet my goals; not because someone was telling me how to meet them.

I’m not saying that coaches aren’t good, there are a lot of things I would’ve loved having a coach for like posing or peak week; but having to do the research myself made me even more invested in this part of my journey. I don’t think I would have changed anything, maybe what I brought for footwear post-show 😉

I got my official stage shots and I’m pretty excited them. I also have some shots of my journey for this first competition because there will be more. Check them out below. And know that if you work hard anything can happen.


❤ Cristina

Day 5 out of show