Bodybuilding Journey - Slow and Steady

By Sara Walker

I know it's been a while since my last post. So far, everything is moving so slowly that I didn’t really have much to report. Since my prior post, I have had a few more in-person sessions with my awesome coach, Justine Albert, IFBB, my diet has changed twice (more on that below), I am getting stronger, and to my delight, my body continues to change for the better, looking more muscular while my weight is fairly stable.


Training Recap:

My in-person training sessions with Justine Albert, IFBB, have become more relaxing due to the fact that I know what to expect, as well as my becoming better conditioned. Our rapport grows and so does my new community of like-minded people. I am comfortable with my diet, even maintaining it traveling. One of the biggest wins for me is transitioning from solely being trained by Justine to being able to work out with other members of her crew about 50% of the time. It has helped me learn more along the way, as well as improved my overall performance.

I really appreciate her training approach. It is a low maintenance, less fussy style. She doesn’t get caught up in all the note-taking. For some, there are notes as they are learning, but overall, she prefers to go hard based on that day’s performance and how your body is responding. It has taught me to relax a bit, concentrate on the workout and how my body performs and less about what is written on a sheet of paper. She coaches me to go heavy, and if she gives me a number of reps, I better be struggling at the lower side of those reps or I need to go heavier.


The funniest thing to happen to me over this journey was my training trip just before Christmas. I booked an Airbnb rather than my usual hotel. I was on alert from the beginning as it was only $36/night for an entire house. Everything was fine until the third day. I woke up at 5 a.m. to have coffee and get my food going for the day. I walked into the kitchen and found the basement door ajar. Unsettling to say the least. Because food and drink weren’t permitted anywhere in the house but the kitchen, I was hanging out in the kitchen when I heard something. I started back to my room when I noticed the light on in the adjacent bedroom. Needleless to say, I had a roommate for the rest of my stay — the listing never mentioned shared spaces. From helping my host (and now roommate) with her car to our evening chats to helping her keep tabs on her package deliveries to putting up her Christmas tree, it was a trip I won’t forget.

I continue to train at my home gym at least five days per week. Navigating pandemic rules, making an appointment due to limited capacity has become second nature. The wonderful gym staff know my routine and sometimes read my mind before I schedule my appointments.


Diet Evolution:

Every “body” is different, and what is best for me may not be best for someone else. My diet overall has stayed very similar to when I started this journey. The main differences have been a calorie increase and then some days of increased carbohydrates.


With my initial diet, I would feel hungry about 2.5-3 hours post-meal. That didn’t mean I got to eat again. I still had to wait until 3.5-4 hours post-meal to eat. With the calorie increase, I still get hungry between meals but less so than before. I noted with my initial diet I had a point about two weeks in where I was getting really tired and felt drained for workouts. This was just my body getting used to the new ways. I added more spinach with my veggies at meals, added a multi-vitamin to my plan, and I soon felt balanced out. It really helped to have a supportive ear in the gym when the fuel felt low and the energy to workout wasn’t there physically. That is when I needed to mentally pick up the slack. Erin Allen was a great motivator supporting me through this time.


So many things in this lifestyle is a mind-over-matter venture. Whether it is hunger, soreness, or feeling tired, the goal has to mean something, driving you forward and keeping you on track.

I learned that I like working out on at least two meals. After the second meal is when I feel my best and strongest. Because of this, my typical workout time used to be at noon, but it has changed to 4 p.m. It took me about a month to get used to working out later in the day, having been so used to midday workouts — but my body is used to it now.


I have taken a few personal trips over the past few months. With each one, I feel like I get better and more efficient at sticking to the ways I need to for my plan. It always takes planning, though. No longer do I just eat or drink whatever is near me.


I spent a week in Santa Fe, N.M. with family, a couple of days at Mount Princeton Hot Springs resort just a few hours from my house, and then a week in Tampa, Fla., for family. My planning and preparation gets better with each trip, though the hot springs trip had some issues. I got my Thanksgiving Day workout in before we left so I could take my two rest days while we were gone. However, when I arrived at the resort, I realized that I had protein powder with me, but no scoop, no shaker bottle, no almonds, and no English muffins (these are typical staples of my specific diet). My remedy for the scoop was a used Nespresso pod I cleaned out, and I mixed the protein in my water bottle. For the fats and carbs, let’s just say I was glad it was only two days away!


Even though I have had some hiccups with my food prep, I never stray too far from my plan. I am able to find what I need by taking just a little extra care in looking.


I am heading to Belize next week, so I will recap international travel on a secluded island while living this lifestyle in my next post. Feel free to reach out with any questions on diet, meal prep, how I stick to the plan while traveling, or anything else!



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