The Bodybuilding Journey: On My Own

By Sara E Walker

I am now in my fourth week of official bodybuilding training with International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro, Justine Albert. I have spent much of my life living in and out of the bodybuilding lifestyle with workouts and nutrition. However, this is my first foray into being 100% committed to the lifestyle with a dedicated goal.

I have been training at my home gym about 1.5 hours per day, 5-6 days per week, following the training plans created for me by Justine. Additionally, I have been following the nutrition plan very strictly. Currently, the nutrition is balanced with macros, while she observes how my body will react. I eat every 3.5-4 hours. My metabolism ramped up by the second week, so now after about 2.5-3 hours post-meals, I am usually pretty darn hungry. I find that drinking a little black decaf coffee is a great way to keep me satiated. Even though I do get hungry, I feel like when I eat I am very satisfied with each meal. My energy level was good through weeks one and two. In week three I noticed myself getting really tired throughout the day and feeling pretty blah even in the gym. I added a multivitamin and chose spinach as my veggie with my midday meals. So far, these two small changes have made a significant difference.

The most noticeable thing about this experience so far is that it is like a job. I have to be up each day by a certain time to start eating and drinking water. If I am not strict about that, I will end up eating and drinking too late in the evening and not going to sleep on time for the proper amount of rest. Additionally, I want to workout after having at least two meals, so my gym times come into play in the schedule as well. I also find that as I create new habits, the old ones have crept in a few times when I have forgotten to eat right away in the morning. I used to wake up and drink coffee or tea for the first couple of hours of my morning and then eat. Now, I eat within about 15 minutes of waking up.

Gym time now is something that is non-negotiable. In the past, if I didn't sleep well, felt tired or if one of my reoccurring body aches was acting up, I would sometimes skip the gym. It didn't happen often, but at times skipping seemed like the right thing to do. Now, going to the gym and putting my all into a workout is the only option regardless of how I feel, which is why it is so important for me to eat, drink and sleep well. Like anyone else, I have aches. Most notably I am finding that my left wrist, having broken it due to hockey, is causing me a great deal of pain. But I have to push through. To help alleviate the pain, I have been making some slight alterations to positioning and movements during certain exercises to take the weight off it. The addition of turmeric and ginger has seemed to help too.

The gym has always been my happy place, but I have noticed with my new focused and intentional goal, I feel more fulfilled with my gym time. I have always worked out on my own and typically preferred it that way as I never really had many people around me who had the same fitness passion. Now, I usually workout with Erin, which has been nice. We don’t have the same goals, but she understands mine and helps me through my workouts by spotting me and generally supporting and encouraging me. I am realizing how important it is to have that support system around me. Making such a big life change can be scary at times, especially one that takes so much time and dedication over the course of years. Having a support system ensures that even if I have times where I don't feel confident on my path, those around me are there to hold me up and keep me on track.

Each week I send Justine my weight and pictures for my check-ins. After three weeks I have lost several pounds. With bodybuilding, it isn’t necessarily the pounds lost but the body transformation that matters. Justine seems to be pleased with my progress so far, which is very reassuring. I, however, am impatient and grapple daily with the fact that I cannot rush my body to change. Unlike other things in life where I could study harder or work faster, the body is on its own schedule. It truly is one day at a time. Even with my frustrations, I can see my body changing.

I will be with Justine in just a few days for my second in-person session with her. I have chosen to stay in a hotel over an Airbnb due to costs. After the last trip, I feel confident I will be able to follow my meal plan to a tee. It is actually easier to follow in a hotel setting than I would have normally thought. Just as I am seeing the workouts change and get more intense, I know my sessions with her will do the same. Though Justine sees my weekly check-in pictures, we are both looking forward to seeing each other in person and getting additional feedback on my progress.

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