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If You Want to be a Pro, Got to Plan Like One!!

When I decided that I was going to prep to compete in another national bikini show in 12 weeks, I was lucky enough to be offered help from my sister-in-law and superstar trainer, Meriza. Knowing that she will be investing her time and sharing her knowledge with me, I am even more determined to commit everything I can to prepping for the next 12 weeks. If I want to be a pro, I must plan like one…one meal at a time!!


meal prep - takes a while, but more than well worth it




My last post was on April 15th, way too long ago. I wrote about being discouraged throughout my training, and that I felt that the emotion of discouragement was unproductive and a waste of time. The blog post ended with these words: “I trust in this process and the results will speak for it in exactly 8 weeks!” The process I trusted was a nutrition and training protocol prescribed by two super successful trainers, my brother Pete Ciccone and his wife Meriza. 8 weeks after I wrote that post, the results did speak…and I won my first show ever!

That’s a real smile, I knew how hard I worked!

Receiving my award from beautiful Rosemarie! I never got to stand in the middle before!

Extremely thrilled and wanting to ride the excitement out, I looked to a national show 6 weeks later and made an attempt to place at the USA’s in Vegas. This would be the second time that I’d compete in this show; last year I placed 10th out of 35 and I hoped to improve on that. Plus, I would be wearing the lucky bracelet and ring that my beautiful friend Lillian let me borrow – she won 4 shows and I won the SoCals in it! I knew that I couldn’t lose, especially since I would be able to watch my brother Pete compete along with his 619 Muscle teammates, which is always amazing to see.

The amazing group of athletes I was proud to be a part of!

We don’t aways get what we want though do we? Feeling somewhat embarrassed, I did not place well – actually, I did not place at all!  A little rushed backstage, a little bit nervous, and questioning if I did enough, I did not bring my best to the stage that weekend and got lost in the group – there were 45 of us girls in Class C!  However, I do feel that I have made some improvements since last year. Some time off from running allowed me to add some muscle to my upper body. Unfortunately, it did not treat my thunder thighs so well!  Some people say that it is a subjective sport, competing in shows like this.  However, that does not really make me feel better. I would like to say that I just crashed and burned, or ran out of steam because that would mean that I went all out and I had no regrets.  But, that is not the case. I am starting to realize that training for these shows is not like training for a marathon – you don’t need to save energy for the run back home! The regret I have from not going all out, 24/7, the entire weeks of training – I imagine that is why I felt rushed, nervous, and questioned my level of preparedness. I plan not to feel that way again. Time to dust myself off and get ready for the next 12 weeks of insane intensity. Making my way to the NPC National Championships in November with the help of superstar trainer Meriza –

Striking a quick pose while trying not to fall…only 8 seconds to hit 3 poses!

With fellow 619 Muscle athletes and inspiration Francine, Figure Class Overall winner!

Discouragement’s Real Name – a Waste of Time

One of the many things that I have learned in my training, whether for racing or a show, is having faith in whatever process you have chosen to reach your goals. In my blogs from earlier I write about recognizing where I have fallen short and why I might not have achieved my goals, I write about knowing what needs to be changed and how to do it, and I finally write about focusing to get it done. Well now I am focused! However, sometimes when you are focused and things don’t always go as planned, it is easy to get discouraged and think that you won’t make it.

I have learned that I must avoid this feeling at all times!

These few minutes of discouragement seem harmless at first, but add them all up and it wreaks havoc on your goals. Take for example, the mornings when I weigh or take photos of myself (for benchmarking purposes). I send them to my trainer, he/she tells me I am ok, but deep inside I feel like I am not doing enough. I say my muscles are not big enough, by legs are too fat, and where the f*#% are my abs. In the past I might have done one (or all)of these things:
1. run extra to burn more calories (like 400)
2. eliminate carbs in my meals to consume fewer calories
3. eat cheesecake and say screw it!

But, even then I knew that none of those things were really the right way to go about winning. By being overly self-critical and not trusting that things would progress if I stayed on track, I sabotaged myself and actually caused myself failure.

I won’t do that this time! I am going to identify with power! Just like one of my favorites from Tao te ching says,


So today when I weighed myself and it was more than I anticipated, when I looked in the mirror and made a mean face at myself, instead of being frustrated and irritated and letting bad energy associated with failure creep into my day, I just laughed at my mean face and followed protocol: 1/4 cup oatmeal, 3 egg whites and a scoop of protein, 350 calories on the stairmill and my training at the gym as planned! I trust in this process and the results will speak for it in exactly 8 weeks!

Time to Get Focused!

Well, it has been two weeks since my last long run at the NYC half marathon. Check out my last blog post for a recap if you are curious as to how it went! 6 Minutes Shy? Cool! That Means I Get to Try Again! I think the title pretty much says it all, that even though I did not make my qualifying time that I will try again. However, that will not happen within the next ten weeks. Today marks the day that begins my ten week preparation for the NPC Southern California Bodybuilding/Bikini Championships. Actually, it is said often that the training and nutrition is a way of life, but the ten week countdown starts today – so time to get focused!

For me, as an NPC bikini competitor, being focused means weight training five to six days per week along with cardio, measuring out all my meals, drinking LOTS of water, only one can of diet coke a day (anyone that knows me closely knows I am addicted and have forever been trying to cut back!), and NO cheating. This means no milk in my coffee, no BBQ sauce on my chicken, no bananas in my cereal, and NO extra scoops of peanut butter (actually I have no constraint when it comes to peanut butter or almonds, so I have eliminated both from my diet and will eat some other kind of healthy fat instead!) In the past, my cardio has varied from 350 – 1500+ calories because I was usually always training for a marathon. This time however, I am eliminating ALL running (except a mile or two here and there with some sprints when I just cannot take it anymore! ) and have replaced it with the stair mill. That is the plan anyway…for ten weeks…

Ten weeks seems like a long time to me. In the past, the “time to get focused!” might have only lasted six to eight weeks. Perhaps that is why the best I ever placed was 2nd…
I know that this time will be different though. If I, as an avid runner that has completed ten marathons in the course of less than four years, have been told by my trainer not to run for the next ten weeks, it will not be for anything short of my goals! my goal? To present my best physique ever, thus far, at this next show.

So this post is short, simple, and to the point….time to get focused!!

Me pictured below, at what I feel was my best physique ever approximately one year ago at the NPC San Diego Championships…that is the person to beat ten weeks from now!!


6 Minutes Shy? Cool! That Means I Get to Try Again!

A couple months ago, I wrote a post about Abandoning a Goal. I wrote about how I decided not to continue with my triathlon training so that I could focus more on getting ready for the NYC half marathon and qualifying for the NYC full in 2012. 97 minutes was the time needed to run 13.1 miles in order to qualify. That is a 7.4 min/mile pace. The fastest race I have ever run in the past was at an 8.4 min/mile pace, but that was 26.2 miles. Surely, I thought, I could cut one minute off if I cut the distance in half.

That would be the fastest that I have ever set myself up to run.

I ran the race this past Sunday, on a cool, crisp, one of the last days of winter in New York days, at 7:30 in the morning.

I finished running in 103 minutes, 6 minutes shy of my goal. I did NOT qualify for the NYC full in 2012.

In a situation like this, after training so hard, I always need to figure out why I didn’t make my time. Did I not train enough hills or sprint intervals? Maybe I should’ve rested longer, or less? Was I late, was I frazzled, did I have too much on my mind? Was my gear not appropriate, was I too hot or too cold? Maybe my belly was too full from my dinner, or I was hungry! Should I have had more carbs earlier, did I eat too much, or should I have taken more energy drink? The questions are endless but after having run as many races as I have, I pretty much have the basics down and I must say, am quite an expert at marathon preparation.

But, I never would have imagined what I learned from this race as far as what not to do. In fact, I feel quite silly! As much as I would like to blame missing my qualification time on the person that stole my IPod and all the precious endless hours of training music on it (sabotage!!), I won’t go there. The race through NYC took us through Central Park, Times Square, and all through lower Manhattan – it was very picturesque! With a mission at hand, I should have been focused solely on making my time, and for the most part, I was. However, as I often refer to the famous motto – it is the journey that matters, not the destination – I might have been enjoying my journey that day a little too much! Stopping along the way, amazed at all the sights and lights and bells and whistles, the whole race was a photoshoot – in my head and on my camera phone! They closed down 7th Avenue for us 15,000 runners and it felt like they did it just for me! I pictured Tom Cruise from Vanilla Sky, running through the streets of NY. 103 minutes and 13.1 miles never went by so fast…and I got to enjoy 6 more minutes of it than I planned! So for next time, shoot for a time a few minutes earlier to account for picture taking and stopping to sightsee along the way!

I did not leave the City too disappointed about missing my time though, at a 7.86min/mi pace, it was my personal best half marathon.

And I cannot wait to do it again! See a few shots from the photo session pictured below.

Starting off from Central Park…bbrrrrr:


Breakaway onto 7th Ave, very much welcomed after 6 miles in the park:


Into Times Square, my second favorite place in the world after Las Vegas!


Wanting to stop at my favorite ice-cream place for a little Cold Stone!


Scary! Underground running through Battery tunnel:


The Elite! Their feet don’t even touch the ground it seems!


No More Ignoring the Numbers


So, I finally did it! I gathered up my courage to take my training to the next level…and bought a scale.

For the past two years that I have been competing in Fitness America and NPC bikini/fitness contests, one of the things that I refused to do was weigh myself on a regular basis.  Originally, I thought that something like a scale would’ve been essential to my training, but judging by the fit of my clothes, looking in the mirror, and being critiqued by pictures turned out to be good enough. Every now and then, after I felt that I was making good progress with my dieting and training, I would weigh myself just for benchmarking purposes.  That meant once before starting my diet for contest prep, a few weeks into it, and a few days before showtime. Never the day before or the day of, I would be nervous enough, I did not need the numbers on the scale making it worse!

There is something about the scale that in my mind just had a negative vibe associated with it. I think that like many who are health conscious, something like your weight is something that you are concerned or at least think about. If the scales tell you numbers you do not want to see, you might feel bad and frustrated, and that maybe all the hard work you did to get in shape was for nothing! That was the reason I did not want one. A scale, which supposedly does not lie, brings you face to face with these numbers. But, I could make it lie! When I weighed myself on the one at the gym, it told myself I was heavier because I had so many clothes on! Or maybe I drank a lot of water before working out! Or maybe the scale was just old and inaccurate! So, I figured it would be better to stop playing these mind games and just stopped weighing myself altogether. The practice of judging my photos and a mirror did work for a little while, and was like I said – good enough. Good enough to place me in top ten at a national level show.

Now I want more than good enough.

In my last post, I stated that i needed to learn from the past and search for ways to make continuous improvements in my goal to bring my best to the stage. The most recent change, I have decided, is to ditch my perception of madness and trade it in for method; I have purchased my very own scale that tells me not only my weight, but my body fat and body water percentages. Recording it once a week, i will use this information in  conjunction with my diet and training log so that I will know how to tweak things in order to reach my goals for the next competition. There will be no kidding with myself, it will be purely scientific. If the scale tells me numbers that are not in line with my program, then i will simply adjust the next week’s program. I won’t let the scale yell at me “you’re falling behind!” or “all that training for nothing!” because that is all in my head. Changing my views of scale and making it purely objective, i am able to use it as a tool. This will be just another way to fine tune my program and remove as much negativity from my training and dieting as possible!

As much as I always hated weighing myself before, I am happy about this purchase. In fact, I am sharing with all of you the readings! No more ignoring the numbers!

Not Only is Bruce Lee Hot, He is Really Smart…

One of the things that I hate to admit the most is that I have failed. The word failure, F!, has such a negative feeling associated with it, that it is no longer part of my life!

I recently decided this when making the decision to push back the date of my next NPC bikini competition from March to April, then to May, then finally to June! At first, I felt very badly about this. The reason was because my physique just was not going to be where it needed, and more importantly, where I wanted it to be in order to reach my desired level of success. After some time of training and dieting, I was disappointed and upset with myself that I had to make this decision. I worked hard to get where I was, and to push back the date because I wouldn’t be ready made me feel like I was failing!

I hate failing! I hate the feeling so much that I even tricked myself into thinking that I did not want to compete. How can I fail at something I don’t want, right? I stopped going to the gym, I stopped eating my healthy foods, I stopped thinking about the shows, and I even ignored writing a blog! I think I even ate some ice cream that I didn’t want just in spite of it all! That lasted a week… 🙂

Then I got sick, and that lasted a week…

So now, here I am, two weeks later, with a little less muscle, a little more flab, feeling way more “not ready” than before, and not to mention, way behind on my running schedule for the NYC half marathon! I am sure I am being overly dramatic because in the big scheme of things it really doesn’t matter, but still, all of this because I was mad about feeling like a failure! So, I have decided, failure is no longer part of my life. If there is something that I want to succeed at but can’t or haven’t, I have the power to change it. I have the power to change it so that I do succeed, and therefore I never fail but am constantly learning and living.

That will be my new mindset as I go into the next 14 weeks of dieting and training. But, I have to figure out why I wasn’t ready or where I needed to be. What do I need to change?

– Well, I already posted about the areas that I needed to focus on so I know what training I need to do. See Living Art – A Work in Progress

– I attended a nutrition seminar by one of the best in the industry so I know my nutrition is on point. (Thanks Pete Ciccone – 619muscle!)

– Everyone at the gym looks at me like I am crazy so I know I am training with passion…

I guess I will just have to keep on searching (and meantime be inspired by this poster of Bruce Lee)!


My Own Inspiration – Sista!

One of the reasons why I started this blog was to share a part of my life in hopes to inspire and motive others in some positive way. Well, I figured that I would write about one person that helps motivate me…my sister (a.k.a. Sista!!)

Although she is five years older than me, we are extremely close and people often mistake us for twins. I don’t mind this though – she is absolutely beautiful! But, there are so many other reasons why I look up to my sister, and I am sure many people feel the same way about their siblings. With graduate degrees, starting her own businesses, and zealous passion to be her number one version, Maria makes being smart, beautiful, and independent look so easy! But I know how hard she works, and I admire that.

She is one of the reasons why I continued to study to get my own graduate degrees, started training for marathons, changed my career path and followed my dreams to move to CA. I do not try to copy my sister, because she has her own goals and passions, and that would just be annoying. Instead, I try to emulate her passion and dedication. She has made many breakthroughs this year, and whenever I am feeling down or like I should just give up on something, I think of her and I always get back to it!

So, I just wanted to say – thanks Sista! For showing me what hard work is, and what it actually means to be true to yourself ☺

Pictured below, a side by side of my sister and me…so cool that I could even be a little like my big sister!

Abandon a Goal? Yes!

One of my favorite books that love to read, especially when I am in need of motivation, is called Thinking Body, Dancing Mind It is about reaching extraordinary performance in all areas of your life, but I especially enjoy it because the authors share their messages through examples of sports and athletes. One of the chapters that I recently looked back at was about goal setting, because this time of the year really has me analyzing my goals, as I am sure it does for many others. The book shared this quote:

“Within the Self, there is a central force of character that unifies thoughts and actions. When you are not in accord with your goals, you may feel indecision, conflict, or malaise; when you are, a sense of self-confidence and well-being will surround you.”
-I Ching no. 45

I couldn’t agree with this more, especially since I recently decided to abandon my goal of completing a triathlon this spring. I set this goal with a family member last September. Since then, we have been swimming, running, and cycling. This was especially hard for me since I barely knew how to swim at the time and the most i had ever biked was 10 miles! My goal was to be able to complete the swimming portion of a quarter mile in 10 minutes or less, and the last time I swam I had gotten as fast as 1:15 a lap. I could do about six in a row, and I needed to do 8…almost there.

But sometime mid December, I just didn’t feel like going anymore. I thought maybe because I was training and dieting for a bikini show earlier December, that I was just tired. I told myself I’d get back on track as soon as it was over. Well the show came and went, and two weeks passed. Then I said I didn’t want to swim because I felt fat and out of shape, and didn’t want to put on my suit! So I thought to myself, if I’m not going to swim then at least I will bike!….but I never did. When I went to the gym, I would say to myself, “I feel like running, I will run” or “I will bike when I get one outside, because cycling inside is so boring to me!” But that was all excuses! And I knew it…

Why was I making these excuses though? I wanted to do a triathlon and I wanted to do one with my sister! Frustrated with myself, I set out to plan my workouts just so I could have something to follow day by day, no excuses! I wrote it out on my iPad on the way to my New Year’s holiday vacation. I knew that when I got back from my vacation, it’d be business! Crazy, hardcore training! No excuses!

Well, during my vacation, in freezing cold NYC, I completed the longest run that I had done in a while. With gloves, headband, two pair of socks, and tons of layers, I don’t remember complaining at all during the run. It was a hard, exhausting run of course, but it felt natural and fun for me. Thinking back now, I remember asking my friend that week like almost everyday, “When are we going running?” or “let’s go running! Let’s go running!” Also, I didn’t pack my suit for swimming or shorts for biking, I packed my sneakers and outdoor gear for running! That should have told me something.

Well it did, I know the reason that I made all those excuses was not because I was tired, lazy, or lacked motivation, it is because it was the wrong goal for me! So I changed my goal. I changed it that week on vacation actually, when I got an email saying that I had been accepted into the NYC half-marathon lottery for March 2012! I was so excited and still am, I even scream yahoo! Now, my new goal is to do the NYC half-marathon in 97 minutes. That time gives me a guaranteed entry into the NYC full marathon, something that I have wanted to do for a while! You know you have the right goal when you go to bed thinking about how excited you are to get up the next day and make it a great run! There is no indecision or conflict, just self-confidence and well-being! You enjoy the journey of reaching the goal, because it is after all, all about the journey, not the destination!


Starting the Year off Right – OATMEAL!

This is my first post of the year and I really wanted to start it right! I wanted to post something important and relative to starting the 2012 year off right. Then I thought, just because it is new year doesn’t mean January is anymore important than any other day of the year – they are all important! And all those days need to be started of right! So for many of those that have getting in shape, losing weight, exercising, eating better, etc. as new years resolutions, I am going to share what works for me as far as starting everyday right:


There is something magic about oatmeal that I cannot quite explain, but ever since I have started eating oatmeal for breakfast everyday since 2007, I have become more physically fit and healthier. Yes, it all started in May of 2007…

The facility where I was working at the time offered this free service for a health screening, and since I hate going to see the doctor, I decided to take advantage of it. The screening recorded things like weight, bmi, sugar and cholesterol levels, etc. Well, like I wrote in my Bio, I have been exercising since I was a little girl so I was confident that I was in good shape, but I still wanted to see what the numbers were. Receiving the health report to me was like getting your report card when you are in school, and I felt like I got an F when the report told me that my cholesterol was high!

Determined to improve it, I thought to tweak my eating habits. I didn’t really eat bad at the time, but I did go out for lunch a lot. And I hated going out for lunch! I would be so hungry by the time lunch came around that I’d eat a big lunch and then be full and tired for the next hour at work and would want to just take a nap at my desk! So I thought to change that by eating a healthy breakfast, because breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. It really is. A healthy breakfast means I don’t overeat at lunch, I don’t feel sluggish after lunch, I don’t pick myself up with a crazy energy drink or something, and I feel great in time for my workout right after work. It is a miraculous domino effect in the positive direction. So, ever since that day I got my health screening, I have done one thing religiously, and that is to eat oatmeal for breakfast.

Oatmeal by itself is gross, mushy, tasteless, and boring. But if you mix it with things, it is like magic! Add eggs to turn it to pudding! Add protein powder to change the flavor – vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, ROCKY ROAD!! (make sure to add it after oatmeal is cooled off so you don’t cook the powder). Add peanut butter to make it decadent! Add flaxseed or coconut oil to get in your healthy fats! Add apple and cinnamon to taste like pie! Add banana and berries to get your daily fruits! I haven’t tried chicken or vegetables, but who knows!??

So after eating oatmeal everyday because it is heart healthy, tastes delicious, fills me up, is cheap to buy, easy to make, convenient to travel with, and provides just the right amount of energy, I went back for my screening the next year and all my readings were good! In fact, they have been good every year since! And I continue to eat oatmeal.. In fact, I continue to do many other things that I didn’t do before May 2007, like run in marathons, compete and place in bikini competitions, save money, feel amazing, and perhaps most importantly, keep my cholesterol in check!

Today I mixed with eggs and chocolate protein powder, tastes like chocolate pudding!