On March 26th the owner of my current CKO location, Warwick, reached out to me with an exciting offer and asked if I wanted to take part in a Transformation Division at the WBFF Fitness Atlantic Competition on Saturday April 29th. My immediate reaction was no for two reasons…I had already planned on doing the Spartan Ultra Beast that same day and while I have lost over 60 pounds and am in the best shape of my life, I have body image issues and am very self-conscious about my loose skin and stretch marks on my stomach after having twins. When I spoke to my husband about it, his first response to me was “you don’t even like being on a beach with us in a bikini and now you are going to get on stage in one?” He was right. I was very uncomfortable in a bikini especially one where my stretch marks and skin would be very apparent so how was I going to be able to get out on that stage and do this?
For two days I kept thinking about this opportunity and how honored I was that CKO had asked me to be a part of this pilot program and were willing to sponsor me. I thought to myself how much this place had changed me and how getting up on that stage would be something that is definitely way out of my comfort zone but a way to share my story and hopefully inspire others to do the same. On March 28th I submitted my actual application and began to plan my strategy for the next 4 weeks. Up to this point, all of my training efforts were geared towards obstacle course racing, not my figure. At this point there would be no time to increase muscle mass, lose much fat or change my body significantly in any way so I had to just focus on my diet and my goal not to appear “fluffy” on stage.
With only 4 weeks to prepare, I turned to a friend that had been involved in beauty pageants and she was so helpful with tips from hair to shoes and everything else in between. She met me at the mall one afternoon and helped me find a bathing suit that that flattered my body. She also has a background in running a salon and invited me over to her home to highlight and cut/style my hair. She made me feel so comfortable and beautiful and really helped me build up my confidence with her pep talks and support.
I had asked my close friend if she would join me on this next adventure and thankfully she agreed. Originally she was registered for the Spartan Beast and was doing it with her two daughters who were doing it for the very first time to complete their trifecta. Since she graciously offered to help me I offered to turn this into a Beauty and the Beast weekend and promised her that since she did this for me, I would change my registration to Sunday and run it with her and her girls. I knew that running a 14 mile race the next day after what I was going to have to do to prepare for the stage was not going to be easy, especially since I was going to have to dehydrate my body for Saturday and then find a way to rehydrate it enough not to cramp Sunday, but I am always up for a challenge!
Over the next few weeks I ate super clean and just followed the basic principles I used and teach when I coach people on our CKO 10 week nutritional program. Most meals consisted of only lean protein and vegetables and my carbohydrate sources were limited to yams, vegetables such as spaghetti squash and quinoa. I added an additional protein shake to keep my protein intake high and increased my water gradually to well over a gallon daily. On the final week I averaged 2 gallons of water daily. I slightly changed my workouts to include more heavy weight with fewer reps and tweaked my cardio and actually decreased it slightly overall and incorporated more HIIT type workouts to prevent muscle shredding. During this 4 weeks I also had a birthday, Easter and a pretty challenging race that I actually qualified for the 2017 OCRWC at so I really needed to not only fight temptations of cake, alcohol and chocolate but also still eat enough to get through races and my daily vigorous activities.
About one week out I had to start prepping for my spray tan, which was actually very nerve wracking for me because I didn’t want to streak or look ridiculous on stage. The prep email that I received had me stop using many of the products I currently use, like Dove soap, and use special cleansers and exfoliate, which I almost admittedly never do but should. As mentioned I had to increase my water intake significantly, which made my skin and overall body feel amazing except for the extra bathroom trips. I also ordered hair extensions as my natural hair doesn’t hold curls well so I had to learn how to put those in. Thank goodness my friend that was going with me has a daughter that graduated beauty school so she did a trial run on my head and wrote directions down for the day of so we could put them all in. I ordered my shoes and they came in so late that I didn’t have time to really break them in, but I did practice walking around in other 4” heels that I had, often while doing light dumbbell arm exercises or grip strength training.
Finally it was Friday and time to head up to Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and get my spray tan by Get Glowing Tan. We ended up arriving slightly before the CEO of CKO to check in so we got on line and he arrived right as we were next in line, but our rooms were not ready so I had to find a place to prepare my last step before my spray tan that was in less than 20 minutes. We found where the spray tanning was happening at the event and my friend helped me with the prep gel and I purchased the recommended robe to use while I continued to dry afterwards. It was my turn and I was so nervous! You had to be completely naked and were in these little tents as the technician airbrushed you. She was amazing and made me feel so comfortable. I made a comment to her about my stretch marks and her response to me was that she has seen much worse than mine and complimented my abs, which made me feel pretty good since that was one area I have constantly been self-conscious about. After my tan, my room was ready so we headed to the room and settled in. We decided to walk around and check out the place and it was awesome!
At 7:00 pm I had to attend a competitor briefing and when I first arrived my friend waited outside and I didn’t see anyone else from CKO so I sat down in a room of these beautiful ladies who many of them had teams they were with. They were all dressed up and had on full make-up and their hair done like they were going out on the town so I felt completely out of place and under dressed since I had no make-up on, a pony tail in my hair, a sundress and flip flops because I was so afraid to mess up my spray tan. As I was sitting by myself another competitor sat next to me and we began chatting. This was her second one and it was great listening to her and sharing how nervous we both were. My team came in, including my friend, so I moved to go sit with them. It was definitely nice to have a team with you. I had never met most of these people, but they were all so supportive and genuinely awesome!
After the meeting we headed back to the main area and looked for food. What I could eat was very limited so we ended up at a restaurant where I ordered a salad and one glass of red wine. I couldn’t drink water at this point, but sipping on the wine gave me a little moisture in my mouth and red wine helps to dehydrate the body, which is why I was not drinking water. I knew I couldn’t get my body to total dehydration, especially with the race on Sunday. Normally before a race I am eating carb heavy and hydrating and here I was doing the complete opposite. After dinner we headed back to the room and prepared to sleep.
I had a terrible night’s sleep. I was afraid to mess up my spray tan. I was nervous about going in front of judges. I was afraid I would trip and fall on stage. I was obsessing if I gave myself enough time after setting my alarm to get everything I needed to do before I had to check in and get my make-up done. When I finally woke up, my bed looked like a mess as some of the color rubbed off on the sheets. My color darkened and I could see marks where my flip-flop straps were so I had to go down to the tanning area for a touch up. Then I returned to the room and it was time to do my hair. It took a little longer than expected so I was getting a little nervous, but my friend did a great job not only getting my hair done, but not falling apart as I stressed out! I then headed to check-in and was briefed on what we would be doing on stage. Then I headed back stage where my team found us a spot to put our stuff and stay together.
At 9:40 I headed to make-up, where it took forever to get my make-up done because they were running behind and were taking people based on their stage time, which I understand but my appointment was 9:45 and I didn’t even sit in the chair until 10:50. While I was waiting I was getting so hungry, I asked my friend to bring me some rice cakes and fruit spread before I got too hangry and I sipped on very little water to wash it down. While in make-up I ran into the girl I had been chatting with the night before at the briefing and we had some encouraging words for each other. I also was with one of my team mates and we shared our stories about our journey and how nervous we both were to get on that stage in less than an hour!
It was finally here…show time! As they lined us up in the hallway by our numbers my body began to shake and I felt nauseous yet excited. We were not only expected to walk on stage in front of the judges, but we had to line up and stand on stage until all 35 contestants had their stories read and their posing done. We had to smile the entire time and keep good posture and form as the judges not only judged our turn, but how we were on stage in the lineup. The first time I went out I was so nervous I could barely even hear what they announcer was saying and it was my story that I submitted as my before photo was displayed on the big screen behind me. I even started walking off stage a bit early but realized he wasn’t done. I felt like I was out there forever, but it was probably no more than one minute. Once all contestants were done with individual poses, we were broken into two groups and asked to step forward to be compared to each other. We posed front and back and then exited the stage. Round 1 complete!
After a break, we headed back to the room and I had my hair touched up then my make-up. I met up with my support crew, the owner of CKO Warwick and my friend, and we hung out and took pictures and I shared some of my experience so far. Then it was time to head back to the main room for rehearsal for Round 2. This one was more of a show so the lighting was very different and we had an actual opening number we had to prepare for. After a few practice runs we returned to the dressing room and waited for our time. When they lined us back stage, I could see the figure competition open and masters on the screen and thought to myself for the first time, maybe I could do that one day. This was a defining moment because I realized they had stretch marks. They had bodies similar to mine. They had confident smiles and for the very first time, I felt completely confident in my body. I got on that stage this round much less nervous that the preliminary round and decided just to embrace the experience and smile. Get out there and be proud of all I have accomplished. Show other women out there than stretch marks are not ugly; they are a symbol of your journey!
The judges pick their top 5 transformations and while I was not a part of those chosen in the top 5, the 6 of us that stepped on that stage and represented CKO were also presented with individual awards for our amazing transformations. We were then called to the front of the stage along with the owner of the CKO franchise for honorary mentions and photos. Then after round 2 CKO had arranged for us to have a professional photo shoot where we took group photos as well as individual photos. I was able to take pictures with the Owner of the CKO Corporation, my support team and my beautiful teammates.
After the event, a few of us met up for dinner to celebrate together. I was so happy to get food and the pulled pork nachos and Coors light tasted so amazing. By the time we finished dinner and headed back to the room it was after midnight. It was time to remove the hair extensions and make-up and try to rest before waking up at 4:00 am and heading back to New Jersey for the Spartan Beast. During the night, I was woken up by a party a few rooms down so basically I only got 3 hours sleep. This was going to be a very interesting day ahead. In the car on the ride, I was drinking a lot of water. I took Endurolytes and we stopped along the way to get a bagel, which I never typically eat before a race but I needed the quick carbs for fuel.
With a brief stop at my house to pick up my racing gear, we then headed to my friend’s house to pick up her two daughters and headed over to the venue. We checked in, took a few pictures, headed to bag check then made our way to the starting line. At 10:15 we left the starting corral and were headed out on what would be a beautiful day for racing. With temperatures in the mid 60’s it was perfect racing weather. Throughout the course I helped my team, saw a few familiar faces and just had fun out there.
A couple of miles in my friend had begun to cramp pretty bad. Around mile 4 she fell and rolled her ankle so bad I almost called medics to pull her, but she was determined to get up and finish this race with her daughters. She got up and used a walking stick for a little while, the like a true Spartan she put the stick down and at times even started running. We walked and rested when she needed to and ran when she could. After 14 miles, it was time to cross that finish line.
This race was symbolic to all of us for different reasons. For my friend, this will have been her last Spartan Beast she will be doing. For her daughters, it was their first Spartan Beast completed. For me, it was crossing that finish line with a lot of energy and feeling fantastic. This course was fun and in my opinion the easiest Beast I personally have done (not saying it was easy, I have just completed some truly grueling courses before). The weather was perfect. There were lots of trails and streams and no parts of the course that zapped me. I did enjoy the 3 new obstacles and to cross that finish line cramp free was a big accomplishment after what I had put my body through the week leading up to this event. Overall it was amazing to officially complete my goal of my Beauty and the Beast weekend!