What competition did you recently competed in and how did you place?
Ultimate Grand Prix (Fort Lauderdale, FL) – an NPC sanctioned competition. I placed 5th in the First-Time Novice Figure Open (all ages) category. I was a 52 yr old woman competing against 20-something year old’s. They didn’t have a category at this particular show for a first-time, masters 50+ competitor. Most shows do though.
What was your competition experience like?
I loved it! Even though it was quite hectic, it was a well-organized show. Registration check-in occurred the night before and there was an athletes meeting the morning of the show which gave an outline of what to expect. Although you do have to wait around a lot for your category to be called, it gives you time to stay relaxed and prepare yourself for when you go on stage. It is an all-day affair with pre-judging in the morning followed by the evening show/awards. I found the other competitors to be helpful when backstage.
Have you always been athletic? Did you play sports growing up?
I’ve always been athletic. My entire family is athletic. Anything we did as a family entailed something active. I have two older brothers so whatever they did, I wanted to do. I played 3 sports in high school – soccer, volleyball and softball. I went on to play soccer and softball in college and played semi-pro soccer after college for a few years. I also played co-ed competitive flag football and softball until I was 42. I stopped playing co-ed because honestly, it got really rough at times. Too many injuries. Playing sports came natural to me and I found I was quite good at just about anything with very little time spent practicing. I even spent time as an aerobics instructor for about 10 yrs.
What got you involved in competitions?
I need to be challenged in most anything I do. Since most sports were kind of easy for me, I knew bodybuilding would be the one thing that would challenge me…especially over age 50. I’ve always been intrigued by how far you can push yourself – physically and mentally. I’ve always loved lifting weights. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the gym. I’m definitely a “gym rat”. So to me, the ultimate challenge in bodybuilding would be to enter a competition. Lots of my friends compete and all have shared how tough it is. I had been encouraged to compete for years so I finally did. I was no longer interested in crossfit competitions, running obstacle races or half marathons. I truly needed this new challenge and boy, this was one TOUGH challenge from beginning to end.
Are you comfortable with competing or did you have to build up the courage?
I was very comfortable with competing. From the time I decided to compete, I began watching competition videos on YouTube to see what being on stage would be like. In particular, I watched the pros (Nicole Wilkins, Erin Stern). I also used visualization techniques from the day I decided to compete. Every night before bed, I would close my eyes and imagine walking across stage (not stumbling in my heels), smiling at the judges, hitting all my poses and then exiting the stage. Doing that was key in feeling completely relaxed come competition day. Karen was an amazing coach so I knew, that together, I was bringing my best package to the stage regardless of the outcome.
How long have you been into fitness and working out?
I think I came out of the womb and fell right into the gym or onto a sports field!
What is your competition weight and off-season weight, and how tall are you?
Since I just did my first competition, I didn’t really know what my weight needed to be for the competition. Karen and I kept working at it for the “look” and not so much a specific number on the scale. I’m 5’6 and competition day I weighed 131 pds. In terms of an off-season weight, again, it was my first show so my goal is to keep my off-season weight within 10-15 pds of my previous show weight.
How long did it take you to prep for your competition?
My journey wasn’t typical. Total prep time was 14 months. Don’t let that discourage you. I was a very bulky crossfit athlete and my starting weight was about 180pds. I knew I’d have to drop some serious weight and completely transform my body from a boxy, bulky frame to a leaner, curvier more muscular one. My attitude was, “I don’t care how long it takes me to get competition ready…I’ll get there.” I didn’t have the best eating habits so I truly had to learn how to eat the right way for what I was trying to accomplish. It took months upon months just to figure out the diet part – what foods helped, what didn’t help, what my body responded best to (high carb, low carb, high protein, high or low fats, refeed days, no refeed days, etc) and what it didn’t respond to. It was a lot of trial and error. And being over 50, I had the other challenge of being peri-menopausal and hormonal changes that affected weight loss and/or weight gain. The dieting part was the most challenging for me and often times very frustrating.
What motivates you to keep in shape?
The motivation for me was about liking what I saw in the mirror. It was never about fitting into a particular piece of clothing (little black dress, bikini, etc). I like the way I feel and look when I’m leaner and more muscular. The more I liked what I saw, the harder I worked in the gym. It was a no-brainer for me.
How do you stick to your goals?
I’m not going to lie, I’m very hard on myself. If I start something you can be assured I’m going to finish it. I don’t do ANYTHING halfway! I take it one day at a time and give it my best one workout at a time, one meal at a time. I’m honest with myself. I know I’ll have struggles so I try not to let any small setbacks derail the whole process. And again, I use visualization techniques to imagine the end result. That keeps me on point.
What is your nutrition like off-season?
I can tell you this, I don’t get lazy with it. I don’t just eat whatever I want when I want. I still follow a nutrition plan just like I did when preparing to compete. It’s not as restrictive but it’s balanced and fortified. I still do 5 meals a day, protein at every meal, healthy fats, and I stick to low complex carbs because I learned that my body responds best to low complex carbs. I didn’t have a lot of fruit while prepping. So, I was happy to add back in the occasional apple, banana or some pineapple. In the off-season, however, if I want to go out to dinner, I do. If I want to have a dessert every now and then, I do. I’m mindful of sticking to good eating habits all the while making good food choices at every meal. By no means am I perfect but during the off-season, I don’t have to be.
What is your competition diet like?
One word…TOUGH! Since I’m sensitive to complex carbs, that was the one thing that kept changing starting at 4 weeks out. I had to rely on protein and veggies to supply most of my energy. And although it’s not really a “diet” part…getting a good night’s sleep was essential to my overall wellness and sanity (lol). Water, water, water! Water was key in shedding more weight and ultimately, leaning me out. Karen had me stick with high protein (140-143g daily), low to no complex carbs (0-45g daily), moderate to high healthy fats (50-80g daily) and non-starchy veggies (50-60g daily). My total daily caloric intake was 1,225-1,275 calories. To get where I needed to be my mindset was “no deviations”. I had laser beam like focus. I’m very driven. Peak Week (the 7 days before the show), everything got very tough. This is when the depletion starts (carbs, water, salt, spices, etc). It’s a very bland diet and it’s also the time when I truly questioned my sanity. LOL…
What is a basic cheat meal for you?
Blueberry pancakes with real syrup! I always chose to have my cheat meal Sunday morning. I make the pancakes by using Birch Benders Hi-Protein mix, Muscle Egg flavored egg whites, almond milk and fresh blueberries. My absolute favorite cheat meal!! Yum!
Are there any sacrifices? If so, how do you overcome them?
There’s no doubt you have to learn to say “no” a lot. I was training 7 days a week for 14 months. My philosophy became “no days off”. I lived, ate and breathed my diet and training. Your social life has to be put on the back burner. It’s as if you have to isolate yourself from the friends and family that simply don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish. The hardest part for me was constantly justifying to others why I couldn’t go out to dinner, why I was bringing my own food to a party, why traveling out of town would be difficult, etc. To overcome these difficulties, I reminded myself that this was “my” journey and no one else’s. My journey only had to be important to me and no one else. You must remain vigilant in your pursuit. There will be all kinds of people trying to derail your efforts out of spite, jealousy or envy. I fed off the negative energy. I used it to my advantage. The more someone tried to interfere with my journey, the harder I pushed to get better. My attitude became, “I can show you better than I can tell you”.
What do you find to be the hardest part about getting into contest shape and how do you overcome it?
Not every body part comes together the way you want it to. My upper body responded better to my training than my lower body. Since this was my first show, I was blind to everything. I had no idea how my body would respond to anything I did. You absolutely have to keep an open mind. You MUST stay the course. You MUST trust the process. You MUST stay positive and not get down on yourself. Above all, you have to TRUST yourself and your coach. I never stopped believing in myself. That’s why I say that competing is just as much a mental game as it is a physical game. If you are weak mentally, you’ll struggle. Get your mind right before you start competing. Know exactly why you’re competing and never lose sight of your goal. I focused on one exercise at a time, one rep at a time – giving my very best with every single workout. Each day as I left the gym, I’d ask myself, “did you leave it all on the gym floor?” Yes, I always did. You may beat me on the stage (can’t control the judges) but you’re not going to out-train me! LOL.
What is your training split like off-season? Is it the same pre-contest?
My “No days off” philosophy changed slightly now that I’m not competing. Contest prep was 7 days a week. Off-season, I stick to 5-6 days a week in the gym. The difference, if I’m a little tired, I might take an extra day off. I absolutely wouldn’t have done that during contest prep! And during off-season, I focus a little more on developing the muscle groups that responded slower during the contest prep phase. I’m giving extra attention to my legs/glutes/hamstrings and mid-back whereas during contest prep I couldn’t really do that. I had to stick to a training schedule that was developing my muscles as a total package.
What is your training life when you are prepping for a contest?
No ifs, ands, or butts about it. No excuses, no deviations – I’m at the gym 7 days a week and sometimes twice a day. It doesn’t matter how tired you are, you’ve got to train. A lot of people don’t understand that. It’s every damn day!!! It’s a reality. You can’t give up and you can’t give in. As they say, “today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t. I worked at being the best version of me. 100% effort 100% of the time!
What do you do for cardio?
I did HIIT treadmill workouts, I used the stair machine, and the elliptical. I credit Karen for mixing it up for me so I didn’t get bored. At times, I had a lot of flexibility with the equipment I could use on certain days. The time spent doing cardio started with 30-45 minutes and by the end it was 60 minutes after every workout.
Do you have any future competition plans?
Yes!! I can’t wait to compete again. My goal is to do 3 shows in 2018. I’m not happy with 5th place, lol, so I’ll keep at it until I get that coveted 1st place trophy!
Do you use supplements? If so, what are your favorite supplements?
Yes I do. I took a multivitamin, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Vitamin E, Coral Calcium, CoQ10, Fish oil, Chrysin, BCAAs, and Glutamine.
Does your family support your fitness endeavors?
I’m a single person with no children so I found it easy to do what I needed to do to get ready to compete. I’m certainly not the norm in this respect. I live in Fort Lauderdale, FL and the rest of my family lives in Rochester, NY. My entire family, though, supported my efforts. My mom was my biggest cheerleader.
What hobbies do you have outside of fitness?
I’m an avid foreign money collector (coins/paper money), I write children’s stories, I play the piano, I love to read, I enjoy bike riding, paddleboarding, working on jigsaw puzzles and spending time with the friends that take a backseat while I’m contest prepping.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to get in such outstanding shape as you are in?
Put you first! Go all in and don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of any fitness goal you’re trying to achieve. Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people. Be humble. Be willing to accept constructive criticism. As I did, and if financially possible, hire a good coach who can steer you in the right direction when it comes to diet, training and supplementation. Never settle for mediocrity.
How has competing changed your life?
I’m more confident and outgoing than ever before. I know more about my body than I ever thought possible not to mention that at 52 years old, I look better now than I did at 22, 32, and 42. Competing for me was an amazing albeit tough as nails process.
Do you have any long-term goals in the fitness industry?
As a Masters Figure Competitor…I’d like to earn my Pro Card and become a sponsored athlete. My dream as a child was to become a pro football player, lol! By being a Figure competitor, becoming a pro athlete is well within that dream.
If you could give one piece of advice to a first time competitor, what would it be?
Believe in yourself! Believe that you can accomplish anything that you put your mind to. Do not waver in that belief. Do not let anyone or anything discourage that belief. Above all, have fun!
Add anything else you would like to share.
It’s not going to be easy. You WILL doubt, you WILL question, you WILL want to give up, you WILL fight yourself, you WILL have naysayers…but you WILL prevail.
Do you have a website of facebook page you would like to share?
I’m listed under Missy Fovel Taylor. Please reach out to me if you’d like. I’ll answer any questions you have or provide encouragement and support when you need it.