Erin has been working with Figarelle’s Fitness since April 2013, and she’s made some amazing progress in that time. She works full-time as an ER nurse, she recently got married, and she still somehow finds the time to keep herself in incredible shape. I wanted to learn more about what makes Erin tick, so we put together this interview where she shares her story. Check it out.
You’ve always been a pretty active person, playing sports while growing up, going to the gym. What motivated you to seek out a personal trainer, and specifically Figarelle’s Fitness?
I think originally I was just tired of working out at a gym, spending hours at a time on a treadmill or elliptical machine and not actually seeing my body change. I would go to class after class at the gym and not see any improvement in my strength or the way that I looked. Not to say that I wouldn’t lose some weight and gain a little endurance but I just felt like athletically I was in a slump, I wasn’t overweight or out of shape but I wasn’t being challenged enough and I needed to find something more.
When I started looking for personal training services I wanted to avoid gyms or people that trained for gyms in town, I just didn’t feel comfortable associating with those corporations that weren’t helping me, so I did what any other person would do and googled it. We live in a day of technology and when you google “personal training in Anchorage, Alaska” you get Figarelle’s. Choosing to contact Figarelle’s was pretty intimidating, but it was something new, and after reading through the introduction and philosophy of the group, I knew I had to check it out. Once I experienced a few weeks of bootcamps and felt that soreness, I knew I had found the challenge I needed which is when I thought, “If this is how Steph and Lela can make me feel after a bootcamp, I wonder how much further I can take it if I started some one on one.”
I will also admit that a little piece of motivation for becoming a more fit person was the desire to start a family. I knew that I would be getting married this year and we have talked about having kids from the beginning. I can’t say I have ever been very confident in my size or how my body looks and that started to get me thinking about how I need to be in the best shape possible and change the way I think and feel if I am going to even imagine being pregnant in the next few years.
You’ve been working with Figarelle’s Fitness for 7 months now. What have been some of the biggest physical changes you have seen in that time?
When I started in April I think I weighed about 165 pounds, before the beginning of September I had lost 10 pounds and 7% body fat. I was looking fitter and feeling better, but my clothes fit the same and I hadn’t totally revamped my diet, but I was a LOT stronger. I looked more toned and I was starting to get some compliments about my body, more people asking me “what kind of workouts do you do?” Since September 1st I have lost another 5 pounds and 3.6% body fat and I am in a whole new category physically. I have had to buy a lot of new clothes, even scrubs and workout clothes because of the amount of muscle I am gaining and how much I am leaning out, it’s pretty crazy. I actually have the beginning stages of abs (yay!) and my arms and back have shown the most muscle progress so far.
How about psychological changes?
Psychologically I have become more confident, in the sense that I am able to change my body by giving it specific nutrition and command. I am definitely practicing the fine art of discipline, which is very very hard at times but I work really well off of routine and continuity. Don’t get me wrong, I have my days where I’m so sore that I don’t want to get out of bed, let alone go to a workout and get murdered, but then I think about how far I have come in such a short amount of time and I’m up again.
You’ve recently decided to compete in your first physique contest in May 2014. What inspired you to take on such a challenge?
Well I can’t take any of the credit for the idea, my TRAINER, has been talking about it since about June or July. I honestly in the beginning kind of scoffed at the idea, I basically had no faith that I could change my body to be at competition level in such a short amount of time but who knew that it would only take a couple months for the idea to invade my every day thinking. At the end of August I started thinking about the fact that I didn’t really have another fitness goal, let alone one that scared the crap out of me – which meant I had to come up with one, and what perfect outlet to describe that goal than a physique competition? So between my slowly but steadily changing body image, my persuasive trainer and the desire to take on such a big scary goal, a competitor was created.
A lot of people have noticed the incredible physical and mental changes you’ve made over the last few months. I think they would be shocked to learn that you exercise about 5-6 hours per week, on average. Are you surprised that you’ve been able to transform so drastically with such little time spent in the gym?
Well honestly some weeks it feels like the workouts never end and other weeks I’m itching for a good sweat session. But truly, I am very surprised, especially about the HUGE factor that nutrition plays in fat loss. I mean our bodies are pretty incredible machines and work very precisely to stay balanced throughout all of its processes. Its amazing to me however to the bodies response to the new process I am giving it, I had had gains and losses, plateaus and setbacks but each time we come up with a way to tweak the process and get back on track. I’m assuming as time goes on the workouts will change, but its important for people to know that the basics will actually get you pretty far.
I think it’s also important to emphasize here how my 5-6 hours is spent. I am a nurse so I only work 3 days a week (pretty sweet right?) so on the days that I work, I don’t have the energy to come home and make dinner as well as put in another hour at the gym. Another thing, I don’t run on a treadmill (unless its a short warm up – max 15 minutes) and I don’t spend hours on an elliptical, no extra “cardio” besides my bootcamp and my lifting. In the beginning I was going to the gym on my own one day a week too, but I have since quit that because I wasn’t doing anything useful there, so instead I go to yoga once a week and it’s incredible what that does for my ability to reset my body for the week’s workouts.
What are the biggest changes you’ve made to your nutrition over the last few months, and how have these changes improved your physique?
Before September I was using MyFitnessPal pretty regularly but I wasn’t focusing on my macros, and I was still “eating my workout calories.” Since the beginning of September I have been sticking to the basics, eating 10 calories for every pound of body weight that I have, eating 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound, 30-35 grams of fiber, and 20-25 grams of fat, I also drink roughly a gallon of water a day and count/weigh/measure every single thing that I eat. It sounds stressful writing it all down…but I have seen results. Every day I wake up and look in the mirror or weigh myself, I see change, my arms are more toned, my midsection is getting smaller, I can see muscles in my legs, I have abs and I am so much stronger. Now what I am doing may not work for everyone I know that, and everyone else should too because each of our bodies are unique. Also, just because I have a large calorie deficit weekly doesn’t mean I lose 1-2 pounds per week, so even though the scale can frustrate me at times, I am not that person to consistently lose “weight” every week, and frankly, I’m not trying to lose weight, I’m trying to lose fat. I have a food scale, I weigh my egg whites, I measure out peanut butter and occasionally I will cure a sweet tooth with a couple chocolate covered almonds, even if it doesn’t fit my macros.
I also want to talk a minute about eating out. I am still young and I still like to go out every so often to eat and even if I can’t measure out everything they are serving me, I still make conscious decisions about what I order, I don’t just say “fuck it”. Yes, I do get some anxiety about other people preparing my food, but I eat until I’m satisfied knowing that I made the best possible decisions. One thing I have skipped out on is alcohol, it’s not worth it, think about all the food I could eat instead of having a cocktail or a glass of wine? That does not mean I don’t want or crave it every once in a while, and then….
We’ve incorporated re-feeds in your diet every 7-10 days. How have these helped you, both mentally and physically during this process? What do you typically eat during a re-feed?
My favorite days. I’ve said before that I work incredibly well with continuity and routine, I don’t mind eating the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner if it means that I see results. Why fix something that’s not broken? I like chicken, and sweet potatoes and broccoli and protein shakes, I’m not tired of that stuff yet but I still get cravings which is why the refeeds work for me. Not only is a refeed a good way to reset my metabolism, it also is a good chance for me to get cravings out of the way so that I can get back to my regular eating and progress. The day after I refeed is incredible, my body actually looks more defined, and typically even though my weight is up the couple days after, about 4-5 days after, I will usually be at my lowest weight.
Usually on a refeed day I try to get any cravings I have out of the way, oddly enough coffee (with cream and bad stuff) is one of my weaknesses on refeed day, and not just one cup. My first refeed was just that, along with toast with butter and honey as well as a huge cookie, its incredible what not eating those things for a while will do, it actually makes your taste buds change. Other refeeds have been a hamburger with fries, a couple pieces of pizza, red meat, curry, the list goes on but I did learn one thing. After weeks of eating a diet in similar foods, proteins, vegetables and healthy carbs and fats, refeed foods can make a person sick, very very uncomfortably sick. So my goal on refeed days now is not to stuff myself with horribly unhealthy foods, but allow myself small amounts of things I am craving paying very close attention to how my body is responding to what I am eating, along with how it’s reacting the next few days after too.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to start incorporating re-feeds into their diet?
I think my best advice would be that refeeds aren’t an excuse to ruin all the hard work you have put in the last one to two weeks. It’s not a “cheat day,” or a day where you can just forget all inhibitions and stuff your face, you still have to be mindful of what you are eating and how it makes you feel. It’s also good to think about your need for a refeed, because if physically and mentally things are going well and you will feel okay waiting a few more days for a refeed than respect that feeling, don’t just blow it because you can. I think that if I wasn’t as strict with my diet on a regular basis a refeed wouldn’t mean anything to me, if I was just sort of tracking my macros and still refeeding I wouldn’t be seeing the changes I have.
You do both personal training with us, as well as attend fitness Boot Camp classes each week. What do you love the most about being a part of Figarelle’s Fitness?
I think what I love most about being a part of Figarelle’s Fitness is the reality of it. It truly is a small family, it’s an encouraging, positive, bullshit free zone. Realistically, if you’re not going to work hard here, you aren’t going to get anything out of it.
We’re only a few months into your contest prep, and we’re taking it slow. If someone were to approach you and ask you for advice about preparing for their first competition- what are some pieces of advice that you would offer them?
Hmmm first, just like you told me, think long and hard about the why. What is your reason for doing it because this will be the most important part. For me, I needed a goal, I needed a hobby for when we move and I need to be a fitter, more in shape person for my family and future family as well as myself.
Second, this isn’t a half ass process if this is something you want to do you have to have the time and dedication to do it, if there is something else in your life that is a stressful process be careful about wanting to compete because this is going to add a lot more unneeded “stress” to your daily process and the people around you.
Third, you have to have a good support system not only your trainer, but for me, my husband. He had to be 100% on board with all of this or it wasn’t going to work, and now he weighs my food for me and helps me stretch along with understanding that its a costly sport not only monetary (supplements, workouts, diets, posing, competition costs, trainer etc) but costly with time, he understands when dinner is going to be late because I have to go to bootcamp, or that we can’t go to certain restaurants because I can’t eat the food there.
What is your absolute favorite muscle group to work?
I have a love hate relationship with my lower body muscle groups. It’s the area of my body that needs the most work, but its the most painful and I’m typically limping the next day if I don’t take care of myself.
This is a trick question, I know it. I think once I mater them, pull ups will probably be my favorite workout because they usually impress other people not just myself. I would probably say right now dead lifts are my favorite exercise, regular and trap bar.
What do you like to do for fun, outside of working out?
Well outside of competitive training I don’t really have a lot of “time” to have other hobbies, which is probably my favorite part about it, the fact that its consumed my life but I do do other things for fun. I like yoga and taking my dogs to the dog park, spending time with my husband at movies and date nights, as well as cooking – I love to cook and bake.
When you’re having a down day, how do you pull out of it and keep yourself motivated?
When I am feeling down I have to remind myself how far I have come in such a short time and how much further I have to go to perfect the way I look. Mentally I have to reassure myself that I am doing this the healthy way and that I am stronger and fitter and also be thankful that I have days when I feel like this because they remind me that I am human.
What types of recovery activities do you do?
Well now that I have learned the importance of foam rolling and yoga I do both of theses things regularly. I also like to get massages and go on walks, and making sure I spend an adequate amount of time with my husband because he is the one that makes me feel the most relaxed and grounded.