Fitness Success Stories
All-Around School-Girl Athlete, Powerlifting Champion
Now Canadian Physique Model of the Year
Everyone always asks me...."Mariam, what is your secret, how do you do this?" To tell you the truth, I’ve know since the age of 5 that I wanted to excel in the sports arena. I believe it came from watching my father compete in Powerlifting for 13 years and become Canadian Champion and record holder. By action and words, he made me believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. So at least 50% of my secret is my father.
Mariam with her father. Good genes if we ever saw them.
I excelled throughout high school because my father trained me with weights and cardio. With his encouragement and guidance, I was athlete of the year at 15 years and up, playing on all of the all-star provincial teams.
After being picked for a University soccer team, I was no longer satisfied playing at the team level; I wanted to sink or swim on my own. I called my father and asked him to be my coach. We discussed what it would take for me to become a world Powerlifting Champion. I quit soccer, and began seven years of eating, drinking and sleeping powerlifting—all naturally.
In 2001, in Reno Nevada, at the WABDL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, I placed first in the 152-pound class, breaking the Deadlift record 3 times (381, 392, and 396) and taking third in the Bench Press with a lift of 242. I received perfect white lights throughout the entire championship. From there, I moved on to bodybuilding competition.
I received my Pro-card at the 2004 Canadian women’s INBA bodybuilding championships, where I was named Overall Best Poser. And on August 25th, 2007, I won the overall CANADIAN ATHLETIC PHYSIQUE MODEL OF THE YEAR.
NOW, you may be wondering about the other half of the secret to my success. Well, my father and mothers' genes for sure. I also have a wonderful husband who, while I was training for my last championship, ate clean all the way through with me, trained with me, and he really pushed me to look my best. He helped pick all my outfits for the competition. My husband and I are the best of friends. On weekends while all our friends are out on the town or drinking, we love spending the weekends hanging out and watching the UFC championships on pay per view. We are UFC addicts.
Also, Dr. Sal Arria (executive Director and Owner w/ Dr. Hatfield of the ISSA) is my longtime sponsor and mentor. He has helped me extensively throughout my entire career as an athlete and as a business woman.
Finally, Clarence Bass helped with my diet for the latest competition. You hear and read about how successful people diet down, eliminating carbs or a particular food group. I've done all that, and yes it may work for that one day on stage, but the pain of going through that was awful. With Clarence’s encouragement, this was the first contest where I loved eating to get ready. He urged me to eat a balanced diet of whole foods, avoid starvation and lose very slowly. In the past, I’ve developed a terrible craving for chocolate. This time, no chocolate roller coaster or craving of any kind, even after the contest. I learned my lesson. I’ll never go back to the old way!
FROM ATHLETE TO
FAT MAN AND BACK
Marathoner, X-Country Ski Racer, Triathlete. Completed the Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon at age fifty . . . fat man at age sixty. What happened?
I was bow-legged and all my running wore out the cartilage in my knees. The pain was so great that I could hardly walk, let alone run. I started power lifting and tore my rotator cuff benching. Then I just quit exercising altogether. My weight went from a lean 175 pounds to a fat 255. Finally, I decided that I didn't want to live the rest of my life as a "fat man." I read Clarence's books, "Lean For Life" and "Challenge Yourself", which inspired me tremendously. In 2004, I had both knees replaced. In 2005, I started Exerstriding/Nordic Walking. Never looked back!
Now at age seventy, I walk with my poles rain or shine, summer or winter (I live in Wisconsin). My weight is now down to 206 pounds (September 2007), with my goal being 190 pounds by the end of the year. Below, is a photo taken in May, 2006; I weighed approximately 245 pounds at that time, waist was 40+ inches. (I'm the one in the red shirt!) The next photo was taken approximately one year later. I weighed approximately 210 pounds, waist 36 inches.
This "transformation" was accomplished by "almost" daily walking with my poles for a minimum of 30 minutes to longer walks of two hours. Many days I did two walks a day, one long (hour +), and one short. I also tried to incorporate the diet choices that Clarence recommends in his books.
I chose Nordic Walking as my exercise because it relieves stress in your knees and hips. Remember that I had both knees replaced. It’s a total body exercise; it works the upper body muscles as well as the lower. Note the triceps muscle in my left arm in my "after picture." I get the whole package in one workout!
Most of my walks are on city streets and sidewalks. I live close to several parks and I walk to the parks with my poles rather than driving. The area where I live is "rolling," not big hills. There are some "hills" in the area, however, and I try to utilize them when trying to maximize my workout. The hill work is harder and increases the heart rate more than walking on flat terrain; but you can get a decent workout on flat terrain if you push hard on the poles as you walk.
The key to getting the most benefit from the poles is using proper technique. Explaining would require much more space than I am allotted here. Interested readers can find many websites on the Internet. One that I recommend is www.exerstrider.com . The more common mistakes I see are improper sizing of pole length (too long/too short); bending the arms too much (arm should be extended to a "shake-hands position"); carrying the poles (they are not heavy) rather than pushing down on the poles; and improper arm and foot coordination. (Please feel free to e-mail me if you have questions.)
He’s a New Man!
(Fooled his doctor)
As a power lifter I trained to get big and strong and thought nothing of eating a whole family-size pizza followed by a half gallon of ice cream. I loved power lifting because I could eat to my heart's content and become big and powerful!
A visit to my family doctor after I turned 50 brought that to a screeching halt.
A physical checkup produced some worrisome results: At just under 6 feet, I weighed 316 pounds. My blood pressure was so high that medication was strongly indicated.
I told my doctor I didn’t need medication, that I would control by blood pressure by dropping my bodyweight. He said that would help, but medication would probably still be necessary. He was thinking 20-30 pounds, if that. I’m sure he’s had experience with other patients who promise to lose weight--and don’t follow through. I'm not the usual patient, however. Power lifters think big. I left his office with a prescription for BP medicine and a definite goal in mind--losing 100 pounds.
My background as a power Lifter helped me set goals and map out a plan to achieve them. My plan, of course, included a major change in my eating habits. Living in Hawaii, I resolved among other things to replace the pizza and other fast food with lots of fish, which I would catch myself. [Editor: love that idea.] Cardiovascular exercise would help me burn fat, increased circulation and prevent loose skin from forming as the fat disappeared. Needless to say, I would continue to lift.
Cardiovascular movements such as jumping rope (my favorite) and jogging involve constant pounding on the knee joints. To prevent wear and tear and keep stability and warmth in my knees, I used the TK Knee Bands. The pounding also affects the lower back, so I also wore the TK Waist Band to protect my back.
In addition to providing warmth and stability, I believe the TK Waist Band helps to metabolize belly fat by generating heat and improving blood circulation. [Editor: See article 143 in our Strength Training category for Clarence’s experience with the TK Knee and Waist Bands.]
My plan worked!
I lost over 100 pounds, going from 316 to 209, in a little less than seven months. My waist came down from 44 inches to 34. I wrestled in high school at 200 pounds and was never able to get into size 36” pants. For the first time in my adult life, I fit into a 34 waist. [Editor: These photos show that Leo has maintained his muscle mass--look at those traps--while trimming his waist impressively. He looks 20 years younger!]
Happily, my blood pressure has returned to normal—without medication. (My doctor is very happy.)
They say with age comes wisdom and I find this to be so true—especially after my doctor read me the riot act.
"Spectacular" is the only word for the change in Leo’s waistline. He is indeed a new man.
Catch of the Day
PS: Now, for the first time in my life, I have a good chance of benching double bodyweight...and at a wiser age of 50.
Fitness Training Strengthens Father-Son Bond
I am now 44 years old and have overcome a sixty-pound weight gain in the two years since purchasing your books. I now weigh 180 pounds rather than 245 pounds. The lean muscle is building slowly based on my weight-training program.
I adhere to your philosophy of taking your program as a guideline rather than an absolute. By doing this, I feel that I have trained myself to eat clean as required by my body and look forward to time in the gym or exercising.
My thirteen-year-old son has also gone from a slightly overweight child to an extremely active young man. We have had hours of quality time exercising, studying exercise literature and working together. I feel that this training will be something that he carries through his life and this is more important to me than my self-centered gains.
Thank you for the guidance and inspiration.
Husband Spreads Addiction
I discovered your website a year and a half ago, and wow, am I addicted! I stumbled on your site when I was researching Matt Furey and his Combat Conditioning. I've never left. Your site had everything I was looking for. I was overweight, out of shape and looking for a change - for life, not just a diet plan. I work a desk job, and it has taken its toll. I never realized how physical inactivity could be so harmful. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lots of joint pains and other aggravations. I was very unhappy, and could not face another deprivation diet. After reading only a few articles on your website, I was convinced that I had found the light. I am not the kind of person who likes to count calories and keep up with the daily numbers. By eating on your whole food plan, it keeps things fairly simple. I also like the fact that you encourage the occasional splurge for the sake of sanity and satisfaction.
My wife was also ready for a life change, and had her own health problems. She agreed to let me cook for the next year, using your plan as a template. Wow, what a great diet plan! Neither of us has left the table feeling hungry. Along with the diet, we decided to start walking. Just keep it simple to start. If we wanted to add more activity later, we would. We wanted to take small steps at the start so we were not overwhelmed with 'too much' starting out, as that seems to lead to failure. After a few months, I added some light weight training.
Both of us were able to swim a mile after five months.
We then joined the local YMCA, and have been going strong since! I am stronger than I have ever been in my life, at the age of 39! I have dropped approximately 40 pounds and my wife almost 80 pounds! We are both feeling much better with the losses. My cholesterol level is well under 200, and I am off the medication for it, as is my wife. I have also been able to halve my BP meds, and hope to be off of them soon. I really pay attention to food labels these days, and watch the items I consume. I am surprised I wasn't larger the way I used to eat.
Our success has led my sister and her husband, both diabetics, to start an exercise program. I referred her to your site, but I am not sure that she is successfully following your diet plan advice. I hope she will reconsider, because as I read your article on the Glycemic Index [Diet & Nutrition #115] it felt like someone had been spying on me. It described my eating pattern exactly!
I also purchased an Omron hand-held body fat analyzer. Since February, my body fat has stayed consistent between 19 and 21 percent. It's just killing me that I cannot drop another 20 pounds! I am seemingly stuck. I typically eat a whole wheat peanut butter sandwich for breakfast with a banana. I spread the peanut butter thin enough to see through and the bread has 3 grams of fiber and 90 calories per slice. I try to have brown rice and black beans for lunch, with some salsa on top. This is followed by a piece of fruit, and another fruit snack later in the afternoon. Dinner is typically chicken breast, with a rice/cous cous side and vegetable (or two veggies). It is rare that I put any oil in anything. I grill most of our meals, including veggies using fat free sprays. I usually finish up with a cereal 'suicide', consisting of Raisin Bran, Bran Buds and either Honey Bunches of Oats or Shredded Wheat for desert. Approximately two cups if measured out. I also down more than the required eight glasses of water per day, probably close to three liters.
I just cannot figure out what I am doing wrong. I have added protein powder since July of this year. Since then, I have gained about 5-7 pounds. I do think some of the gain has to be muscular, as my clothes fit the same. I typically only use the powder at breakfast on workout days and after workouts, but do not use it daily. My workout schedule is weights every three days, cardio two times per week, and walking two times per week, trying to have one off day. I was lifting every other day, but after purchasing some of your books, decided I was killing myself and needed to back off. I was also showing a few signs of overtraining, such as a twitching eye spasm that would not stop, until I backed off. I am currently 5' 11" and 210 pounds. I think I should be closer to 185-190 for my height.
Any suggestions on what I should do to drop this last 20 pounds? I am grasping at straws.
Thanks again for your wonderful website. I can't wait each month for the newest additions and for your new photos when you reach 70! Not to mention 80 and beyond. You are a real inspiration!
[Editor: We suggested that Richard drop the protein powder, explaining that extra calories from any source (including protein) add fat. Adding fish in place of the protein powder might be a good adjustment; it would add quality protein as well as eating satisfaction. Hard-easy training as described in Ripped 2 might speed muscle gains as well as metabolism and calorie burn. The only thing he may be doing wrong is being a little impatient. He’s lost 40 pounds; it’s time for his body to pause and consolidate the gains. We suggest that he allow a full year to lose the additional 20 pounds. With regular progressive weight training, his Omron monitor will probably show a fat loss of more than 20 pounds--because he’ll be gaining muscle as well. Small adjustments in food intake and activity level--he shouldn't notice but his fat cells should--will put his bodyweight back on the downward path. Continuing to eat and train sensibly (trying hard not to rush the process) will bring lasting success—for him, his wife, sister, brother-in-law, and anyone else that tries it. Our best to everyone.]
Contest Shape in 5 Weeks
I won the lightweight division in the 2006 Tennessee Bodybuilding and Figure Championships August 19, 2006. I weighed 125.
I used Clarence Bass’ book Ripped 2, which includes a complete section on peaking for competition, to help me with contest preparation. My diet consisted of whole foods such as broccoli, green beans, brown rice and sweet potatoes. I also used a protein shake with blue berries or dark grapes. I do a lot of cardio during the off season, so I really just needed to tighten my diet to achieve contest condition. I ate lots of fruit and vegetables and was almost never hungry.
Competitive bodybuilders traditionally lower their lifting poundages and do more sets before a contest, thinking that’s the best way to lose fat. Ripped 2 suggests maintained your strength and muscle mass by keeping your poundages up and allowing plenty of time for recover between workouts. That’s what I did. I continued to lift heavy and got plenty of rest to protect my muscle mass while losing fat. I continued my cardio as before.
I try to stay pretty lean during the off season, so it only took me about five weeks to reduce down to around 8% body fat. I lost a total of 10 pounds, mostly fat.
I also used the Perfect Posing DVD to help me practice my posing and freshen up on my mandatory poses. Posing was a big part of my preparation. The more I posed the more striations I saw. I ordered two posing suits from Ripped Enterprises. One lavender suit for the morning show and a red suit for the night show. Everyone especially liked the lavender suit.
Mr. Bass has always been a motivator for me because he stays lean all year around and he is natural. I want to be one of the first female bodybuilders to bring the sport back to its original natural state where women look lean and muscular, but still feminine. (Editor: Check out the photo below. Did she succeed? We think so.)
The greatest part of the whole preparation was getting the opportunity to speak to Mr. Bass on the phone. He said my photo showed that I was in good shape and just needed to lose some fat and sharpen up. He urged me to take my time and not starve myself, to cut my food intake enough to lose fat--without making myself tired or hungry. He also suggested that I drink plenty of water and be very careful about my sodium intake the last week before the contest. That’s what I did.
He is truly and inspiration to me and one of the greatest bodybuilders of all times!! Thanks Mr. Bass.
Yvette Smith [www.yvettesmith.com]
Ripped Enterprises, P.O. Box 51236, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Copyright © 2006 Clarence and Carol Bass. All rights reserved.
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