Summer Marie - Figure Competitor

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, with a focus on Exercise Science; ACE-Certified Personal trainer and ACSM-Exercise Physiologist certifications; Functional Movement Specialist– Level 1; and dabbled in health coaching. However, my passion for health and fitness ultimately started from day one.

Since my childhood years, I’ve always been sports-minded. Growing up as the youngest child, with two older brothers, I was challenged to try to keep up. This only grew my competitive drive, from playing a simple card game “Snap”, to more challenging skills like track hurdles - I always had to win. The thrill of competition continuously pushed me to enhance my skills and perform better than I did then previous times. Throughout elementary, middle, and high school I took part in soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball. During these years, my interest to try new sports and activities continued to enthuse me. I was led into snowboarding, sky diving, and attaining my first degree black belt in Taekwondo. When I entered college, I was on scholarship for soccer, which pushed my passion into running where I eventually decided to end my collegiate soccer career to pursue long distance running. I found a new passion in competing in trail to road marathons, where I qualified for the Boston Marathon 3 times, one of which I was a participant and finisher of the 2013 Boston Bombings.

This left a huge impact on my life, the pain and heartache that those helpless athletes endured, is what partially drove me into bodybuilding – the other being intrinsic goals. I was always strong-minded, focused and extremely driven. My desire for competition is what ultimately led me down this path, however, it was a rough start. I didn’t grow up in the sport, in fact, most of those whom used to be family and friends think of it as a ‘vain’ and ‘sexual’ sport with no true understanding of the context or my personal aspirations of why I compete. My faith and morals have been questioned; I’ve been criticized, ridiculed, and laughed at. I’ve felt extremely alone, as I’ve entered this industry with few friends, self-taught, and on a personal journey to reach my goals. It wasn’t until I met a close friend and former co-worker, Paul Campbell, who was involved in the sport of bodybuilding that I thought I could actually do a competition. Paul took me under his wing and answered every question that I had; provided me with sound guidance and knowledge; and ultimately kept me from falling victim to bro-diets and fads. He connected me with a bodybuilding coach: Brian Ahlstrom of Ahlstrom Fitness Consulting, who I worked with during my first competition bikini prep and ultimately prepared me to step onstage at MN Mayhem in Duluth, MN. This first experience was only the start of something great!

My diet from off-season to pre-contest changes in ways of macronutrient adjustments and decreased calories. Obviously, when weight loss is a goal, this will involve decreasing calories and increasing HIIT to help drop body fat and reach a desired level of leanness. I look to more ‘volume’ foods to fill hunger and keep me feeling satiated. I also limit sweets, which overall make me feel better and help me stay on track. I never “cut” anything out specifically. If I am craving something, I will plan for it, or I will look to make a healthier alternative which usually ends up tasting better during contest prep anyways!

The diet that I have found to be most effective to lose weight and build muscle is IIFYM: “If it fits your macros” approach. Honestly, weighing and measuring out foods will really spark awareness and help one to realize just how much they actually are consuming. It is SO easy to overestimate and consume empty calories, leaving one wondering why they aren’t losing weight. It’s like you’re just spinning your wheels with no positive outcome. The IIFYM approach allows you to be in control of what you want and how much of it you want, as long as it fits within your daily macronutrient range, which in turn will hit those calorie goals. If you’re consistent results will come.

I’ve tried just “organic”, “whole-foods only” approach. Sure this is great, but obviously leads to deprivation and straight into a vicious binge-restriction-binge-restriction, etc. diet. I rebounded weight hard and took a lot of hard mental effort to get over. Once you lose the weight and rebound, it almost seems twice as hard. Consuming organic, natural whole foods like spinach, broccoli, apples, etc. is great, but too much of a healthy product isn’t good either. We need variety and sometimes, knowing that we can have that donut or slice of cake is just enough to keep things in fresh and in perspective. This is what helps create that healthy balance, so that binging and restriction becomes an action of the past.

The components of my weight training program include emphasis on lower body; upper body; abdominal 3 times per week and accessory work. Specific focus is put on muscle groups that need more development. For me, this comes down to: thighs and glutes for lower body and delts/traps for upper body. I also tend to have a boyish shape, where I don’t exactly have a “figure”. So I really have to concentrate on my mid-section and building that V-taper with my upper body, while growing the definition of quad/hamstring/and glutes – the ultimate X frame goal! For me, it’s not difficult balancing training with diet. I usually prep weekly meals on Sundays and Wednesdays. I pick up all my items on Saturday and/or Sunday according to what I will prep for the week. It’s easy to get things that you don’t need, however, having a planned list keeps me on-track and less likely to buy that package of Oreos that I know I will likely devour at once while deep in prep. With exercise, I work out either early morning, around 4:00AM, and then get ready for the work day. Or, if I know I can fit it in mid-day, I will get in a great lift around 2:30PM. My energy usually is better around this time because I have eaten lunch whereas in the morning, it’s usually a fasted state.

My self-confidence comes from my faith in God, who helps me overcome my fears. Also, working with a prep coach who safely and effectively prepared me for the stage – addressing not only aesthetic needs, but also emotional/mental needs, was a critical in helping me feel self-confident. Also, continuously practicing my posing with a prep posing coach and working with a local suit designer for a precise suit fitting on competition day were all leading factors in my self-confidence and stage presence on the big day. When you have all your boxes checked, anxious emotions are eased and confidence is built!

I will never forget my first competition. Athlete check-in was a little nerve-racking, it felt like I was this “wanna-be” beginner. I saw a lot of athletes who had previously competed and were rather into the moment and seemed to know everything about everything! I felt belittled actually. However, when I actually got backstage and met other competitors during pre-judging, I started to relax and love every minute of the process.

Prejudging was definitely more nerve-racking for me, then was finals. Despite being nervous, the judges were pleasant and very professional, which helped ease my nerves. I focused on what I practiced [posing], showcasing my best features, and just letting my personality shine forth. I enjoyed the moment, as it went so quick!

Finals was exciting. From the enthusiastic crowd, to pumping music, to being with athletes who I got to know better and develop a friendship with throughout the experience was a blast. Nerves were practically gone and I just soaked in the ending of the competition. It was a self-journey where I learned so much about myself and my capabilities.

Future plans are to continue to compete. However, I’ve decided to embark on a new journey, into Figure competing. I’m excited for this transition, to build muscle and gain lean body mass. I have a solid frame and ultimately believe that figure is the best route for me to showcase my physique, while also holding a competitive presence on the stage. I am shooting for my first Figure debut on October 1st, at the MN Mayhem DFAC competition. My intentions are to continue to compete and become further involved in the fitness industry. My long term goal is to gain exposure and sponsorship, while staying committed to the initial reasons behind my sport involvement. I feel I’ve finally found my ‘place’ in life and absolutely love it. Being not only a positive encouragement to those around me, but also pushing myself physically and mentally to a point I didn’t think was possible is fulfilling. I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2016 and beyond has in store for me and I’m excited to grow my network and meet new friends and friendly faces!

Instagram: @summer.groth

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Summer Marie