Julie McGraa - Bikini Competitor

Competing had always felt it was out of reach, especially after I had my first son. Yet, at the same time I didn't want to live life with what ifs and I should have. So, I sat down and made a list of goals and competing was on that list. From there I did some research on what it actually meant to compete and found a personal trainer who was familiar with the industry. For me competing was a goal and a dream that I thought would never be possible but I had to prove to myself that despite everyone saying how difficult it would be that I was up to the challenge. I also did not know anyone in the industry or who had competed, so I had to start right at the bottom in regards to my knowledge of the industry.

For me this is a lifestyle and not about having two different lives whether I am off season or in prep mode. It has taken me years to find some sort of balance and a happy place with my relationship with food since I can tend to be a bit of an emotional eater. This is largely due to treating this as a way of living and having a good support system. For me eating clean 6 days a week and then having a cheat meal on the 7th has been the best system. I am one of those people where I can't just have one and move on, I will just eat it all. So, sticking to my diet and then treating myself has been the best for me. It won't work for everyone but for myself this is what I have found that keeps me on track and focused on my goals. I do allow myself more freedom when off season, especially during movie nights with my kids and husband but when I am in prep mode I am focused on my goal.

I've done a few cookie cutter diets that were not tailored for my personal needs but a generic outline of eat this and that in order to get to the stage or otherwise known as a the living off white fish diet. For obvious reasons these failed because they were not meeting the needs of my body and the goal that I wanted to achieve. It wasn't until I found my coach Justin Fauth from Edge Nutrition who helped educate me on working with your own body goals and creating a diet that meets my needs.

This has been a long journey and one that has taught me to love myself again. It has taught me that we all have areas that we are not the most confident about but it is really about taking it one day at a time but not beating yourself. I try to use myself as motivation because I will never look like the models on the covers of magazines or even the bikini athletes who are at the top of their game in this industry. I can only create the best version of myself both physically and mentally. Once I stopped looking at those around me as competition and wishing I looked a certain way or I wish I could get rid of my stretch marks, it really opened my eyes to the true beauty that is inside me and helped me channel my confidence and bring it to the stage. My stage personality and my real life personality are two different people, as I always say that my inner Beyonce comes out on stage and in photoshoots.

I try to balance my training program with weight lifting and cardio which can be either steady state or HIIT. Off season I usually try to keep cardio to 4 days a week for 20-30 minutes and lift 5 days a week. When I am in prep mode it all depends on how fast my body is changing and then I make adjustments to cardio and my weight training.

It may seem that competing is so glamorous but a lot of people don't see the long hours and time dedicated for your few minutes on stage. There is a lot of waiting around for your class to be called especially for the bikini division who is usually last to go on stage. But with all that downtime while waiting you get the chance to talk to everyone there and hear their stories and what has made them compete. I love to hear everyone's stories and I think it helps motivate me as well to keep going with my personal fitness goals post show. One thing I will say is always make sure to show up early to all your appointments (ie, tanning, check in, prejudging etc) because even though there is a lot of waiting around when it is finally your turn things speed up very quickly and all of sudden you can feel like you don't have time to do anything and get very flustered.

I really have to mention all the volunteers at these shows who give so much of their time to make sure everything runs smoothly and that everyone has enough time to get ready before walking on stage. I volunteer at shows myself, so I have experienced it from both sides and can really appreciate all the hard work.

My next step in this journey is to get ready to compete at the BC Cup. I will be starting my prep a little early this time and this way I can allow myself a little extra time to bring a better package than last time. Being a mom, a wife, and woman chasing her goals, I have to wear many hats during the day but this can also leave me extremely exhausted by the end of day, so I am constantly trying to find that balance in my life. I am just trying to figure things out as I go at this point. I would definitely like to explore more of the fitness modelling side as well but it will all happen one step at a time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and get to know me a little. Much love!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julie.mcgraa

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A photo posted by Julie (@prep_princess) on