Views From Here

November 26, 2015
by Shalama Jackson

Who is in your circle? My circle is small.

My circle is small and tightWho’s in your circle? Who are the people you hold close to the vest and support you regardless? For some, the circle includes their spouse, the person they are dating, family members or friends.

And for others, their circle includes co-workers and people who share a common interest.

For me, my circle is small and getting smaller every day.

My circle: Me and my coach and mentor BernitaMy coach and mentor, Bernita. Without a doubt my circle includes the woman that has been a huge supporter, cheerleader and friend these past several months.

Since this fall she has been by my side as I take on this new journey into bodybuilding. Among many other things, it is great to have a person I can vent to when other people give their opinions on how l look as my body changes. She continues to reassure me of how it really is.

palmetto 200 with EboniMy sister on the pavement and fitness companion, Eboni. This woman right here and I have gotten ourselves into a number of interesting fitness expeditions together and it all really began with a trip to Miami a few years ago. Since then we run a variety of events together and now both continuing on sculpting our bodies for 2016.

My crazy and enthusiastic friend, Tammie. Among other things, it’s been good to have someone be there during the highs and lows of competition prep. Since we work together, it’s hard for her not to be there with my meals every three hours. It’s been great to have her be a person to tell me I look great and that my hard work is showing, even on my insecure days.

My circle: me and KareenThe G, Kareen. Ha! This one right here is special on another level. She contacts me just because as well as after reading an emotional blog post to see if I’m okay. We laugh and joke about anything and everything. It’s great to have a friend I can vent to when I have noticed people who I thought were my friends have blocked or unfriended me on social media.

My family. I’ve gotta love them and their support for all that I want to do. We are spread across the country, but we support each other however it is possible. Most recently, my aunt traveled from NYC to support me in my first competition.

kendra cusaacAnd then there is Kendra, who I lost last year. When anything important happened in my life, I called Kendra. She was usually the first text if not the first phone call. But those things have changed because of circumstances.

Research suggests that a strong circle and support system is key in maintaining our mental health. Having people we can count on provides protective factors against depression, it enhances our sense of confidence and esteem, makes us feel less isolated and helps hold us accountable when we set goals.

A support system is not just a bunch of people who call when they need a ride or who update you on the happenings. Our support system should be made up of people who actually show up when they say they will, allow us to show all parts of ourselves and who provide us with what we need and in ways that we need it.

Sometimes it’s hard to really admit who is in the circle and who happen to be in the vicinity. My involvement in the sport of bodybuilding is shining a light on others as I continue to pursue my goals and vision.

Who’s in your circle? Who supports your dreams and goals?

November 16, 2015
by Shalama Jackson

Shortest marathon training ever

the long run is a part of my weekly marathon training scheduleOn Saturday, I set out to kick off my 2016 marathon training. I came up with a creative training plan and that would still include the necessary long run.

I met with a local running group who had plans of 11 miles. There was no way I was running 11 miles since I haven’t run more than 4 miles in more than 4 months.

My schedule called for 6 miles but I got in 7ish miles.

On the run

I had planned on dialing it back a notch during the run because I hadn’t run in so long and also I didn’t want to take walk breaks. I wanted to see if I could listen to my body and make adjustments as needed.

first long run of marathon training seasonSurprisingly, I was somewhat successful. My goal was to run about a 10 minute mile pace. I was a little faster than I had planned but it felt good. I didn’t struggle except coming up a long steady incline hill that went for more than a mile. At the top, I stopped to gather my breath and wait for one of the two guys I had been following all morning. Actually, there were a couple times when I heard the splits that I really had to dial it back.

One good thing was that there were two guys a short distance in front of me so it helped keep me moving at about the same pace throughout. They also cut the route short which made them the perfect people to follow.

The training plan that isn’t anymore

My plan was to run three days a week including a speed/hill repeat workout day, medium distance day and a long run each week all wrapped around lifting in the gym plus a solid rest day.

But all that changed this morning when talking with my fitness partner in crime, Eboni. We were talking about our 2016 goals and running seemed to keep falling farther and farther down the list even though Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans was suppose to be my  reprieve marathon in comparison to the marathon I ran almost two years ago. The idea of running the race and training for it resonates with me, but not as much as really focusing on what I need to do to compete in 2016.

So, within one quick swoop, the 16 week training plan that I masterfully crafted and gave to my coach last week is now over. The thought of having to get up and run in the cold is gone too. I will still hit the pavement and promote Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh Marathon and 1/2 Marathon, but training for a winter race is gone.

As far as Raleigh, being an ambassador and getting people excited about the race is a lot of fun. We’ve added a 5K on Saturday, April 9, 2016 in addition to the marathon and half marathon on Sunday, April 10. If you are interested in joining me in Raleigh, you can save $15 on registration by using my discount code AMJACKSON.


Have you run a marathon? What goals are you setting for 2016?

November 14, 2015
by Shalama Jackson

She’s more than my coach

After the Elite Muscle Classic show with my coach and mentor Bernita where I became a NPC figure competitorI can’t believe that the Elite Muscle Classic is over. I’m still in awe of everything that has happened with my coach and mentor, IFBB Pro Bernita Stuckey.

We spent the 9 weeks working to reach this goal. We started on this path together in early September after a long conversation that left me thinking about what was best for me.

The best for me

Bernita pushed me and worked with me day in and day out. She was and is the best for me as my coach and mentor. In addition to her years of experience as a competitor, she focused on what I wanted to achieve.

Call me crazy for looking forward to our workouts even though I knew I would be sore as all get out probably about two days later. Before her, I had been spinning my wheels without getting closer to this goal. I was stuck and didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It seemed as if I was lifting just to lift.

Pushing through one-leg pressesTogether, we worked every muscle. Sometimes we laughed, but many times I grunted. I think about a time just a couple weeks ago when were doing deadlifts near this older man. After each of my reps I was down on the floor trying to gather my strength watching her do her reps. The older man sitting on the chest press machine said, “I hope she’s driving tonight.” I had to laugh and tell him that although she was putting me on my back, I still had to drive myself home.

You think I would throw in the towel and not go back for more. Nope. There I would be for our very next session.

And while we worked on transforming my body, we also grew closer as friends. I trust her completely as she mentored and guided me through this prep process. So much so that I will again follow her lead during what will be my first off-season that will include a lot of running as I train for the 2016 Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans Marathon. I know she wants me to put on muscle because my baby muscles need some help.

What’s next for us?

back pose from first NPC figure competitionNow that the show is over and we have had a few days, we sat down to plan for 2016. I won’t reveal all of her goals for me, but I will say that I will be eating a lot. It’s to help me grow and also keep me from turning into a string bean while I am running. Am I ready for that? Not really. I just happen to know it’s necessary.

I am basically leaving it all up to her. I set the goal of the 2015 Elite Muscle Classic because I wanted to do my first show in 2015. But what and when we do the next is all up to her. I am her canvas to create for 2016.

From our conversation it looks like I will take to the stage in the spring. I’m excited like a kid in the candy store.

We get back in the gym on Monday. Although I am looking forward to the weekend, I am ready for Monday to come around. Is it possible to fast forward to Monday without the work part coming along with it?

Who supports your dreams and goals? How does their support make a difference?

November 13, 2015
by Shalama Jackson
1 Comment

How do you find balance after reaching this year’s goal?

finding balance after my first figure bodybuilding competitionIt’s been almost a week and I must admit that I am still on a little high thinking about all that has happened. One of the hardest things so far this week is trying to find balance.

My coach told me that she didn’t want me in the gym this week. Wha? We’ve been grinding in the gym for weeks and she wanted me to stop cold turkey. I reluctantly agreed, but only after the compromise that allowed me to start running on Wednesday. I was going stir crazy by then and grateful that I was able to log 3 miles on Wednesday and then again on Thursday. But still no gym time until Monday when she and I get back to work.

But outside of the gym, one of the most asked question since the competition is, “what did you eat once it was all over?”

Before the food came water. While sitting in the Carolina Theatre waiting for my coach’s other clients to compete, I downed an 18 oz bottle of water. It was actually one of the things that I wanted the most. I really hadn’t had anything to drink since Friday at 6 p.m. The sips of water until about 10 p.m. on Saturday didn’t really count as a drink of anything.

But when we finally got to leave the venue, there weren’t many options. We went to Hooters and I had boneless chicken wings. I tried to eat some french fries and drink a root beer soda but had to send the soda back for a glass of water. It was just way to sweet. And well, the fries weren’t as tasty as I would have wanted them to be at that hour.

first breakfast after the competition was strawberry banana pancakes from IHOPOn Sunday morning I had strawberry banana pancakes from IHOP. Oh yes! I had been thinking about them for some time. I can’t recall the last time I had pancakes. I would make them for my lil man, but was not able to enjoy them even when they were calling my name.

Then on Monday, I went to have Thai food with a few coworkers. Those carbs were so delicious. I topped it off with a free cupcake from my favorite place.

But besides those meals, I pretty much have gone back to the plan.

Following a plan

One of the things that I am determined to do is find balance in all things but especially food. Bernita gave me a meal plan to follow. And yes, after the pancakes on Sunday, I was back with the ground turkey, sweet potatoes, sauteed squash and more. I have worked too hard to get to this point to just throw it all away.

The thing that I haven’t done very well is get all six meals in like I had been doing before the show. I am at five meals a day. Yes, that means I am missing some nutrition.

One thing that I have added is a carb in the meal before the run and then afterwards. If I am going to run, I need the fuel to keep me going.

I must admit that I need the structure of a plan to keep me going right now. I am not comfortable with free flowing as others who just came off of competition prep have talked about. I do plan on enjoying a few things here and there, but just piling it on is not an option for me.

Looking forward to 2016

I am super excited about what is to come with 2016. The sky is the limit.

My goal for 2015 was to get on stage. My goals for 2016 are much more than that now that I have done it once. Today I will learn what my coach’s goals are for 2016. I’m super excited to hear what they are and what she plans for us to do.

I am looking forward to just getting back in the gym with her on Monday. I never thought I would be the girl that missed lifting, but I am. I am ready to pick up some weights and create gains that will be revealed as we move forward together.

How do balance your passions with everything else in your life?