Bull’s Eye

Bull’s Eye

June10-2I have a bull’s eye on me.  It’s right smack in the middle of my forehead.  I didn’t realize it was there at first.

When I first started competing, I researched competitors to see the skills that I’d be up against.  I remember being intimidated by certain people, like Allison Ethier.  I just wanted to represent myself well.

Last year when I went to my first national fitness competition (in Charleston, SC) nobody could have cared who I was.  I was a skinny, black girl that stayed to herself backstage.  I didn’t work with one of the powerhouse trainers.  I was just Michelle Yeager from Kentucky.  Out of six women in my class, I finished third.  I was pleased, determined to come back stronger for the next one.

Then September came, and my next competition was in NY, NY. I had a better routine and worked on my physique.  This time when I showed up, I was a familiar face.  I was a friendly face.  People remembered me from the last show, but still didn’t think too much about me being there.  Out of 10 competitors in my class, I finished third.  The top two turned professional.  Just one spot away.  I received compliments on my routine and was told that my glutes were holding me back.  (I’m a black woman – what do you expect?!)

Then came the Arnold this past March.  Instant international exposure.  While I was waiting backstage to compete, a competitor said,” I Googled your routine, it was awesome.”  Various people were interviewing me.  And, I won my class!  Great, great feeling.  I was on a high for several weeks.  Then I realized – I’M NOW THE PERSON TO BEAT!

I’m at the top with the expectation of turning pro this year. And as exciting as that is, the stress is just as tremendous.  I’m expected to bring a powerful routine, one that will have folks talking.  The judges are looking for my glutes to be smaller than before.  It’s go big or go home!

So, I have two chances – June 18/19 in Chicago (where I have to win my class) and then July 9/10 in New Jersey (where the top 2 go pro).  I want to go pro.  However, I know all things happen for a reason and that when it’s my time to shine – it will. The smell of success is at arms length away ….. and it smells just like pizza!

M.Y. June 2010

A Fit Prayer

A Fit Prayer

Sept09-4The big Fitness Nationals was this past weekend in New York City.  I’d been dedicated to training for the past eight weeks and was hoping to make a national presence.  I set a goal.  I wanted to get my Pro Card.  Throughout the entire process I kept God and prayer in my life.  I told God what I wanted to accomplish, but also acknowledged that in order for it to happen, it had to also be in his will.

Friday night was the judging of the routines.  There were 30 fitness women competing.  I became nervous as I saw people warming up and just prayed that I could be top five in my class.  (God, we’ve made it here to New York and tonight is the night for routines.  Watch over me as I perform and allow me to give a safe and entertaining performance).  I tried to stay focused and didn’t watch the other routines.  Then I (#17) took the stage.  I only messed up a little on one part but was able to save it.  Afterwards people in the audience said they liked my routine and had one of the strongest ones.

Saturday morning was the judging of the 2 piece suits.  Once again, the other competitors looked good.  (God, this is the final part of judging.  You know my goal.  If this is my time to turn pro, please guide me in that direction).  I noticed my butt was a little larger than the others, but felt I brought a great overall package.  Judging for the suits is done in groups.  The best are called to the stage first (I was called with that group).  Then the best is placed in the middle of the stage.  So, the farther out you are, the lower you most likely placed.  I was on the far left hand side of the stage which meant I probably placed 4th or 5th for that round.

Saturday night was the finals and awards.  All of the fitness women were introduced individually to walk on stage.  As we exited, we were told if we were in the top five.  When I walked off stage, the man looked at my number with a sad face and said, “Hmmm, #17. Congratulations, you’re top 5!”  I excitedly ran to change to get ready to perform my routine again. (Thank you Lord!)

Backstage as we warmed up, I realized that I wasn’t the only person praying.  Although God is on my side, I had to realize that God was on a lot of women’s side.  I prayed once again to God to let me have this moment to shine if he felt that this was my time.  The time for awards came.  5th place – someone else.  4th place – someone one.  That just left three of us.  The top two would receive their pro card!  3rd place – Michelle Yeager!  I was super excited about my placing, but hated that I was just one place away from turning professional.

I was able to talk to one of the judges afterwards and she let me see the score sheets.  I missed turning pro by only 4 points (which is very close).  I walked away from the show proud and with a smile.  I was excited for those that did turn pro and knew that I had nothing to be disappointed about (others backstage didn’t have the same attitude).  I honestly believe that my power in prayer helped keep me content throughout it all.  I know that God has a plan for me.  He showed me that the fitness stage is where I belong and let me place high enough to know that my moment is close.  He helped me stay focused for 8 weeks and let me know that he will always be there for me.  God also created great foods like pizza and chocolate that I now can enjoy (-:   God is good all time and all the time God is good.

M.Y.  September 2009

It’s All in the Numbers

It’s All In The Numbers

May09-5So this past weekend was an interesting one.  Saturday was my first National fitness competition.  I was nervous about it.  I also had all of these other emotions running through my head because the weekend represented so much more.

May 23, 2009.  This day represented the 3 year anniversary of my mother’s death.  When my mother passed away in 2006, it was exactly 3 days before my 30th birthday (May 26).  If both of my parents would have been alive then, it would have also been 3 days before their 33rd wedding anniversary. (Yes, I crashed their 3rd wedding anniversary by being born a month early).

So here it is 3 years later on May 23.  This is the anniversary once again.  Now, it’s 3 days before I turn 33.  Yeah that’s a lot of threes!  If you caught up and understood all of it, you’re doing good things this morning.

While training for my competition, I continually wore a teal bracelet that says “OverCome” which represents Ovarian Cancer.  This competition was dedicated to my mother and I wanted to do well.  I didn’t know how I’d be emotionally on that day, but wanted to do my best.

The morning judging started out well – until my music skipped in the middle of my routine.  Although the crowd encouraged me to keep going and clapped at the end, I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to perform it the way it should have been.  Luckily, the judges let me perform it again at the end of the other competitors.  By the end of judging, I had no idea how I placed.

Since this was a National contest, there were many talented women there.  I was amazed at some of the routines and found some moves I will try to incorporate into my future performances.  Awards were given out that night.  I set a goal for my placing and accomplished it.  I walked away with a great National ranking and thought it was pretty interesting that my placing went right along with the same number that represented that entire weekend! pics/video here

(thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes!)

M.Y. May 2009

Mental Block?

Mental Block?

May09-4Have you ever gone through something in your life that you just can’t seem to resolve?  Maybe you’ve wanted to break up with your mate, but those words just stay on the tip of your tongue.  Maybe you’ve thought about joining a gym but the thought of seeing yourself in shorts prevents you from making the trip.  Or maybe you keep telling yourself that this drink will be the last.

Recently I experienced a mental block of a different type and it drove me crazy.  I mentioned my last competition the first week of March and how upset I was at myself for putting my hands down on my roundoff backhandspring backtuck tumbling pass.  It’s a skill I’ve been able to do since I was six so why would my first stumble be in front of an international crowd?

Well, I let the fall get to me and stay in my head.  My next competition (the big one) is this weekend and for the past several weeks I have not been able to throw that tumbling pass.  When I’d get to it in the routine, I’d tell myself that I was too tired and would just skip it.  Other times I was yelling at myself in the practice room mirror “Come on Yeager, you can do this.”  Sometimes I would dread getting out of bed at just the thought of doing it.  A skill that I’ve been able to do forever, was now a skill in which I became nervous and feared.

I went and met with my trainer a couple of weeks ago and shared with her my thoughts and struggle.  She suggested to no longer do that skill and do something similar, yet different.  I didn’t automatically agree with her.  Part of me felt as if I needed to conquer my mental block and see my way through it. If you don’t face your fears, they will always remain fears.  So, for the past two weeks I practiced the initial skill and the suggested skill.

Then it happened.  Last Thursday night I was just sitting at home watching tv.  This feeling shot through my body that said ‘go through your routine – NOW!’  So I threw on some workout clothes, grabbed my boombox, put on my performance shoes and drove to the gym.  Without stretching or anything I threw my entire routine – with the ‘feared’ skill!  It felt wonderful to throw and let me know that I still had the ability to do it.  I went on a recorded both skills in the routine and went home that night to watch them.

In the end I ended up switching to the skill suggested by my trainer because it actually looked better.  I was happy with that decision because I know I wasn’t doing it to avoid a fear, instead I was doing it to improve my routine.  This weekend I’ll be in Charleston, SC trying to improve my rankings on the National stage.  Wish me luck!

M.Y. May 2009

We All Make Mistakes

“We All Make Mistakes”

Mar09-3So, I had been preparing for an international Fitness competition.  There were competitors from over 40 countries, many of which brought their interpreters.  It’s called, The Arnold, and is named after The Terminator himself.  Although I was sidelined with a neck injury, I felt ready to compete and to start making a fitness name for myself.

I was #10 and the last competitor in the short class for fitness.  We were all back stage and there was a television so that we could see everyone else’s routine.  The first routine was last year’s overall winner, and she had an amazing routine.  However, I watched the rest of the girls and realized that my routine was pretty comparable, if not better, than theirs.

As I went on the stage, the crowd was impressed with my opening, I became excited with my routine and my facial expressions were in full swing.  And then the first thing started happening – my shorts started riding up the crack on my buttocks.  Yeah, at first I said to just leave it, but they were really up there.  So – I picked them out.  And then I picked them out again.  And then I picked them out one more time.  My butt was already bigger than the other women on stage and the last thing I wanted to do was expose its entire package to the watching audience.

I was stoked to get through the strength moves in my routine with ease and just had my last tumbling pass to complete.  I had plenty of energy and couldn’t wait to end the routine.  I did the tumbling pass – a roundoff, backhand spring, backtuck.  As my feet touched the ground for my backtuck, so did my hands.  I was SO MAD at myself.  Since I was six years old, I don’t ever remember falling on a tumbling pass.  I was disappointed with myself and although I talked to other people, I didn’t talk to myself for the entire night.

Although I wanted 3rd or 4th, I ended up placing 5th in the competition.  It taught me a lot of lessons as I prepare for my next major competitions in several weeks.  Most importantly, I learned to recover and keep going when something doesn’t go as expected.  I also learned that a mistake will only make you stronger.  This competition was supposed to be preparation for the Pro Card qualifier that matters, so know I can fix the cracks (literally) and perform a stronger routine.

Mistakes happen to us all. Even sometimes in front of people.  Even sometimes in front of thousands of people.  Even sometimes in front of several websites that post unpleasant pictures of your backside.  Even sometimes on videos on sale to hundreds of people.  But, hey, it’s all good.  It should just give you the drive to try again and this time come back with a better package!

M.Y. March 2009

I Heart My Neuro

I Heart My Neuro!

(below photo is my MRI)

I am messed up!  A normal person’s neck curves to the back, mine curves to the front.  This has given me unlimited visits to the chiropractor.  Although sometimes uncomfortable, it’s always been manageable – until recently.
On January 26, the day before the Ice Storm, my neck became sore.  I had spent the entire weekend moving furniture, painting and organizing.  I thought nothing of it and knew my chiro would fix it as soon as I could shovel my driveway and make it to his office.  After two visits, I was still in some pain.  No problem, I thought to myself, I’ll just go to the physical therapist and she will make it better.  After a week with her it was still not getting better.  Let me describe the pain – when I wake up each morning and am lying on my back, I try to sit up, but can’t.  Everything moves (my arms, my legs) but not my neck.   I must roll over onto my shoulder, then slowly turn my neck to that side to push myself up.  Yeah, that type of pain!  I continued to work out during these two weeks because I have a major fitness competition on March 5.
After returning from Boston, I decided to go to the gym and throw my entire routine with all of my skills.  Although I felt some pain, I was still able to get through it.  But that night, my neck completely cramped up.  I cried because it was so uncomfortable.  It hurt to do anything.  In my words, “life hurt”.  My friends all suggested I go to the Emergency Room.  After some resistance, I went around midnight and it was completely a wasted visit.  My doctor gave me some type of shot in both arms and my buttock for pain, but I guess the medicine never reached my neck.  I woke up around 3am to use the bathroom.  I was unable to walk and felt completely nauseated.  I tried to crawl back to the bed, but couldn’t.  So, I just stayed in the crawl position with my face resting on the floor and cried some more in pain.  Without lifting my neck more than 5 inches from the ground, I crawled the rest of the way back into bed and prayed to God to be released of this agony.
That morning (Monday), the physical therapist sent me to my regular doc and he suggested I get an MRI.  They fit me in that night.  At first the MRI women didn’t want to give me an MRI because they thought I was in too much pain and wouldn’t be able to make it through.  I told them I was fine once I was in one position, I just needed help with the transition.
On Friday (2/13), I was called with the MRI results.  I was told that I have a central disk protrusion in the C-3/C-4 area, moderate canal narrowing and central chord flattening.  My doctor said I was being referred to a Neurosurgeon.  A what?  Isn’t that a brain doctor?  Isn’t that what McDreamy does on Grey’s Anatomy?  Yeah, that’s a little serious!  The major thing about all of this is that I am supposed to compete in a couple of weeks and didn’t know what I should do.
That weekend (Valentine’s  Day) I went to the gym for the first time in over a week.  On Sunday, my neck was stiff again so I decided not to compete in the division where I have to perform a routine.  I emailed my trainer to tell her.  She was supportive.  Monday morning I called the promoters to see if I could switch divisions.  He said yes.  I told him I’d let him know for sure after I saw my doctor on Wednesday.
Monday (2/16) I also visited my physical therapist.  She worked wonders because my neck felt better.  I went home and threw my routine in my living room.  I knew I wouldn’t do it at the competition, but it felt good to at least be able to do it.  I emailed my trainer Julie to tell her it felt good and that I’d mail in my application for the other division in the morning.  She emailed back on Tuesday morning and said that I should consider still doing fitness.  What?  I’m going to see a Neuro the next day and you want me to do fitness?  This is crazy, I thought.  So, I decided to once again hold off on my decision and leave it all in the hands of my Neuro.
Wednesday (2/18) was the visit to the Neuro.  He looked at my MRI and pretty much said I will be messed up for life.  My reverse curve means that forward movements could bring me pain.  The bulging disk means that backwards movements could cause pain. However, because it is only intense pain at most once a year and physical therapy improves it, he told me to enjoy life.  Then I asked him the million dollar question – “See, I have this competition in just two weeks where I will be flipping on stage.  I open with three standing back tucks, can I still enter?”  And Mr. Neuro, my neuro said “Go For It”.  I heart my Neuro!  I heart my Neuro!  I heart my Neuro!
I floated out of the office with so much excitement!  I am now focused. I am only two weeks away from my biggest competition thus far.  It’s called The Arnold and it is an international competition where Arnold Schwarzenegger gives awards to the winners.  The women in my division are from places like Canada, Belgium, France, Russia – and Louisville, KY.  Although behind in my training, I know that I was meant to compete here. I know I was meant to represent the minority women of the world!
Here I am a week out from the show with the ability to lift, tumble and dance.  Less than two weeks ago I was stranded on the bathroom floor.  If I hadn’t received the email from Julie I would have switched divisions.  Her email made me stall.  And, although my Neurosurgeon delivered the wonderful news, I know there was someone much higher up that gave me the blessing.  God is so good, so good, SO GOOD!

M.Y. February 2009