My Dream Team Journey to Stage (Part 1)
Blog written by Doreen Nicolaou
An insight into a Team Tabban figure athlete’s competition preparation and journey to stage.
Tabban are excited to have the opportunity to share this very special Blog with you all.
One of much loved Personal Trainers whom also just happens to be a star Team Tabban athlete; Doreen Nicolaou has such a positive impact on the lives of those lucky enough to have trained with her.
Doreen exudes such a love for all things health and fitness and all that know her are well aware that she “walks the talk” practicing everything that she preaches. These values also extend into her hobby of Bodybuilding and competing as a Figure Athlete. Doreen not only personal trains and helps to coach her clients through their competition preparation, but she too is a competitor, living and breathing the same kind of journey as her clients!
Doreen is very passionate about motivating people, helping them to realise their true potential and achieve their goals. With an aim to inspire, mentor and encourage as many people as she can Doreen’s mission this competition season is to show the world that age is now barrier! At 50 years of age (I know! You wouldn’t think it huh! Doesn’t she look amazing?!), Doreen is dusting off her high-heels and sparking figure suit in preparation for Season B of the 2016 bodybuilding competition circuit.
Doreen has kindly offered to blog about her own road to comp, sharing her competition preparation journey with us all as one of our very own Tabban dream team athletes.
Sunday 3rd of July 2016
My goal to compete begins again. This journey has a different motivation and drive for me than my past seasons to compete.
My first competition in 2004 was to step into another world that was so different from my gym life. I had watched many competitions and wondered if my training could lead me to the big stage in a tiny bikini. Surprisingly I got to competition day after all my hard training, extreme eating plan that my trainer at the time gave me and determination not to fall off the wagon. Like a little lost sheep I found myself backstage with a lot of athletes that competed season after season and was shocked to see that I looked like them… I did it without all the resources and knowledge that these athletes had. I was extremely nervous and shook throughout my posing as the adrenaline raced through my body. I felt like an instant winner even thou I only placed 4th with everyone else that didn’t place in the top three. I was a winner in my own mind.
My 2nd season in 2008 was not planned. I went to Tabban Gym to help my sister-in-law Anita Nicolaou with her posing routine. It was then that Michael Tabban recognised me from the 2004 stage and asked me to join his 2008 team. This was an opportunity I couldn’t resist! I had attended many competitions and knew that Michael Tabban’s athletes were trained by the best! They had sculptured bodies, team support and stage confidence which was what I lacked. That season I listened, learn’t, practiced, flexed over and over again. I embraced all his knowledge and went from 4th as a novice to 3rd place for body building at the WNBF/INBF World Titles in New York.
My 3rd season was inspired by my loyalty and gratefulness to Michael Tabban. As I left in 2008 I told him I would one day return and that I did. I returned in 2014 and had the best year of competition preparation so far. I was in a team of inspiring woman who are still a part of my life today. The journey was still testing but I found that my diet was shorter and my posing improved quickly. Our team only competed in Victoria where I placed 3rd in the Master’s Inba Victorian Championships and I placed 2nd twice at the ANB Victorian Championships. I was last left on the team and Michael entered me into the WFF World Championships in Queensland. I didn’t place but I walked off that stage feeling that I had finally conquered the art of competing. It was a priceless, feeling fulfilled as you can see my photo above. A picture says a thousand words! At that moment Michael Tabban asked me to work with him, offering to share his knowledge through mentoring me. That was the day my new career had begun.
Now it’s almost two years later and I have embraced all Michael’s knowledge thus far. I now train my established clientele, mentor and teach posing to athletes in preparation for the stage. I have also began my new position of staff manager.
You would think that would be enough for me…
Well as my husband says it’s never enough! This is also what my boss, trainer and friend Michael Tabban has realised in a short period of time. So I suggested let’s start the Tabban Dream Team to find motivated athletes to take to the USA to compete. Michael granted my wish and to be a coach of the travelling team. My dream of a Tabban Dream Team had become a reality as we now have 14 athletes that started competition preparation in June.
Well all the thoughts in my head and drive that I have never end… meaning I had a 2nd wish also!
I believe feeling rich is not with materialistic items or money but with setting goals, striving to push yourself to your limits, motivating others and creating great memories. This year I turned 50 years old and the big voice in my head wanted to not only inspire other women that may think age is a barrier, but also younger up-and-coming athletes and members at Tabban Muscle and Body Shape. Our staff have many years of competition experience among them and what better way to inspire the Dream Team then to feel the way they are alongside of them. My 2nd wish was also granted.
I will share this experience with our Tabban Dream Team. Train hard, prepare for comp, diet, fund raise for the team while still training, mentoring and teaching them how to pose!
Brilliant if I say so myself! So follow my blog to see how I go.
Tuesday 5th of July
Here I go once again and it all begins with my eating plan. For all that know me I already eat fresh, healthy food so what needs to change for me? My trainer Michael began with my eating plan for comp with a set plan of balanced protein, carbohydrates and fats. Once this plan is set and emailed to me I instantly know I can only eat what is on this eating plan. I need to slowly reduce my weight and if I stray from this plan it is very difficult for him to structure the rate of my weight loss. I am actually eating more than I was before but I have cut out all the little treats that I would nibble on during the day and after dinner. Things like handfuls of nuts, a few tablespoons of ice cream and protein bars. I also stopped eating out, everything that I eat from now until end of competition season is homemade by me and me only. Within 10 days of following this plan I have already lost over kilo. I was surprised to see this weight loss in such a short period of time as I feel very content with my food so far. I believe I have always been accountable for what I eat but with such small changes have made a difference already.
The only difficult thing about this change and what I find testing is waking up every morning reminding myself I can only eat what is on my eating plan. It’s so easy to grab a handful of almonds, walnuts and sultanas three times a day as I have jars of these on my kitchen bench. This is when my mind-set begins to change and I remind myself competition, stage, train hard, bikini on stage, flex, flex and flex. Usually I would not think twice and grab a handful of nuts so why not just get rid of them? I live with my husband and two adult sons so getting rid of them is not an option as I don’t believe in restricting others for the decision I have made. I choose to sacrifice the little pleasures in my life for my sport and as it is my choice to compete I never have let it affect any body around me. Plus the fact that I would need a tip truck to get rid of all the chips, chocolates, lollies and ice cream in my house . I actually go into cooking mode when I compete . Last night I made banana cake, sausage rolls, pasta sauce for my family’s pasta tonight. I don’t make a big deal about my eating plan at the moment unless we get invited out to eat or if someone tries to eat my prepared comp meals that I have made for the week. Funny how everybody wants to eat my prepared meals only when I’m competing but don’t notice my take away packs the rest of the year!
Friday 8th of July
My meals are much the same as before my competition eating plan. No complaints with what I am eating but as I said its self-control. As I am writing this my husband who sometimes forgets that I am eating to plan just got up to go to the kitchen and asks me “Would you like something to eat?” I reply “No thank you I am fine” Then he returns with a strawberry gaytime icecream.. This is when the power of my will power kicks in. Would I like a strawberry gaytime ? Hell yeah! Would I consider breaking my plan set out by my trainer? Hell NO!! not even an option for me.
Wednesday night was our 4th pose class for the season. Mike and I had instructed the past three classes teaching the athletes the poses required by the judges. The first two sessions we focused on the five compulsory poses and last week we introduced the symmetry round poses. Half of the athletes have competed before and the other half will be entering their first competition either this season or next season. Even if it is your first competition season or you have already had stage experience these pose classes are tough! And so is Mike..
Four weeks down and athletes have a good knowledge of all the poses required. All feeling good and excited for another night of practise in walks Areti Anagnostellis, four times WFF overall Miss universe enters the class to see the progress of our team. Well we all know she knows her stuff and the whole room went silent. It was like when you were at school and the principal entered your class room. Then what we expected happened, she smashed us!
Posing is the hardest workout I have ever experienced in a lifetime of exercising. Holding those poses really hurts and adding a pleasant smile is the most testing smile you could ever have on your face. This is my 3rd season of Tabban posing classes and they don’t get easier. I love pose class more than ever now not only improving my own poses but helping my team mates improve on theirs. Having had competed I share the mistakes I have made on stage to help the athletes improve on poses and always add comforting feedback to help them along. One of the ladies told me at the end of the class that she had a hard week and those comforting words helped her throughout the class. It is the first time at Tabban Gym has had an instructor out front posing in a bikini along with the team.
This pose class covers everything you need to know before you step on a stage and I have just added a little bit of
“I feel your pain” 🙂
Monday 11th of July
Food, food, and food everywhere I go! I always thought the lift at Costco was huge until it was full yesterday and the people squished up next to me were eating waffle cone vanilla ice-cream with hot melted chocolate all over it. I could hear lick, mmm, yum. Really take your ice-cream elsewhere please! Most people would say that I have resisted indulging for most my life so this would not affect me, but when your choices of food are limited and you can feel the fat falling off your body a lick is tempting.
I have always been the only person in control of what I ate until I met Michael Tabban. There was not a person that could tempt me with food or pressure me to eat something I didn’t want to eat. Before I met Michael I hadn’t eaten chicken for 24 years as I had a bird phobia. In 2008 Michael suggested I needed to add chicken to my diet to succeed in this sport. It was hard but I did as he suggested. Ever since then Michael will say eat and I respond with “HOW MUCH!” I have never ever strayed from the nutrition plan my trainer suggests for me.
I find the weekends are more testing as I am not busy with work and my training routine. I find when my body is resting I feel more changes and have too much time to think about making my food last for the day. When I first received my nutrition it was plenty of food but as time passes I could eat a little more. Most people think I would not usually eat much but that is not true. I eat heaps, I never eat until I am full but I am never let myself feel hungry.
I don’t like to use the” M “word as an excuse but this is my first competition since I have reached menopause and the big 50. I wanted to see what difference menopause would make to my body physically as I have always continued to walk, train and eat the same as I have for years. The change I noticed was a band of body fat from around my lower back, hips and stomach. I have accepted things may change but I continue to strive to keep myself in shape.
This season my starting body weight was higher than 2014. This competition eating plan has allowed me to reach my starting weight from my last season in a couple of weeks. The plan is to keep my weight stable for now as I am 8 weeks out of my first competition.
At this weight last season I felt I was carrying excess body fat but now I feel much leaner. I woke up during the night and I felt like my body was in a vacuum bag. Do you know the ones they sell on television in the middle of the night on Danoz Direct? It is crazy to actually feel your body changing rather than on the scales on weigh in day. I have a bad habit of looking forward to weigh in day to see the numbers drop but I’ve come to realise that the visible changes and drop in dress size is all that matters at this stage. Who knows every season has been different for me so I look forward to see what happens this week..
Friday 15th of July
From day one at Tabban I found the training to be extremely hard. ! I was officially the weakest member of the 2008 team as the other ladies were way stronger than any other woman I had ever met.
I thought my previous training plan was difficult but I always managed to talk to my training partner during repetitions. The first time I ever trained with Michael was a leg day and after I could not tie my shoe laces for 10 days and considered buying new runners with Velcro tape. My talking has ceased and replaced with short spurts of screams as I can hardly breathe. The Shape Program never gets easier, just when you feel you have progressed smash, bang it’s hard all over again!
Last year I had two setbacks with my training and lost all the strength I gained since coming to Tabban Gym. In May I was run over by a speeding car fracturing two ribs and then in October I was diagnosed with carpal tunnel. I can’t remember ever having to stop training since I entered my first gym as a teenager. With Michael’s guidance I finally have been able to regain the strength I had before the crazy man ran me over. With this unexpected chance to compete again my mind is focused on the challenges ahead I have blocked out my year of injuries.
Last week’s training stepped up another notch with an added intense pose class I found muscles I never knew I had. I felt like I was put through my washing machine on spin dry! At the end of every set I still can’t help but say “Thank you” to Mike as there is no way I could make myself ever train that hard.
Here they are! My evil temptation on my kitchen bench with a plate I bought from New York after the World Titles in 2008. You may say I could still be eating some almonds as they are good fats but for me they are a no go zone. My eating plan was altered this week and I consumed more fats than the previous weeks but nuts for me are like chocolate for most others. Once I start eating nuts and seeds I can’t stop so I just like to look at them and remind myself of one of the sacrifices I am making to achieve my goal.
Once a week we are viewed by our trainers to see our progress. This is when we individually tweak our posing, have an updated view on our progress and weigh in. With added fats this week I didn’t know what to expect at my weigh in and viewing. I knew watching the people eating ice cream at Costco I was feeling leaner by the minute but I still never know how I have progressed until Mike gives me the nod of confidence. After a discussion on my posing , a big jump on the scales and a blink of an eye I got the thumbs up! 2.6 kg down and on target for September and my eating plan stays the same. Hooray, but I expect things will change and it will get harder.
Every athlete in any sport can only become the best they can with a strong mind, discipline and perseverance. If it was easy they would not appreciate winning the race. I always say to our athlete’s that if you stand on a stage and know you have not cut corners and you have pushed yourself to your limits you will stand with pride and it will show on the day.
Unfortunately we don’t live in a world where everyone has goals and strive to be the best they can be. I’m not just talking about bodybuilding it can be in any sport, at school or a chosen career. I have always challenged myself in life which has led people to ask why do I bother. This is the first time ever since 2004 that I haven’t been asked why I am competing. Finally I have surrounded myself with like-minded people and I have left negativity behind me. I’m sure upcoming athletes are not as fortunate as with this process they will find people questioning their motives and tempt them to break their diets. My advice is to stand strong, ignore negativity and look at the big picture.
Wednesday 20th of July
As I said my training with Michael always gets harder! I probably deserve this as I sometimes begin a session with the words “SMASH ME” and that he does.I can’t imagine what other surprises Michael has planned for me. He pushes me to my limit and I always want more. When I’m training I take my trainer hat off and become his client. I can only describe my last session of this week as feeling like I was plucked like a chicken and then breaking apart the wish bone. Well they were the words I used during training but I must say it was intense, pushing me well out of my comfort zone.
I met Kaye when I began working at Tabban and this very intelligent lady fell for my sweetness when I convinced her to compete in 2015. She embraced this challenge and competed in the Tabban Team for two seasons. She almost hung up her bikinis until we found out a few weeks ago that I would be an athlete in The Dream Team. This time she needed no convincing and joined the team! Now together we train and persevere to take this season as far as we can go. Even thou we come from two different worlds we have bonded as we both have embraced the opportunity to show women that only dream of changing their lives that age is no barrier. It is never too late to achieve what your heart desires.
Our Team of women and men all live busy lives but have made time to fit in all that is required to achieve in this sport. Sometimes we are overwhelmed with the feeling of overload but the word ” Team” describes the support we have for each other, “Dream” describes what most think to be impossible but dreams can come true and everything is possible 🙂
As soon as my training is over I am back to work training my clients. One of my clients who I trained during my 2014 season warned all my existing clients that when I compete their training would get harder. I giggled as when I heard this as I knew there was a hint of truth in that statement. Then I noticed that everything I now do needs to be my best as I am very focused on my commitment to reach my goals. A lovely client Jade came up with a motto for the change in me. THE LEANER I GET THE MEANER I GET!
When there is a driving force pushing me forward everything gets better. Even my husband words ring in my head “When you train for comp you are happier, driven and more focused with everything in your life” How can I not be when my family, household, work, family business and elderly father are a big part of my life and wanting to commit to this challenge I have to stay switched on to succeed.
Most importantly this all makes me happy and when you are happy it shows!
I do have a “Live and let live attitude” I don’t enforce this way of life for everyone. When people come to me for advice, guidance and mentoring I give them 100% of my knowledge. In saying this all of the knowledge that I share is what I have learnt from experience or what I have learnt from my mentor Michael Tabban. With many, many years of walking the walk I’m now thriving helping clients rehabilitate injuries, beat the battle with their own diet challenges and training them to suit their individual needs. I only preach diet, exercise, goal setting and change when I am asked for this advice. I cook cakes, pastries and desserts on weekends. My kitchen cupboards do have snacks that I would never eat. I can advice but never preach. You may say but you are a personal trainer and I would reply everybody has choices. I can surround myself with treats that I would not indulge in as they are everywhere I go but it is a matter of choice. Goals or sugar?? I choose my goals 🙂
Friday 22nd of July
Just as I was cruising along my competition journey focused, in control and on track my husband calls to tell me we are invited out to dinner. My world shakes in that moment and my first response was “NO” The questions that raced through my head at that moment were Where? With who? Buffet? Banquet? Chinese? Do I eat before I go? Do I not go? Blah Blah Blah..
My answer to where was a restaurant with a menu so then I googled and there was hope. I replied yes to the invitation and planned on finding a wonderful waiter that would listen to me carefully as I ordered my meal. The people at our dinner table didn’t know that I was preparing for a competition and may have not understood that I needed to eat a meal that was on my eating plan. As the waiter came to our table to take our order it was like a slow motion walk towards me. I smiled, flicked my hair, picked up the menu and placed it over my face so no one could hear my special instructions. Really it was a simple order but how chef’s like to hide mayonnaise in a salad dressing and throw some yucky sauce all over a beautiful piece of protein. The waiter leaned over and had no choice but to listen to me. I suppose it was because I started my order with “ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME!”
When my kids were younger they would say “Oh no, here comes the waiter” Over the years I backed off a little as I never wanted to create a scene but when competing there is no way I could allow a chef to take control of my meal.
Watching dessert arrive wasn’t too hard either as my belly was content and was happy to just watch from afar.
Wednesday 28th of July
10 most common things that happen to me during competition preparation that I can’t explain!
- Cutlery is no longer a necessity
- Eating from a plate is a luxury
- Eating straight out of a pot or pan is second nature
- My food containers are my most prized possessions
- The three-second rule to salvage my food when I drop some on the ground has become a three-minute rule.
- My new fashion store is the kids department at target
- Using a change room when trying on clothes whilst shopping is an after thought
- Moments of road rage when I’m not driving
- Looking for things I’ve missed placed consumes most of my day
- Invitations to functions rock my world
Tabban Dream Team has 5 weeks before our first steps onto the stage. Our Wednesday night pose classes are the highlight of our week. It is not only a time when we gather together to practice our stage presentation with our trainers mentoring us as a group but to also bond with a team of athletes that understand each other’s feelings and mixed emotions. Happy, nervous, confused and excited to mention a few of our emotions. My favourite emotion that is shared by of all us is the made up word by my fellow team member Alysha is “HANGRY”. Hangry is an emotion you experience when you feeling hungry but angry because you have just finished a meal.Tonight Michael and Areti ended our hour of hard posing practice with an inspiring talk to motivate and remind us of our goals. We are a group of like-minded, goal orientated people but we all are being tested by this challenge. To hear a team-mate say “This is really tough” made me aware that this is a huge commitment that most people would not ever dream of trying to accomplish. This team member and friend of mine plays competition grit iron. Her comment made all my passing negative thoughts okay. It was okay to struggle, question and feel challenged as this is tough!
Having competed before you would think that the 4th time would be easier. Is giving birth or bungy jumping the 4th time easier? I can’t imagine it to be as you fear the pain and question why am I doing this again when I know the pain and challenges I will be faced with. I have a friend that reminds me that I said I would never do this again. Obviously the highs are worth the lows because I seem to forget and come back for more.
The biggest mind challenge I am facing at the moment the expectation that my eating plan will need to change sooner or later. I have fine-tuned my eating plan as it is. I have perfected the preparation and cooking of my meals, creating flavours with the ingredients that are available to me. I also have timed when and what to eat to keep me satisfied for the day. Staying up later or waking up earlier than planned can throw out the timing of my meals. The thought of my plan changing is on my mind every day. I am mentally preparing myself to keep focused. Week after week I sit at Michael’s desk waiting for an adjustment after my weigh in and viewing. I can only explain it like having to take a band-aid off an open wound. You know you have to take the band-aid off but you fear the pain it will first cause you.
Five weeks to go and I have stabilised my goal body weight for now. With a loss of 3kg I am leaner and my little muscles are fuller than they have ever been at this weight. I tend to get too skinny very quickly but Michael has waved his magic wand, magic has happened and he is very happy with my progress to date. Relief that I have another week to gain the faith that an adjusted eating plan will only make my body leaner and my mind stronger!
Sunday 31st of July
I am feeling very focused to begin another week of hard training. Last week my trainer Michael was away sick so Areti was my trainer for the week. If you don’t know Areti she looks like a sweet young lady that wouldn’t hurt a fly.
Not so, this four time winner of the WFF Universe title stepped up and successfully filled Michael’s shoes while he was away. With one simple instruction from Michael she knew exactly where Kaye and I were at with our training. Areti mentioned during training that she wasn’t sure how strong we were so then stacked on huge weights and we had no choice but to lift them.
Kaye described the week as exhausting. I think they were lovely words to describe being smashed to pieces. Thank you Areti for training us last week and I am giving Michael loads of vitamin C to keep him well and at work.
I would like to thank Cotton On Body for making the Dream Team top that I am wearing in this photo. No, Cotton on Body didn’t make them specifically for the Tabban Dream Team but how appropriate. And yes Cotton On Body sells sleep and under wear so I wear pyjamas to work…