Back to Fitness - A Life-Changing Decision
No Nonsense Magazine Vol 23, #4
By: Donna Baran - Photos by D-Ray Photography and Luis X
At a Glance: Donna Baran
Occupation: Owner/President – Baran Property Management (BPM)
Family: Husband of 18 years, 17-year-old Daughter, and 12-year-old Son.
Current Residence: Trinity, FL
Years training (total): 6 years
Weight: Off-Season: 140-145 lbs, Contest: 125 -130 lbs
Favorite Fitness Meal: My go to is usually either lean ground turkey & baked sweet potato chips or oven baked chicken breast and red potatoes.
Favorite supplements: Quality supplements are an important part of my fitness lifestyle. Depending on where I am in contest prep some products can vary. But a few of my staple products are: Muscle Provider - a clean whey isolate/hydrolysate for pre and /or post workout. Always a comprehensive multi-vitamin, Super Pak, to ensure I am getting in all my basics. Glutamine Select is a must in our house for recovery. The last few years digestion has become tougher for me so a digestive enzyme is extremely important. Multiple Enzyme Complex is one that is in my arsenal. I’m not a huge fish eater so a high quality multi Omega complex supplement, EFA Gold, is essential. Finally, ZMA 2000 is on this list as I struggle with solid sleep.
What would you recommend to someone who has never used Beverly supplements before? This all depends on your goals but you cannot go wrong with a clean protein (UMP or Muscle Provider) and a quality multi vitamin (Super Pak or Fit Tabs). And, if you’re like me and your mind goes 100mph then ZMA 2000 is key here. Great suggestions can be found on BI’s website (BeverlyInternational.com).
Music: Depends on my mood. Generally, if I am solo at the gym my music has to be hard. Either hip hop or metal. When I’m driving or working, I usually listen to podcasts or smoother music.
Most Inspiring Book: I had shifted much of my personal development to being absorbed through podcasts. But my most recent book that has tons of great content and I highly recommend for anyone looking to become a better “you”. Best Self: Be you, Only Better by Mike Bayer.
Hobby or interests outside bodybuilding: Bodybuilding is a huge part of my life and many aspects of my life benefit from it. But from day one and always my family is my number one priority and enjoy every moment we share together. Next is building my business, (BPM). Also, promoting our first Women’s Day Tampa event this year was lifechanging for me and will now be an annual event. It was a very special journey leading up to it and was just something words cannot explain how incredible and impactful that day was. If you’re in FL, I would love for all of you to attend in 2020, we will be promoting on Facebook with dates and information very soon. Also, we are working on my new coaching program which I am so very excited about and cannot wait to share the details.
Words to live by: Balance doesn’t exist if you want to be great at something. You must give that aspect of your life 100%. It’s not easy but can be done.
I grew up a very shy person who kept to herself. But, always knew I wanted more out of life than my status quo. So many ups and downs allowed me to become the person I am today. In this article I won’t go into all of the different areas of my life but will stick to the fitness side. Fitness helped me come out of my shell and do things I never thought I could or would do.
It’s crazy that I have been around fitness since 1998 and never really applied it to myself. I was that person who would get a gym membership, go the first week and then continue paying on it for a year. I was the one who went super hard out of the gate (in a class or on the treadmill) for as long as I could and then I’d quit. I even blacked out after a class one time, walked straight into a wall and busted my nose (it still has a bump on it today). I was also the person whose daily meal plan consisted of the largest size latte loaded with sugars (even the local Dunkin Donuts’ and Starbucks’ baristas knew my name) for breakfast and didn’t eat again until dinner. I worked long hours in a demanding field and came home to my family’s dinner which was either a huge pasta meal or we’d go out to a local restaurant. I never saw myself as overweight, (by society standards) so I thought I was ok. I worked very hard at being at the top of my game in my career and family and believed that’s all that mattered. I love my family more than anything and was proud of what I was accomplishing in my career, but I couldn’t help but feel the “is this it” feeling”. Sound familiar to anyone?
I still remember the exact moment that my fitness journey started. I was getting ready for work (in early 2013), got out of the shower and looked at myself in the mirror (just as I had a million times before). But this time was different. I looked at myself good and hard and stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t believe the person I was looking at. I examined myself from my head to my ankles and was not only disappointed with what I saw, but upset and angry. How did I let myself get into this shape?
I immediately called my husband, Chris, into the room. I said, “We are joining the gym tonight and I need you to help me get in shape!” (Chris has been in the fitness industry his whole life.) He’d heard this from me before, but this time he knew something was not the same. I wanted to start right then. I remember the excitement I felt that day. I could barely focus on work. I did my best with food. I skipped my morning latte and forced down water all day. I got home, changed and said, “Let’s go.” Chris said, “Let’s eat first, please.” (I didn’t understand the importance of food yet.) I was not comfortable going to an actual gym so we joined the local YMCA and started training together. We still train together to this day and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
We were very consistent with training and our eating for many months. I was getting to know my way around the gym, learning correct form, what exercise worked which body part, etc. I was soaking it up like a sponge and it was exciting for me. One day a couple from the gym started discussing competition. Then, out of the blue, they asked me when my next show was. Chris had competed before, but I hadn’t even thought about it. About ten months later we were laying in bed and I asked Chris, “How many weeks do you think I would need if I wanted to compete?” He smiled ear to ear and replied, “In your current shape, about 16 weeks.” I said that I’d like to try it, but only if he competed too. He said, “Let’s do it!”
We picked a show and then called our friend, IFBB Pro Vinny Galanti. We told him our plans and before we even asked, he said, “You’re going to hate me for the next 16 weeks, but I’m helping you.” Our show was the 2014 NPC Tampa Classic. Chris and I trained together, suffered together, and stood on stage together. Vinny and his wife, Sheila, flew in from NJ just to be with us that weekend. I placed 2nd in the Open and 3rd in the Masters that day. Of course, I had trained to win, but my real win was achieved the second I walked on the stage. My placing was just icing on the cake.
Prepping and getting on a stage were the toughest things I ever did. I have now competed in 15 shows over the past 5 years, 3 being National shows. Having trained alongside and learned from some top athletes in the sport, I have truly engulfed myself within the fitness world and look forward to continue giving back.
Fitness is a huge part of my life now and I couldn’t imagine life without it. It allowed me to push harder in all aspects of life. It helped me overcome my shyness. I am truly grateful for it. Now, I’d like to give you samples of my nutrition and training plans in hopes that you too might follow them and achieve your physique goals.
My diet may change during prep, but this is a good starting point for anyone. As I get older, I’ve learned that it is essential for me to take 1-3 of Beverly’s Multiple Enzyme Complex with each meal to aid digestion. Here is my typical 5 meals per day food plan. Occasionally, I’ll add a sixth meal.
Upon waking: I consume a 16oz bottle of water containing 2 scoops green powder, juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup natural cranberry juice, 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar, 1 scoop Glutamine Select, and 1 scoop of fiber powder. With it, I take 3 EFA Gold, 2 FitTabs, magnesium, and 1 Ultra C (2000mg vitamin C).
Meal 1: 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg, 5oz strawberries, 1 cup cooked greens (spinach or kale)
Meal 2: 3oz lean ground turkey or chicken, 140g jasmine rice, 75g greens
Meal 3: Sometimes I replicate meal 2. Other days I have 3/4 cup Greek yogurt, 1 scoop Muscle Provider, 1 stevia packet, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup egg whites
Meal 4: 3oz chicken breast or 3oz grass-fed beef, 5oz sweet potatoes, 75g greens
Meal 5: Protein shake - 1/4 cup egg whites, 1 scoop Muscle Provider, 1/2 cup oats, 1/4 cup blueberries and water.
Before bed: ZMA 2000, Ultra C, multi fiber powder
I also take a thyroid support, a liver support and adrenal health formula each day.
My training generally doesn’t change much when it comes to prep other than more supersets, drop sets, or increased volume. I take less days off leading into a show but that may change next prep as I am liking the way I feel with more recovery days.
Day 4: Off, Day 7: Off
Legs (Quad Emphasis)
|4x8-12 (1 second pause at top)
|Seated Leg Press
|Bulgarian Split Squat
|Smith Machine Squat
|Wide Stance Goblet squat
|Smith Machine Stiff Leg Deadlift
Shoulders (Focus on Delts)
|Side DB Lateral Raises
|Seated DB Press
|Rear Delt Machine
|Front Plate Raises
*Last set is a triple drop set to complete failure. I don’t count the reps.
|Medium Grip Pulldown
|Chest Supported Row Machine
|Standing Cable Pullover
* Striving for perfect technique, I’ve had back issues the past year
Chest & Hamstrings
|Hammer Incline Machine
|Cable or Machine Flye
|Machine or DB Press
|Lying Leg Curl
|Super-wide Single DB Squat
|DB Stiff Leg Deadlift
|Glute Kickback Machine
|Leg Press (feet high)
Arms (All Supersets)
|Rope Pushdowns / Rope Hammer Curl
|Lying Triceps Extensions / Bicep Curls
|Seated Triceps Pushdowns / Bicep Curl Machine
If I feel I need to hit either biceps or triceps more, I will do a few more sets of one of the movements. Usually Cable Kickbacks for triceps.
|Abs & Calves: I alternate Abs and
Calves at the end of every workout.
|Hanging Leg Raises
|4 x failure
|Weighted Rope Crunches
|Standing Calf Raise
|Seated Calf Raise
My cardio varies depending on the cycle of training that I am in. Right now, I am doing it mainly to keep in heart-healthy shape. So 25 minutes, 3 times a week on either the treadmill (at 3-3.5mph speed and a 4% incline) OR since we live in FL and it’s brutally hot, we like to go outdoors at night once the sun is down and do sprint/walk intervals for 25 minutes, 3 times a week.
I am a HUGE fan of the Arc trainer during contest prep as I can really amp up the intensity and do interval training on it safely. Chris is a bit nuts so here are a few of his favorites for interval high intensity cardio. Like the Stepmill isn’t hard enough, he has me on the Stepmill with a band around my waist as he’s pulling on the back and I’m running up the stairs for intervals.
My whole first year I just couldn’t nail my rear pose. I couldn’t open my back up and I think it cost me in a few shows. I decided I would never let that happen again. From then on, I hit a few shots between sets on back and shoulder days in every workout to ensure I am opening up 100%. Practice nonstop between sets and squeeze and hold your poses after training – even for as long as 5 minutes per pose. Try hitting your poses with your eyes closed, then open them to see if you’ve hit it correctly. Make adjustments. The more you pose, the more your body will naturally go into that position. It does help a ton to have someone critique your posing in person. If there is no one in your area, try Skype.
Too many competitors fall into depression (and some go to insane lengths to achieve a certain level) just to fall into obscurity or let themselves go once they achieve it or not. My advice to anyone who is looking to compete is do it 100% for yourself. If you’re overweight and want to set a goal of stepping on stage to help you get to where you want to be, go for it! If you’re shy and think this will help you come out of your shell, then do it. But do not base how you feel inside off of how you place. Look at where you started and where you are now and be very proud. Bodybuilding is about longevity, health, building confidence, and creating discipline, so if you have gone through a prep or went through a transformation you have my highest respect and you should hold your head high.
Contact Donna at: email@example.com
Facebook and Instagram: donnabaran