Mindy Irish - Bikini Competitor

Mindy: I had four kiddos in six years and started my weight loss journey at 225 pounds after the birth of my last child in October 2009. I took three years to lose all my weight and in 2012 got interested in weightlifting. Around about that time I was noticing more competitors’ photos on social media, so it piqued my interest. The best way to know if I could train to compete was to actually go check out the process. So I went to a few local NPC Bodybuilding shows in Indiana with my then personal trainer and loved what I saw. I could actually see myself up there on stage and decided to go for it!

Because I had not been weight training long, I really didn’t have a ton of muscle on my frame then, but wanted to go for it anyways, more like a "bucket list" item at the time. I did my own diet and my personal trainer guided my training with her knowledge and experience in the sport. I originally started in the Figure division and entered my first show at the age of 38 in April 2013. I ended up doing three shows that competition season and at that time I was hooked!

I competed in Figure in 2013 and 2014 and was in contest prep again for 2015, after consistent building seasons for each of those years. About 10 weeks out from my set August/September 2015 shows, I got really disappointed and almost threw in the towel. My body was responding well to prep, but I felt my physique was not big enough to be competitive in Figure, so instead of quitting, I started paying more attention to the NPC Bikini division. In June 2015 I switched to Bikini and ended up competing in three shows, equaling a total of eight categories for the 2015 season. I'm SO glad I made the switch and feel at this point Bikini is a better fit for my physique and training goals.

Contest Prep

When I come out of contest prep, my Coach will slowly reverse diet me off of my current macros at the time of the show. We slowly add food in overtime aiming to increase my metabolism back up to a safe and healthy range, all while aiming to keep fat gain to a minimum. I follow a flexible diet lifestyle tracking daily macros, so I keep my food choices varied and don't follow a set meal plan. However, I have Hashimoto's Thyroid Disease so I can't tolerate a lot of processed foods and feel and look the way I want to. Therefore I tend to keep my diet in a 90/10 set-up year round. In contest prep my food choices are a little more simple and bland than my building season, but not by too much.

I no longer eat fast foods, so 90% of the time I chose whole foods with one-ingredient food items like lean meats such as beef and turkey for my protein, oats, vegetables, and Ezekiel bread for my carbohydrates, and butter, nuts, coconut oil and nut butters for my healthy fats. In the balance, I enjoy "fun foods" 10% of the time like ice cream, pizza, and treats my kids bake, but overall keep dairy, sugars, and alcohol to a bare minimum in my daily food choices. My sensitive system simply cannot tolerate it, which is actually conducive to a bodybuilding lifestyle. For me, I have found my body weight and leanness can stay pretty low when I keep a watch on fiber goals at 25-35 grams a day and maximize my daily sugars to 20 grams from all food sources, including dairy and fruits. I'm very sensitive to sugar, so a low-sugar lifestyle is most ideal for optimal physique results and energy levels for me.

Mindy Irish

In order to build muscle I need to be out of a caloric deficit and eat a variety of one-ingredient, fiber-rich foods. In my past building seasons, I put on a lot of weight (15 to 25 pounds above stage weight), but no matter how high I got on the scale in the off season, I hit the exact same weight on stage at 128 in each of my three contest seasons. So from this 2015-16 improvement season and on, I'm staying much leaner and closer to five to seven pounds above my stage weight in the improvement season. My macros have increased from my prep season and I'm making gains to my physique, but I've learned that mentally and physically I no longer want to live the yo-yo diet lifestyle and desire to keep a year-round fit look closer to my stage conditioning. Therefore, my diet stays pretty tight in the 90/10 structure I explained above.

I started this journey doing Weight Watchers and still encourage that to anyone looking to get a start on the revamp of their lifestyle. I tried Paleo for a time, but really didn't like the rigidity and rules of the program. At one point I also tried "Body for Life" and got my system to respond, but their weekly six days on and one "cheat day" sent my system into a downward spiral. In my early days of weight training, I followed "Fighter Diet" and used her 24-week contest prep program for my first show in 2013, eating a large volume of vegetables and protein with periodic grain refeeds when my body needed it. I do believe Pauline Nordin's plans really gave my body a good reset after years of eating highly processed foods, but at this point in my training I can no longer digest the high volume of vegetables in her plans. Now that I'm further into this lifestyle, I landed on the flexible diet system. I can enjoy the freedom of a food budget, allowing me to use the My Fitness Pal app to track macros daily and eat in variety as a part of real life with friends and family. This lifestyle is the best fit for me year round.

At 5:30AM, I weight train at a local gym for 90 minutes five days a week and do three 30-minute cardio sessions weekly, either steady state or intervals. I have a midweek non-lifting day and one full recovery day on Sundays. The fun part is my oldest child also weight trains with me three days a week, so I’ve spread the lifting love to my children and we enjoy the training learning and teaching times together!

Since I've switched to the Bikini division, my goals are now to maintain my current muscle quantity and add some size to my posterior chain. Having started in Figure, I seem to carry more muscle than the typical Bikini gal and tend to be on the bigger side of the division. That said, my training now is to fine tune details in my back, shoulders, and legs, and add some size to my glutes. There’s always room for more glutes!

I LOVE training glutes and train those five days a week. I periodize my training every two weeks and vary it between three leg days and two upper body days, and then two leg days and three upper body days in my two-week splits. I no longer train abs and in general focus on compound movements like dead lifts, squats, lunges, hip thrusts, and hip hinge movements for the greatest impact on my body. On all days I add glute-band exercises as supersets to my upper and lower body work. Once I consistently added this volume of glute training to my regimen, my physique took on a whole new look! (Thanks for the tips, Bret Contreras, the Glute Guy!)

When it comes to nutrient timing, I typically tend to carb backload in my day. I start each day with the Charles Poliquin "meat and nut" breakfast focusing only on proteins and fats first thing. I then introduce carbs in post-workout and tend to put about 30% of my day's carbs right after my training. I drink a gallon of water, 30-40 ounces of black coffee with stevia, and eat a total of four to six meals in a day, but not on any certain meal timing. I just eat when I'm hungry! I also do one day of IF, intermittent fasting, on Sundays and fast on fats only first thing in the morning and enter carbs in from roughly lunch time and on on those days. These strategies are great for my system and keeping my body fat low.

A video posted by ••• MINDY IRISH ••• (@fitgalmindy) on

On Stage

When I lost all my post-baby weight by 2012 I knew there was something more I could get my body to do. As a spectator at those bodybuilding shows in 2012, I saw myself up there. I knew if I could go through delivering four babies and then get my body back, I could do anything! It was me vs. me at that point and I first off had to believe in myself and become my own #1 fan. I saw visions of myself evolving to a new person inside and out and believe this lifestyle to be part of my destiny. The more time I spent training and competing, the more comfortable I got. This grew my confidence to be up on stage, alongside my love for the sport. It's truly me just being me and I feel right at home!

At this point since my start in 2013, I have competed for three seasons in a total of eight shows and have been out on stage 17 times in a variety of crossover categories (Open, Masters and Novice). I have placed anywhere from last place (7th out of 7) to second place (2nd of 16). I have competed locally in Indiana, in Ohio, and twice at the National level at the North Americans in Pittsburgh, both in Figure and Bikini. Competing at the National level is by far my favorite setting. I'm so inspired by this caliber of athlete and want to surround myself with like-minded people who love to train with intensity and focus like I do.

On both of my trips to the National stage thus far, the shows were seamless, long, but seamless! Gary Udit and his crew run a fabulous show and have the system down to a science. The check-in process is quick and easy, but scheduled a few days before I actually compete. My family and I make a road trip out of it and really enjoy being away for a show for a few days! Due to the volume of competitors at this show (1000+), the days are long, but it's worth it. I get to meet phenomenal people who have the same drive and interest in the sport that I do and the talent pool just inspires me to keep pressing on each and every day. I say that once you have a few local shows under your belt and have done well there, get the urge to get outside your comfort zone and try the National stage. We all start somewhere and I have high hopes for where it will lead me someday. Play up!

I had an ah-ha moment while sitting in the audience of a recent bodybuilding show. When I first started in 2013, I used to say, "I train to compete....." As I watched from the crowd this time, I saw the competitors march out on stage, do their turns, and 90 seconds later leave the stage. I knew all the hours of work, discipline, money, AND mental energy they had given that moment, sometimes years of their life just for that brief step on stage. It was then that I realized I no longer wanted to put that much importance and the results of that day on such a fleeting moment. Life in general was more meaningful to me than just 90 seconds on stage. So I switched my mindset to "Train for Life" and I'm even more engaged in the process. It's so much more than just a show date on the calendar for me, it's about making the most of my other 364 days of life and incorporating that one or two days of competing in a year as part of the bigger life process.

That said, I do have my NPC Bikini competition goals set for Gary Udit's Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh for 2016. I like to compete at least three times in a season, so I'll hit that show and likely a local Indiana, Kentucky or Ohio show before and after that July date. I'm also keeping my options open for the 2016 North Americans as well. I will be honest and say that I would love to get my IFBB Pro Card, but since I'm training for life now, that could happen in 2016.....or ten years down the road, or may not even be in my calling. Who knows! Until then, my goals are to get a top 10 placing at these shows and enjoy the moment.

Overall, I'm loving the process and embrace the person I've become, inside and out. Chase the process......train for life! #justkeepgoing

Website: mindyirish.com; coaching and fitness
Instagram: @fitgalmindy
Facebook: FB/mindyirish (personal page) and FB/fitgalclub (fitness page)
Email: mindy@mindyirish.com

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Mindy Irish

Mindy Irish