My Best Conditioning Yet – Here’s How

By: Cathy Vail, IFPA Natural Pro Womens Bodybuilder
No Nonsense Magazine Volume 15 # issue 1

Cathy Vail double bicep

Weightlifting has been a part of my life for more than 20 years, but not competition. I was always afraid of the DIET. Then about five years ago a friend and I attended a local competition. A few months later, I entered my first bodybuilding competition. Since that time I’ve won several overalls and attained my natural pro card in two organizations.  My first pro competition was in the WNBF. I now compete in the IFPA organization as a natural pro.  I placed 2nd in both my pro competitions this year, the Show Me Pro and the IFPA International. This year I achieved my best conditioning ever and I’d like to outline how I did it.

Contest Diet

I began my 12 week diet at 1500 calories (about 500 below maintenance) with a macro breakdown of 40% protein / 40% carb / 20% fat (that’s about 150 grams each of protein and carbs). At 8 weeks out I reduced carbs by 25 grams (45/35/20); at 4 weeks out reduced carbs by 25 grams (50/30/20); at 2 weeks out reduced carbs 25 grams and upped protein 25 grams (~55/20/25); NO manipulation of sodium, water, or carbs during peak week – everything stayed the same as it had been.


Here are the foods I ate. I varied the amounts of protein and carbs based on my goal macros (see above).


UMP and MP shakes before and after workouts

Pre-Workout: 6 Muscle Synergy, 3 Scoops Glutamine Select (throughout workout, also)

Post-Workout: 3 Density

Quadracarn: 3 tablets 3 times daily (9 total per day) 6 weeks out from show

Upon waking: 3 Density, 2 Lean Out, 6 GH Factor (1 Energy Reserve and 3 7-Keto closer to the show)

Breakfast: multi-vitamin, 2 Lean Out, (1 Energy Reserve), magnesium, calcium, EFA Gold, Joint Care, Ultra C

Afternoon: multi-vitamin, EFA Gold, Joint Care, 3 7-Keto

Bedtime: 6 GH Factor, 6 Synergy

* All meals: 2 Lean Out and 1 Energy Reserve

*** My supplementation focused on preserving as much muscle as possible while leaning down.  And, it worked!!! In the past, I had lost about 5 pounds of lean mass along with strength during contest prep. What a great feeling I had this year! I was holding on to my muscle, getting leaner, and still getting stronger during m contest prep.


Cardio Schedule  (not a fan of cardio, so there is no favorite!)

LISS: 30-45 minutes of light intensity steady-state (easy walks or easy elliptical), 1-2 times a day, on empty stomach.

*I started with shorter sessions once a day further out from the show, then increased time and eventually added a second session as show got closer

HIIT: 20 minutes of high intensity interval training (sprints, elliptical, straddle hops on box), 2 times a week, warm-up then 15 second work intervals alternated with 45 second rest intervals.


My husband and I followed the Phase 2 Training plan from Beverly’s Contest Prep Manual (pg 39).  Day 1 was supersets of chest and back.  Day 2 was supersets of legs.  Day 3 was shoulders and supersets of biceps and triceps.  Rep ranges varied from about 7 to 12 reps, and sets varied from 3 to 5 sets.  We kept the weight as heavy as possible throughout the prep.  I gained strength during my entire leaning phase. J


Presentation Tips

Practice posing and holding each pose. Over and over and over again.  Pay special attention to your transitions, make them smooth.  Formulate a posing practice plan just like you have made a workout plan, and then follow it to the letter. Smile and have fun at the contest!


Prep Experience

This was the best and easiest preparation for a show that I’ve had to date. My husband, Corey, deserves a huge part of the credit. We tried some different approaches to diet, supplementation and training, and it really paid off.   


Bodybuilding is currently a fun hobby in my life. I make sure that it fits into my life but does not consume it. Still, I look forward to seeing what I can accomplish with my physique in the years to come.  If you have any questions you can email me at

Age: 38
Occupation and Education: BS in Elementary Education; Teacher of K, 1st and 2nd grades for 7 years; currently a Certified Personal Trainer, class instructor, and nutrition counselor at Gold’s Gym in Bloomington, IL

Family: husband, Corey; daughter, Madison (9); and Oreo (5) our cat
Current Residence: Bloomington, IL

Height: about 5’8”
Off Season Weight: 145-150; contest weight: about 134
Favorite BB Meal: morning oatmeal with vanilla Muscle Provider or UMP; or “Chocolate UMP Brownie Oat Pancakes” (1/2 c dry oats, 1 scoop chocolate UMP, baking powder, water: mix all together and cook as pancakes on a griddle; refrigerate until needed)
Favorite Supps: UMP (Ultimate Muscle Protein), MP (Muscle Provider), Lean Out, Glutamine Select, Ultra 40
Recommended Supps for a 1st time user: UMP, MP, Glutamine Select

In your CD player: anything from Miley Cyrus (come on, I have a 9 year-old daughter!!!) to Seether to Marilyn Manson
Most Inspiring Book: The Love Dare
Hobby or interests: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, friends, family, tennis

Words to live by: “Do what you love and love what you do.”

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