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Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

Vital Stats

In the fitness community, I’m most often recognized because of my big weight-loss transformation. I went from 185 pounds to a little less than 130 pounds. It took me a few years to get to my lowest weight, but I followed the motto that slow and steady wins the race and I never gave up. I know it was this attitude that helped me place second the 2013 Bodybuilding.com BodySpace Spokesmodel Competition.

Sometimes, I look back and can’t believe how far I’ve come. I don’t even remember the girl who had never stepped foot in a gym and gorged on pizza, chips, and ramen all day.

But I’ve decided my transformation work is not yet done—in fact, it’s only just begun! I’m on a second transformation journey, and this time I’m putting my happiness and my health first. I’m transforming my body from skinny to strong, and my mind from unhealthy to happy.



Why I Decided to Change … Again

Believe it or not, when I weighed 185 pounds, I was one confident girl. I loved my body and never thought of myself as fat. I was who I was and that was that. I wasn’t defined by my body’s appearance. But that self-confidence changed the moment I decided I should lose weight. It seemed as though the more weight I lost, the more self-conscious about my appearance I became. I reached every weight-related goal I had set for myself, and yet I was never good enough.

At 125 pounds and with barely enough body fat to function, I competed for the first (and last) time with anxiety that I was “too fat” to be on stage. I had become so progressively wrapped up in numbers and body fat percentages over the few short years of dieting, that I was mentally destroyed.

I also noticed that my training started to suffer. I first began working out to be healthy and because I loved the way it made me feel, but I had lost sight of those reasons. I trained to burn calories and stay as thin as possible. If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run. I started to hate outdoor runs because I was forcing myself to do them. I allowed my training to control me. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed in exchange for doing whatever it took to stay thin.

Along with a severely distorted body image and training that was running me into the ground, my relationship with food started to become extremely disordered. Gone were the days of using food for fuel. If my food wasn’t weighed out to the gram and if I didn’t prepare it myself, I refused to eat it. There were days that I had full-blown anxiety attacks because I couldn’t log something in MyFitnessPal.

“If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run.”

I began taking hours of my day to try to configure my food so I would hit my macros just perfectly. If I didn’t, another anxiety attack would ensue. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I restricted myself with calories, types of foods, and situations. God forbid I would eat a cookie!

I felt like I was drowning, like I was just barely holding my head above water. Everything I had loved so much in the beginning—the healthy eating, the workouts, my body—now had complete control of my life. They were no longer positives. They had become negatives, weighing me down with each passing day. I knew I had to change. It was only a matter of time before I broke down completely.

That’s when I decided I wanted to find strength.

Letting Go

The first thing I had to change was my mindset. I had to let go of the unhealthy habits that were slowly suffocating me. My negative body image was, and still is to this day, the hardest thing to let go of. I found it much easier to allow for self-hate than to find self-love. Sadly, I think this is true for many people. But I had to let go.

I had to let go of having visible abs 24/7. I had to let go of desperately trying to maintain 12 percent body fat. I had to let go of the number on the scale. Most importantly, I had to let go of the idea that I would only be happy if I was lean. I wanted to be happy when I looked in the mirror, and I knew it wouldn’t come from a certain size. It had to come from letting go and loving myself no matter what.

“I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made.”

I still remind myself of where I started. That girl sitting on her ass eating ramen all day is 180 degrees from where I am today, and she always will be. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made. Whether I stay the size that I am now or gain or lose a few pounds, I love who I am. My worth is no longer based on what the scale says in the morning.

I don’t have “fat days” or “fluffy days” anymore, because quite frankly, I don’t care. I refuse to let something like three pounds of water destroy my day. I know now that I’m healthier than I ever was at 130 pounds. My hormones aren’t out of whack, I’m not moody or depressed, I don’t have random headaches, I’m not constantly fatigued, and I don’t feel weak.

Unfortunately, there’s a widespread belief that equates health to six-pack abs. This might be true for some people, but for the majority it’s not. I can lift more, sprint faster, and am healthier now than I ever was. There is beauty in strength. I don’t just say it, I know it.

Letting Go

I wanted my fire for exercise to burn like it did when I first started lifting, so I let go of the forced daily runs and extra HIIT sessions to “make up” for calories. I began to utilize conditioning work 1-2 times per week instead. I added back my short outdoor runs, but much more infrequently, and never because I felt pressure to burn a certain number of calories. I threw my heart monitor away.

I also discovered powerlifting. When I finally dropped the light-weight, high-rep stuff I was doing to stay thin, I started following Wendler’s 5-3-1 program and quickly fell in love. My strength skyrocketed, and when I decided I wanted to take my training to the next level, I signed with The Strength Guys. Now, the spark is back when I’m in the gym. I feel the fire again.


Strength Training Program

I follow an intense, block-periodization powerlifting program created by my coach, Jon Stewart. It’s high volume, tailored to correct my weaknesses, and uses movements and load intensities built for progression. I’m on six-week cycles of five-day splits. I have one day of light conditioning and one day of complete rest. Mobility is a vital component of my current program because my training pushes my body to its limits.

Each day and week I use different sets, reps, and weight with a specific rest time, exercise tempo, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to follow. Days one and three look on week three of my program.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Pause Squats have the lifter descending to the bottom position of the squat and freezing. The bottom position is held for three seconds, maintaining tightness in the muscles and correct technique, before returning to the starting position.

Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.)

is lifting sub-maximal loads with maximum force. For more details check



  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Reset Deadlifts are performed the same as a standard deadlift, but the lifter will put the weight completely on the floor and reset their hip position between each rep.

Letting Go

The hardest physical aspect to change for me was my diet. I had developed such rigid views and habits around food that it was almost more of a struggle to let them go than it was to keep them. I packed away my food scale and deleted MyFitnessPal. I started incorporating foods that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in years. I stopped restricting. I re-learned how to eat, not from a clock or scale, but from what my body was feeling.

At first I thought I would feel free without the calorie counting, stress, obsession, and anxiety, but I didn’t. I would take two steps forward and three steps back, wondering if I would ever be able to change. It took years to develop my disordered relationship with food, and I knew it wasn’t going to take a week to fix it. So, I trusted the process just as I always had, kept working at it, and didn’t give up.

Today, around 70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food that allows my body to perform at its optimal level. This includes things like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

The other 20-30 percent of food I consume is made up of things that I crave, or that I just plain want—no explanation or condition necessary. There is no special time, day, or place for these foods. I allow myself the freedom to eat them when I want them. Some days I’m at a 50/50 split, some days it’s 100/0, but on most days I stay right around 80/20. It all balances out.

I don’t restrict, I listen to my body’s needs and wants, and most important, I consume everything mindfully and in moderation. Through all of the extremes, I’ve found balance to be the key component in my physical and mental health. It’s also been the key to my happiness.

Sample Day

I don’t have a meal plan to follow because the foods and amounts I eat change on a daily basis. I don’t weigh or measure anything, so all quantities below are estimated. I don’t know my caloric intake or macro breakdown, but I would guess I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200-2,700 calories per day. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Greek Chicken Wrap

Final Thoughts

Throughout my second transformation, I’ve found myself spending more time with friends and family. They couldn’t care less what I look like—my abs make no difference to them. As long as I’m healthy and happy, they’re happy too.

It’s funny because these are the people I pulled away from when I started my downhill slide into disordered eating and thinking. I sheltered myself from everything that wasn’t fitness related, even friends and family. But when I finally let go of the obsession and the stress, I felt free.

During this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

The fitness community is full of extremes. We work out until we can’t move. We eat diets of tilapia and broccoli. It takes a strong individual to endure what we put ourselves through. But during this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

I want to be somewhere between the overweight college girl and the underweight girl on stage, somewhere between the girl who ate pop-tarts for every meal and the girl who ate lettuce for every meal, somewhere between the girl who never stepped foot into the gym and the girl who wouldn’t leave it until she’d burned enough calories. This middle spot is where I’m happy and strong. It’s where I found my balance.

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Originally posted here –

Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, Nutrition, Training Methods, Weight lossComments (0)

4 Best on-demand fitness networks

GREAT FOR gym fitness goals

£15 per month; Body.Network

The Netflix of the workout world, Body Network boasts a holistic mix of health and fitness videos that have been put together by some of the UK’s leading experts. Not just workouts, the network also provides rehabilitation programmes, a tri-part introduction to mindfulness and meditation, and nutritional programmes. It has everything that you need to hone a fitter, healthier and more efficient body. Unlike other on-demand services, this network caters for outdoor as well as indoor exercisers. The 10K training plan from running expert Charlie Webster is designed to help you hit a 6.2-mile goal, including interval workout audio sessions that you can take with you on your run. The Get Fit for Cycling series aims to improve cycling performance, a great option for off-season bike training. And if you don’t care about exercising outside, there’s a host of popular gym and home workouts, too, such as Pilates, yoga, post-natal exercise and boxing programmes. A lot of the workouts are periodised in that they start at a beginner level and progress to advanced training, which means you don’t only work out, but also learn the techniques needed to perform exercise properly. The Body Network educates as well as makes you sweat!

GREAT FOR performance goals

£2.99 per week; beachbody.co.uk

Beach Body pioneers some of the most popular workouts worldwide – we’re talking Insanity, PiYo, P90X – so this really is the place to come if you want to be ahead of the game. There are ‘sneak peek’ workouts of up-and-coming programmes, such as Shaun T’s Cize or Hammer & Chisel, in which you get to try the latest sessions first. Plus, Q&A videos with the top trainers reveal a few insider secrets! And if you don’t have a clue what workout to do, there’s even a ‘challenge du jour’ session, which will keep you on your toes every day you log in. The best bit, however, is that Beach Body On Demand (BOD) isn’t exclusively for the super-fit; it’s great for all levels, whether you follow Autumn Calabrese’s Active Maternity programme or the sports-friendly Insanity The Asylum schedule. A lot of the programmes are time-orientated – there’s the 21-day fix or the 90-day P90x plan – so it’s a great website to sign up to if you have a shape-up goal for 2016. It’s really easy to use and you can even stream it via the On Demand app to devices such as tablets, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV. Handy.

GREAT FOR shape-up goals

£14.99 per month; yoogaia.com

Can’t find a yoga class that you love? You need to log onto Yoogaia. The online yoga studio provides live classes across a range of low-impact disciplines including Pilates, barre, core exercise and, of course, yoga. There’s a packed schedule with daily workouts such as Yin Yoga Stretch or Barre Cardio Express available for you to book onto. The live workouts happen via your webcam – the instructor can see you and you can see the instructor but exercisers can’t see one another – which gives you the sensation of face-to-face instruction with a leading expert. Shy? Then you don’t have to switch your webcam on. And if you miss one of your regular sessions, you can catch up with the workout via the ‘Recording’ tab – something that you can’t do when you miss your favourite gym class. It’s great for mums, newbies and anyone who wants to try a specific class that might not be available in your area. This site comes thoroughly recommended.  

GREAT FOR wellbeing goals

£9.95 per month; lesmillsondemand.com               

If you’re already au fait with the popular Les Mills gym classes – think Body Pump, Body Combat, Body Balance or Grit – you’re going to love On Demand because you can do the same workouts from home when you can’t make it to the gym. On the other hand, if you’re new to Les Mills exercise, this is a great place to start – you can build plenty of confidence before trying these workouts at the gym with others. Les Mills Junior recommends that newbies start with the kit-free 20-minute Grit Cardio class. But, if that’s not your thing, view the ‘Introduction’ videos to discover which class whets your appetite. There’s a really great variety of workouts on the site but it’s worth bearing in mind that some, such as Body Pump or RPM, do require kit. Still, On Demand cannot be faulted for its great playlists, fantastic workouts and non-stop instructor enthusiasm. And there’s even an exercise video for kids!

Follow this link: 

4 Best on-demand fitness networks

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International Transformation Of The Month: John Doyle

Why I Got Started

I was heavy all through my teenage years. People teased me and called me names; it hurt a lot. I was tired of always being the fat kid and being picked last in all the sports I played because I wasn’t fit enough. College didn’t help any. I gained three stone (42 pounds) in the first year. Something had to change.

I noticed that my cousin Shane was training hard and had lost a lot of weight. I was jealous. At the beginning of my transformation, I used him as my inspiration and asked him loads of questions. We still talk about weight loss every week, and now we even chat about the prospect of bodybuilding, which is my next goal.

I was studying adventure tourism management in college, so I was doing a lot of outdoor sports like rock climbing, kayaking, hill walking, and mountain biking. I could do those things with all of that extra weight, but I wasn’t able to excel at them like I wanted to. So with the help of my cousin and my drive to change, I began to transform.



AGE 18 / HEIGHT 5’8″ / BODY FAT 28%

AGE 21 / HEIGHT 5’8″ / BODY FAT 15%

Post To Fitboard

How I Did It

I decided to join Weight Watchers in my hometown of Killarney with the support of my sisters and family. I followed the Weight Watchers program, which gave me great discipline and opened my eyes to how simple it is to implement a healthy lifestyle into a busy college life. Even though I was juggling a part-time job, studies, and a healthy lifestyle, I still managed to get back into the sports I loved.

I cut out all the junk food. Before my decision to change, I ate takeaways, pizzas, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and crisps. You name it, I probably ate it. I started to prepare my own meals from scratch and introduced more fresh fruit and vegetables to my daily intake. Preparing my own meals gave me great control and insight into what I was fueling myself. It led me to discover that I love cooking. I have begun baking healthy muffins and bread from the recipes on Bodybuilding.com.

“In a short 8 months, I had lost more than 100 pounds. I haven’t looked back since.”

I was always active in sports, but because of my poor diet and lack of real effort, I could never be my absolute best. So, I started really simply and worked my way up. I started walking with my dad, sister, and our dogs Sam and Odie. Every week, we went a little longer and a little faster. After I built that base, I got out on my mountain bike or road bike for various spins. I always set a target of how long I would cycle and how far. The next time I rode, I would try to better the time and distance.

Once I had lost about 30 pounds, I got a gym membership and started swimming. Every week, I did more lengths. I did a lot of interval cardio on the treadmill and I completed spinning classes to get me in shape.

After that, the weight started flying off. In a short 8 months, I had lost more than 100 pounds. I haven’t looked back since.

The only things I regret through this journey were that I never kept a photo journal. I wish I did because I could have looked back for changes in my body. I also regret not finding weights from the beginning. I’m going through Steve Cook’s Big Man on Campus trainer and I absolutely love the feeling weightlifting gives me. I have set new goals to transform my body and be more muscular. So keep watching!

Supplement Plan

During the initial weight-loss period, I didn’t take supplements. But, now with the Big Man on Campus, I use the following products:


I try to drink three liters of water per day.

  • Fresh Fruit Smoothie Fresh Fruit Smoothie


Training Program

During my 8-month transformation, I did mostly cardio. I’m now following the lifting routine of Big Man on Campus and absolutely love it. Look there for my training details. Here’s the training that I did for my initial weight loss.

Suggestions for Others

For anyone with a goal, it starts with you and your conviction to that goal. You have to believe in what you want and reinforce it every day, no matter if it’s weight loss or bodybuilding. I always reward myself before I start my next journey. I buy a new shirt that is too small and I use it as my focus point. I spend good money on it and I want to wear it, so I hang it where I will see it every day. Now I have a new top for my next goal to build a bigger, stronger body. I see that every day and I find motivation from it.

Knowledge is the key! Learn as much as you can about your body and what it takes to fuel it. I learned how my body operates on a calorie deficit and how I could still feel satisfied and operate my daily tasks. I now am learning what it takes to fuel and produce a bigger body. Now that I know how to train and eat, if I ever have an issue with weight again, I have the tools to get right back in shape.

“Now that I know how to train and eat, if I ever have an issue with weight again, I have the tools to get right back in shape.”

Find a role model and gain inspiration from their achievements. I read many sports biographies from various athletes and it helped me focus when I felt low.

You have to build up your self-discipline to succeed. When hunger strikes and unhealthy options are readily available, you have to have the strength to make a good choice.

I was always told that I wasn’t fast enough, that I couldn’t jump high enough, or that I was too heavy to be good at sports. When I was on training spins, I let these taunts play in my mind and used them to rev me up so I could push harder. Use negativity to drive your training—don’t let it bring you down.

Country-specific Details

I am from Ireland and the weather is usually pretty rainy. Don’t let weather influence your training schedule; focus on your end goal. Your equipment and motivation should prepare you to deal with any weather conditions. Through my walks, runs, and spins, I’ve rediscovered just how beautiful my town (Killarney, Co. Kerry) actually is.

Submission Form

Apply Here To Be An International Transformation!


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About The Author

Do you live outside of the United States? Have you made a dramatic change either by gaining muscle or losing fat? If so, send in your pics, stats…


International Transformation Of The Month: John Doyle

Posted in Bodybuilding, Exercises, Nutrition, Weight lossComments (0)

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