Competing in any sport is rough. The training process, the nutrition and meal prep, not to mention the constant build up to the big day is enough to take a toll on even the most elite athletes. That’s why having a designated and scheduled recovery time is an absolute must for everyone, and I’m not just talking about one rest day away from the gym, what I’m talking about is some serious downtime for some real R&R.
Taking time out from exercising is a must for anyone who workouts consistently and who trains hard. You can lift as heavy as possible and be super on point with your nutrition all you want, but if you don’t take legitimate time off, you are guaranteed to not only plateau and over train, but to burn out completely. Working out is only part of the puzzle, everything that you do outside of your gym time will dictate your progress, your health and your wellbeing. You can’t build muscle if you’re exhausted, you can’t lose body fat if you’re physically over worked, just like ou can’t out-train a bad diet. It’s all three pieces of training hard, eating clean (and enough!) and restful sleep and recovery, that allow you to grow, to get stronger, to get lean and stay that way.
Last year when I competed for the first time, I only lasted 2 days away from the gym and these weren’t even real rest days, they were more like active recovery days instead where I would go for a nice hike or light jog outside. This time was completely different. I knew in advance that regardless of how I placed and whether or not I would qualify for the Provincial Championships, that I would take time away from the weight room. After all, at that point it had been well over a year since I had taken more than one day off from working out in the same week…needless to say, I was due.
So that’s exactly what I did; three full days off followed by a couple of days of light jogging outside for no more than 20 minutes and zero weight training. This may sound strange, but it was a challenge for me to stay away from the gym. Think about it: when you spend months on end where everyday has several hours dedicated to working out and then you completely eliminate it altogether, it’s bound to leave you wondering about what you’ll do with all that extra time. It was certainly nice to sleep in a bit longer and not have to run for the bus on my way to the gym, but it was also really nice to start jogging again after three days. I felt productive again.
What was not so awesome about my rest days was how I felt physically and emotionally to be honest. The day after the competition I woke up feeling a bit sore and stiff; posing in heels on stage coupled with stress and dehydration will do that to a person. The worst part though was that I was super bloated, my belly was pushed out and I felt heavy and soft. It is normal to get some bloating after dehydrating for show day and then rehydrating after, but this was way worse than I could have ever imagined. I also got the worst heartburn every single time that I would eat. It was awful. I felt full all the time, but I also wanted to eat everything in sight, no good. On the emotional side, well let’s just say that the post contest blues hit me hard this time. I was disappointed that I didn’t place in the top 3, but I also knew that the judges had their reasons and the top three ladies absolutely deserved to win without question. My disappointment lied within myself; maybe I could have lifted heavier or practiced posing more or gotten more rest during my prep. I felt like I could have done more and that I was in control of how well I placed, so my not winning was a reflection of my lack of effort somewhere along the line. It may not be true, but I couldn’t help but feel and think that way; I didn’t win and I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t do enough or work hard enough. Ultimately though it was all said and done and the show was over. On the bright getting the great piece of news that I and placed 4th and did qualify for the Provincial Championships definitely perked me up!
So now I am back on prep and getting ready for the big competition in just 6 weeks from now. The good news is since I’m starting this prep already pretty shredded I get to enjoy a bit more carbs (for now) and less interval training with my cardio. So that’s nice, but we’ll see how long it lasts! This next show will be with people who are the best in my Province and possibly the country; the top 5 move on to nationals! This one will no doubt be my biggest challenge yet.
Start Strong, Finish Strong