Contest Prep

Great Expectations, Greater Disappointments

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Everything started good and smooth. My physique never looked better, my posing had become more fluid, I didn’t have any crazy cravings during my entire prep. Overall I felt great going into the Provincial Championship. On show day I felt excited more than anything else, not anxious or nervous, just genuinely pleased and grateful to have made it this far. Once I hit the stage though, things didn’t feel so awesome…

The stage itself was made up of different wood panels so it was pretty uneven making balancing while walking in heels very difficult. Moving from one pose to the next without falling over, let alone while holding and keeping my muscles tight was nearly impossible. What’s more was that the floor was a bit greasy. I hadn’t even considered the fact that Bikini always goes last and that apart from one other category, all other athletes are barefoot on stage so their glaze and spray tan gets all over the floor. I never felt or noticed this in my previous 2 shows. When moving from one pose to another, you are meant to glide your foot along the floor instead of taking a big step; this makes it look more fluid and allows you to keep everything pulled in and flexed at the same time. Unfortunately the floor was so greasy that it just wasn’t possible to be so smooth with the movement. On stage I didn’t feel sharp with my posing.

There were 6 ladies in my height class so there were no callouts we just went right into the comparison and quarter turns. At one point the head judge asked me to switch spots and I wound up right in the center of the lineup which is huge. The closer you are to the center, the better you place and being right in the middle usually means you win the height class. I thought “YES! Just keep it together and I’ll get this”. But…one round of quarter turns and the judge had me switch again, this time to the far left at the end of the line and I stayed there for the rest of prejudging. So that was it.

I was convinced that I had placed dead last in my height class. I was so disappointed in myself and the fact that I didn’t feel great on stage, being so unbalanced and not being able to really get into each pose. I was in the worst mood following prejudging and although my husband said that I looked solid on stage, I still felt crumby. I didn’t want to see any of the photos that my in-laws took of me while on stage and I didn’t want to take any other photos by the different backdrops and kiosks like I always had before. I was just not in a good place.

We had a huge gap of about 5 hours between prejudging and finals, so we headed back to the hotel room for a little downtime. Although it was an added expense to stay at the host hotel for 2 days, it was worth every penny. I got to take a little power nap, do some light reading, eat and just take it easy. After a couple of hours I started to feel better. The reality of this competition is that even if I did place last at 6th place I would still automatically requalify for the provincial championship the following year, anything placing above that would qualify me for nationals. So regardless of the outcome it would still be a great achievement, and being ranked as 6th in my province as a bodybuilder is pretty awesome, especially for someone who has been competing for less than 1 year.

I feel sad and disappointment in myself, not because of my placings during prejudging but because I didn’t bring my best to the stage which has always been my main focus in all of this. My performance was poor, I didn’t feel good and if anything, I felt unprepared. The flooring really threw me off and I just couldn’t get into my poses as well as I usually did during practice. But for a short time during prejudging, the judges thought that I was the best in my class, I got a small taste of what it would feel like to be in that space and to actually win. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to move from center all the way to far end; you know in that moment that you lost and it sucks.

Finals was no different, again the flooring threw me off. It felt almost impossible to be fluid with each movement and I could barely get into back pose, my balance was so off. I can’t even remember if I was smiling or not and I almost don’t want to see what my professional pics from the show look like. Although my husband said that I looked solid on stage and my posing was good (trust me, he would tell me if something didn’t look right), I still didn’t feel all that great.

It was a long day. Prejudging started at 9am and Bikini only went on around 12:30, so there was a lot of “hurry up and wait”. Hair and makeup was at 8:30 and then I had to be backstage to make sure I was close by for any spray tan retouches, glazing/suit gluing, preshow pump/warm up, last minute posing practice and just in case there’s a last minute schedule change. Then there was a huge gap until finals which was only at 6pm, by the time Bikini was call up on stage it was about four and half hours later. What I noticed while standing on stage at finals was that the judges looked very uninterested and kind of bored and what’s more is that as soon as men’s bodybuilding was done, half of the audience got up and left, so the auditorium was half empty at that point. The top 3 were announced and I along with the other 2 ladies who did not place were ushered backstage while the top 3 received their awards. Although I had already known after prejudging that I didn’t place, it’s still disappointing and it still sucks. I know that I could have done better and that it wasn’t because my physique wasn’t on point, but it was because it hadn’t even crossed my mind that the floor would be a greasy and hard to maneuver on, so my posing suffered.

So I went into a full on post-contest blues for the last few days, but it seems to be slowly subsiding. It’s an odd feeling that I get after competing, especially following this show. It’s almost like an emptiness. After weeks and months of being so focused on one big goal and finding ways to allow that goal to seep into all aspects of your life, when it’s over, it’s REALLY over. Back to “regular” life, back to work and the office job and the household chores, obligations and daily grind. Something that was so meaningful has passed and this time I feel empty. I went from being completely immersed in the bodybuilding culture during the contest weekend and being surrounded by like minded people, to suddenly be so far removed from it altogether.  For the past 15 months I’ve pretty much been in contest prep. My first prep lasted 8 months for my first show in November of last year, then I went right into my second prep of 16 weeks right after and then right into another 7 week prep for this last show.  So something that has been a big part of my life is on hold for now. I know that this is definitely a part of the process, but it still feels weird.

Overall this competition was a real eye-opener for me. I realized that you have to be prepared for anything and going forward I will for sure practice posing on all kinds of different surfaces (carpet, hard wood, tiles, etc.) that are flat and uneven with all kinds of different textures so that next time I won’t be thrown off. With each competition I’ve learned something. At my first it was to always find out where the retouches for hair/makeup/spraytan are happening and when as soon as I get backstage and to pay attention to the order of the show to know exactly when to pump up. At my second show I learned the importance of quiet time before hitting the stage and the value of staying at the host hotel to rest up on show day between those long gaps during the day. So it’s all a learning experience at the end of the day and we get better and more at ease with time and persistence.

So where did I end up placing you might ask? Well, to my shock I actually placed 4th. I honestly thought that I would be 5th at best but most likely 6th, which as I mentioned is really great regardless. I’m still pretty stunned that I’m ranked 4th in my province and am now a nationally qualified bodybuilder. Last year when I decided to embark on the competitive bodybuilding journey, this was my goal and I almost can’t believe that I did it. I’m still a bit in disbelief.

Now that my prep is over, I’m heading into a recovery week where I not measuring or weighing any food or working out at all. Yikes! I must say that I was feeling some anxiety around this; it’s been such a big part of my routine and lifestyle that it’s almost like a ritual for me. Instead of trying to supress this feeling and trying to change my mindset around this, I’m just gonna let myself sit with this feeling and accept that I am going to be doing the opposite of my instinct for one week…I like to think of it as The George Costanza Approach To Life (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, well damn! That is all). The truth is that I haven’t taken more than 3 days off in a row from working out in 15 months! For any athlete, that’s a lot and if I were to just keep going, I would  easily shift into over-training which is a very difficult thing to recover from. So for now it’s necessary.

The thought of not competing for 1 year and not hitting the stage for that long is also weighing heavily on me too. I’ve had a contest goal in mind for almost two years and had a clear vision and plan of what I would be doing to get there, but with such a big gap until Nationals, it’s a bit intense in the brain for me. Especially since I’ve done 3 competitions in the last 7 months; it’s become a big part of my life. I must say that when I found out that I was qualified for nationals part of me was really tempted to compete at this year’s show which is only 2 weeks away. Realistically I know that I could have done it, but my coach would probably be a bit weary of my doing this and my husband already mentioned that his main concern was my doing 4 water manipulations and dehydrations in 8 months would be a too hard on my body, and they’d be right. Plus, when I do go to nationals I want to rock it, I want to bring my absolute best physique with a bit more mass and curve, and I want to be as confident and sharp and on point with my posing as possible. Nationals is a huge deal and it opens up the door to a whole other level of competitions at the international amateur level and even the professional level too, so I want to walk on stage next year and know that I crushed it and I did my absolute best no matter how I end up placing. That being said, there is another opportunity for nationally qualified athletes to compete in about a month where the top 3 receive bursaries to put towards their competing at nationals next year and this is a great chance to get a feel for what this level of athletes are like and even get great exposure in the industry. If I were to compete I would a have to start a prep right now and get back into contest mindset. Yesterday I was seriously considering it, and as much as I still want to take up this opportunity deep down I know that I will be better off holding out on this and focusing on next year instead.

So now I am officially entering my “off-season” which means less volume workout-wise, more recovery time and extra calories. After my first show, my coach put together a great recovery plan that I’ll be using for the next month or so and then maybe we’ll look at a mass gain. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and I think it’ll be a great benefit to me so that I can really build up, pack on lots of muscle and gain tons of strength in the process. The good thing about this is that you get life a lot heavier, do less cardio and eat more into to support growth. The down though is that if the diet isn’t on point, you can easily pack on lots of bodyfat  in the process if you eat too much junk food. Thankfully my coach will take all of the guesswork out for me so I’ll be good to go. In the meantime I get to enjoy TWO weekly treat meals and will only be doing cardio 3 times per week (not fasted and only steady state jogs outside in nature – an added bonus!) and weight training 4 times per week for now more than 1 hour each session.

My recovery week is always something that I look forward to, but then it always feels a bit weird since I’m so out of my usual routine. It is nice being able to sleep a bit later instead of getting up at sunrise for fasted cardio and it’s really nice to not have to lug around my gym bag to and from work everyday, but it does feel odd going straight home after work and having a few extra hours to myself instead of hitting the gym. An added bonus is that I’ll be taking this opportunity to try out some new recipes that I’ve had my eye on for a while like roasted tempeh with a maple syrup glaze, black bean enchiladas and oat flour waffles with coconut oil and blueberry compote. I’ve eliminated all supplements for this week too apart from a digestive enzyme and probiotic that I take first thing in the morning just to ensure that I don’t get any indigestion or heartburn during the day. Caffeine is also out for this week. I noticed that in the last month I wasn’t enjoying the hot cups of coffee that I would prepare for myself. Although I usually savour each sip and really enjoy it, it just wasn’t happening anymore so coffee is out for this week at least. I don’t really need it to be honest, especially since I’m sleeping in an extra hour each morning and not working out, so my body doesn’t require the extra jolt. Surprisingly I don’t feel tired or sluggish at all, no withdrawal whatsoever. All in all, it’s a good thing to take this break and my body and mind will benefit from it greatly. The hard part is what comes next, the rebound; the inevitable post-contest weight gain and the attempt to not binge eat on the treats during this time, but I’ll get into that more in next week’s post.

So there you have it. Another competition completed, another contest prep done and a new qualification level achieved. Not too shabby for a vegan who’s been competing for only 7 months 😊 I may have discovered that I am without question my own worst critic, but I also realised that the journey IS the destination. At the end of the day, the process of competing is a long one filled with some unpleasantries, but if you love it (as I do) it’s great, it’s fun and even if you don’t feel all that awesome on show day, you still get to immerse yourself in something really special.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

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