Contest Prep, Wellness

Peak Week Pain Points

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Once again I have made it to Peak Week. It is the culmination of the entire contest prep process; from mass gaining all the way through to fat loss/cutting, this is the week where one’s physique is in it’s prime condition. This is the most exciting week of the entire experience, but it also tends to be the toughest too. After weeks and months of training, some may run out of steam right at the end because they went too hard for too long, while others breeze through with a big smile on their face. Either way, this final week of prep involves lots of adjustments and commitments, both big and small.

For me, this marks my third peak week leading to the biggest competition to date: Provincial Championships, where the top 5 in each height class move on to Nationals with a chance to earn their coveted IFBB Pro Card. Many of my fellow competitors will involve ladies who have been training and competing for many years, who qualified well over a year ago and/or have had a long time dedicated to their prep. In my case, I qualified only 6 weeks earlier at the Provincial Open placing 4th in my height class. On the plus side, seeing that I was already in peak condition at 6 weeks out meant that I wouldn’t have too much work ahead of me in terms of dieting down or trying to pack on extra mass. Ultimately this short prep was different from my first two in that I was able to maintain my physique while having shorter workouts and enjoying a higher amount of carbohydrates and still seeing great results each week.

Then there came the “problems” or “challenges”. At 3 weeks out I started a new full time job (yay!). Unfortunately my office is far from home and the gym, giving me a pretty sizeable commute each day (2 hours total). This also meant that fasted cardio would be a big challenge. Instead of getting up at my leisure each morning and taking my time before heading out for a run, I now have to get up SUPER early (usually as the sun is rising) and head out the door about 20 minutes after crawling out of bed. Even with my pre-workout supps, I still feel tired and I am definitely running at a much slower pace than usual. Then I rush back home for a couple minutes of stretching, get ready for work and run out to catch the bus. After a full work day, it’s back on public transport to the gym for some serious weightlifting. By the I get home I’ve had about a 14 hour day including my workouts and transport. Needless to say, I’m wiped! The first week was intense because that was the biggest adjustment, especially with sleep. Truth be told, my solution was to just drink more coffee, which helped in the short term, but by the end of the week I started feeling the negative side effects. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia and irritability, all of which I experienced a few days into the week. Not only was I having a bit of information overload, but I was also getting way too much stimulation without any quiet downtime that I so craved. So that first weekend, I completely cut out caffeine and switched to some soothing chamomile tea instead and took some time out to listen to a few podcasts on wellness and do some quiet meditation. At 2 weeks out, I kept the caffeine intake reasonable and only having coffee pre-workout even if I started yawning midday; I definitely felt better. I started to get into a groove with my new routine, started running at my usual pace and got my energy levels back up. I also started to appreciate the early morning jogs; there’s hardly anyone out, the sun is shining and my route goes through this beautiful bike path with lots of greenery and trees. A definite positive shift in energy by week two.

Here comes the really hard part. For peak week, I’m traveling. I’ll be spending the week at a hot and sunny spot, which sounds all nice and good, but the timing is a huge problem. First of all, my flights are super early in the morning so I’ll be getting up well before the sunrise. Secondly, a plant-based contest prep diet is hard to manage while flying, options are limited so I have to be super prepared and since I’m flying international there’s no way for me to prep meals in advance. The best I can do is bring along individual packs of protein powder with some brown rice cakes, and pick up some kind of veg at the airport. Now I can’t just have any kind of salad because these always have added fats, marinades and sugars, so I’ll have to settle for the non-starchy dressing on the side type of foods. The key here is to write down everything that I eat to keep track of macros throughout the day so that I’m not missing any nutrients. Another factor is water intake. Air travel causes dehydration and bloating, which isn’t a big deal for the departure, but coming back home is a major concern (I’ll get to that shortly). Thankfully I’ll be staying in a spot with a full kitchen ad access to groceries, so sticking with my nutrition is no problem. There’s also a gym nearby, so workouts can easily be done.

You may be thinking “well, at least you’ll get to soak up some sun on the beach”…NOPE! In the 3 weeks leading up to any competition you have to avoid the sun. That’s right, I’m going to the beach but have to completely avoid all contact with the sunshine at all times. Why? Because in the sun we tan, and tan-lines cannot be covered by the spraytan on showday. No matter how hard the spraytan company may try, any difference in skin tone or color cannot be covered and evened out by the spray and I’m sure you’ll remember that my posing suit is not like a regular bikini; it’s a lot smaller and sits on the body far differently than what you see on the beach. God help you if you get sunburnt because you won’t be able to compete at all; any kind of skin irritation or redness will only be accentuated by the spraytan. So I’ll be walking around in massive heat, completely covered from head to toe with a big giant hat at all times, even if I go into the ocean. Oh, and did I mention that three days into the trip I have to stop wearing deodorant? The chemicals in deodorant turn the spraytan green and nobody wants to see moldy looking armpits.

The flight home is a whole other animal altogether. Once again, I leave early in the morning, but it also happens to fall on the day that I start my carb load and water manipulation. I’m going to be running the risk of bloating due to air travel (a big no-no). Plus in a carb load we cut all vegetables and fats, so I’ll be pretty limited to what I can eat. Again, writing everything that I eat and drink down will be the key to staying on track. Worse case scenario it’ll all protein powder and rice cakes until I get home and then I’ll eat the standard tempeh, sweet potatoes and white rice. When I do finally make it home I have to do a full workout and pre-contest beauty prep (hair stuff, mani-pedi, etc.) and pack for the contest weekend. Busy, busy.

Now this show is different in that registration for my class which usually takes place 1 day out at around 1pm is now going to be at 10:30 am, and it’s not close to home. So once again, I’ll have to get up super early for a light workout, skin prep and probably get stuck in traffic on my way there. Thankfully I will be staying at the host hotel so I’ll be able to drop my stuff and have a few hours to kill before the athlete’s meeting and my spraytan. I will be taking the opportunity to go to the hair salon and enjoy a little bit of pampering and then hopefully have enough time for an afternoon nap in my room.

The game plan for showday is nothing different (hair, makeup in the morning followed by pre-judging), but…finals is way later in the night. Usually finals would start around 1pm, this time though it starts at 6pm, so there will be at least a 5 hour gap in between. So I caved and reserved my hotel room for an extra night (since check out is at 3pm)  that way I can take a nap in between, which I’m sure I’ll need and I can stay over night if the show finishes late, which for sure it will. Finals usually lasts about 4 hours, so we won’t be out of there before 10pm. It’s an added expense, but a necessary one.

It’s gonna be an exhausting week and if you haven’t already figured out by now, I’m felling fairly stressed out over this. Stressed over the travels, stressed over the timing and planning, and stressed over how tired I know I will feel throughout the entire week. I am, however, trying to focus on the bright side. If while away I feel tired, I will sleep and if I feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, I’ll take some quiet time away from everyone to get centered again. This may not the ideal time to travel, but I know I’ll still enjoy myself even if I’m not the norm and am pretty unconventional. This trip will still give me the chance to spend some quality time with my family, maybe take an evening stroll on the beach with my husband and hopefully move at a slower pace than usual. It’ll give me the chance to slow down and get some relaxation time in while connecting with loved ones Like everything else, the key to success is to work around what you already have in place and tailor your approach to that. In my case, maintaining a positive mindset throughout, by focusing on gratitude and the progress of this particular journey to the stage, is what will ultimately allow this to remain a positive learning and growing experience.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

 

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Contest Prep

The Home Stretch

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There are only 16 days left in my contest prep, that’s right, just over two weeks until I hit the stage again. Which means that I’m in that final phase of dieting down and trying to take off any remaining body fat while maintaining as much muscle as possible. Both carbs and fat are drastically reduced, while protein intake is massively jacked up. What does this all add up to? A very drained and exhausted individual.

I started my final fat loss phase a few weeks ago and I can honestly say that it hasn’t been easy. Not only am I doing 5 days of weightlifting (thankfully not too heavy and not lasting longer than 1 hour), but I am also still doing fasted cardio 6 days each week. On top of that comes posing practice, which is so tiring. With posing I have been aiming for 15 minutes of practice each day for the past three weeks which might not sound like much, but imagine trying to hold certain position, while contracting and pulling in your muscles without letting go or squeezing and wearing 5 inch heels at the time…it’s not easy at all. As of next week though that will increase to one full hour of posing each day.

Nutrition-wise, all I can say is that it’s working very well and I don’t feel hungry or have any cravings, but I’m am definitely feeling the effects of this diet. Like I mentioned I am tired all the time. My pre-workout stack definitely helps to give me a boost so that when it’s time for cardio or weights, I’m good to go, but within minutes of finishing up my energy tanks massively. Outside of the gym I basically want to lie down and sleep all the time. I’m even feeling it with my mood; the amount of angry journaling that I have been doing these past few weeks has been like nothing I’ve ever written before. The tiniest thing annoy me or things that I wouldn’t really care about bother the hell out of me. It’s very frustrating.

Thankfully though I have the support of a great coach and last week when I sent her my weekly progress pics, I made sure to tell her exactly what was going on and how I was feeling. Her immediate response was that she could she the misery in my face in the pics (see below), but that my energy and mood are an indication that my current plans are leading me to the fast track of overtraining. This is a big no-no with contest prep as it leads to hormone fluctuations which ultimately halt progress and impact how I look and feel on show day. This is why so many potential competitors with the best intentions don’t end up completing their prep or binge eat or don’t respond well to their final diet. They come up onstage looking flat or bloated without any good definition, they feel terrible onstage and some don’t even make it there altogether.

In my case, all that rage and exhaustion can also indicate elevated testosterone which is perfectly normal for this phase especially once a woman’s body fat percentage drops below 15%. However, it can also mean that I may peak too early and not be able to maintain the physique or respond to the pre-show carb-load. Again, this is why some athletes come out looking deflated onstage. So my coach and I have made some tweaks to make sure that I’m okay to get through the next 16 days in one peace without punching people in the face on a daily basis. My diet initially had no added fat, so that’s changed now and we’ve added coconut oil to my first and last meals of the day. It’s glorious, every bite tastes so much better now! My coach also sent me some great motivational videos to psych myself up before each workout and told me that when my mood starts to get intense, to direct it all towards her with angry emails. Yes, she told me that it’s totally fine for me to do this because she gets it, she’s been there and she knows exactly what it feels like.

On my part, if I feel tired I will just take a nap; sleep is my best friend. I’m also going to be starting off each morning with a few minutes of quiet meditation to get centered and indulge in hot bubble baths every few days to take the edge off. That’s the absolute best that I can do for myself to make sure that I feel good about what I’m doing and why I have chosen to compete. I love bodybuilding, I love this lifestyle. The last leg of the journey is always the hardest, but I’m so close that I can see it and feel it everyday. Two weeks out, that’s all that’s left and I know that it’ll fly by so fast. I can’t wait to be onstage again and get to experience the culture and community of competing again. Being in that environment and focusing on presenting my best, as opposed to just beating the person next to me, is what really matters and soon enough I’ll be up there again rocking it onstage!

Start Strong, Finish Strong