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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Contest Prep

Show Day

This past weekend I finally hit the stage for my second bodybuilding competition after 16 weeks of prep. All the training, meal preparation and posing practice came down to one day and pretty much only a few minutes on stage. Here’s what went down during the intense competition weekend.

I went about this show a bit smarter this time around; I decided to stay at the host hotel instead of going back and forth from my home. Yes it would have saved me a bit of cash and I only live about 30 minutes from the venue, but it was worth every penny. The day before the actual show is busy and long so having my own room gave me space and quiet time to myself, away from the other athletes. Essentially I got to have a little downtime and some privacy to get in a little extra posing practice. Everything went smooth from registration to the spraytan to the athletes meeting. I had all of my meals prepped and labelled in my cooler bag so I was good to go.

On Sunday morning I woke early, 6am. Even though my hair and makeup appointments were only at 8am, I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get in my light morning workout. So I headed out for a walk outside (which also doubled as my morning coffee run) followed by some strength training work (with resistance bands) in my room and a little quiet meditation.  After my lovely (insert sarcasm) breakfast concoction of cream of rice mixed with rice protein powder, it was time to get glamed up.

On the left is me with my hair done and the right is with the full makeup. As you can see, it’s heavy and dark, but on stage it looks amazing.

We headed to the venue at 9:30am; bikini is always the last to step  onstage so although prejudging starts at 8am I didn’t have to be there until much later. I learned my lesson from the previous show with the spraytan retouch timing mishap, so this time I headed straight backstage to the spraytan area and got my retouch done right away. If you’re wondering how dark the tan is, well here’s a close look:

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Before stepping onstage for prejudging there are a few necessary things to do to get ready. A little last minute posing practice is a given for pretty much everybody; no matter how cramped we are backstage (and we really are) it’s so important to get comfortable with the movements. It’s kind of like doing a few warm up sets when you’re about to do some heavy weight lifting. Another important thing is to eat some fast digesting with a good amount of sugar. In my case, my coach always suggests a couple tablespoons of white rice with some maple syrup; although I’ve seen other competitors opt for chips and chocolate bars! The reason for eating this right before is to help get a good pump and give your muscles a little boost. Which leads to “pumping up” backstage. This is basically just doing some light strength training exercises to help get the blood flowing to the muscles, giving you a fuller look with lots of definition.

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As always I was in Bikini Class A (under 5ft2), we were a total of 7 ladies. Since we were such a small group, there were no first callouts, we instead went straight to the comparison round. It went by so quickly it was crazy. Thankfully I had my hubby in the audience shouting some instructions for me to adjust my posing as needed; you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget to keep your belly pulled in or to just maintain a smile on your face! When we were brought onstage I was right in the center, which is the sweet spot…but that didn’t last. Usually during the comparison round the judges will ask some of the competitors to switch places. The key thing though is that the closer you are to th middle, the better you place. So I may have started in the center, but they had me switch with the lady next to me; that’s when I realized that I hadn’t placed 1st. Then they had me switch with someone even further out and that’s when I realized that I wouldn’t be in the top 3. Yes, it does go that fast and the judges work very quickly as we were up there for maybe 10 minutes.

I was still feeling good, but I felt that I didn’t hit my posing as “sharp” as I could have. To be honest I felt a bit shaky onstage even though I wasn’t nervous at all; thankfully my shakiness didn’t show.

As per usual there was a huge gap between prejudging and finals so I got a little bit of downtime with my family.18034259_10155280322035152_8032433566793186173_n

That black tarp looking thing that I’m wearing is a light robe; once the posing suit goes on and is glued (yes, glued) to your body, that’s basically your only clothing option until finals is over.

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Finals was just as fast as prejudging. Everyone gets the chance to do a personal posing routine which lasts for about 10 seconds, although it does feel like an eternity! Again, I felt a bit shaky and like I didn’t hit my poses as well as I could have. They announced the top 3 and my number wasn’t called as I suspected. I gotta say that it sucks when that happens…you’re standing onstage with a big smile plastered on your face holding “relaxed pose” which is really just side pose in my case and you have to maintain that smile and poise even though you know you didn’t win.

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It was a disappointment and it’s hard not to focus on the final placing, but I did what I could. What I did realize was that I was a lot more focused on my placing more that just enjoying the experience. On the positive side was the fact that everyone was very nice. I’ve heard horror stories of how some athletes are mean or try to mess with your head or even try to sabotage their fellow competitors by stealing their shoes or contestant number so that they can’t go onstage! That wasn’t the case at all; everyone was friendly and open and I even spotted a couple of ladies from my first show 5 months earlier.

My goal with this competition was to come in with a better physique (tighter and more muscular), to place higher than I had at my previous show at 5th place) and to at least place in the top 5 so that I can qualify for the Provincial Championships. Done, done and done! I ended up placing 4th which means that I do qualify and will be heading to the Provincial Championships in just 8 weeks! This next one will for sure be tough as it is the best bodybuilders in the province fighting to earn a spot at nationals. I’ll be ready though. I have my work cut out for me, lots of posing to perfect, not to mention a body to sculpt, but I know I’ll be bringing my absolute best in 2 months. Provincial Championships: I’m coming for you!

Start Strong, Finish Strong

Contest Prep, Fitness

The Myths of Women in Fitness

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There are so many misconceptions about women in fitness it’s almost hard to keep track of. From fat shaming those without a six pack of abs year round to claiming that Figure athletes look like men or that Bikini isn’t really bodybuilding, the list goes on and on. Not only are people bashing bodybuilding in general, but many are even shaming fitness enthusiasts who are proud to share their progress pics on social media and hoping to maybe offer up some inspiration. It’s sad to think that taking care of your physical self first has brought out the worst in people.

Let’s start off with one particular myth that really grinds my gears: Women being portrayed as overexposed, provocative sex-kittens. This one really bothers me because it is partially true, but it’s not always the case. Yes, in men’s fitness magazines most features of women are rather provocative and showcase photos of models and athletes dressed fairly scantily-clad. I will say that in some circumstances I have a hard time differentiating certain athletes from porn stars. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; if anyone feels comfortable and confident in themselves to pose and dress that way, then more power to you! It’s just not for me and it certainly isn’t the standard for all female athletes and fitness models. This style of photography certainly does cater to their main market and audience, and it’s what sells magazines, but it’s not as though every woman in fitness has to be a smoldering temptress all the time.

The next big myth is that female bodybuilders and women who lift weight and train hard will look like men. This usually refers to the concept of women who “bulk up”, which is really hard to do. For any woman who is hesitant of working out hard and hitting the weight room for fear of bulking up, trust me when I say that you won’t. I’ve been trying to mass gain for 2 years and it is a very slow and long process that doesn’t just happen because you tried out the leg press machine. That being said, there’s a lot of negative talk around female bodybuilders in that many will scoff at the athletes claiming that they are too muscular, unfeminine and flat chested. It’s really tragic to hear these things and to notice when these dedicated athletes may get stares from strangers in public. I see these ladies as impressive, strong and inspiring; it takes so much to build and sculpt yourself. What most people don’t realize is the work that goes into it and not just in the gym or in the kitchen, but also with one’s entire lifestyle as well. And while some may say “I would never want to look like that” I say “Don’t worry, you never will”.

As for Bikini not being taken seriously as bodybuilding, well I’d like to respond to these naysayers personally by saying this: Come work out with me just once and see if you still think that when we’re done. Bikini competitors have to work out just as hard as other bodybuilders, if not harder because we are looking to build muscle in the right areas, stay balanced, proportional and symmetrical while leaning out but not getting too shredded either. We are just as regimented with nutrition and spend hours working out in the gym each day. What’s really terrible is that a lot of this comes from people in the bodybuilding community. For example, at the first competition that I saw the group sitting behind me started grumbling about Bikini when the athletes came onstage saying some pretty ignorant things. Another example that really hit close to home came from my lovely husband who, when I told my family that I was going to compete, felt the need to utter the following”For 5 minutes onstage you’re going to look like a stripper”. Needless to say my crazy eyes were enough to bring him back down to earth before my urge to take a swing at him kicked in.

For some reason most people just can’t see past the fact that it’s a woman in a two piece. Male bodybuilders aren’t exactly covered up either; their posing trunks would shame even the tiniest of speedos. There is a reason why posing suits are that size…it’s because the more material on the suit, the wider your waist and glutes will look. On stage we pose a certain way to showcase both muscle mass and symmetry. All divisions require different styles of posing because weight classes and body shapes across each categories will vary and seeing someone like holding front double biceps would be very underwhelming and unimpressive as well.

Going back to the whole “sex-kitten” myth, it’s very frustrating. Maybe some women compete because they want to feel that way and are proud of it, what’s so wrong with that? Seriously! When did it become a bad thing to be so proud of how you look that you choose to stand on stage with the highest self-esteem imaginable among other strong women? In my case, I can honestly say that I compete because of the journey to stage, the process of contest prep and because it’s really fun to get glamed up and be onstage. I’m not trying to be all smoking hot (that’s just an added perk!), I’m an athlete and bodybuilder and I am proud of it. This process, this lifestyle is not about how others view me or their opinions of me either, it’s about bringing my best to each day, giving my all to each workout and challenging myself to prioritize my health above all else all the time.

As for fat shaming those without the “perfect body” honestly, just shut your stupid face, because chances are you’re no prize either and there is no such thing as the perfect body.

As I sit here finishing this rant, I am 7 weeks out from hitting the stage  for a second time and I can’t wait. On show day I choose to focus on myself and presenting my best instead of scoping out the competition and sizing up the other athletes. What others think or say doesn’t matter to me anymore; this process has taught me how easy it is to move past this. All anyone really has is this one body in this life, so take care of it, nurture it and instead of finding flaws in others, consider changing gears towards bettering yourself each day forward.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

 

 

Contest Prep, Fitness, Nutrition, Wellness

The Post-Contest Blues

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There is a term that competitive bodybuilders are all too familiar with and as the title of this article so clearly states, it’s called the post contest blues. Although I swore that I would never allow myself to feel down in the dumps after competing, it still has managed to creep up.

I must say that I thrilled with the results of competing and of the entire prep in general. Even though as you may have read in my previous post that there were quite a few hiccups on show day, I still felt great. I did everything right in that I focused only on myself and presenting my best, instead of thinking solely about winning and beating the other ladies onstage. It was my first competition after all, so I decided to take the pressure off, just enjoy the day and hopefully not let the nerves get the best of me. It was so much fun getting glamed up and finally going through each pose during pre-judging and finals. I’m so proud to have gotten not only first callouts, but also placing 5th in my first show! Every competitor looked amazing and there over 80 competitors in the Bikini Division alone, so needless to say I relished in my accomplishment.

However, as soon as finals was over and I headed backstage to throw on my sweatpants and gather my belongings, I couldn’t help but feel a slight pang of sadness. At that point, most of the competitors had left (as Bikini always goes last) and so what had been an area filled with excited athletes and their coaches was now quiet and empty. It was all over; the prep, the training, the makeup and spraytan retouches, the last minute posing practice, my very first show was done. That sadness only lasted for a moment though as all of a sudden I realized that all that intense work that I had put into my training would be (for a little while) over and that I could take a much needed break from working out and having a regimented meal plan everyday. This was going to be great! I had big plans for the following week: I was going to sleep in, lazy around my home in my pajamas all day, make myself a hot cup of coffee with almond milk (which I had to cut out for the final 6 weeks of my prep) and eat only when I felt hungry as opposed to nutrient timing. Suddenly, I felt excited again about the possibilities and much deserved break that were ahead of me.

Unfortunately it was very short lived. I woke up the following morning really early, so sleeping in was out of the question. The coffee and almond milk certainly helped as did my nice and hearty breakfast along with my comfy pajamas. It felt odd though being at home, not having to go to the gym or do my usual fasted cardio; instead of feeling rested I actually felt unproductive. What was worse was the fact that I no longer had a nutritional plan to follow, so my mind keep wandering all day to what my next meal should be, how big, how many of each macro and so on. Then the cravings started, not legit cravings or hunger, just stupid cravings that my mind was trying to convince my body that it absolutely had to have. It took a lot of willpower for me not to stuff myself with chocolate and peanut butter, but I was hanging in there and I knew better. Even though at that point I had already decided to compete again in just over 5 months time, I no longer had a clear vision of stepping onstage and of my next prep, so the crazy cravings were non-stop and my discipline was being tested.

My coach like many others had mentioned to me that it is perfectly normal to gain some weight back in the days and weeks that follow a competition, but that it was crucial to not binge or overdo it as I could end up rebounding too fast and ultimately pack on excess bodyfat (which is super unhealthy) that will be very hard to lose the second time around. One judge from the show had said that she had worked with athletes who gained 10, 20 and even 30 pounds within a week! That sort of thing not only messed with your physique, but also with your self-esteem and body image, as I’m sure you can imagine. So I powered through and stayed strong, but it was far more challenging than it had ever felt during my 8 months of training.

Thankfully my coach sent over my recovery plans including workouts and nutrition for the next month and all was right again in my world. Initially I had planned to take almost an entire week off from working out, but I only lasted 2 days. I followed my coach’s advice and started hitting gym for my usual two-a-day workouts (including fasted cardio), but my new workouts are much shorter and less intense than before (30-45 minutes of weightlifting instead of 60 to 90 minutes). The focus now is more on gaining muscle and lifting heavier without packing on too much bodyfat in the process. So far, so good.

I do feel a bit bloated on some days and I certainly notice that my six pack of abs are less prominent than on showday, but thanks to my calorie increase and restored glycogen levels I am happy to say that I look redonk! When I hit the weight room and lift in front of the mirror it surprises me every time to see how fit I am and how shredded I look. Each day I make it a point to take some time out to appreciate what I accomplished and how far I’ve come. All that hard work definitely paid off and the best part was that the entire process didn’t have me going to any extreme where I felt deprived  in any way (except for the water depletion, but even then I was so excited on showday that I didn’t even notice).

I’m sure that the recent weather changes, gray sky and (gulp!) snowfall really haven’t helped in my quest to stay positive (seasonal affective disorder anyone?), but it’s all part of the process. Staying on track and maintaining the good habits that I developed is what matters most during this break from prep. The next show will definitely be tougher as will my next prep; it won’t be novice athletes only, but instead will include some seasoned competitors with far more developed physiques. I’ve got my work cut out for me, but for now, before the intense training starts up again, I get to bask in meals filled with extra carbohydrates!

Start It, Finish It

 

 

 

Contest Prep, Fitness

Show Day!

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After eight months of training, I finally made it to the stage! I started my contest prep in March 2016 and this past weekend was the celebration of all my hard work. This was one of the most interesting experiences that I have ever had; it was something completely different and was a great learning opportunity. Although the day had its hiccups, it was very positive and I was able to leave the show with many good takeaways.

Let’s start with the day prior to the competition. This day involved registration, spraytanning and the athletes meeting; needless to say it was a long day. I arrived at the host hotel for registration wearing my posing suit under my clothes as per regulation; the suit needs to be verified by a judge to ensure it’s in line with the league rules. Unfortunately, what the league failed to mention was the fact that all female competitors have to also have their shoes with them at registration, which I did not. So after my husband dropped me off I called him back in a panic screaming at him to rush home to grab my shoes and bring them back in time. Thankfully he did, but it was enough to massively freak me out for about an hour. Not the smoothest start to my competition weekend!

Once everything was settled, I had a couple of hours to kill before my spraytan. The hotel at this point was totally overrun with bodybuilders and so I wanted to find a quiet spot away from the intensity and stress from everyone. I thought to myself “Where is the one place a bodybuilder would never go the day before a competition?” The answer was so obvious…

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Yes, I walked over to McDonald’s, got myself a hot cup of coffee, connected to their wifi and proceeded to read the latest issue of Yoga Journal. I was able to carve out a little bit of quiet time and thankfully it helped me to relax before things really started to pick up.

Then came the spraytan. It is quite the experience! (I’ll get into details in a later article because it may be TMI for some people). The athlete’s meeting was shortly thereafter and then I headed home for the evening and attempted to take it easy and sleep before the big day.

Like most competitions, you have to be up early on show day. I was up at 6am for breakfast and a 15 minutes resistance band workout just to get the blood flowing. After fighting to put my contact lenses in for a solid 15 minutes, we were on our way back to the hotel for my hair and makeup appointments. My hair was curled, volumized and sprayed and my makeup was slathered on nice and thick, exactly as I expected. For anyone who may be considering competing, I strongly suggest you use the show’s services for hair, makeup and spraytan, not only for the unlimited touch ups they provide throughout the day, but because when you think your hair is set, make it bigger and when you think you’ve put on enough makeup, put on more!

Case in point:

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Once I made it to the show’s venue for prejudging, I dropped off my things backstage and slipped into my flipflops and light black robe. Bikini always goes last, so I had plenty of time to my hair, makeup and spraytan retouches… or so I thought. When I headed over for my spraytan, they nicely told me that the retouches for my height class was an hour earlier! I totally freaked out; my tan needed to be fixed as it always gets a bit splotchy, I needed to be “glazed” and my suit had to be glued on before I hit the stage. There was very little time before my prejudging and so I spent the final few moments before rushing around, panicked and thinking that I may not actually make it! I did though, but barely. I unfortunately did not have enough time to pump up backstage or eat my pre-stage snack of rice and maple syrup (again, to pump and look a bit fuller onstage). But that was ok, the important thing was that I made it and I had about a minute to quickly go over my posing. Then we were off!

My coach really wasn’t kidding when she said that the stage lights are very bright. I unfortunately thought that this meant I wouldn’t be able to see the audience, which was so untrue because I could see everyone very clearly. I immediately spotted my family; they were like beacons right in the center and I had to remind myself to look towards the panel of judges. It was like sensory overload. There are so many little things to keep track of while posing onstage, but it’s really hard to remember when you’re actually up there. My abs were pulled in the whole time, I remembered to smile and knew my poses, but everything else was pretty much a blur. I think my transitions were a bit off, but apparently they still looked smooth, but I don’t think my glutes were pulled in as much as I they could have been and I may not have been twisting my upper body as much, as well. Despite all of this, I got first callouts!

 

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*I’m in the one in the center of each pic in the dark turquoise suite. Pictured above is side pose and back pose, part of the mandatory quarter turns during comparisons.

I was on the far right throughout prejudging and made it through the comparisons in one piece and feeling really great. First callouts alone is a massive accomplishment! Everyone looked fabulous, it was so clear that we had all worked so hard to get to this place and so being part of the first comparison group was amazing. Prejudging went by very fast, I think it’s mostly because there were a lot of competitors that day.

Once that was over, I could breathe a little, but finals would be a few hours later. I got to see my family for a little while and eat my next meal of brown rice protein powder mixed with mashed sweet potatoes (it sound less than awesome, but it’s actually not bad).

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Then came finals, but not before two more coats of spraytan and another hair and makeup retouch. I was legit brown, full on mahogany by this point and I felt like I was all hair once it had been curled and fluffed up yet again. As you can in theses pictures, the bright lights really do make everything look good and in no way over the top. Finals also went by quick as we each got the chance to do a personal posing routine and then lined up onstage. Although my husband said that I looked a bit tired by this point, I completed my posing exactly as I had practiced and felt good being up there. Yes, I was nervous but it still went great and I felt a little less stress than I had during prejudging.

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Once all was said and done, I made my way back home for a much needed shower (that last coat of spraytan left me pretty sticky!) and much deserved treat meal of a veggie burger, some fries and a few vegan chocolate chip cookies. My tummy felt a bit heavy after, but it was delicious! The next morning as per my coach’s instructions I enjoyed a nice and hearty breakfast.

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It was good, but very filling as the portion size was bigger than I’ve become accustomed to.

This whole experience was really special, I’m so excited to do this again and look forward to getting even better for my next time onstage. I hope to come in tighter with more muscle definition and to improve my posing and stage presence in the meantime. Competing as a bodybuilder is something really funny; at one point I looked around a saw a large group of very buff, overly spraytanned individuals walking around in sweatpants and flipsflops on cold November day, eating mountains of rice with some kind of protein out their containers (myself included). There is no where else where this would be the norm, but on a competition weekend its the way life! I am so grateful for having the chance to fully immerse myself in the bodybuilding culture during this past weekend and throughout my entire training. I already know which show I will compete in next, so Provincial Open: I’m coming for you!

Start It, Finish It

 

Contest Prep, Fitness

Running on Empty

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Two words: Fasted Cardio.  This method of training is very popular amongst bodybuilders and although I was hoping to avoid this throughout my contest prep, unfortunately that’s no more. It can rough and incredibly challenging (as it has been for me since I’ve started) or it can be just a regular part of your routine (as it is for many who follow this approach).

The idea behind fasted cardio is that you wake up in the morning, maybe take a pre workout, but do not consume any food whatsoever including protein shakes, and then you start your day off with a cardio session. This approach is mainly geared towards fat loss as some believe that when you workout on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, you have the potential to burn more overall body fat. When you’re asleep your body is fasting and tends to hold on to its carbohydrate stores and can be geared towards using fat stores as fuel instead for its caloric use. Some people swear by this method, while others are hesitant (as I was). Research is fairly mixed on this topic as some results do in fact show that there is fat loss with fasted cardio, but other studies will show no real difference between a pre cardio meal or none. One big concern though, is muscle loss. Whenever you are trying to lose weight (and ultimately fat) there is the risk of losing muscle as well. With fasted cardio what happens is that the body can also turn to its amino acid stores (the building blocks of protein) and may cause you to start breaking down muscle tissue as well as fat. No good!

How to avoid this and optimize fat loss? Before hitting the pavement, have a scoop of BCAAs, which is known for stopping the breakdown of muscle, and have a quick digesting protein as soon as you’re done with cardio and combine it with something slow digesting as well. I opt for a shake of a fat free plant based protein blend with another scoop of BCAAs, along with a non starch vegetable sautéed with coconut oil. I know it sounds totally unappealing, but it’s very effective for me as I am nearing show day.

Right now I am  5 weeks away from my first competition and so my nutrition and workout plans have massively changed, hence the fasted cardio. I went from 4 days of 20 minutes cardio intervals along with 5 weight training days per week, to 5 days 30 minutes fasted cardio and 4 days of weight training instead. The goal now is the preserve muscle and drop the last bit of fat before I step on stage. I stopped doing fasted workouts years ago, when I realized that my sleep was being compromised, but of course back then I didn’t have all the knowledge about health and fitness as I do now. Thankfully I’m not up at the crack of dawn for my cardio, so I am able to get restful sleep, but it doesn’t make it that much easier. The first 2 days on my new plan were rough; I could feel the emptiness in my belly throughout my run, I had to move at a slower pace than usual and when I reached the 30 minute mark I would have stop altogether to get my bearings before being able to start my cool down walk. By the third day though, I started to feel significantly better and each day since, I feel improvements. Why? Because this dumb-dumb ran out of BCAAs last week and didn’t buy any until 2 days after starting my plan! What a difference once supplement can make.

Since I started my training back in March, every six weeks I would get and start a new plan from my coach; I always find that the first week is the hardest. The workouts feel super intense and the diet feels strict, even though it hasn’t very restricted, it was challenging, but I have always seen great changes in my physique as a result of being regimented and following everything as best as possible. I am so close to show day that I can practically feel what it will be like when I take to the stage, and although these last weeks in prep will no doubt be the most challenging, this will also be what gets me across the proverbial finish line.

Start It, Finish It

Contest Prep, Nutrition, Recipes

My Contest Prep Meals

My approach to food during my prep has been a combination of simplicity and deliciousness; I focus on eating the foods that are in line with my goals but that also taste super great and are easy to prep. So here is what a typical day of eating looks like for me at 12 weeks out from my first show.

Meal 1

scrambled tofu

1 serving of lean protein with 1 cup of non-starchy veg and 1 tsp of oil. What you see here is my scrambled tofu with one cup of kale sautéed in 1 tsp of coconut oil. Sometimes I’ll add either hot sauce or salsa for a bit of added flavor.

Meal 2

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1 serving of either a starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes or a whole grain like oats (the equivalent of 15 grams of carbs) with 1/4 cup of blueberries and a serving of lean protein. I will typically have an oat bran donut and protein chocolate mousse topped with the berries.

Meal 3 – I aim for 30 grams of carbs coming from a whole grain or starchy veg (usually 1/2 cup of quinoa or popcorn – 3 tablespoons of kernels yields 30 grams of carbs, or 2 slices of sprouted grain bread to make a sandwich) along with 1/4 cup of beans and 1 cup of non-starchy veg

Meal 4 – 1 serving of lean protein, 2 cups of non-starchy veg and 1/4 cup of raw nuts. Usually I’ll opt for this recipe:

Vegan Caesar Salad

caesar salad

Ingredients

2 cups mixed greens

2 tablespoons sliced onions

3 ounces extra firm tofu

1/4 cup almonds (soaked for 1 hour)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Pinch of salt, pepper and oregano

Directions

Place mixed greens and onion in a bowl. In a food processor combine almonds, vinegar and spices, blend until smooth (can add a tablespoon of water if too thick). Poor dressing over greens and toss to combine.

Meal 5

dinner

1 serving of lean protein, 1/2 cup beans and 3 cups of non-starchy veg. Pictured here is 3 ounces of extra firm tofu with 1/2 cup lentils and a combo of green peppers, brocoli, kale and onions. Everything is sautéed together with a mix of spices and seasonings. FYI, this is the meal that I look forward to the least each day! No matter what combo of flavours or veg, by the time I get to this meal I’m usually fed up with all the fiber and vegetables…but it keeps me full and leads up to my favorite meal of the day!

Meal 6 – 1 serving of lean protein and either 1/4 cup of raw nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter or oil (the equivalent to 15 grams of fat). My go-to recipe that was a happy accident is what keeps me happy during my contest prep. Check it out below and try it out for yourself, I know you’ll love it.

Chocolate Drizzled Cookie Dough

cookie dough

Ingredients

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds

1/2 tablespoon peanut butter *

2 squares of stevia sweetened dark chocolate **

Pinch of cinnamon

Directions

Combine protein powder, ground flax and cinnamon in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup of water and the peanut butter to the mix and stir to combine (you are looking to have a thick batter that resembles the consistency of typical cookie dough). Place chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 1 minute on high in a microwave until fully melted. Slowly drizzle chocolate over the cookie dough mix and enjoy!

*Always opt for the natural nut butters where the only ingredient is nuts

** If you can’t find stevia sweetened dark chocolate, melt 100% dark chocolate with stevia instead. If you are caffeine sensitive opt for unsweetened carob chips instead of dark chocolate; in this case it would turn out more like a chocolate chip cookie dough batter.

So there you have it, 6 meals each day spaced out 2-3 hours apart. I always keep the same structure for my meals as listed above and all meals are consumed in this exact order each day regardless of the timing of my workouts. Usually I try to schedule in my workouts around the higher carb meals just for the extra fuel source, but I still find myself having great workouts regardless. Thankfully I am still enjoying my weekly treat meals, but now it’s very important to keep them balanced and to never overdo it and eat to the point where my tummy is super full…although last week’s meal did have me waddling out of the restaurant!

Start It, Finish It