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

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, Nutrition

Carb Loading & Dehydration

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After 16 weeks of training and consistent nutrition, I am now only 3 days away from competing. All that work and effort comes down to the final few days. The last stage of prep involves carb loading, water manipulation and final beauty prep (the fun-ish part).

Let’s start with carb loading. To non-competitors, eating a high amount of carbohydrates pre-contest may seem counterintuitive, but when done correctly, this method of eating can greatly impact one’s physique in the best way. When I say carbs, I don’t mean things like bread or deserts as these tend to be hard on the digestive track and will cause bloating especially at this point in prep. What I really mean is the fast and easy to digest stuff such as white rice and sweet potatoes combined with easy to digest protein sources such as rice protein powder and tempeh, without any added fats. The reason why we carb load pre-contest is to replenish glycogen stores which ultimately allow your muscles to have a full appearance while staying shredded and lean without any bloat. Here’s the science behind it… Carbs and water bind together and the muscles act like a sponge that soak up all the carbs and water together which end up giving that nice and full look with lots of definition.

The second part of this process involves water manipulation and is just as important as carb loading. In the weeks leading up to the show you gradually increase water intake until you reach at least 6 litres per day and then come peak week you drink as much water as humanly possible. This allows your body to flush out everything and become super efficient at shedding any potential excess water. then in the days leading up to the show, you slowly taper off the water. In my case, I cut my water intake in half 2 days prior, then 1 day out I go for 2 litres before 1pm and then drink smaller increments of water every couple of hours until we cut it completely save for 1 oz at each meal. Show day is 1 oz at each meal and that’s it. Why? Dehydration makes everything tighten up and shows off all the definition in the muscles. the dryer you are, the better you look.

As for the beauty part, well that’s something nice but also a bit time consuming. In the weeks leading up to the show you have to start the skin prep process to help the spray tan come out as nice as possible. This means daily exfoliation, moisturizing twice a day (unscented of course) and stop deodorant usage 3 days as it makes the spray tan come out green. Then there’s the mani-pedi; I do it myself to save a few bucks and stick with a neutral color with a little bit of sparkles so that it doesn’t clash with my suit. I also make sure to cleanse my face daily and do 2 full at-home facials during peak week so that my skin is ready to go and the makeup will better “take” and last on my face.

Going back to the spray tan, it’s super important to go dark because under the bright stage lights, without the tan you look completely washed out and you won’t see any definition. And yes, it is the industry standard and every athlete does it. Up close you look brown, but on stage you’re fabulous.

Some people say that the dehydration process is the worst of the entire contest prep, but I have to disagree; getting my legs waxed last week was pure torture. That being said, being really thirsty sucks, but on show you’re so busy that you don’t even notice.

So that’s all that is left of my prep. A few more days of solid posing practice and I’ll be ready to go. I feel as though my physique has changed in such a positive way and that I really will be presenting my best. Three days out and then go time!

Start Strong, Finish Strong