Contest Prep

What I wish I had known about competing

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I love competitive bodybuilding. Everything from the training and meal prep to the custom made posing suit and yes, I even enjoy to pre-show skin prep. Taking the decision to compete is a big deal and a big commitment. Even though I had done plenty of research, there were still many surprises things that came my way. So here is my top ten list of things I wish I had known about bodybuilding before my first show.

  1. You have far less muscle than you actually think. Most of us who work out regularly are under the impression that we’re in great shape and have a decent amount of muscle. The reality is that it’s not as much as you think. When you diet down are get your bodyfat real low, then you’ll really know how much (or how little) muscle you actually have, and it’s always a bit of a surprise. I’m not gonna lie, I looked pretty puny the first time around.
  2. Posing is super hard. I’ve written about this many times before, but I can’t stress this point enough. Posing is super technical and it doesn’t come naturally to most unless you have a background in performance arts. It takes countless hours of practice to get it right and for it to look natural. It’s a lot of slow and controlled movements that require some serious physical stamina and strength. I practice for countless hours, took multiple group posing classes and even worked with a posing 1 on 1 just to get it right. Even after 3 shows, posing is still my biggest struggle and it’s what needs the most work.
  3. Show Day is really long. The day seems to go on forever. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. You rush to get to the venue in the morning for hair and makeup, and then rush to get back stage and then wait. Then you rush to get your spraytan retouched and glazes put on and then rush again to pump and get on stage. You’re on stage for all of 5 minutes, and then you’re done. Hours go by and then it’s the same exact thing for finals. The day is full of buildup and then quiet time and then you’re on stage, and then it’s all over. As exciting as it is to be immersed in a show, sometimes I just can’t wait for the day to be done.
  4. If you can, get a room at the hosting hotel. Like I said, show day is really long so having a room where you can get some downtime in between prejudging and finals is great. If there are any last minute changes or anything urgent that comes up on show day, you’re already there. You don’t have to worry about the logistics or traffic; you’re already on sight so it takes some stress off of you.
  5. Start your water manipulation early. You have to dehydrate yourself before a show, otherwise your hard earned muscle definition won’t show on stage. In order for this to happen safely and effectively, you need to start tweaking your hydration early on. That means training with a neoprene wrap in the months leading up to a show (this wrap makes you sweat more during a workout). Consider sitting in a sauna once a week and drinking dandelion root tea each night. Water-wise what you’ll want to do is gradually increase your intake every few weeks and in the last month you want to be taking in about 6 litres per day. During peak week, if you can drink even more. Then about 2 days out you’ll start dehydrating by cutting your intake in half on the first day, and then dropping it even further the next. On show day you won’t be drinking anything. Yes, it sounds intense and it is, but the dry-mouth isn’t nearly as horrible as others made it out to be. Diuretics are almost always a must, but be careful and opt for something natural like dandelion root which you can take in the weeks leading up to a show without it having any negative side effects on your health. I’ve seen a lot of people backstage practically keeling over from the dehydration because they waited too long and had to take the harsh chemical diuretics that made them sick, so make sure you do this right way.
  6. Low-carb doesn’t work for me. Carbs were super low by the end of my first prep and I came out looking pretty flat on stage. By my third show though, my coach and I had learned what worked best and so we kept the carbs fairly high throughout but dropped the fat intake instead. Not only was my prep a total breeze and free of cravings, but I had never looked better on show day. This may not be the case for everybody though. Other ladies have told me that they go higher on the fat intake instead and still eat lots of nuts and coconut oil right up until the end. So the moral of this story is that what works for one person, may not work for you.
  7. Vivid stress dreams are totally normal. I always have the most vivid stressful dreams about everything going wrong on show day. This has happened to me at the start of every prep. I remember these dreams so clearly even now; I’m running late, I forgot to carb-load and dehydrate, I missed my spraytan appointment, etc. These dreams seem so real that when I wake up, it seriously feels like it actually happened. Apparently this is completely normal and most athletes experience this. So just FYI in case you’re planning on competing.
  8. Be prepared on show day. Have all of your meals prepped and packed, bring some resistance bands or light dumbbells to pump up backstage and have a few backup snacks just in case. But most importantly: as soon as you get to the venue and get to the backstage/athletes area go straight to the spraytan area to find out when they’ll be doing the retouch for your category and putting on your glaze. Also keep an eye on how quickly the show is going and the order of the categories so you don’t miss your call time. I almost missed mine for my first show and having to rush right before stepping onstage was awful. I was so stressed and completely freaked out. I learned my lesson and now as soon as I arrive on sight I go straight to the spraytan area and stay close by just to be safe.
  9. I always lose my appetite immediately after a show. I’m sure you’ve seen people talk about their victory meals or post-show binge fests and although I always plan for some kind of decadent meal, my appetite always tanks. I just don’t want to eat. I can’t explain it, maybe it’s the post-contest blues, but I just don’t feel like eating a victory meal afterward. I still do it anyway, but it’s not as awesome as I thought it would be. I never binge eat because that would just make me horribly sick, but I do have a big meal just cause it’s what you do. I am thinking that for nationals though, I might just forgo it altogether if I’m not feeling it. Why eat something that I don’t even want in the first place?
  10. You get the strangest feeling when it’s all over. The post-contest blues are no joke. For me it starts as soon as I step off step and slip into my sweatpants and start chugging water to rehydrate myself. It gets eerily quiet backstage towards the end. What was once a backstage full of people, commotion and energy becomes this empty space with a few stragglers. The when you get home it’s even more apparent. The silence is almost excessive. When you go from months of build up for one day and then you spend that day surrounded by people with all of this attention on you, coming home to an empty condo is a little overwhelming. The rest and break that you get to take is nice, but it’s also a big period of adjustment in that you’ll suddenly find yourself with plenty of free time.

So there you have it, my list of things I wish I had known before my first competition. I still find myself getting new surprises and takeaways with every show since. Overall though, competitive bodybuilding is the best and it brings me so much joy. If you are looking to step onstage, then I hope you find this helpful and if ever you are looking for a coach, I’m always here.

For information on my coaching services, click here

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Wellness

Recovery Week

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Competing in any sport is rough. The training process, the nutrition and meal prep, not to mention the constant build up to the big day is enough to take a toll on even the most elite athletes. That’s why having a designated and scheduled recovery time is an absolute must for everyone, and I’m not just talking about one rest day away from the gym, what I’m talking about is some serious downtime for some real R&R.

Taking time out from exercising is a must for anyone who workouts consistently and who trains hard. You can lift as heavy as possible and be super on point with your nutrition all you want, but if you don’t take legitimate time off, you are guaranteed to not only plateau and over train, but to burn out completely. Working out is only part of the puzzle, everything that you do outside of your gym time will dictate your progress, your health and your wellbeing. You can’t build muscle if you’re exhausted, you can’t lose body fat if you’re physically over worked, just like ou can’t out-train a bad diet. It’s all three pieces of training hard, eating clean (and enough!) and restful sleep and recovery, that allow you to grow, to get stronger, to get lean and stay that way.

Last year when I competed for the first time, I only lasted 2 days away from the gym and these weren’t even real rest days, they were more like active recovery days instead where I would go for a nice hike or light jog outside. This time was completely different. I knew in advance that regardless of how I placed and whether or not I would qualify for the Provincial Championships, that I would take time away from the weight room. After all, at that point it had been well over a year since I had taken more than one day off from working out in the same week…needless to say, I was due.

So that’s exactly what I did; three full days off followed by a couple of days of light jogging outside for no more than 20 minutes and zero weight training. This may sound strange, but it was a challenge for me to stay away from the gym. Think about it: when you spend months on end where everyday has several hours dedicated to working out and then you completely eliminate it altogether, it’s bound to leave you wondering about what you’ll do with all that extra time. It was certainly nice to sleep in a bit longer and not have to run for the bus on my way to the gym, but it was also really nice to start jogging again after three days. I felt productive again.

What was not so awesome about my rest days was how I felt physically and emotionally to be honest. The day after the competition I woke up feeling a bit sore and stiff; posing in heels on stage coupled with stress and dehydration will do that to a person. The worst part though was that I was super bloated, my belly was pushed out and I felt heavy and soft. It is normal to get some bloating after dehydrating for show day and then rehydrating after, but this was way worse than I could have ever imagined. I also got the worst heartburn every single time that I would eat. It was awful. I felt full all the time, but I also wanted to eat everything in sight, no good. On the emotional side, well let’s just say that the post contest blues hit me hard this time. I was disappointed that I didn’t place in the top 3, but I also knew that the judges had their reasons and the top three ladies absolutely deserved to win without question. My disappointment lied within myself; maybe I could have lifted heavier or practiced posing more or gotten more rest during my prep. I felt like I could have done more and that I was in control of how well I placed, so my not winning was a reflection of my lack of effort somewhere along the line. It may not be true, but I couldn’t help but feel and think that way; I didn’t win and I wasn’t good enough because I didn’t do enough or work hard enough. Ultimately though it was all said and done and the show was over. On the bright getting the great piece of news that I and placed 4th and did qualify for the Provincial Championships definitely perked me up!

So now I am back on prep and getting ready for the big competition in just 6 weeks from now. The good news is since I’m starting this prep already pretty shredded I get to enjoy a bit more carbs (for now) and less interval training with my cardio. So that’s nice, but we’ll see how long it lasts! This next show will be with people who are the best in my Province and possibly the country; the top 5 move on to nationals! This one will no doubt be my biggest challenge yet.

Start Strong, Finish Strong

 

Nutrition, Recipes

Building Muscle Without the Bulk

When most hear the term muscle building they tend to think bulk, as in getting a big and beefy looking bod. In reality, building muscle and bulking up are very different concepts that require very different regiments altogether. So let’s get one thing out of the way right now…you will not bulk up just from weightlifting alone, even if you lift really heavy. Bulking up takes many years and specific dietary requirements and supplements along with super intense workouts to sculpt your body so that you gain weight, and get big and shredded at the same time.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about building muscle. Weightlifting is obviously the way to go, but when you combine it with some cardio and along with consistent nutrition, you can pack on lean muscle without adding bodyfat. What I mean by consistent nutrition is eating a diet that includes at least half of your daily calories from carbs (to help fuel your workouts) with lean protein and some added fats per day, while keeping the prepackaged foods and junk to a minimum except for the occasional treat meal. You also want to be in a bit of a calorie surplus each day, otherwise gaining muscle will be almost impossible.

Let me be clear here: when I say building muscle I mean lean muscle; nice curve and shapely glutes, with a small looking waist giving you an hourglass/s curve in the body  (not a more square looking or v-taper physique – although that’s good too!). Very nice looking indeed!

This is basically what my goal is right now and it’s part of my post-contest recovery plan. Cutting for a contest can be very intense so it is important to give your body time to recover from it in order for it to continue to grow and to stay healthy as well. Nutrition is key here as you cannot out-train a bad diet and you can’t function well if you’re not eating enough and eating well.

That being said, here are a few of my current go-to recipes that help to fuel me for the day, power through my workouts and, of course, build some sexy lean muscle.

Banana Nut Power Bowl

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Ingredients

1 scoop vanilla protein powder

1 tablespoon powdered peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 banana sliced thin

1 tablespoon almond butter

Instructions

  1. In bowl combine protein, powdered PB and cinnamon. Add in 1\3 cup of water and stir to combine (it should have a cookie dough-like consistency).
  2. Top with sliced banana and top it off by drizzling the almond butter

This serves as my first meal of the day right after fasted cardio and is super yummy!

Apple Cinnamon Donuts

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups oat flour

2 scoops vanilla protein powder

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 medium sized apple, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons natural peanut butter

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl combine almond milk and vinegar, and set aside
  2. In a medium bowl combine, protein, baking powder and cinnamon
  3. Add in the almond milk mixture and peanut butter, stir to combine and fold in the apple
  4. Spray a donut pan with non-stick spray and divide batter into 6 equal portions
  5. Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minute, rotate the pan half at the 10 minute mark
  6. Let it cool completely before eating. This makes 2 servings of 3 donuts each

This serves as my pre-workout meal

Sweet Potato Fries

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Ingredients

1 medium sweet potatoes

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Slice sweet potato into thin strips
  2. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray, place potato strips evenly and add salt and pepper
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and flip fries over, place back in oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Makes about 2 servings

These three recipes are great for staying fit allow you to enjoy delicious food everyday without gaining bodyfat.

Start It, Finish It