Contest Prep, Wellness

Peak Week Pain Points


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



It’s not easy being different


I want to share with everyone a less than awesome experience that I had at a recent holiday dinner with about 35 people that took place in the private room of a restaurant. When the owner and head chef found out that I am plant based, they took it upon themselves to make a mockery of my personal choice by presenting me with a plate featuring one brussel sprout and laughingly said “I present you with a gluten free, vegan, organic brussel sprout” and then everyone at the table laughed, pulled out their cellphones to take pictures and claimed that this was the funniest thing ever. To add insult to injury, the owner later stated that at least their chef has a sense of humour which is so rare; as if I ought to feel privileged to be ridiculed in front of and by my group of dinner companions. The evening ended with the presentation of a cheese plate placed far from my end of the table so that those sitting close to me would be “punished for sitting next to the vegan”, which was of course followed by even more laughter. Needless to say I was not amused, in fact I was completely humiliated that everyone at the dinner had several laughs at my expense. It is astounding to see what is considered to be acceptable behaviour these days. The following day when I brought it to one person’s attention, they tried to rationalize with me that everyone had been drinking and this sort of thing happens all the time, it was only a joke blah, blah, blah (basically the usual song and dance of well what do you expect when you differ from the norm) and when those at the dinner were told that what they did was actually offensive and disrespectful apparently they were very remorseful. I however have yet to receive a single apology or acknowledgement from anyone, further proving that their so-called remorse is only an attempt at covering their asses.

This all took place about 2 weeks ago and I have been so angry since, and then something very interesting happened last night. As I came home from work and changed into my workout gear to get ready for some serious weightlifting (chest and triceps), I looked in the mirror and realized how grateful I am for that evening and all of those comments. I can safely say that this was a great reminder for why I choose to live a fit and healthy life, and it has been the best motivation for me push even harder and lift even heavier each time I exercise. While those at dinner were complaining about how bloated they are, how they need to lose weight, hit the gym and started making their usual new year’s resolution to finally “get in shape”, I am already there. I’m already in great shape and I am already strong, I am actually doing what very few people can. The food that I choose to eat nourishes me and fuels me for each day and each workout; it helps to build me and better myself. So now the only thing that I wish to convey is gratitude: thank you for reminding me that everything that I am already doing is working and continues to work and that I not only look great, I actually feel great too. While others complain about their muffin tops, their cellulite or their jiggly arm fat I can truly say that my stomach is flat, my ass is firm and I can bench press more than what I weigh.

Since that evening my fiancé says to me every morning that it’s a good day to be fit, although he has also been through his fair share of judgement from others and he continues to be subjected to it. As I’ve mentioned before, he is a big guy and many times when he goes out people stare, leer and whisper, making him understandably uncomfortable. I always say to him “let them stare” because those that do don’t and never will understand the work, the discipline and the courage that it takes to be that strong and to stick with that regiment for the long haul. I remember once when someone very close to me said that they noticed how uncomfortable he gets when people stare, but what do you expect when you look like that? Well I expect for him to be treated like a human being and remarks like that are truly awful.

All of this is to say that it is really terrible to judge a person, regardless of what they look like or how they choose to live their life. Whether a person is super fit or obese, it is unacceptable to treat people poorly and to make comments or “jokes”. If you are comfortable in your own skin and you feel great, then good on you because it is the most important thing for each of us to feel that way and to have confidence in ourselves. Block out what others may say and take the high road whenever you can, although sometimes I must admit that it feels good to put a person in their place when they totally suck. Remember compassion, kindness and empathy; treat others how you want to be treated, as hard as it may be. If however, you are the person who is passing judgement on others for whatever reason, remember this quote: “When you judge someone else, it doesn’t define who they are, it defines who you are”. Do you really want to be that person? That cynical, bitter, impolite person? Do you really want to attract that kind of negativity into your life? What goes around, comes around.

With the New Year right around the corner, try to take a different approach to resolutions and this year focus on doing the things that you actually enjoy. Spend time with your loved ones, learn new things and try out some new hobbies, because when you do engage in activities that you like, everything will be not just bearable, but also nice and fun too, letting you feel great about your life and your personal choices. If you want to make a change, a real change, then go for it! You can make it happen, you can live the life that you have always dreamed of, whether it’s making peace with how you look or striving to become stronger, you have what it takes. Everybody that scoffs or laughs or says mean things are just projective their own weakness and lack of faith on to you; it’s really just a bunch of noise from a small minded person who is attacking what they do not comprehend. In the words of Taylor Swift “haters gonna hate” and in the words of me “suck it haters!”

As for my resolution, well I’m going to continue on with trying some new things as I do every year (in 2014 I stared taking ballet and hot yoga classes and in 2015 I joined a book club and took a 12 week fitness challenge). I am going to finally join a gym. If I want to take my fitness up a notch and keep moving forward, then I will need to start lifting heavier with machines and not just free weights and adding back in a little bit of cardio a couple times a week. Also, working out at home is starting to become distracting with my fiancé always chatting with me as I’m trying to finish a set of 30 weighted v-ups, so I think this will be a good thing. Although it is a big expense, it’ll also be a big benefit for me and something new that I can get to experience.

I hope you all have a super awesome happy new year and a great year in 2016! Make it a great and memorable time for you and your loved ones!

Start It, Finish It