My prep for the IFBB International Events Qualifier was pretty much like my other two competition preps: I worked with the same coach, Natalie Waples, who provides me with reasonable and healthy prep methods (although I realize that eating six times a day and working out pretty much everyday is unreasonable to many, I enjoy it). Inevitably, with any three-four month project, wrenches were thrown in: in my case, I had some food-related work travel and, well, I moved back to New York thrown in the middle of my prep, a time when most people are focusing all their efforts on consistency, focus, and avoiding stressful changes. These were all positive challenges, though, and rather than let the stress of them derail me, I went with the flow – I went off-diet during my work travel but I kept my exercise game up and I made concerted efforts not to eat every single thing in New York before my competition.
An observation about this prep: during the off-season, aka the time when you’re not dieting, I spent about a ten months working out very hard while eating “normally” (see: a lot, of everything, all the time, plus bourbon), and I think I gained fair bit of muscle – I’d say about five pounds over the course of the year, which is pretty significant for a woman my size who isn’t using any, let’s say, extra assistance. Because of this, and because my body had been through the process successfully twice already, my prep was even more flexible and reasonable than before: I was eating more and working out less than ever. Even better, as I became more comfortable with the process it was even less of an ordeal for me: I was able to make informed decisions and be flexible with my food choices, and I certainly worried (less) when it took me literally weeks of exercising and dieting to see any fat loss. Let this be a reminder to any woman trying to lose fat: no matter what, if you’re doing it properly, it will take forever. The process shouldn’t make you homicidal, but if you think you can be sneaky and keep doing the same things you’ve always done, you’re kidding yourself. It’s hard, tedious work, and it will take longer than you think it should. You’re welcome for the pep talk.
But back to the good stuff, the extra eating: Along with my five regular meals of chicken/fish/asparagus and rice on the actual show day, my coach gave me a few donuts, a burger and fries, and some peanut butter cups pre-stage (well, I added those last ones). My family members couldn’t quite get their heads around scarfing down donuts on the day you get up on stage in a tiny bikini in front of a bunch of strangers, but to that I say, trust the process! If you remember from previous years, I learned that sugar pumps up your muscles – the reason why you see girls in bikinis eating jam out of the jar and dudes in Speedos pouring honey into their mouths. Look, I don’t want to start a dozen donut per day habit, but there’s nothing quite like your first bites of high-test sugar after months of eating mostly lean protein and vegetables. I think I heard Nine Inch Nails’ song Perfect Drug in my head as I scarfed my treats.
This show, a national-level competition, brought provincial winners from around the country; I knew the competition would be steep and I knew my limitations. I was hopeful and optimistic but mostly relaxed about the whole thing, again because….this is a hobby. This is not my job. The real reward is setting a goal and reaching it and having sweet abs for a few weeks, and no subjective judges opinion of me could change all the work I put in or the pride I have in my own gunshow. So, I went into this show (held in Moncton, New Brunswick, surely one of the most exciting cosmopolitan centers in Canada) with relatively low stress.
Then shit happened.
A big-ass problem
It started at registration, where you check in, announce your category, and make sure you have the proper equipment (my equipment was a bikini and stripper heels). Waiting in the line you feel like you’re getting ready to enter a beauty pageant, except there are dudes too and everyone’s jacked. As I complete my registration, the last step is showing one of the judges my competition suit, to make sure you’re not wearing something inappropriate (A thong, I guess? Or, heaven forbid, a bikini with no sparkle?). The judge took one look at my beautiful mermaid suit, the one I wore to provincials last year, and said, “oh no, that’s not gonna work.” Apparently, all the work I’d put into building my glutes over the past year had paid off, because according to one judge’s eye, my suit was not properly containing my assets. Imagine me, standing in front of hundreds of other competitors, with my shorts around my knees and a shell-shocked look on my face as a bunch of strangers evaluate my ass cheeks. Just as a reminder, I was PAYING for this experience.
Before I had a chance to let the sheer amount of time, money, energy and effort I’d put in to this show pass before my eyes, another unfortunate soul had her suit rejected as well—another arbitrary assessment that she was just too bootylicious for her bikini bottoms. You know how people can bond quickly under stressful circumstances? Well, Jody and I made intimate acquaintance when we, on the spur of the moment, decided to switch suits. Turns out this rather ridiculous solution pleased said judge who deemed our new, switched suits appropriate, and off we went (Don’t worry germaphobes, there’s dry-cleaning involved). I tried not to let it throw me off my game – and actually, after getting used to the idea of a strange new bikini in a color I never would’ve chosen, it really grew on me. I’m not one of those “everything happens for a reason” kind of people, but in this case, it worked out well. Lesson to be learned from this: shit happens that shouldn’t, shit beyond your control, shit you don’t think is fair. You can throw a tantrum, or you can figure it out and keep going. I did the latter, in a red sequined bikini.
[ed. note: for someone who has a fairly average-sized rear end, it does seem to cause an inordinate amount of drama for me. First, I busted out of my designer wedding dress moments before walking down the aisle--that's another story-- and now this? I thought squats were supposed to solve all of life's problems, not cause them.]
On with the show
The show itself it secondary in my mind; my class was enormous, and extremely competitive. I enjoy being on stage and I think I was more comfortable then ever up there; having a bunch of my friends and family there yelling for me definitely helped. While I made great improvements in my muscle mass, conditioning (ie, leanness) and posing, I still naturally have a softer, less muscular look by far than the women who placed top five. It turns out I actually placed sixth, making me the best of the losers, I guess? It’s tough to have been so close to the top five, but I’m not losing any sleep. It’s only my third show, after all, and looking at the pictures I’m content that I did my best.
My attitude towards this potentially extreme and unhealthy process is to do the absolute least amount of work possible: while I’m working out a lot and eating very strictly compared to the non-bodybuilding population, compared to many people who compete, I’m basically a slacker. If I don’t feel like working out, or getting up first thing in the morning to do cardio, I don’t. If I’m not supposed to eat fat that day, but I feel tired and I’m craving it, I’ll have some. I balance what conventional bodybuilding wisdom tells me to do and what my body tells me to do, in a way that has brought me success without the mental anguish. For biological, self-preservation reasons, human beings are programmed to do the least amount of work necessary to accomplish a goal, although in today’s culture it’s shameful to admit it – we all want to be–or pretend to be–the hardest workers, the most hard-done by, the most stressed. No thanks – I may be an over-achiever, but I’ll be the laziest one possible.
I’ve said that I’ll keep competing as long as I keep progressing, and as long as it’s fun. While the actual backstage/competition part gets less fun to me each time around (standing for hours in a crowded room in a sequined bikini and heels, simultaneously dehydrated and dripping sweat and fake tan, is exhausting, uncomfortable, and sticky; it’s everything bad, frankly, except for the two minutes you’re strutting onstage), and since only the top one or two in each category moves on to the International show, I’m not sure what the future holds. Perhaps an American show, while I’m here in NYC? Perhaps I go back to my frankly scarier passion, BJJ? Perhaps I keep crushing stair races, like my CN Tower run earlier in the year where I [ed. note: insert brag here] was one of the top 30 women to finish out of more than 2,000?
All I know for now is I’m taking a much-deserved break from the dumbbells and the six-daily feedings to enjoy New York with my husband. You and I both know I’ll have a new, fun project soon enough, and I hope you stay stick around so I can share them with you. Thank you SO MUCH for your interest and support. If you have any questions or want to chat, please let me know in the comments. Until next time!