Well here we are in “peak week” - the final week of contest prep. This time next week we’ll be partway through the NPA Final and the season will be almost over.
I don’t have a lot to update you with… I’m approaching peak week the same way I have for all my other comps so far this year: carb deplete followed by a carb-up, water manipulation and lots of chilling out (hopefully!)
I won’t lie, I feel pretty rubbish, which is probably a “good” sign in that it shows my body is responding to those final dietary tweaks. It’s been a long season, particularly for someone who thought they’d do one show and that would be it! I can’t believe here we are in October and I’m still prepping and dieting!
I’m training up until Thursday. Friday will be my traditional “wander into town, buy treats to eat after the show, sit in a cafe nursing a hot drink and journalling in my training diary”. I’m looking forward to it already.
How am I feeling?
I never really know how to answer this question but, this time round, I’m finding it even harder. I just don’t know what to expect from Sunday’s show, I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to tell whether or not I’m looking as I should a week out, and I’m just tired. I know this week will change all that: I’ve got the week off work, so the pressure will be lifted and I’ll have time to reflect on the season, start imagining the show and really get excited. I know, too, that this week will bring about daily changes in my body, visual rewards which will spur me on and give me an extra spark of motivation. I’ve got a great support crew coming to Bedworth: my Mum and her husband, my sister and of course my husband. It will be a fun-filled, happy occasion and I can’t wait to step on stage again.
Knowing it will be the final time this year makes it even more special. I still can not believe I made it to not one but two British Finals in my first year of competing. The line-up for my category is immense, packed full of top-quality women who epitomise the highest level of natural bodybuilding. Just to stand on stage with them is a massive achievement for me. Every time I look at the list, I feel like a very small minnow swimming with big fish! (I was going to say sharks but they’re all very nice people!)
Then there are my feelings about the end of prep and transition into off-season. I’m torn. Prep is and has been hard, very very hard. Harder than I ever thought it would be and – I honestly think – the hardest thing I’ve done in sport (this from someone who’s swum the English Channel twice). It’s hard on your body, it’s hard on your mind. It’s hard on those around you (thank you, you know who you are…) It’s hard on relationships, work, sleep, social life. It really does affect everything. Bodybuilding prep is there 24/7. It’s not like any other sport I know.
So, for that and lots of other reasons, I am looking forward to prep being over. I have a list of things I want to eat (if I write them down, I don’t obsess about them any more), although I’m sure I’ll only eat a few of them (Pop Tarts? Why do I want Pop Tarts? I’m pretty sure I’ve never even eaten one.) I want to catch up on my social life, I want to go out to eat with my husband. I want to bake, and cook, and eat with family and friends. I want to give my body a break and make some changes in training.
But, I know myself well enough to know that I’ll miss prep in a way. I’ll miss the routine, I’ll miss the organisational side of it and, of course, I’ll miss the results. It would be great to be able to stay in contest shape year-round, but of course it’s not sustainable (and hardly healthy). Have my cake and eat it, too? At this stage, I’ll settle just for eating it.
After my bodybuilding Q&A post, a couple more questions came in – thank you! Here are my answers:
“How does your stomach react to the bodybuilding diet, with high protein, veggies, etc? Have you noticed any increased gas, bloating, constipation, etc? I hear the diet can be tough on your GI system.”
Hm, I don’t know! I’ve been eating this way for a year now, and on an actual prep/cutting diet for much of that. I don’t think I’ve reacted badly to it, although there are too many variables to be able to say. I do get a bit of bloating if I have too much protein powder (particularly whey) but I don’t think it’s the protein which bloats me, as I don’t get it from fish and meat. Sorry – what a useless answer! One thing I can tell you is that I feel great on this kind of eating – lots of fresh veggies (raw, stir fried, baked, roasted) and salads, a massive range of meats and fish. If I eat meat/fish and veg for breakfast, I feel great for the rest of the day. (Someone remind me of this next week…!)
“What tips would you give to someone competing for the first time?”
I would say ask someone a lot more experienced than me! Seriously, I could not and would not have got to this stage had it not been for my coach Kat Millar and various other kind souls who have helped me, advised me, given me feedback and taught me so much. Annie Uelese, I’m looking at you! So my advice would probably be something like:
- ask yourself why you want to do it? Because it’s going to get tough and you’ll need a reason which resonates with you.
- set yourself some rules. Someone outside the sport suggested this to me and it is very wise. Whether that’s “stay natural”, or whether that’s “don’t take my calories below 1600 a day” or “don’t do two cardio sessions a day”. Whatever is important to you, make the rules, write them somewhere and stick to them.
- find a coach, ideally someone who has competed and who knows the association/federation you’ll be competing with, so they’ll have some idea of what’s what, what the judges are likely to want from you, and little things like how the shows are run, how long your routine should be etc. You can find all that out yourself but when you first get into prep it’s just overwhelming. Having someone you can just ask if so comforting.
- get a great support system around you. My husband should probably be knighted or sainted (although I think he has to be dead for the latter so let’s say knighted!). Being the partner of a prepping bodybuilder is probably worse than being the athlete. I can’t imagine what prep must be like if you have no support or, worse, people around you who are negative about it.
- get a plan in place: identify a show to enter, count backwards, mark the weeks on your kitchen calendar and get going!
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.