With the bodybuilding contest season in full swing, I thought it might be useful to blog about the post-comp “blues”, how to avoid them and what to do if they strike!
Post-event blues aren’t reserved for bodybuilders and physique athletes, of course. It’s a common thing after any big goal: a marathon, a triathlon, a wedding! But there’s another level for bodybuilders, that of “falling off the diet”, potentially dealing with the rebound, sometimes even struggling with bingeing and the body-image issues which come with all of that.
It’s worth noting that the post-comp slump can strike whether you win or come dead last. I’ve experienced both ;) , and I’ve felt great and not-great afterwards. Winning or placing does not guarantee a wonderful few days after the comp, and has little bearing on how you’ll feel, act and cope. In fact, doing well can actually make the come-down worse.
Here are my thoughts and suggestions on how to navigate that post-comp period
Before competition day:
Have a food plan for the following day. Lots of people fall off the diet wagon the day after their comp, and they fall hard. It’s understandable, when you’ve been dieting for months, but it won’t make you feel any better. In fact, it’s likely to make you feel worse – physically, emotionally, and in terms of self-image, motivation and energy levels. So, have a food plan in place before your comp day. Include treats, things you’ve been cravings, meals out or meals in with loved ones. But have a plan, and stick to it. Your body and mind are used to a plan by now, and having one for after your bodybuilding comp will provide a sense of security.
Prep some meals. Again, you’ve got used to eating good solid homecooked food for months now. Have a few meals prepped and in the fridge or freezer for the days following your comp. That way, you can slip back in to a healthy eating routine easily, without having to think about it. Of course you don’t have to get back on your prep diet (unless you’ve got another show coming up), but it will serve your mind and body really well to not fall go completely off the rails. Your body won’t know how to cope with going from prep food one day, to all the foods you’ve been craving the next day. Give it a helping hand. Also, the less choice you have, the easier you will find it to eat well after your comp. And the better you eat, the better you’ll feel (physically and emotionally). I’m not saying you have to prep plastic tubs of chicken and broccoli. By all means prep some lovely nourishing meals you’ve been thinking about. But make them good choices, based around foods you know won’t bust your insides to bits, but with enough nice extras to satisfy your tastebuds.
Write down what you love about bodybuilding
Do this now, before your comp. Write down everything you love about bodybuilding, about training, about lifting. Everything you’ve learned about yourself, your abilities, your strengths. All the bits of prep you enjoyed. You can have a read of this list in the days and weeks after your comp, if you’re feeling a bit down or lost. And you could even go back to some of them now you don’t have the pressure of the competition looming.
Get a post-comp training plan in place
It can be a struggle to get back into training when your competition date has been and gone. You might feel a bit lost without a goal. You may feel demotivated. Some people feel that, if they’re no longer “that person who’s competing”, they don’t have a place in the gym community. Others might be struggling with weight gain and/or body image and let that keep them away from the gym. Have a training plan in place before your comp date comes around. Work with a coach, mentor or trusted BB friend, or work it out yourself. Be realistic, and kind to yourself. You’ll likely be sore (from posing), weak (from dieting) and more prone to injury. But this is also prime time to make some serious progress, because you’ll be full of energy, food and nutrients!
After competition day:
Make bodybuilding more sociable
Chances are you got a bit insular, quiet, moody (moi?) during prep ;) So why not plan to make your bodybuilding more social in the weeks after your comp. Visit bodybuilding friends for training and foodie dates. Pay a visit to some other gyms and have a play on the equipment. Attend bodybuilding meets. Maybe even arrange to go and watch other bodybuilding shows, unless you think this will bring up any negative feelings.
Pay attention to recovery
Is your body a bit beaten up by prep? Well, now you’re done, here’s the ideal opportunity to indulge in massages, spend more time foam rolling, maybe even enroll in a yoga class. Or forget the sport-specific stuff and treat yourself to something really lovely like a beauty treatment, spa day etc (I would say ladies only but hey I’m not here to judge!)
Enjoy your success
Whether you won, placed or came dead last, your competition was a success. I bet you achieved at least one of the goals you set yourself when you started out, didn’t you? And I bet you felt great, beat some personal demons, stepped outside of your comfort zone, and transformed your physique? So celebrate that. Don’t be negative, don’t beat yourself up for not winning or not taking the overall or whatever didn’t happen. Celebrate what did happen. Look at your show photos, talk to other competitors about the day, chat with your supporters who were there.
If you’re struggling:
If you’re floundering a bit, feeling lacking without a goal, struggling with self-image, eating issues, body-image, identity or anything else, seek support. I don’t know what will suit you best, but you could chat with a good friend, surround yourself with family, talk to a coach, go for actual counselling, read online articles/blogs, use online forums or groups of likeminded folk… Just do reach out and don’t let it fester.
It was only your physique which was judged
This is a subjective sport and not winning doesn’t reflect not trying your best. And the judges aren’t judging your character or the whole you. You’re still a lot of great things, even if you didn’t win a bodybuilding comp!
Take a compliment
Folk will comment on your Facebook photos and send you messages saying you looked fantastic, should have won, were the best one up there, etc. Even if this isn’t strictly true, they mean well, so take the compliment. You never know who you’re inspiring. So don’t say “oh god, no, I’ve got at least another 1/2 stone to lose!” or “are you kidding, look at my hamstrings!” Just say thanks, I’m glad you like the pic, I had a lot of fun. Or similar.
Remember, this doesn’t define you
Ultimately, nobody really cares. And I mean that in the most positive, constructive and kind way. Whatever level you’re competing at, it isn’t as important to anyone else as it is to you. And the people who really matter – the people who really love and support you – will be happy for you as long as you are happy. They only care about where you placed because you care where you placed. If you came last, but enjoyed yourself and are happy, balanced and in a good place after your comp, they will be happy for you. And remember that bodybuilding doesn’t define you. Yes, you’re a competitive bodybuilder, you put a hell of a lot of time and effort into prep, and it means a lot to you. But it isn’t all you are. And the rest of your life is still waiting for you once you step off stage.
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.