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Contest Prep Without the Meltdown

A friend and I were recently talking about the number of competitors that assign their unhealthy relationship with food and bodyfat with, at some point doing a show.  At first, I was quick to pass this off as first time competitors being unprepared for their show and the impact it can have on your caloric tolerance. However, the last thing the internet needs is another blog post that brow beats people for their decisions.  Instead, I’d like to highlight a few important things to know about competing, and hopefully you can make the decision to compete or not from there.

  1. THIS IS NOT A WEIGHT LOSS JOURNEY: Well, I mean…its not permanent weight loss. You will certainly strive to be anywhere from “fit and marketable” to “insanely peeled” when it comes to bodyfat.  However,  the prep for stage comes with the understanding that you are looking to attain a very temporary and often extreme look.  That look isn’t intended for keepsies, so don’t count it in your weight loss journal.  I consider stage time a bit of a “side street” in my lifelong goal for a more athletic, lean physique.  It doesn’t help my big picture goal, but it doesn’t have to hurt it either.
  2. What slowly goes down..must slowly come up:  Critical attention to your diet doesn’t stop when you step off stage.  While everyone typically indulges in a celebratory feast, you do need to get back on the wagon within a couple of days.  In my worst post show, I had an entire week where I ate total garbage 5x/day for a solid week. I wasn’t binging, as the portions weren’t huge, but I was eating a bunch of crap that had no positive influence on my body.  It was quite a contrast from the immaculate diet I had adhered to for the 16 weeks right before then.  If you have slowly reduced your calories and allowed the adaptation to those lower levels to occur, allow yourself some time to adapt to higher calories again.
  3. Allow yourself to build healthy habits: I have written about it a bit in the past, but the one thing I have picked up from bodybuilding is the habit of constantly having my meals prepped and ready for the day ahead. I do this day in and day out.  Partially because its a good habit that aids in my overarching goal, but also because I am a total nightmare when I am hungry and would rather not be left to luck on each meal of each day.  Because I am used to prepping my meal and eating on a schedule, prep diets are really only and adjustment of portions for me.  This is a habit that I think is actually pretty sustainable.  I see it as no different than when your mom used to pack your lunch and snacks for you each day in grade school.
  4. Do this for you: You cannot control the outcome of shows, but you can damn sure control the effort.  The truth is, there are a lot of things that are out of your control.  Often in shows, the judging is subjective and you may have a look that isn’t rewarded.  Do not allow that to dictate how you feel about your showing.  While having a competitive spirit is great, the truth is that you just don’t know who will show up.  The worst showing of my life was a show that I won simply because the other 10 competitors had looks that the judges liked a hair less than mine.  The best showing of my life landed me second place finish.  In the end, I had to detach myself from the allure of winning and just accept that these are efforts to bring something you like to stage.
  5. Go All In: Like I said earlier, this is a temporary pursuit of the extreme.  If you have committed to a shower, you might as well put all your cards on the table and aim to perform well.  This means your lifestyle is about to get RIGID. You will make sacrifices.  You will skip meals and you are going to spend time doing cardio.  A lot of people will look for the easier ways out, and the truth is: that defeats the purpose. Go all in and embrace how hard this sport is and show yourself what you are made of.  At the end of it all, you will have the stage body you deserve, so make it count.
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