To compete, or not to compete…

My original plan this year was to compete twice – with the September show in Windsor being the second. It’s great to have a competition in your hometown as it cuts down on the travel expenses – which add up quickly in this sport. Additionally, it’s nice to compete at home as it gives friends and family the chance to see you on stage, doing what you worked so hard for.

It’s now been 7 weeks since the Guelph show, and my body has gone through a few ups and downs… as has my mind.  Last year I did five shows, and while I obviously had a few tough times with the mental aspect (the head games are madness), physically I breezed through them.  I was naïve in thinking that this year would be close to the same experience. I learned a LOT after Guelph, and am so thankful to have Kyle in my life – he’s lived it and was so patient with me through the hardest times (even though he was going through the same thing himself).

Competing in bikini versus physique is a totally different ball game. Personally, I never experienced a negative rebound after a bikini show. I celebrated for a day, then went back to my usual meal plan and never missed a workout. I didn’t bloat, hold water, or experience any insatiable cravings for food. What I didn’t give credit to this year is that I pushed my body FAR beyond what I did last year. Kyle said it best, “you put your body in a place that it hated, it’s now saying F you and trying to figure out how to get back to normal”.  I got excessively leaner and more dehydrated than I ever had before. No one’s body is happy at that point, and it rebels back pretty hard.

After some good weeks, and some tough weeks, I settled into a better routine and my body stabilized at a healthy weight. I viewed the extra food as good fuel to train harder, so that’s what I did and continue to do. But, I still had the question in the back of my mind – do I want to go through that again this year?

Yup. Constantly.

Yup. Constantly.

Honestly, I was / am scared of living through the same situation. I found myself constantly snacking in the evening, always reaching for carbs (and putting peanut butter on all of them – obv). I was bloated and felt terrible on many occasions. I would tell myself that tomorrow would be better, I’d stay on plan, but then I’d have one thing… and then another…  While I felt out of control, in hindsight it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.  I ate my regular meals and never binged on anything major, but my outlook on it was so much worse. In my head, the rice cakes with peanut butter and bananas, or the handful of raisins and yogurt covered pretzels (amazing) was the end of the world – this is the mind game of being on prep! Sure, I had a few donuts here and there, but it’s not like I sat down and ate an entire cheesecake or tub of ice cream by myself. The stress I put myself through worrying about the snacks was likely worse than the actual food – and yes, Kyle tells me this daily.

I have never questioned a competition as strongly as I have this one, which only added more concern – if I’m so worried, it must be a bad sign, right? I’ve talked it through with Kyle (endlessly, he’s probably so sick of it), and my coach. We’d decided that at 8 weeks out, I’d make a decision.  Well, at 8 weeks I was still very indecisive so he gave me an extra week. Knowing I had to send progress pics to him at 7 weeks was a little push to clean things up a bit in terms of my diet. Even though I was nervous about sending them to him, I was mostly happy with how I looked. The response I got was probably the best comment you can get back from your coach in that situation – “LOL. You’re a freak. You look like you’re about 4 weeks out.” WHEW. This gained me another week to make my mind up – with the direction of just tightening up my diet on my own (soooo, not eating half a jar of peanut butter in a week…?).

Why would anyone say such a thing?

Why would anyone say such a thing?

So, the question still remains… to compete or not? In typical Type A, nerd fashion, I did the whole pros vs. cons list.  *Don’t even try to tell me you don’t do this*  I truly love competing – the training (yes, even the cardio), practicing posing, being on stage, overcoming tough days and knowing that I’ve reached a goal few others can do. On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed the ability to eat slightly off plan and snack when I want to (all for the gains, come on). Plus, I don’t NEED to compete from a logistical standpoint. I’ve already qualified for the next level, so this would purely be for fun and experience, because I want to get on stage again. I can also vividly put myself back into the mental space of a few meltdowns and it’s a turnoff – getting frustrated with how your body looks when you’re hungry is a dangerous combination. Can this be avoided??

If I decide to compete again, I’ve already set some goals for prep and afterwards – to try and make it as healthy, smooth, and happy as possible. Goals for prep include staying level-headed and decreasing the number of meltdowns I experience. Minimizing the stress I put on myself will be crucial in this – I need to remember each week that I’m X weeks out, not expecting to be stage-ready with 4 weeks left, or expecting to see a hard six-pack stomach after three days on plan (but really, who doesn’t expect this?). My biggest goal though, is transitioning out of the competition smoothly with minimal “rebound”. Our trip to Vegas the following week will be motivation to stay on plan, and then return to a meal plan when we get home to counter all the effects of the amazing food we’ll obviously indulge in while there (at least we’ll be walking a lot in the desert heat…?).  It’s unavoidable that I’ll hold water after being dehydrated, but by doing things a little smarter, I can hopefully minimize the effects. My own personal challenge with this prep would be to make it happier and healthier overall – rather than focusing on the stage results.

Each prep, competition, and post-show is a chance to learn something. Our bodies don’t react the same way from show to show, so it’s always a new experience. One thing is for sure though – you need to be 110% mentally switched on to do a prep. It’s an odd feeling, like a switch goes off and your focus is entirely devoted to the stage. You don’t question anything, and the structure falls into place and feels right. It’s a nightmare to try and force those feelings, which usually ends badly for competitors. So, before committing to this, I want to be sure that I’m fully invested and can stick it out and be happy with my decision.

Saturday marks 6 weeks out… and my deadline for committing…. I know what my decision is already, but it’ll be official on Saturday 😉

And everything just clicks.

And everything just clicks.

About Ashleigh

I'm passionate about health and fitness. I work as a Health Promotion Specialist, a group fitness instructor, and also a coach for physique competitors / weight loss clients. I grew up as a competitive athlete, and have continued with this passion as a Women's Physique competitor. Research and writing is another interest of mine, which I use to share my knowledge with the general public.
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