Are you Prepared?
Hey guys, apologies for the delay in getting posts out. Running the gym, training clients, dishing out nutrition advice and prepping for competition means my spare time has been limited. However, with the competing season in full swing and UKBFF British Championships fast approaching, I thought it was important to write a little something on show prep and also AFTER the show – what happens next, how we deal with it all mentally and how do we transition back into ‘normal’ life.
With the upcoming show being my 6th one, I feel like I’ve finally nailed how to come out of a show steadily and healthily. Luckily, I have a good coach who is there to support me if I need him but sadly, this is the part where a lot of coaches fall down. Their job should not finish as soon as you step off stage.
I think everybody that has competed would agree that the most difficult part hits as soon as the show is over. You’ve been working so hard towards a single goal – all focus and energy for the last 16 weeks has been for those few minutes on stage and then suddenly, it’s over, finished, done. Then the stories start to circulate – I hear the same things over and over again – ‘I can’t stop binging’ ‘I feel so ill’ ‘I’ve gained a stone in weight’ ‘I feel lost’ etc etc. The dreaded ‘rebound’ is a big part of the competing lifestyle but is never really discussed in much detail. So, I wanted to bring this to light, touch on my past experiences and outline the things that we should all start to consider BEFORE it’s too late.
Social media is now full of competitors posting pictures of ‘food porn’ and salivating over all the things they will eat right after the show. I can’t scroll through my Twitter newsfeed without seeing pictures of cakes, cookies, burgers and all things naughty. It’s all the rage now to concoct the most indulgent, sugary, fatty foods, post the pictures and boast about the upcoming feast. I have to say, I have been guilty of this too but my post-competition experiences have been very varied – sometimes I have packed absolutely no treats and once I had a mini suitcase full of them! After one show, my cheat meal was sea bass (I know, ridiculous, right?)and after another, I actually choked on chocolate because I was ramming it in so fast. But, even when I have brought lots of different treats, I only took a bite or two out of each and passed them onto someone else. It was just the sheer variety of foods I craved purely because I hadn’t been allowed them for so long and I think this is something that many of us crave. Thankfully, I have never lost my way or fallen off the wagon or gained a lot of weight in a short space of time but I can appreciate how easy this can be. What I have learnt, is to control myself, reminding myself that all those delicious foods aren’t going anywhere – I can have them whenever I want and then ironically, I’m just not interested anymore. This time, I will pick a few things that I have been missing – peanut butter will definitely be on the list – and I will eat slowly, sensibly and consciously remembering that any damage I do will only have to be un-done and do I really want to undo months of hard work in one week? Definitely not.
Here are my top tips for the lead up to stage and after:
1) Write yourself -or get your coach to write you- a post-competition diet plan. One of the first things we think about is all that food that’s been off limits so it’s instinctive to eat as much rubbish as we can. This is why it’s so important to set a new plan BEFORE the weeks of binging ensues. This is commonly talked about as ‘reverse dieting’. For example, if you’ve barely touched lactose, sugar or gluten in the weeks leading up to the show, it’s probably not the best idea to fill your face with
chocolate, cereal and bread. Tempting, maybe, but sensible, definitely not. Your stomach is going be to highly sensitive to these foods and you will end up being ill. Remember, all that food will always be there for you to have when the time is right but take it easy for the next few weeks and slowly ease yourself back onto certain foods. You may go as far as to set a plan which increases calories gradually – perhaps an extra 100 calories a week until your body returns to a healthy maintainable weight.
2) Keep the water coming. Just because the show is over, don’t neglect your fluid intake, particularly if you’ve dehydrated for stage. Take it easy at first but make sure you keep drinking. It might even be worth getting a mineral and salt replacement sachet to add to your water to ensure that you have replaced any minerals lost.
3) Go as far as planning your post-show treats. There’s nothing wrong with indulging a little after comp. After all, you’ve worked so hard to get there and demonstrated a willpower of steel for so long now. But my advice is to plan exactly what you will eat and also where to draw the line – a few days of ‘relaxed’ eating i.e. a little more variety is a good move, but that doesn’t mean cake for every meal. Planning the naughty treats and allowing yourself this bit of freedom (because you’ve earned it) will also keep stress and anxiety levels down.
4) Set yourself a new challenge or goal – once the competition is over, you often experience a feeling of loss and emptiness so re-focus on something else – it could be something totally different relating to work or a hobby but it will give yourself something else to aim towards, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem.
5) Take one day at a time (this relates to pre-comp as well). You’re tired, craving, lacking energy and life can seem like a really struggle at times so don’t focus on next week or the week after that. Instead, think about the present and tackle each day as it comes, ticking off all the tasks you complete and feeling the satisfaction as you do them.
6) Get back into the gym. This might sound a little crazy but I would advise taking a few days off but then get yourself back into the gym. The extra calories will mean your energy levels go through the roof and you can make good gains throughout this rebound period. Taking too much time away from the gym will make you feel sluggish and lazy which could drag you into a negative mindset. After all, the gym is your happy place, is it not?
7) Stay positive. This one can be harder than it sounds as you become very emotionally and mentally fragile. Surround yourself with positive people, with people that understand and support your choices and you will be surprised how much strength you can draw from them. With comp prep, emotions can change from one hour to the next so when it gets tough, just remind yourself that this feeling won’t last and you’ll be back on top in no time. Think about how far you’ve come, not about how much further you have to go.
As you probably know, competing is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. We need to make sure we are strong enough and prepared mentally to deal with the aftermath of the show. Continue to practise the discipline you’ve demonstrated throughout the whole of prep afterwards too and ease yourself back into normality gradually. I hope this piece has encouraged you to consider the period after your show and how best to approach and deal with it, especially if you are a first-timer. On a lighter note, I also hope you all have a blast on stage and enjoy your time to shine.
I want to wish all the best to everyone competing in the next few weeks but more importantly, stay happy and healthy!