June 14, 2015

10 Things I Learned from my First Bikini Competition

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Athlete is a term I would have NEVER used to describe myself. As a kid I tried every sport known to man and failed miserably.  This past year I fell in love with one sport I didn’t have to be coordinated to be good at…weight lifting. I love how you can have total control over your body shape and feel really strong at the same time. So I thought it would be fun to challenge myself, push myself to my limits and try a bikini competition. I wanted to do this mainly for the process of learning and training, but also as a way to celebrate getting my body back after babies (check out my “back after babies’ blog post for more back story). I finally finished my competition after a long 20 week prep period. It was one of the most amazing and most empowering experiences I’ve ever had. It was really hard but I loved it. There were lots of ups and downs in the process, and in the end I walked away with some amazing experiences, amazing friendships, and some concrete thoughts on the process as a whole.

1. Muscles don’t grow on trees

Muscle gains are slow and take lots of consistent effort and time.   Ok so you see the pictures in the fitness magazines, and maybe you like the look or maybe you don’t. But either way those muscles were HARD FREAKING WORK. Some ladies are gifted genetically and put on muscle mass a little faster than others, but either way it’s hard, and those muscles come with a lot of sacrifice, sweat, and tears. Don’t go in thinking you will looked ripped after a intense week or two of weight lifting workouts…it doesn’t happen that way. Some ladies work years and years for that “look.” That type of magazine defined look is a combined process of eating a lot of clean foods, consistent muscle building and then leaning out.

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2. A good coach is worth the $$$$….PERIOD!

It is expensive, but this is not a place to cut corners. It’s an expensive experience as a whole, but hiring a GOOD coach is worth every penny when it comes to the health and well being of your body. The use of food to manipulate your body is a very dangerous thing if you have someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. They can really mess your body up. Funny thing is, I originally went into this thinking I could do this by myself with online resources…..how hard could it be, right? WRONG!!! Oh my gosh, I was WAY wrong. After coming to grips that it was too much for me to handle alone, I was lucky enough to find an amazing trainer who guided through the entire process. I literally could not have done it without her, and trusted her completely with my health. Which I think is so important if you are hiring someone. I did my show totally natural with real food, no fat burners or weird pills, which was a big deal to me. I don’t even like taking Tylenol, so I did not want weird stuff going into my body. No, I didn’t do endless hours of cardio. I did about 35 minutes of cardio at the most a day. The last month and weeks of my contest prep my contact with my coach was very consistent to keep an eye on my body changes day to day. The last week, peak week, was the most interesting and also most important time to have a good coach.  There were so many changes daily in my body that I needed to adjust for.

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3. You need a support system.

As a wife and mom of two kids I can tell you that having people that “got your back” is so important. My training period was about 5 months long with an additional 1 month post training reverse diet. My husband was super supportive of me during this whole process, but it took a toll on my husband and my kids as well. Of course I expected to not be able to drink or go out to eat too much during this time, but the exhaustion at the end was what really was surprising. I was so tired the last 4 weeks leading up to my competition. It was very difficult to do all of the tasks that I needed to do as a wife and mom during the day. It was a family sacrifice and a family commitment ,not just mine, that got me to the stage.

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I also was lucky enough to go through my entire training with a training partner. My training partner became such an important part of this process for me. It was so nice to have someone going through the same feelings and emotions at the same time. Even though my husband, family, and friends were very supportive, there was no way they could truly relate to those feelings during a prep period. So if you are lucky enough to find someone training at the same time, it’s so helpful!

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4. Be ok with your best.

You work so hard, you do your best, you give 100% effort….of course you want to bring home a trophy! But look at it this way. Most of the girls that enter do NOT walk away with hardware. What if that happens to you? If you think about the show as the reward for all your work and the celebration of finishing your commitment, you are successful regardless of how you place. If you go into your show thinking that you are going to place and don’t, it could be absolutely devastating. It has to be about more than the win, other wise the pressure that you are putting on yourself is setting you up for a big disappointment.   All you can do is do your absolute best and enjoy the celebration of the show.

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5. Importance of low impact cardio

I did so much incline walking and regular walking I had NO idea that was even that beneficial before I started training. Now to be fair, I did also do intervals twice a week. I’ve spent a long time thinking that I had to be dripping in sweat to be getting a good workout and burning fat, but the truth is sometimes a walk is your best option! More fat loss results with what feels like less work…sign me UP!

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6. It is NOT for everybody.

This was such an amazing and empowering experience for me. But I know this type of competition is not for everyone. There are a lot of things to consider when you are trying to decide if it is for you. Sacrifice, Cost, emotional well-being, time frame for training period. In addition to all of those things, really think about if you truly want to do it. Don’t do it for anyone else but yourself. Knowing exactly why you want to compete and what you want to gain from competing will also help you feel successful.

7. Some goals might not happen, it’s ok.

Going into my show prep, my personal focus was mainly on improving my legs and glutes. I had a vision in my mind as to what I wanted my legs and glutes to look like. I was already fit going into the show prep, but I had these slight cellulite areas on the back of my legs that were very stubborn and would not go away. I also lacked a lot of leg muscle mass because leg day was NOT my favorite and I only was managing 1-2 days a week on legs. I really needed some guidance on how to tackle legs, as I really struggled with leg workouts. In my mind I wanted to see those stubborn area gone, and larger quads and hamstrings for the show. However, even at 112lbs and 10% bf…those freaking cellulite areas were still there. Seriously. Ok, I know what your thinking and I am telling you the truth. They were much much better but I still had a slight amount of cellulite on the back of my legs. So for me it is just not realistic that those areas will go away soon, or maybe never. Weight lifting is so great because you have the power to shape your body. But at the end of the day everyone’s body is different. People have different fitness levels, muscle mass, and body shapes that contribute to their final show results.

8. Be realistic about your body changes.

I am all for positive thinking, but I think it is important to also be realistic. Understand that this body that you are working so hard for will be ONLY for the day of the show. That’s it.   ONE DAY. Don’t go in with a notion that you will be keeping it. Being realistic is important in keeping your sanity and to keep you level headed when you are done with your show.

You will gain weight back, you need too, and your body needs too. I got down to about 10% bf. It did not feel good. It is uncomfortable. I was hungry all the time toward the end during my leaning out phase. Food is energy, so when you start to cut calories, it is very mentally and physically hard. The end goal BF % needed for a fitness competition is not long term realistic for most women. Nor should it be. It really is not a healthy thing to be extremely low in Bf% for an extended amount of time. It is one thing to understand that you need a low body fat for a show, and another to think it’s healthy to keep it low forever. Very strange things started to happen to my body at 10% body fat. For me my skin started to break out like a teenager in puberty, my menstrual cycle was completely out of wack, and I started to develop night sweats. Not to mention being extremely physically tired in the afternoons, and having no energy. These symptoms went away almost immediately post show. But I also gained about 6lbs back within the first 5 days post show, and was eating about 400 more calories daily than I was my last week of the show immediately after. 4 weeks later I’ve leveled off at about 9-10lbs more than my show weight, and I’m currently on about 2200 calories daily. As I am writing this post show, I feel completely happy in my daily moods, energized, and my body feels healthy again.

9. Coming back to reality…it’s a strange feeling.

Being at my absolute tiniest on show day and seeing myself gain weight from healthy food and fluids in the weeks right after my show was surprisingly difficult and honestly a very very strange feeling. I knew I wanted to gain weight back. I knew I needed to gain back…but holy moly where did my muscles go???   So sad to say goodbye to all that muscle definition, but my show weight was not a comfortable place or healthy place to stay for daily life. Well my muscles are still there just a little softer looking from the few fat % I gained back. But on the plus side I feel healthy and strong during my workouts because of the additional food I’m eating. And I have tons of energy during the day to enjoy life.  And I’m excited to move on and start building more muscle.

10. Food-you’ve got issues

Before I started this process, I was a very healthy eater. I followed my macros daily, no sugar, no dairy, lots of veggies. I still wasn’t prepared for how obsessive my thoughts on food would become towards the end of training. About 3 ½ months into training is when I really started to notice my mind start wondering into food thoughts during the day. I was craving things I normally don’t even like. At that point in my training I was taking a lot of calories daily so I wasn’t even calorie deprived or hungry. I guess it’s because you want what you can’t have. I never thought I would be someone to have a hard time with the restrictiveness of the prep food. As the show got closer the food thoughts got more intense. For me, it was such a mental challenge at that point in the process.  After my show, all I wanted was a cinnabon, which my sweet husband picked up for me.  I probably haven’t had one of those in like 3-4 years! Not really sure why I was craving it but it was all I could think about towards the end.  And it was good!

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Finishing and completing this challenge was so incredibly rewarding for me. If you are deciding to start training for a show, I hope that this blog is helpful in giving you an idea on what to expect. When it comes to your show day. Be present, enjoy every moment of the day and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.11109214_10103161280051333_2778278309894056611_n
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