This past fall Neil and I were at a bodybuilding show. We sat in the audience watching competitor after competitor parade around, showcasing their amazing physiques. Sitting there in full blown off season the competitors were very motivating. As each competitor walked the catwalk, the announcer would read little tidbits and quotes from their entry forms “Competitor 156 says, “There is no off season”‘.
After hearing that I nearly spit out my food, really, are you kidding me? Let there be no question that there is an off-season. And it is incredibly important. I recently competed in the INBF Calgary Classic and the NPAA Canada Classic. The day of the show a girlfriend of mine asked if I was going to stay ‘so skinny’ all the time. The answer to her question, no. There is an off-season and like I said above, its very important.
I’ve noticed that when fresh competitors step off the stage, they face many disconnects that they aren’t prepared for. The biggest challenge among them is known as the ‘post competition blues’. Let me break this down for you especially if your prepping for your first show.
As competitors we are hyper focused on our goals. For 24 weeks straight, we put our lives on hold to train, eat, cook and sleep according to a precise plan. Everything you do during the months leading up to a show are governed with clockwork rigidity. But within a week after the show, a horrible feeling of loss sets in. There’s suddenly no pressure to chase the final goal. When you have been dead set on something for an extended period of time, its very hard to let go of that framework and that feeling of safety that a nutrition and training program can give you. To quote the philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” You suddenly have the freedom to do whatever you want, but you’re overwhelmed with stepping outside the strict rules of competition preparation. For a first time competitor this can be confusing and overwhelming. But know you are not alone.
Whenever we prep a client for a show, we warn them far in advance of the tendency to obsess over keeping their competition body. No one wants to hear it, but it is not healthy to look the same way you did on show day 365 days a year. It’s unrealistic, and leads to obsession and panic. In some cases it can even lead to an eating disorder.
It has been said that bodybuilding (and its relative categories) is the unhealthiest “healthy” sport. Even though you’re exercising and eating well, it is not possible to maintain the look you presented on stage for any extended period of time. Your hormones would not be able to sustain the workload. Plus, lighting, tanning and makeup contribute a great deal to that final physique. So, how to avoid post-competition blues? What is the secret to my stress free post competition period? Here are my top 3 tips.
1. Get your body back to normal – Give yourself a 2-3 day buffer before getting back into training. Two days post competition I did a good leg session. Being a smart competitor, you would have received feedback from the judges on what you need to improve on. You need to take this feedback back to the drawing board and plan accordingly. As far as nutrition goes, reverse diet out of your competition macros. Don’t go crazy, increase food levels slowly.
2. Get a hobby – There is nothing more boring then hearing the same stories about training. We get it, your sore from training and hungry from dieting. Get a life! Busy, well rounded people are typically the most successful in all domains of life. Try a new hobby or learn something new. Round out your interest and your character. I am currently working on an e book filled with yummy recipes and insightful articles.
3. Reconnect with family and friends – After you’ve focused on no one but yourself for 24 weeks, I guarantee they miss the ‘old you’. They also miss doing the normal things with you that you had cut out during your prep. Its time to make some visits, eat one of your moms cookies without guilt, and have a late night on the town with your best friends.
So much work goes into the day of the show. Tanning, makeup, hair, jewelry etc. you would have to be pretty rank looking to look bad. I do not care to walk around at 117lbs. Yes my abs are shredded, my muscles are defined and I look good, but that’s for one day. Post-competition blues have never been an issue for me because of my extreme gusto for life. I love moving heavy ass weights. I love staying up all night talking to Neil about our future plans and aspirations. I love cooking new foods. I love hanging out with friends. I love having a bit of fat on my ass and filling out my leggings. I love all of these things WAY more than I love the 117lb, shredded, tanned, made up plastic chick.
Competing isn’t about the end result (the trophy); it’s about the journey you take to get to the stage. Its about building strength, both physically and mentally. You’ll learn some things about your self that you didn’t know before you started competing. If all you care about is the end result and the physical aspects you are in the wrong sport.
Show or no show I love me some protein bars. Check out these lemon bars I made for our transformation challenge clients.
So Fresh and So Clean Protein Bars:
1/2 cup oat flour
2 scoops whey
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 qt Crystal Light lemonade
4 egg whites
1/2 cup splenda
8oz baby food applesauce
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine all ingredients and bake for 25 minutes.
MACROS protein 5g – carb 4.5g – fat 0.5g
With love from the Trench kitchen,