I'll 'Figure' it Out...
Above photos taken on 8/19/2017, 3 weeks out from competition day!
I usually feel excited when I get an opportunity to brainstorm ways to accomplish something I've never done before but when it comes to prepping for my first Figure Competition, not so much. In regards to stage presentation, choosing the right suit/shoes/make-up/jewelry, I'm fine. I consulted with some of the best local talent for posing and a custom suit; for the rest, I researched what is acceptable and made choices within the guidelines based on that information. I've watched hours of Youtube videos on everything related to women's figure competition and tried my best to extract what seemed logical, useful and realistic. I worked as a volunteer backstage at the IFBB Prestige Crystal Cup ProAm competition on 7/30/2017 to get a feel for what happens. I've spent hours training, fine-tuning my diet, practicing posing and getting my head in the right place. So, what's the problem?
It's not that there's a problem so much as there are some things that just cannot be explained or foretold by others who have competed. This is one of those times when having 'Been there, done that' does not necessarily mean that one is perfectly equipped to provide clear and concise guidance to others wanting to make a competition debut. Some of my observations on this include:
1. As I was assisting the expeditors at the Crystal Cup competition, I was suddenly struck with awe by the amount of competitors there, all in perfect peak condition for the event and how it seems like such a daunting process, yet there they were. Very few competitors in my age division though, especially amongst females. I'm thinking this has a lot to do with the fact that once menopause hits, all the pre-competition prep information pretty much needs to be done on a case-by-case basis. Six months ago, my OB-GYN told me I have ZERO hormones. Certainly this has a huge impact on determining with accuracy how my body will respond to competition prep designed for someone not dealing with this. And while there is some info out there relating to this, I don't feel comfortable following it to a 'T'.
2. Everyone's body is different and your results will not be the same when following the prep plan of someone else. I learned this when I did a mini test back in April for a photo shoot. I did the 'Peak-week' plan of a pro competitor I found on her website. With disastrous results. Since then, I have been doing just as the title of this post suggests - trying to figure out what works for me.
3. This brings me to Youtube and all the other research. Be very careful who you listen to when prepping for a contest. Anyone can put their opinion out there. There is a lot of great help but there is also a lot of idiocy. Never forget that your body will always respond uniquely and that it is important to remember that your first time around is more of a learning process than a following process.
4. The diet prep. As a vegetarian, this excludes tons of published information automatically for me. As does the menopause thing because menopausal metabolism is quite different and you must tweak for this.
I have trusted my intuition and so far, it seems to be going pretty well. Some other observations I've made while going through this process:
5. I have friends who have competed and they love to give advice. Most of it I've found I've had to tune out. If you are a friend giving advice to a novice competitor, please be gentle, kind, compassionate and supportive. Anything else, keep to yourself. I am not implying that a pretty little picture needs to be painted. Example: I'm going along fine, training hard, clean diet, proper hydration, sleep, etc. Then, I get a text: "Are you at the stage where you're starting to doubt yourself yet?" Followed by other comments, none really helpful or positive. Suddenly, I start to think about this and for a few days, I'm completely doubting myself..."Is my posing where it needs to be? Am I too old for this? What if I can't lean down in time? What if I get laughed off stage? What if..." It took me some extra work to get all this out of my head and while I did, and it's completely gone, that was not a helpful text. I took this angle on it: it came from a bikini competitor friend, that division is larger, more competitive, and perhaps due in large part to the posing required of them, there is probably much more pressure to attain a certain look. Also, the age category she competes in is one of the largest. At my age in local shows, I don't expect there will be many other competitors. I also hope that with age comes the experience and wisdom that the younger competitors don't necessarily possess and I look forward to a good experience. Bottom line: Every competitor deserves her own experience so try to be mindful of what you say to others if you have competed before.
6. Don't compare yourself to others. This seems ironic when you're going to do something where you will be judged against other competitors! Just make sure you leave it to the judges! I have made it a point in posing practice NOT to watch the routines of others, after all - this is frowned upon during the competition. One is expected to hold a pose while waiting to be called out while looking only at the judges and of course, smiling the entire time.
7. Keep your opinions about another competitor's physique to yourself. I've had comments made to me during practice posing sessions about how other competitors should/shouldn't be in certain categories because perhaps they resemble a Physique competitor more than a Figure competitor. I have never given an opinion back or any response for that matter. I'm not a judge. While I have an understanding of what is expected of each competing category, for the time I've been following results of NPC competitions, the rulings seem to be fairly consistent. I say, focus on your own game and just be nice to others.
8. Getting fit for a suit. This is where things got a bit dicey for me. Why? I had to weigh. I don't like to weigh. I prepared myself for the number and at 5 weeks out, I was at 140 3/4 lbs. I assumed my goal weight for show would be around 132 lbs. and I immediately went into over-drive in my mind: I need to drop 8 3/4 lbs. of FAT in 35 days! That's too much, too fast, was pretty much all I could think. If I take that 30,625 calories of stored energy that I need to burn through in 5 weeks, that means I have to eliminate 875 calories a day! I was already feeling like I had tightened up my diet to the point where anything less would just make me into a spaced- out bitchy-bitch...or, force me to do more exercise - like CARDIO (yuck!!!). I had to give the suit- maker regular updates on my weight/measurements progress and when I weighed a week later, my weight was up 4 lbs! Having weighed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, this truly sent me to panic mode. How could I have gained? Someone said it was muscle. Yeah, right. Four lbs. in one week, LOL. VERY funny. It was too late to back out of the competition and I told myself "Self! You will have to get an extra dark spray tan to hide those dimples (would that even be possible?!) and you better make your moves extra confident, like yeah - I'm from good German breeding stock." I felt so frustrated that all my hard work was somehow missing the mark. But - I was prepared to move forward regardless. And a major factor here: the scale I did my first weigh-in on was not within tolerance so I was most likely heavier than 144 lbs. the first time I weighed. Take this into consideration when you weigh.
9. I got my head in the right place. This is a necessity before you consider competing! For me, all the years of eating-disordered behavior prevented me from doing this. If I had not laid the proper foundation by attending to that first, I would have come unraveled! This is far harder than just sticking to a diet. It means having strength for doing hard work in the gym and following a diet program, even when you don't feel like it (I haven't felt that way), and being able to provide your own motivation and inspiration. It's also been a big indicator for me as to how far I have come in moving on from bulimia after so many years.
10. Definitely practice posing often and have someone video your practice - from the judges angle, which means sitting almost eye-level with your feet as they will be looking up at you.
The good news is that I am now at my goal weight of 132 lbs. and I still have 17 days out to prepare. The bad news is, never having done this and not knowing what I would look like at my estimated goal weight, I think it is probably closer to 129 - 130 lbs. I know I will be ready, regardless of my weight. My coach says I could compete now. But I also think to myself when he says that "Yes, because I might be the only one so I win anyway." It's not about the win for me. That would be awesome, of course, but it is about doing something I have wanted to do for 40 years but couldn't because I had too many issues surrounding eating. I have become more determined because of my age and because of menopause - conditions that might be a 'reason' for many to say "Oh well, it's too late now." That's just not acceptable. Why shouldn't we continue to dream and reach for the stars, just because we've reached 50, or beyond? Maybe your dream doesn't include a tiny bikini on a stage in front of lots of people, but what is stopping you really?
I also will NEVER buy clothes that don't fit me at the time of purchase. I haven't been this lean in - well, probably ever, and most of what I own now is too big. But there was this one pair of hot-looking slacks I got on sale in 2004 from Body By Victoria (Victoria's Secret) that I'd held on to for 13 years and having never worn them, I tried them on. They fit! Sort of. Meaning, I could get them on with no problem. They were also too baggy in the waist yet a little snug in the thighs. Obviously not made for chicks who seriously weight train legs. It said 'The Christie Fit' on the tag. I thought they meant Christie Brinkley when I bought them but I think they meant Christie from Puerto Rico or whatever Latin country where women have a bodacious booty and thin thighs. This is not meant as an insult, mi latina amigas! Trust me, I'd give anything for just a wee bit of your gluteal greatness right now. I had to accept the fact that those slacks just weren't meant to be for me and now they're going to be yard-saled, a complete waste of time (the moments I spent dreaming of how I'd rock those one day...) and money, but lesson learned.
I am also noticing a bit of a drop in my strength and stamina as I progress with training. I like lifting heavy stuff but it's just not feasible to continue the intensity of training all the way up to competition. The opening photos of bicep curl with the 50 lb. EZ bar was done with 60 lbs. for almost 14 reps x 3 sets at my strongest; now it is 12R, 10R and 9R with 50 lbs. But - still done with perfect form and no bouncing, jerking, leaning back or other 'cheat' tactics. On the flip side, I can do a whole lot more chins because I weigh less and it's much easier to lift my body weight - even with wide grip!
The show will be at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center on 9/09/2017. The venue controls the ticket sales so I am sorry, but I cannot get free passes - for anyone. If you are interested in supporting this event, go to: http://floridanpc.org/events.php
If you will be competing but have not yet chosen a suit, I highly recommend CJ and her team. CJ says:
Here at my shop, I do my best to make YOU complete that perfect package on stage. I am not only a clothing designer, but I have also been an IFBB Pro Official and an NPC Judge for the last 20 years. I know how you have to look and I know how the suits must enhance your physique.You are not an invoice here, you become part of my family. It’s not just about the suit, but everything that goes with competing. I don’t “cookie cut” my suits and after 20 years, I still sew each and every suit that goes out of this shop. Rhinestoning is still done by hand individually, so no 2 suits are ever alike. Take a look through the website, and you will see that the quality of these suits surpass any other suits out on the market.
I'm loving chin-ups! Check out the video below, taken 8/19/2017. Do you see the difference from the last one?