Competition day is finally here. In about 5 1/2 hours from now, I'll be stepping out in my teeny tiny bikini. It was my intention to have more than 9 posts about my experience during the last 8 weeks of preparation but somehow, sharing my every move, thought, meal, workout, etc., just seemed too routine to write about. I ended up on a few pro-competitor mailing lists and followed their prep plans but only by reading them. After a few days, I just started opening them to see the progress photos. Knowing that I wasn't going to do anything other than tweak sodium and water the final week, I really didn't care about someone else's diet. I just figured that as a vegetarian, menopausal, older female not taking enhancement drugs, I would pretty much need to forge my own way.
There were many people that wanted to tell me how to do this process. The only one that really stayed neutral was my coach and I thank him for this! He is smart enough to know that this is an area that is highly individual and what works for one person could be the worst approach for another. The thing that was the most difficult for me was not knowing how my body would respond: would I be able to get leaner than I've ever been, could I do it without extreme dieting, would the effects of menopause prevent the ability to peak my body? I mean, how exactly would I lose the necessary amount of fat in time, and time it perfectly to peak at 11:28 am on 9/16/2017, or the time I think I will be on stage? Is that even possible? Apparently it is and I am somehow supposed to know how to do this. How can you know the path to get to where you want to go without ever having taken it?
So now I've forged a path, one I've made up as I go and I feel pretty good about the steps I've taken. There is a 'sort of' process I used and I call it this because I:
Sort of followed a diet (meaning I tried to stay between 1,400 - 1,800 calories/day and I counted only the macros protein and carbohydrate. While I was aware of fat intake, it all came from healthy sources like that in nuts, avocados, coconut oil, hemp and pumpkin seeds) though I never felt deprived or like I was following a diet. My main goal was to see if I could achieve the physique without resorting to drastic measures. While I'm not completely happy (typical woman, LOL...), it's so close that I'll say "Mission accomplished!"
Sort of followed a 'peak week' plan - once I found rationale that made sense and this was the tweaking water/sodium. I did this for the last 10 days of prep. I increased water to 20 glasses a day (160 oz.), and increased sodium by using Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids and organic mustard, aiming for around 3,000mgs/day. I reduced water the last 3 days to one gallon, then 14 glasses, then 12 glasses. I actually felt better increasing the sodium content as I think I was too low to begin with. I was a bit confused on the difference between sodium and sodium chloride and here is the link once again to clear this up: https://www.t-nation.com/diet-fat-loss/sodium-your-secret-weapon
Sort of followed a 'peak week' workout. Hurricane Irma blew that to shreds so I had to improvise. Losing access to a gym for 3 full days and being forced to eat from a cooler for the same amount of time might have sent another competitor into panic mode (in fact, some did bail on the competition due to Irma) but here's where being a happy idiot was good for me. Not knowing what to expect as a novice, I just went along with the flow, figuring now I had an extra week to prepare since the competition date was moved up by one week. I can't say the extra week really made a difference because it was not a 'focused' week - it just gave more time to deal with Irma aftermath. I did improvise my workout though, going outside to do a para-course in near hurricane conditions (fabulous!) and managing a little indoor circuit during the worst of Irma, utilizing push-ups, wall squats and planks. It was a nice change of pace! Check out a couple videos below:
There were a few moments during Irma that it truly felt petty to stay committed to the competition, like when the gym opened the same day curfew was lifted so we could drive back to south Florida: Do we drive home or go to the local gym first since the gym could still be closed down south? Train first obviously! This could have meant hours more in traffic. Fortunately, that wasn't the case but it wouldn't have mattered. The plan was to stick to the plan though worrying about an open gym and would my food prep last through the storm still seemed a bit trite. However, I also didn't feel the need to fall apart over what might or might not happen. I watched the stress factor play out during hurricane Irma - so funny in that most of my regularly healthy, junk food-avoiding friends were gone with the wind - they bought a lot of comfort food in the way of items not needing refrigeration: candy, chips, snack crackers, cookies, etc. They then shared photos of themselves stress munching as the storm raged on, even though it was still undetermined where it would go. For many, it turned out to be nothing more than a typical tropical storm but now they have the added stress of having to lose 5 - 8 lbs! How was this a good choice?
Surely we can all rationalize the folly of this behavior. We want to think we are enlightened but when it comes to potential natural disasters, we let our old cues for survival take over and start building the fat stores that may be needed for impending famine. It wasn't easy being the only one who stayed with her food and exercise program - I was the brunt of jokes galore! But, it also meant that I was still able to step on stage for my first Figure competition (Irma happened during 'Peak Week' and a lot of people fell out due to not having access to an open gym and power to cook food). Yes, I prepped plenty of food ahead of the storm and I improvised my workouts. It was only a week out from showtime - I really couldn't see the months of prep beforehand going to waste because the last few days had a wrench thrown into the plan. This was a good reminder that whatever it is you want to accomplish in life, be ready to accommodate and improvise no matter what. If you are determined to reach your goals, always have a plan A and a plan B - even a C! It really doesn't have to be an 'All or nothing' scenario.
My coach told me that it takes a lot of guts to get up on a stage and present your physique for judgment, regardless of your age or how great your conditioning. I just wanted to be a champion in my own mind. I wanted to be on that stage so I could prove to myself that I do have the strength: To overcome bulimia, to stay focused and true to the goal - which was ultimately to become healthy - and to hopefully inspire others that are facing some of the same challenges to develop their own inner champion. No matter where you are in life, if you are feeling alone, hopeless, without someone to turn to - please know this does not have to be the case. Everyone needs someone sometimes and there is no glory in feeling alone. So what if you need to lean a little (or a lot); just don't be afraid to ask for help. I am here for you and would love to help, even if it is just to help you master your food choices. This is the gateway to great health after all and can transform all other aspects of your life! To be a champion is amazing but to turn around and help others achieve champion status as well would be the most rewarding gift this life could give! I'm here for you!