Finding balance: Where I am at

Balance

After competing in two bodybuilding shows last year I set a goal for myself to hang up the heels for a while (most likely indefinitely) and focus on finding a healthy balance in my life.  For those who aren’t a regular follower, I have been a bit more active with blog posting and Instagram lately, particularly with the “fitstagram” posts.  I have been a bit more active for two reasons. The first reason is to motivate.  More people have been asking me for workout advice or healthy meal ideas and while I am no PT I love to share whatever I can!  The gram or my blog are both great ways for me to keep track of my recipes and have reference points to share with others or to even revisit myself!  The second reason is to hold myself accountable.  If I have a certain “fitness” goal in mind it is often helpful for me to share my journey with the public (aka like my mom and 3 friends).  So aside from this larger goal of *balance*, I recently set a mini goal for myself to cut down for an upcoming fitness workshop and photo-shoot + my trip to Vegas where Mr. Olympia is hosted, but I have found myself slowly losing motivation.

I want to look dope AF at this workshop and in Vegas where I will be surrounded by some of the most well known athletes in the industry, but at what point will I just be happy with where my body is at?  I have come a very long way this year when it comes to self image/ self love/ balance/ whatever people want to call it these days but it’s weeks like these that I realize I am not quite there yet and that this isn’t just a situation where I am going to wake up one day and be like “Fuck yes I will never have a negative thought about my body ever again”.  Lately I’ve just felt tired.  Tired physically.  Tired mentally.  My 5am lifts have turned into 9am lifts, or no lifts.  My daily cardio has significantly dropped (side note I don’t need to be doing a ton of cardio I just used to really enjoy doing it).  And my “diet” is starting to feel like a diet and well, I am just tired of feeling like I am always on a diet.  For anyone who has ever tracked macros before, aka “flexible dieting”, you’ll realize that once you know the science it is always ingrained in your head even when you try not to track.  Can’t a girl just get a healthy acai bowl for breakfast which is filled with superfoods and micronutrients and not worry about the fact that half of her suggested carb intake for the day will be used up?  Maybe it is the heat, or maybe it is the fact that I haven’t started my new job yet and my usual routine is off, but right now my motivation is in hideout.  I know if I were to just throw in the towel, stop working out, and eat like shit I would feel 100x worse after about two days so that is not going to happen.  However, this lifestyle is tricky and the motivation isn’t always there for me.  Hoping once I get back to my regular routine this week I will feel refreshed but in the meantime I would love to hear if other people trying to live the healthy grind have went through this same type of funk, and how they decided to handle it 🙂

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My Experience With Bodybuilding

I mentioned in the spring that I would write about my experience after my first show and then just never got around to it because life happened and then before I knew it I was back on prep.  Two shows later, I am ready to reflect on my overall experience with bodybuilding.  I have a lot to say so bravo to you if you actually read this entire novel.  Before I get into too much detail, I want to reiterate that this is obviously just my PERSONAL opinion (hence the title) and everyone’s experience with competing is unique.  I took a difference approach when prepping for each of my shows.  In fact, I would say they were almost totally opposite approaches.  For my first show I followed IIFYM (if it fits your macros).  My coach provided me with the amount of protein/carbs/fats I should be reaching per day and I filled them as I pleased.  I lifted 5-6 days a week and did minimal cardio.  The most cardio I did was 4, 30 min HIIT sessions per week.  My second show followed a specific meal plan.  My coach told me what to eat each week and adjusted as necessary.  I lifted 7 days a week and reached 2 hours of cardio per day by show time.  I wouldn’t say there is a right or wrong approach as there were pros and cons to each of these approaches.  Now, with that background, I am ready to dive into the good, the bad, and the roller coaster ride that is competing.

PROS:

Show Day

Getting up on stage was one of the most rewarding experiences.  You put blood sweat and tears into transforming your body and get to show off all of your hard work.  I really love setting a goal and actually following through with it so competing was a really satisfying accomplishment for me.  Also, I am typically not a girly girl so it was fun for me to get all dressed up for the day in sparkly shit and have my makeup done beyond a layer of eyeliner.

Meeting New People

Aside from all the glits and glam, I got to meet a lot of really great people with that same passion that I have.  I not only developed new friendships but also have learned a ton about fitness and nutrition from a lot of really smart people.  There will always be a firehouse of information out there related to this industry but I feel that my experiences have taught me a lot about what my body needs to be healthy and I am so grateful for that.

Inspiring Others

The amount of positive feedback I have received is amazing.  Selfishly, I went into bodybuilding to focus on myself, not realizing how much my journey would impact others.  No I am not a sponsored athlete with 50K+ followers on Instagram,  but having just one other person tell me that I inspire them is pretty frigen cool.  I’ve recently been getting asked a lot of questions about my opinion on certain training and/or diet topics and while I am no nutritional coach, I could talk about this stuff for hours and love that I can share my opinions with others in hopes to motivate,inspire, or just provide some sort of direction.

 

CONS:

Show Day Part 2

This is literally the longest effing day of your life.  You put so much time, effort, and money into preparing for the stage.  I am talking food prep, training, posing, money spent on suit, accessories, tanning, hair, makeup, the list goes on. And guess what?  You spend 99% of the show day sitting and waiting.  You get about 30 seconds on stage to convince a panel of judges that all of your hard work and dedication was worth it.  When really at the end of the day the only persons opinion that really matters is yourself.  You could be in the best shape out of everyone in your class but if you don’t present “the look” that the judges are looking for that day then no hardware for you.

Post Competition

Self image is something that I personally struggle with (shocker) and that goes for a lot of other females, and males.  So for me, I am not sure the whole competing process is the best way to heal that.  I am super competitive so when I walked away from my first show with nothing, as much as I like to pretend I wasn’t upset about it, I was pretty bummed.  I walked away from my second show with two trophies including winning my open class and in the moment this was extremely gratifying.  But guess what?  My body isn’t going to stay stage lean forever and now I have to deal with the mental battle of accepting my body at its “normal” state.  And depending on how you plan your post show diet, your metabolism can get super effed up.  My last show ended right before Thanksgiving and I was on a pretty tight meal plan so my body was not happy with me going from 0 to 100.  I did not reverse diet like I did with my first show and it resulted in a pretty quick and heavy weight gain.  Do I regret not reverse dieting?  Sometimes.  However, I told myself after this show that I would give my mind a break from feeling like it was on a diet and that is exactly what I did.  This “lifestyle” can become obsessive and I found myself missing out on a lot because I didn’t want to have a drink or eat food that I didn’t personally cook.  I was constantly feeling the pressure to keep my body in the best shape it can be in because I made the decision to share my journey with friends, family, social media, etc.  There have been times that I feared going out in public because I thought I was going to get judged for my actions or image.  In general, the whole “off season” “on season” bodybuilding cycle really messes with my head so I’ve personally set a goal to break that cycle this year and find a comfortable balance with my body where I am happy and healthy.

 

SO NOW WHAT?

Will I ever compete again?  I currently have no plans to.  At least not in the near future.  Right now I am just focusing on enjoying life in my mid twenties.  Working hard in the gym.  Working hard at my job.  Spending time with the people I care about.  I found that prepping for shows sometimes interfered with my focus at work and my relationships with friends and family.  For me, if I can’t balance my relationships and my job while preparing for a show, it’s simply not worth it.  Competing is something you really have to be all in for.   I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, health and fitness is a huge part of my life, but it’s not my entire life.  There is a reason it is called a “lifestyle”.  For some, competing is a part of their lifestyle and I fully respect that.  For me, I see bodybuilding as a piece of the puzzle, a key milestone, in my journey to being the healthiest version of myself that I can be.

Bikini Competition Prep, What I Have Learned So Far.

mealprep2

So as a lot of you may know at this point, I have decided to compete in a bodybuilding show.  No, I am not trying to transform myself into Hulk Hogan.  I am competing in the bikini division.  Give “bikini competitor” a Google if you don’t know what that means.  I have always been focused on being healthy and took the next step to change my lifestyle about a year ago.  As I started to really change my diet and pick up those heavy weights, I noticed a big difference in how I looked and felt.  I decided I really wanted a challenge and to see just how far I could push myself.  I made the decision last summer that I wanted to compete.  And after several months of building muscle, here I am, half way through my contest prep diet.  So, here are a few things I have learned throughout this whole process:

1. It is a lot easier said than done to have a balanced social life while on contest prep.

It just is.  I can’t drink and it is really difficult to go out to dinner if the restaurant does not provide nutritional information.  Even if the restaurant does provide nutritional information, there is a good chance that the information is not 100% accurate.  I am sorry but if I am spending thousands of dollars (yes thousands) to bring my best package to the stage there is a good chance that I am going to do everything that I can to make sure my diet is on point.  Yes, there is the possibility of me taking my tupperware container to the restaurant but I have to admit I feel slightly rude doing that.  And let’s backtrack to the part when I said I can’t drink.  This is probably the most difficult part of prep for me.  And I say that in full confidence that I am not an alcoholic.  I am however, a 25 year old woman who enjoys a night out with her friends in the city every once and a while, or a wine night here and there.  But can’t I still have fun going out to the bar and not drinking? Yes, sometimes, but when you workout at 5am everyday it’s hard to put on your “turnt up” face on a Saturday night as you wait for last call.  I will say, if I ever decide to compete again, this is an area that I certainly need to work on.

2.  Not everyone will understand what you’re doing, or why you are doing it, and that is perfectly okay.

I try to avoid explaining why I am not drinking or why I am avoiding the cookies in the office as much as I can but I am truly bad at lying.  So I have had to explain to a lot of people that I am on a contest prep blah blah blah and there are two common reactions I have received. First, “wow that’s awesome good luck”.  Second , “so, you can’t just have one cookie? one drink?”.  I used to get super frustrated with response number two.  I quickly realized that they aren’t trying to bring me down and that they probably just realize that I do in fact want that glass of wine and they just really wish I could have one with them.  I am still learning all the ins and out of prepping for a bikini competition, so why should I expect that others understand what I am even doing?  I have received a ton of positive feedback throughout this entire journey from family and friends and I know they want nothing but the best for me.  I’ve concluded that my lower carb intake bitch is just taking over from time to time and it will eventually pass. 🙂

3.  It is important to engage with other competitors or people within the industry.

A lot of competitors will work with a local coach, be a part of a local team and have teammates by their side throughout their entire prep journey.  I on the other hand am working with an online coach who is located out of the state.  Now, I wouldn’t change my coach for anything but I realized quickly that this meant I would really have to go the extra mile to do a little extra research in finding out what the right show was for me and getting additional in person posing help.  More importantly, I feel like having people that you can connect with about the process is really important.  This really goes back to my first and second points listed above.  Not everyone is going to fully understand what you are going through, and that is okay.  In fact, even your fellow competitors will most likely have a totally different prep journey than you.  However, despite the slight differences in your diet and exercise leading up to the show, you’re all reaching for similar goals and will most likely all be spending more Saturday nights in chugging BCAAs and protein shakes.  At least if you choose to spend most of your weekends in you’re going to want someone to bond with over your mutual grandma-ness.  It is also important to point out that this prep feels like a second full time job (a very expensive second job), so I can’t help but talk about it more than I would like.  I am sure people are sick of hearing me talk about food and the gym which is why having others in the same boat to vent to that can directly relate makes things a little easier.  This is actually part of the reason that I started to blog, so that I had a platform where I could share all of my thoughts throughout my fitness journey and whoever wanted to read it can and those who don’t care don’t have to read it!  My last point here is that you may actually learn something from speaking to someone else.  There are A LOT of opinions out there when it comes to bodybuilding, dieting, what to eat, what not to eat, and you may not agree with everyone but you can gain some valuable knowledge by talking to people that have either competed in the past or are involved with the industry somehow.

Now, if you’re still reading this then I am thoroughly impressed.  I’ll be sure to follow up after my show in 5 weeks to give a full reflection of the experience.  My opinions that I stated above may even completely change by the end of this week 🙂  That’s just what this prep has done to my brain!