Competition Reflection: Part VII- Time Off
Well, everyone- it’s August already...what?! The summer feels like it has flown by, and at this rate, before we know it, fall will be here (I know, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but go along with it…).
Though it’s sad how quickly the summer sun is disappearing, fall isn’t the worst thing! With the end of summer and start of fall comes a lot of great, such as football season, pumpkin spice season, pretty colored leaves (if you’re somewhere that gets fall foliage), and for some of you competitors out there, the fall competition season begins!
All great things, right? However, I'm not here to talk delicious-pumpkin-spice with you all today, what I really want to discuss is that last one: fall competitions.
For anyone that followed along last year, you know my last competition was in fall of 2017 at the OCB Yorton Cup World Championship, my 2nd ever show and 1st pro show.
I walked away that day empty handed, but still supremely satisfied with the package I brought. From there, the plan was to take a year off to focus on and enjoy all that wedding planning had to offer (bachelorette party, bridal showers, cake tastings...the list goes on!), as well as my wedding/honeymoon (which all happened about 3ish weeks ago). Then, I was hoping to take about a month after the honeymoon to keep on livin’ up the summer without any restrictions before jumping into my fall-season prep, mid-August. The end goal I set for myself last year: come back to the Yorton this year.
Well, I’ve checked all the boxes of that plan so far…
- Didn’t compete in the spring so I could focus all my attention on wedding planning
- Thoroughlyyy enjoyed the many pre-wedding activities
- Got the absolute most out of all-you-can-eat-and-drink on our honeymoon ;)
(The hubs and I may have done that one a little too well…)
- Taking time after the honeymoon to settle back into life and enjoy summer without having to worry about planning anything or prepping for anything
And if I continue along, then that means that I should be ready to kick off prep in another week and a half or so, right?
After returning home, I began rethinking that plan of mine from last October, and last week I finalized my thoughts. My conclusion: I will not be competing in the Yorton this year-- actually, I decided I’m not competing in anything for the remainder of this year. That means no fall shows for this girl. Why? Let me explain…
If you’re in this world of competing, it is pretty much public knowledge that you need to give your body a break at times. Not just that, you need to give your body a worthy break, something long enough to allow it to fully recover from the limits you pushed it to throughout your contest prep (so, no, not just a month or 2…). This is because prep and competing, though fun, can be stressful on the body, and continued or chronic stress can really take a negative toll on your overall health and bodily/nervous system functions.
Now, I’m still a rookie to this competing game, and thankfully I’ve never had a hard prep that required me to reach unhealthy limits, but even if you’re approaching your prep in a healthy manner, the body will still need a recovery break. So, after my first competition, I took 3 months off (off-season talked about here and here). Then, feeling great, I jumped into prep for my second competition: the Yorton Cup.
Both of my preps went very smooth and I actually really enjoyed them! My body responded nicely and consistently each time, and we never had to take any drastic measures (cardio was short and sweet, carbs hovered in or just slightly below the 200s the entirety of both preps, never cut water or certain foods at any point…).
Now, fast forward to mid April of 2018, I was going on 6 months into my off-season. By that point I had reversed my calories up to where they usually are during everyday life/an off-season, cardio was barely a thing, and I was simply living a normal life, being consistently inconsistent. It was here that I decided to start trying to tighten things up a bit in regards to eating and training.
I started with small carb cuts every 2 weeks and tossed in just two 20 min. steady state cardio sessions a week. Typically, something like that is all I need to start getting a reaction from my body, but not this time. My body was at a standstill. A month in and no weight change, no progress photo change- I was dumbfounded. It was here that I reached out to my coach for help.
We took a month or so to try and “reset” my body- brought calories way up, cardio was cut out completely, whatever it would take to make my insides happy again. Then, we tried again to trigger some reactions just about a month out from the wedding. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much better luck. Even though this wasn’t a real-deal “never stray from the plan ever” type of prep, there was still no reason for why progress was barely moving.
...no reason except for stress.
Sure, my body was likely recovered from the “competing stress” placed on it nearly a half year ago, and I wasn’t doing anything crazy to put that type of stress on it at this time, but I was still stressing it. If you’ve ever planned a wedding, or a big event of some sort, you know it can get hectic and crazy, and, yeah--stressful at times. Toss in the sometimes overwhelming feelings of everyday life (such as work stress), and the unhappy body was all starting to make sense.
Needless to say, this was the first time I ever had a “hard prep”...and it wasn’t even a real prep! Thankfully, I was not stepping on a stage in a bikini in July. I was not being judged on my muscle definition and hardness or my conditioning, I was just getting married! So, I basically took what I could get from my body, pushed it where I could but didn't force anything, and called it a day. After all, is it worth the pain and misery during what is supposed to be an exciting time just to look slightly different in a dress? No. Sanity (...and cake tastings…) are more important.
However, seeing that response (or lack there of) from my body did worry me for the future- especially knowing I was going to do a real prep shortly after the wedding.
Annnnd fast forward to where we are now. After reflecting on all of that and thinking about the timing of this next prep, I’ve realized it just isn’t right. Clearly my body was trying to tell me something these last few months, and now that things are starting to slow down again in life, do I really want to complicate it by tossing a prep in there?
My body needs a break. It has been going through a lot within the past year and a half, and though it has been going through good things -2 competitions, a wedding…- it is time I give it a chance to just be-- after all, that seems to be what it’s begging for.
So, rather than go through, what would very likely be, another hard prep to bring a package far less than my best to the Yorton stage this year, I’m going to sit this play out and watch from the stands. Physically, I’m not ready to take on a prep; mentally, I’m finally starting to relax and am not ready to take on prep, so, why fight it?
Operation “Take Time Off and CHILL” is officially in full-effect, and I actually feel really relieved by it! Sometimes it’s pretty nice not having anything planned or to plan for.
So, my advice to other competitors out there: take time for yourself, do not keep tossing yourself into contest preps!
If you’ve got a lot on your plate to begin with- don’t head back into a prep.
If you’re having any type of hormonal issues (which can be the unfortunate outcome of competing)- don’t head back into a prep.
If you haven’t given yourself a solid off-season (ideally 5-6 months in a surplus)- don’t head back into a prep.
If you’re having any type of disordered eating (constantly hungry, always focused on food, etc--these are likely hormonal issues...) or food-related anxiety (all of which can be unfortunate outcomes of competing)- don’t head back into a prep.
And most importantly, because I notice this happening a lot…
If you’re unhappy with your “off-season” look and only want to compete so you can get lean again- DON’T head back into a prep!!!
I see so many competitors out there just throwing themselves into competitions because “that’s what I had planned” without taking the time to stop and evaluate if that plan, if competing, is really their best move at that time.
I also see competitors running themselves ragged with show after show because they fear a real-deal off-season and want to hang onto their stage bodies for as long as they can, so they suppress what their minds and bodies are telling them and keep pushing.
Please, pause and think about what is best for you both physically and mentally in the long run. If you realize you need a break or if your body is literally crying out to you for one, then man-up and take it!
Take time to give your body, mind, hormones, nervous system etc... a little TLC- the stage will always be there.