So many competitors look forward to the excitement of finishing their competitions. They spend months on end eating out of containers, planning and basing their lives around training to ensure they bring the best package they can to the stage. They plan months in advance the treats they will devour as soon as they get off stage and are eager to finally lose the mental and physical demands of competition prep. While this may be the case for some people, for me it was a real struggle.
After I finished my competition in October 2016 I really struggled to adjust. Everything I had been working hard for had come to a close, what was I going to do now?
How not to adjust after comp prep
I was so consumed in the process of comp prep that I couldn’t find my off switch. I still trained as if I had a competition coming up. I was obsessed with training as it made me look and feel good.
I was scared of putting on weight, so when I increased my calories, my exercise increased along with it. If I ate one treat meal I felt like I had put on 5kg… The mind game was getting the better of me.
What I saw in the mirror was not reality. I spent most days going to the gym morning and night and participated in as many classes as I could. I refused to take a rest day as I felt I did not need it and I would find any excuse to go to the gym.
I had an image to uphold and was scared of the reactions I would face if I ‘blew out’. My metabolism was in complete overdrive and I started to lose more weight. The lowest weight I reached was 55kg (I was 58kg when I stepped on stage). Was I proud of myself? Absolutely not!
My friends and family started to get worried as they could see me deteriorating before their eyes. I was emotional, lost and most of all in denial. I didn’t realise my obsession at the time, I thought it was normal. My partner was very concerned and kept telling me I needed to cut back. Of course I didn’t listen, in my head he did not understand. I actually don’t know how or why I snapped out of it, but it took me a very long time.
The trip I had to Bali with my best friend in November also helped, as it gave me time to relax and break out of routine. I still insisted on working out each day, as training had become a part of my life, I just needed to find a balance.
Over the new year, I realised that I needed to set myself new goals and work towards them. I recognised my obsession and that I needed to cut back. I needed to understand that I was going to put on weight, whether I liked it or not and that I shouldn’t care what anyone else thought. I set myself a goal to put on weight, muscle and enjoy the luxury of off-season.
So that’s what I did.
Setting new goals
I enjoyed a four week holiday to the US and another two week holiday in Bali over the new year. Looking back, I think this gave me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, to eat copious amounts of food, have a complete mental break and be thrown out of routine.
Starting my comp preparation in May 2017, I finally realise that I didn’t need to train so much to maintain my weight. Even sitting here writing this, I realise how stupid I was. Everyone around me, including my coach and family was telling me not to over train, however I was just in complete denial and thought I knew best.
Finishing my upcoming competition in October 2017, I have already planned my post competition goals and I know what to expect. I know to listen to people around me and to take their concerns on board. I know I do not have to exercise for hours on end, or twice a day to maintain my physique. Instead I’m going to stick to my current comp plan which is two double training days a week, four single training days and one complete rest day. I know I need to have a plan in place so I don’t get carried away. I know I need a mental and physical break straight after my competition, which I have already organised.
Some tips for others
I still have so much to learn and this is all a very new experience to me. I hope writing this will help give insight to a few competitors and let them know you need to have plans and goals in place after finishing competitions.
I see so many competitors struggle with their post-comp body image and readjusting to normal life and I just want to let them know that you’re not alone. Personally, I found finishing my competitions to be an even harder mental and physical challenge than preparation.
You need to have goals in place and listen to the people who have your best interests at heart. Don’t get caught up in the moment. Stay humble, listen and make smart decisions.