It’ll be exactly two weeks since the Arnold Classic Asia in Hong Kong. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience as it was my first international competition ever. I got to meet and shake hands with Arnold Schwarzenegger himself! While it was quite a memorable time, I’m also very glad to be back to normal life. I’ve taken some time to recalibrate my mind and body and get back on track. There’s so much that goes on during prep that, often, some athletes will forget there are also many adjustments to be made after a show or competition.
There is simply no way you can sustain the exact same leanness of show form all year-round. It’s not easy and it’s not healthy. Going about your normal daily activities on very low body fat as you would have during a competition will make it impossible for you to perform at your optimal level. On-season I have about 7% body fat on me. I got measured a few days ago and I’m at 11.7%. It’s totally normal to put on a little body fat after a competition. It’s actually good because your body needs it to make gains and improvements. Many women (and some men) are so scared to put on weight after a show that they continue to eat like they were prepping. That kind of mistake can cost you your health and your improvements for the next show. I notice that because I am taking in more carbohydrates now (by way of basmati rice, bread sometimes) I weigh more and look (well, mostly feel) a little thicker. But I think it’s more my mindset than my physique that needs tweaking. Just like we tend to romanticise about the older days being better and much easier living, many athletes criticise their current physique by thinking they were much much leaner and more sculpted when really, they aren’t too far from show form–they just have more meat on them.
Being on prep mode and on a strict diet will significantly affect your mood and mental behaviour. I notice that I tend to be a lot more vulnerable to stress (which leads my body to produce more cortisol than I usually do) and become quite irritable. Depending on how long your prep is, you will have to sustain an extremely steely-focus and determined mindset, and some days, when life decides to make things more interesting by way of challenges, you will find great difficulty in staying motivated. Getting off from show or comp mode will require you to change mental gears–to slow down and try to get back to regular programming as smoothly as possible. Time to start feeding you body the carbohydrates it went without but badly needs, and also time to get back into the rhythm of normal, everyday life. Of course fitness ought to be a lifestyle, and by no means should it be sacrificed just because you go back to your normal routine. Stick to clean eating, stick to your workout routine, but make every effort to unburden yourself from the mental pressure of being in competition form.
Next time, we’ll tackle the common mistakes made during off-season. Meanwhile, take this time to relax, take it easy on yourself, and enjoy life a little bit more before you jump back into the intense grind of show prep. Whether the previous competition garnered a trophy or not, the work you put in during prep has already made you a winner by virtue of your diligence and commitment. That kind of integrity and discipline is a medal that no one can take away from you, no matter what others’ estimation of you may be.
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