Monday, October 10, 2011

What I Learned On Contest Prep

My first contest prep was very eventful. And like everyone who has ever competed in a body building type contest has said, I learned more about myself during contest prep than any other time in my life.

If I was going to describe contest prep in a word, it would be: Crazy.  Life isn't normal, whatsoever, during contest prep. And to be really honest, it has been hard to switch my brain off contest-prep mode.

This originally started out as just a numbered list... but the reality is that there are so many learning things... that a list was simply just too scattered!

* = Special Tip from me.

  1. Cookies CANNOT be in my house at all during any portion of contest prep. Other sweets I can handle in the house like Nutella or Soda. Cookies are a no-go. Other potentially hazardous foods: I had a hard time with Cliff Bars (White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, specifically), Peanutbutter. They were in the house taunting me. Making snarky comments at me. Jerks.
  2. I craved things I never crave, but then the cravings got more simple over time.: Week 16: Garlic White Wine Clams and crispy potatoes (This one I think more because of the texture). Week 11: Apple juice.  Week 10: Pumpkin bread. Week 8: Milk. Week 6: Peanut butter. Week 5: Pumpkin bread. Week 3: Lemons. Week 2: Pumpkin bread. -Alright, I will admit at 12 days out... I bought a piece of pumpkin bread to hoard in the freezer. For some reason it was comforting for me to know I had one waiting for me for when I want it. I no longer obsessed about it after then. ;)
  3. I developed a very keen sense of smell for crispy potatoes and pumpkin bread (LITERALLY smelled this from 30 feet away from the coffee shop, and indeed they were packaging pumpkin bread).
  4. Competition diets seem crazy but work. The large volume of food was very difficult to consume day in and day out but only for the first couple of weeks. But be prepared to have it changed on you... All. The. Time. Also, the volume load seemed less over time. Closer to comp, the same volume of food would NOT keep me full for more than an hour.
  5. I honestly I had no idea I was capable of eating mostly fish, veggies & green tea.
  6. I developed an eating technique. I really was never a person who ate large amounts of meat... Around week 5, eating large amounts became difficult as protein powders were phased out. And then even more so when chicken became phased out into fish, which I had to add a whole extra ounce to. And the technique is used when you have to get down the nutrition that you don't really even want to eat. Cold fish sucks, but it got me to the point of getting down 10 oz of fish in 10 minutes.. And sometimes this helps when you really and truly have no access to a microwave. The technique looks like this and can be employed at any time: *Chew fast. Swallow down with water.* I wish I were kidding, but I'm not. Sometimes we have to eat things we don't want to, and that technique really helped.
  7. The only way I liked fish was: Tilapia (which I would bake at about 2lbs at a time), with onion powder, garlic, garlic salt (was still good without all the sodium when it was time to cut salts), lemon juice, dill & cayenne powder. Broiled center rack for 15 mins (20 if still frozen). Then topped with soy sauce after. *Easy to broil a steak at the same time, if you are feeding someone else with other nutritional needs. :)
  8. I got used to buying frozen fresh cut green beans for my lunches. Buying fresh all the time got expensive, only due to the fact that I rarely had time to grocery shop... So I would only do it every 2 weeks... Buy chicken, tilapia & veggies in bulk... but the frozen veggies stopped all the wastage from extra veggies going bad... Also saved time not having to chop. :)
  9. I used Jaime Baird's chicken recipe every week to prep all my extra chicken (along with P's lunches).
  10. *For those who have a fam and cook for them: Once I was on fish every night, it became clear Patrick couldn't do fish every night. I began to pre-cut chicken and put it in a large tupperware with a simple marinade (that could be changed daily). So, when I was preparing my fish at night, I could just throw some chicken in a skillet for him and it would never be too much.
  11. Weekends were always a challenge. I always had the worst cravings on the weekends, but I also had another dilemma... Getting in all my meals. Typically, M-F I was awake from 345am-830pm. On the weekend, I was only awake from sometimes 9-9... So my meals were condensed. I almost always expected to look and feel bloated on Monday morning, just because there was so much food packed into a smaller amount of time. But this was also good, I could generally expect to have a lot of energy on Mondays... which meant I could push hard. But that also meant that I was generally pretty tired on Tuesdays from pushing hard on Mondays. *Good to know your body's patterns!
  1. I lost strength very quickly on contest prep. I think it really started a couple weeks in, but we do have to remember... its a marathon, not a sprint. The point is to keep your muscles full of blood, not build more muscle. That was what a build is for before and after contest prep.
  2. I found myself zoning out during workouts. If you have people who know you, like a workout buddy or just friends in the gym, ask them to slap or poke you if they find you doing this. :)
  3. Trust your trainer! Don't go off doing your own thing because you think you know better, just do the work they ask - No more, and no less. :) There is a point to everything!

  1. WARNING VERY TMI: Spotting is a very real issue in heavy training. A good relationship with a Gyn is helpful. My own spotting went away at about Week 9 (half way through), in which my body fat dropped and periods in general became VERY light. To the point of where the last one before comp, I started on Saturday morning, and noticed I would barely use a Light Tampon by Tuesday. I think this is from getting really lean.
  2. Competition Anxiety and Contest Prep Insomnia are very real things. A good relationship with your family doctor is also very helpful. I think seeing all of your practitioners regularly is very healthy. I saw my doctor a hundred couple of times for ear infections, sinus infections, anxiety & insomnia, PNEUMONIA - luckily, anxiety passed as my sleep increased. I saw my dentist a few times - oral health is important to total body health.
  3. Constipation increases with high protein. Digestive Enzymes can change your life if you experience this. And if it doesn't, I promise Colon Cleanse will. :) I had to take a Colon Cleanse 1x a week.
  4. My skin never looked better than on contest prep. I think this was a combinations of a very clean, hydrated diet, green tea, and sweating my arse off every day.
  5. I got EXTREMELY forgetful around week 9-8. And again around week 4-I think these were both due to diet changes. Lowering carbs or whatever, or maybe it was the simple fact that I had to concentrate more on my diet? And therefore, was more forgetful? Idk. :)
  6. Again, got used to feeling & looking bloated on Mondays. Was almost always gone on Tuesday. *Pay attention to your body's patterns! It will save you some anxiety about how you are looking. Especially if you practice posing on those days :)
Okay, I knew going tinto this prep that stage stuff would cost a bit of money. I knew this and budgeted accordingly. However... There is SO much more to consider than just your stage appearance. This a harsh, but very real look at budgeting.
  1. Gym membership: $36/mo
  2. Contest Prep Coach: $165/mo -This didn't include personal training, but still VERY worth it- It is absolutely worth the expertise, advice, patient ear, inspiring texts you get. It really takes the thinking and guess work out of it for yourself. If you need advice on what to look for in a trainer, feel free to email me.
  3. Doctor/Chiropractor/Massage Therapy: I went to the Chiropractor 5x and the doctor 7x on prep (3x- getting sick, 1x-knee problems, 1x-gyn appt, 2x-sleep issues). All $15 copays - $105.
  4. Suppements: I took the following throughout my prep: Active women's multi, Glucosamine & Chondroitin (for knees), fish oil (but I didn't take this in my last two weeks, as I was eating 25 oz of fish a day), Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium & Vitamin-D, Vitamin-E, Iron, Green Tea Capsules, Glutamine, L-Carnitine, and Essential Electrolytes as needed after my workouts. Totalling around $60/mo up from probably closer to $30/mo.  Don't forget creatine, pre-workout and intra-workout drinks if you take them. :)
  5. Proteins & Other: I was on 3 scps of whey a day, at first, and 1 scp of casein. This was totalling around $75/mo until powders began to be cut. See #9 Groceries.
  6. Gas: I drove A LOT more for things (more trips to the gym, emergency trips home for my gym shoes, etc). My gas budget pre-contest was $40 a month, moved to $80 a month on contest.
  7. Entry Fee & NPC Membership: Entry fee was $75 and the NPC Membership was $100. But don't forget to buy tickets for your family to the show! That is an extra cost (if you live with your family or bf) that you have to consider, but still... an extra $20 for my man.
  8. Stage Presence: Posing Heels - $30 on Stage Bikini - $200 from Suits For You Swimwear. Extra make-up - $70 (I bought extra foundation from MAC for the stage $26, and extra mascara because I like brand new mascara $8, but my sister who sells Mary Kay did my makeup for free). Waxing - $100 for professional brazillian & brow waxing + tip. Also paid $20 for 2 total body Sally Hansen waxing packages. Tanning - $90 I was going to have someone do my tan but really just wanted to get sprayed and hang out, so I bought 3 competition color spray tans from the show. Hair - $200, I paid $125 for some highlights, paid $50 for a stylist friend to come style it for me the day of my show, and an extra $25 for product (this could/should have been a lot more). Nails - $25 as I was lucky enough to have a friend who does nails professionally and gave me a good deal. Toes - $15 just a simple pedi. Jewelry - I recycled. I used all jewelry I already had. Oh, except I bought a bracelet for $10.
  9. Photo Shoot: $75. I have a friend who gave me a deal, but they generally are a LOT more expensive.
  10. Groceries. Okay, my budget pre-contest was $350 (for me & Patrick) a month for groceries. This easily went up to $550 a month as Contest Prep went further along. You have to remember that as you go off protein powders, your meat consumption, and therefore budget, increases. I had a tendency to buy the LARGE bags of chicken breast & tilapia. (FYI: Wal-Mart sells 5lb bags of frozen Tilapia fillets for $10!) But as I went on, I was eating 25 oz of fish, 8 oz of chicken, and 16 egg whites a day. Aside from ALL the veggies and rice... It is REALLY helpful to have a big freezer. *I always had a large tupperware in my fridge for a place for meat to thaw, because I was continually thawing meat. *Also remember, if you have a family or a live-in significant other: I thought once I started prep, I would be consuming less of a lot of things so therefore my budget would balance out by buying more meat and less... pasta or whatever. I forgot that I am feeding a person who does not eat exactly like me, so that part of grocery buying did not change. I just really had to add A LOT more meat. lol
  11. Other: -I spent a lot more money on flossers, since I was eating more meat I needed to floss more. -I bought body wash & face wash more often since I was working out more often. -I spent more money on laundry detergent since I was doing about 2x the normal amount of laundry.
MONTHLY EXPENSES: $966.00 up from about $600 a month.
ONE-TIME EXPENSES: $1135.00 (remember this is probably less for repeat competitors, since you don't need to buy shoes every time, etc.)

Real Life
  1. Its almost like the second you commit to contest prep, life gets immediately 10x more busy. Suddenly you're feeling confident and you take on everything like normal. Remember, your schedule will get more intense as you get close to a show (esp if cardio increases!), so *be careful not to schedule much, if anything, the month prior to your show.
  2. In fact, the last couple weeks before the show were very busy... I got up every day at 345am, got home from work & working out around 6, and after eating a couple meals, getting ready for the next day, doing chores, and showering... I wasn't in bed until 9pm. Gets VERY exhausting quick! And most of your friends/family will not understand why you are always exhausted.
  3. *Carry a notebook with you, I had a journal type book to write down anything. I was always making lists, scheduling my day out, grocery lists, questions for my trainer, recipes for prep, recipes for after prep, etc. Have an outlet somewhere, so your mind doesn't go crazy with all the stuff you feel like you need your low carb brain to remember! :)
  4. Contest prep has a lot of potential for change in all areas. For me, I am an emotional person. I perceive life through the emotions I feel about situations etc. So, when you're running yourself ragged and eating only foods that give you the bare nutrition of what your body needs to survive... Emotions run a little bit more... Raw. :) Naturally, that can cause somethings to come out of your brain/heart that you don't know are in there. Be careful what you choose to focus on. I will have a WHOLE other post about this, its already in process.
  5. I cried every day in the 10 days prior to my show. All almost for the same reasons, but always exacerbated by something else. Day 10: Because I was tired, but still had to make dinner. Day 9: My boyfriend mentioned the word "sex" and I started crying because I was so tired I couldn't comprehend that. Day 8: Because I was hungry, and I kept getting phone calls at work to where I couldn't eat. It was oatmeal too, I wanted those carbs so bad. LOL! Day 7: Don't feel good. Day 6: There wasn't any hot water. Day 5: I have pneumonia, got a parking ticket, then my dogs got into the garbage and pulled trash all over the front of my house. Then it was everyday just because I was sick...
  1. Worst part about prep: Getting sick at 7 days out. This was the absolute worst. I'm sure there were worse things that could have happened... like breaking a leg... but to be honest, it would have been very similar! Getting down in a way that forces you from being able to pursue your dreams every day was a heartbreaker. Nothing felt worse, and I had a very difficult time with self-sabotage during that week.
  2. Best part about prep: Realizing that you truly desire to be in the gym, getting there, and making your dreams come true. And, (I can have two!) getting closer to your significant other, if you allow prep to do that.
  3. What WILL I do differently next time: *Stock up on everything! LOL! I felt like I was always running out of: Salsa, Egg whites, fish, soy sauce. *I think I will also NOT be scheduling things as heavily as I did in the last month. To be fair, however, I scheduled these things before I knew I'd be crazy with training. *Also won't be making my own suit. Anything that saves time!! *I WILL be taking echinacea, ginseng, and green tea daily next time around. Gotta protect that immune system!!
  4. What will I do the same next time: *Epsom salt baths. Every. Night. *Train like my life depends on it. *Cardio like I don't have another shot at it.
I will leave you with this. I left myself notes. Everywhere. I know this is silly, and the notes thing has been done time and time again. I found things that inspired me, and taped them everywhere... On the visor of my car for the times that I didn't want to drive to the gym, on my bedside table for the times I didn't want to get out of bed. Quotes that would get me to think about my journey and my goals. And it could be anything, from Mos Def to Nelson Mandela, from Nicki Minaj to something someone texted me that was helpful.

If you want something, there are no valid excuses.


  1. um.........totally awesome post.

  2. Your posts are so helpful! I'm entertaining the idea of beginning a prep for an April show. Maybe doing some pre-prep, and your posts really give me a dose of reality! I really enjoy them - thanks!

  3. Feel free to ask me any questions, A! It isn't an easy thing to do, and we all need help sometimes! :) Plus I'm sure there were a lot of things I didn't touch on in this post.

  4. Can I just say THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post. I too am entertaining the idea of training for a figure show and have been doing copious amounts of research lately. This post, has been very helpful. I admire your strength, you are an inspiration :)
    You mentioned you were up at 3:45am - was this to workout or just get ready for the day? Thanks for your tips!

    ~ Jenn N.
    Chicago, IL

  5. I get up everyday at 345 normally :) My man has to be at work at 5, so I get up and make him coffee & a bagel while getting ready myself. I would normally head to the gym around 430.

    You guys are welcome! :) I'm glad this was so helpful, because when I was first starting out... I felt like I had NO resources!

  6. Thank you for sharing really does not even cut it. You have given such insight to every aspect of contest prep, I feel like I am completely prepared or whatever may come along. I "hate" you did not have your big day, but I know when you do it will be HUGE! Take care of yourself and keep posting.

  7. lacey,this is a very well written post and i am so glad you shared this with us!!!
    you totally rock!!!!

  8. This is a GREAT GREAT post! I love how you did the categories. When I ready the crying part on Day 9, I almost laughed out loud because I went through the SAME thing. The word sex would throw me into a big tantrum! I think 6 weeks out I told my boyfriend to just forget about it :-p I can relate to pretty much everything in your post, though!!

  9. LOL! I went into a crying fit... because I wanted to... it was just WAY beyond my comprehension level! ;)

  10. Thank you for this. I'm entertaining actually entering a fitness competition and the cost freaks me out - along with becoming even more emotional than I already get,lol. I've begun training with an expert, and it's fabulous, but there's so many questions in the back of my head. Reading this helps a ton!

  11. I recently tried meal preps. Would love to know what you think about what I did here