Being on a low carb, low calorie diet and you still managed to push yourself to places you thought you never could. Like getting out of a warm bed at 4:45 a.m. to run sprints in the cold or pose practicing for up to an hour everyday! Things that most people in the world will never "choose" to experience. And now that the day is over and you may or may not have placed, how do you go back and do it all over again? This is a thought that goes through my mind after every single show I have competed in.
2001 NPC Northern Kentucky
No matter how I placed, fifth, second, third, first, or overall, I think back to how intense, focused, determined, dedicated and driven I was to prepare for that day. Each time I am amazed at the level that I raised myself to and the fact that I survived. Who are the real "Survivors?" At the moment that any bodybuilder has these thoughts, the decision that is made in their mind will determine whether they do it again. The decision made is based on a love for being healthy and a passion for being at and looking your best.
Many people can easily talk about where they want to be or even how to get there. Very few can put those words into action and get there. Even fewer are committed enough to can get there and stay there. I have personally been approached by several people interested in bodybuilding. Many of them have a sincere interest. However, they fail to understand exactly what sacrifices it requires. I will ask them what they expect to gain from it all. As you know and like many other sports, unless you can reach an elite status, which few ever do, monetary rewards are usually not realistic. I tell them the easy part is training and proper diet is the hardest part. As I tell them these things, I internally question and remind myself also. And the question remains, "How do you go back to intense training after competing?" The answer lies in "you." The answer will be easy for those who can settle with the fact that the only real rewards are, in most cases, a healthy body and mind, an improved self-esteem, a sense of accomplishment, an increase in detail orientation, enhanced leadership abilities, increased knowledge of diet/nutrition and training, etc. ...
These are just a few of the many intangible rewards that make it easy for me to begin an intense training cycle following the post contest "blues." My feelings equate to train conductors screaming, "All aboard! Next stop ..." at the top of their lungs just prior to a train leaving its station. Training to me is like boarding a train that has a destination that I have decided to arrive at. The challenge is staying on that train until it reaches your final destination even though several stops my occur. Following a contest and before boarding the train, I usually take a break from training. That will, however, all depend on my destination. If I have a while before reaching my next stop, I will take a rest from training in order to heal my mind and body.
As far as dieting, I will allow myself a few cheat meals during the "off-season," however, it again all depends on my next stop. For example, if I have another contest in 3 weeks, I will most likely stay on a strict training regiment and diet. When I do begin training again, I will change my split routine. This will help not only my mental intensity, it will also help me to stimulate muscle growth. When I begin training again, I find it extremely hard. Not only am I dealing with the questions that I mentioned previously, I usually find myself a bit weaker in certain areas than I was before. The mind is a powerful thing. My mind tells me I can still lift the same weight as before but my body says something different. Remember, it is most important to fatigue a muscle, even though it may result from a poundage 10% less than before. Muscle does not know poundage, however, it does know fatigue well. Fatigue a muscle and it will grow.
Don't be discourage by losses in strength following a competition and a subsequent training hiatus (if you decide to take one). Your body will rebound in a short time following your return and, with a well-defined destination in mind, you will find yourself rejuvenated all over again! I was recently sent an email from a fellow amateur bodybuilder who asked me to write an article on my "off-season" diet. As I mentioned, it all depends on your final destination. During the so-called "off-season," some bodybuilders will totally "pig-out" until 12 weeks prior to a show and slowly scale back the diet. As I talked about in a previous article, with a diet philosophy like that, it will be much more difficult to reach your ultimate conditioning than if you maintained a healthy diet during the "off-season." Trust me, I have tried both and found it to be much more beneficial mentally and physically to stay as close to a clean and healthy diet as possible year-round. What's the benefit of eating "clean" year-round? You may decide, at a moments notice, to enter a competition that is only 4 weeks away. If you are eating clean the entire time, you could most likely get in competition-shape in just 4 weeks. There is a huge list I could come up with that provides reason why a clean off-season diet is important.
To close, remember that the rewards you gain from bodybuilding start with you. What you see as a reward will determine how you prepare. The best advice I can give to anyone not sure whether bodybuilding is for them is to, give all you can while preparing to compete, compete, evaluate how you feel about competing, decide if you want to compete again. You are the only one who should tell "you" what is best for "you!"
Thanks for reading and I will see you all next month!