Let's Get Ready To Rumble!

I was in peak conditioning and confident that day. My dream still eluded me. I was unable to earn my pro status that day. Upon my return from Virginia, the last thing I wanted to do was to begin training or even thinking about competition. I was drained.
It began last October 20, 2001, after competing gallantly in the U.S. Eastern U.S. Championship in Blacksburg, Virginia. I was in peak conditioning and confident that day. My dream still eluded me. I was unable to earn my pro status that day. Upon my return from Virginia, the last thing I wanted to do was to begin training or even thinking about competition. I was drained.

Getting Ready

Working 40-50 hours each day, starting the day with an intense training session each morning at 5 a.m., preparing my meals, posing, researching, etc ... was just too much to start again so soon. I accepted my feelings and returned home with a new and positive attitude. I decided to continue training. Although, I would train as a means to relax or unwind. Not to compete! Also, I ate!

Not too excessive and I did stay with healthier choices for the most part, but I didn't weigh, measure, count or feel an ounce of guilt! I just ate. My body was becoming revitalized each day. I found myself weighing 210 pounds after 8 weeks and felt great and still looked great. More important than that, my strength, motivation, and desire was returning as each day passed. By the end of January, I was BACK! My body, mind, and spirit were renewed. I still avoided any thoughts about competing. I was still not ready to begin the process. Not until I went to the Arnold Classic did I start to feel that urge to compete.

Not because of the massive and unbelievably huge competitors that I was fortunate to meet or see up close. It was simply because I felt apart of something. Being natural and knowing that I had learned more about myself than I possibly could have doing anything else, made me swell with pride. When I returned, I decided to plan. Where to compete and when are important. My planning is specific and detailed. As I said, I'm natural and it has to be. I must plan each and every day with a focused goal in mind. Knowing my body the way I do, how to plan my personal diet and what training regimens work for me, made it easier to decide when.

Ready For Competition

I felt I could be at my best in 8-10 weeks. That meant looking to compete in late May or June was optimal. I then knew I wanted to seek my dream again. That elusive pro status. Would I be mentally ready? What about physically ready? We can only answer this question within ourselves. My answer was, "I'll know when I get there." On April 1st, my training intensified. I began to visualize on competition. Even though I had no idea when or where. Then it happened.

It was 15 April and, of course, I had just mailed off my tax return. While I was relaxing, I begin looking through the 2002 World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) competition schedule. There it was. It caught my attention almost immediately. It was the 2002 INBF Hercules International Super-Pro qualifier on 8 June in New York City. I immediately knew that this was the one in my heart. I started to plan immediately. I wanted to win and I set my entire program into high gear.

Diet!

I had already started to refine my diet and was eating a great off season diet. I was about 8 weeks from the show and decided to begin my phase 3 diet. It was a little different than previous shows and is as follows:

Phase 3 - Usually 8-3 weeks before a show.

Meal 1: (Pre-training Meal - 5:00 am)
3 Scoops low-carb Protein Supplement with water.

Meal 2 (8 am):
2 servings Whole Wheat or Buckwheat pancakes mixed with 6 egg whites and water.

Meal 3 (11-12 am):
8 oz. Chicken Breast or Turkey Breast, 2 cups Baby Leaf Spinach (mustard as dressing), 1 oz Almonds.

Meal 4 (2:30-3 pm):
8 oz. Eye of Round Steak, 2 cups Baby Leaf Spinach (mustard as dressing), 1 oz. Almonds.

Meal 5 (5-5:30 pm):
8 oz. Catfish, 1 Cup Egg Beaters

Meal 6 (8:00 pm):
8 oz. Catfish, 1 Cup Egg Beaters

Meal 7:
1 Scoops low-carb Protein Supplement with water.

Every Monday and Saturday, I replaced meal 6 with a meal of all carbs. Usually amounts to about ~170-200 grams of complex carbohydrates (i.e. large 8-10 oz. sweet potato, 1.5 cups brown rice, 1 grapefruit).

I began Phase 4 diet at 3 weeks out. It was simple I switch from Whole Wheat pancakes or Buckwheat pancakes for Meal 2 to a low-calorie, low-carb, high protein supplement powder and mixed with 6 egg whites. Why? Due to a slightly lower caloric value. Also, I dropped the 1 oz. Almonds to remove some fat (even though it was the good fat!) Everything else stayed the same as I noticed my body leaning out nicely.

Phase 4 - Duration is 3 weeks to 1 week prior to show

Meal 1: (Pre-training Meal - 5:00 am) 3 Scoops low-carb Protein Supplement with water.

Meal 2 (8 am):
Protein supplement mixed with 6 egg whites and water.

Meal 3 (11-12 am):
8 oz. Chicken Breast or Turkey Breast, 2 cups Baby Leaf Spinach (mustard as dressing).

Meal 4 (2:30-3 pm):
8 oz. Eye of Round Steak, 2 cups Baby Leaf Spinach (mustard as dressing).

Meal 5 (5-5:30 pm):
8 oz. Catfish, 1 Cup Egg Beaters

Meal 6 (8:00 pm):
8 oz. Catfish, 1 Cup Egg Beaters

Meal 7:
1 Scoops low-carb Protein Supplement with water.

Still every Monday and Saturday, I replaced meal 6 with a meal of all carbs. Usually amounts to about ~170-200 grams of complex carbohydrates (i.e. large 8-10 oz. sweet potato, 1.5 cups brown rice, 1 grapefruit).

For my final phase, I decided to switch from Catfish to Cod Fish for Meal 5 and removed Turkey from Meal 3 as an option. This started when I began to reduce sodium intake on Wednesday. Catfish and Turkey have a high sodium content. Up until Wednesday, I kept all things consistent with Phase 4.

Phase 5 - 1 week to go.

Meal 1: (Pre-training Meal - 5:00 am)
3 Scoops low-carb Protein Supplement with water.

Meal 2 (8 am):
Protein supplement mixed with 6 egg whites and water.

Meal 3 (11-12 am):
8 oz. Chicken Breast or Turkey Breast, 2 cups Baby Leaf Spinach (mustard as dressing).

Meal 4 (2:30-3 pm):
8 oz. Eye of Round Steak, 2 cups Baby Leaf Spinach (mustard as dressing).

Meal 5 (5-5:30 pm):
8 oz. Catfish, 1 Cup Egg Beaters

Meal 6 (8:00 pm):
8 oz. Catfish, 1 Cup Egg Beaters

Meal 7:
1 Scoops low-carb Protein Supplement with water.

Posing!

I actually began posing practice in February. I did this because it had been indicated to me at the 2001 INBF Eastern U.S. Championships that my posing presentation was a weakness. I only found this out after taking the time to talk with the judges after the show! I was not going to allow this to continue as a weakness. In February, I started to practice for 10 minutes each day.

8 Weeks Out

At the 8 week point, I increased my posing practice to 15 minutes. At 6 weeks, I increased practice again to 20-25 minutes. At the 4 week point until the final week I practiced for 25-30 minutes. In the last week, I practiced 45 minutes through Tuesday. On Wednesday and Thursday, I put in 1 full hour! My conditioning was unbelievable. But would it be enough?

As I approached the day of reckoning, I fell into a mild state of self doubt. My mind was saturated with the thought that I would not succeed and that the time and effort I was investing was all for not. Or was it? I had one goal and was fixated on it. Every morning, I woke with a prayer. I asked for the strength to be my best each day. I prayed for strength to train every day at 5 a.m, excel at work, and end each day with proper preparation for the next. As the days came and went, I was in a "groove" and things went like clock-work.

It was all due to the many, many, many repeated times I endured the "pre-contest" countdown. I had learned how to manage my life with success! The only re-occurring doubt was my fear that I had more to do this time. I knew it would be a competitive show and knew I would have to do more than before. With out hesitation, I trained harder than ever. I trained 7 days each week and had the following split routine:

Monday: Light Cardio (Hit heavy bag at 4:30 a.m. for 10-15 min. on empty stomach).
Tuesday: Shoulders (my weak area so I trained it first!), Abs
Wednesday: Biceps/Triceps/Light Cardio (10-15 min varying equipment each week)
Thursday: Quads (Heavy leg day!)/Calves
Friday: Chest/Abs
Saturday: Back/Light Cardio (10-15 min varying equipment each week)
Sunday: Hamstrings/Calves/Abs

Training Each Muscle Individually

With this split, I hit each major muscle group each week with profound intensity. I would allow it (and need usually) a full week to recover. Also, this routine worked well in regard to allowing proper recover time for those major groups that are invoked in support of the major group being worked. That is, shoulders are an assisting muscle when working chest.

By doing chest on Friday, allowing nearly 72 hours recovery from the Tuesday's shoulder routine, is much more intense. I measured my training intensity by evaluating the amount of soreness I would feel the days following each session. If I felt a moderate amount of soreness (NOT PAIN!, There is a difference), I knew I was achieving new growth potential. To help recover from these intense sessions, I made certain to include Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA's), L-Glutamine, HMB, Green Tea, and Gingko Biloba in my diet supplementation. The results were amazing. I really feel I was able to train hard every session due to my diet and supplementation program.

As the contest drew closer and closer, I began to make plans for my stay in NYC. Hotel, rental car, a list of contest necessities, etc. I made sure to have all these details ready by the 3-week point. I recommend this for anyone who competes. You will benefit from early preparation greatly. It will allow you to focus on other unavoidable details (i.e., increased posing practice time) in the end.

You may have noticed that I rented a car for the contest. Yes! I don't like flying much. The fact that flying causes me to become uneasy and raise my anxiety level will result in an increase in my cortisol levels. In the final week of a pre-contest diet, this could result in additional muscle tissue loss. Not to mention that you could also increase you potential to retain water due to an increase in a natural occurring hormone.

Final Week

When the final week arrived, I felt confident that I had done all I could and that I would feel like a winner even if I didn't win. No regrets! I was the best I had ever been in the past. A co-worker gave me a term that accurately describes how I felt that week. The worked is, "Sati-ficed!" It is a dual term meaning that I was greatly "satisfied" that I had achieve a level that would "suffice" for a possible win in NYC. I was ready.

My wife and I left for NYC the Thursday before the competition. We drove 3/4 of the way and stayed overnight in a hotel. The next morning we finished our journey and arrived in NYC around 11:30. Being my first time in the big apple, I was in awe. As my wife struggled to maintain her composure, as she drove into the city, I wasn't helping her much be continually losing focus on our map and looking at the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan Bridge ... After nearly an hour of traveling in the city, we located our hotel! The Holiday Inn on Gold Street.

In the Wall Street district mind you! I was so enveloped in the sites, sounds and smells; I was able to maintain a level of calmness I had never experienced before any other competition. The only real problem we experience was finding parking! I know now why owning a car in NYC is a BAD idea. Several lots required a $40/night fee! I don't know about you but where I'm from that's extortion! Anyway, we located a lot for $34/night and felt like we had really found a bargain. Once in the hotel, we were able to locate the location of the contest and the hotel where weigh-in, check-in, and testing would take place.

It was in walking distance! Everything seemed to be moving along perfectly. When I reported for weigh-in, I recalled that I had not weighed myself in nearly 4 weeks. I intentionally did this and used the mirror as my guide. I was once told by someone that it doesn't matter what class you weigh-in, you still must beat all in the other class winners in the overall. Interesting and makes you think huh? Anyway, when I stepped on the scale, I weighed in at exactly 175 pounds. A Middleweight without even stressing over my weight! After completing the check-in process, I had much to think about.

The Last 18 Hours

How would I eat for the next 18 hours before the show? First things first. My brother and sister-in-law were coming to the show! They reserved a room in the same hotel. That was important for my mind to relax. Having family with you during potentially stressful times makes those experiences easier to bear. Especially when conversing sports and having differing viewpoints than your brother. He thought Mike Tyson would win the next evening and I knew Lennox was "THE MAN." I was right, of course. In addition, the NBA finals was aired that evening. My mind was clear.

As the evening progressed, I continued my usual Friday diet plan. I would eat 8 oz. lean Eye of Round beef and 1/2 grapefruit every 3 hours starting at 6 a.m. By 9 p.m, I had finished off 6 meals. What next? Well, my wife, brother, and sister-in-law decided to head to the nearest Chinese restaurant for dinner. Great idea especially since we were within blocks of China Town! This was also the idea I needed.

Since I had already weighed in, I knew I needed to fill up my muscle glycogen stores to fill out a bit for the upcoming day. What better than a little brown rice! At the restaurant, I ordered brown rice. As the cashier took my order, she looked at me and asked if I was sure that's all I needed. She just didn't know! In addition to the brown rice, I decided to order a kids pizza from the hotel. Pizza! you ask? Yep, I had great success eating pizza in a previous event. Unfortunately, my timing was way off. At this particular event, I and other competitors went out for pizza following prejudging.

That evening I looked twice as hard as I had in the afternoon prejudging. I would not have consider pizza unless I was in my best conditioning. Anyway, my strategy was to begin loading throughout the night with a 2 servings of brown rice at midnight and 3 a.m. At 6 a.m, I decided to eat 3 slices of pizza. During each of these meals, I avoided water intake. Following the pizza, I planned to eat rice cakes covered with natural peanut butter and honey every 2 hours until prejudging.

Game Time!

The morning of my quest for pro qualification had finally arrived. After a seemingly eternity, it was now time to make my dream come true. I was up and eager to get going at 6 a.m. Probably since I really looked forward to those 3 slices of pizza! We were to report to the auditorium for athlete check-in at 9:30 a.m. We left the hotel at 8:45 a.m. and started a leisurely stroll to the auditorium. As we did, I began to feel a bit on-edge.

My nerves were beginning to betray me. I had been so calm and relaxed up to this point and all at once "BAMMM" out of nowhere! Once we arrived, I tried to focus on what I needed to do. I kept reminding myself that I had done everything possible to win and had left nothing to chance. When it was time to check-in, I kissed my wife and hugged my brother and sister-in-law. As a personal rule, this is the last time I will see them, with the exception of my wife who will assist me with my coloring/oil, until after prejudging. I entered the check-in area and immediately recognized a competitor and friend whom I had met at the Eastern U.S. Championships in Virginia. He was a heavyweight and had that bodybuilders stare.

It's a look that only bodybuilders can recognize and eludes your preparedness. Strange but true. After exchanging greetings we made small talk in order to remove some of our anxiety. When we finished checking in, we were free to watch the WNBF Pro's compete. Being that this was a Pro/Amatuer show, we had the opportunity to see the professionals up close! It also help the time to blow by. Before I knew it, we were backstage and the Bantam weight men's open were on stage for prejudging. Now was my time to start getting ready.

My wife assisted me with my coloring and oil. As she did, I again ate 2 rice cakes smothered with peanut butter and honey. Mmmmmmm ... goooood. Afterward, I started a slow pump up. I like to pump up using exercise bands. They are easy to carry along and can by used creatively to fill those glycogen stores before heading out. I start with shoulders then triceps then biceps then chest. During pump up, I will only flex my legs (quads, hams, calves) and do this as I pump up my upper body. At the end of my pump up,I lay on the floor for a quick set of jacknifes for my abdominal area. When I'm finished pumping up, I throw on a thick sweat suit.

I do this to increase my internal body temperature and increase my vascularity. After the sugar/carb load, my veins are dying to appear! Over and over I visualize the execution of each mandatory and facing pose. Trying to remember things like, control breathing, stand erect and draw in abdominals, remain flexed at all times, look BIG at all times ...

Then it happened. The middleweight class was called out by the expeditor and instructed to line-up! It was time to Get Ready to RRrrrrrruuuuumbbleee!!!

In my next article I will detail what happened next!

Thanks for reading and for all the support and well wishes from all of you (you know who you are!).

Click Here For Part Two

Thanks, Delbert

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you will land among the stars."
-- Les Brown