They failed to mention how much my body would fight me to put the fat I just burned off, back on! And lastly - no one told me about the most difficult aspect of the off-season - and that is the mental part. While preparing for a competition, as difficult and tiring as it is sometimes, there is still the wonderful feeling that awaits when you look in the mirror everyday and watch your body get leaner and leaner. But in the off-season, it is the exact opposite that happens. The mental part of this was the hardest for me to grasp.
After the last competition I did in August, I knew that if I wanted to continue competing at the National level, I had work to do. I needed to put on more muscle everywhere! Not to say I didn't have good muscle tone and symmetry, but my physique needed work. So I dedicated the next 6 months to doing just that.
I was going to spend the next few months trying to gain more size while keeping my bodyfat percentage gain to a minimum. This is a very difficult task because in order to gain muscle, you must be in a calorie surplus - hence, gaining weight.
Well, within just a few days of my last competition I was already 15 pounds heavier. Now granted, a lot of the initial weight gain was water - but all of that water covered up what I just worked so hard to UNcover. The person I saw when I looked in the mirror was not the person that I wanted to see.
I wanted to see the "competition me" all the time. No one told me that this is impossible! My body would not be healthy if I stayed in a water depleted state for more than a day or so. And even more than that - my body was extremely tired. I desperately needed a break from the dieting and the cardio. And I hate to admit, my body responded to the lack of these two items a little too well. Within just a few weeks I was over 20 pounds heavier than before and I was in a total state of depression.
I contacted my nutritionist and told her what was happening to my body and how completely miserable I was. She tried to comfort me, but also explained to me that my body needed this "break" and as long as I didn't get TOO out of control - this would all be a very positive experience for me. I don't know that I would call a 20 pound weight gain a positive experience - but I humored her and told her that I would do whatever she told me to do. So I continued along on my "bulking diet". As much as I hated the way that I looked, I kept telling myself that when I do start dieting again, my body will really respond and I will be more than pleased with the results.
While getting ready for my last show, I had to have all of my clothes taken in 3 dress sizes (lucky for me my mom is a dress maker). My mom even tried to warn me by saying that once the competition was over I would most likely put some weight back on and would have nothing to wear!
I assured her that I would not gain enough weight to require new clothing. I was completely convinced that I could maintain my "contest body" all the time. But how was I to know any better - this was of course, only my first year competing.
I just hate it when my mother is right! And this time was no exception. I went up 3 dress sizes and had nothing to wear to work. I had to go out and buy all new bigger clothing. This was such a depressing moment in my life. I never anticipated this and no one warned me this was going to happen.
All in all, the off-season was very good to me. I started dieting a few weeks ago for my next competition and I already see a huge difference from last year. So, the end result is worth whatever physical or mental obstacles appear along the way. I encourage anyone considering competing to do so because the things I have discovered about myself along the way are invaluable.
I have learned the meaning of discipline, determination and courage. I am still in the process of learning how to be comfortable in my own skin all the time, but most of all - I have learned how strong I am mentally. Your mind is a very powerful tool and you can use it to help you instead of working against you.
So now that I have told you about all the things I wish someone would have told me - What are you waiting for? Find a show in your area and just do it!