Update: Craig wins his first contest this past Saturday! Congrats.
The Path To My First Bodybuilding Show
So I woke up one morning and decided, "Hey, I'm gonna be in a bodybuilding competition!" Okay, there was a little more to it than that, but if you had told me a year ago that I was going to be getting ready for my first contest right now... well, you get the idea.
About a year and a half ago I was doing both school and work full-time. I had very little time to focus on eating right or working out. I had so much going on it was hard to even remember to take a multivitamin in the morning. It was about that time that I was hired on with the video department here at Bodybuilding.com.
Like most people, I knew exactly nothing about bodybuilding when I first started. I was in good shape in high school with wrestling and cross country, but that was ten years (and 30 or 40 lbs) ago. But I was enthusiastic about my job, and I really thought this might be just what I needed to motivate me to get back in shape like I used to be.
It was a slow start because I was still in school and still had no free time, but just a few months after I started, I finished school, and Bodybuilding.com moved the corporate office just a block from my apartment. My first thought was, "sweet, this is my chance to get in shape and save money on gas!" So I decided I was going to run to work from then on.
Getting In Shape
Not long after that, my sister-in-law talked me getting ready to run a half marathon. That's 13.1 miles, which is pretty intimidating, but I decided to give it a try. So I increased my training, and ran the Zeitgeist half marathon in the hills above Eagle, Idaho the first weekend in November '07, and since then I've been in three other races in the Boise area including another half marathon.
As I started training for all these races, it didn't take long to realize that just doing cardio wasn't going to be enough to get me into the shape I wanted to be in. Jim Britain, host of LiftRite here on Bodybuilding.com, offered to help me out a little, and got me a guest pass at Gold's Gym in Meridian.
I have to say it was a pretty rough start for me. I hadn't been in a weight room for maybe four years, and I really felt like I had no idea what the heck I was doing. It didn't take long to figure out that this was exactly what I needed, though, so I signed up for a membership and Jim and I have been training there ever since.
Like I said before, doing a bodybuilding show was the furthest thing from my mind before I started working here. In fact, the thought of a bunch of greased-up, muscly guys in tights seemed kind of creepy and gross, and it brought up images of Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze trying out for the Chip 'n' Dales on Saturday Night Live, or Jim Carey the she-male bodybuilder on In Living Color (please YouTube it if you don't know what I'm talking about-you'll be glad you did).
However, as I started to set and reach my goals for size and body fat, and after gaining more exposure and understanding of the sport-i.e. losing my ignorance toward the sport-I began to think, "Hmm, I bet I could do something like that." I only had two reasons for doing a show: motivation to get in great shape, and just to say I'd done it. So I was just taking a casual approach to preparing to maybe doing a contest.
It was with that little thought in mind that came into the summer of '08. Everyone knows summer is the time to get in shape, so you can look good with your shirt off (well... for the guys, anyway). As I started to see more improvements, I started to get more motivated to make even more improvements. By the middle of the summer, I was very happy with how far I had come from where I started just a year ago.
About that time, around the end of July, I heard of a local show happening in September. It was the 2008 Natural Idaho State Pro-Am. So I told myself, "If I can get below 10% body fat, I'll consider doing the show." I kept training, and got more serious with my nutrition, and it wasn't long before I was there. "Oh crap!" I thought. "Now I have to make a decision."
Luckily, in my line of work, I have access to a lot of people with experience in this kind of thing, and I determined to take advantage of their expertise. Fame Champion, Kendal Wood was in town for a video shoot, so I worked out with him, and he gave me some advice and critique.
My diet was on point, and my training was dialed in. My body fat was going down, and I was looking lean and mean. I had no excuses now. So with all my preparation and all the encouragement from others, I got my girlfriends approval and signed up for the show.
Building A Good Foundation For A Successful Show
This is the key to getting results. You have to get an understanding of your body if you want to improve your body. Read all the articles you can.
Bodybuilding.com has thousands of articles covering thousands of topics. Read the featured articles, or search for the topics that interest you. Watch all the videos you can. Bodybuilding.com has videos of pros, amateurs, men, and women. You can check out their training techniques and see how they work for you.
One thing you will undoubtedly find out is that everyone has their own little variations that work best for them. As you get a deeper understanding of how your own body works, you will figure out what works for you. This is what works for me.
I have breakfast at home, and from then until about dinner time, I'm at work, so all the things I eat at work are small, simple, and most of all nonperishable. After that it's back at home with more variety and a refrigerator.
- 1/2 - 1 cup of oatmeal, with just a pinch of salt, and a little milk and sugar. Aahhhh, I know! Salt, milk, and sugar are the devil! But oatmeal tastes like cardboard do-do without it! Get over it!
- 5 - 10 raw unsalted almonds. I never really keep track, but just keep it within reason.
- 7 oz. tuna. Get the Chicken of the Sea tuna pouches-they're a little more expensive than the cans, but there's no draining and can opener required.
- 1 tsp French's Yellow Mustard. Low in calories, low in sodium, high in flavor. 7 oz of plain tuna is pretty nasty. A little mustard will make your life a lot easier.
- 5 - 10 more almonds.
- 5 oz canned white chicken chunks. Get the cans with the pull tab or the packets if you can find them.
- 1 tsp Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce. It's soooo good, but high in sodium, so cut it and switch to the yellow mustard a week or two out from the show.
- More almonds.
- Celery sticks with peanut butter. Yes it's juvenile, but celery is gross, and peanut butter is high in protein and good fats.
- 1 chicken breast.
- 1 tsp Frank's Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce.
- 1 cup veggies. Either broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, radishes, celery, onions, bell peppers, or any combination of the above.
- 1 handful Planter's Dry Roasted Unsalted peanuts.
You'll notice I get all my carbohydrates in the morning, and my protein and fat the rest of the day. There's no special reason for that other than oatmeal is breakfast food, and the rest isn't, but it seems to work out all right.
This is my pre-contest diet, and I've been on it for about the last two months.
As you can see, I am eating all the time. I always try to keep food in my body, I always make sure it's clean, and I always make sure it's something I enjoy.
The only thing that will change after the contest is my milk consumption will go up from about 1/2 - 2 cups a day to maybe 3 - 5 cups a day, and my carbohydrate intake will increase significantly as well in preparation for the Zeitgeist half marathon again on November 1.
My workout goes from Monday to Friday. I am usually in the gym three to five days a week, but I've been consistently at the gym at least five times a week as I've been preparing for the contest.
- Monday Through Friday
- 8 am - run 1.25 miles to work.
- 5 pm - run 1.25 miles home.
Daily Weight Training:
I train 3 to 5 days a week with 1 - 2 body parts a day in any order I feel like.
That's 3 - 4 exercises per body part, 2 - 3 sets per exercise, 10 - 12 reps per set to muscle failure. Pretty simple.
I don't usually focus on abs, forearms, or calves because those are already my strong points, but as the contest has come closer, I've been hitting them several times a week with high reps to help them get more cut up.
I've been sticking with this regimen for a while now. About two weeks out from the show, I cut out the
creatine, but the rest stay's about the same.
Universal Animal Pak - my multivitamin if I remember to take it.
BSN NO-Xplode - love the flavor, love the effervescence, love the pump. Fruit Punch and Lemon Lime are my favorite flavors so far (Lemon Lime tastes like Lime Jell-o).
Scivation Xtend - BCAAs save the day. Apple and Orange are the best. I actually drink it all day long.
Scivation Whey - After working with Scivation President and CEO, Marc Lobliner, on the Tri-Phase Training series and other video projects, we got to be friends and he introduced me to their new whey protein supplement.
It was reviewed in comparison with nine other whey protein products in a recent article on Bodybuilding.com and it came out on top. Chocolate is my favorite (I like to add a little peanut butter, of course), but I'm looking forward to trying out my new box of vanilla real soon.
Scivation Xtend - BCAAs save the day. Apple and Orange are the best. I actually drink it all day long.
There are other supplements I've tried, and some of them are real close when it comes to my own personal preference, but these are what I'm taking right now, so give them a try if you've been considering something new for yourself.
I've been reading a lot and getting a lot of advice leading up to the show, and this is what I've come up with for my own preparation.
Carb Depleting, Carbing-Up & Carb Loading:
What is it, which one do I do? Well, based on what I've read and talked about with other competitors, the important thing is to understand how your body reacts to
carbohydrates. Some guys like to cut carbs out for a day or more leading up to the show-that's carb depletion. Then they'll hit the carbs really hard the night before and morning of the show-that's carbing-up.
Some guys will spend a few days or even a week before the show just loading up with carbs-that's carb loading. I've decided that I'm going to keep my carb intake about the same as usual until the day before the show. I plan to load a little the day before and morning of the show. Nothing too crazy.
There are a lot of different theories and opinions on water depletion, too. But everyone agrees that the dry look is what you want on contest day. Some people will deplete for days or weeks leading up to the show.
My method for this show is to load up on water about a week before the show, and for the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday leading up to the show I will be taking Scivation Showtime Advanced Water Pill.
Starting Friday, I will cut down the water dramatically and also stop taking the water pills. The idea is to get my body used to expelling lots of water, so when I start cutting water the day before, my body will be used to expelling all that water and it will dry me out. The risk is that you don't want to deplete so much water that you come in looking flat because there is not enough water to supply your muscles.
posing is the key. Pose, pose, pose. If you've never done a show before, watch some shows, check out some articles on posing on Bodybuilding.com, and practice posing.
All other factors being equal, the guy who can pose will beat the guy who can't pose every time. More importantly, if you have a great physique, but don't know how to show it, that won't be enough against someone with just a decent physique who really knows how to pose.
This is something every competitor has to do, but no one seems to talk about. I've been shaving my face since Jr. High, but I had never shaved anything else because "that's for sissies." Well here are some tips for anyone who was wondering, but was afraid to ask.
- Start shaving everything you plan to shave for the show about a month in advance-your skin needs time to adjust especially if you've never done it before.
- Use a good razor. I use the Gillette Fusion Power, the same thing I use on my face. Find a razor you like, but I strongly advise against cheaping out on some crappy disposable razor.
- Use shaving cream. Yes it's a lot of shaving cream, and it does get expensive, but it's only for a month up to the show, and your skin will thank you. Shaving cream or gel will soften the hair and make the razor glide easier across the skin. I use either Gillette or Nivea For Men shave gel.
- Use lotion after you shave. Again, sissy, but when your skin is used to being constantly moisturized by the natural oils that are absorbed in your body hair, you need to give it some kind of supplement or suffer with dry, cracked, itchy skin. I use Nivea For Men Post Shave Balm, but just make sure you find something without alcohol in it because that will dry your skin.
- Be thorough. After you shave everything, double-check everything... especially right before the show.
- Problem areas: ankles, knees, and hamstrings. You will bleed the first time you shave your body. You will probably bleed the first five or six times you shave. Everyone might have a slightly easier or harder time with different body parts, but those are the parts that seem to be a problem for me and the people I've talked to. By the way, armpits are a cinch.
There are so many
tanning products out there and so many techniques to getting the perfect tan, so it's important to do a lot of research and get some good advice from people who have done it before.
Also make sure you have someone who can help you apply your tanning products at the show because you don't want to waste all your hard work and training because of a crappy tanning job. I will be using Dream Tan Red Bronze.
That about sums it up. I have only a few days now until the show. All I have to do is keep things clean until then, keep working on my posing, get my routine down, and I'm all set.
The good news is I'm competing in the novice lightweight class for my first show, but the really good news is they are combining the novice lightweight and the novice heavyweight classes because there weren't enough novice entrants.
My current stats are:
- Height: 5'8"
- Weight: 151 lbs
- Body Fat: 6.388%
- Waist: 30"
- Biceps: 14"
- Calves: 15.25"
- Neck: 15"
Pre-judging is at 10 p.m., and the evening show is at 6 p.m. I hope to be at about 6% body fat for the show; I never thought I would get that low, but it's looking good so far.
I'm excited for the show, and nervous for my routine, but I feel good about my preparation and for my chances of doing well. I'll have an update post show hopefully with a 1st place trophy on my desk!