Hello friends! I’m now 18 days away from competing in my first-ever bodybuilding competition! Somehow passing the 3-week mark has made it seem SO CLOSE!!! I’ve been training for this since mid-November 2016, and now the finish line is in sight. According to my coach, I’m coming in right on track. And I feel on track! I’m sooo excited for this event (it’s the ANB Universe International held right here in Manila), and I want to share with you some insights I’ve gained over the past 11 months of delving into this new sport:
- Building muscle is SO much harder than I thought! I always used to think I built muscle “so easily.” But when I actually started trying to build for this competition, I realised how difficult it actually is. It takes consistent and progressive lifting (I lift 5 days a week), along with a moderate caloric surplus, to build lean tissue. I put on 8 lbs of muscle over the course of 6 months and my coach & I considered it a huge success.
- Building muscle did not make me “bulky.” I gained from 122-131 lbs (55.5-59.5kg) over the course of 6 months. Did this make me “bulky”? Well, I did get bigger in certain places!! Most of the weight went straight to my hips/glutes, which grew about 2″!! Pretty amazing. I used to have a very “inverted triangle” figure… ex-gymnast, ya know… and now I’m much more curvy through the lower body. It’s feminine, and I love it.
- Gaining weight was freeing for me. The only time in my life I’ve ever considered weight gain to be “acceptable” was when I was pregnant. At all other times, I viewed it a bad thing, a reflection of overindulgence and lack of self-discipline… and definitely something to be avoided. I also had no lower limit for my weight. I would just get more and more satisfied the less & less I weighed. Not a healthy perspective, and not one I want to pass along to my daughters. In this respect, bodybuilding has been so good for me! It untied the connection between weight and worth for me… I know that’s ironic in such an appearance-based sport. But weight gain became a measure of success rather than failure. Hallelujah… I’m living in freedom, my friends!
- Losing body fat without losing muscle is possible! Never in my life have I lost weight without also losing muscle. I just got smaller, and weaker. So I was wondering just how this process was going to work… achieving the ultra-low body fat level necessary for great stage presentation. Well, now I’m experiencing it! I’m under a small caloric deficit created by diet and cardiovascular exercise, I’m still LIFTING HEAVY in the gym, and the fat is coming off, while the muscle is blessedly holding pretty steady. Key points:
- It’s a sloooww process. I’ve lost 8 pounds since beginning my cut at the end of May… slow by normal standards.
- The caloric cuts have been small, no more than 200 calories at a time.
- I have to be consistent with my diet. My “free” meals were eliminated in July, meaning I’ve been weighing and tracking everything ever since. Yes, it’s tedious. But it works! Oh, and…
- No alcohol. It was amazing (and a little disturbing!) to see how I quickly dropped weight as soon as I totally eliminated booze from my diet. And it’s not like I was having a lot! Maybe 2-3 glasses of wine a week!
- My workouts haven’t decreased just because I’m not eating as much. In fact they’ve increased over the past few weeks… more cardio and heavier weights week by week.
- The stage-lean look is definitely not sustainable. I used to think it was, and I would have said previously that I would gladly keep this look year-round. But now that I know what it takes to actually achieve this level of leanness, I realise that the amount of time and effort involved doesn’t leave room for much else. But I’ve loved my body during this whole process of gaining and losing weight. So it doesn’t really matter if I’m at 11% body fat or something much higher… I’m happy with myself at every stage.
- I do spend an insane amount of time in the kitchen. I make things easier on myself by prepping meals & snacks in advance so I can just weigh & measure everything all at once. This is just as crucial to success as going to the gym. It’s lucky that the kitchen is my natural place of solace & relaxation!
- The sacrifices are real. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve had to give up more than I bargained for to do this thing right. There are the obvious things like eating according to a schedule and not being able to blow off a workout. But the things that really pierce me are those that I wasn’t anticipating… like not walking home from the bus stop with my friends in the mornings anymore (because I need to use that time to do my extra cardio)… or skipping “happy hour” (and the lovely conversations that came with it) on Saturday afternoons with Mark because I can’t drink right now… or going out to lunch and awkwardly just ordering black coffee because I already ate my planned meal at home. It feels selfish to me to involve other people in my sacrifices, when they never signed up for this in the first place. But I’ve been humbled by the grace I’ve received, as I know this sport is impossible to understand unless you’re in it.
- All that said, I’M IN LOVE WITH THIS SPORT!!! I wish I’d have found it sooner. At age 47 I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to compete, but this entire process has hit all my passion points. I truly love the challenge of it, I love lifting heavy weights, I love manipulating my “macros” (macronutrients) to hit my targets, I love seeing the tangible changes that diet and exercise bring about, I love the scientific aspect of it, and I actually love pushing myself to my limits. So let’s see what happens in 2 1/2 weeks, but in my view, I’ve already achieved all I set out for, just by getting here.
If you’re still with me at this point, I applaud you! Thank you for sticking with me through it all. I appreciate you. When it’s all over, I’ll post a “Part 2” and let you know how I did. By then my cardio will be cut back to zero and I’ll have scads of time to post yummy recipes and maybe a booty-building workout or two.