Why compete at all?

We all know there has been a lot of bad press/social media about competing in fitness events recently. From the horror stories about coaches being bullies and peddling drugs, to the standard of too much cardio and too little food for female competitors, to the downright scary of bodybuilders DYING from electrolyte imbalances after competitions. There have certainly been a fair share of reasons NOT to compete… so why should you?

Let me first say that I love this lifestyle and I love the idea of competing, but I did struggle with it after my first competition. So I’m not going to say it’s all rainbows and butterflies, but there are some definite positives and people should know about them.

So here is my list of WHY COMPETING IS AWESOME!

  1. You meet the most amazing people
    One of the amazing women I met backstage

    One of the amazing women I met backstage

    seriously, the women (and a few men too) who I have met through the process of preparing for competition and the actual day of the competition are the most stellar people. They are inspiring, and honest and oh so motivating. When you really start to get into the whole competition side of fitness you discover that there is a whole community of people going through the same struggles and the same successes as you. You are not a freak, you are not alone and you are awesome too!

  2. You learn a lot about your body – When you are aiming for the levels of leanness that it takes to get on stage, you start to figure some stuff out about your body by necessity. For instance, I learned that I have always been sensitive to gluten because when I dropped my carbs, I stopped eating gluten… all of a sudden I felt WAY better. I hear this all the time, because by doing contest prep you are forced to pay attention to your body and when things aren’t going as planned (like not losing weight, or looking bloated etc) you start to troubleshoot issues with your diet and exercise and maybe even your sleep, or stress!
  3. You learn a lot about who you are – This is a tough process. It take some serious dedication and you learn real quick some really great things and some not so great things about yourself. Maybe you have the willpower to move mountains and can say no to free chocolate with ease, but you become a super grouch after 40 minutes cardio. You weaknesses and strengths will come to the surface under the pressure of this prep, and in discovering these you can work on improving those weaknesses and building on those strengths.
  4. You will see HUGE changes in your body – I can tell you right now there are not a whole lot of things more motivating than having to get on stage in the tiniest bikini of all time. You will work hard and you will get results, and when you look at your stage photos compared to your starting point, your mouth will drop, and I guarantee you will be proud of what you accomplished. You will get to see your body at a level that many people will never achieve, and then you get to look for improvements for next time. It’s part of the journey and it’s a thrilling one.
  5. You get to be someone else’s motivation – this is my favourite one. We all have people we look up to and have motivated us to take this journey. By the time you step on stage you will be that for someone else! Someone will see you and think “wow, she is killing it in the gym – I can push harder” and they may even ask your advice. It;s an amazing feeling to be able to inspire someone to do something you are passionate about.

With all the reasons I have for competing, I must say that it is not for everyone. You have to make sure that it fits with your priorities and your life at the moment. And make sure you understand the sacrifices you will have to make.

But most of all make sure you educate yourself. (As I say, Eat Clean, Train Dirty and THINK NERDY)

The negative stories we keep hearing aren’t really about competing… they are about people doing dangerous and abusive things to either their own or someone else’s body and mind. The best defence against that is to make sure you know why you are doing whatever it is and you know the repercussions of those things. Be safe, but know that this is an amazing experience and one that I would highly recommend 🙂

 

Bulking

I posted a picture earlier today from Busy Mom Gets Fit about “toning” vs “getting bulky” and how most girls don’t want to get bulky and thus don’t lift weights. Listen to me right now. You will not get bulky!

The catalyst for this post

At least not by accident which seems to be the implication. Which I frankly find insulting.

I am in the gym busting my butt 4-5 times a week lifting HEAVY trying to build muscle. I have been doing this for a couple of years and I still don’t have as much muscle as I want. Now having said that I probably do have more muscle than some girls want but it didn’t just magically appear overnight. It happened super slowly with lots of hard work.

I promise you, if you lift what is heavy for you 2-3 times a week you will like the results. PLUS if you don’t like it… just stop! This is probably the most frustrating part of the myth for me. It’s not like you are going to overnight turn into she-hulk and never see a curve ever again, all you have to do is add a little more cardio and lift a little lighter with higher reps and you with lose that muscle fast!

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Me rowing 150 pounds

My family genetically gains muscle very easily and I still have to lift heavy and often to make gains and am currently trying to increase both my strength and size.

So please girls… PLEASE. Don’t be afraid of the weights! And don’t be so naive as to think that these girls who look too muscular to you got there by accident. That took hard work and dedication and it’s not going to happen to you the moment you try to do a back squat.

OK sorry for the rant… flowers and rainbows all around!

Beauty is in the mouth of the beholder?

I’m pretty sure that’s not how the saying goes, but it seems more fitting these days than the original “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.

I’m sure most of us, including myself, have judged someone for whatever reason. These judgements usually come in the form of assumptions we make about a person’s character based on how they look, walk, talk etc. This is talked about a lot in reference to obese and overweight populations. It’s not something I have had to deal with in my life thankfully, as I have never been obese and even at my heaviest, only just qualified as overweight based on my BMI (which was 27 in case you were wondering) according to my doctor. So, while that population unjustly receives a lot of judgement, I do not feel it is my place to talk about it. Instead I want to talk about a more nuanced form of judgment. That is the judgement that comes with being a female bodybuilder.

While I would not generally classify myself as a bodybuilder, for the purposes of this blog that is what I am. People who are not part of the weightlifting/bodybuilding cultures group it all into one thing and that is how I will address it.

I cannot tell you how many times I have had people ask me about my musculature or how often I work out. I take it as a compliment almost 100% of the time. The problem is that I’m not always sure it’s intended as one. Frequently these questions or comments are followed up with “Not that it looks bad!” or “But you don’t look bulky!” or the worst one “I would never know if you were wearing sleeves!”.

Let’s clear this up. If a girl is working out 4-6 days a week she probably wants to look the way she does. It doesn’t happen by accident, it’s hard work. I don’t know what people expect… maybe they think that because I am a “bodybuilder” I would look like a linebacker in a dress?

The thing is that while I was in competition prep I was very lean, which means I was small… like, tiny by my standards. But you gain weight back, you look normal, probably curvier than the average because of the extra muscle. My back is broader than most, I have biceps and a BUTT! My shoulders are fuller and my quads have a sweep that most girls would not want. But I WANT IT!

There is a whole spectrum of beauty out there and it completely changes from person to person. If someone does not meet your standard of beauty, that’s ok. You don’t need to make excuses for it or explain to them how they could or should meet that standard because they probably operate under a different set of goals.

Take the girls at the top of Figure competition: Nicole Wilkins and Erin Stern.

Erin Stern

When Erin won the Olympia this past year (Nicole came in second) there were pictures of her all over Facebook. Most comments were supportive or envious of her. But a large amount (shocking large to me) were extremely critical and negative. Comments such as:

–          She looks like a man

–          If she didn’t have implants I wouldn’t know she was a woman

–          She looks gross

–          Her veins are popping out… ew

–          She must be on steroids

This is a woman who dedicates herself to her sport and all people can see is whether or not she meets the classical definition of female beauty which seems to be frail and thin. The classic damsel in distress not able to open her own pickle jar!

There is a movement towards strength for women though, a movement which I support and encourage at every possible turn.

I am unfortunately guilty of making justifications for my body too. I perpetuate this problem by saying things like, I’m only this lean for the competition, or my arms are only this big because I’m bulking right now, as if those are bad things!  But I will promise you all right now that I won’t make those excuses anymore. I am proud to be a strong woman!

And you should be proud too! Proud to be a curvy woman, a petite woman, a modelesque woman, or whatever you are… be proud and don’t make excuses for the way you are.

One more thing though. Go after YOUR idea of what beauty is. If you are a curvy girl who wants to be leaner, then go for it! If you are a thin girl who wants a bigger booty, get squatting! Just do it in a healthy way for your mind and body and know that at the end of the day it is your idea of beauty that matters.

Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and take in all the different beauty this world has to offer free of judgement!

Rant over! …until next time 🙂

 

Real health vs. the appearance of health

One of the awesome benefits to this process has been meeting so many new and great people. As I’ve gotten closer to the date of the competition 2 things have happened. 1) my workouts have gotten more frequent (therefore I’m in the gym more) and 2) I look a little crazy intense and obviously have a lot of muscle going for me. So I think those 2 things have contributed to people coming and talking to me more. A lot of the time it is trainers… which is awesome because they will frequently give me little tips or give their take of nutrition and exercise, but other times it’s just other people working out. Yesterday I chatted on and off for about 30 minutes with a man named Adam who is an actor and had a great build without trying to show off. It was refreshing. He was keeping the movements slow and deliberate and wasn’t grunting or making a big deal of things. After a couple minutes he came over and told me I was inspiring, which always makes me feel great, because that’s basically the point of this blog. We talked about lifestyle choices and making sacrifices, but a big topic was that what I look like right now, and what other people in shows or in magazines looks like on those days is not reality.

So I want to make this very clear. My body fat is TOO LOW to be healthy. This is ok to have happen for a short period of time, but can cause hormone imbalances, metabolic problems and, here’s the kicker, problems with reproductive activities and possible infertility (which is reversible when you gain weight back). Obviously this isn’t the picture of “health”. People on magazine covers and in fitness competitions are at one of the unhealthiest points they will ever be at in their lives. The list of unhealthy things going on is extensive, but here are some that stick out in my head:

  • Body fat percentage is too low leading to hormonal and metabolic issues
  • Fruit and even many vegetables have been cut from the diet in order to cut carbs and these provide necessary nutrients
  • Healthy fats have likely been reduced very low which are needed for healthy brain function and digestion
  • Salt has been manipulated to shed water weight which as I’ve discussed before can cause a host of problems including muscle spasms
  • Water has been limited for 1 – 2 days dehydrating the body which we all know is terrible for EVERYTHING in your body as every function requires water.
  • Possible use of diuretics, further dehydrating the body
  • Possible “junk loading” where bodybuilders will eat bad foods like French fries and chocolate to pump their muscles up before the show (without drinking water so they won’t bloat)
  • Increase protein intake without the buffering effects of fats that can cause the body to become acidic. An acidic body is a breeding ground for bacteria and cancers. Not good!

Then after they have done this they relax their diet, sometimes too much and gain weight and water back into the system. It takes about 2 days for them to go from looking shredded to looking “normal” or even bloated. Definitely not what you saw up on stage. Yet this is what people are looking at in magazines. This is the inspiration for a fit and healthy lifestyle, these people who know what real health is and ignore it temporarily to achieve the “look” of health while simultaneously being very unhealthy! It makes no sense!

Things I’m missing right now!

And here I am perpetuating it, so that is what this post is about. I want you all to know that while the way I look right now is awesome, I feel like crap, my hormones are all out of whack, I’m probably suffering from adrenal fatigue, I am supper mercurial (moods switch on a dime – sorry Andre, I know I’ve been hard to handle!) and my workouts and meals are no longer things I look forward to. I am looking forward to rocking it up on stage and hopefully doing well, but I’m also looking forward to going back to eating and working out for real, honest to goodness, health instead of to LOOK good.

So do yourselves a favour and realize that even these “fit” people in magazines are doctored and are not looking that way 90% of the time. So when you look at yourself in the mirror, they are not the comparison ok?!

I will also (if I am feeling brave) post some pictures of myself 2 days and 1 week after the competition to give you an idea of what happens when you limit yourself so much and then retain water like crazy. Sorry in advance if I get too embarrassed to actually post those. But that is the plan.

To your good health and me getting back to real healthy living!