A friend of mine, who recently competed in the local fitness competition and placed top 3, contacted me the other day.
"My abs are gone. I look nothing like what I looked like on stage. And I feel so....depressed," she said. Her words hit home.
In the beginning of 2013, I competed in my first-ever fitness competition and placed top 5 qualifying for Provincials. All those months preceding the competition, I had lived and breathed the fitness lifestyle. I ate pre-measured tilapia, sweet potato and broccoli meals out of ziplock baggies and drank my 4L of water daily. I spent hours at the gym and in my spare time I practiced my stage routine. In other words, I put my life on hold and fully succumbed to the rigidity of the contest prep training.
Hours before I was due to step on stage my body was in the best shape of my life because of all carb-cycling and water-depleting tricks that my trainer had up her sleeve. I had a clear cut six pack, one of those sets of abs that you could grate cheese on, definition in my arms and my legs, and I felt exhilarated and invincible. What followed was a blur of bright lights and an adrenaline rush from stepping on stage and flaunting my medal.
And then I came home. I placed my beautiful Swarowski crystals embedded pink bikini into its box and hung my medal on the wall. What now? My six-pack was gone the very next day. I still had abs but it was nothing compared to what I had on the day of the competition. My body filled out quickly and although it was mostly water weight to me it felt like what I worked so hard for during those months was destroyed. I felt like a failure and I became extremely depressed.
I didn't know it then but what happened to me was post-competition blues- a normal phenomenon of a withdrawal you experience post competition when you go into off-season. Here are 5 things I share with my clients and I will share with you about post -competition blues:
1. There IS such thing as an off-season-
There are some competitors that stay lean all year-round and even compete multiple times throughout the year but it's actually not advised. Why? Because it's not healthy to look like a fitness model 365 days a year! Even fitness models don't look like fitness models all year-round (Andreia Brazier on and off season).
For starters, off-season is there for you to make gains and improvements to your physique as well as time to give your body a much needed break and a reward for working so hard.
2. DONT fall off the wagon completely-
Have a celebratory meal with your family and friends, go out and eat the things you haven't had in a while like sushi and pie but don't go buck wild with food. Your body is not used to a lot of foods and introducing them all at once into your diet with not only make you gain unnecessary weight fast but make your bowels really upset. Take it from someone who's done it. Still eat clean and on a regular cycle (every three hours) and then introduce various food into your daily meals and indulge once or twice a week.
3. Take a BREAK from gym-
Yes, I said it. I usually take 3-4 days off post competition and then start back with some light cardio. Your workouts won't be that intense post competition. Likely less cardio and more heavy weights so you can build muscle during off-season.
4. Stay in touch with your teammates and/or your coach
- The trend I notice in the industry is once off-season hits everyone goes MIA. To the regular competitors this fact is no big deal, but to the newbies it can create a feeling of loss because they suffer when their strong support system that was there during contest prep is suddenly gone. No one checks up to see if they are on track, no one encourages them to keep pushing. Don't lose touch with people you met during competitions, talk to to them about your experiences because chances are they are experiencing those withdrawals as well.
5. Set new goals and/or reflect on the lessons learned
- Perhaps you fell in love with competing and want to keep going, perhaps you love fitness but the limelight and panel of judges is not your thing. Talk about it, discuss it with your coach and your partner and figure out what you want to do next.
And always remember:
Do something today that your future self will thank you for!