Well, it’s over! I’ve put in my last 2 (3 really) weeks of intense training and strict meal plans. I’ve taken my “afters” and posted them on bodybuilding.com. You can see my contest entry here.
So how was it? I can honestly say that I tested a few of my limits regarding food and and my sanity. I poured over dozens of articles trying to find the perfect plan to really lean out the last few days of the challenge. What I came up with was a whole lot of nothin’! Every expert out there has their own idea of how to “prep” for a contest or photo shoot. Some ideas are similar of course, and some are just way out there and border on dangerous in my opinion. I ended up just keeping my carb intake really low and decided to cut sodium (salt) and how much water I drank the last couple days before I took my pictures. This is supposed to help you retain less water between your skin and muscles, and do some other scientificy things too….I think ;). I’m used to drinking at least a gallon of water day, so limiting my water was HARD. Harder than cutting carbs really.
My training stayed the same for the most part. Week 11 and 12, I still lifted heavy in the first half of the week and lifted light with more reps in the latter part of the week. We (contestants in 100k Challenge) had until 11:59 PM on April 11, to turn in “afters” and contest reviews, so I took the extra days to get in a few more high volume training sessions and HIIT. You’ve already seen my what my heavy days look like. If you missed those, take a look at them here on our Training page. Here is a look at what my light, high volume days look like.
I felt great going into last week, but as soon as I cut my water intake on Monday, I started to go downhill. I felt week, tired, and irritable (I attribute about 80% of that to my children though!). I tried to push through, but the night before I planned on taking my photos (which was Thursday morning), I decided I would rather feel good than attempt to further dehydrate myself for a silly at-home photo shoot. So I went to the fridge and grabbed one of my all-time favorite snacks, a Banana-Berry Protein Muffin and poured myself a glass of water. I felt better almost immediately. And guess what, I don’t think it changed how I looked one bit.
What I Learned
I learned a few new things during this whole process. One would certainly be that I have a new found respect for anyone who actually competes on stage. It takes some serious discipline to lean out and look cut like they do. I’m well aware that these ladies don’t look like this year round, but to look like this for a couple weeks is still very difficult and impressive! Pictured below are the top 3 ladies from the Arnold Classic 2014 we attended in February. (Read the full article about the Arnold 2014 Bikini results from bodybuilding.com here.) To get this lean and still look that happy and walk in 5 inch heels, are you kidding me?? I want to know how they do that!?
Another important lesson learned is I have a lot to learn about this whole contest prep business. It’s not as simple as training hard and eating right. I had no idea there was so much science behind it and I had no idea it would be that hard to stick to a strict meal plan. If I ever take the plunge and decide to compete, I am pretty certain I will have to seek some outside help to really dial in on what I need to make it on stage without losing my mind and all my energy.
I think the very best thing I’ve learned during this whole experience is just how far I’ve come. To be honest, I was a little upset when I looked at my photos from 12 weeks ago compare to the shots I had just taken. I was confused. I felt different…stronger, sexier, leaner, but I couldn’t see much of a difference. In my head, I know I am my worst critic, but sometimes it still takes me a bit to allow myself to see the good. So, I decided to help bring those positive thoughts to the forefront, I searched through our photo archives to look at some photos of the old me from 2012 right before I started this whole new fitness venture. I found what I needed the moment I opened up the first photo. I couldn’t believe that used to be me.
Overall, this Challenge was fun and it was a huge learning experience. It kept me motivated and helped hold me acountable to my goals. I encourage anyone wanting to transform their body and lifestyle to seek out some sort of motivation and support system that will help you achieve your goals. Whether it be through friends, a personal trainer, or a website like bodybuilding.com, the options are out there. Don’t be afraid to take that first step!
What I plan to do next (after a full weekend of rest!) is to keep up the level of intensity I had during the last few weeks of the Challenge. I really like the Push|Pull|Leg split, but I think I’ll add more HIIT during my lifting and maybe change up some of the lifts to keep things interesting. In the long term, I’m still looking for those six pack abs! Even if I can only see them for one day, at least I will know I can get there. I know visible abs take time. But, now that I have a little better understanding of how what I eat and when I eat it affects the stubborn fat around my mid-section, maybe, just maybe, in a few months I’ll get there.
Also, the thought of competing has crossed my mind more over the last few weeks than I ever thought possible. If you would have asked me even a couple months ago, I would have so “yeah right,” but after going to the Arnold and reading article upon article on how to prepare for a competition/photo shoot, it’s hard to deny my curiosity. I have a long way to go before making this a reality…it’s a huge commitment mentally, physically and financially, so the decision won’t come quickly or lightly. What a challenge though! I may not be able to back down from this one for much longer.
I’ve come a long way since 2012 and I hope to keep improving and getting better for many, many more years. I appreciate you all following me along the way too. I can only hope that I am an encouragment to anyone who feels tired beyond their years, trapped in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion, or just plain out of shape. It is possible to turn things around.
More Progress Photos
(I soooo wish I would have thought to take a set of pictures without the stupid newspaper in them, but I forgot! Ugh. It’s a Penny Power too. haha.)