Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Stage Fright or Stage Right?

So you wanna compete...or does it just look cool?  I've mulled writing this post but decided since the sport of bodybuilding is growing, it just seems right.  I certainly cannot cover everything but hope to provide a little insight into the competition world. There are many topics that aren't covered such as the pitfalls of competing including metabolic damage, adrenal fatigue, effects of over-training, etc. These topics can be researched online and if proper coaching is not sought out can be a real factor in whether you achieve your goal or suffer long-term damage to your physical health.

When I speak of 'bodybuilding', I am referring to all the categories to include fitness, bikini, figure, physique and bodybuilding.  There are also more commercial categories in some federations like Commercial Model, Ms. Fit Body, Diva Fitness, Diva Model, Men's Muscle Model, Men's Fitness Model, etc.

Some of you may already be confused. To some bodybuilding means 'steroid using over -muscled' men and women. Much has changed over the years, some competitors like the variety of categories while the old school bodybuilders generally feel the new categories are weak. Additionally, different federations seek different levels of leanness, muscle mass, beauty, sex appeal, commercial appeal, theme wear, evening gown, etc.

If you are completely lost, it's understandable.  There are many different federations, several categories, natural, non-tested, weight classes, height classes, open classes, master classes, pro cards, etc.   It can be overwhelming to figure out which category suits you best based on your physique, time commitment, financial resources and your actual goal.  For some competitors, it's a bucket list item, others it may be a long term career plan, a goal or a hobby.

Where do you start?  This is not a simple question.  You need to do your research.  Visit the various federation websites to see the difference. Here is a short list but there are more:

Natural Federations
2. OCB
3. NGA
5. Fitness America
8. ABA
10. DFAC

Other Federations

This is not all of the various federations but your best bet is to look at the websites and see which federations are in your area. Generally, there are both natural and non-tested competitions available. Most people are familiar with such competitions as The Arnold and The Olympia.  This is the IFBB federation for pro-athletes.  Athletes such as Jay Cutler, Kai Greene, Nicole Wilkins, Iris Kyle, Adela Garcia to name a few. The amateur federation for IFBB is NPC.

The burning question is, what is the difference between natural and non-tested? Natural competitions require each competitor to submit to a polygraph prior to competing and if a class winner, a urine test is collected post show.  The natural federations have a list of banned substances which are not allowed. You need to refer to each federation' guidelines for specifics. Non-tested federations do not have these guidelines.

OK. That was kind of the quick and dirty of the overwhelming choices of federations.  So, lets get to the nitty-gritty.  The biggest surprise in this sport is the cost.   It is not a cheap sport.  It is not a money-making sport. Yes, some athletes receive sponsorships, supplement contracts, and earn winnings but very few actually can sustain a living. So the majority of competitors compete for their own enjoyment and health benefit.

So here is a breakdown of the costs.  It is not pretty and if anything, these are conservative estimates.  I don't share all of this to discourage you but feel it is one of the most non-discussed factors in this sport. It matters because after you have trained so hard for months/years and already paid your trainer, food costs, supplements costs, etc., it can be a bit alarming during peak week to discover all of these 'hidden costs'.

Trainer (Coach): $150-$400 /month
Posing Coach: $25-$75 /session(more than 1 session is needed + more if need choreographed routine)
Gym Fees: $25-$100 month
Federation Fee: $60-$120 per year per federation (some are sister organizations)
Entry Fees: $45-$100 per class (Open, Masters, Beginner, Novice)
Stage Suit (female): $125-$2000 (rent or purchase)
Heels: $50-$125 (required for most classes except physique & BB)
Stage Tan: $100-$125
Hair/M-up: $150-$200
Jewelry: $25-$100
Theme wear: $250 + (WBFF & Fitness America federations)
Hotel: TBD
Airfare/gas: TBD
Time off of work
Photo Shoots (optional to document your work)

It doesn't seem so bad, but it adds up quickly.  And remember you are only on stage for a very short period of time. What's your reward? A trophy, a medal and/or a stellar physique that you worked your ass off to achieve.  And of course, some great friendships are formed. This sport has to be about you and your goals. It is a subjective sport.  You are being judged and not all is fair in the eyes of others. You compete against others but ultimately you are competing with yourself.  You are pushing yourself to your physical, emotional and mental limits during training.  Training includes living your daily life which includes work, family, friends, etc.

So you must ask yourself some very important questions.  Do you have the time to commit to training? Do you have the finances to sacrifice? Do you have the discipline to follow the nutrition plan? Do you have the dedication to stay strong when you want to give up? Are you doing it for you? Why are you doing it? Are you willing to do the research to find a qualified coach/trainer/ nutritionist? Just because someone competes, it doesn't make them qualified to train others. The list goes on...

This sport is challenging, rewarding, frustrating, exciting, demanding and not for the faint hearted. We don’t always place where we want. Our bodies don’t always cooperate. Life moves forward even if you didn’t get your workout in for the day or finish all your macros. It is a choice. It is a privilege to stand on stage next to others who have sacrificed and understand the work that has been done.

This is a unique sport and often misunderstood. The final step is the stage_ THE SHOW. It appears glamorous. We look refreshed. We glow in the spotlight on stage with our bronze chiseled bodies. Our smile shines like a shooting star in the night sky. We pose and turn and make it look like it's a natural flowing movement. We have trained months and sometimes years for this day and it’s all over in less time than it takes to post about it on social media.

But the reality is the exact opposite. We are stinky, sweaty, smelly beasts! We haven’t showered in at least 24 hours. We haven’t used deodorant or washed our hair. Our bodies are so water depleted that we look as if we are competing for a Sun Maid raisin commercial. Backstage, our suits are being glued to our butts with 3M spray. Our armpits are being stripped of the green sludge that has built up. Our breath could take down a herd of buffalo. And of course, the unpleasantness of the dreaded ‘protein farts’!

The number one reason I have seen people fail while training for a competition is  because "it's not what they thought it was going to be." The 'easiest' part is the actual training at the gym (insert some sarcasm here).  Competition training is an acquired skill. The ability to master the balancing act of family, training, nutrition, work, sleep, holidays and comments from others not understanding your commitment to the sport. It is not for the faint hearted. Again, it depends on your end goal. What you put into the sport is what you get out of it.  The stage isn't for everyone.  You can still achieve that show ready physique without ever stepping on stage! It's your body and your goals!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Are You a Fitness Junkie?

How are you fairing in the game of life? Are you winning? Are you losing? Do you have balance? Are you a fitness junkie?

I have recently re-entered the competition world of bodybuilding after taking a break for 18 months. I never stopped training nor did I fall off the wagon with my nutrition. I deviated a little bit, but the reality is, I just took a hiatus from the actual stage. At first, I was asked quite frequently when was I doing another competition? My response was that I had no plans in the immediate future because the reality was just that, I had no idea.

It wasn't necessarily a planned break, it just kinda happened. I was focusing on other things in my life.  I like to dabble in things if you will. I began my headband business - www.Headbanditz.com. I learned how to sew when I was 12 years old and decided to make an effort to jump back into a child hood hobby. It served a dual purpose as I hate having my hair in my face when I am training so I decided to give it a whirl.  I make them from scratch by myself, market them, designed my website and process all the orders. It's not a huge business and I certainly need and want to spend more time marketing them, but again its about balance. I took a chance.

I work full-time in a demanding career. I have two teenagers. Life is busy with sports, college search for my senior, academics & kid's part-time jobs, etc. I have a significant other and several pets, all of whom I enjoy spending time with. I have a household to run which includes daily chores, yard work, general upkeep and bills to pay. This is not much different than most folks. Then you add in training. I love to train. I love to be healthy. But it all takes time. It all takes money. It's easy to become a fitness junkie.

Competing adds another layer upon my already busy life. It is a choice. It is part of my lifestyle, but it isn't my entire existence. It does not define who I am. It is one piece of the puzzle that makes me who I am. There is a difference. I have been more cognizance of this over the last year.  Balance is important. We get one shot at living our life and I don't want to have regrets of what I wish I would have done.  I don't want to look back and wish I had spent more time with those I love, both family and friends.

My career is what pays my bills, feeds my family, will allow me to retire and permits me to enjoy my play time. Plus I enjoy helping victims and putting the bad guys in jail.  My fitness is important to me and I will chose fitness over the bar scene. But there needs to be compromise and balance.  It can't always be about prep mode, no indulgences, always putting people, vacations, and hobbies to the back burner because you have a competition to prep for in the near future.  What's the point of being healthy if you don't enjoy the life span you hoping to extend?

Competition should be a part of your life but not your entire life.  Because the reality is very few will make a sustainable living in this sport. Goals and  bucket lists are important. Don't get me wrong, I like to win and the 'iron' does solve a lot of 'issues' for me.  However, at the end of the day, I don't want to be remembered for my fitness accomplishments.  I want to be remembered as a great mom, girlfriend, sister, daughter, and friend.

My trophies are the people who I have touched in a meaningful way and aren't afraid to call me their friend.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Health is Wealth

It's hard to believe summer has come and gone already. As I age, summer seems to get shorter and shorter every year. I struggle with the winters in Minnesota and have grown to dislike the dark cold winter days despite being a native.

I know my pitfalls of wanting to hunker down and not go outside anymore than necessary. And when I sit around, I want to eat. I want to eat what most people refer to as 'comfort foods'. I have cravings for heavy carbs, bad fats and junk food just like the average person.  It is not any easier for me to say no to these indulgences than it is for you.

So what's the difference? How do I stay lean? Why don't I put on any winter fluff? Well, I do. Just not as much. I am not genetically gifted. I pack on the pounds as quickly as the next person if I were allow it to happen. So the difference is, I don't hibernate and drown my winter blues in food and booze.  I stay on my plan. I keep working out despite the frigid temps that chill me to the bone.  I stick to my LIFESTYLE.

You've heard it a hundred times, it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle. It's not always easy. It's not always fun. But anything worth having is worth the challenge. Because when it is a lifestyle, you can indulge in once in awhile in the holiday decadence and good cheer. Key words... "once in awhile".

Contrary to popular belief,  I eat pizza, eat pita chips with pub cheese, have weakness for chocolate and partake in other forbidden foods. BUT, I do it in moderation. Again, pay attention to the key word..."moderation". I don't eat these foods daily or even weekly.

I don't refer to these as cheat meals either. They are 'refeeds'.  They help restore my body's composition and also my mental satisfaction.  It's not a garbage feast or a pig out for free card. Refeeds serve a purpose when applied with an overall nutrition plan.  A plan, which if followed permits these foods to be eaten at certain times.

Everyones body reacts differently to refeeds. It takes time to evaluate what you can handle based on your body composition of muscle mass, fat mass, etc. What works for me may not work for you. Your plan needs to suit you so you can reap the benefits.

I'm not perfect either. I over indulge at times. I don't want to workout at times. I stray from the plan at times. But the important thing is, I have learned how I feel after I stray too far or for too long. I feel like crap. I look like crap. So I jump back on the wagon. And soon enough, it's smooth sailing again. Then I wonder, why the heck did I fall off anyways? Stress? Overtired? Lazy? Of just plain sick of it!

Then I have to remind my self of how miserable I felt at 176 pounds. How much I hated getting dressed. How much I struggled to lose that weight. I need to be a good example for my kids. I needed to walk the walk to show them it's important to be healthy. We get one body and the parts aren't always replaceable.

It's been just over a decade since I lost 40 pounds. I made a promise to myself that I would never allow myself to devalue my health like that again. I have kept that promise. It has paid off mentally, physically and emotionally. It was the best gift I ever gave myself.

We all deserve to happy. Our journey will be different and the reasons for traveling that road will vary. However, in the end you will decide your self-worth. So, you must ask the question - "How much is your Health worth to you?"