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Everyone likes the IDEA of competing as a bodybuilder... Training hard, getting in the best shape of their life, showcasing their hard earned physique and being in better shape than most people in any given room. However, what about what happens during the whole prep process? What does an athlete go through mentally and physically? What does their family or their spouse go through? I am going to take you down the yellow brick road. Together, in this blog, we are going to dissect the process and discuss what us athletes and our spouses experience in prep. Lets take a walk... So lets run through the two obvious and most talked about struggles, training and nutrition. First off, training.
Now, most competitors and fitness professionals will Preach that training is only 30% of the prep and nutrition is 70% of the end result. My self included. With that said, as long as your diet is in line, WHAT you do in the gym is not exactly cookie cutter, is different for everyone, and doesn't have to be exactly A, B and C. However, there is a science behind it, but that is a Whole separate blog post. The struggles of the training and diet portion come from consistency, maintaining energy levels and completing the work in order to get where you need to. As prep goes on, the importance of every workout and every meal become greater and greater. As does the intensity and the energy needed. The challenge? Your calories decrease, meaning the energy you HAVE to put in gets less and less. But as stated earlier, the output must do the opposite, get higher and higher. Your mood decreases, your natural energy decreases, the amount of effort your body wants to produce decreases and the amount of patience you have decreases. Secondly, the amount of cardio increases. Meaning even MORE energy is needed... Energy that you don't have. That you need to dig down and find. The best way I can explain it is like this... Lets say you are paining a wall, with a single bucket of paint.
The first time you dip your brush, you paint a 2" x 2" square. Lots of paint, very little TO paint. Now as time goes on, with every dip of your brush (every workout that passes), you have to paint more and more area (increase of intensity). Dip two is 3" x 3", dip three is 4" x 4", and so on. However, on top of this increased surface area and decreased paint, the speed in which you paint that surface increases (cardio). Less pain, bigger surface and faster strokes with each dip. Consistency HERE is where many people will start to fall short. Lets say you can figure out the training and nutrition. You have a coach or you have the knowledge to stick with this rigorous routine, you probably don't ONLY train right? You probably have a job, a life, friends and family the also require your time, energy and attention. This is a dark area for competitors. Many have to make some tough decisions on where to allocate the little time and energy they have left after training. Lets start with a job. You have a job, right?
A normal 9-5 that expects 100% effort out of you, just like you expect 100% of your pay check. You, as a competitor in prep, have to figure out how to provide your employer with the energy, focus, commitment and attitude they expect. All while being in a caloric deficit, have energy levels low enough to make the daily activities difficult, you are getting more and more irritable as the weeks go on, have a hard time focusing because you are hungry and are having a hard time staying awake because you didn't get enough sleep the night before.... because you are hungry. There is not much more difficult than keeping yourself in bed when you cant sleep because your body is aching for food, when you can literally feel your body eating away the fat. All while knowing you wont be any better then next day because you will STILL be in a caloric deficit and are clearly not getting much sleep. In fact, it gets harder. Lets move on from beating the dead horse about being hungry. Its obvious nutrition makes up 70% of the results, and the problems. Lets talk about the daily life struggles we, as competitors, encounter.
This will include the friends portion. Life happens. You have to work later or go in earlier, your kids have practice for a sport or a play at school, parent teacher conferences, the mother in law is in town and wants to go to dinner, the dog gets sick and needs to go to the vet, the wife goes in to labor or Timmy breaks his wrist because he was convinced by a friend to try a back flip. There is an endless amount of situations that can and do happen each and every day... But every morning, or every night, the work in the gym and kitchen need to be down.
You still need to life to 60-90 minutes. You still need to do 30-70 minutes of cardio. You still need to go shopping, cook dinner and prep for the next day or two. These are a must, if you are stepping under the lights. THIS is by far the hardest part for many new competitors, time. Friends will be upset that you don't have the time to go out, or if you do, can cant get pizza and beer with them. You have to be the odd ball that is eating out of tupperware at the table in Olive Garden because, well, you have to. Lastly, and after 4 shows, a new one for me. Managing a healthy relationship. I went through 4 shows, 4 separate preps as a single man.
Thinking it would be easy to manage a relationship. Thinking that I was a rare breed and didn't get grump, short tempered and irritable at the ones I love simply because i was in prep... But boy was I wrong. In my most recent prep, I had to learn through trial and error on how to satisfy my finances heart and mind all while managing the above struggles. I found myself being extremely sensitive and short tempered at the littlest things. Sometimes, sheepishly admitting, being mean for no reason. Then, naturally, i would recognize this behavior and be mad at my self for acting out. What many don't think about, is the effect each prep has on the significant other. How does your mood, energy and lack of ability to "live a little" and training schedule effect them? What is the hardest part of YOUR prep on THEM? Even with the most supportive, such as my fiancée, its still effects them. Once my last prep was over, once I returned to my normal state of mind and had gorged in water, peanut butter and donuts, I asked my fiancée those exact two questions.
Her responses were as follows: 1) "Our relationship was monotonous and reclusive. You couldn't go out, you didn't have the energy to do much after work and training and our life felt like it was put on hold." 2) "The hardest part in prep for me was in the mix of supporting and diving in to your lifestyle, I lost me and what I love to do." The effects on those around you are real. Just because YOU are prepping. Just because YOU are low on calories and are irritable. Just because YOU are the only that is responsible for making the work happen... Does not, by any means, mean you are the only one going through the hardships. In conclusion, I advocate that any one who wants to get in the best shape of their life, that wants to make a life change, that wants a new challenge in life should compete. I love it. But by no means is the training and nutrition the hardest part. Take it from me, there are parts of it that are much harder.
Prepping should be a well thought out decision, and if you have a spouse, definitely needs to be a collective decision. Everyone is effected. But it can absolutely be done. However, the most important things in life, remain the most important things in life. In order: Keep your wife happy. Keep your boss happy. Keep your coach happy... But make the work in the gym and the work in the kitchen happen.
-Signing off, Zack Smith
Twisted Gear Athlete