How I Royally Screwed Myself Up – A Tale of Contest Prep

BEFORE!

TWAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT. Actually no it wasn’t, it was the July 4th weekend, 2012. Visiting a long time training partner, and close friend who lives in Illinois, eating pizza and watching bad kung fu movies, when we started discussing bodybuilding. He told me, “You’ve been strength training for about 7-8 years with no real direction or purpose,” which frankly was a fairly assessment of the entirety of my lifting career. I wasn’t pulling 700 lbs at the age of 18, or doing body building shows at 19, and I even got my start by fumbling around like an idiot in a gym because I felt pudgy and was self conscious about it. So we decided then and there, to begin prepping for a show in the OCB federation (they test your wee), that was at the end of November, roughly 4.5 or so months away. I weighed in at 242 when we started, and I’d end up stepping on stage in the mid-170’s. The OCB we did is not, for the record, a weight class show, the classes are arranged by height, which put me in the tallest class at 5’10 and up. The first month was met with vigor and eagerness, with no real issues or hiccups, moving down at a steady 2.5 lbs per week, while maintaining the majority of my usual lifting weights.

DURING! (Lets say beginning to halfway)

Then about the end of the second month, things started to go downhill. I’d start stalling at certain weights, which would lead to panicked revisions in my dietary intake, revamping what I was eating again and again, or removing certain foods entirely (I’ll always love you, bread! Wait for me!) in the hopes of hurriedly busting through the plateau and continuing onward. Thus far I’ve been trying to keep this on the more light and hearty side of things, but honestly it gets sort of grim. The problem that often shows up is that nobody ever really thinks to consider your mental fortitude, and much like a lot of other things in life, and a lot of the time the only way to find out is by making a go at it. So the foods started disappearing, and my carb intake started dropping, which would have been (more) acceptable had my fat intake been on point, but that was a raging dumpster fire as well. Typically speaking probably less than 15-20 g per day of fats, and as we got closer and closer to competition, the more pressure was on to not hit plateaus. My carb intake dropped well below 80g a day, which led to things like me sleeping restlessly, being constantly exhausted, falling asleep at work, having a shorter fuse, and to some degree impairing my motor skills and hand-eye coordination. My (then) girlfriend and I were both prepping, and both experiencing some of the same issues, her to a lesser degree than I, but it still caused issues and tension, late nights, sleepless nights, and a smattering host of problems.

DURING, Part 2! (Probably middle to end)

Slowly but surely, my weight kept going down, but other issues kept coming up, where I’d plateau, or I’d need to add more cardio, or I’d forget things, or forget how do do things. Towards the middle to end of the prep (last 6-8 weeks) the decision was made to attempt to try to move all of my carb intake into veggies primarily, with maybe 1 cup of steel cut oats in the morning. The most broccoli I ever ate in a day was 6 cups, and it was a terrible, terrible experience. So the carbs are down, but so is my weight, which was the point, but then I started getting memory gaps. I forgot that my girlfriend had already bought her suit, and to make matters worse, for some reason I was *convinced* that her suit was blue. It was pink, I wasn’t even close, and we spent roughly the next 4 days arguing over it, in one form or another. At one point I don’t really know how to describe it, but I stopped doing dishes one night, water running and all, to lie down on the floor of our apartment and have a breakdown about what the fuck exactly I was doing with my life.

Closer and closer to show date meant more and more cardio, which people also tell you (as it happens) that if the show is in the colder time of year to not run, and to dress properly, because the accelerated and aggressive weight loss makes your joints more susceptible to injury (Super!). I was doing a minimum of an hour of cardio, on top of my workouts, at least 5 days a week. 30-45 minutes at 5 or 530 am, despite being up till 1130 or even 1 am sometimes, followed by another similar amount following my workout later in the day. The only real saving grace was feeling better about my physical appearance, which I was happy about seeing, but not “Im going to kill it on stage” happy. The problems I experienced were getting worse, and at this point in my life, a full 3 years later, a lot of the entire process is still a fuzzy blur in my mind. The last two weeks before the show I took a posing video that, to my knowledge, is the only one that exists of me at a semi-healthy weight. 14 days from the show I was 185-187 lbs, but the aggressive cut had me attempting to lose roughly 1 lb per day. So in the last 14 days, I went from the mid 180’s, to showing up on competition day weighing about 178.

MOTHAFUGGIN’ COMP-DAAAAAY (And post-comp)

I spent the morning of the competition day nervous, nauseous, and feeling like I didn’t deserve to be there, because everyone looked a lot better than I did. It’s a process that, all physical issues aside, can carry some pretty heavy psychological side effects. So how did I handle it? Did I nut up and rock it? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if that was the case. I panicked. I spent the day occasionally taking Cellucor N03 or whatever the fuck it’s called (the blood flow one or whatever) , generally trying to avoid food for fear of a food-stomach, and being afraid to sweat, or pee, or shit, in fear of fucking up my tan (wee turns your tan green, TMYK!) . So I just ate, as little as I physically could, just enough to keep me… I don’t know… conscious? The posing itself, as a group went better than I expected, and I got at least a little reprieve being up there with other people, safe in my anonymity at the time. Until the night show, where each competitor has 60 seconds to do a posing routine to music of their choice (or random because the DJ fucked up), which as a typically anxiety ridden and anxious person, is goddamn fucking terrifying. I’ve never felt as uncomfortable and nauseous as I did prior to, and immediately after, except for the few times I’ve slid a car off the road and presumably expecting to die. It was suggested I take off my glasses as well, something to do with the stage lights reflecting off them, so I had to do my posing routine with no real sense of spacial awareness.

It was a flop. Not one clap, no cheers, just dead silence. To add to the flavor of the experience, without my glasses, I almost fell of the stage. I went back to the basement and don’t remember much after that. I’m fairly certain I was still awake, but I may have been lying on the floor for a while, tucked away in a corner. I tried to work out the next day, but was too exhausted to do anything useful, which was a trend that continued for about the next week. Not long after the show I decided to try intentionally bulking for the first time ever, moving from 178 at the end of November, to about 215 by February. Roughly the end of March or beginning of April I felt like I had gained too much weight, so I stopped eating as much. 3,000 calories became 2,500, and then 2,200, eventually settling around 1,900 per day, with me still going up in weight. The end of April saw myself and my ex’s relationship end, with my psychological image issues largely being too much for her to tolerate. Towards the end of 2013 we tried to get things back up, and as 2013 rolled into 2014, the attempts we made at repairing stuff led to more weight gain.

POST COMP, FOR REAL THIS TIME! 

In roughly the middle of 2014, I decided to finally try to start looking in to fixing all the little problems that had begun to plague me since the competition. I got a full metabolic panel done, and  was slapped on anti-depressants, and a vitamin D supplement, while the first doctor ignored the fact that my hormonal production indicated that I was about 85-90 years old. The anti-depressants, to their credit, helped me quit smoking again, which I had picked up the year before. When 6 months had gone by, with still no change in my lacking sex drive, I went to another doctor for another opinion, and they determined to start me on Hormone Therapy, as well as having a sleep study performed that determined that I have sleep apnea (from the 100+ lb weight gain in under a year). So I’ve since been trying to fix my hormonal issues, metabolic issues, weight issues, and sleep issues, all simultaneously.

For the first time in a long time, these days, I’m not completely unhappy with what’s in front of me in the mirror. I can see a fairly large difference between pictures that are a year apart, despite there only being about a 20 lb change. The hormone therapy is going successfully, despite occasional hiccups, like when your estrogen control makes your connective tissue feel more brittle and you dislocate a few ribs here and there, but things generally seem to be improving finally. It’s taken 3 years and a lot of money, but the goal is to keep moving forward. Now, the reason I put this together isn’t to show people how horrible bodybuilding is. Bodybuilding, power-lifting, Olympic weight lifting, crossfit, triathalons, marathons, iron-mans (Iron-men? Fuck if i know), and all sorts of activities performed by people from all walks of life are awesome and amazing things, but the fact just simply remains that working through a process with no information, or worse, can have some dire consequences. None of these are a quick decision process, and the decision to compete or perform them tends to carry a lot of weight. So please, if anyone takes anything away from this, just do your homework. We all hated it in school, and in college, but in these cases you don’t necessarily have a school or university teacher guiding us. We have friends, family, or coaches who mean well, and they will do their best to help, but as Coop likes to say, “Not everyone is the same.” Prepping goes a lot differently for a lot of people, and there’s hundreds if not thousands of different opinions about each little aspect of how to prepare.

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