I realise this might be an odd sort of time to be writing about this given that we’re only a few weeks away from the start of this round of competitions, but I had a conversation related to this earlier today.
I should be processing and crunching a spreadsheet cross referencing, joining, analysing and finding patterns in thousands of bits of data. Usually I enjoy putting numbers through hoops and making them do what I want them to, but not right now because this has been ticking away in my head all day and I can’t focus.
This is more important in my view and I’ve probably written about it in one way or another on various blogs but never really put it into something coherent. I feel I need to write this because I’m sure many of us have experienced something similar, but felt like you were the only one. Well, you’re not alone.
What am I on about?
Post Competition Blues/Depression/Syndrome – call it what you will, whether real or imagined I’m sure most of us have been through something similar when we come off competition and had to readjust to ‘normal’ life.
It probably gets easier the more you compete – I’m yet to find out, but when you’re first starting out it can be very confusing and emotional – it’s a head spin.
I know the day after winning the Vic novice title, I was a flat as a tack – I could hardly be bothered to get out of bed and go to training – it took a lot of effort. I just wanted to curl up in bed with the covers over my head and not see or speak to anyone. Why? I don’t know – shouldn’t I be on a high from just having won a couple of trophies – taking out my category and nearly the overall at my first time on stage?
I did get to training and I told Aiden that I was done, I quit, I couldn’t face the concept of eating chicken and broccoli for one more meal, I wanted to just sleep and rest my injured shoulders…
Yet a few hours later having seen some photos of me, I swung to the opposite end of the emotional spectrum – Wow ! I look amazing! This is AWESOME!! What am I thinking? I can’t quit! Hell, I’ve qualified for the nationals and Universe… I’d be stupid not to take it as far as I could!
Talk about rollercoaster!
And this is just one of the things that affects you. Firstly there is competition day – the buzz, the nerves, the excitement, the attention…all of a sudden there are photos of you everywhere – looking amazing, you’ve never been in that shape in your life…EVER…you just can’t see enough photos of you looking like that – I still look at my photos and wonder how I ever got there – but I did, and then of course you have everyone telling you how incredible you look…
Whatever your body image was before you compete, it is never the same again once you have competed…and therein lies another one of the things that mess with your head.
It is hard getting on stage. No other sport that I know of do you work so hard, yet have to be so disciplined and restrictive with your food intake, macro splits and timing and then you have to perform in a dehydrated state. You get on stage and you do look stunning. You may do just one show or you may do a quick series of shows and hold that condition for a few short weeks…just long enough that it totally changes your perspective of your body – you love the new look, you love being so lean and seeing how all that hard work has paid off, you love how clothes look so great on you now – no bulgy bits anywhere, just firm beautiful muscle..and ABS! its wonderful.
Until you come off competition.
And the weight starts to go back on.
And suddenly things don’t fit so well,
And how is that that even though you’re still eating so cleanly and you haven’t gone on a complete binge – maybe just one cheat meal a week – the fat comes back!
It doesn’t matter what you do, you feel fat, you feel bloated, your lovely definition is soon a thing of the past – a fond memory that you can now only see in all the bloody photos of you that you now can’t escape from.
No matter how well you control your diet, the fat comes back – and probably in places that you didn’t have it before…
Its very hard to get your head around – I know I struggled with this for months. I did control my diet, I only re-introduced foods slowly and if they didn’t agree with me (dairy for instance) I took it back out of my diet. I didn’t go on a complete binge – I think it took me about 3 weeks after comp to have a piece of chocolate! I actually think I was too scared to start eating again, because I didn’t want to get fat…
Yet by 2 months after my last competition I’d put on 7 kg – how??? I was still training 5 times a week, maybe not as hard, but I certainly wasn’t sitting on a couch the whole time!
On an intellectual level I knew I needed to regain the fat – I was lucky enough not to lose my periods, so many competitors are not so fortunate – but you have to regain the fat, your body needs it and if you don’t and you don’t get your periods back then you’re setting yourself up for long term health issues.
But knowing something intellectually and experiencing something are totally different things.
I was determined to stay within 10% of comp weight, but it was not to be. And I struggled with it – I hated how fat I felt, I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror – even though I was still very lean about 10 – 12% body fat – which is well under the recommended levels for a female, I couldn’t see it – my perception of my body has been totally skewed by competition condition.
And everything lost its purpose – what was the point of getting into such good shape only for it to vanish, whats the point of training so hard when I’ve just been given the ultimatum of surgery or stop doing any sort of sport – forever.
Whats the point of anything?
That’s another thing that affects you – competing absorbs your life – every waking moment you are focussed on what you need to do to get on stage.
But afterwards? That focus is gone, so now what – suddenly you have time to do things – but what do you do with that time?
Train more? Whats the point…
Watch TV…even more pointless
Eat? Yuk, makes me feel fat.
Go out for a beer? Eeek!! Think of all the calories! Besides now that I’m so clean why would I do that to myself?
Coming off competition can be hard. You can feel so lost. This is where you need your support network, this is where you need to have an off season plan. Allow yourself some time to relax the discipline – you need it, and then regroup, refocus, plan your next set of goals – if you’re competing again – what can you improve on? How can you get better? Plan your training.
If you’re not competing again – plan your diet so it allows you to reintroduce foods gradually, or allows regular cheat times, but keep it clean and your body will stabilise itself.
Maybe you still want to be involved in the sport – all federations and shows need volunteers backstage!
It took me about 3 months to cut myself some slack and let it go.
I know a lot of you are getting to the pointy end of your comp prep, but some of you who are not going on to the September/October season may be going through some rough stuff right now.
Talk to your friends and family about it, talk to other competitors about it, I guarantee you’re not alone.
Hang in there – it does get better 🙂