After a monster 3 month competition season, I am finally finished! Thank goodness for that! It has been a looooong, very hard season and as usual I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I decided what I was going to do this year, and, as usual there were plenty of surprises, unexpected ups and downs, bumps along the way, triumphs and successes and an absolute ton of lessons learnt!
So, its that time of year again when I reflect on everything that happened, take an objective look at what went down and do my competition season ‘Retro’.
Now I’ve explained the concept behind a retro before, so I won’t do that again and instead of the standard ‘What worked, What didn’t work, What can be improved’ version or the Edward De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats that I did last year, this year I’m going to get all in a F.L.A.P.
Future Considerations – take a look at any future considerations placed in context of this season
Lessons Learned – key lessons and takeaways from the season
Accomplishments – key accomplishments for the season
Problem Areas – problem areas experienced throughout the season
ok here goes
As I sit here writing this, right now I have no idea what the future might hold. I have quite literally achieved everything I ever imagined I would or could achieve in Bodybuilding. I have done more than I ever imagined I could do, I have competed in more places overseas than I ever thought I would or could. I am so far ahead of what I imagined was even possible in 3 years that I just don’t know what else is left to do.
I’m left asking myself ‘So what’s next?’
I could continue competing in more, different places overseas with the federations that I am already a pro in. I could try out new federations in the US and maybe Europe – I’m very happy with my physique, we’ve got it to the stage where I have such versatility and flexibility that I can compete anywhere in the world for any federation.
Do I continue to try making improvements or do I just maintain end enjoy what I have?
I would dearly love to compete at home in the UK – maybe I aim for that?
I could switch across to the IFBB and see if I can make any progress there. Having already qualified for the Arnies in March, I’ll probably do that, but then what?
I’ve essentially ticked off every item in my bodybuilding bucket list – do I come up with a new list? Do I even continue with bodybuilding? I’ve got lots of things I want to pursue outside of bodybuilding, so perhaps I go all guns blazing on that instead.
It’s certainly a very interesting space to be in, once again I have more options, opportunities and possibilities than I know what to do with, so its not a decision I’m going to rush into. I’m going to spend the next few weeks before I go home for Christmas just trying to recover, maintain, reconnect with what it is that I do love about lifting weights rather than train for a specific goal. Then I’ll take the 2 weeks over Christmas doing nothing and come back next year with a new plan in place.
I’m not bulletproof. That is a lesson that I continually fail to learn. After last years monster season of 9 shows in 9 weeks in 3 different countries involving 15 flights, I thought that 4 shows in 4 weeks – Bendigo, Texas, Bendigo, New York then do NABBA Vics and Aussies both in Melbourne, so no travelling required, before heading over to Las Vegas would be much easier. Last year the travel worked a treat – all of those flights and everything went like clockwork. I would get to my location, get to my accommodation, find the nearest gym, train, find my local food store, get my food and then I was good to go. I got it down to a fine art, a totally repeatable process which took away some of the stress of competing overseas by myself. I worked out that flying north/south didn’t affect my condition so much, which was why I was happy to fly Vic to QLD on the day of a show and pull up fine. I worked out that I needed 1/2 day on the ground for every time zone I crossed going east/west, so last years travel where I often had 4 or 5 days to recover from an east/west flight within the US was easy.
So that is how I planned this years travels – I needed to minimise the time overseas so I allowed 3 full days on the ground in both Austin and New York, then flew back to Aus as soon as I could to allow 4 days on the ground to pull up for the Bendigo show in the middle and the NABBA show was 10 days after New York, so that was not going to be an issue. Las Vegas was the same – fly Tuesday, arrive Tuesday lunchtime giving me 3 full days on the ground for a Saturday show.
Jobs a good’un.
And this years travel started out that way…Austin was a breeze, I loved it, I had 3 full days of recovery, its a nice little city to get around so I was able to relax and enjoy myself – it was a much needed break already by then, because I’d been pushing myself very hard outside of comp prep with full time job, trianing, comp prep, prepping another competitor, running posing classes every weekend in july and august, running a 12 week diet coaching program for people in New Zealand, Slovakia, Singapore, Perth and the UK – which meant lots of strange time zones to cater for, and it didn’t help that my full time job was crazy busy for 5 weeks in July and August when the only other Business Analyst went on holiday and I was left having to pull together full requirements documentation for 3 projects. So Austin was my few days off in 2 months – Aiden had expressed his concerns on a number of occasions that I was doing too much and it was affecting my prep, but of course I didn’t listen – I’m bulletproof…aren’t I?
Well I was pretty tired by the time I got back from Austin, but I got right back into my routine and pulled up ok for Bendigo, then turned my attention to New York. This show had been a bit of a stress all year – I emailed my application form several times, but didn’t hear anything. So I posted it with paper cheques and again didn’t hear anything, depsite lots of emails requesting confirmation, so I didn’t know if I should book flights or accommodation. I eventually had my bank do some searching to see if the cheques had been cashed – which they had a few weeks prior – and by now it was only 6 weeks away. Fortunately I got a flash sale deal on flights and found an airbnb that was about 80% off the price of the host hotel, so I saved myself about $1000 on that trip.
However that was as good as it got – the flight out of Melbourne was delayed, and delayed some more and after 9 hours sitting at the airport it was cancelled. So I had to head home – stressed, tired, my eating for the day all messed up and not enough food prepared to do it all again the following day. So then I had to do more shopping and food prep when I got home. I didn’t sleep that night, I hadn’t slept much the night before so by the time I got to the airport – again – I’d probably had about 6 hours sleep in the previous 48 hours. Then I fretted and stressed the whole time at the airport – I couldn’t relax until I was on the plane and it was in the air. Even once we did set off and I scored 3 seats to myself, I just couldn’t sleep – too stressed knowing that it would be very late when I got to New York and I would only have 48hours to try and turn my condition around. By the time I eventually arrived in New York, I was so completely exhausted, frazzled and strung out, that I almost burst into tears when I got the the shuttle bus counter only to be told I would have to wait another 40 minutes for it to arrive – that was all too much for me so I just went and got a taxi – whatever the cost I just needed to be at my accommodation, right now. Fortunately the accommodation was about 5 minutes walk to the venue and there were 3 gyms within 5 mins walk as well as 4 grocery stores, so at least I didn’t have to worry about training or food. But 48hours was just too short a time to turn my condition around. Even though I’d spent most of the previous day in bed – literally unable to get out of it due to exhaustion – I came in soft and puffy and although I felt my performance was good, I was stressed and unhappy about my condition – which of course made it worse! This is why, when you compete overseas it really, really helps to have someone with you to keep you calm and focused. With the time difference, I also couldn’t talk to Aiden and I badly needed to…I was not a happy camper.
After the show, they urine test the top 5, you’re not allowed to leave the venue or pack up until you’ve been tested – and I just couldn’t squeeze out a drop despite having glugged down about 3 litres of water! so I got out of the venue very late and I’d booked a photoshoot for very early the next day meaning I’d only get about 3 hours sleep – in hindsight, not a smart move – but of course I didn’t think of things like that!
Note to self: Don’t do it again.
So New York was a total stress and by the time I got back to Melbourne I was running on empty – in the space of 14 days I’d criss crossed 34 times zones and done 3 competitions – so adding up all of that jet lag, recovery time, cancelled flights, stress, lack of sleep, I estimated that it would take me about 16days to get over it – and I was planning on competing again in just 10 days. Yikes.
The first thing I did whilst I was still capable of thinking straight though, was to change my Las Vegas flights, leaving 2 days earlier so I would have 5 full days on the ground to recover, instead of the 3 I had planned.
‘Fortunately’ about a week after New York, my body took control and did the only thing it knew it could do to make me stop and take a breather – I came down with gastro and had to pull out of the NABBA Vics. This was a wake up call and for once I paid attention – I was completely exhausted – tired beyond anything I’ve ever experienced – mentally, physically and emotionally burnt out, I’d get up in the morning and 1/2 hour later need to go to bed again – my eyes felt like they were bleeding exhaustion – I’d drag myself through training, get to work and need to crash on the sofa before I could summon the energy to eat. Then the rest of the day would be a battle to just stay awake – forget doing anything useful!
It took me a full 18 days to get over that crazy 4 week stint and I seriously struggled mentally and emotionally to stay on track – I had many moments when I just wanted to quit, I couldn’t carry on. I didn’t want to train, or stay on my diet – I did have a couple of serious binges and on more than one occasion just ate what I felt like rather than what I’d planned to. It was a total battle of wills with myself and in those few weeks, I think I hated life, the universe and everything – especially bodybuilding and competing! It was definitely a very low point when I should have been absolutely stoked about winning 2 Pro shows.
By the end of October, I’d got my energy back, having changed my diet to my utlra high protein/ultra lo carb (75%/5%) split and had come in again, looking the best I had all season. So I headed off to Bali for 4 days for a business conference full of confidence. It was at an amazing location, the food was excellent – all clean, organic, locally sourced, seasonal – they made me comp prep friendly foods that I could take whilst in the conference all day. The people were awesome and inspiring, I was a speaker, I learnt heaps, its was very motivating and most importantly it was nothing to do with bodybuilding! It was exactly the break I needed to refresh, recharge and refocus on Las Vegas.
I got really lucky getting out of Bali before the Volcano blew up, so then it was just a matter of dialing in for the final 7 days before heading off to Vegas. I was really excited about this trip. Natural Olympia is the one show I’ve been aiming for the whole time I’ve been doing this sport and coming off the back of 13 straight wins of which 9 were world titles, 2 were pro wins I guess my expectations were high. Would I get the fairytale result that I got last year when I clean swept 3 world championships?
Unfortunately that illusion was shattered about 2 weeks before I left for Vegas when, after offering to help the sportmodels with their speeches and coaching on presentation skills, one of the Australian judges going to Vegas publicly unleashed a thinly veiled vitriolic, very personal attack on me in the Aussie team forum. Not only was it a massive shock to me and extremely hurtful, it was very undignified, petulent, totally unjustified and completely unneccessary, and given the person in question and their standing in the BB community, totally unprofessional. IMHO as a team official, if you have a perceived personal problem with one of the athletes, you talk to the athlete in person, in private – you don’t bash them on social media in a forum that is set up specifically to provide tips, and help to the entire team.
It left a nasty taste in my mouth, and from then on I knew that I could write off the fairytale.
Arriving in Vegas, if you’ve never been there, it’s a bit of a strange place – everything happens on the strip, once you get about 200m away from it either side, the place is pretty barren. Endless, dreary suburbs, every intersection seemed to overflow with junk food outlets, whereas real food supermarkets were few and far between. The gyms were expensive and also not near the Strip – the hotel gym was terrible and there was no way I could have done a weeks worth of proper workouts in it. There was also no fridge in the rooms or even a coffee maker! So to do anything, involved lots of taxi/Uber rides – which of course cranked up the expense of the trip massively. Food management was a bit more difficult than usual and I wished I’d stayed in an apartment near the host hotel for an extra few days.
The registration process at Olympia was an utter shamozzle! It only took me 3 hours, but they’d lost all my paperwork as well as the paperwork for about 1/2 the competitors! Some poor souls were queuing for 6 hours! They had one person manning the desk – despite lots of people sitting around doing nothing – jump in and help maybe? Fortunately, we had been given a heads up and most of us were prepared with extra food and water.
The show itself was also quite odd – there was no crowd. There was no advertising about the show anywhere in the casino, except for right outside the entrance door to the event centre…which was a good 100m walk down winding corridors from the main casino so of course no-one was going to randomly venture down there to see what was going on! This is supposed to be the INBA/PNBA’s flagship event…but there was no-one there!
This is the thing I’ve come to realise about overseas shows – they just don’t get the numbers we do here. 100 competitors is considered to be a big show, and I guess when you only get that many competitors your processes don’t need to be particularly up to date or streamlined. Prior to Olympia the biggest show I’d competed in was the WNBF Worlds with 240 competitors from 15 countries – and that was a good show, with a big crowd, who I actually managed to completely win over.
With 250+ competitors at Natural Olympia, it really exposed the inefficiency of the systems they have in place – much to the frustration of all of the competitors and the Aussie officials who are used to running shows with 700+ competitors like clockwork! We are very spoilt here in Australia!
All the atmosphere was backstage and that was really fun, the Aussie team took over 1/2 of the backstage area and it was draped in flags – all the other teams were jealous of us!
Overall, the show timings were really good, but 2 of my categories were consecutive, and because we came onto stage on one side and left on the other, me and another girl had to ‘sprint’ in our heels about 50m through the backstage area to get back on stage for our next category. By the time we got on stage – late – I kinda felt that the judging had been done…
Overall, outside the competition itself, which was a huge disappointment to me, Las Vegas was a great experience – the team spirit of the Aussies was the envy of all of the other competitors. Helping out the amateurs backstage the day before, is just what I love doing, and my favorite part had to be standing outside the Belaggio in my sparkly bikini and posing for the crowd, with the fountains playing to ‘Viva Las Vegas!’ – so totally appropriate!
Leaving Las Vegas proved to be more difficult than expected – yet again my flight was delayed, and delayed so I missed my connection in Los Angeles. We eventually left Las Vegas 6 hours late, and got to LA at 3am in the morning, so again I had to wait a whole extra day before I could get home. By this time I was so strung out and exhausted I really wasn’t handling these situations very well at all – I was very teary, and emotional and very depressed by the whole situation. I didn’t want to get out of bed, that morning but I desperately needed to find some real food – and that turned into an epic journey as well! About a 6km round trip to find the nearest grocery store! Fed up and tired, over and done with everything, I just needed to get home.
When I did eventually get back to Melbourne – another day later than expected – I was really worn out and very seriously considered not doing IFBB Olympia the following weekend. This was all beginning to cost too much – the plane delays had cost me about $1500 in lost income, not to mention extra expenses on extra taxi’s and food. Then my accommodation on the gold coast got cancelled and my hair makeup person told me they couldn’t do my hair to the style I wanted…so with 8 days before flying to the gold coast I had no accommodation, no hair person, no-one to do my tan and the cost of changing my flights would have been more than they cost in the first place. I was beginning to think that I wasn’t meant to do IFBB Olympia – it had all just turned into a lot of hard work, and after the disappointment of Vegas, my confidence was at an all time low, I just didn’t have the energy to deal with making any sort of decision.
After talking it over with Aiden, I still wasn’t feeling very positive, but it was just 7 days away, I’d paid the flights and rego, I figured I’d come so far I could hang in there for another 7 days.
And I’m glad I did. Despite yet another flight delay, everything else went like clockwork, and it was a fantastic experience – there was no pressure on me, I had absolutely zero expectations of the show, so I could just have fun and I did. The Figure categories were first up, so we were on and off early, with time to relax between pre-judging and the finals in the afternoon, it was all quite refreshing. Getting 5th place was a huge bonus – I seriously hadn’t expected to place at all – I was stoked!
AND better still, it was the last show of the season!! YAY!!
Oh my god, I have never been so happy for the season to end! As soon as I got back to my accommodation I cracked open a very well earned beer whilst I planned where I was going to eat.
so what, out of all of this, did I actually learn?
- When on comp prep, just do comp prep – that’s all I did last year and that’s why I was able to do such a big season easily.
- If going overseas – plan all comps so you go over once and stay over until you’re done. Multiple internal US flights are far easier (and cheaper!) than multiple trans pacific trips.
- Allow 1 full day on the ground recovery for each time zone crossed – this also gives leeway in case a flight is cancelled.
- You don’t have to stay in the host hotel – even if they say they’ll fine you! I didn’t in New York and saved myself about $1200!!
- AirBnb is great.
- Thumbtack is a great resource for finding hair, makeup artists in the US – in New York mine cost $60 instead of the $300+ that the official people were charging. In Las Vegas I got HMUA for $125 instead of the $300+ the official people were charging. In Austin, I got Monica Brandt’s personal makeup artist!
- If comp prep is getting to you, or you’re struggling to stay on track, take a complete step away and do something totally different – going to Bali 2 weeks before Vegas many would consider too risky, but it was exactly what I needed. It does’t have to be an exotic trip, but just get out of your normal routine and environment for a few days.
- If categories are consecutive – go off the same way you came on irrespective of what the instructions are, so that you can come on the next category in the correct order and not be late.
- Always have copies of all registration documents and payment receipts on hand at registration
- Don’t stay in the host hotel unless absolutely necessary (i.e on show day itself) – always find a cheaper place close to gym and supermarkets to keep costs down
- Only compete at competitions/for federations where politics are not a factor.
- Keep doing what I’m doing – if it upsets people, that’s their tough shit.
- Stick to International competitions run on International rules
- Find shows where registration is handled online!! Paper bank cheques….really?
- Do not take on coaching clients in 6 different countries for a 12 week program whilst on comp prep
- Structure posing classes more effectively to make most effective use of time
- Do smaller, shorter, more targeted seasons
- Find a show that Aiden can come to and help me backstage
- Don’t try and pack in extra activities like photo-shoots on the day that I leave the coutnry
- Dont do early morning photoshoots the day after a show!
- Expectation – Nothing is a sure thing, so take every situation and use it as an opportunity to learn. Yes it can be a huge knock to your confidence when your results don’t match your expectations – the question is were your expectations too high or unreasonable? In my case, no, they weren’t. So what do you do about it? Well, moving forward, for the moment I will forget about it, put it out of my head whilst I focus on recovering. Then I will revisit the my whole season and take the information I need to come up with a plan to go forward.
- I love where my physique is at right now – I have such versatility and flexibility, that I can keep exploring new avenues, new federations, new competitions – I can still take this anywhere I want to, make more improvements…so all I need to do is decide which country and city I want to compete in next! What a fantastic position to be in!
I think it’s fair to say that this year has been a resounding success
- 1st Figure Open
PNBA Natural Universe
- 1st Pro Physique
- 2nd Pro Figure
- MOST SYMMETRICAL
- Overall Figure Champion
- 1st Figure Open
- BEST CONDITIONED ATHLETE
- 1st Pro Fit Body
PNBA Natural Olympia
- 2nd Pro Physique (Masters)
IFBB Amateur Olympia
- 5th Open Figure Short
2 TIMES PRO MISS UNIVERSE!!!
Did I mention, I love that sword? 🙂
Bloody nerves!! Still!
You’d think by now, with all my experience, I’d be comfortable on stage and able to smash out every competition.
Not so – if anything the shakes are getting worse!
IFBB Bendigo, I could barely stand upright my legs were shaking so much – I almost just walked off stage as I was so horrified with my own performance!
I was better in Austin, but again in the figure category, I didn’t do the T Walk so well and that may have been what cost me.
NABBA Bendigo was better and WNBF Universe better again – I actually felt a lot more comfortable by then and was really pleased with my performance.
Natural Olympia I thought I performed really well and by IFBB Olympia I actually managed to enjoy myself.
So its taken me all 6 shows this year to shake off the stage fright and be comfortable on stage! You wouldn’t necessarily know it, I come across well purely because I practice my stage presence so much that it masks it to a large extent.
But, what is going on?
A large part of it comes down to the shoes – the pair I wore at IFBB Bendigo were just all wrong and I constantly felt like I was going to tip forwards. Even though I’d practised on them every day for the whole 16 weeks lead up, I could never quite relax on them, and that showed up on the day.
So I switched back to my high platforms for Austin, Nabba Bendigo, WNBF Universe and Natural Olympia and that definitely helped.
So shoes are critical – as I tell all my posing clients – they must become your slippers, because all your poses start from the feet up. If you’re not comfortable on your feet, then everything else suffers.
But that’s not the root cause of the issue. I have a deep seated fear of not being good enough. I know – crazy right? But that is why I push myself so hard and I am my own harshest critic. It causes me a great deal of anxiety before I step on stage and that is why I need someone who I trust completely with me backstage. I probably also need to learn to relax more!
Another thing that has bugged the hell out of me this year, and actually has probably been an issue last year too and that is my condition on stage. Now the best condition I’ve ever seen myself in on stage was at ANB Aussies last year – I posed perfectly, the stage lighting was the best I’ve ever come across and I looked exactly how I thought I should be looking given my skin folds and how I looked in the mirrors at my gym.
This is the ANB Aussies last year:
Since that show, in my stage photos, I don’t appear to have come close to looking like that again and I don’t know why. I have more muscle on me this year, my skin folds are lower than last year, yet on stage I actually look like I’ve got a pot belly!
This is NABBA Bendigo – pre show
NABBA Bendigo on stage – you can see why I got best conditioned athlete, but why do I have a pot belly??
Austin before the show
Austin backstage – soft in the middle
IFBB Bendigo before the show – check out the chiseled abs!
IFBB Bendigo backstage – where did my abs go?
I can be dry and shredded on the morning of the show, yet by the time I get on stage, I’m soft and puffy – its so bloody frustrating.
I thought it might be the food I’m eating – but I don’t change anything – I’m doing the same as I’ve done for every show…for 3 years.
I’ve talked it over with Aiden endlessly and the only thing we can think of is that it’s cortisol and stress (see anxiety above!). I’ve mentioned before how I prefer to have Aiden with me backstage, because not only does he keep me calm, but he also makes sure I pump up really well, he watches how the show is going and checks the timing, he watches what I eat and makes sure I’m not hungry or not eating too much – in short, when he is there I can just relax and focus on being on stage. Then when I am on stage, I make sure I can see him so he can yell at me 🙂
When Aiden is around, I feel ‘safe’. Although at the ANB Aussies Aiden wasn’t there, I was being looked after by Glenn Gattallero of AWA and he was great support – so again I could relax, knowing that I was in good hands.
Every show I’ve done since the ANB Aussies last year, I’ve done it solo with no-one to help me backstage, which means I have to do all the ‘admin’ stuff for myself, which means I don’t get to just relax and focus on being on stage. Some shows I struggle to get a pump despite running through the exact same routine that Aiden puts me through – again could it be cortisol?
Whatever it is, its really annoying – I don’t feel that I’ve brought my best package to stage at any show I’ve done since the ANB Aussies last year. I’ve been winning which is great, but I’d also love to turn up in my best condition and just blow everyone away.
This is definitely something that I need to come up with a game plan for next year…or maybe I should just stop being such a perfectionist? Maybe that is exactly the solution! :-p
Ok, I think we’re done.
hmm.. not sure I like this format so much – I always like to end on a positive note…but P.L.A.F doesn’t really work as an acronym.
So whats next, well I’m going to get stuck into reverse dieting and I’ll be blogging that – am determined to do it right this year! I must get my blood work done as well – I’ll include a cortisol test and saliva test for adrenals – just so I know exactly where my body is at. This will play a large part in any decisions I make for the immediate future. If I think I’m at risk of doing myself any damage because I’ve driven myself so hard for the last 3 years constantly, then I’ll pull back and take some time out. We’ll see what turns up.
So, to finish on that positive note, let’s recap on some of the highlights of the year.
2 x PRO Miss Universe!
Best Conditioned Athlete!
Strutting the Strip in my Sparkly Bikini!
Best Bikini EVER!
Christmas in England!
Jingle bling, trophies ring, chocolate all the way…!