Head Space Stuff

Posing Class Mojo

The last few weeks I have been struggling very seriously with my motivation, as in to the point where I told Aiden 3 weeks ago I wasn’t going to do another squat, lunge or deadlift and I didn’t want to even see the squat rack for at least a week. We needed to do something completely different because I wasn’t enjoying training, it had become more like a job – or that chore that you dread doing but it just won’t go away. I am my own harshest critic and if I perceive a lack of progress then I start finding other things that I’m not happy about, I lose focus, motivation and start to question why I’m doing something – when that happens and I can’t come up with a good enough reason why, then fun goes out of whatever I’m doing, and it becomes a downhill slide often to the point where I quit completely.

Legs day has been bugging me for ages now, because I just can’t seem to make any gains, my elbow is just not getting better so I’m still not training arms and I’ve definitely gone backwards on the shoulder press in the last few weeks. So its all started to become just a lot of pointlessly hard work – a few weeks ago I even stopped half way through a set of walking lunges, put the dumbbells on the floor and asked myself why the hell I was doing this. I then had to talk myself into picking the dumbbells up again and carrying on – you can imagine how the rest of the session panned out after that!

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about climbing Mt Aconcagua…

Mindset of a champion? I don’t think so!

So I’ve lost my training mojo and I’ve been trying to get it back by changing things – I’ve added in some high intensity stuff – beach sprints, hill sprints, step sprints – anything that is not inside, is not weights but is hard work and challenging. It has helped to an extent, but I still wasn’t quite back in the zone…

until last Saturday.

Saturday, I went to Vicki’s Posing Class at Spartans Gym – it was brilliant!

There were about 25 people in various stages of comp readiness and a good mix of experience from complete newbies to experienced competitors. Mostly it was figure and physique competitors, but Vicki had ‘persuaded’ 2 guys who turned up for their first ever posing lesson. J

No time was wasted in getting down to business – there was a quick run through of how the session was going to work  – we would do each of the compulsory poses, then we would be doing a mock show – schweet!

So it was on with the shoes and straight into our relaxed pose. No pretending here – no just standing there looking like you’re doing the pose, Vicki made sure there was no slacking – this was going to be the real deal, she went round to everyone tweaking, checking – moving a foot slightly this way or that way, move arms a touch forward, backward, in or out…and drop the traps!

Please note folks: Do not take your trapezius muscles to posing class – Vicki does not like them…not one little bit!

Leave your traps at home.

Within a few seconds the smiles began to get that forced look to them, as out of practice muscles started wake up and wonder what was going on – but we were not allowed to let it go…oh no, this is how it would be on stage, so this is how it was going to be in posing class..and woe betide anyone who tried to slack off – Vicki has waaay too much teaching experience and has eyes everywhere..she can see you…yes even you at the back!

After a few minutes, (with a lot of sighs of relief) we were allowed to relax out of the relaxed pose…but not for long, it was onto the symmetry poses. Again Vicki went up and down the lines, placing arms, shoulders, twisting torso’s, showing people how to flare their lats and soften their elbows – sometimes trying to move a rigid arm into the right shape became a more of a tug of war than gentle coaxing as the concept of ‘relaxed from the elbow down’ hadn’t quite been understood, but it was all done with good humour and a bit of a joke.

It was only when Vicki was happy with all of us, were we then allowed to relax and move on to the next pose – it was hard work! Pretty soon my legs and feet were telling me that they were not happy about this unexpected overtime they were doing…and I wasn’t the only one, a quick break before the compulsory poses had everyone stretching backs, legs, arms and chatting about how they’d forgotten how hard posing was.

So it was on to the compulsory poses and the front bicep straightaway had Vicki’s eyes out on stalks and open mouthed in (mock) horror…

TRAPS EVERYWHERE!!

Get rid of them!

It looked so much nicer once everyone had a neck again!  🙂

The rest of the compulsory poses followed and where the Physique ladies and the guys had their extra poses to practice, the rest of us had to hold our current pose for as long as it took to get through the bodybuilding poses – that strained more than a few smiles!

Phew – we were only half way through and it had already been a workout! Now we were going to do the show. This was the bit I was looking forward to and I was selected in the first group. It was quite exciting to pin a number to my leggings, and line up as if we were going on stage for real. We were all helped onto ‘stage’ by our lovely escort (Vicki), accompanied by wild applause from the ‘crowd’.

Standing on ‘stage’ in a lineup in front of the ‘crowd’ performing each pose as called by our esteemed head judge (Vicki!) , my competitiveness came charging back – THIS is what I have missed so much, THIS is what I’ve been hanging out for!

I was going to pose everyone off stage!

I made it to the ‘callout’! Woohoo!

Just a front double bicep and an abs and thighs and we were done…

we all won!  🙂

Then it was the turn of the next figure group and finally the physique ladies and the guys got their turn on stage.

The mock show really brought the class to life especially for the ladies who were completely new to this. It was a bit of fun, brought back fond memories and snapped me right back into the zone…I got my ‘why’ back in a big way.

I was buzzing after we were finished, all of a sudden I couldn’t wait to get to the gym – I’ve got work to do, weaknesses to fix, injuries to knock on the head. I’ve got a body to build, posing to practice, and a routine to create – things to do! No time to lose!

I can’t wait to get shredded and see what the last 6 months of training has created and the next 6 – October can’t come soon enough!

Focus is back, motivation is back…

And the Squat rack has a shiny new Olympic bar that needs someone to show it who’s boss – Smashed out a Deadlift PB today

Welcome back mojo!

🙂

 

Body Dysmorphia

With the exception of the fashion industry, the health and fitness industry has to be one of the most body and appearance oriented fields going around. Media, magazines constantly bombard us with images of beautiful young things with great looking bodies (airbrushed or not). The focus on external appearance is paramount and in the bodybuilding world it is more so – we put ourselves up on stage to be judged subjectively based purely on our appearance.

Competing of course, takes your focus on your body to a whole other level – diet, training, bulking, prepping all require close attention to be paid to the way your body reacts in a given circumstance. Many competitors who get up on stage have gone though amazing transformations, or overcome huge obstacles – physical, mental and emotional. The ANB have an award for the most inspirational competitor on the day. And once you get into that incredible shape it completely changes your perspective on what you can do and how your body looks.

After competitions are over and you lose all that nice definition you have to re-adjust your perspective to whatever level your body wants to sit at – of course its going to cause you to focus a lot on your body and its appearance – how can it not?

We’ve all been in the gym on chest and bi day and seen the ranks of guys admiring themselves in the mirror – just yesterday I had a quiet chuckle to myself at a guy standing front and centre, in the free wights area lifting his shirt to admire his abs – turning this way and that way to catch the light at different angles, crunching to make sure all 4…were visible

Yes he didn’t even have the 6 pack!

But when does a healthy interest in physical appearance turn into an unhealthy obsession? A syndrome known as body dysmorphia.

I got to thinking about this the other day and ironically enough it was sparked by comments on how good I’m looking and how I’ve really filled out in the last few months now that I’m beginning to get some real training into me. Aiden is constantly commenting at training about how my body is changing so rapidly, and its true, it is.

I finally feel real again after losing a lot of muscle through 9 months of not being able to train and am beginning to look very solid – yesterdays dexa scan showed I’ve finally got back all the muscle I lost post surgery  – you’d almost believe that I was once a figure competitor!

But now that I have got back to where I was 13 months ago, I’m have moments when I get worried about my size (isn’t that a guy thing?) – you see last year I wasn’t big enough – I knew that, my trainer knew that, everyone else knew that, how I came 4th in the Universe Novice lineup that included Taylor Smith (1st place) – now a Pro, and Lauren Webb (3rd), now Miss Olympia I don’t know. That’s not a shabby lineup.

How I came 3rd in the Masters category which can be a very tough category I don’t know – I somehow punched way above my weight.

So the comments I’ve been getting about how big I am seem to be having the opposite effect – I’m not reassured, instead, I’m acutely aware of just how much work I need to do in order to be competitive.

And this is the rub. By Next year some people who I will be on stage with, will have had 2 full years of work gone into their physique, whereas by next year as long as I stay injury free (touch every tree in the forest!) AND my shoulders come together properly, I’ll have had only 1 years work gone into me. Now, if I wasn’t big enough LAST year, then there is no point stepping on stage NEXT year presenting last years physique against competitors with 2 full years of work – I’ll be even further behind the game than I already was! For example – I noticed from the Universe photos, I was actually on stage with Bridget Freeman (Masters I think) and how good did she look this year? How much better will she look next year?

Its an uphill climb…

mind you, I do, do uphill rather well…the steeper the better in my book 🙂

So what do I see when I look in the mirror? I see a lack of medial and anterior delts – I don’t have that nice ‘boulder’ look to my shoulders (no surprises there really!)

I see skinny (fat) arms with the beginnings of nice peaky biceps, I see the beginnings of that nice horseshoe triceps but not the whole ropey effect that will come out when the fat has come off. I see the beginnings of nice wide lats, but they only appear when I flex.

I see very poor (read ‘No’) abs, I see nice big fat inner gastroc, but a lack of outer gastroc that will give that beautiful balanced diamond effect to my calves.

Obviously I can’t see my back, but photos indicate that its coming along nicely.

I see that my butt is getting better ie. I have one now! 🙂 but is still out of proportion with my legs. I see upper and lower body proportion imbalance – Mr Dexa has backed this up as well – I gained more muscle on my legs than my upper body thereby increasing the imbalance. I see quad dominance and lack of VMO developement, I can’t see the hamstrings that Aiden insists are there.

We all have an opinion of our body, even Aiden was commenting the other when I mentioned I was going to write this post, that he still see’s himself as skinny like when he was a kid – but he’s a good solid 88kg of lean muscle so not skinny at all!

But given that I see many areas that can be improved upon does that make me body dysmorphic? or am I just being realistic and using it as motivation to get better?

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line?

so I decided to look it up

here’s wiki’s interpretation of BDD:

Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD, also body dysmorphia, dysmorphic syndrome; originally dysmorphophobia) is a type of mental illness, a somatoform disorder, wherein the affected person is concerned with body image, manifested as excessive concern about and preoccupation with a perceived defect of their physical features. The person complains of a defect in either one feature or several features of their body; or vaguely complains about their general appearance, which causes psychological distress that causes clinically significant distress or impairs occupational or social functioning. Often BDD co-occurs with emotional depression and anxiety, social withdrawal or social isolation.

BDD is linked to a diminished quality of life, can be co-morbid with major depressive disorder and social phobia (chronic social anxiety); features a suicidal ideation rate of 80 percent, in extreme cases linked with issociation, and thus can be considered a factor in the person’s attempting suicide. BDD can be treated with either psychotherapy or psychiatric medication, or both; moreover, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective treatments.

Although originally a mental-illness diagnosis usually applied to women, Body Dysmorphic Disorder occurs equally among men and women, Approximately one to two percent (1–2%) of the world’s population meets the diagnostic criteria for Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

Hmm…

I am concerned with my bodies appearance – but I don’t think its excessive. I do see physical ‘defects’ that can be worked on…I prefer to call them ‘potentialities’ – but does it cause me ‘clinically significant distress that impairs occupational or social functioning’?

No.

I do discuss my perceived weaknesses with Aiden as a way of working out what we need to do with my training, but then I leave all the training plans and decisions to him as I have total faith in his ability and knowledge to get the best out of whatever my potential is. As long as he is happy with my progress, then I just trust that all is going according to plan.

Body Dysmorphic? Well, inside the gym and at training I prefer to think of myself as…very focussed…well, ok maybe a little obsessive about getting everything right and doing what I have to do to ensure I am continually progressing, and you’d better believe that I will bust my butt to get back on stage and present the best figure that I can.

Outside the gym – well it doesn’t matter, overall health is more important than looks. Yes, I do look good, I know this and that is something that I am very proud of and can enjoy (flaunt??!)…particularly now its beach season…love the fact that I am in far better shape than the majority of people my age and most of the twenty somethings as well!  🙂

Besides I’m so busy, I just don’t have time to worry if ‘my bum looks big in this’.

Inside the gym is my body focus time, and that’s a mere 5 hours a week…or more to the point probably about 5 minutes a session before I get told to stop being a sook, suck it up princess, and give me 12 arse to grass heavy squats. 🙂

So its definitely healthy for you to have an awareness of your body, how you’re treating it and the results you’re getting as an outcome of that treatment, but if its occupying your every waking moment and thought then you might want to look at how thats impacting the rest of your life, because that’s when it does become dysmorphic.

So on that note, I’m going to take my skinny arms, wobbly butt and thunder thighs off to a café and go hide in a corner where no-one can see me whilst I attempt a set of single arm long black lifts without failure (spilling!)

:-p

Post Comp Blues

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!

GAME ON!

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 🙂