Well the competition season is finally over as of last weekend, and it certainly was a very hectic one to say the least! I did three national-level Figure shows on three consecutive weekends, each one in a different city.
The three events, in order, were:
- The IFBB Australian Amateur Grand Prix, at the FitX expo in Melbourne (March 9)
- The IFBB All Female Classic Championships, on the Gold Coast (March 16)
- The IFBB Australasian Championships, in Sydney (March 23)
You can check out the photos of these events by clicking here.
This was also the first time we have had to travel interstate to compete. Before this season I had only ever competed once – in our hometown Sydney, so the logistics of traveling added an extra element of complexity as well.
In the end everything worked out really well though, we had a wonderful time, and of course we learned a lot as well. In fact each and every show we have done so far has been a hugely valuable learning experience for us.
When I sit back now and reflect on what the past few months have been like, it’s amazing to think that this season actually almost didn’t even happen! That would have been a real shame.
I remember when I did my first Figure competition last year, two different people told me that although many women dream of competing and try to do so, only a few ever make it to the stage. I’m very proud to say that I was one of the few who did make it.
But this season, making it to the stage for my second ever show was particularly tough for me. The fact is, I had to overcome a number of very difficult obstacles, each of which threatened to put an end to my season before it even began.
But I was determined not to let these hurdles beat me by stopping me from competing, and through a lot of hard work and perseverance I finally managed to overcome them all.
The first challenge I had to face in my contest preparation was an injury during training – a painful, pulled muscle in my back. This was the only training injury I have ever experienced, and of course it had to happen during a contest prep!
Because I simply couldn’t afford to take time away from training if I was to have any chance of making the first Figure show in March, I decided to continue working out despite the injury.
I was lucky enough to come across a great physiotherapist in my local area, Dean Chatworthy, who managed my injured back for me. Through several sessions with him and using adhesive heat packs, I managed to overcome the injury within a few weeks without any negative impact to my training schedule.
The next, even bigger, challenge for me was incredibly stubborn fat loss. We decided upon a 10-week prep for these shows and amazingly, I lost almost no weight whatsoever over the first 6 weeks. This was despite gradually pulling back 800 calories a day from my diet over that time, as well as ramping up my cardio and working my butt off.
That really had us both baffled, especially since we didn’t do anything too differently to my first contest prep, and we were always particularly conservative to avoid doing anything to damage my metabolism. In fact, for my first contest prep I never once needed to go any lower than 1,500 calories per day.
So with just four weeks to go for my first scheduled March show and a significant amount of body fat still to lose, Fabian suggested we drop the first two shows and only contest the final one. That would have given me two extra weeks of prep time, and he would have been happy for me to do the final show since it was local and even if I didn’t manage to show up in great shape, it would still have been worth it just for the experience.
He certainly wasn’t prepared to do anything drastic like ask me to do ridiculous amounts of cardio or starve me just to make the two extra shows. As far as Fabian was concerned, if we couldn’t do it in a reasonable manner, we shouldn’t do it at all.
So we decided at that time to just continue to ease back my calorie intake over the next few weeks down to an absolute bottom limit of 1,200 calories per day with a moderate re-feed every 4 days, keep my usual brutal cardio going (I don’t believe in anything low-intensity), and hope for the best.
I assured Fabian that I would continue to do my best and I told him that I was still confident of making all three shows. I had a feeling he didn’t believe me, but I was determined not to let this challenge beat me, I desperately wanted to do the three shows no matter what it took.
It was another two weeks until Fabian saw me again and when he did, I could see he was shocked. The first thing he said was, “Oh my God, we’re going to Melbourne!” In just those two weeks I had managed to get myself into pretty good shape – not far from contest ready, in fact.
I confessed to Fabian that I did it by doing three hours of cardio a day, for six days a week over those two weeks. In actual fact it was more than three hours a day – I always follow the philosophy of doing more than what’s expected of me. That means that each cardio session actually went for five to twenty minutes longer than three hours!
It was an incredibly tough two weeks, but in the end the risk was worth it for me because my contest prep was back on schedule.
But as if that wasn’t hard enough for me, I did it all while also suffering through a third challenge – acute knee pain.
When I was younger I was hit by a car and I have suffered from occasional recurring knee pain in my right leg ever since. Unfortunately, this decided to surface during this contest preparation, worse than ever before.
Consulting with my new physiotherapist, I told him that unless there was a risk of causing damage to my knee, it was important for me to keep training despite the pain, if possible. He agreed that with regular treatment I could continue safely.
So my training continued, I had three physio sessions a week with him to manage the inflammation, iced the knee thoroughly after each workout, rubbed emu oil into it each night, and we made some minor changes to my workout program to make it as easy as possible on my knee. Even so, the pain affected my exercise form enough to cause my other knee and my lower back to hurt as well!
All told, I went through about half of my contest prep with my knee in pain, including the two weeks from hell where I did over three hours of cardio a day. When I look back now it’s still hard to believe that I managed to survive it, it really was a terribly brutal contest preparation, especially feeling constantly weak on less calorie intake that I was used to.
But I’m very proud of myself that I had the mental toughness to work through all the obstacles and achieve my goal of doing all three March shows. Even though I didn’t place in the top three in any of the shows, I already feel like a winner from what I achieved. And on top of that, now I really know that I can take on anything that I put my mind to.
I know that I’ll never need to suffer through a contest prep like that again though, with the lessons we learned we will be a lot more careful in the future and allow my body more time to cut down properly. It’s all just part of the learning process for us as we’re still quite new to the world of Figure competition.
We figured out that my body simply took a while to get going with its fat loss – after the two weeks of crazy cardio I continued to lose body fat quite fast just doing my regular sensible one hour of cardio a day.
For my first Figure show in October 2012 I took the stage at about 10.8% body fat. For these March shows my body fat percentage was about 9.5% to 9.0%, getting progressively lower with each show.
I’m already back in training now and I’m looking forward to making improvements for my next Figure show. We’re constantly fine-tuning my workout program and diet and every day of this lifestyle is an exciting and happy one for me!