Karen talks about having a game plan post show in Natural Muscle magazine. How you can easily transition from “On-Season” to “Off-Season”
Do You Have a Game Plan Post Show?
You have just spent the last half of your year dieting and training your butt off to grace the fitness stage in the world’s tinniest bikini or Speedo ever. Within almost seconds, your 2 minutes of fame has disappeared and now you are free to live and eat! You spend the remainder of the evening gorging on your favorite foods and then it hits you – the Sunday morning food hangover and emotional letdown! If you have ever competed in any physique competition then you have experienced this at least once in your fitness competition career. I’m not going to lie, it happened to me my first show and boy did I ever learn quickly from experience. Today, I would like to share with you some insights into what many competitors experience physically and emotionally and provide you with a few tips in how to cope with the post competition blues.
What exactly are the post competition blues? I describe it to my team athletes as the transition phase from the hardcore regimented competitive athletic lifestyle to a somewhat normal athletic lifestyle. A normal lifestyle in which you can enjoy an evening out with friends or family and not have to bring your own cooler with Ziploc chicken or have a strict curfew of 7pm.
As fitness athletes, we experience post contest blues for several reasons. Regardless of the outcome of the competition, every athlete faces this letdown after spending months of rigorous training and dieting; which realistically, can not be maintained year round. However, this does not mean that you can’t look and feel great in your off season while still improving your physique. Sometimes this re-balancing can be just as challenging and important and requires equal commitment as preparing for a competition. It is a time for you to allow more variety and enjoyment in your life while still keeping control of your emotions and commitment to a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
I not only practice and experienced these transitions myself but I also work closely with my athletes in coaching them through a healthy and effortless transition from competitive season to off season. I would like to share a few of my tips with you and teach you how to easily shift into a more positive and healthy off season.
Create a list of things you would like to do after your competition and make a point of scheduling them your first week off from show prep. You spend months training and dieting and quite frankly you do not have the time or energy to add in any other activity to your all ready overloaded day. And NO, sleeping is not an activity! Now you have the time and energy to commit to something new. After my first show, I wanted to learn hot yoga and take a much needed active vacation. To this day, I still practice yoga. Not only did it help divert my mind from overindulging in my favorite foods, it also allowed me to refocus on a new challenge for my body and best of all, it gave me the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.
Set aside a few days of active rest. I never really recommend taking not moving at all. In fact, I encourage my athletes to keep active after the competition by focusing on activities they would typically not include during their competition prep. By keeping active in different activities and sports, you will gain a tremendous physiological boost and be able to allow the body to actively recover by cross training. This is an excellent opportunity to try something new with your family and friends and to prevent physical and mental burnout.
Continue to eat clean and maintain a balanced yet relaxed schedule. I teach my athletes clean, balanced and frequent eating with variety year round. I like to gradually add non competition foods back into their nutrition program to avoid shocking the digestive system. I find that having variety is a key component in controlling splurges from occurring. It also helps to prepare healthy meals ahead of time. Maintain a frequent and manageable eating pattern and introduce healthy foods that were limited during competition season. You may want to try a new healthy recipe or experiment with new foods or even new cultures. As well, be sure to get 7-8 hours of rest a night and keep a consistent sleep schedule.
Spend more time with family and friends. It is important to maintain healthy relationships with loved ones. Studies show that people who have close confidants have better immune systems, stronger cardiovascular health and less depression and anxiety, not to mention the fact that they have more fun! Having a broad social network in and out of the industry is important because it allows for you to open up and share your thoughts and feelings. Just always remember that you are not alone post competition, sometimes having a friend in the industry who is dealing with or has dealt with the same experiences as you, can help you get back on track and focused on reality.
Allow your next fitness contest goal to occur naturally. I have witnessed several times in my career of athletes planning their next show and have yet to even walk off the stage! Take some time to recover, refocus and re-balance your life and let the urge to compete come naturally. When you do make the decision to compete again, you will be confident that it is the right choice and that you will enjoy the process.
Learn from your minor setbacks. One of the most important tools is to learn from your setbacks and minor mistakes before they snowball into larger ones. If you had a bad eating day or missed a workout then don’t beat yourself up over it. Be aware and learn from your mistake and start fresh immediately. Take each day one by one and learn to appreciate what your body is capable of and focus on making the gains you need in the off-season. Get excited for every off season because it is a time that you can make changes and growth in your physique and mind. Many people don’t take advantage of this because they are too focused on trying to keep that unrealistic perfect physique year round.
Have a plan and create excitement in your off season. Always have a plan or a goal even if it is short term. If you have no direction then you will more than likely get discouraged and revert to bad habits. Even in your off season, plan what you will do the day after, two days, a week and a month after your show. Create excitement by planning new activities with friends and family. I have seen several times over the years how competitors go to opposite extremes which could potentially cause problems. Some take no time off and go immediately into intense training with little rest which could lead to overtraining, burnout or injuries. Others take too much time off completely which can lead to little desire to train at all. It is important to find a balance in your lifestyle and doing so requires a plan or goal. Exercise is an excellent avenue for stress relief which if not addressed could potentially lead to depression, loss of self-esteem, increased risk for disease, vulnerability to environmental stress, fear of competition and even greater physical fatigue. Always have a plan and create excitement within your plan. Have your trainer develop an off season program and meal plan for you to follow, doing this will make the transition much easier.
Remember you have only one body and only YOU can take care of it, so always listen to what it has to tell you and not what others are trying to tell you or convince you. You are the best judge of your body and the physique that you have crafted. Never forget who you truly are and the reasons why you love this sport. We are all unique as athletes and this is something we should take pride in and be fortunate to have the opportunity to live such a dedicated, beautiful and healthy life in hopes of encouraging the dreams and healthy lifestyles of others.
A few more helpful tips…..
• You may take a week off from weights and just do cardio depending on how you feel
• Your weight gain following a competition is primarily water – 90% – so drinks LOTS of water!!!
• Avoid binge eating – especially after 24 hours of competition
• Return to your “Game Plan” as soon as possible – work closely with your trainer
• Continue to eat frequently with high lean protein intake
• Surround yourself with positive family and friends to “stimulate” your senses rather than indulging in “comfort foods”
• Maintain a cardio base of no less than 50% of pre-contest levels
• Limit post show weight gain to 5-10 lbs
• Be sure to include your essential fatty acids to help maintain sugar levels
• DO NOT drink your calories – they will be automatically absorbed as body fat!