Twelve weeks out is the traditional turning point for most competitors. Last Friday was my turning point from weeks in to weeks out. “Weeks out” means you have now officially set your sights on a show…with a specific date! Prior to this, the emphasis is more on building muscle and conditioning. By “conditioning”, I mean everything from the literal to the symbolic. The conditioning to execute the cardio at an athletic level is as important as the conditioning to not hit snooze when your alarm wakes you up to do the cardio. There is also the conditioning in the lifestyle. Beyond the conditioning to say no to donuts in the office, there is the conditioning to shop, cook, and pack your meals for the day(s) ahead…which brings me to the starting point of this week’s Seven Secrets to Stage:
1. Think 100%-100%-100%.
Often we’ll hear the expression, it’s 70-80% diet, 30-20% working out. While that’s true in the “either-or” sense, there’s typically no need to choose or favor one aspect over the other. (If there was, it’d be nutrition, hands-down!) But, to truly transform your physique, the effort needs to be 100% in all three elements of the transformation trifecta: diet, lifting, and cardio.
2. To cheat or not to cheat.
I’ve done preps with no cheat meals and I’ve done preps with a few strategically placed. Saturday night, was my first cheat meal since I started (six weeks in). Without consistency in the transformation trifecta, the cheat meal will have adverse effects. So, work on consistency first and, ideally, no cheat meal before the four-week consistency mark.
No wine for 12 weeks, Sarah? For real?!” ~ anonymous Italian client
3. Twelve weeks out = wine out…Kombucha in!
A lot of competitors don’t drink at all or at least not with the consistency I do! As a former professional figure skater and investment banker, you could say I was well “conditioned” in this department. But, as a competitor, it needs to go at some point. So, that’s why I see the 12-week point as more of an event from a lifestyle perspective. In preps past, I’ve simply eliminated wine. This time, at my coach’s recommendation, I’m replacing it with Kombucha, a fermented tea drink. Kombucha’s sweet flavor will satisfy my wine craving with a myriad of health benefits. Just pour into a wine glass and enjoy with dinner from this day forward!
4. Little tweaks work better than drastic change.
The rolling influence of the trifecta (nutrition, cardio, lifting) is elevated by small tweaks, tightening, and ramping up of the three as stage draws closer. Even though the emphasis shifts from building to lean out, it doesn’t mean I stop lifting and it certainly doesn’t mean I stop eating…so, what does it mean?
I open up my 12 week out plan with excitement. Switching this carb for that, taking fat out of one meal and putting it into another. Little adjustment to the quantity of protein in this meal, little change to the type of veggie in that one. The tweaks aren’t all downward, many are simply swapping out things. Looking at the big picture, there is cutting, but it’s modest. Two weeks ago, the number of minutes in each cardio session increased. This time, a day has been added. This is what I mean by little tweaks to tighten, ramp up, and roll.
5. Be open to change.
Changing the menu is beneficial to the body and mind. We get bored having the same meals day in and day out…although many of us do! Our bodies also don’t respond as well to the same foods over time. With contest prep, competitors are typically given their menu and allowed only modest deviation, if any. We need the consistency to create the change, but we need change to keep our bodies responding. As I glance over my 12-weeks-out plan, I try to stay open to the tweaks and realize it’s good for my body to switch out some things — particularly, the carbs — after a period of time. How will I feel with quinoa instead of a corn tortilla? Or, five egg whites instead of four? No almonds in one meal anymore, but now avocado in a different one. And, six days of cardio a week instead of five …?!
6. Every prep will be and feel different.
No two preps are alike. Diets can vary significantly from show to show. Lifting exercises and emphasis can vary, as can the amount and type of cardio. Yes, there will always be the basic principles and tenets of bodybuilding; clean food with macronutrient balance, lifting, and probably steady-state cardio most days of the week. However, every body is different and even our own body is different. It is ever-changing. Your body as you clicked open this blog is slightly different from the one reading this sentence. Which brings me to my final secret…
7. Age irrelevant?
I started competing in 2010 at the age of 34. Over the past seven years, I’ve had years where I competed over 10 times and years I competed only once (my pregnancy and postpartum years). The last two years, I didn’t compete at all, so I have been curious to see, feel, and reflect on how my body responds this time around.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I don’t “feel” older doing the cardio or recovering from a tough legs workout. If anything, I find it easier because I’ve been doing this longer. Body has memory! Even when I wasn’t competing, I never stopped working out or eating a certain way. As noted in blogs past, my husband has been notoriously concerned about my protein intake throughout our courtship and marriage!
Oh, and I brought you this. I figured you might not be getting enough protein…” ~Michael Battaglia
In my personal experience as well as in my observational experience with clients, it’s less about age than we might think (or are led to believe…) It’s much more about what you have been doing over the years, what else is going on in your life right now…and, the understanding that it’s never too late until…well, it’s too late.