Over the years, there have been rumors, casting calls, and attempts to start a reality show featuring bodybuilding competitors. At this point in contest prep, I find humor in the concept – for a reality TV show about bodybuilders would be truthfully the most boring television show ever!
The road to stage and, really, any serious body transformation, require a steady stream of unglamorous moments and day-in, day-out repetition. These elements of contest prep (body transformation) are not terribly synergistic with leading a fun, exciting, social life. The more results-oriented you are, the more socially recluse you tend to become…which brings me to this week’s First Secret to Stage:
#1. Age is an advantage.
In your teens, twenties, or any age of being a singleton, there’s much more pressure to go out and have an active social life. Yet, the more “social” you are, the more difficult, annoying, and cumbersome contest prep becomes. Don’t believe me? Just ask your friends…and proceed to the next Secret:
#2 Your friends…spouses may change.
Friendships (or marriages) based on eating out, drinking, or anything “out” are apt to shift as you shift during contest prep.
This is why many competitors pair off with other bodybuilders, MMA fighters, or athletes with strict diets or training schedules. It’s not as much about physique compatibility as it is about lifestyle compatibility.
So, allow appropriate shifts when support lacks and your desire prevails. That said:
#3 Don’t let “enlightenment” go to your head!
Just because you banged out six days straight – or even six weeks straight – of morning cardio, consistent meal prep, intense lifting sessions…and no wine(!!), you are not “higher than thou” and please do not attempt to convert your friends & family – or anyone else – to do what you do. Always remember:
#4 This is YOUR journey.
(Chant to yourself, as needed!)
At times, you will be tempted to stand on a soapbox (or hold up the victim card) when you brag (or lament) to your spouse, coworker, or social media following about the rigor of your regimen. Remember, you chose this. No one else did…or is obligated to follow your example. The gift of this predicament is:
#5 You’ll be amazed to learn what you’re made of.
After seven weeks of morning anything…well, maybe not ANYthing, but let’s say, morning cardio, you’re apt to notice the initial zeal is running thin, or, quite likely, it’s out the freakin’ window.
Except for the liars or masochistic types, more mornings than not, you will NOT be in the mood to get up for cardio. And, when you factor in cumulative fatigue and soreness from yesterday’s leg workout, there will be mornings when you think cardio is simply not possible. But, in contest mode, you don’t have the luxury or free will to decide today is a rest day. Your cardio schedule is non-negotiable.
At this point, I’m up to an hour of cardio, six days a week. Will my cardio demands go down from here? Doubtful. Will they go up from here? Likely. At least, a little…and, more if I don’t stay on plan! So, with this in mind, I suit up for cardio and head to the gym.
Understand, you can do anything when the feeling is there and the time is right, but what happens when it’s absent?
Good news: you are apt to be pleasantly surprised at how your body responds when you suit up despite your misgivings. I notice once I begin moving, things start changing. I may start off tentatively, but I can ramp up as my body responds. Often, the days I feel the worst initially end up being my best cardio sessions! Recognize your ego (fear) is trying to protect you – in this case, from evil cardio sessions…but, sometimes…oftentimes, we need to call bullsh#t on our perceived limitations to see what we are truly capable of. Case in point:
#6 Don’t break up your cardio.
When my coach bumped up my cardio two weeks ago (from 45 mins to 60 mins), it seemed like an astronomical increase both on the step mill and in the scope of my morning. For many of us, adding an extra anything in the morning is inherently difficult. However, when it comes to cardio, a 60-min session is not equal to the sum of its parts (e.g. two 30-min sessions). The benefit with cardio…namely, the fat-burning benefit…builds over time.
As mentioned in Cardio Secrets, cardio is best performed in the morning and it needs to be intensified as you acclimate. Intensity can be heightened in terms of duration or with other levers such as level, incline, and speed. For example, sprint intervals used to be challenging for me in the low 5 mph range. Now, I need to be up in the 7 mph range to be sufficiently challenged. As my conditioning improves, my body becomes more efficient (and burns fewer calories), so I must monitor and tweak to maintain the intensity. But, even more so, I need to keep up the day-in, day-out commitment to a certain time. 60 mins altogether, not 58 mins, and not 60 mins broken up into shorter sessions.
Landing us on our final Secret this week and one you’ll often hear competitors mention on the day of their show:
#7 The best feeling is stepping out on stage knowing you’ve done everything you possibly could.
Fully-prepared, you smile to yourself acknowledging your commitment and dedication throughout the weeks and months of contest prep. Doing anything 100% is an amazing feeling we have too infrequently in our lives. Think about it…when was the last endeavor you truly gave it your all — especially in the “self-ish” interest of yourself? Just because you wanted to. I mean, precisely because you wanted to…