The last week before the last week!

Striking a pose in my "sport" stilettos!
Striking a pose in my “sport” stilettos!

Well I’m almost there! This week is now officially the last week of normal prep. The week after that is prep week, which is getting your body ready for going on stage, and is, in a way, part of the competition itself. Magic things happen that week but you’ll just have to wait to find out what they are!

For the very last week of normal prep, my workout routine is the same, except it will be the longest. Each week I’ve been adding time to my cardio and reps so the time spent at the gym keeps getting longer and longer. I’ll be topping out at about 2 hours a session this week. So…yaaaay.

It’s also the time to write my check list and make sure I’m organized for the big day. I have a list of things I need already but this week will be time to make sure everything is bought, packed etc. The less I need to worry about during peak week the better.

I have all my appointments booked: hair, nails, even a photo shoot for two days before. I’ll be meeting with my posing coach at least once more and doing tons of posing practice at home. My hotel is booked, my car has gas and the tires are reasonably inflated. Sorted!

My diet will stay pretty much the same as well, except for a few minor adjustments. I still would like to lose a couple of pounds but at this point, my body is pretty much the size it’s going to be on stage so there’s no point in worrying too much about calories. Mainly, I need to make sure I’m eating enough to keep my energy level up this week and get through those last intense gym sessions.

The most important thing to consider with my diet is reducing bloat and water retention, so this is where the diet adjustments come in. Fiber, normally lauded as a great weight aid will need to be reduced as it can cause bloat. So, things like broccoli, cauliflower, brown rice etc will be eliminated. As will raw vegetables. Most of what I eat will be boiled or steamed.

I noticed a while back that dairy gives me a bit of belly bulge as well so I switched to vegan protein powder and eliminated dairy in my meals…mostly. I did still sneak a small taste of yogurt every now and then. When you aren’t eating anything sweet, plain Greek yogurt tastes like a freakin’ ginger bread house! Or whatever the sweetest thing you can imagine is. But from now on, it’s definitely not worth chancing it.

Steamed kale with mushrooms and scallops...a bloat-free masterpiece!
Steamed kale with mushrooms and scallops

Overall I’m pretty happy with my physique at the moment. I would have liked to lose more fat but I’m pretty stubborn that way. I do put on muscle easily so that’s really helped my shape, although for the bikini category too much muscle is not usually an asset. If I lose for looking too much like Wonder Women I don’t think I will be terribly upset! If I don’t place well, I’ll just automatically assume the reason was I looked way too awesome. You can actually pay to hear the judges feedback on your body but why would you want to do that? It’s much better to just make up a more flattering reason, and spend that money on wine. So much sweet sweet wine.

Three weeks out: Too soon to buy wine?

img_2075
Posing session at three and a half weeks out.

Yes the end is in sight. Like the last time I competed, this is when I start to think of life after the show. And by that I mean wine. Well, not just that, but I have been thinking about it an awful lot today. Probably the best friend for a fitness competitor is a pregnant woman. As I was visiting with my soon-to-be-mom-again sister I realized the one thing we have in common is we really, really miss wine. Plus her belly makes me feel super thin. That was a bonus and I started to think maybe we should hang out more often, until she joked about replacing wine with ice cream as her go-to stress relief.

After 10 or so weeks of restrictions, I can’t say there’s any one thing I’m craving; just the idea of being able to eat whatever I want without weighing it first is appealing. The morning after my last show I went to a breakfast buffet with my husband at the King Edward Hotel. Not cheap but holy heck, best breakfast in town! I didn’t go because I wanted to stuff myself, I just wanted to be able to enjoy all that choice. Well, it turned out not to be such a good idea as my stomach was clearly not ready for so much indulgence. This time around, a little butter on my Ezekiel bread and a real milk latte sounds perfect.

But: it’s too soon to start thinking of all that just yet as I still have work to do. I feel like I’m on track and just need to stick it out for two more weeks before peak week. Peak week is the days leading up to the competition when things change a lot, and in some ways, get easier. The day before the show there is no training at all, and the few days leading up to it are mostly cardio and some light upper body training.

Right now however, I’m in the thick of it: my gym sessions are at their longest and I work out ever single day. Here’s a break down of what a week of training looks like for this week:

  • Monday: 1 hour bootcamp
  • Tuesday: 40 minutes stepmill
  • Wednesday: 1 hour bootcamp
  • Thursday: 1 hour and a bit of lower body weight training and 40 minutes of cardio
  • Friday: 1 hour of upper body weight training and 40 minutes of cardio
  • Saturday: 1 hour of lower body weight training and 40 minutes of cardio

The week after that is pretty much the same, but with longer cardio sessions.

img_2103
Exactly 4.3 ounces of salmon, stir fried kale, cabbage, cauliflower and brussles sprouts (a PC mix) plus mushrooms.

My diet is big time into cycling so measuring and weighing is more essential than ever to make sure I’m getting my macros right. On some days this is great because by the end of the day I may realize I need to eat more. But usually I just need more of one specific thing so my snacks get a bit weird, like straight up white fish or just rice, for example. Here’s an idea of what I’ll be eating next week:

  • Monday: Starch carbs with breakfast, lunch and dinner, two snacks with just protein
  • Tuesday: Starch carbs with breakfast only
  • Wednesday: Same as Monday
  • Thursday: No starch carbs, a little higher in fat
  • Friday: Starch carbs with every meal (about 250 grams) very little fat
  • Saturday: Same as Tuesday

Starch carbs refer to what most people consider carbs, i.e. rice, sweet potatos, oatmeal. Of course carbs are found elsewhere like in fruit or vegetables. I do count the carbs in my vegetables, but refer to them as fiber carbs since, as you may have guessed, they’re a little higher in fiber usually. Every single meal has protein but I do have to be very careful about the fat content. I’m sticking pretty much to white fish and chicken, with occasional salmon or bison on higher fat days.

Soon my friend. Soon.
Soon my friend. Soon.

So what’s my indulgence these days? It may sound ridiculous but I am really loving apple cinnamon tea. I was never a big herbal tea person, but since I can’t do caffeine or protein shakes late at night, this has become my evening treat. It would be nice if I could make a life long habit of this but no. In three weeks it’s going to be wine biatches! And I am really excited about it!

Four weeks to go…when things get weird.

There's always something to wine about
There’s always something to wine about

“Some more wine?” I hear my husband ask cheerfully. “More wine?” I think to myself as I flash with irritation. I haven’t had any wine. I can’t have wine right now. I’d love some wine but he damn well knows I can’t. Why the hell would he ask me…” Then I hear the first few beats of “Don’t You Forget About Me” play through the iPod dock. He was just announcing that he’s about to play Simple Minds. “Simple minds” and “some more wine” can sound very similar in a Scottish accent, but it’s very clear what just happened. I had a wine hallucination. It’s real people!

At four weeks to go, with every muscle that appears I am starting to lose my mind a little more. It’s the inevitable inverse relationship of fitness and intelligence. At least that’s my theory. It’s also the point in your prep when you realize there is absolutely no room for errors. I do try to stick to my diet and exercise plan 100% but there’s almost always a time when things go wrong. Twice now I’ve gone nuts: and by that I mean purchasing a small bag of cashews on one occasion and a vegan protein bar on another. In both cases I was going to be out for a while, starving and these seemed to be the best options. That’s never a good thing to do while prepping for a bikini competition, but it happens. Twice in 12 weeks isn’t so bad, and I’ve yet to miss even a single rep of a workout.

But at four weeks you do start to worry and look at other fitness competitors. When I see someone on Instagram who’s fitter than me posting “OMG only eight more weeks” I do freak out a bit. It’s time like that I have to give my head a shake and realize why I’m doing this. There will always be someone out there who’s naturally fitter, more dedicated and will place better than me. I know that. I also know that when I stand on stage I’ll be super fit…for me. And wearing so many sparkly things which is also a big part of the fun.

So the next four weeks will be a bit of a blackout period for me. I need to avoid any potential opportunities for screw ups, preserve my energy and start planning the last few elements of the competition: hair, nails, posing, packing etc. The stressful parts of these last weeks are balanced out by the fun stuff and excitement. I am really looking forward to stepping on stage again so the aesthetic elements are all part of the fun. It also means I can let my meals get dead boring. This would be hard to stomach for the full prep but for a few short weeks it’s not a big deal. Most meals consist of pretty bland lean protein, with fats and carbs inserted as needed. I used to think I’d enjoy coming up with clever, creative ways to make normal meals healthy–and to a certain point I do–but this is not the time for that nonsense. This is the point where meals are about getting protein in your face and getting on with it. There’s something oddly freeing about that.

img_2058
Straight up tuna washed down with black coffee. It does the trick. Not pictured: three amaranth rice cakes.

What exactly should you eat to be lean (part III)

I swear I didn't eat the whole thing!
I swear I didn’t eat the whole thing!

The other day my husband said he’s going to start having protein shakes for breakfast in the morning. Normally a non-breakfast person, he’s been taking up the clean eating habit and learned he’s supposed to start the day with protein. I asked if he’d be adding fruit, to which he replied, “no I just need to get the protein, I don’t care how it tastes.” To me, this is a big step: part of eating for a fitness competition, or for weight loss, is really to start seeing food as fuel and how it impacts your body, rather than just eating something because you feel like it.

Obviously, eating like a robot is no way to live life. We associate food as part of being human: it’s a reward, a pleasure, part of our culture and how we connect with others. Most can’t imagine a baseball game without a hotdog and beer, or a birthday party without a slice of cake. Most fitness competitors (if not all) spend weeks dreaming about their post-show pizza.

But, when you have a goal in mind you have to put these thoughts away and look at your food a bit dispassionately, just for a little while. On that note, here is an update on what’s on my menu for these last few weeks leading up to my competition. I’m putting this out there as an example of what fitness competitors eat, but if you are thinking of doing a show yourself, I would strongly advice a personalized meal plan from a trainer or dietician to make sure you’re eating right for body type and to match the intensity of your training. While my list of “allowed” foods is limited, it’s shortened even further by what I like to eat, so take this as a sample rather than an absolute meal plan:

Protein: about 4-6 ounces per serving, depending on fat/caloriesimg_2001

  • Chicken/turkey
  • Fish (tilapia or salmon)
  • Eggs
  • Lean beef
  • Bison
  • shellfish (shrimp, scallops, oysters etc.)
  • Cottage cheese (until about six weeks out when I cut all dairy)
  • Protein powder (whey until six weeks out, then I use Vega Sport)

Carbs: 4 ounces per servingimg_1914

  • Sweet potato
  • rice (brown or wild, usually only after workouts)
  • Oatmeal

Fat: about 1 tbsp per serving

  • Almond butter
  • Mayonnaise
  • Olive oil
  • MCT oil

Vegetables: 1 cup per serving

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Onions
  • Cabbage
  • Zuccini
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms

Most vegetable are ok, I stick to the ones in the above list because I like them and it’s just easier to keep my options limited. (It’s like Steve Jobs and the black turtle neck, the less I have to think about choice, the more time I have). The only vegetables that are really not ok are the ones high in sugar (yes that exists!) like carrots and beets. Tomatos are pretty high too so they get cut closer to the competition date.

Other:

  • Almond milk for coffee and with shakes
  • Mustard as long as there are no added sugars
  • Cider vinegar
  • Herbs such as garlic, ginger, cilantro, basil, cinnamon
  • And coffee of course. Lot’s and lot’s of coffee!

I definitely don’t eat the same portions every day either. In an early blog, I mentioned carb cycling. Varying your macros and calories keeps your metabolism revving and helps ensure you’re eating enough without over doing it.

Right now my week looks something like this:

  • Monday: high carbs
  • Tuesday: low carbs
  • Wednesday: high carbs
  • Thursday: Very low (almost no) carbs
  • Friday: High carbs (happy day!)
  • Saturday: low carbs
  • Sunday: high carbs

These fluctuations are also closely matched to my workout schedule, which is as following:img_1922

  • Monday: bootcamp
  • Tuesday: cardio
  • Wednesday: bootcamp
  • Thursday: legs
  • Friday: upper body
  • Saturday: rest
  • Sunday legs

The result: I am very very tired! But it’s working so I’ll be able to stick it out for a few more weeks. Good night everybody!

Pose until you’re posing a threat

How I wish I had spray tanned today!

Holy mood swings bat girl! It’s begging to happen again where I start feeling some self pity over the things I can’t eat right now. It’s really stupid actually, but I think most people who prep for fitness competitions know what I’m talking about.

Everyone’s talking about their pizza, posting photos about their ice cream, blatantly drinking wine in a restaurant in full view as I pass by on my way to the gym. Jerks all of you! As stupid as it is to feel animosity towards normal people doing normal things, it seems to be an inevitable stage of training. I have to remind myself: I can have those things. I just choose not to. It’s very important to remember that.

I could just take a break for a day and have pizza and wine. Then not look my best and place poorly in the show. Or I could stick to my diet, place poorly but not beat myself up about falling off the wagon.

img_1837
Journey to the bottom of the storage locker.

Well today was one of the happier parts of prep: a posing coaching session. This is when you’re reminded of the fun competing can be and serves as a reminder of why you’re giving up on short-term pleasures like food. You get to don your bikini and stripper shoes (found them, by the way!) and think about the excitement of being on stage.

If you’ve never done this before, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get a posing coach. More importantly, a posing coach who knows what he or she is doing. You might think competing is all about the diet and the exercise. That’s about half of the equation. The other half is being able to show it all of. You’re being judged on your walk, smile, confidence, etc.

This turned out to be the biggest challenge for me the first time around. I had recently lost the weight I’d been carrying for many years, and while I knew I had finally achieved a fit-looking figure, part of my brain was still not convinced. I think for most people, the task of strutting about in a tiny bikini in front of strangers is not a natural thing to do, much less look like you’re enjoying it. But that’s what the show is all about, and it is a show after all, so you have to see yourself as both an athlete and performer.

So today I drove to Pickering to meet with my very favourite posing coach, Fedel Clarke. Yup, that’s right, the best bikini posing coach in town is a dude. And a big one at that as a top bodybuilder and former football player. He’s also a judge with the Ontario Physique Association so he knows exactly what judges are looking for. And he’s brutally honest. It really goes a long way to know what to do with your hands and feet when you’re on stage and this is the man who can drill it in your brain.

Prepping for the competition becomes a lot more fun as you start to get ready for the stage. Don’t get me wrong, if I see you with wine you will get stink eye from me, but the closer I get the more it seems worth the temporary restraint. But seriously, keep your wine away from me or I will cry.