Contest prep in many ways is truly what you make it. Outside of the diet and training which to me are the X’s and O’s there are other certain variables that are 100% within your control that in my opinion can make or break your prep OR often times even with those who happen to be successful they still seem miserable every step of the way. Below I have outlined some variables that I believe if you make the most of them you will have a successful prep and also look back without a lot more positive memories than negative ones.
1) Prioritize mental rest and recovery not just physical
I made this one first for a reason. We get in our heads as physique athletes especially during prep that more is better and we get fixated on just the cosmetic look. thinking we have to “outwork” everyone whatever that means. Often times the cosmetic appearance is dictated by the internal function if you are constantly burning the candle at both ends it will be much harder to display the best you on show day. Take days off and prioritize them, check out of bodybuilding for the day in terms of constantly being engaged in IG, studying your pictures, watching training videos etc. Outside of having to eat and having to drink on your off days check out and do something outside the box to get your mind off of prep and I can promise you that you are going to feel so much more fresh the next time you step into the gym.
2) Don’t change more than one variable at a time
This is something I see often with less experienced physique athletes that are attempting to do their own preps (and kudos to you guys for doing so!) When you start to make changes OR when you are near the end and you have reached a point where your progress has stalled review all variables, pick one that makes the most sense to you and make those changes first.
If your digestion is hindered pick one or two items within your day and remove them, rather than changing your entire diet. Sure changing the entire diet and food sources might work but what have you learned from this, absolutely nothing. Make calculated pulls then sit back and assess.
Same goes for general or very specific fat loss progress. Don’t pull all your carbs, cut fats in half and add in 45 min of cardio to start out your prep. Choose one of those variables add it in and sit back and watch what happens. Chances are you will surprise yourself. Again sure making 3-4 major changes at once will elicit a change but then what if you have pulled most of the tools out of the bag to begin with you are not going to have much to rely on when you need it once the initial changes come to a halt. Being a prep athlete with patience will carry you far especially when it comes to decision making and the progress that comes as a result of that.
3) Start Early – You need to lose more than you think you do
This goes across the board but again those who are new to this please do yourself a favor and start the dieting process early. The first time you get into true contest shape you have no idea how much fat you are carrying and it will take longer than you think 9x out of 10. Even if you have a perfect prep in terms of fat loss there is some type of speed bump that might get in the way and if you start early you will be ahead and these bumps wont set you back. Whether that be sickness, family concern, slight injury etc by starting early and being ahead from the start these types of “that’s life” experiences will not set you back or put you into panic mode. At worst you are ready early, completely in shape and you get to increase intake into the show and that is never a bad thing!
4) Take your pictures in the same spot or spots
Consistency within your progress pictures is key. You want the truest images that you can find to look back at and compare as well as assess your progress throughout the prep. Don’t seek out the best lighting you can find just seek out the truest lighting you can find. If you look bad in the lighting once you are ready you will not so just stick it out and keep them consistent. I understand a lot of people like to also take pics in the gym which is great but again keep that spot consistent as well. This will help you so much and keep the head games at bay as well as reduce the internal questioning of which are the true images vs which might be displaying you better than you truly are. When in doubt pick the harshest lighting you can find, once you look good there you will look good anywhere!
5) Become a product of consistency
Consistency in pursuit of any goal is important and it’s no different for contest prep. I truly believe the more consistent you are in all variables the more successful you will be. This means wake up time, morning routine, meal times, the time you train, the time you go to bed, the time(s) you poop…seriously, as best as you can make each day mirror each other. If the variables are constant you will not have to take into consideration for the inconsistencies especially with things like weight. I have seen it time and time again the scale is going to play mind games for you if you are not waking up and going to bed at the same time of the day and between those two points if your foods and fluid intake are not the same that too is going to play into true progress and paint somewhat of a cloudy picture for you to have to sort through when assessing your progress.
Hopefully this serves as some help to you all as you start or being your next contest prep. These 5 things are something that i hold true in my own preps as well, we do this to be our best so considering even the most simple things yet not overcomplicating them can make all the difference!
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