I never thought I would ever write this post... that’s why I never say never...
When I was at uni, a relative said I would need to be prepared to move over east as the marketing sector in Perth was saturated with qualified workers hunting for the same jobs - it was a ruthless time and I wasn’t about throwing myself into a dog eat dog world... not at the age of 20 anyway... so I added a bachelor of commerce with a HRM major as I would ‘never’ move away from my family... 5 years later, I booked a one-way ticket to London (lesson #1, never say never).
Five days ago, my coach, Odhran 'O' (The Liftlab at Doherty's Gym) and I decided it would be best that I pull out of the IFBB state show and subsequently, Arnold’s in Melbourne. My condition was good (not great by my standards) and I would have gotten there but it would have been at the cost of my health and at the detriment to my love for the gym and bodybuilding.
The decision has been slapped on a big white elephant that has been in the corner of every room for weeks but it’s only now that I’ve been forced to look over and stare it in the eye, giving the beast a little nod to acknowledge its presence and why it’s been haunting me. It nodded back with only these words ‘It's about time.’ (Telepathically of course)
It was never in my plan to compete in 4 back to back shows - especially this early in my bodybuilding lifespan (10 months and counting) and in hindsight, irresponsible to not listen to my intuition when prepping season A was propositioned. In essence, health always comes first and like anything - if I’m not all in, I don’t want it.
Competing in the realm of bodybuilding is an all or nothing game. If you don’t dive into it head first with it being your number 1 priority in life and your sole distraction, you’ve already failed yourself. Why go through months, days and hours of sacrifice if you’re not going to give it your everything? It doesn’t make sense. It’s the only sport that requires you to live and breath it... your social life is cut off, liberty of food choices, drinks and disposable time which organically segregates you from many (if not all) social situations - this is tweaked if you're lucky enough to have a partner who shares the same passion for competing/the gym. I’m not dissing the sport by any means, there are so many positive things that have come out of competing and I may do another one but my point is, you need to have the hunger for it as it really tests your emotional endurance as well as your physical strength - if it’s not at the top of your priority list with little to nothing behind it, then it’s a waste of your time, money and energy.
For me, my heart and health had not bought into the experience this time around as much as my mind was doing its best to sway my heart and my health, it was 2v1 and like the House of Commons, majority ruled (Brexit will never happen!)
The feedback was unanimous by all bodybuilders after the October shows - ‘You’re doing season A? No break? Wow! Can I ask why?’ My response consisted of the same - I was already in condition and I could maintain it.... this was the advice I had received at the time and one I was swayed to believe would work in my favour even though my gut was saying ‘You need a break! You're crumbling... your hair is falling out!’… but I justified it by thinking, what’s another 4-5 months in the grand scheme of life… rookie error (lesson #2, listen to your gut - it is an unbiased oracle that never fails you)... I went along with it.
Having just moved back from Perth in March 2018, I wanted a focus that would take up all of my time. I had toyed with the idea of comps before leaving London and had met a few people who had either competed in the past or were seasoned competitors. My life for over 6 years with the majority living in one of the largest cities in the world was fast paced, exhilarating and highly social. I wanted to give my move back to my hometown the best possible shot and never wanted to feel a void so I figured what better focus than the only one I know will occupy my body, mind and time… bodybuilding. This was one of many reasons as to why I decided to compete but it’s one to highlight in this blog.
Post IFBB Pro League shows in October 2018, feedback from the judges was that I needed to use the off season to grow my shoulders and glutes/hamstrings… why I was directed to compete in season A without an off season is still a question mark in my mind. Not only did I need an off season to grow but you need to get back to reality and live… I had not allowed myself to integrate back into Perth and it was starting to affect me BIG TIME. Not only this, but my hormones were shot… I first started to notice there was a serious issue when my hair started to fall out in obscene amounts… girls, we all see strands in our brush and in the shower but this was extreme and I have been starting to fear washing my hair to not see the aftermath of what I would find. As a lady who has PCOS, this is a major concern and my focus now is to work with a hormone specialist to get my body to a healthy level. Blood test completed, awaiting my results this week - fingers crossed! (lesson #3, if you don't listen to your body, it will eventually force you to.)
If you have been following my Instagram stories, you will know I changed coaches, mid prep at 10 weeks prior to competing (now not) at the state show this coming February - not ideal and highly stressful! It took me a month to make this decision and to put it bluntly, it was a soul crushing experience. However, making the switch to O was the best decision for me. Your relationship with your coach is of the greatest importance during prep - professionalism and mutual respect with accurate and timely guidance are just a few non-negotiable checkboxes.
The first thing said once he had reviewed my judges feedback was "Can I ask why you're competing when the feedback was to grow in your off season?" I crumbled inside as I knew it was the wrong move but we pushed on as my skin folds were great... I was 10 weeks out with a 91 total sitting at 11% body fat however the emotional turmoil was eating at me and with the added stress of my hormones being out of whack, it was proving to be a recipe for disaster... but high achievers don't quit right?
Before you start thinking my issues are due to the use of anabolics (steroids), let me just say, I am a natural competitor (you can clearly see from my condition on stage) and when engaging in my initial conversation with both coaches, this is the first thing I made abundantly clear. I value my body and want it to function naturally 100% of the time - I have never been on the pill for this reason. I never cared about how I would compare to other athletes on stage, the comp for me was a personal feat and never about getting a trophy - I'm not naive in thinking I could when I only started lifting weights in April (6 months before walking on stage).
Life has a funny way of showing its cards and looking back at the last day of 2018 when I typed out my goals for 2019, I forgot to include the competition… both comps (states and Arnolds) were then listed at the bottom when I remembered. This was a telltale sign for me that competing was not a priority and there were bigger and better goals for me to achieve during the year. I was with family down south at the time and once this realisation hit me, I deviated from my meal prep drastically (peanut butter m&m’s I love but dislike you) and relaxed on the training.
It’s a bitter sweet feeling as for the past 10 months I have lived a regimented lifestyle and it feels strange to not ‘need’ to weigh my oats and spinach or train a certain way but it’s also liberating to feel I can start to live and socialise again without restrictions. I want to fall back in love with all different types of training again and say ‘Yes’ to invites, rather than an autopilot response of ‘no’.
Photo | October 2018, Backstage | IFBB Pro League National Show