It’s Saturday. That means in exactly one week, I will walk out onto the stage, ready or not. I’m leaner than I’ve ever been- yesterday I started seeing veins in my abs and in my thighs- what?! I’m always vascular, but those ones took me off guard!
This week has been quite the struggle. Coaching myself has not gotten any easier, particularly as other competitors lean more and more heavily on their own coaches to put the final touches on them and plan out their peak week, while I sit here and don’t do any of the traditional peak week things. Competitors with coaches are doing things 100% differently than I am at this point, and it’s very disconcerting. I second guess and question myself on a minute to minute basis, and that is very stressful. I am quite accustomed to being very self assured in everything that I do, I make a point of it, and not having that conviction in myself is messing with my brain, hard.
But I started out yesterday hitting a pretty significant person record on Pendlay rows. PRs heading into peak week? Absolutely unheard of, at least by me.
Peak week it bro-typically a time of completely making your body hate you, your brain rebel against you, and attempted manipulation of an outrageous number of bodily functions in order to try to trick your body into looking it’s absolute best on stage. There is carb manipulation, in which competitors often drop carbs very, very low, and begin doing “glycogen depleting” workouts, so trying to empty all of the stored carbs out of their muscles for a few days, leaving them flat, exhausted, stringy, and mentally frazzled, followed by a couple days of intense carb loading, where the idea is that your muscles are hyper-receptive to the glycogen after their previous flush, and will fill out and look nice and big on stage. This is often coupled with water and sodium manipulation, wherein as carbs are depleted, water is loaded- often competitors will be instructed to double- or more- their water intake for a few days, once again, attempting to flush out glycogen and sodium from the body. The more you drink, the more you pee, the less water you theoretically hold under you skin, so that when you begin cutting water- often to ABSOLUTELY NO WATER for a day or two before the show, your skin is supposed to sit flush up against your muscle, leaving you looking striated and ripped. Sodium is also cut out and added in to try and reduce the chance of water retention.
The problem with all of this, from what I can gather, is that you’ve taken every single thing that worked for you during your prep and throw it right out the window, and then do all sorts of crazy shit you can’t account for the results of.
BODIES DO NOT LIKE CHANGE. That’s why dieting is hard. That’s why you get intense DOMS when you start a new lifting plan, or two doing stair sprints for the first time ever. I pride myself on knowing my body, and very well. I know how I will feel after eating low carbs two days and then make a sandwich, just how my body will react. I know how I feel the next morning when I drink an extra liter of water in a day. I know because I’ve experimented with it, I’ve recorded it, I just know it. Years of trials and careful manipulations of single variables have allowed me to have this insight. Me and my body, we know each other pretty well, and I like it like that.
I decided to follow the peak week plan set out by someone in the fitness industry that I look up to very, very much. I’ve mentioned him before, and he’s been a big part of my prep as a whole- Dr. Layne Norton. If this sounds familiar, it’s possibly because I’ve also been using his PHAT training protocol throughout my prep, in order to maintain strength as I work simultaneously on hypertrophy- powerlifting and bodybuilding combined. His peak week is not at all the hell week prescribed by other coaches, and I love that he has science, tested science, that is, not bro-science, behind it. Why would you take what you know works and just get rid of it all at the end to try and trick your body, when you could get ready early and try tiny tweaks, rather than attempting magic, to get yourself primed for the stage. It just makes so much sense! Things like the fact that muscles are 70% water, so why would you cut out water to make them look fuller? Things like research (and handy graph, for the visually inclined among us!) showing how your body does not excrete more sodium as you deplete it, rather, reabsorbs it, as well as creates more of the hormone that makes you retain water- the exact opposite thing you are trying to do. I’ll just say it, I love science.
I love science so hard. I’m not going to keep my peak week a secret. Here’a a link to Layne Norton’s peak week protocol that I am following, a modified version of, anyhow- I’ll be doing my carb-up on Wednesday as opposed to Monday, because I know from looking back in my training logs that I look best after two days of high carbs, and on Friday if I wake up flat, or spilled over, it gives me that one day to make the final touches so that I can look incredible on Saturday. Layne Norton’s Peak Week Protocol No magic, no tricks. I’ve tried the typical prep, for photo shoots, and it really has been effective just one time for me. I’ve spilled over (woke up holding water because I went to heavy on the carbs and my muscles couldn’t hold all of the glycogen, leading to water between your muscle and skin), I’ve been miserable and carb depleted, leading to absolutely chaos in my classroom as I struggled to maintain an upright posture, much less manage 25 teenagers. I’ve had just one shoot where I woke up and everything “magical” had happened, and my photo shoot went flawlessly. That one time of magic just isn’t enough for me to risk it. I need to be able to account for how my body is going to act on Saturday morning. I don’t have time for hoping. I’ve put in too much work to leave the last bit to chance.
I’m not trying to vilify coaches who have a different peak week protocol, or competitors who follow it. But it is, again, very difficult to trust that I’m doing the right thing for myself, when everyone around me is miserable and eating half the carbs I am and cutting out water and dreaming about candy bars and putting in two gym session a day and circuit training. Pretty much the theme of this entire contest prep has been “how differently can I do things?” I continued powerlifting, straight until today- my last power day before the show. I am eating twice-or more!- the carbs of any of my friends who are competing. I am doing laughably little cardio. And at every turn, it feels like, how can this possibly be ok? If everyone else is busy doing the exact opposite, am I fucking everything up? Am I going to get on stage and look lie a total fool because I thought I knew better, I thought I could do something different? It feels like I’m under constant attack from both myself, with my constant doubts and worries, and everyone around me who is doing everything differently. Even if I get on stage and look incredible, I didn’t do things, I am not doing things, differently just to be a dick, or to prove a point. I’m doing it because this is what feels right for my body. Lifting heavy, intermittent fasting, carb cycling, minimal cardio… this is my lifestyle. I wanted to fit bodybuilding into my life, not make it change my life. I rather like my life just like I’ve set it up.
And I feel like I’ve done a pretty ok job of marrying the two things, with the exception of my shit attitude the past couple of weeks as my calories have dropped a bit, and I’ve had to prioritize my body as the show approaches, even while work on my master’s project is pushed back, and things at work have been insane to say the least (job interview, lots of intense phone calls, lots of not knowing…ugh), and I’ve been a real bear to my husband the past few weeks as my body fat has dropped, too. He’s a real champ, putting up with my stressed out bullshit.
Just a few quick notes about being this close to hitting the stage:
I tried some whitening strips so my choppers look nice and shiny on stage. I KNOW i have sensitive teeth, so I typically put them on for 20 minutes rather than 30, to avoid discomfort. Yeahhhhh last night I thought I’d be a grown up and go for all 30. NEVER AGAIN.
I’m struggling to put my body and my brain in the same place, some days. Might be stress, might be hunger (my calories are really only at about a 20% deficit, average, right now, so not crazy, but my body does not like it, nonetheless). Often this leads to me rolling my eyes and having snarky comments and generally not wanting to talk to or be by people. ANY people. The cat has been grounded a lot this week, because I just can’t deal with him and I send him to his room. Poor boy.