Midway through January now, and I’m getting really excited about the upcoming competition season. Not only do I have a powerlifting meet coming up in seven weeks- the South Bay Open- but I’ve decided to compete in the WNBF, rather than NPC, in the figure division this year. My first show will be May 28, and I’m hoping to compete twice more this year as well.
One of those creepy “this day in history” Facebook thing alerted me that one year ago today, I was at the top of my bulk- in fact, it was the very last day of it, and I was asked to do a last-minute photo shoot. Hesitantly, I agreed- I would meet the photographer as soon as I left work that day. I had never done a photo shoot at anything less than optimal body composition, and having eaten above maintenance for the first time in about 5 year, for the preceding 8 weeks, I was feeling just a little bit uncomfortable in my skin- chubby, even.
The resulting photos, however, showed a confident, strong athlete. Sure I had a little bit of “fluff,” in comparison to what I typically carried, my waist was a bit thick, but that’s not what came through as a whole. I looked confident. Capable. Strong. Powerful.
It is this photo that convinced me to repeat the process this winter, bulking up a bit and trying to gain some muscle mass, before cutting down again to compete. So today, I once again find myself nearing the end of an offseason diet- I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “bulk,” in the traditional sense, but I have been eating at or slightly above maintenance for a couple of months, following a successful reverse diet back up to maintenance. My weight is up, nearing the top of my weight class for powerlifting, but I’m not concerned about it; my lifts are stronger than ever, and it’s almost time to start cutting to compete again.
I checked back in my prep log notebook from last year to compare it to this year, and I took some measurements to compare and see how the last year has changed for me. And this prompted me, then, to take a comparison photo. Of course, it’s iPhone quality versus professional quality, and the pose isn’t perfect (forgive me, I snapped it quick on my way to the gym this morning!) but the comparison stands, I think.
It may The differences aren’t huge, but here’s what I see:
- I’m holding slightly less fat around the midsection
- My traps are noticeably larger
- My delts and biceps both have a bit more size
- My quads look slightly larger
- I should smile, at least with my eyes, so I don’t look mad. I’m learning more and more than I suffer from Resting Bitch Face.
After studying the two photos, I broke out my old prep notebook, and I was surprised to find that I had recorded my weight as 118.8 last year in that photo, whereas today, I’m just 2 pounds heavier. This took me slightly aback, because my average daily intake is over 200 calories more, now!
In comparing the measurements I took My waist measurement is the same- 25.5 inches- but my bust and hip measurements have both increased by nearly an inch! Obviously my boobs didn’t grow any, so this additional chest girth can likely be attributed to thickness and width in my back. And my quads are up 3/4 of an inch, too! I can’t compare the caliper body fat measurements, because I used to different calipers (my old ones broke) and I have noticed my new one gives slightly different results than my old one did. But these stats are, though maybe the shouldn’t be, absolutely shocking to me. How did I not notice this progress happening?
I find myself now 7 weeks out from my first powerlifting meet of the year and 19 weeks out from my first figure competition, whereas last year I was 9 weeks out from my first figure competition. I’m lifting and pushing myself harder than I have in ages, under the guidance and programming of my recently acquired coach, Derek; maintaining my weight, via an attempted (I say attempted because I’ve not previously tried this!) recomp- eating a bit below TDEE on rest days and a bit above on training days to theoretically stimulate simultaneous muscle growth and and fat loss. I am, metabolically and body compositionally, in perhaps the best position I have ever been in, going into contest prep. I feel so much relief right now, and validation. All of the time and stress over reverse dieting, building muscle, maintaining and then building strength while not sacrificing aesthetics… I’ve done it all. I’ve set myself up to have a successful competition season, I’ve improved, if not my physique, at least my metabolic health. I have built my calories up to a point where cutting will not bring them detrimentally low, and I’ve learned so much this year. Is it arrogant to say I’m damn proud of myself? Because I am.
Competition season, here I come. USPA and WNBF, you ain’t ready for this.