As of yesterday morning, I’ve officially been on contest pre for the LA Muscle Mayhem for 8 days, and am 7 weeks out from that contest.
And I can already tell this prep might be a rough one.
My last prep went well. Easy! Almost too easy. I should have known it couldn’t always be that way.
Things are a little bit different going into this one.
For starters, I’m beginning just a bit heavier than my first prep. Granted, a fair bit of that scale weight is muscle, based on the results of my DEXA scan in December, but some of my extended time out of a deficit has led to a little fat gain, as well. Last week, on my first day of contest prep, I weighed in at 121.8 pounds, and by my estimations, again based on that DEXA and knowing what I need to look like on stage, that meant that in the span of an 8 week prep, I needed to drop approximately 8 pounds. Should I have been a little more reserved about my intake the two weeks prior in Australia? Maybe so. This is still manageable, though it is not what I consider to be pleasurable.
Second, I came in with this idea that I didn’t need to do cardio. Last prep, I did laughably little. Once, maybe twice a week doing intervals, and only towards the tail end of prep. What I failed to remember was that I was very active throughout my day. I was running all over the campus I was working at, doing all kinds of things. My current job has me pacing around my classroom some, but mostly I’m just stuck in here. My campus is very small, and if I’m 100% honest with myself, I am all but sedentary. Looking back in my notebook from last year, at 8 weeks out I only had to lose about 4 pounds…It’s time to get realistic about this and plan out some cardio.
Do I like it?
Am I willing to do it?
I weighed in this morning, after a low carb/low calorie (rest) day at 120.6 pounds. I always wake up lean and light on these days. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I rode my bike 10 miles last night, either. Regardless, I’m headed in the right direction, assuming I can get and keep my calorie expenditure up. Truth: yesterday was the ONLY cardio I did this week, save for a handful of minutes on the stair machine earlier in the week when I felt the need to give myself a little “test” to see how it felt.
It felt awful, by the way. So I won’t be making a habit out of that.
I will say that I am pretty pleased about the fact that I’ve consistently tracked my TDEE using a spreadsheet since the beginning of the year, and my calculated TDEE is higher this go-around than last. This precise thing, in fact, was the focus of the time I spent this winter competing for powerlifting and reverse dieting. I wanted to be in a healthy place, calorically speaking, so that when it came time to cut for a stage competition, I wasn’t starving, literally and figuratively. My caloric deficit is not huge- about 200 calories per day. Of course, I would lose faster on a larger deficit, but I don’t want to risk losing muscle mass by cutting too quickly. Although I’ve increased my lifting days to 5 each week (and oh man am I already feeling it!) I’ll be stepping up the interval training game a bit to account for the disparity.
Christ on a bike, did I just say that? That I am willingly going to add cardio to my routine?
I spent so much of my last prep bragging to myself… and everyone else… about the minimal cardio I did. But this prep is different. I won’t be adding in steady state cardio, nor necessarily daily cardio, as many competitors do. You’ve seen the whining posts on Instagram: “Early morning fasted cardio, kill me now!”
K, no thanks.
I know some swear by it, but as far as I can tell, this is one of those broscience bodybuilder things that just holds on because someone’s coach told them and it just keeps on being passed along, but the science just isn’t there to back it up as being definitively superior, and may actually be detrimental.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it a thousand times, suffering for the sake of suffering, particularly in a public space or social media, does not make you a better or more hardcore competitor. If you really prefer this method, that’s on you, but don’t try to be a martyr about it- you’ve made your choice.
Work smart, and work hard, but don’t work for the “rights” to whine.
Point being, I’m not going to go out of my way to inflict the most possible irritation on myself, seeing as I already don’t like how doing cardio feels, I’m going to try and minimize the annoyance by making it as fun as possible. That said- PLEASE send me your fun cardio ideas! Barbell complexes, circuits, anything to keep my brain and body engaged and pushing hard. Help a girl get her cardio in without being bored, too!
I will also be taking a lot more bike rides, which is actually great- I LOVE riding my bike!- to counteract
my reduced calorie expenditure throughout my day, and I’ll be sure to be getting my interval training in at least twice a week. I’ve already asked for accountability stair sprint partners from a local group of badass ladies, which I’m hoping will increase my adherence to actually doing it and pushing myself hard enough, and also net me a few new fitness friends! If you’ve never seen it, the San Diego Convention Center is just perfect for doing stair sprint intervals- the building is covered in stairs, in varying steepnesses and lengths and with breaks between flights and just straight up- pick your poison in these babies! I like this set in the front- four flights broke up by one platform in the middle makes for perfect interval length!
I’ve also increased my lifting to 5 days per week as well- and boy am I feeling it. My last prep, I was very specific in my lifts, following Layne Norton’s PHAT protocol to the T. This protocol is quite intense, having run it last year, and I would not run it again outside of contest prep. This time, in an attempt to hopefully not just maintain, but increase my strength as a powerlifter if at all possible, I’ve modeled my lifting after the same template, having found it quite effective, but have also incorporated the offseason powerlifting programming set by my powerlifting coach at Deadweight Strength. I have been following the main lifts as written by Derek, and supplementing accessory similar to that set out by Layne, using the 5 day template upper-lower split of PHAT. A week in, and I’m sore but feeling like this is a solid plan of attack. Having recently attained the #19 standing in my weight class, nationally, for USPA, I’m not at all interested in abandoning strength training or losing strength- and I don’t see any need to at this juncture, either.
This prep is set up to be different, out of necessity. A slightly different approach, in terms of my cardio, and a stronger focus on powerlifting. This is going to be a fun challenge, to be sure, but this time… this time I want to win my class. So I’m all in.
WNBF LA Muscle Mayhem judges, hold on to your shorts.