Coming to Terms with Those Differences

Remember when I said that this prep was a bit different?


I had no idea how right I was.


This has been a bit difficult to come to terms with. The things that have always worked for my body have, inexplicably not been working. The responses that I’ve grown to count on, responses to macro manipulations, to specific foods, and to training stimuli, have changed. I’ve prided myself on this, my ability to know my body, to understand it, so this sudden mystery act it has been playing has led to many, many texts/SnapChats/FB messages to my competitor friends, simply exclaiming, “WHY BODY?!” in the past few weeks. It has also led me to neglect y writing, as I try to figure my body out for the thousandth time, pouring over my training and nutrition logs to try and figure out what is going on. Last prep, I was with you every step of the way, and things played out beautifully. I could account for every reaction, every change, like clockwork, and I was excited to share this with you because I knew it to be true.


This time, I’ve struggled to do that. I’ve struggled a little to get a handle on my body: the KISS method and the bodily responses of the very same carb cycles that I have implemented for years have gone haywire. Competitors will say, as though some trope of which I was unaware, “Every prep is different!” Truly, though, I didn’t think it would be. This is my body, the very same body that I have built, surely it would just do what I asked of it? But my body has changed- the composition, the muscle I have built since my last show, the stimuli I have provided via training, and so of course things would change.

I never want to share what I can’t account for and back up with evidence and experience, and so in my trials and errors, I’ve simply been put into the position of an observational participant, the experimenter and the lab rat, and hoped to gather data to share once I’ve seen results, or a lack thereof, if that’s the case, too. I’ve found more failures than successes, unfortunately, but I do plan to share in these with you. I’ve been experimenting with reduced carbs on lifting days, and weekly carb refeeds with some success, which I plan to address fully in coming weeks once I’ve got all my research citations and observations put together satisfactorily. Some of this, it would seem, is my own perspective gone awry. People around me- friends, my posing coach, even my students, remark on my progress, but I see problems at every turn.


I remember this- this is what bodybuilding does to me. Two weeks out sees me crying on the floor at the gym sometimes, though only a week, two weeks, three weeks prior I was dancing around the house in booty shorts, truly feeling myself, now frustrated over perfection that doesn’t exist, or that does, but I cannot see. This is part of it- particularly with being my own coach. It’s near impossible to remain objective when looking at your body; to separate how you feel, physically and emotionally, from what you see in the mirror and make decisions based on solely the latter. This is dangerous territory, and it helps to have outsiders keep me grounded- my husband and friends- lest I get swept up in this pursuit of perfection and begin making rash decisions.

Two-weeks-out-Stephanie is a different Stephanie than any other time


On the upside, even though my calories are slightly lower than last prep, largely due to the fact that I gave myself only 8 weeks to prep after returning home from my Australian vacation, I’ve found very little strength loss during this contest prep, even at two weeks out. It’s looking like my stage weight will be around 4 to 5 pounds heavier than last year- an incredible testament to my time spent competing in powerlifting  since my show last March, and the growth that I was able to do in this time, assuming I come in at a comparable body fat percentage. I’ve scheduled a second DEXA scan for the weekend after my show, and I’m really excited to see the results, as compared to my scan in January, when I had been eating slightly above maintenance for a while.



Overall, I’m pretty energetic, my mood has been fairly stable (when comparing to last prep, as noted by my lovely and ever-supportive and understanding husband), and I feel overall pretty good, despite the internal arguments I have with my body over how I look day to day. Last night’s squat session was my last chance for a pretty heavy powerlifting session- I’ve found that a heavy leg day will make me retain a bit of water for a few days following, so, at 11 days out, I’m taking no chances. It was also my first squat day in about three weeks. I took some time off squatting to work on unilateral work, replacing squats with lunges, after seeing an imbalance in my quad development as I leaned out. It went incredible, seeing me pyramid up to 215×3 at my top set, and feeling really, really good. Mentally and physically, I needed that. A good friend celebrated with me, saying “Squats are good for the soul,” and I couldn’t agree more. I most definitely felt those squats deep, deep in my soul.


And quads.

I keep my soul in my quads, is what I’m really saying.

Soul kept here


Sometimes, this surprising maintenance of strength and overall good-feeling leads to feelings of self-doubt, which are common in contest prep: Am I just not trying hard enough? Is my deficit not steep enough? Why am I not suffering, like other competitors are complaining about? Shouldn’t I feel hungrier?  SHouldn’t I be weaker? Shouldn’t I be progressing faster? But the numbers- my lifts, my caloric calculations, they don’t lie. Photos taken each Sunday, along with measurements via tape and calipers, they don’t lie. Slow progress is progress, still, and I’m constantly reminding myself that suffering for the sake of suffering does not a better competitor make.


A healthy mind and a healthy body are still the goals, in the long run. 


Two weeks out, head down, pushing through.

Ghisela Designs was so incredible, sitting with me to pick a pattern based on my inspiration, and let me touch all the gems until I was pleased with the color choices I had made!

My suit is ready to go- and dear lord it’s prettier than I ever imagined, my tan is booked, the hotel is waiting, and I even have the beginnings of a squad coming to cheer me on, despite the show being a hundred miles from home. (That said, if anyone is going to be in the Rancho Cucamonga, CA area in May 28, 2016… my squad is adopting. There will be cookies aplenty, and then celebratory pizza and beer to follow the night show!) Things are coming together, I just need to be patient and persistent at the same time. This show is a pro-qualifier, and I want it. Bad. I’ve set myself up to succeed and I damn well plan to stick to that path.

And yes, I will play that bullshit I’m not showing you my suit color until show day game. Because I can, and I like it.

No bullshit, no peak week trickery (plan on a detailed peak week write-up, too!) or bro-science guru promises, no finger-crossing; steady with the science, as always. My body continues to be my N=1 research study, and I experiment to learn, and to better inform myself and anyone who cares to pay attention to my findings. Every adjustment of macros or training programming is an opportunity to learn, and I am careful to remind myself of this daily as my body presents it’s findings.

Finishing strong- like a power builder should.
Let’s GO!




9 thoughts on “Coming to Terms with Those Differences

  1. You’ve got this girly! You look fantastic!

    I feel you on the sedentary life. I leave work some days and only get 1000 steps in a day, as opposed to always hitting my goals on campus.


    1. Ugh, awful! I’ve taken to literally doing laps around the basketball court on my seventh period prep time in order to just MOVE my body a bit. Sometimes I do planks in the teachers’ lounge fourth period.


  2. You’re looking great right now! I went through something similar a few months ago – feeling like a stranger in my own body. I have had to relearn what it needs all over again. It has been an incredibly humbling journey. You two will understand each other better again soon 🙂


  3. It’s definitely disconcerting, when I’ve spent so long having such a great relationship with and understanding of my body, but I really do need to just take this opportunity to learn, which is also great.


  4. who is your suit made by? The black and white on Instagram was amazing, so I can’t wait to see the colour! (People kept telling me that my suit didn’t fit correctly at my show. 😦 I was very sad.)


    1. Oh no! Suit fit is so important! Actually in the photo I posted in this post, I named the designer and linked to her website! She designed my suit last year AND this one, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the fit and quality, and she’s so, so easy to work with.


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