The Life of a First-Time Competitor

By Guest Contributor

Jeremy C. Stockton

Age: 22

Occupation: Welder

The start: The thought of competition has always been heavy on my mind. After years of contemplating it, I developed the foundation needed both physically and mentally. I came across an incredible coach based in Australia, Jake Abel. He's led one of the strongest teams I know of, and I decided to put my faith in him.

What it takes and how to see it through: I’m a firm believer that if you have followed a program or meal plan for a significant amount of time, you wouldn’t have an issue starting prep. But where most people fail is following that plan for months, giving it 100% even on the days you don’t want to or feel you can’t. Come those last 4-6 weeks, taking everything you started with and seeing it through to stage can be extremely challenging. But having the mindset to not give up and succeed will help you see it through!

Dealing with ups and downs: This statement is used so much in today’s world. “If it were easy we’d all have it”. During my prep, I had thoughts of giving up, I experienced exhaustion from work and the 4hrs of sleep per night, lack of recovery most days, wanting to eat anything and everything in sight. But staying focused on why I wanted to achieve this goal is what helped me most. I had good and bad days but I learned how to deal with the ups and downs. 

How a competition prep can change the way you view life: Many of us who compete are not considered normal. In fact, to the average person, we are looked at as "crazy", or even "gross". Once we reach what most people consider extremely lean, we have to take it to the next level. Our lifestyle affects everythin: what we do on a daily basis, who we hang out with and/or how often...Our relationship with food can change- how we view “bad” foods vs. “clean” foods. Taking our spare time to rest and recover vs. going out with the guys on a weekend night. For many experienced competitors, these things have become a way of life. For a first timer on the other hand, it can be one heck of a learning curve!

Fight the cravings: The saying my coach, team, and a few of my gym friends have always preached is, “The decision you’re about to make is going to bring you one step closer to your goal, or one step away from your goal”. That’s not an easy pill to swallow when you want to destroy a bag of rice cakes, jar of peanut butter, with a side of pancakes, and a peanut butter banana sandwich. But I knew that if I had eaten those things in an unstructured way, it could indeed hinder my progress. Did I really want to have that 15 minute temporary satisfaction followed by an extra 1hr of cardio in the gym that week? The mind is a powerful thing and it can be on your side or against you. Go for a walk, turn on your favorite song, maybe it’s time for your next meal, great! There are many ways to occupy the mind until the craving is gone.

The week before: Ahhhh, nerves are going nuts, you’re not “lean enough”, will your peak week go right, and what if I don’t come in on time? I was “that guy” during peak week. I stopped seeing results weeks out. But my incredible team kept stressing this: “It’s the work put in when results are minimal if at all any visible to you that come out stage day”. That couldn’t have been truer! Peak week is the week to take it all in, your training lightens up, you relax, look forward to show day, stay strict as you have been to your meal plan, because all of the hard work is over. With some tweaks, everything comes in just as it should.

Stage day: The lights, stage, nerves, spay tans, yummy carb-filled foods for pump up. So the time is here. No matter if you had an 8 week prep, or a 25 show the world what you are so proud of: the hard work, restless nights, mood swings, late night hunger, the determination and consistency you put in. Enjoy every moment of it, meet new people, share stories, take down numbers, because at the end of the day you’ll never know where those things may take you! Most importantly, remember what you did to get there and why! Each and every one of you did this for you. You did something most others couldn’t, made it to stage and for that you have already taken a win.

Post show and its reality: The time has come, all of your friends and family have come out to support you. But let’s be real, there’s only one thing on your mind…FOOD! Clean or dirty, you are ready to eat! Definitely enjoy and embrace the food choices you make, as you have earned it! This topic has tons of argument behind it, so I'll share what I did.

After my post-show treats, I took the day after and had what we called an untracked day. I did a 70-30 split when it came to the food choices. At the end of the day, I had still eaten entirely too much. I contacted my coach to have my reverse meal plan sent over right away. Upon receiving that, I still found myself snacking and I lost all self-control. Long story short, before I knew it, in 4 short weeks I had gained back half of the weight I cut for show. Being 300lbs my freshman year in high school and seeing how I ate those 4 weeks made it clear as to why I was so heavy then. Those that know me know that anything I do, I go all out, giving it everything I have. Well, that included my food. I had what we call a post-show blow out. I was not nearly prepared for the post-show rebounds, stresses, and shock I was going to go through. Setting the binge aside, it has become clear  that I will not rebound in such a bad way going forward. I know what can happen and I am prepared post second show. 

In reality, our show-day bodies are not year-round bodies. Going to extreme measures to reach low levels of body fat, hormones being out of whack, metabolic rates not knowing how to act, the digestive track trying to handle new foods after going so long without them...your body is a machine, you put diesel in a gas car and it’s going to shut down. Having to take things slow upon reintroducing what most call dirty food, or even alcohol is a process. But in doing so, getting back to living a normal lifestyle, being involved in social events or dinners, with moderation, you can build up to a healthy surplus and stay decently lean if you are willing to put the work in.

Conclusion: There is much more to talk about, but those were just some of the key details in my prep that stood out the most. Keeping the strong mindset, not giving up and seeing a goal all the way through, battling the hard times, and learning how prep affected my life as a whole. Competition isn’t for everyone but if you’re willing to do the work, it's worth the challenge!

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