Just because the competition season is over, doesn’t mean it’s time to throw on the “stretchy pants” and slack off. Being fit and healthy should be your lifestyle, not a part-time job.
For many competitors the end of competition season can go one of two ways:
- Totally off the rails by eating everything you’ve been deprived of during competition. This includes all those empty calorie dishes, mainly comprised of quick digesting carbs, ie: sugar; or
- Stay 100% on your competition meal plan, losing out on much needed “good” calories needed during this crucial growth phase in your training.
I sit somewhere in-between, and that’s where you should be too.
But, I wasn’t always that way. In the past, I would finish my contest, go straight out and gorge on breads, cheese, anything with salt, sweets, etc. My thought was: I deserve this, I worked hard these past few months and didn’t cheat. What damage can I do?
While the damage wasn’t immediately visible, it was there, and by the time I recognized what was happening, it was too late. I had loaded the weight back on, making it harder to condition for the next competition. I realized that as I got older it was getting harder to get back to “show shape”. My body remembered the extreme methods I had to employ to cut the weight down again the following year, and held onto every last calorie like my life depended on it.
I always talked about coming back bigger and badder for the following competition season, but sabotaged my own efforts by not following a consistent off-season program. I finally realized that I had to change my ways.
An effective off-season is a chance to really make the changes you want. If you’ve done your homework and received feedback from the judges at competition, then this is your time to do something with those comments and really work on your weaknesses. You can’t make those changes if you are eating crap, and hitting the gym on occassion. You should be following a periodized training program, which also includes eating the right macronutrients so that your body can turn those extra calories you are now ingesting into good lean muscle. Of course you will put on some weight, but your off-season weight shouldn’t fluctuate more than 10-15 pounds. Everyone is made differently, however. We each have a pre-determined “comfort level” that our bodies like to be at and will fight to get there.
I generally take a few days to chill post-competition. I eat what I like – within reason! – and stay out of the gym. I do that because it works for me, both mentally and on a physical level. Remember, I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, personal trainer or even a social worker – what works for me, may not work for you.
I train hard during competition season and am so focused that I lose sight of the potential for over-training, which happened to me during my last two shows this year. It did me good to take a break from the gym and my meal plan, so that my body could recover. When I eventually headed back into the gym I was glad to be there, and I looked forward to getting back on track with my meals.That’s not to say I’m 100% compliant with everything that goes in my mouth, but I am very close and keep cheat meals to an absolute minimum.
Get to know you
Off-season is the time to get to know yourself. You’ve spent all season getting lean and following a strict meal plan, doing endless cardio and weight training sessions. This is the time to do some of your own research, even if you have a coach that sets out your training and nutrition for you, educate yourself so that you know what is working and what isn’t. That not only helps you, but helps your coach understand what changes you both need to make to get the most out of your training program.
This off-season I am going to focus on glute/ham separation. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have dominant hamstrings, which means they do most of the work when my glutes should be. Now is the time to work on that, starting from the ground up.
Of course, I’m consuming extra calories which also means I can grow. We’ve added more complex carbs (aka sweet potato) and fats into my meals – necessary energy to repair my hard-worked muscles. We’ve reduced my cardio to just 20 minute high intensity interval training sessions, 3-4 times a week. We’ve lowered the number of reps I do, and increased my weight. I love lifting heavy, and am excited to see what progress I’ll make for OPA provincials next year.
My best advice for an effective off-season is: have a plan, and work that plan. Consuming copious amounts of alcohol and empty calories means you won’t have the much needed nutrients to back up all that work in the gym.
Train hard, eat right, but take time to repair and work on those parts of you that need improvement. A great physique is a never-ending process, one you should enjoy. Planning now for your success next season makes getting there, and being where you want to be, that much easier.