North American Contest Prep by Becky Clawson
My preparations for competing at the North American Figure Championships have been like condensing a whole season into 9 weeks! Looking at the stages I have gone through, it is like taking a snapshot of an entire competitive cycle from the off season for gaining weight to weight maintenance to leaning out again!
As I mentioned in my last article, my coach, Mike Davies, and I decided to skip USA’s in Las Vegas this year. I had already competed in 5 shows in less than 3 months and my body and mind needed a little break! It turned out to be a very good decision. Getting your body to peak after dieting for so long can be tricky and, in my opinion, it is not beneficial to get in front of the judges if you are not in excellent condition, let alone showing improvements. While I may have been able to pull it off, given my fast metabolism and already depleted state, my health might have suffered. Instead, I took a 2 week break, a “mini off season” to rest and recuperate before getting back to a contest regimen.
My 2 week “off season” involved a relaxed diet designed to help me put on weight, but not necessarily body fat. I indulged myself in the things I had been craving (ice cream!) after Nationals in NYC so I was ready to get back to some cleaner eating! Carb sources were oats, blueberries, rice cakes, and Cream of Rice. Protein sources were egg whites, chicken, protein shakes, yogurt, turkey, and protein pancakes. I also ate a salad every day, a balanced dinner every night and took 2 cheat meals per week. My training was also greatly reduced. I took one whole week out of the gym and then did cardio 3 nights per week and 3 mornings lifestyle permitting.
From this plan, I was able to put on about 10 pounds (much of which was water weight) but this was good for me, given my history of having difficulty gaining! My body was rebounding from months of dieting as well and I certainly felt and saw the effects!
After 2 weeks of relaxing, it was time to get back to contest prep!
Seven weeks out:
Diet: I went back to eating 8 times per day to kick start the metabolism a bit. Protein sources were egg whites, chicken, tuna, orange roughy, and shakes. Carbs included oats, white potatoes, grapefruit and of course lots of veggies! Drinking only 1 ½ gallons of water per day and taking lots of vitamins and minerals plus flaxseed oil.
Cardio: I went back to doing about 10 cardio sessions per week, mostly interval. I did a lot of work on the step mill and did some running too, which is a change of pace for me. Plyometrics, as always, were a main component!
After 3 weeks on the above plan, I went to see my trainer. I had only lost about 1-2 pounds at this point and was a bit concerned but this was probably because I have been so lean all summer! It is hard to get used to being in a bigger body, especially when the change is so drastic and you have to put on weight so quickly! But once he saw my physique, he said not to worry and that he could have me in contest shape in 2 weeks. I was relieved. I prefer to be ahead of schedule as far as dieting goes!
So now I am on my diet and training program that will take my up until I dryout, one week before the show.
Four weeks out:
Diet: I am still eating 8 times per day but my protein intake is higher. Protein sources are egg whites, orange roughy, chicken, flank steak, and tuna. Carb sources are Cream of Rice and veggies such as spinach and carrots. I am also eating almonds and taking flaxseed oil. I have increased my water intake to 2 ½ gallons per day again as well!
Cardio: I am still doing 10 sessions per week but I am running a lot of stairs and doing tons of plyos! I am doing lots of work on my glutes and hamstrings. Cardio works well for me, not only burning fat, but shaping my leg muscles as well.
I should also note that I have switched my lifting schedule again so that I doing weight training in the morning, performing my cardio after I lift. I sometimes find that I can lift harder in the morning and, at this stage of my prep, I need to ensure I am working as hard as possible. We switch my training from morning to evening occasionally depending on my schedule. This also keeps my body guessing and ensures that it will keep responding and improving after such a long summer of contest training.
I am happy to report so far so good! I have dropped at least 5 pounds of water so far and as of this writing, I am 3 weeks out. I am feeling good and excited to get back onstage once more before the off season!
Many people contacted me asking why I did not go right on to USA’s but I know, looking back, we made the right choice. Since I could not guarantee that I would peak just right for the show, it was best to take a physical and mental break and come back strong for one last show. I never want to step on stage less than fully prepared! When people (and judges!) think of me as a competitor, I want them to remember I am always in shape and that I always present my best possible physique. Taking this necessary break ensures that!
We shall see the end result in 3 short weeks in Cleveland!