Saturday, 21 May 2016

1 sleep to wait...what have I learnt?

20 weeks ago, Mikey my PT said to me;
“Throughout this process, if nothing else, you’ll learn something about yourself”
Now and again that thought has popped back into my head and I’ve asked myself on a number of occasions; ‘what have you learnt?’, ‘what has this taught you?’ and this week especially I’ve reflected upon this often.
For me learning is a huge part of my life. And I don’t mean burying my head in a text book (although I have done a fair bit of that over recent years too!) but I mean learning as a person, taking lessons from each situation in life and using experiences to become a better person.
It’s one part of my life that I have a love/hate relationship with as because of my constant desire to want to learn and improve there are certain things that I don’t really partake in because I don’t see the benefit they add to my life. I’m trying to learn (ironically!) that it’s ok to do certain things purely for the enjoyment and there doesn’t always have to be a productive element to everything I do but that’s something I struggle with.
Take for example reading. I don’t get much chance to read for enjoyment but when I do like if I’m going on holiday and fancy a book to relax by the pool with, you will never see me with a fiction book. I just don’t see the point in reading something that is completely made up. Why would I want to do that? I’d much rather pick up an autobiography and gain an insight into someone’s real life and learn about some of the things they might have accomplished or endured. Or read a book on something factual that I can apply to my life such as health & nutrition. My friends often read fiction books and say ‘but it’s a chance to escape from day to day life and just transport your mind for an hour into a different world’. And I do get that and think that would be quite a nice way to relax sometimes. So it is something I’m trying and this week I’ve tried to get my head into a recommended fiction book. I struggle to maintain concentration with it but I am actually quite enjoying it.
Anyway I digress slightly with that but essentially what I’m trying to say is that I always want to take something from every situation and constantly strive to improve myself as a person.
So here are a few things that I’ve learnt whilst prepping for this bodybuilding competition over the last 20 weeks. And a few things that I probably knew already but it’s made me more aware of or more appreciative of…
You can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it

Despite the physical aspect of training which is obviously vital, bodybuilding is 100% a mental sport. It’s all about the mind. How disciplined you are. How much you’re willing to sacrifice. How strong your willpower is. How bad you want to succeed. I soon realised early in the process that in order to achieve this goal I was going to have to get my mind switched on first. The first 8 weeks my mind just wasn’t engaged for whatever reason. I struggled massively and hated it all. I had a word with myself after a couple of reality checks and from then on in, my mind was fully focused on the end goal. And even I’m amazed at the willpower and mental strength I’ve shown to push through it. When I look back now I don’t quite know how I’ve stuck it out but I have and I’m so proud of that. If you want something bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it.
I’ve learnt who my true friends are
Bodybuilding is a selfish, isolating sport and one that not many people understand. And I can fully appreciate why. But you look at those around you to support you on journeys in life regardless of what that journey is or whether they understand it. I have a good network around me and I’ve learnt how important that is over the last 20 weeks as if it wasn’t for certain individuals I wouldn’t have got through it, especially on those tough days. It’s fair to say as well that some people have disappointed me with their lack of support but I’m not going to dwell too much on that other than to say you remember that and it also makes you appreciate those around you who do stand by your side through everything and support you on ANY journey you choose to take.
My appreciation for food is so much higher
Living on such a boring, repetitive diet, you think of all those times that you’ve taken for granted having whatever meal you fancy or doing ‘normal’ things like having a BBQ when it’s sunny or going out and grabbing a Nandos with the girls. Not being able to do that for so long has been the hardest part of this and I can’t wait to be able to enjoy normal meals again and have variety in my life. I’ll live a healthy lifestyle of course but everything in moderation. I’ll certainly appreciate the occasional bar of chocolate or piece of cake much more than I ever did before.
And with that my appreciation of a social life
This goes hand in hand with the food element but this is something I’ve found really tough. I work very hard all week and you look forward to your weekends so to then not actually be able to do much or join in with things, is tough. Previously I would be out grabbing coffee and a cake with a friend or heading out occasionally for the odd cocktail or just having a day out shopping with a stop off for lunch. I lead a healthy lifestyle still before when I did all of the above but it was in moderation and I had balance in my life. Bodybuilding doesn’t accommodate for a balanced lifestyle so I soon learnt that all of these things had to stop as they just weren’t compatible. I would either be out frustrated and hungry because I couldn’t eat anything on a menu and couldn’t take my lunch bag with me on a shopping trip let alone have access to any facilities. Or I was just tortured by all the temptations around me so it was just easier not to bother going. I’m so much more appreciate now of a social life and have got some lovely plans lined up over the next few weeks which I know I will enjoy every second of now and not take one bit of it for granted.
The world of bodybuilding is a crazy one
I have to admit I knew very little about bodybuilding before I started comp prep and to be honest it’s probably a good job as I might not have got involved in it had I known all the ins and outs haha. The bizarre things you have to do to get your body stage ready, especially in the last couple of weeks of prep is unreal and I’d have never imagined before that the few days before comp I would spend laid up on the sofa, not training and knocking back glasses of wine. The complete opposite to what the other 19 weeks of prep has entailed. I have learnt so much though throughout this whole process; about my body, what it reacts well to and what not so well to. I’ve learnt about the importance of supplements and which ones to take in order for me to perform at my best and look after my body. I’ve learnt so much in the gym in terms of training programmes and exercises…and I’ve learnt how to do pull-ups after never having any upper body strength before. Bodybuilding is a crazy world but there’s a part of it I absolutely love and I’ve certainly enjoyed being part of it for this period of time; I can see why it gets addictive. Whether I’ll continue to be a part of it is a question for another day.
This has been a daily ritual...
Each and every day I’ve learnt something new and all of the above lessons have helped me to become a better person. I have more patience overall (although at times it probably hasn’t seemed like that to people when I’ve been snapping at everyone), my mental strength has developed further as has my resilience which I know will help me in so many walks of life. I’ve always had a good work ethic but it’s made that grow too as you literally cannot achieve in this sport without a solid work ethic. And I feel more rounded as an individual for the whole experience. The highs and the lows, it’s been a phenomenal journey and one I’m going to be so proud of completing when I step on stage tomorrow and I’m a better person for doing this.
The sense of achievement too; one ticked off the bucket list that’s for sure and certainly one to tell the grandkids about one day. It’s one of those things that no one can ever take away from me and I will always have that sense of pride and satisfaction for smashing it. It has genuinely been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life and that’s no exaggeration. Weighing out every meal, getting up at a silly hour to go train, eating the same day in and day out, missing out on social events, spending weekends sat in on my own sometimes, learning the art of posing, picking myself up after a set-back, training relentlessly day in day out, not having a weekly cheat meal, having to avoid any treat going and not even being able to have a ‘normal’ meal because it will throw out your plan. The guilt if you have an extra scoop of protein one day or lying in bed hungry not being able to sleep, because you’ve eaten all your calorie allowance so can’t have anything else. Becoming a social recluse and dealing with the moody days far too often, as well as everyone else around you dealing with them.
It’s the little things that make a big difference. And it’s the little things that people don’t see or appreciate. Those who have done this before will know exactly what I mean and there’s no room for slip ups in this game. It’s absolutely a science.
Friday's abs...
In 24 hours I will be ready to head to the venue for registration. My nails are done, eyebrows are fresh, I’m heading to be tanned up this afternoon and I couldn’t be more excited for tomorrow. This is the last post I’ll do before I step out on that stage so I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all the support you’ve all given me over the last 20 weeks; it has meant the world to me. And I can’t wait to get out there and smash this final part. Thanks for reading…and I’ll see you on the other side…in the biggest food coma you can ever imagine no doubt.
Enjoy the weekend…

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