As I write I can't quite believe that I have competed in my first ever bikini comp. Even more than that, I can't believe five months from the day I said I was going to, has been, gone and flown by and I have squatted and donkey kicked and rowed my way to the depths of my 'fitness soul' (side note: A different soul to my normal one) 5 whole months of spot on macros, more egg whites than a meringue factory would know what to do with, more tuna than I feel ethically acceptable and more body selfies than you would find on Kim K's phone (well maybe not) Never in a million years did I think that the 5 months would come and go, that I would survive prosper and live to tell the tale.
Prepping for a bikini comp was always going to be somewhat of a challenge for me. Not in terms of logistics. I work in a gym so that made training, practically, easier. But in terms of what that meant to me, who I was becoming, what my friends and family thought about it, whether my boyfriend could get his head around it. Would I be ready? Could I push myself that hard? Would I push myself that hard? What if I tried and failed? Would I avoid tryin hard in case I failed? Would I push myself to the limit? Did I need to? Should I? Could I? Will I remain sane, healthy, alert, spiritually open and self aware? Could I do this and somehow hold onto the remnants of real life? Would I survive the mind fuck, the challenge, the prep brain, peak week, all the stuff that everyone talks about so horrendously, that you wonder why on earth anyone in their right mind would attempt such a feet?
You hear people talk, people who have done this before you and they speak of losing themselves, their soul, having comp angst, body dysmorphia, chasing a goal that's not sustainable, getting post show blues, feeling lost when its all done. You hear how they don't go out whilst prepping and they only eat chicken and broccoli and how they do cardio for hours a day, 7 days a week and they drop their calories to 1200 and they kill themselves trying to get lean and when it's over they binge and indulge like the world may end and kill their progress trying to eat all the foods that were so restricted before.
I heard it and I thought... hell no! I read it and I thought, "I am not going to do it this way, not if it means loosing my soul, my self, my "ME"I want to tell the tale with a smile and a memory that would not make me shudder at the mere thought.
So... did I succeed in this fundamental goal? I am 1 full week post comp. Currently, I still have my soul in check. I'm 1 week post comp to the day and the last weeks thoughts have varied, between wanting to do another comp asap, wondering if my body can progress in other ways, shamefully wishing that I could stay comp lean and having a niggling thought that maybe I could, if I was really good, perhaps. Then you find your 31 year old, healthy brain and remember that that body was temporary, as it should be. That comp body, despite it being the body you longed for, for most of your teens, all of your 20s, its a body that is not sustainable all year round. The realisation of this was gradual. I had had time to think about that and come to terms with the fact that the body you thought you could get from a quick cabbage soup diet fix and a few body pump classes, is not a body that is attainable doing the above. Not in the short term, nor for the long term. The ( I will dare say it) painful realisation that those IG bodies are not realistic images of a body that is like that day in day out. Do not get me wrong, some people are born having those bodies. The long, lean, lithe bodies you see in Australian Bikini posts in your IG stream. Some people are paid to have those bodies all year round and some people, pose and find lighting and the correct setting to make them look like they have those bodies all year round. And then... some bodies, like my own, (if I want to live a varied, spontaneous life) will sit with at least 3 or 4% more body fat than comp body. That is a fact. I cannot live in a calorific deficit ALL the time. I don't want to. I want to eat pizza sometimes, and go to a cocktail bar on occasion. I want to have avocado on toast daily and not have to plan my days around 3 hrs in the gym. So I have come to terms with the fact that, no, bikini body bodies are NOT and should not be (for the life I want to live) the 'end goal or a goal in which I can maintain day in day out.
Throughout prep thoughts vary...
"Ooo I can see my abs, I'm hungry, do I have time to do fasted cardio. Shit am I gonna be ready? Will I feel comfy on stage? I like my body now, I don't want to get leaner, do I? Tighter? Firmer? Bloody hell, I need to pose, my friends don't get this... but my boyfriend finally does. How did I become someone who actually likes the gym.. ooo I'm hungry, not gonna do fasted cardio today. Go get a bagel. Eat a goddam bagel"
Competition prep means your brain is in "constant" mode. like you have a constant download circle spinning around and around on your forehead. Your body is of course exhausted. The mind and body like to work against each other pushing and pulling and fighting. Its mentally exhausting. Your brain wants to do one. More. Exercise... and your body is saying "hell no" Your brain wants to do ALL the exercises for butt ALL the time and your body is saying "dont you even dare" Your brain is saying... bikini, posing, lunch, carbs, more carbs, less carbs, refeed, not to refeed, is this pose right, oats, coyo... ooo I want coyo, need protein, shit I forgot to order more protein, coffee, black americano please... and your body is saying...
"Mass...age, frapp...u...cino... egg yolk... please"
And people don't understand. They worry you are getting too muscly or that you might get too skinny. They ask if you are losing yourself in it all, they tell you that perhaps you are fighting a loosing battle, they wonder if it's worth it, what's the point? Why bother? They question if you are obsessed, crazy, boring, now that your priorities are different. Now that you have found something that requires more brain power than even you knew you had. People find, because you step on stage in a bikini rather than get grazed knees and covered in mud doing weird obstacles for 26miles, that it's less 'meaningful' Less of a challenge, less important. People lose themselves training for tough mudder/the marathon. They become focused, they train long hours, they avoid eating things that may impact on their training, results, outcome. Yet they don't put on stripper looking heels and get judged half naked and I understand why therefore its far easier to look down on a bikini competition. I judged it before. I scrutinised over my decision to do one, I questioned why I wanted to, I wondered... "Am I really this person? Do I want to be?"
But truly, to do this, to take part... its one of the most mind, soul and body challenges I have ever dove myself into. To me, I now see it as a sport. I feel like an athlete. I like to do things that challenge me. I haven't always. I'm a lazy person at heart. I wanted it all for minimum effort, until you wake up, late twenties, broke, out of shape, unhappy and you think, the common denominator has to be me. It's not the universe, its me. I wasn't helping myself out. I wasn't doing. I was just waiting. All be it for what I thought was my dream job (acting) and my dream body (anyones but my own) and I was waiting for it to happen to me. And with minimal effort. So I started to dig deep, and find what I loved. In all areas of my life. And asked myself this...
Before I do this, will this raise my level of consciousness, or take away from it?
And it literally made me feel like Ginger Spice again. What a bloody awesome question to ask. For me, this was one of those moments. Will a bikini comp raise my level of consciousness? And of course, It might have all the negative side effects that come with a competition. Comparison, self deprecation, ego... but if I stayed aware, alert and grounded, to the earth, to myself... couldn't I do this and take all the positives from it? Couldn't I do it, pat myself on the back and whether I placed or not, find myself with my consciousness in tact and better yet, raised?
This process so far has made me so much more self aware. So much more in touch with who I am, what issues still remain. I have learnt to want to be strong, not skinny, I have finally stopped needing a thigh gap. I find myself wanting more muscle not less meat on me. I have realised my fear of being successful has always held me back. My fear of winning was far greater than my fear of loosing. I have realised what I am good at, what makes me feel good, I am aware of my demons that creep over me and tell me that I am not good enough, I have accepted that actually, I am, whether I win or loose. There is no validation from 7 judges that can tell me whether I worked hard enough, am in shape enough, when I know I tried, enough. And did enough. Because I felt like I owned it on stage, I felt like I won already.
So did the competition raise my consciousness? Hell to the yizzle. Am I loosing myself in it all. No way, I found more of myself. Am I aware that that was a competition and real life will resume. Of course. Am I prepped and armoured ready for the roller coaster of emotions that are yet to happen, post comp? As ready as I'll ever be.
People may not get it. They, thankfully, do not have to. I have never felt more alive and more happy than I have done in the last five months. Not because I got skinny. But because setting goals and nailing them is liberating. My mum asked me just now, your happy now right? You don't need to do anything but maintain where you are. And I explained that I still want to progress. I still want to make some goals and smash them. I still want to see progress with my body in the same way I want to in my career, my relationships, my mind set. Just because I love my job and I am happy doing what I am doing, that doesn't mean I don't want to own my own studio one day, or that I don't want to write a book or develop a fitness programme that women can use to help them feel good in their skin. anting to progress does not mean that you are unhappy with what you have now. I like my body now, but I am up for the challenge to see what else I can do with it. How else I can develop my body composition, my shape.
So as I go to drink my dragon fruit smoothie by the pool in Bali, and I reflect back to this time last sunday when I was about to go on stage, in my stripper shoes and homemade bikini, all I can say is if you want to do something, if you are thinking about doing it, if you have goals you want to achieve, if you are scared, if your fears want to swallow you up and spit you back out in a mahoosive flem ball...FAAAAK IT... Just go DO IT.
And if someone questions why... just turn around and say "Because I can..."