A look back at our first competitionBy Oxygen's Staff Blog|Oxygen Staff|2012-05-09 | Comments: 0Rachel Crocker – Fitness Editor
It’s been more than a month since my first-ever fitness competition, the UFE Spring Bash – a generous amount of time for thoughtful self-reflection, lengthy inner monologues debating the pros and cons of the sport and, thankfully, a lot of wine and buttered white bread. (Don’t tell Helen!)
I wanted to provide a thorough reflection of my experience in the hopes that those looking to get into the industry might be inspired to take that first step with a better idea of what to expect. But when I tried to sit down and process exactly what I had learned, it was actually quite difficult to itemize what I had taken away from the experience.
So instead I called on my friend and fellow first-time competitor Megan Wappel to talk openly and freely about our UFE contest adventures. Come play witness to our banter, won’t you?
RACHEL: In the beginning I found that cutting so many things I love – bread, candy, (ahem) alcohol – out of my diet was emotionally and physically painful. But after a while I got used to it – and I started to even look forward to my natural PB and egg white crepes! (Yes, people looked at me like I was crazy – and post-contest Rachel sort of thinks pre-contest Rachel was a little nutty at times, too.) What was it like for you, adjusting to the changes in your diet? Was it easier or harder for you closer to the end?
MEGAN: It was easier than I imagined; I just tried to focus on the light at the end of tunnel. Some days were obviously harder than others, and it did take a good month for me to stop craving sweets, but I didn't realize how much food played a part in everyday goings-on both for both training and social purposes until I had to start cutting them. And I do agree – my PB got the best of me at times!
R: For me, the amount of time that I had to devote to training, prepping and planning was staggering at times. I felt like all I did was eat, sleep and dream the upcoming competition!! (Which, I guess, is sort of true.) Actually, scratch that – the tanning process, wherein a woman sprayed me while I was buck naked in my living room (and I ended up accidentally rubbing off a good chunk of the tan the night before the competition, causing me ample anxiety) and loading up on water days before the show and then cutting it were the worst. I hated that I went from loathing water (when I was drinking eight liters a day) to wanting it more than anything else (especially the day of the contest). What were your experiences like?
M: My tanning experience was a bit stressful! I didn't know what to expect with such a dark spray! Can I lie down? Sit down? Wear clothing? Am I too dark or too light? How long does it take for it to wear off? In the end, I went with the pro who does it backstage at the competition and I found myself drying my tan in a public washroom, butt naked, with four other competitors. We were all chatting about water depletion while trying not to stare!
Loading up by drinking nine to 10 liters in one day and then dropping it down to 500 ml pre-show was hell – probably the worst part of the process for me. Now that I've done it I know what to expect, but everything I looked at reminded me of drinking water. I remember seeing flowers in a pot of water at contest registration the day before the show: I would have done just about anything to run over there drink it, mud and all! Throughout it all I wondered, "What if I do all this and it doesn't even work"? It sure did work though – apparently my body naturally holds a lot of water.
R: I felt that the atmosphere back stage was pretty cool – I talked to a lot of the girls, learned some tricks of the trade, and made a few friends in the process. I didn't really feel as though there was any jealousy back stage; everyone was complimenting one another and helping each other get ready, which was nice to see. What did you think of your fellow competitors?
M: I thought the same thing. We all knew what we had all gone – and were going –through so we had a lot to talk about. I also think once you get to that stage of the game you are just genuinely happy for everyone that is competing. Whether a fellow competitor places or not, you recognize that we all made a lot of sacrifices to get to where we were.
R: Post-comp was a little strange for me. I tried my hardest to stick to a fairly clean diet with a few treats here and there (it was Easter, after all) but I felt like my body sucked up any single calorie I sent its way – and within a week I gained all of the weight back that I had lost. While it wasn't a heck of a lot of weight (and I was forewarned by other competitors about these post-contest changes) I still felt a little depressed, going from so tight and defined back to my pre-pre-contest body so rapidly. I know you had a photo shoot the week after the contest: are you back to your "regular" diet now, or are you still dieting and training hard? What's it been like for you after the competition?
M: The day after the competition I had some chocolate and tacos. Not a great way to ease back into things – I felt awful and my stomach was burning. I also took the next day off, training-wise, before getting back into it on the Monday following the contest so that I would be in top shape for my post-comp photo shoot. After the shoot was over, I felt mentally exhausted from planning meals and cooking all of the time. Throughout those post-comp weeks I was doing a normal training routine – it wasn't crazy like it was pre-comp, but I still hit the gym about an hour and a half everyday.
It certainly is a struggle to see your normal body once you know what the “muscular you” looks like! But we have to be realistic and know that we are healthy (and healthy looking) once we start to introduce things back into our diets. I think that through all of this we have learned to appreciate the benefits of a healthy diet combined with a good, consistent workout routine.
R: You said it! Were you satisfied with how you placed? If you could do it all over again, is there anything you would change? I would probably practice my posing more – every time I walked on stage I forgot what I was going to do. I felt I looked as though I was winging it, although everyone tells me I seemed pretty confident ... which I absolutely faked that first time out on stage. It definitely became easier the second and third times – being in the spotlight actually became sort of fun!
Also, I think I was a little too lean. Judging from the outcome, I think they were looking for someone that was a bit fuller in my categories ...
M: Next time I will be sure to lift my glutes even more. I did work on them hard, but I think three months of training for such a big muscle group is just not enough. I was a little unsatisfied when I left the competition – I wanted to leave knowing exactly what the judges were looking for in regards to physique, but the body types of the girls that placed were just so different that I really didn't know what they were looking for. To have a girl place in both Fitness Model and Bikini doesn't make much sense to me when the criteria are different. However, all the girls looked amazing; to have to pick from 30 competitors puts a lot of pressure on everyone! I just wish I knew what they were looking for!
R: So do you think you'll do another contest? I'm debating whether or not to do one in the fall. (UFE hosts a Halloween-themed event, and the OPA has a local show in September.) I loved the feeling of accomplishment I got from it all, and I think I looked the best I ever have, physique-wise, but it was honestly exhausting – and expensive, between the registration cost, suit, tan, hair and makeup, supplements... the list goes on! I probably spent thousands of dollars on eggs and chicken breasts alone! (Honestly, I was eating a dozen eggs every two days – AT LEAST!)
M: Same with me. I just can’t afford to do this all the time! I want to give myself a good off-season, so I might do another show next year. I also loved the sense of accomplishment and having a goal to work towards. It's very satisfying. I learned more about myself, mentally and physically, in that three or four months time span than I ever have before!
R: Now that you know what to expect, what would you say to other ladies who have been thinking of competing but haven't yet taken the leap? I would personally tell them to go for it: a lot of the girls we spoke to said it was on their "bucket list”, and it's really not about nabbing first prize. I personally felt like I had won just by getting up on stage and hearing my family and our friends - including the über-supportive Oxygen/RKP staff - cheer us both on in the audience. It was surreal!
M: I would definitely tell other gals thinking of competing that it is life changing and to go for it! The things I have learned about myself through this process were worth more than placing in the top ranks. Understanding the way your body works and what it takes to make it work at it's best will not only change your outlook on what you eat and how you train, but it will change the way you feel about yourself from the inside out. GO FOR IT!
Megan’s picture courtesy of Mark Bradfield
Rachel’s picture courtesy of Wil McKeown
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