When I first started to take the gym more seriously, competing or abs weren’t even in my set of goals. I just wanted to feel comfortable in my own skin again after indulging in the things that college has to offer.
Of course like any passion, you begin small and you fall in love with it. You take the small steps and before you know it, you’re sprinting towards a finish with out enjoying the surroundings. Isn’t it funny how everything becomes a race with everyone else instead of with ourselves?
After a heavy debate with myself and my partner at the time, I decided I was going to compete in 2013. At this time, competing and Bikini weren’t as big as they currently are. You couldn’t ask a random if they had the time, and in the same conversation ask them when their next show is. So I was embarking on something I knew very little about. My cousin had competed the year before and seeing her photos online and how happy she seemed motivated me to take the step for myself and just try! (Thanks Karinne 😉 ) I wanted that. I wanted to be lean and have crazy hard abs and to show up places and have people ask to see my 6 pack. I would walk in to the party and the music would slow. The party would all stop to turn towards me as I lift up my shirt to reveal “man abs” is what I call them. Crazy, rippling, prominent abs. With a satisfied smirk on my face like “I know, right? I have abs so I am forever content!” (I have a very wild imagination).
But most of all, I wanted to find a passion. Something that drove me everyday to wake up and crush my day with purpose. Something with an end goal that would keep me motivated and inspired when I had days that made me wonder “What’s the point?”. I had just recently made a huge career change from being a Conservation Officer to a personal trainer. What better way to walk the walk then to compete in a bikini competition and prove to myself and to others that I was dedicated to “fitness”.
I’ll never forget receiving my first meal plan from my coach and sending him progress photos. I took the photos and spent less than a second observing them. I had just spent 2 years working on my current physique (running and watching my diet). “Oh fuck..I’m ready now?” I was so pleased with myself. I sent the photos and to my disappointment, my coach replied saying that I needed to gain quite a bit of muscle mass in the next few months if I wanted to compete and do well. I couldn’t believe it. I was currently sitting at about 135lbs and was tiny. When I say tiny, I mean I had very little muscle mass anywhere. I recall telling my partner that I didn’t think that I had any fat to lose? where was it going to come from? Oh..we found it.
I spent the next few months eating more food than I had ever attempted to eat. Oats, chicken, rice, broccoli, protein powder, beef and egg whites. I would sit down with someone to have a meal and I remember even my dad, an ex CFL football player was shocked at the amount of food I was consuming. Did it ever bother or worry me? No. Because I knew I was working towards something and it would benefit me in the end. In those three months I went from 135lbs to 148lbs. I can honestly say during this time I was never self conscious about the weight gain. If anyone ever mentioned anything I would justify it by saying I’m competing and its all muscle (not quite Linds).
Then came the cut. My coach decided it was time to shed some of the weight and see what was underneath all of my “stuff”. The weeks went by and I couldn’t believe how fast the weight was coming off. I would reach a number on the scale and think “O.k. this is where we stop”. But we would keep going. I remember having a discussion with friends about it and saying that I wanted to tell my coach at the time that I was ready and didn’t want to lose anymore weight. This was supposed to be a bikini competition and as far as I knew, you were still supposed to have some body fat and curves left (silly Linds that’s what they want you to think). I remember my dad coming to watch my first show and stepping into the gym where I worked to greet me and his eyes said it all. He hugged me and I could feel him squeezing me almost as if to say “Where the fuck did she go?” He asked me how the training was going and I said it was going really well. He looked at me and asked if I was sure I wasn’t going to be too skinny? Which was already in the back of my mind. I told him that I was just following protocol.
When show day came, I had dropped all the way down to 122lbs. Now, for someone who grew up eating meals with two brothers and my pops for most of my life..122lbs hadn’t been a thing since I was probably 15 years old. I was so small and I couldn’t believe that was something that I was trying to achieve. In this case, this isn’t the result of too much cardio or an extremely strict diet. This is the industry of bodybuilding and competing. I told myself I was way too skinny and I would never win anything looking like this. I didn’t know who would look at me in person and say they wanted to look like me. I didn’t even want to look like me. The women who I saw in the change room that I personally thought were too thin, started to place in their categories. Not only that, they started to win.
I remember talking to my family and friends and telling them what I had seen. I started to panic and wonder what I had gotten myself into. I took my partner aside and said “What the fuck is this? I thought this was bikini??” When my class went up on stage, I had the most fun I had ever had in a long time. As someone who was used to being on a stage growing up, dancing, singing or acting. This was home for me and I loved the stage. I missed the spotlight and the cheers from the audience and showcasing my hard work. Even if I thought I was too skinny and would probably place last because of it.
To my surprise, I placed 2nd. I was stuck somewhere between being happy that I placed at all, and being pissed off that I didn’t win. I also couldn’t help but also think “Hold on..I placed second in the skinny contest”. Its a very crazy high when you compete. You feel as if you’re invincible and the adrenaline is pumping through out your entire body. All that I knew for sure, is that I competed for myself and no one else. I posted very few photos on social media during that prep and the first photo was of myself and my 2nd place trophy. I didn’t share what I was doing with people because for the most part, I wondered if anyone would understand. Not only that, why would they care what I was doing? Sometimes I wonder if competing or fitness would be as popular as it is today, if social media didn’t exist. If in order for someone to see your photos or the final package, you had to send it to them personally or they would have to come to watch you compete in person.
Now, if you’ve gotten this far in my little story I will tell you just a few of the lessons that I learned during my first prep:
- Competing is fucking hard on your self image. If you thought you were hard on yourself before, guess again.
- Any goal that you set for yourself that requires above average dedication, will challenge most relationships in your life. Some may fail, others will strengthen.
- Anytime you are playing with your metabolism to the extreme, you are committing to a long term battle with balance.
- I dieted down as much as I could and I still didn’t get the abs I was looking for, because I’m not genetically built like other women.
- They say Bikini is about a feminine shape and a higher body fat percentage. You’re supposed to look like the women on the covers of fitness magazines. Well I cant imagine possibly achieving a lower body fat percentage naturally.
- When you are changing your body to these extremes, you are also changing your mind. You’re challenging your mental state. When you look in the mirror and the tiny little shape is gone, you have to remember that it was for one day only. That isn’t you. It’s just a version of yourself.
When I compete now I tell myself that this is a character that I’m playing, and its not the real me. I am a bikini competitor but that’s not WHO or ALL that I am. Fitness should be about what makes you feel good everyday. Not just the days that you happen to be a little leaner or possibly see a vein. At the end of the day, no one gives a shit if you have abs or not. If you give back and treat people with respect as often as you can and live an active life. That to me, is a fit person. Abs or not.