While I cannot claim I have all the answers, I can say from experience having competed in 3 shows and having to take nearly 6 months off the gym after a car accident, post competition blues and body dysmorphic disorder are very real and can be very serious if one is not prepared. Having a game plan for both before and after a show is key in avoiding post competition depression, body image issues and in some cases, eating disorders. While your coach should help prepare you for this process, unfortunately not all of them will or you may have prepped solo, so here are a few of my personal tips to help avoid this issue.
- Make it about the Process
Focus on the process of prepping for a show instead of the outcome. If you go into preparing for a competition with expectations of how your physique is going to look or how well your going to place and then you don’t meet those expectations, the results can be frustrating and depressing. Focusing on the process and giving it your best in all areas (training, diet, posing etc) will leave you feeling much more accomplished knowing that you gave it your all and brought your best to the stage.
- Plan for after Competition
After months of mentally, emotionally and physically preparing for a fitness competition, once its all over you may find yourself feeling lost and not knowing what to do next. We spend all our time focusing on this one day without planning for afterwards. Having a plan or a new goal for once the show has ended is a great way to keep you focused.
- Reverse Diet
While you deserve nothing more than to reward yourself for months of sticking to your prep diet, a reverse diet can help prevent post diet rebound. Increasing calories incrementally will allow your metabolism to reignite and catch up to the surplus calories. If you consume an excessive amount of calories too soon the body will attempt to store these calories and in turn can lead to metabolic damage and rapid weight gain.
- Be Prepared for Change
Staying ‘stage lean’ is not ideal or practical. During the ‘cutting’ phase your adrenal glands and hormones are working overtime and to try and stick with it will only cause burn out and can lead to long term health issues. While it is possible to stay lean year-round this will look different from your stage ready physique. You will gain some weight back after the show and that’s ok, you need to properly fuel your body to regain strength so you can get back to work on improving your physique.
- Take time off
Taking some time off the gym after competition can be beneficial both mentally and physically. Rest will allow your hormones to balance out and your body to repair after undergoing such stress and demand.