Here it is my postsurgery ten week bod. Another area I have been avoiding touching on, but for me to fully share what all entails recovering from an injury it must. Especially being a coach and competitor I hold responsibility to share what I have learned. Who am I to advise countless athletes on being good and forgiving to their own bodies if I hold grudges on my own. They come to me for answers and instill trust that I can steer them correctly and I always want to just be honest with what I know and have learned the hard, first hand way. Coaches and “fitness” has not always been as honest and upright to me about what really goes on and how to treat your body and I aim to be above that for my girls. This is freaking hard for me to post. No one is always perfect and when your body appears to be, because you are about to get on stage really can be what permanently warps your idea of what is healthy.
Athletes behaviors towards their bodies are on a slippery, self-destructive slope if the motivation is to suppress a negative thought or feeling that is disconnected to performance. Fat, fluffy, chubbs, or whatever you call it is not a feeling. Thoughts and feelings differ from our emotions scientifically speaking. Emotions originate in the limbic system and cause physical changes in your body. Feelings are interpreted in the frontal cortex and mentally represent what is going on. The feelings manifest as thoughts or self talk. Knowing that your “feeling fat” is not an emotion to physically change even the slightest hormone or heartbeat can keep us task oriented to actually make wise decisions. The negative thoughts are brought up by real feelings that are represented by the word “fat”. Your lacking control, angry, jealous, detached, confused about what you want, or craving structure all these are feelings we shield by proclaiming our fluff.
1. What feeling is your “fat” hiding
I have had the privilege to compete in the NPC since 2008 in figure and women’s physique. My placings have had highs and lows, but regardless I learned something from each prep and moved forward to improve. When an injury happens your timeline of when improvement will show through stretches significantly out and to be honest without calculated work it is not guaranteed. The accustomed timeline of my training every year would be shows and my best conditioned body in the summer. This summer is drastically different and mentally it has been hard. I have not been immune or above “feeling fat”. Winter months without competing I have been able to focus on performance related goals and hold off on what my abs look like. This gave me balance throughout a year to always be reaching for something and I found worth in physical performance when I was not show ready. Well, right now I cannot perform either. My brain has been a rollercoaster and I am not afraid to admit that, but with injury you must realize the only change is your timeline for your desires and not your will or power to get there.
2. You can stretch the timeline
The thoughts that have helped me the most are not some body positive mantra. That is just not how I am wired and will never be how I advise other seriously athletes to take themselves. I believe you focus, plan and work your ass off towards your passions and natural gifts to do something special. Acknowledgement of what that exactly is, is also acknowledging what that is not. What does the highest level do or look like to achieve what you want. I am not talking about the 1% outlier that can be shredded year round super strong, minimally diet, or whatever, but the majority of elite in your sport. Realization of this will rule out how bad you want the desired goal and what is really driving you.
3. Really own what you want
As much as I miss looking like I am in prep, I do not miss it nearly as much as my strength. Therefore, for me to physically and mentally feel I have hit the milestones to overcome my injury I need to focus on this fact. I have always had strength with a high ability to work and at times I took for granted this skill and chased other “looks” that really were not me and left an unfulfilling feeling even with completion. I still eat the same foods and put only good things in my body. If anything, not possessing the capability to run twenty miles at a time has made me more particular on what foods are okay. I would be lying if I said I did not have those self-debilitating thoughts where I wanted to diet harder or restrict more. But what good would that do? A caloric deficit too high would hinder recovery and prolong or ruin my chances of ever being strong again. Without heavy resistance training I believe it is even harder to shift the body to lose fat and not muscle. Because you are not signaling the body to refuel your muscles with glycogen and perform protein synthesis leaving a deflated look. Muscle loss then impairs metabolism further exasperating the problem. We all have seen a competitor that deemphasizes the actual weight training and loses as much muscle as fat and ends up no tighter and with a higher bodyfat than when they started. So here I am maintaining as best I can without training as the driving force.
Initially after surgery my weight dropped fast, but then with movement and rehab alone I could stimulate my muscle just enough to maintain. Funny to think after all the figure prep years of being coached and trying all training to bring my legs down just not doing anything would have worked. Genetically I maintain and hold muscle very easily which at times like this I am thankful for. Right now I am sitting a few pounds under where I had my meet (158 bf% 12 according to inbody) but I feel much softer. This experience shows just how no matter the time and years of training our bodies just do not want to be jacked and lean and we all go to some degree skinny fat. Females even more so. The longer you keep the more your body welcomes and is comfortable holding this meaty tissue. Going through this has helped remind me of the importance for injured to just do anything especially working with athletes who have a younger training age. The recovery process from training in healthy parts can aid in healing your injury.
4. Your not above skinny fat, minimize self detrimental plans with quick fixes
It is a hard spot to not be frustrated with yourself and feel as if your body is failing you. Your physical self is handcuffing your ability to give effort. But ironically you still are putting forth so much effort and this effort I hold closer and more personally than just another prep. It has been hours of research and applying, sensing different markers of progress that are foreign to my stupid strong, throw it up, find a way/push through brain.
Simple exercises are now work and the intensity to burn just one calorie is dropped to where time is logged and logged just to break even. The hours I would have normally spent leaning out with cardio now is spent on rehabilitation and relearning how to better move this body. All of that adds up to time commitment and challenges the same as if I was prepping. But the result is much different. As far as training the volume and load I cannot handle what I previously could. My typical forty working sets a session and ability to train all day has been put on hold. I can still muster work capacity, but a certain wall is hit where my back just tires out and the breakdown in form is not worth it. This applies to cardio too. I have my moments where I just want to ignore, but my back gets to a certain point where the return is not worth the risk. The risk being a setback and this surgery being for nothing.
5. Time allotment yields precision and “look” doesn’t dictate work—aka Still busting ass
This is my window to fix my back and obsessive tendencies need to go toward learning how to better move. I repeat this is my window. This is my power to not undergo another surgery and still be able to do what I love forever. The platform, stage, and road will always be there. Who cares if it takes eighteen months, six, or twenty-four to my best performance. No one looks back and is like “that total or win did not count because it took a year longer than it should.” No, the end result, is still the end result. What will not always be there is the chance to fix every bad pattern and weakness that an injury exposes and surgery requires. This is a time sensitive chance that must be prioritized. Your body is a lifetime ever evolving goal and these goals are about where you put your time. If the time I spent physically peaking in the past were that easy to maintain (through injury, downtime, shift of priorities) then it really would have not meant anything to me or been that special and disrespectful to the work and laser sharp focus that those periods in my life took. I have been so devoted to coming out of this injury that when it is time to go to athlete mode again I know I can. Being okay with where I am today is being rooted in knowing I will not be here forever.
***This was written for me as much as whoever is reading. Beyond what I would have normally share but adversity over the past few years has a funny way of bringing out what matters. When you learn you share and care less about the judgements that come and more about the preventative role you can take from others feeling pain.
On another note deadlift coming back 300×5, 315×3