It had been just over two years since I last competed in this same bodybuilding show, and had won my class back then.
Time off allowed me to get several vital preparation steps in place, and for some decent workouts. Some of the workouts were performed at home.
The great thing was allowing time to get the tan done right. It’s a costly process but worth doing properly. First of all you get all your body hair removed from the neck down, which took two hours, and that was on Monday. On Tuesday evening I returned to the same beautician, who did a great job to get my first “all over tan” (one which gets progressively darker after application).
This was an applied lotion that I was advised not to get on my hands (or anywhere else, for that matter).
By Friday morning, and obviously quite darkened, I returned for a third session. The beautician put me in a booth and sprayed me with more fake tan head to toe, front, back and sides. I was looking about as outlandish as a crash landed Martian.
Despite the time involved, all of this process feels NORMAL now (and 3 years in, I’m not sure if that’s good or bad).
Alongside this, I had some serious posing business to attend to.
Needing to keep it simple, I decided to keep with classical (my favourite anyway), and settled on Chariots of Fire (Vangelis).
My long suffering wife, supportive as ever, proved essential to my cause. Just a note here to say about body builders’ wives – they are quite amazing. They deserve a medal the size of a manhole cover to put up with what we do. Seriously, I don’t think I could have done it without her.
She was helping me to choreograph something respectable, which was useful as I had a few meetings with Don Styler lined up (the show organiser).
The Wednesday evening of the week was my first meeting with Don Styler – ex-photographer, ex-body building judge, ex-competitor, show organiser, gym owner and overall governor of the sport.
Don, Don’s partner and my wife took the position of judges (literally lined up), and Don ran through the drill.
- “Walk on the stage.”
- “Quarter turn right.”
- “Remember keep TIGHT, you’re being judged at ALL times.”
- “Posture, head UP!”
- “Think about those calves, keep them tight!”
- “Aim the side chest here, WE ARE OVER HERE!”
Don was demonstrative and enthusiastic about progress that had been made over the previous two years of training. Also physique-wise – at my first show three years previously, Don had pronounced me fat. He was genuinely proud that I’d stuck with it.
On conclusion, Don said to return for more practice the following evening, and to practise some more in between times.
Don also chatted about the water loading/sodium loading/dehydration process that occurred towards the lead up to the day of the competition. It’s also known as “popping” in some circles.
This process is remarkably personal and tricky to nail. It also takes tremendous timing to get it to pay off. Often people (myself included) look better the day after the competition, which is hugely frustrating and means that, rather than having full muscles, you end up with flat muscles. Big difference.
Bodybuilding is a strange activity, when you think it’s a sport, an art and a lifestyle. You are creatively trying to achieve a metamorphosis, trying for that bit more, all the time, and then trying to find a method to best show it off.
COMPETITION DAY, Saturday 13th August 2016
My family had visited this year to see what it was all about.
I woke up thirsty on the day, early, but you are not allowed water on the day of competition. It’s a tough call. I couldn’t fully relax. But I felt prepared.
I threw some poses while everyone else was sleeping. Later when everyone was up and about my wife helped apply essential fake tan for the forthcoming event.
My two years of training, since my last show, had not been as ideal as the previous two, mainly as the hours devoted to training were often awkwardly knitted into place while trying to expand my business.
This meant sleeping patterns were often random, too. But I never missed a workout, except for one week when I was ill.
Along the way, in this time, I’d concentrated on arm specialisation.
I’d bulked up, again, to around 12 stone 12 lb (180 lb). I had also done some heavy lifting for a spell, which lead to a couple of personal bests – 167.5kg deadlift and a 92.5kg bench press.
While bulking up I achieved 120kg for a 20 rep breathing squat. I also did a lot of high volume training, which achieved – 40KG military press, 10 x 10 and 115kg dead lifts, 10 x 10.
However. for the previous few months leading up I had concentrated on a cutting phase that required high volume and high reps. Most of these workouts were two hours long, and some of them even three. Isolation work was included in the last eight weeks.
It slowly brought my body weight down from 175 lb to 168 lb.
Cardio, again, was woven into my everyday life as some of my clients were into running, so I’d run with them, my intuition led to huge emphasis on arms and shoulders.
Forearms, calves and lower back were included throughout every phase. Good habits to keep.
A tanita scale reading measured me at below 10% body fat.
Two years is NOTHING in training, it just evaporates. That’s the main thing I’ve learned. I was actually pleased to step on my trusty scales on the day of competition at EXACTLY 168 lbs. That’s only a couple of pounds heavier than last competition, but it is going the right way.
A measure up, revealed (all unpumped)
- Neck 17″ (+1″)
- Left arm 15.25″ (+.25)
- Right arm 15.5″ (+.5)
- Forearms (clenched), both around 14″
- Left calf
- Right calf 15.25″ (+.25 each)
- Chest 42.5″ (+.5)
- Waist 29.5″ (Same)
- left thigh 23.25″
- Right thigh 24.25″
My “V” taper was up by .5″, and the total difference between waist and chest was 13″ now, so I know that’s respectable. The main gains were in my shoulders and arms.
I’m still happy as gain is gain.
On getting to the show I found out there were 27 competitors total, most of which were novices. I noticed the hall was around 70% full already, much more busy than usual for the pre-judging in previous years.
In knowing that most of the group were novices, and they were always first up, I was pleased to realise there would be time, and maybe a lot of it, before it was my turn.
I sat with my wife, family and friends to enjoy the show. Looking to the right of stage I noticed around 10 novices had culminated in the wings, ready to take to the stage.
Various builds of all description and different shades of tan were apparent. I was thinking if I was a judge dealing with THIS level of competition, I wouldn’t know where to even begin.
I mean asides the fact that a few were clearly not in the running, just totally outclassed, the remaining 7 were only in their twenties, with huge builds. So broad, you could barely even fit them in a line up together.
After their individual posing routines were performed, they were lined up for compulsory poses, and for a few, they were drawn out for closer comparison (proving tight competition) and after they had decided on the winners, the next category lined up.
Here were five women all going for the best female “Beach body” category. I knew one of them from my own gym and she looked awesome. The winner in my opinion, but I’m no judge. Time would tell.
Knowing that my time was soon I went round the back to get pumped up and took a gulp of white wine, to vasodylate the main arteries (my first liquid of the day) and add to the dried out appearance.
The pump in my opinion is so important not to miss, it makes you feel psychologically more prepared. OK, maybe it doesn’t make much difference but it’s more about how you feel at this point.
Content that I was more than ready and feeling good, I then found out (JUST as last time) that their was only one other person, in my class.
I looked over to see another figure pumping up, and my wife discreetly made notion that he was my contender.
The guy was MASSIVE. Had a HUGE back and shoulders along with thick set legs. His bald head appeared too small for his body. He clearly possessed a totally different somatotype to me, and I wouldn’t know how anyone could go about comparing us.
I chatted with him, in the wings, and shook hands. He was a nice guy. After our individual routines, they then called us both up to perform our essential poses to get us scored up.
It was now 5pm and all judging for ALL classes was now done and dusted.
The evening show would start in one hour. Allowing a rest bite.
The evening would involve individual posing sections (repeated for every class) and presentations of trophies to each placement.
We got back at just gone 6pm to see that it was now nearly a full house. As things were more relaxed I could really enjoy the show now. Clapping and cheering at anything that deserved it and seriously impressed with the standard of the show this year.
By now they’d given out trophies to the novices and then to the best of another class. which consisted of only 3 MASSIVE and CUT bodybuilders. These were above Novices, in a class of their own. Extraordinary. Maybe semi Pros? Not drug free, I imagine, and definitely a band apart.
My time came around again, to regain another pump and pose to the crowd again.
It was an electric atmosphere, lots of cheering and clapping. And we were both summonsed to go head to head for a “Pose down”. Tremendous fun, this part.. before we stood close and they announced
I had come second this year. It was not MY year. But I’d learned a lot, I had enjoyed it all the same, and had as always learned a great deal. And it was a fair competition.
They took a photo of us both together doing our most muscular pose, which was fun. Trophies and medals were presented. I’m seriously getting better each time, so that’s the main thing.
The girl I knew also placed 2nd in her beach body category, maybe she should have won, to be fair, but it’s only her first show. A woman in her 60s was presented a pro card and an invitation to go to NABA shows.