Monday, December 14, 2015

When to Fire Your Prep Coach

by Kris Pitcher

Your relationship with your prep coach is a sacred one. It's built on trust, communication, being approachable, and above all professionalism. It's often difficult to find just the right coach, and when you do, you may be wait-listed due to their popularity.

At the same time, it's different from other professional relationships. There's a level of "professional intimacy" if that's a thing...which occurs when you share the kind of information with someone the way you do with your coach. Maintaining balance with professionalism can be a challenge. This is what makes great coaches great. Or bad coaches bad. As with any relationship, things don't always go well.

It's easy to know when to "fire" a client. But do you know when to fire your prep coach? Here are some tips to help you know when the time is right to tell your prep coach, "You're FIRED!"

  1.  Your coach takes ALL the peanut butter out of your diet. This is just cruel because you love peanut butter. Now let's not go to extremes here. Peanut butter aside, if your coach eliminates items without explanation and says, "Because I said so." You need to get more information about WHY changes are being made in your plan. When your coach can't explain flag. You're fired.
  2. Your coach spots you by cupping your...glutes. Did a hand just brush my butt? When your coach puts the moves on you by touching you inappropriately, or using their status or power in the relationship to sexualize or demean you...they are a douche. This can happen regardless of gender. You want to make your coach happy, proud of you, and you want to do what they say...some jokers feed on this power and you need to FIRE this coach. It happens. 
  3. Your coach won't let you eat poptarts every day. I have nothing against the kids who eat poptarts. I've always been clear nutrition is full of value laden choices. The big picture issue is if your coach only knows ONE way to prep, they might not know how to apply the science. Whether you want to do a flexible diet, count your macros, eat vegan, or eat only ice cream your coach should know how to apply the science of nutrition to each client individually to meet their needs. When they only know one way, it's probably the way they did it for themselves for that one show they did. FIRE this coach.
  4. You've texted your coach 345 times today and they won't text you back. Your coach sent you a new plan and you have questions. You've texted a million questions and they are not responding. What gives? Well, it's important to have an understanding of how to communicate with your coach. Are they with clients? Do you have a meeting or appointment where you are to ask all those questions? Were all those things addressed in the plan...if you read it? OR are they just not responsive? If poor communication is a pattern, or they think your questions are stupid, or if they tell you to just do it because they say so...all red flags. When you are communicating within the agreed methods and your coach is non-responsive, FIRE this coach. You need open communication.
  5. Your coach dumps drama like you've NEVER seen. "Girl! I'll send you your diet next week, I have to move...AGAIN!" Professionalism above all. This is a professional relationship. You aren't buddies, friends, etc. - you aren't paying them to have them dump their problems on you, or to hear about indiscretions of other clients. You should expect a professional, confidential, relationship. When your coach has personal drama affecting their ability to hold up their end of the arrangement, red flag. Now, life events happen to all of us. And a certain amount of grace is common, but you know who I'm talking about, and this coach should be FIRED.  
There are enough fantastic coaches out there that you should not stay with someone who has no qualifications, doesn't run a legitimate business, doesn't hold certifications or insurance, isn't professional, doesn't deliver, pay attention to you, or treat you like an individual. 

If you don't have a great match with your coach, find someone else. Prep in itself is too much work, you need to make sure you're supported and in the right relationship. Now you know when enough is enough and it's time to say, "You're FIRED!"

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Getting on the Scale, My Week in Weight

by Kris Pitcher

The morning ritual begins with willing myself to empty my bowels...did I warn you this would be a TMI blog? Not entirely, just as we get started here.

Stumbling out of bed I flip on the light and go to the bathroom to empty my bladder. I slip on my slippers and head to the kitchen. After putting fresh water in the dog's bowl I turn on the light next to his kennel. He's so happy to see me.

I take the dog out and he does his "business". On good days he doesn't need encouragement. On rainy days, snowy days, or REALLY early days...he needs encouragement. "Do your poop." I tell him. And he does. He's a good boy.

Then it's back in the house and he gets his dry nuggets. I put my quarter cup of coffee in the microwave, and I encourage your poop.

I want to be empty before I step on the scale. Success. Then I blow my nose. Just in case? I strip down and march into the dining room - the home of the commercial "Health o Meter" scale. And I step on.

Should I hold my breath or exhale? I move the weights and look for balance, starting where I think it might be. And here's my week in weight:

Tuesday - 130.5
Friday - 132
Monday - 134.5
Wednesday - 132

Now. Most people would FREAK out about those numbers. A four pound fluctuation would send some people into a binge, or doing double cardio or a number of other things. Here's the deal. Our weight on the scale only tells us one thing. It tells us our body weight. That's it.

Between Tuesday and Friday, we had a refeed. Increased glycogen storage, increased water weight (because of the glycogen). Not a big deal, in fact it's the purpose of the refeed. Well done.

Sunday I got my period. By Monday, another 2.5 pounds. Water weight. Big deal. It will go away, along with the feelings of sadness, bloating, anxiety and anger. Kidding, kind of.

By Wednesday, my weight had settled back at 132. Not a bad place. My shape is good, my composition is good (for offseason), and I like the number. I am in fact trying to build.

We get really wrapped up in the number on the scale. It determines what kind of day we'll have, how we'll measure our success, what we'll decide about ourselves. But keep in mind it's measuring EVERYTHING. Water, waste, muscle, fat, bones, organs...all of it. Loss, and gain (hopefully not of your organs).

It's not measuring composition at all. At. All. Did I gain 2.5 pounds of fat. Not even. Was I worried about it? Not even a little bit. Why? Because I got my period and I'd gained water weight. Don't let the number on the scale be the only information you take into consideration as you evaluate where you are each week.

Your week in weight is also going to fluctuate. If you are a slave to the scale, think about weighing less frequently. Not able to make that happen? Put the scale away. Bring it out once a week to weigh yourself.

I hope seeing my week in weight helps you put your own in perspective. And just so you know...I exhale.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Please STOP Asking Competitors These Questions

by Kris Pitcher

Week by week, as I watch my husband come ever closer to his competition date, I cringe each time someone at the gym asks certain questions. I know it's with the best of intentions...but here are some things you should not ask a competitor.

  1. Don't you have a show coming up? Being reminded of this daily, weekly, is simply painful. Yes. The show is still coming up.
  2. When do you start cutting? Cutting started when the diet began. Sixteen weeks ago. 
  3. Do you think you'll ever compete again? I actually want to quit this very moment. Please don't ask me to think about what is after this competition.
  4. You look like you're really shrinking down? Yes. Yes, I feel about as small as a second grader. Thank you for pointing that out.
  5. Are you eating, like, a lot of protein and stuff? No. Not stuff exactly.
  6. What do you want to eat after? Everything. If you had any idea what I'm eating now, you'd retract that question and apologize. 
  7. Your lifts are lighter, is that part of the cutting? No. I am exhausted and my body is about to fall apart. I've lost strength and I am trying to keep from getting injured. 
  8. How old are you? This insinuates you think I should have quit before I started. I'm young, very young.
  9. What happens if you don't win? This just makes my jaw drop. I don't even know what you're asking. Everyone doesn't win...
  10. Can I work in? *Sigh...yes. You can. It's just I really want to get this workout over with and you working in is going to slow that down. By all means, work right in. 
It's not that you should not talk to a competitor. It's just questions like these are like a burning poker being plunged into their eye. When they're asked day in, day out - over and's just as exhausting as the cardio and the caloric deficit. It's like competition questioning endurance.

The final week is upon us, and the questions will dwindle. And then they won't be so hot and poky. If you're a competitor, you can relate to these and other questions that just stop you in your tracks. 

My favorite? Do you work out?

Monday, November 9, 2015

5 Things to Become a Really Great Competitor

by Kris Pitcher

I've observed a lot of competitors. Good ones. Mediocre ones. Ones who could be amazing if they just got all the pieces together. Those ones who are the 2%, and those who just should stay home.

While it takes all kinds to make the world go around, no one embarks on contest prep wanting to just get by. We all want to be really good. Better than really good. Great even. To be great, there are some things you have to do.

  1. Specificity - Really great competitors, regardless of division, train specifically for this sport. You don't become a better marathon runner by swimming laps. And you don't become a better bodybuilder by doing boot camp classes, or yoga. You just don't. You have to lift heavy weights, and use cardio as a tool to burn fat. Period. Specificity. If you have energy to do other things, or focus on other things, you're doing it wrong.
  2. Eat - You must be able to eat. Eat all your food every meal, every day no excuses. Food should not be your source of entertainment and no one cares if you're sick of chicken or if oatmeal makes you gag. This is not the sport for you if you cannot, or will not eat your food and comply with your plan. 
  3. Work - You need to be willing to put in your time and work your way up the ranks. There are no "politics" if you work hard. Let your physique speak for itself. Keep showing up. The days of two shows to turn pro are over. The playing field is too full, and too competitive. Stop dreaming and work.
  4. Be accountable - Accountability to others is great, it can be a strong motivator. In order to be a great competitor, you must be accountable to yourself. Finding your purpose in this sport is a personal thing. Use this as a place of accountability and motivation. You have to want this for yourself.
  5. Focus - Getting your head in the game is critical. This takes clarity, organization, connection to your values. Great athletes have mental focus. This is what transcends them to the top. 
If you hone in on these five things, you will become a better competitor. When you stop blaming other people for your shortfalls, your transgressions, your failures - you'll become a better competitor. 

When you can put in the work and stop "wishing" your program would magically happen - you'll become a better competitor. When you can focus your mental game - you will become a better competitor. When you commit to the training specificity required to truly make progress - you will become a better competitor.

When you eat all your meals and stay on point following your plan 100% - you will become a better competitor. These things will encourage you to become accountable to yourself first. And you will become a great competitor. What are you waiting for? Put the pieces in place to become great!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Your Cheat Meal, Tool or Fool

by Kris Pitcher

It hurt to sit, but when I tried to lay down I couldn't breathe. I propped some pillows up and tried to recline in a semi-upright position, still uncomfortable. Uncertain how long the pain would last I tried to feel happy about what had just happened without throwing up.

What happened was the cheat of a life time. Half a pizza, waffles with peanut butter and syrup, chocolate bars, ice cream, cookies and some more spoonfuls of peanut butter. I literally could not breathe.

My goal was to get as much in as I could within my hour. It was a dirty cheat. I would eat as much fat, sugar, and carbs as I could within my hour. When the time was up, my hands went up...and I can eat!

I had many seasons where I ate like that. The trip to the grocery store for "supplies" was exciting. I could hardly wait for the time to start. I would literally put on my pajamas, close the blinds and get to work. I needed it.

When you're eating a restricted calorie diet, a meal of increased calories serves a couple of purposes. There are two typical versions of the meal. The cheat - which is considered a no holds barred dirty meal. Or, the re-feed - which is considered a clean bump in certain nutrients.

Each serves their purpose and like all things nutrition, you'll have your values driven ideas about each one. I do too. Certain types of competitors, or dieters, need one or the other. Neither is bad or wrong, or right.

What I've decided for myself is the re-feed works well as a tool to train my body. The goal is to restore my carbohydrates, or load, with the kinds of fuel I'll eat right before my show. I'm training my body to take up those nutrients and fill out.

Each time I do this leading up to my contest, we can see what works. We can experiment with exactly which carbs work well, and exactly how much. It's the science of figuring out my body. This meal is a tool.

The nasty, dirty cheat serves a purpose too. For the competitor who is about at their breaking point, it provides the mental break needed in order to push through another week or two of prep. Often, knowing you'll get a cheat helps you get through a tough week.

Now, even a "cheat" can be prescribed. Your coach may have you eat a steak and baked potato loaded. While this isn't pizza, french fries and ice cream cake, it's less clean than just loading with the same fuels you are already eating. See the grey area?

A re-feed is typically more of what you are already eating. And a cheat is goodies. But it's not all that necessary to get caught up in semantics. The thing to get caught up in is, "What do I want this meal to do for my body?"

The meal is designed to bump up your metabolism, restore your carbohydrates (if you are eating a low carbohydrate plan), and as a result keep you moving forward with fat loss.

It's been 2 or 3 seasons since I've had dirty cheats where I've stuffed myself silly. My progression has led me to the re-feed, a tool to help us dial in my response. This is more exciting.

The dirty cheat can also set you back. WAY back. You can do a lot of damage in an hour. Believe me. So, if you're wondering why your progress has stalled, or things aren't as sharp as you'd may need to cut out all the sugar loading. Just a thought.

We each have values around the foods we choose, and the way we eat - including the "cheat". How you view this meal, this tool, can propel you forward, or set you back. Depending on where you are in your mental game you may need one or the other of these meals.

But don't be a fool about this meal, in this sport you can't have your cake and eat it too.  

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Your Journey to the Stage, Why It Doesn't Matter

by Kris Pitcher

Can I tell you something that might be difficult for you to hear? That's the line I use when I need to deliver difficult information. It's really effective. It gives the person a choice first of all, and also lets them know something is coming. Then we sit down. Let's sit down...

Everyone faces adversity in life. Sure, it's relative. Your difficulties may be "more" difficult than the next guy. Persevere! Good for you! Life is hard.

But no one cares about your journey to the stage in a physique competition. This might sound cold-hearted, But here's what I mean. This is a sport of subjective judgement. We stand in a line, next to other competitors, to be judged.

All the judges see is what is in front of them. They see us relative to the people on stage next to us. They score us based on standardized criteria. We are taken through mandatory poses and compared to one another. We are then ranked in order.

They know us by our number, not our name, or our "story". They don't know what adversities we've overcome, or how hard our life has been. It doesn't matter. All that matters is how we compare.

Your journey is irrelevant. How hard you worked, how it was more difficult for you than anyone else, how much weight you lost (this is not a biggest loser), how many jobs you hold, credits you take, or kids you have...sorry. None of it matters on judgement day.

I share this because there may not even be an opportunity to share your story. That bio you filled out may not be heard by the crowd. They just see you walk across the stage, hit your poses and hear your name. That's. It.

While you've fulfilled a life's dream, bucket list, end to your big one else makes the connection. It's lost. It's often misunderstood. As judges, we do understand people have stories, adversities, and have overcome huge hurdles.

But it's lost in the moment of judgement for certain. And often in the presentation during finals, when that story isn't relayed to the audience.

The silver lining? Your story is important to YOU. It should motivate and encourage you. It should provide you with direction, inspiration and energy to keep moving forward. It should help you overcome life's difficulties you will no doubt encounter in your future.

Hard things are hard. Competing in a physique competition is no exception. It's hard for everyone. Thanks for the chat, I hope that wasn't too difficult for you to hear.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What Not to Do Back Stage at a Contest, Lessons From a Coach

by Kris Pitcher

Competitors wonder what it will be like back stage. For first time competitors, it's a visual sea of wonder. There's so much going on, so many people, so much activity, and at the local and regional level often a buzz of anxiety and tension.

Organized chaos describes how expediters round up competitors getting them lined up to go on stage. The preparation prior to that can be anything from amusing to dangerous and all things in between. It's the ultimate people watching opportunity.

Gloved up and having fun back stage with Edie, Tawnya, & Ashley.
As the Coach's right hand woman, I spring into action back stage to handle all of the competitors on our team. I make sure their experience is stress free, they are ready to step on stage, in line and every detail is taken care of. I keep track of when they need to do their pump up protocol, eat, drink...all of that.

I am a National level competitor and have spent lots of time back stage, I've helped hundreds of clients back stage, as such I am qualified to share some things you should never do back stage.

  1. Don't put your bag on top of other people's bags. While there is LIMITED space, when you come and put your bag on top of mine I am going to have a really hard time accessing my supplies. I may find myself rummaging through your things which you may not appreciate. Find an empty corner. 
  2. Don't sit at my feet if you're not mine. I'm going to be doing "Twister" over the top of you if you come and sit at my feet and you are not my competitor. Think "safety circle" - please don't enter a coach's safety circle. My deodorant quit working 4 hours ago, and my butt is going to be right in your face when I get my supplies or help people get things from their bags. Safety. Circle.
  3. Don't eat candy off the floor. The floor back stage is not sanitary. This should not be news to you. I realize the candy is critical for you, you've been on a diet for some time now. But if I'm brutally honest, you look like you've been eating candy through your entire prep. It feeds your brain, not your muscles, and no one wants a "vascular" bikini competitor anyway. Learn about sugars. 
  4. Don't miss your division. This happens every contest. A competitor will be dropping "F" bombs because they were up in their room and missed their class. It is your responsibility to be an informed athlete. Never let this be you. Be back stage.
  5. Don't SNEAK back stage. Most promoters offer passes for trainers and coaches to access the back stage area to take care of their clients. Sneaking in diminishes you as a professional and is disrespectful to the sport, the promoter, and all the professionals who take their job seriously enough to follow protocol. It's bad business. If you are an actual coach write this expense off your taxes. 
  6. Don't hog the mirrors to pump up. When mirrors are provided you don't HAVE to stand in front of them to pump up. You've been working out a while, and posing a while and you probably know where you are in space. This is a great perk provided but it's silly when you can't pump up without it. 
  7. Don't leave all of your garbage behind. It's understandable when we forget things, but the big garbage cans are provided for your trash. Shows are put on by real people who recruit volunteers to help them. After a 20 hour day, it would be nice if there was less garbage back stage. Do your part to be a good competitor, take what you bring.
  8. Don't ask me for my stuff. I don't bring enough supplies for all the athletes in the entire show. I bring enough for our athletes. Where is your "coach"? Why aren't they taking care of you back stage? 
  9. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Do what you are supposed to do. You will see a lot of interesting behavior. A. Lot. If you've had some guidance, do that. If you haven't, don't worry about what you see, keep it simple. 
  10. Don't be a loner. Meet other people. This sport is fun. And if you are by yourself at a contest meet other people who will help you. People are nice. We WANT people to have a good experience and when I can help another athlete, I will. I can't help it. 
There are some back stage "don'ts" for you. Like it or lump it there is a flow or etiquette back stage. Your back stage experience begins with your personal preparation. We are really lucky in the Northwest, our promoters provide a great experience for us back stage.

Do your homework, be prepared, get some guidance. If you are working with a coach find out what they will provide for you the day of your contest. Will they be there? Will they be back stage? Will they prepare you for what to expect in that experience? Or will you be on your own...sitting at my feet? 

I you find yourself in that position, I will gently suggest you may not appreciate my twister moves over and around you. Don't be offended, I'm just in my safety circle. (*smile)


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beating Post Competition Blues

by Kris Pitcher

Post competition blues are a reality. Spending months preparing for your competition only to realize it is over in a FLASH. You're left feeling depressed, down, blue...

You are no longer the center of attention (good or bad) at your gym, or in your circle of circles. Sharpness has faded leaving you a little soft, and sad. Soft and sad. You can do one of two things.

You can get elbow deep in a giant jar of peanut butter and eat yourself into your own self-fulfilling prophecy. OR you can get back on the wagon of structure. You need structure.

One critical thing going into your contest is your attitude about "what" this is. Is it the end of something? Does it represent all your work finally being OVER? Can you hardly wait to eat the entire buffet?

Or is it just the beginning of the next phase of your training. Are you already thinking about what you want to improve on? Are you wondering what a strong off season could do for you? Are you excited to work toward your next goal?

Two very different mindsets. You also need an exit plan. You absolutely need to relax your eating for a day or two, but then you need to get right on a structured eating plan. An exit plan. If by Tuesday following your show your cooler is not packed for the're in for the rebound of your life. Sad and blue.

Don't let the post show blues hit you. Have a plan. Your contest is one stop on your cycle of prep. Your body is primed to suck up all the nutrients you put in it following your show. Why not give it solid clean fuel to GROW. It's grow time! Give your body what it needs to make some progress.

Get back to the gym. People talk about taking weeks off from the gym to recover. Sure get some sleep and recover a few days, Then get back to the gym. Structure. Good fuel and structured workouts are going to keep the blues away, along with some goals.

Preparing yourself and planning ahead will keep you away from the post competition blues, just like planning got you to the stage. Be ready! Have your exit plan, and be prepared to maintain structure. This isn't the end of anything. It might just be your beginning!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Qualified For Nationals, Now What?

by Kris Pitcher

I'll preface this conversation by saying I grew up in a time when kids earned an allowance, read encyclopedias to get information, and observed curfews. I have an innate respect for mother nature, and by profession practice being a good steward.

With that, I have a healthy respect for the sport of bodybuilding, it's governing leagues, and the athletes who have earned their way to its highest rankings. I carry that sense of respect with me to the stage each time I compete. And when I took the leap to the national stage...I did not take that decision lightly.

I've been competing for nine years. I have done every division, starting with bodybuilding. A tiny 112 pound 5'4" lightweight bodybuilder. In my first competition, I won! And guess what - it was a national qualifier! I was "qualified for nationals"! If I remember right there were three women in my class.

Tiny little bodybuilder, winning Overall
Being qualified to compete at the national level didn't mean I SHOULD compete at the national level. There is a difference. Then I moved to the figure division and won that, in a national qualifier. Was I ready at that time to "go to nationals" Certainly not.

"Nationally Qualified" is thrown out as a personal descriptive left, and right. And that's great, be proud of your win. Just know there are plenty of nationally qualified athletes who have no business showing up on the national stage.

That statement is based on expectations of experience first, and dilution of process second. First, going to compete at that level is very expensive. $300 entry fee, airfare, lodging, rental car, food, upgraded suit (you can't wear that $300 number), a week off of's a $5,000 trip.

There will be 30 women in your figure class, 50 in your bikini, or men's physique class. It's HUGE. Ten girls will get looked at, the rest will be herded and dismissed. It happens really fast. And then it's over. You go home with 16th place...last call out. Classes are so big because many of the athletes just shouldn't be there.

Sure, you're the best in your gym. You even won your local show. You might have even won overall. But do some research and look at the caliber of the athletes placing top 5 on the national level. Appreciate the fact they have shown up for the past 2-4 years. The judges are getting to know the top contenders.

The two granddaddies are the USA's, in July, and the Nationals in November. These are the two largest national level shows. You have the Jr USA's, and the Jr Nationals. Team Universe, North Americans, Teen Collegiate Masters Nationals (did I miss any?).

There are a lot of "national" options. If you want to dip your toe in the water, pick a Jr USA/Jr National show to begin with. Plan ahead, do your research, and look at who's placing top 5. How do you truly compare? What are your weaknesses? What do you need to work on? Get some feedback from your regional NPC Chair, or head judge.

And please don't say you're "Going to nationals!" in June when you're really going to Jr. Nationals. Have enough respect for the process to know what show you're going to. I don't know why this bugs me? You are competing nationally, but you are not going to Nationals - that is in November, in Miami.

This is big business, and promoters want athletes in their shows. But when every "qualified" athlete shows up, there is a diluted effect on stage. People who look ready to start their prep competing on the national level shows lack of understanding of how all this works. Even though they did just win their small local national here they are.

Qualified and ready are two very different places to be. Depending on what kind of experience you want to have, what money you want to spend, and where you truly think you are you could end up really unhappy.

So give some thought to where you think that 112 pound bodybuilder belonged. She certainly wouldn't have belonged on stage at Nationals.

And eight years later, placing 4th at Master's Nationals, I'm just catching my stride at being "ready" to compete at this level. Hopefully in 2016, I'll be more ready.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Partial Rep Prep Coach

by Kris Pitcher

All of a sudden, everyone is a contest prep coach? Now, I'll make things real clear - I'm not a prep coach. My husband is a prep coach. He's a really good one. And I help him with his business. But I have a very full time job. Very.

I spent a lot of years working full time in the health and fitness industry but no longer do. My background is exercise science, and psychology...a nice mix for working with competitors. I am myself a national level competitor. I know a thing or two.

It's interesting, people will come to work with my husband to learn posing. Their "prep coach" sends them? Wait? I thought you had a coach? But your coach doesn't teach posing. Hmm, I see.

Others will come for nutrition. Their "prep coach" will send them? Again, confused here...I thought you had a prep coach. Oh, but your coach doesn't do nutrition. I get it. Then it turns out their coach doesn't know the first thing about bringing someone in for a show, much less the details of competing.

So, really? Aren't they a personal trainer? There's nothing wrong with being a great personal trainer. But all of a sudden, every one's a prep coach. Too bad really, because there's a lot of competitors out there getting bad advice, or no advice.

They go to a show, completely lost. No clue about what to expect, what they should have, how they should be prepared, where to get a tan even! For me, I want people to have a great experience and love the sport.

That takes knowledge and education. There's nothing wrong with working with a team to get you ready, but why wouldn't you work with one person who can guide your workouts, your nutrition, teach you to pose (no matter which division you are in), and give you every bit of information from suit selection to how to pee with competition color on.

Why wouldn't you want an expert to guide you in this process? I feel like we've had this conversation before...but then I go to a show and a competitor who's done maybe one show is now running a team. Honestly, it's a situation of the blind leading the blind here.

Then the aftermath of complaints about judging comes. Well, you get a bunch of competitors on stage led by "prep coaches" who have no idea what they are doing and you get what you get up there. A bunch of people who look ready to start their prep. Try to judge that mess.

Seriously, I don't cut my own hair, or clean my own teeth. I don't massage myself, or do my own taxes. I even walk by the self-check line at the grocery store - that won't save me any time. I need a professional. And so do people who want to compete.

If you're a great personal trainer, stick within your scope of practice. If you've done one show and you're all excited - great! Go recruit other fit people to work with your prep coach, but be realistic about the skill set required to take on this role.

Ask your potential prep coach lots of questions, ask around town, check with promoters, and do your research. You don't want to hire someone who's only capable of doing partial reps on this one.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Do You Have the Guts to Compete?

by Kris Pitcher

"No one preps like you do." My husband and coach said. It surprised me when he said it and I think there are plenty of people who push with the same of more effort. That in itself motivates me. The competitor in me wants to be better, better than myself...and better than you.

While everyone is pumpkin spicing, I've pulled the 2016 calendar and mapped out my plans for next year. Seeing the blocks of weeks motivates me. Looking at the date I'll "start" my diet sets the stage, literally.

Counting out the months of off season isn't to determine how many weeks of "free" eating I have left. It's to make sure I don't let one workout go by without the intensity necessary to get me where I want to be. It's to make sure I don't miss a meal that is going to make me grow. It's to ensure I don't waste one day of time.

And here are some things you should know about me if you think you can prep as good, or better, than me. I can gut a fish. That's right, I'm not afraid to get my hands right in there and pull out the guts to clean out what I need.

I can go to the bathroom in the woods. I am not afraid of the elements. I can "rough it", which means I am not adverse to...adversity. You have to make do (good one), with your surroundings. Prep is like survival.

I am a really good spitter. Some women just cannot spit. I could win a distance contest. Spitting is about commitment. You have to put some force behind it and not care what other people think. You have to be sure of yourself, and commit.

If you can't get what you need, overcome adversity, and commit you will struggle with your prep. For me, focus on simplicity allows me to prep like no one else (in the words of my coach). But I'm not better than anyone else, I'm just very clear on my goals and commitment.

My humility keeps me connected with the fact that lots of women are just as focused, and commited. This drives me to stay focused, to rip into that fish, do what I need to do in the woods, and to spit as far as I can.

Now, let's go outside and see just how far you can spit!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Contest Peak Week

by Kris Pitcher

Welcome to your "Peak Week"! A lot has gone into getting you to this point. Months of preparation have come down to the week before your contest where all the final details come into play. Unless you panic, everything will be fine.

Here's what you need to know about peak week - everything you read probably doesn't apply to you. The truth is, or the science of the matter is, it's different for each of us. It's different for me every time I compete.

What I did last time may not apply this time. I'm different, my body is different, my conditioning is different...see? So, if you're reading everything you can about what someone else does, thinking it's going to be magical for you - it may not be.

There are some similarities especially amongst divisions, during peak week. But trying to apply what bodybuilders do to a bikini athlete is just...mean.

If you are not working with a coach my advice is, if you are in shape and look good - coast in. Don't change things. And next time, work with a coach.

For those of us who do work with a coach, know your protocol is different from their other clients'. What you should expect is to taper off your workouts. Peak week is almost a "rest" week. This makes some people nut balls.

I love it. You can also expect to be busy with appointments getting all beautiful. Hair, nails, waxing, all of that. Or just spending time shaving the last bits of hair from everywhere. You can expect to be busy packing your bag for contest day. You may need to pack for an overnight as well.

There's plenty to keep you busy. You can expect some changes in your nutrition, in your water intake, in your micro nutrients (salt). And you can expect to be told to REST. That's right, feet up and rest. Do it.

The goal is to reduce all the inflammation, for some we want to deplete then load carbs as glycogen in the muscles, we want to manipulate hydration. Those are the main goals of peak week.

When you hear about drastic tactics during peak week, people are grasping for time. They aren't ready. And I can tell you, you can't "drop" fat during peak week. If you're fat, you're fat. Period.

Making weight for a bodybuilder is one thing, but when I hear about a bikini competitor in a sauna suit on the hackles go up. Dangerous. When I hear about a woman who is 118 pounds drinking 4 gallons of water...also dangerous. Again, applying methods used for male bodybuilders to women is ill informed, and liable.

The key is don't stress. You have done all the work. You aren't going to lose all of your muscle because you stop lifting the Wednesday before your show. I promise. RELAX. The more chill you are, the better. Peak week should be called, chill week.

Don't expect drastic things. I've done national level figure competitions with a very moderate natural water drop. If I insisted on doing a diuretic because "everyone else does it" I would look like an empty bag. That would be bad. Everyone doesn't do it. Stop reading all the bro science.

Your manipulations are based on actual science, everything will come together, and you will get up there on stage and present your best self ever. Your job during peak week is to relax, and get to your appointments.

Having the right set of expectations should help you relax about this mystery week. And now you know about your contest peak week.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fatigue, Why am I so Tired During Prep?

by Kris Pitcher

I see a lot of competitors perplexed about the level of fatigue they feel during prep. People want to know what they can take for "energy". I thought we should have a heart to heart about the expectations of your energy level while you are prepping for your show.

I will apologize on behalf of the industry for no one telling you you would be TIRED. It's true. Fatigue is part of this. You are operating in a deficit. You're taking things to a whole new level.

Taking in fewer calories, restricting certain nutrients, keeping up with your workouts all add up to one tired bunny. Oh, and don't forget that job you have, and family, kids, etc. And those "energy" pills, they exacerbate your fatigue in the long run.

Some of you are so over stimulated you're kind of cracked out. You're taking your pre workout at 6:00 pm and wonder why you can't sleep at night. It's taxing to your systems and you are left in a heap on the couch.

Here's what you should know about managing your energy. Stop doing a bunch of extra recreational activity. You will only have enough energy to work, and do your workouts, and find some clean clothes to put on.

Going to parties, to the movies, wake boarding, hiking, and all the other fun things I see competitors doing in prep, will affect your outcome. You only have so much to give. "Balance" is relative.

It's important to manage your expectations about your energy level. You may not be jumping off the walls, or out of bed...or anywhere. Thinking you'll have enormous amounts of energy is silly. It's just in the pages of magazines.

Take every advantage to REST. When you have an extra half hour in your day, rest. If a client cancels, rest. If you have an office with a door, close it and rest. Friday night, Netfix and chill (see, I'm hip).

If you have to be at wrestling matches, or soccer tournaments all day (I'm sorry) - take your folding chair, your fuzzy blanket, and settle in. Rest. Get off your feet. You can put your feet up on your cooler.

If you are finding you are lacking energy, that is NORMAL. Everyone feels fatigued during prep. Manage your expectations, your stimulants, and your activities. Save yourself for what matters, and limit your social calendar.

I am a big proponent of naps, going to bed early, and protecting my schedule. Getting through the fatigue of prep is a real thing. Think about it, it's no wonder you're tired!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stage Etiquette, Wave and Nod

by Kris Pitcher

A lot of people wonder about the "wave" competitors do on stage. So, today we'll cover the wave and nod...stage etiquette.

This spring my husband bought me a motorcycle after having purchased one for himself. More than 20 years ago (a life time for some of you) I rode, but hung that up with lots of other things. There was however something I always loved about the culture. The wave.

As I reaquainted myself with riding I was thrilled with the wave. It took some time for me to loosen my death grip and be able to release my left hand, casually drop it down toward an oncoming rider...and flash a few fingers in the formation of the "peace" sign. The wave.

Once I got the hang of it I wanted to wave at everyone! I accidentally waved at a scooter once...I even wanted to wave at a baby who waved at me! Sometimes when I'm in my car, I forget and find myself wanting to wave at motorcyclists.

See, waving brings people together. It signifies, "I see you," "We're alike," and "We share a culture."

It's similar on stage. The wave, during prejudging, is an indication you heard the head judge call your number. It also signifies, when you are being moved on stage, to the other competitor where they will be going. Holding up your hand says, "I heard you, here I am, where are you."

Once your class has been judged, the wave - now to the judging panel says, "Thank you for judging me." and "I have an appreciation and respect for what just happened on stage, thank you." Then you exit the stage.

It's proper etiquette. The wave signifies respect and understanding. Now, you don't want to be waving at babies up you're trying to get your friend's attention in a crowded train station. It's a poised wave.

It is accompanied by a courtsey. A SMALL courtsey. We're not dropping it like a squat here. We're not picking anything up off the floor or doing lunges. A tiny bend in the knee is all that's needed. For the guys, it's a little cooler.

But it's the same principle. The hand up signifies, I heard you, I'm here, where am I being asked to move to. No courtsey necessary, or advised, for the guys. And now you know about the culture of the wave. Ride on!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Bulking, a Big Fat Lie

by Kris Pitcher

Every now and then I'm smacked in the face by my own palm at the dumbing down of this sport. It's really about applying concepts with broad strokes, to everyone...because it worked for you. That's not how you apply science.

I hear a lot of competitors, or potential competitors say, "My coach says I have to do a bulking phase before I can start prep." And for a moment...I am speechless.

Does the first time bikini competitor need to gain more muscle to create better shape? Probably. Does she need to put off her prep to bulk? Not in my opinion. Here's what I think about bulking. Keep in mind I (almost) never worry about my popularity.

Here's the thing, women, in general, put on muscle very slowly. Any beginner is going to put muscle on more quickly, and some just have better genetics than others and are going to gain faster. Do we need to fuel for that? Of course.

Adequate fueling is important for growing. Eating 3,000 calories however will most likely just make you fat. Fat isn't "bulking", it's getting fat. A "bulking" phase of several weeks or months is a method used by men who are supplementing with the perfect drug profile for that same period.

The supplementation assists in utilizing the large quantities of food, metabolizing all that fuel and putting it to use. Let's assume that is not the situation for most of us. Most are not supplementing (anabolically) to assist in "bulking".

So, here's a case where a method used widely in male bodybuilding is being associated to women, and it's ineffective. It's ineffective because you don't need to get so fat off season, or in your "bulking" season.

If you look at athletes who compete at high levels off season, they don't bulk to an additional 20+ pounds. They stay within 10-12 pounds of their competition weight...AND make gains. The key is adequate fuel and rest to grow. It takes time.

I'm usually growing into my contest. Meaning, I'm able to keep my calories high enough to continue to make progress. Why? Because I didn't get so fat off season that I have to diet hard. You're fooling yourself if you think you need to gain 20 pounds to bulk, and those gains are muscle.

And why aren't you making progress, gains, through your prep? Because you got so fat off season bulking that you have to diet into a deficit and can barely sustain the muscle you have. And this is why bulking is a big fat lie.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Macro Math, Fitting it in Your Prep Plan

by Kris Pitcher

Recently I saw a social media post about "new math" and it's no wonder everyone is so confused about counting their "macros". Today we are going to have a nutritional math tutorial. But before we can move forward, let's step back.

I'll preface this conversation by saying, I don't care by what method you eat. I have zero skin in your game. I eat a clean flexible plan. I also don't care what kind of sex you have and with whom. Nor do I care what religion you are, or what you watch on TV. Don't care. Not my concern.

If you want to fit things into your plan, fit them in. But you're going to have to understand some VERY basic nutritional information, and simple math in order to do it effectively, and to not be frustrated about it.

The basics. Macro nutrients are the major nutrients which make up the majority of your fuel. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and you may not have known...water is also considered a macro nutrient. Now, (are you taking notes?) each macro nutrient has a caloric value. Values are assigned per gram.

Carbohydrates = 4 cals/gm
Proteins = 4 cals/gm
Fats = 9 cals/gm

And as you can imagine, water has zero calories. Zero. And what are micro nutrients? Vitamins and minerals. Micro nutrients make up, conversely, the smaller portion of your nutrient profile. They also don't have a caloric impact. That's another conversation.

Each macro nutrient plays a different role in our body, what it does, and that also is a different conversation. We're talking about math.The first step is to determine what percentage of each nutrient you want to consume. In total, your percentages need to equal 100.

How you decide is going to be based on what your goals are. Again, I don't care. 40% + 30% + 30% = 100% for example.

Once you know your percentage split, you also need to know how many total calories you want to take in. LOTS of ways to figure this out, and this is where a coach is going to throw the science of this into your plan. Let's say, for example, you are going to eat 2,500 calories.

40% of 2,500 = ? To find 40 percent of 2,500 what are we going to do? Phone a friend? No. We are going to multiply 2,500 by .4

Come back! You can do this! 2,500 X .4 = 1,000

Now, what we've determined is 1,000 calories is 40% of our 2,500 calorie daily total. For our example we will say we've chosen protein to be our 40%.

How many grams of protein do we need in the day? STAY WITH ME! We said protein is 4 cals/gm.

1,000 divided by 4 = 250 grams. We'll eat 250 grams of protein. Next, we should divide that up by how many meals we plan to eat during the day - that would be smart for meal timing. Or you can eat it all at once...

Let's say we are going to eat 6 meals. 250/6 = 41.6 So, we need about 42 grams per meal. You just figured out the first of your "macros" - your macro nutrient, protein. Congratulations! Now, we do that for carbohydrate and fat.

It's nutritional math. 2,500 X .3 = 750 (30% fat and carbohydrate is 750 calories, each, of our 2,500 total.)

750 calories of carbohydrate? 750/4 (4 calories/gm) = 187.5 grams. Split that between 6 meals, and you want about 31 gms per meal. Or maybe you want carbs with 3 of your your math.

750 calories of fat? 750/9 (9 calories/gm) = 83 grams of fat. Do what you want with it.

In order to figure out if something fits, you need to be able to determine if the calories fit into the percentages you have chosen. Knowing your breakdown for the day enables you to pick nutrients from each "bank" during the day.

The challenge is, most people empty out their bank of one nutrient, and have a balance of another at the end of the day. This is poor planning. You still have to do your math, and some planning. It's simple multiplication, division, addition and subtraction.

The hard part is manipulating the percentages based on the outcome you want - knowing what each nutrient can do for you. This is science. But the math is simple. And, you CAN do it. You need to do it if you want to successfully eat this way.

The alternative is being caught off guard having made choices early in the day and consuming all your calories, or all of your nutrients from one category. It's tough when you've eaten all your daily allotment by 3:00pm.

Being aware of nutrient timing, and your math, will help you be successful with this way of eating. One of the benefits of my clean flexible plan? I don't do any math. Pick a protein from this list, a carbohydrate from that list, eat some veggies...and check! It's my preference. It's easy. I know I'll get all of my nutrients, at the right time during the day, and at the end of the day I'm done.

But you do it however you want. And I hope practicing some simple math will make it less frustrating for you. Get your nutrients in!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cheating on Your Diet? Bite on This!

by Kris Pitcher

I know for sure you cannot out cardio poor eating. This is evidenced by every single person you see in the gym. They workout week in, week out...yet in all the years you've seen them in your gym they've made zero progress.

Why? Because the eat whatever they see. Doing 30 minutes of cardio won't undo that bottle of wine you had with dinner, or the basket of bread, or any of the other poor food choices. In order to make the kind of progress you need to make for significant weight loss, weight management, OR contest need to be in control.

Sometimes people will confess to a "binge" or indulgence and wonder if they can do more cardio (to make up for it). No. You can't. Your choice will set you back, but you can't undo it with an extra hour of cardio. It doesn't work that way.

When people wonder why you can't just have "one bite", this is why - every bite compounds. Nutrition is like interest in this way (saving money is another of my hobbies). One dollar isn't much of a big deal by itself. But when you leave it alone and let it compound over years...that baby will GROW!

One bite is a small thing, but every small bite adds up to something big. Your butt! Seriously, you have to keep your head straight around this. Everything matters. When I start prep, the first thing I do is cut out all the extra bites.

Last season, I lost 5 pounds just cutting out the "bites". Nothing significant. But in a week...5 pounds. Every bite matters in the big picture. So what if you find yourself in a weak moment? A dark, sad moment when you are about to make some serious damage to your progress by eating something off plan.

If you RECOGNIZE that moment, you've won. Now you make a choice. Your first line of defense is to always control your environment. Meaning, pack your meals and have them with you; shop what you CAN eat, not what you can't; and control your stress.

Cheating then requires planning. There's no accidental trip to the grocery store for a pint of ice cream. You didn't accidentally go through the drive through. You PLANNED to cheat. Which means you thought it out, and went to get your supplies, hid in your car/living room/garage etc. and you made a choice.

If you struggle in the evening, brush your teeth. Paint your nails. Do your house work. Lean to knit. Keep your hands busy. If you have food/snacks/treats in the house (for other people) put them on a special shelf in the cabinet - that is not your shelf.

Phone a friend. Call your coach. Ask for help BEFORE you pile that pizza in your mouth. There is no making up for what you're about to do. And every bite counts. If you think, "Oh, I'll make up for it later, tighten things up, eat more fish, do more cardio." you don't get it and it will show on stage. You won't be ready.

There is no "later", there is only right now. Having the personal strength to stay on track is hard. The world goes on all around you - there is no reason for it to stop. Your goals are different. Wanting to compete is something you have to REALLY, really want.

You can't just kind of like the idea of competing. You can't just want to prep during the week, or when it's easy. It's all the time. In order to make it to the stage, you must want it more than any of that stuff. You must want it deep in your core. You have to want it more than any bite.

And when you feel your resolve slip just the slightest bit, get connected with just how bad you want it. No one is asking this of you. You choose it. And only you can do it. Bite on that.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Rebound or Exit Plan, Your Choice

by Kris Pitcher

Remember that time you went home from that party a little too drunk with what's-his-name? You woke up at his place unsure of exactly how you got there, and you wondered where your car was. Hair stuck to your face, and the taste of vodka and vomit in your mouth? Were you smoking? Oh gawd...where are your clothes? You look over at him and can't be sure of his name. Are those tattoos, on his neck?

Insert "Walk of Shame"
Welcome to your rebound. I've seen your candy stashes, your posts of the new Oreo flavors, and your countdown until you can have donuts. You have sugar-eyes. Five weeks out and your shopping cart is FULL of high fructose corn syrup.

Let me share something with are not going to handle yourself well following your show. You might as well be waking up next to Mr. Tattoo Neck.

And apparently no one is talking with you about your exit plan. You're planning the rebound of a lifetime and you don't even know it. The biggest mistake is, you are paying attention to the wrong things right now.

When people ask me what I want to eat after my contest I have a hard time answering. I'm not even thinking about that. What I know from experience is, I want club soda. Period. I don't have a list, or a stash of anything. I don't bring cupcakes, and bags of candy back stage. I see "after" completely different. I have an exit plan.

Our bodies are primed to soak up everything we put into them following our contest. After being at our most depleted stage - it wants fuel. My goal is to give it fuel. GOOD fuel. I'm primed to grow. So why wouldn't I take full advantage of this anabolic opportunity and fuel my body with good clean food.

My coach provides me with an exit plan before I step on stage. I know exactly what I'll eat that Sunday and in the following weeks. I know when I'll return to the gym. I'm already thinking about what I want to improve, change, grow for NEXT season.

I want my body to soak up good carbs, to get the protein it needs, to replenish its healthy fats, and to GROW! That doesn't happen on Oreos or the rest of the sugar stash you have. And that is the difference between athletes who progress in this sport.

Focusing on what you "can" have, on what fuels you vs. what you can't have - the things that don't fit into this lifestyle, positions you to be in control. To continue in this sport you have to embrace the lifestyle. That means eating good food year round.

My exit plan does include extras. That is part of the plan. The strength in what I'll bring to the stage next year begins with what I do when I walk off stage. It begins with my choice to follow my exit plan, and NOT rebound gaining 30 pounds eating a cart full of sugar.

All of those goodies will be there when you are done with your show. You can fit some of them in your off season plan. A strong exit plan will keep your head in check along the way. You will welcome the continued structure. Your body will thank you for the nutrients, and you might even make the gains you are looking for.

Skip the downward mental spiral, skip the depression, skip the edema, skip the kankles, skip the hangover, skip gaining 15 pounds in 3 days. Skip all of the elements of the perfect rebound.

Your future progress is counting on you...the choice is yours. Will you rebound, or exit successfully?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Contest Prep, Are You Prepared to Lose?

By Kris Pitcher

If you've ever witnessed the smile drain from someones face when an outcome did not turn out in their favor, or felt the tears well in your own've stood on the edge of defeat. As your throat begins to tighten, your lip quivers... your brain says, "RUN!" - you realize something has gone awry.

Most of us can recount the times in our lives we've felt this way. That time we forgot our lines in the grade school play, or when that horrible college break up took us by surprise. Or when we...lost (fill in the blank).

Me losing Overall to my team mate.
Here's the thing about competing, five competitors will place. Only one will earn 1st place, and lots will go home with nothing. We all train to win. Every one of us wants the first call out. If we didn't, we wouldn't be eating this chicken. Again.

But no one guarantees you a placing. Everyone is working really hard, maybe harder than you. We never know who will show up on contest day. And if we are only competing for a placing, we might need to rethink this hobby. It is a hobby.

I will speak for myself - which by default of writing this blog, you should all associate directly to yourselves (insert smile*).

I put a lot on the line when I step on stage. Opening myself up for objective judgement by a panel of people is a risk. Some who like me, my physique, some who do not (as evidenced by their placing/scoring). I am willing to do this, because it is part of the sport. It's how you progress forward, garner feedback, and get better. This is how our sport works.

I can only do that because I bring with me a sense of humility, and respect for the sport, for the officials and the process. I believe in it. I am an athlete. As such, I also carry with me a sense of honor regardless of my placing.

What does that mean? I never go into a show thinking I'm going to win. I don't think I'm going to show up and blow everyone away. I don't shout out on social media leading up to a show how much I'm going to "kill it". I show up with my best package and let the rest happen. I'm humble, and realistic.

I've also stood in the line up and received the LAST call out on more than one occasion. Does the smile drain from my face? No. Do I drop my shoulders in defeat? Never. Do I look at the floor once my number is called and I walk to the line? Not a chance. Do I present myself as if I received the FIRST call out. Absolutely.

In those moments, I knew I'd lost. It was over. It was over after the first call out. Yet I stood there, through the second call out, then the third, and then finally...You get the picture. I stood there as a proud athlete, knowing I'd brought my very best, and it was not my day.

Did I storm off the stage? No. Did I curse out the judges? Of course not. Did I bad mouth the competitors who beat me? No. Did I blame my coach...No.

My point is, when you choose to be a physique athlete you need to accept the objective process with grace. Whether you are first place, or last place, you are a gracious athlete.

When you win, you don't pump your fists and say, "Bo-Ya Bitches!" to the girls who lost. You hug, shake hands, congratulate them, you thank the athletes for bringing such strong competition. Be. Gracious.

Never for one moment when you are on stage let your smile drain from your face. Never for one second, let your posture show defeat. Don't for one minute think you are the *hit and you're going to dominate. Step on stage with humility and let your physique be rewarded.

Take your status as an athlete seriously and show that in your sportsmanship on and off stage. Show it leading up to, and after your show. Not everyone wins, and even winning can feel bitter sweet. The way you see that, and how you are prepared to handle that sets you up for your future success.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Competitors Alone Together

by Kris Pitcher

This can be a lonely sport. At 5:00 am when I get up to do my cardio, I feel alone. No one's with me when I pull my chicken out of my purse at the restaurant, or during a meeting either. It's just me.

No one makes sure I go to the gym to get my lifts in, or makes sure I pack my meals. Also all on me. Now, don't get me wrong, I have support. BUT there's a reason you feel a little bit like you're on your own. You are. This is an individual sport.

You might have found your local community, you might have friends, you might be on a team with fellow competitors. But you are the only one doing this. Day in and day out until you turn up for your show, and all of a sudden you realize...I am NOT the only one!

That's right. There are LOTS of people getting ready. For your show, for shows around the same time, all across the country. One of the things that keeps me motivated is thinking about what those other competitors might be doing.

Do I want to give up any advantage to someone I'll be standing next to? Not even. At 5:00 am I am not alone. My competition is also up, she's also doing her cardio. And I think about that. On the day I don't want to go to the gym to lift...I know she's at her gym.

"She" is an imaginary competitor. Mark my words, she IS out there. So on those days you feel alone, think about just how big this quiet sport is. You might not see other competitors in your community, at your gym, or in your town, but they are out there - and they are getting ready.

Feeling alone in this is normal, use it to your advantage rather than whining about it. When you feel like others around you don't understand, don't sweat it. They don't have to understand. Know there are competitors everywhere going through the same thing. Get perspective, and don't wallow in "alone".

Embrace the individualization of this sport, focus on it, and let it drive you. You are the only one doing this for you. You are alone. Embrace it within the context of something much larger. We're alone together.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Getting to the Stage, What Does it Cost?

by Kris Pitcher

People are often surprised about the cost to compete. There are some really basic things you need to plan for, things that shouldn't be a surprise, and then there are things you can just plain do without. Some people don't really want to know. They kind of take the "head in the sand approach", but as far as hobbies could be worse.

The fundamentals would include a gym membership. You could argue you don't need this. That's up to you. If you have a house full of equipment, good for you. I don't, I go to the gym. You'll find variety, and progression there.

The other major "basic" is your nutrition. You are going to eat anyway - but the choices you make for a prep diet are going to be clean foods. Eating well doesn't cost more. Price cold cereal per ounce and try to argue this one with me. A 25 pound bag of rice costs about $13 at Costco. Chicken is $1.77/pound this week at my local market...everyone needs to eat.

Here comes the next important component. Getting some expert advice. Hiring a coach will run you $150+/month for the duration of your prep, and a smart competitor works with their coach off season as well. Plan on it.

Competing in the NPC, (National Physique Committee) the governing body of our sport, will run you $120 each year. Membership is required and does have benefits.

Depending on your division you will need shoes - $40-$100.

Ladies - your suit will run you $100 for an inexpensive bikini to thousands for a pro level suit. Shop according to your budget. Suits are available to rent, and available used. There is something for every budget. You'll also need accessories.

Tanning, hair and makeup. Tanning is something you don't want to DIY if you are a beginner. This can be the most stressful process, and the last thing you want to mess up on a really important day. Let the professionals take care of you - plan to spend $120.

Hair - is what it is. Some girls get extensions, color, and all the bells and whistles. I know what it costs me to have a cut and color (and I try not to let my husband know). Plan on that expense. The day of your show, you can do your own hair, or have it done. That costs money too. Same with your makeup.

Makeup the day of your show is easy if you're good at stage makeup. Most are not. Let the professionals do it. Plan on $50+ for this. You are paying for a zero stress experience and a professional who knows how to make you look stage appropriate.

Let's talk about hair removal. Waxing is an option and that costs money too. What ever method you choose, add that to your budget.

Now, I hear people talk a lot about supplements and how expensive that is. Here's the deal. You don't need MOST of that. You need a protein powder. You don't really need a preworkout, massive amounts of BCAAs, an intraworkout, fatburners, "energy" pills, and all that other stuff.

If you have EXTRA money, go for it. But for every competitor I hear complaining about how expensive it is...stop buying a bunch of stuff you don't need.

Your contest fee. Your contest fee will be around $120. You may be traveling, or staying overnight at a hotel. Add those expenses. You may need to purchase tickets for family, add those fees as well.

Competing in a local show could run you about $3,000.
Food $100/week for 16 weeks = $1,600
Coaching $600
Shoes $40
Suit and accessories $300
NPC $120
Show registration $120
Tanning $120
Hair $100

Now, I think about it in terms of what I'm not doing. I'm not spending on lunches out, dinners out, coffees out. I'm not buying golf rounds, or going to the movies at $16 per ticket, I'm not buying cocktails at $10 a pop. I'm not spending $20 on a pizza or going to happy hour. And really, I will be eating anyway.

Plan ahead. Know what you're getting into. AND if you can't afford to compete, don't. This is one hobby where you won't become famous, you won't earn prize money, and you may not even do well. Getting to the stage has a cost associated with it. Now you know.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Gluten and Your Diet, What is It?

by Kris Pitcher

Nutrition is full of trends and fads. A trend refers to the growing popularity of something, where a fad is something that comes and goes very quickly - think fashion. For various reasons, gluten is all the rage. That is not to say it's a fad. There is an increasing trend in awareness about gluten.

Gluten is a protein. It has a curly structure, and is found in wheat, rye and barley. These members of the grass family contain true gluten, some people are highly allergic, and others are intolerant of gluten.

Now, both corn and rice have stored proteins called gluten, but their protein structure is slightly different. They don't contain true gluten. One of the challenges with certain grains is cross-contamination.

Rice, oats, and quinoa don't have true gluten proteins, but face cross-contamination either in growing, or processing. When oats are grown near wheat, you have cross-contamination issues. It's nature. This is common with oats especially.

So what's all this about? Today's conversation is about the dumbing down of nutritional issues. If I told you water was lactose free...would you buy it? Would you think my water was better than the water next to it without that claim?

How about cholesterol free carrots? The carrots in that package must be healthier than the ones next to it that don't say "cholesterol free"? Right? The thing is, plants (mostly) do not contain cholesterol. None of the carrots ever had any in the first place. But consumers are stupid. So, marketing is king.

Rice Chex cereal, "Gluten Free" - it says it right on the box. Well? Does rice contain gluten? Fundamentally, no. Now, what a smart consumer does know is gluten is often added to products as fillers. Check your labels for ingredient lists.

But that consumer is not likely buying boxed cereal anyway. My point is, don't be fooled by marketing regarding nutrition information that should not be in the item you are buying. Lactose is in MILK, not water. Cholesterol is in animal products, not vegetables.

Learn about things you care about. Find out more information about nutrients you want to include or exclude from your eating plan. Don't be a sucker for marketing claims. Be a smart, informed, consumer.

Me? I love gluten. It doesn't agree with me. It's inflammatory (kind of like my blogs sometimes). It doesn't fit into my prep, or off season plans. BUT I do enjoy the occasional gluten gluttony.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Your Contest Prep Coach Wants to Fire You

by Kris Pitcher

Disclaimer: This topic was not inspired by any of you. It wasn't inspired by my husband, who is a coach. None of the acts here within represent behaviors of his clients. It may however hit a chord..If it walks like a duck...

Most people want to make relationships work, and that's no different for the coach-client relationship. But just because you've paid for someones services, doesn't mean you can't be fired.

Here are the top ten reasons your coach wants to FIRE you:
  1. You say your diet is on point, but your facebook post says otherwise. - Don't forget you are fb friends with your coach. They will see that post about your "cheat day", those pics of you and your friends at the party drinking alcohol, and that anniversary dinner you also didn't clear.
  2. You think your plan is a "suggestion". When you aren't doing your plan, your plan isn't going to work. You can't do it some days and not others. You can't do "most" of it. You are either doing it, or you're not. If you're not, your coach is really confused why you're not responding and progressing.
  3. You want to eat a protein bar every day, for dessert. While marketing is king, bars don't fit your plan, your macros, or anything else. And competitors don't get dessert. You don't get first call out by replacing meals with bars.
  4. You don't exactly eat all your meals. Number 2, your plan is not a suggestion. Skipping meals is not doing your plan. If you have time issues, or what ever your deal is, talk it out and find a solution with your coach. If they think you're eating, and you're not...they'll be confused about your progress (see a trend here?).
  5. You don't check in.When you don't check in, or you check in once a month, your coach has forgotten about you. It's your responsibility to check in and provide good feedback. Coaches don't have time to chase you. And they cannot provide you with anything, if you aren't participating.
  6. You wonder what you should eat if you're hungry. If it's not on your plan, you aren't eating it. Eat your meals, on time. There isn't anything "else" to eat. It is ok to be hungry, you will not die. Eat more green vegetables.
  7. You are constantly insisting on diet changes. Usually this is accompanied by numbers 3, 4, and 5. Your coach isn't going to change your diet for the fun of it. They are also not going to change it if you aren't 100% compliant with your current plan. They can't tell if the current plan is working, because you aren't doing it. Once you do it, and they see if it's working, they'll make changes. That's how this works.
  8. You are suffering on 200 gms of carbs a day. Your coach believes you have suffered for nothing in your privileged life. You don't know suffrage.
  9. You blame your coach for your lack of progress. If you're guilty of any of the above, you're living in a fool's paradise. But honestly, when everything is working, you are making progress. When you have problems, it's usually on you. Tough love right there. You are accountable.
  10. Ten year old girls are stronger than you, and you think you're "killin' it". There is a serious lack of understanding of proper intensity. And you think you are just really bad ass. I don't know if people are lazy, or want the IFBB to just come to their gym and hand out invitations to the league...I don't know. I sense this underlying generational feeling of entitlement. That's another blog.
I know of coaches who fire people left and right. I also know of coaches who never communicate and make it really hard for you to be a good client. A great coach is going to communicate with you, ,work through problems, provide solutions and build a strong relationship with you. Your role is to provide honest feedback, to do your plan, to trust them, meaning not second guessing every aspect of your program.

If you're neurotic and panicy, you'll make your coach crazy. If you withold information, lie, cheat, and believe every bit of bro science you can get your hands're in line to be fired.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Food - Fair or Fuel

by Kris Pitcher

Recently my husband (who is also my coach) and I had a conversation about my off season weight. I'm currently less than 5 pounds up from contest weight 7 weeks post competition. "No one preps like you do." He said.

I told him my success was completely related to the fact he was currently dieting. I'm no fool. And that when he wasn't dieting, I knew it would be much harder for me. I gathered my bags ready to head out the door for work as he was pounding out his cardio on the stair master when he said, "You better think about that."

Not sure if my laughter remained inside my head, or if some of it snuck out...I assured him I was thinking about it. About when he was not dieting, and I would need to eat differently from him. Then I left for work. It was obviously a very serious topic.

But this is truly a point of contention for many couples. The bottom line is, food is not about equity in a relationship. It is not about fairness. There will be a time when he's eating ice cream on the couch, and I will not be able to eat that. I have to be ok with that.

Couples who eat in "fairness" are usually in similar shape. Now, he needs to eat differently to be 190 pounds. I am not 190 pounds. I do not want to be 190 pounds. Are you following?

Wouldn't it be silly if I resented him for being able to eat differently than me? Yet most couples fall into that. These feelings stem from childhood associations, from needing to fulfill basic needs, from food being about love, and everything except about the actual food.

When the time comes, in late November, when he is no longer will be more difficult for me to maintain a tight off season. My weight will creep up, a little. I might have to do a few more minutes of cardio. We'll enjoy a few meals out now and then. And I will have to stay very connected to my goals.

Take a moment to stop and think about it. About how you feel about food. Is it fair, is it equitable? Or is it fuel. Does it get you to your goal? Is it ok if other people eat differently? Will you eat this way for a short while, or for the rest of your life?

My off season looks very much like my prep - just more of it. The reason is, this is my lifestyle. I've stopped seeing food as fair, or not fair. It's just fuel.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Timing Your Contest Prep, Will You Be Ready?

by Kris Pitcher

You're [fill in the blank] weeks out, and you don't feel like you'll be ready in time for your contest date. News flash! No one ever feels like they will be ready. I can't even count how many contests I've done, and I've rarely felt ready.

I've stood in the line up back stage, ready to go on for prejudging - and wasn't sure if I was ready. Here are a couple of things to ease your mind around this. First, you'll be as ready as you've ever been.

Most of you will be in the best shape of your life. You'll be the best you, you've ever been. How much better does it get? Maintaining perspective on this is so important. Every time I hit the stage, I'm better than the time before. If this is your first time, you will be in the best shape of your life.

You won't look like the pros. You can just stop comparing yourself to the pros you follow on instagram and facebook. Just stop that right now. Stop comparing yourself to women who compete in different divisions. Sure some of them do 2 NPC shows, then go to one national level show and turn pro. But that is NOT the norm. And it's not going to happen to you. Be willing to work. Hard.

You won't look or feel ready 4 weeks out, or 6, or even 3. If you are working with a coach, they are timing your progress so you're ready in time...not early. Keeping contest ready conditioning for a long period of time isn't something you want to do. With that in mind, you won't "look" ready. Because you aren't.

Most importantly, this process is not linear. You won't lose 5 pounds every week for 16 weeks. You aren't going to drop 3% body fat weekly for the duration of your prep. It doesn't work like that. Some weeks you will see a number change, some you won't. That doesn't mean nothing is happening.

Never feel frustrated with that. It's just science. It's what happens over the cumulative duration of your prep that makes you "ready" in time. Your weight doesn't matter, your body fat percentage doesn't matter.

There is no component during prejudging where every competitor will be weighed, measured, and tested for body fat. Get over it. Your numbers don't matter. What does matter is how you look. Which you become blind to. Your coach can see how you look. Trust them.

What you can rest assured in, is you are doing everything you should be doing to get ready in time. Leave nothing undone. Don't nibble, or miss meals. Don't miss workouts, or cut your cardio. Don't think you're "killin' it" by doing more than you are supposed to do. Just work your plan. And your plan will work.

It isn't until I look at stage pictures when I truly realize - I was ready. Putting energy into thinking about this now isn't serving you well. Trust your process. Trust yourself. Be confident that you will be ready. You won't believe your pictures! You're going to be ready.

Monday, August 31, 2015

When to Start Cutting - Contest Prep

by Kris Pitcher

You know that advertisement about unused vacation days? Where the kids are saying, "They're PAID vacation days!?" And, "That's the stupidest thing I ever heard?"

That's kind of how I feel about people talking about the exact point during their contest prep when they begin the "cutting" process. By definition, when you begin a caloric ARE cutting. It's the stupidest thing I ever heard.

And then I take a deep breath and remind myself, a lot of coaches, gurus, and self-describe first time competitor-know-it-alls turned contest prep experts...have just enough information to be dangerous.

Aren't you glad I started writing again?

Here's the thing. We feel the need to define every single phase of this process. Week 1: X, Y, and then Z will happen. Week 2: etc. Week 7: Begin CUTTING phase. It's not important.

"Cutting" means you are trying to lose fat. Aren't you trying to do that from the very start of your prep? I sure am. Heck. I'm trying to do that off season. You begin trying to lose fat, AKA - cutting, at the beginning. Sometimes you start before the start. A jump start.

But the need to deconstruct something very simple overrides common sense. Either that, or it's just not that common. My point is, don't over complicate something which is actually very simple. We have named every phase of this, and I'm just not convinced that's necessary.

People get all caught up on if you started cutting at 5 weeks, or 4 or 7. And why that's different from what they are doing, and are they doing it right, or wrong? Should they fire their coach? Hire another one? Or just get their guidance form thousands of random people?

Silly. Just do your prep. We're all cutting. We all started cutting at the beginning. Cut it out.