One of the most challenge aspects of coaching is not being able to be present for the athlete on show day. Properly peaking an athlete is a dynamic process- you can have a very good idea of what is needed, but the human body can be somewhat unpredictable. All of prep is based off of norms and consistency, and the general approach to peak week is based off of an athlete who is mostly a picture perfect image of consistency. Athletes provide their coach with data for months while weighing on the same scale, cooking in the same kitchen, training in the same gym and walking on the same treadmill, but all of this changes during peak week. For some athletes the excitement of “peak week” seems to send their body either into overdrive or a tailspin, and what was once predictable is now decidedly more variable.
I have personally seen a person’s body completely flatten out during the traveling process for their show, to the point that the planned refeed appeared to be insufficient. On the other hand, many athletes experience the opposite while traveling, becoming increasingly more watery and having a softer look by the hour. Peak week is not a time for magic to occur, but rather small, calculated changes to bring a complete physique to the stage. Generally speaking, this is the perfect combination of being full, dry (not spilled or soft), and vascular, all of which comes from being lean enough and ready early in order for the smaller changes to pay off. One of the three factors is not enough- rather, bringing a complete look to the stage is what is rewarded. This is where the athlete really comes into play. It is not feasible for your coach to always be around and assess what changes are needed on a minute-by-minute basis. Before committing to compete, the athlete also must commit to being a student of their own body and learning, taking notes, and being able to provide proper feedback if and when it is needed.
What exactly do I mean by becoming a student of your body you might ask? Every week of prep, which may last upwards of 16 weeks for some, is a chance to learn. Every meal, every training session, every time you pose and every time you step on the scale and hit a new low is another moment for you to be taking mental notes and assessing the changes that are occurring. One week at a time this might not seem important, but these mental notes will pay off big time come peak week when you are asked to provide your coach with proper feedback in order to achieve the end result that you have worked so hard for. As a coach I firmly believe that every week of contest prep is a chance to practice how you plan on playing come game day. The consistency of refeeds, water intake, electrolyte consumption are all leading up to your competition and how your physique will be displayed on stage. Every reefed and the days to follow are a great snap shot of that look you are trying to achieve come your moment on stage and the leaner you become the easier and more predictable these changes will be. Refeed days, free meals, cheat meals, or whatever you prefer to call them, are times that you as a competitor really need to be honed in on how you are responding- not only that day, but also the days to follow.
The day after the refeed, does your physique appear increasingly fuller? Does your body seem to be holding water? Is your skin appearing tighter throughout the day, or is it feeling thick as if you are getting more fuel than you really need? What about the days and training sessions to follow- are you seeing improved performance? Do you have an improved pump and vascularity during training? How long is this effect lasting- just the following day, or many days to follow? And when does that effect seem to fade?
All of these variables are vital in the peaking process, and being able to adequately assess and report these things back to your coach is what is needed to be your best. Take pride and ownership of your own physique. We as coaches are here to help you, not to drag you through and across the finish line of prep without you being actively engaged in your own journey.
All of the mental notes and feedback you have given to your coach leading up to peak week is now used to plan for the show, and this information is even more important if things seem to go wrong. The more in tune you are with the changes that occurred during your prep, the better you will now be able to provide needed feedback if your peak is off or things do not go according to plan. A number of things could go wrong- planes get delayed, traffic happens, weigh in lines can be hours long, or the weigh in itself could be at a different location than what you were told. The point is, stressors and delays are going to be present, and those stressors can have an impact on your physique unless you know how to provide the type of feedback needed in order to get things back on the right track.
Telling your coach “I feel good,” or “I feel tired,” is not proper feedback. Sure, we want you to feel “good,” but feeling good is not the goal of competing. The goal is to look good, and when it comes down to it, feeling is irrelevant. A properly planned out peak should have you feeling good, but more importantly, how are you looking? Are you filling out correctly? Do you have an idea of what “100%” looks like for your physique? At this point in your contest prep you should, and being able to give a percentage to your coach in the hours leading up to pre judging can make all of the difference! Below I have listed some checkpoints in how you can better assess your physique.
- Fullness: Is your skin appearing tight, without a layer of water underneath it?
- Flat: If you are noticing that your hunger is vastly improving you could still be very flat. Flatness can appear differently for each of us. Skin could be appearing loose, a pump might be hard to attain, or vascularity can be present but faint, as if there is not much blood in your veins.
- Body temperature: Are you noticing your body heating up? This may be accompanied by a pump as well. If you are pumping up, do you feel that you’re able to easily maintain your pump and your body temperature is increasing?
Water: Issues with water can appear as if you have a thick or seemingly thicker layer of skin than normal. Understand that you cannot gain significant amounts of fat within a few hours, so if you are feeling as if you skin is thickening up this is an issue with water. Similar to the appearance you might have after a larger refeed right before going to bed or just simply eating more than you should have in a large bolus.
- Energy During Posing: By this point I am sure you are seeing a theme here, as all of these factors are somewhat related. But as you are posing, are you noticing that you are becoming increasingly fuller, muscles popping, body temperature increasing and pump easy to maintain, or are one or several of these factors missing?
- Hunger: To obtain the ideal look for your physique, your eating must be goal-oriented. This is not a time for emotional eating, but being able to adequately assess hunger is vital. You should not be starving during your peaking, assuming that making weight is not a concern. You are eating for a goal at this point, not for enjoyment. Have confidence in your hunger gauge and report that back to your coach. Again, this is not so much about feeling good or being satisfied, but how are all of the above factors affecting your physique?
You are an athlete and it is your physique. You have to actively participate in the peaking process- if you are not, you are only hurting yourself and it is going to show. With knowledge comes power, and with power and understanding I can assure you that your placing will be indicative of how much you put into your contest prep in all aspects.
By: Matt Jansen of Team INOV8