Blog Post by Clare Ross – INBA Figure Superstar
It’s been 2 years since I last competed and let me tell you it has been a difficult time!
When I finished the 2010 competitions I learnt very quickly exactly what I had done to my body. I attempted staying at lower body fat through the year but the amount of cardio and dieting I had to do to get there was astounding! What previously had worked for me didn’t even touch the sides. I was dieting harder and doing 2 week out cardio just to try and stay at a reasonable body fat offseason. My body had adapted to a regime of ridiculous low calories and punishing workload. The sensible me made the decision that what I was doing was completely unstainable. I pulled the plug on ever getting back on stage and started to try and find a way back to health, I started to think about repairing my body.
When I sat back and wondered what had happened to my metabolism. I have to reflect on exactly how I got into this state. It would not be until I fully owned my role that I would be in a position never to repeat the same behaviour. I would love to blame someone else, the people who helped me with my diet or other competitors who made my behaviour seem normal but really I know I was accountable.
Here are the mistakes which led, through ignorance or burying my head in the sand, to me suffering some metabolic damage.
- I ate under the prescribed amount of calories a lot of the time. Yes, I was given guidelines about how much to eat but surely if x amount of calories are good wouldn’t eating under that be better? I was hungry. I was suffering but to be successful I felt I had to suffer. The more I suffered the more successful I would be!
- I didn’t include rest days or rest enough when I got the chance. Sleep was a luxury and really coffees would suffice when you needed to get through. I just couldn’t do enough to satisfy my need to get lean enough for comps. Why rest when you can run around getting it all done? I was exhausted but I was worried it wasn’t enough!
- I was told to do high intensity cardio x 3 times week. I did that and another 20mins on the Stairmaster straight after training on top as well as my morning fasted cardio! My body started to get repetitive strains injuries. I thought that was the way to get lean. I was in awe of my body’s ability to do so much on so little!
- I did a lot of competitions and maintained extremely low body fat through cardio and strict diet throughout the year. Competing in July and finishing the competition year in November for 2 years straight is a recipe for disaster. Let’s not mention the binge eating after the competitions for 2 days and then the inevitable slog to get the body fat back down for the next competition. I didn’t even give a thought about my body and what it was coping with.
- I wasn’t honest with myself let alone with anyone around me. I almost relished in feeling exhausted and I was getting very lean. I didn’t think it should be any other way. Feeling exhausted, not remembering how to get the kids to school, a continuous and inexplicable twitching eye and feeling completely wired whilst zooming from one thing to another. Was I worried about my health? Nope! I counted down the weeks.
I truly believed when I was deep in competition prep that working harder than everyone else would see me do well on stage. I thought I would stand on stage feeling more deserving because I had been so much hungrier, tireder than everyone else. That’s what every motivational book, quote or some guru at the gym would tell you. I gave no thought to what my body was coping with or my overall health. What mattered to me was to get up on stage after having worked so hard and not to look out of place!
In reality what I was doing was conditioning my body to cope with and anticipate ongoing famine and severe physical hardship. Faced with this, it did exactly what it is supposed to do – it adapted. It learned to do more and more with less and less. Having barely survived the last “famine”, it learned that it really ought to hold bigger stores of emergency “on-board” energy in case that nasty famine should soon return! I guess you could call this metabolic damage, but it would probably be more fairly described as metabolic adaption.
I am grateful I had enough sense to realise that doing even more and more with even less and less is not sustainable and was not the answer. What I needed to do was to allow my body to learn that the shocking treatment I subjected it to was in the past and will not be repeated. The right answer was to give my body what it needs when it needs it. I’m still smashing it in the gym, but I’m giving my body the rest and fuel/nutrients it needs and slowly, slowly increasing this over time. I hope (and expect) it to eventually fully re-adapt to this new environment.
When I think about the journey I have been and am still on, I have to think exactly how I got into this position. It isn’t until I take accountability for the role my decisions played that I will be in a position never to repeat the same behaviour. I would love to blame someone else, the people who helped me with my diet or other competitors who made my behaviour seem normal but I know it was all me.
Has it been difficult, training every day watching my body get bigger and bigger whilst eating clean? Has it been difficult looking in the mirror and seeing a body that doesn’t reflect the discipline and effort I have been putting in? You bet. And it’s also difficult watching everyone get leaner getting ready for competition season whilst my body appears stagnant (albeit with increasing calories). Would I wish this past 2 years away?
Not on your life!
As no life lessons come from smooth journeys, I would say finally my eyes are open and I am armed with new knowledge and respect for my body. I am in the process of repairing my body and putting my health first. Ruining my metabolism may be the best thing I ever did 🙂