Sunday, May 2, 2010

Tara Ballard Contest Prep Update

Four Weeks Out- Feelings & Observations

Well, here we are 4 WEEKS OUT from the first-ever FAME Carolinas competition, and I must say that nerves are starting to set in a bit! These next few weeks are going to be so busy- not only with traveling, dieting, posing practice, etc... but with work and life in general. I'm beginning to feel a wee bit stressed, but am really trying to keep my focus and positive attitude. This gets difficult sometimes, especially when there are sometimes negative forces around that can weigh you down. I'm also feeling just a little insecure about this competition, since it will be totally different than the last three I've done.

I would venture to guess that I'm not alone in these feelings. I am sure many competitors, new and seasoned, go through this... so all I can do is just go with it and accept that this is part of the process. I'm also determined not to let these feelings overwhelm me, as I know there are much, much more important things to worry about. That is not to say that I don't want to do well; I definitely do, but I refuse to let it consume me every waking moment.

One thing in particular that has me just a little off-kilter today is that I leave for Florida tomorrow for a week- work trip. Being out of my routine so close to showtime really isn't ideal, but I can't stop living and ignore responsibilities because of competition. I know it will all be fine- it just throws a little curve ball into my week, but it's not anything I can't handle. As I pack and prepare meals for the road, I have been thinking about how everyone has their "stuff" to deal with. Your "stuff" might seem bigger to you than my "stuff", and vice versa, but it's still our respective "stuff", and neither of us should downplay the other's. My "stuff" that I'm dealing with currently is managing the IT operations for a 100+ user law firm that just so happens to be located almost 500 miles away, as well as building my own personal training business, managing the Group Exercise program at my gym, and doing IT consulting for a small local law firm... not to mention the "stuff" that has recently gone on with my dad. The lawyers I work with don't understand or really care that I'm a little carb-depleted, need to get my workouts in, order my suit, practice posing, etc. They care that they are able to access their data quickly and efficiently, not matter what. This means that I am accessible to them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Let me make one thing clear though, I am NOT complaining. This is my "stuff", and I have learned to deal with it. Do I get stressed? Of course!!! But that is part of making the decision to compete. Unless you are independently wealthy, are a Pro with major sponsorship, or otherwise have someone supporting you financially, you have to realize and accept that you to become a queen at project and time management. Sometimes this may mean getting up at 3:30am or 4am to get your workouts in before your day starts (yes, I do this on some days), or it may mean you have to miss a workout because of a work deadline. Making the decision to compete is one that will change your life, in many ways. I believe it has helped me become better at my job- I've learned how to juggle multiple task better, and I've become more self-assured and confident. So, yes, it is a huge sacrifice sometimes, but I feel that it has helped me deal with my "stuff" a little better than I have in the past.

Switching gears now to training, diet, etc.

I have been on my new cutting diet for two weeks now. It is no secret that the hypertrophy diet was tough for me. This is another area where my "stuff" may be different than yours, but it's still mine and no less important. Yes, it may seem like I have it easier than others who are in contest prep mode because I got to be on a somewhat looser, yet still very clean, hypertrophy diet up until 6 weeks out. But, as Jill says, "off-season doesn't mean open season." Meaning it wasn't like I was eating doughnuts, etc. whenever I wanted. It was very clean, but just more than what I'm used to eating. But, in order for me to build good, lean muscle, I needed it. It was challenging though to eat when I just didn't want to. I struggled daily with knowing that I needed the extra calories to help build my physique, but also with getting every bite in when I really didn't want it. Nick tells me I'm weird that way- not wired like most people :-) Now I'm eating just as many times per day, but less quantity, and of course, fewer carbs. After feeling a little weird the first few days, I feel great now. But now the hope is that I'm able to hold onto the muscle that Jill and I have spent these last few months building. I won't lie, I love getting lean and seeing definition come out- but I really want to hold on to what I've gained as far as muscle is concerned. SO, we will see if I can sustain as much as possible through July, which will be the last competition before I take a break until the Fall. We'll see how it goes!! Of course, the insecurities do come in to play and I wonder if 6 weeks will be enough time- if I will be elan enough and stage-ready. So, my feelings go both ways; will I lose too much muscle, or will I not be elan enough...argh! Again, I just have to trust the process though and not let the feelings overwhelm me.

In an effort to hold on to as much muscle as possible, Jill has opted to keep my cardio sessions still pretty low.... 5 days/week, no more than 40 minutes at a time. And only one day a week on the treadmill for a short 20 minutes worth of incline interval work. My weight-training is pretty much the same, with the addition of some shoulder-work with my back/biceps workout on Mondays. If nothing else, I know that I am stronger than ever before!!!

I'm attaching a couple of progress pics from 4/30/10 (4 weeks out)- again, just candids taken in workout gear after shoulders/chest/triceps. It was a really good workout, thanks in large part to Nick helping me push through some of the heaviest sets I've done to date. Jill was out of town, and I was happy Nick agreed to work out with me, a mere "girl" :-)!!

In my next post, I'll let you all know how being on the road and out of my routine went down, as well as what goes into planning/prep for the few weeks and days prior to competition. Until then, train hard and find happiness in every day,even when you have your "stuff" to deal with!


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