bodybuilder pose

How Contest Prep Experience Can Be Used in Everyday Life by Joe Fantauzzi

Each and every day you have things to balance in your life: home life, work projects and assignments, family life and obligations, hobbies and personal time. You have the same 24-hour days and 7 days in a week to get these things accomplished, same as everyone else. Sometimes it can be so overwhelming that your brain feels like it is gonna overload.

Stress, as we know, can lead to increases in cortisol which can put a roadblock in fitness goals no matter what they might be. So how can we apply principles of contest prep into everyday life?

When I design a contest prep program for any of my clients or myself, I break it down into smaller segments or mini-goals. For a new client, I prefer to have at least 6 months or 24 weeks for a contest prep. Why so long, especially if the client is in decent shape and might only need 10-12 weeks?

Anybody that has done a contest prep or trained for some kind of physical contest knows it is hard. Once you accomplish it, no matter what the result, you’ve done something 95% of the population can’t do. I want contest prep to be something you want to do again. Not something that is so frustrating and physically demanding that it takes you a year to recover. Nor something that is so overly restrictive and demanding that you binge and wind up in worse shape than when you started.

This is the rough breakdown I like to use for a physique competition program:

● 6 Months Out (24 weeks)
I focus on a metabolism reset. This is to get clients used to eating the right amount of food for the amount of activity they’re doing. Most people are actually under-eating for the amount of energy they spend calorie wise, so to get the body and metabolism stoked to burn and use calories properly, you need to reset it. This can take one week or sometimes up to six weeks.

● 5 Months Out (20 weeks)
Work on ensuring cardio is performed, getting in the habit of meal prep, and eating all meals while limiting cheats.

● 4 Months Out (16 weeks)
Start restricting calories and increasing cardio and training.

● 3 Months Out (12 weeks)
Cut all comfort foods in meal prep, eating leaner sources of all foods. Your metabolism should be high and workouts should still be heavy and hard.

● 2 Months Out (8 weeks)
Time to show up. This is Make or break time. It’s when the biggest changes are made. Refeed meals are usually introduced here. The goal is to be 95% ready by end of this month.

● 1 Month Out (4 weeks)
This is the time for final preparations. You should be coasting in from here. There will be minor changes in diet and you’ll maintain current levels of activity, polishing and the priming the body to look its best on show day.

So now that we’ve outlined a program, how does one apply this to real life goals or challenges?

This month, I will be having both of my knees replaced. The doc says I can’t compete anymore. Does that mean I can’t ever lift or diet for a show? Or does that mean I just can’t push the same weight amounts during workouts I used to? My doctor has outlined the recovery process, and even though they suggest a life that is very limited after recovery, I have, as usual, set my mind to prove limitations wrong. Now, that doesn’t mean I intend to excessively overload myself, but I’m not going to just give up being an active, athletic person. I don’t want to avoid giving something a try because I am technically not supposed to.

knee replacement graphic

Here is how I am going to apply my contest prep mindset to my knee replacement recovery, with the end goal of stepping on stage at the Masters Nationals in Classic Physique in July 2019 (98 weeks out from the time of writing this blog):

● 1 Month Pre-surgery and Surgery Preparation
3.5 weeks out from surgery I did a Body Analytics body fat test. My results were 10% BF @197lb. That means my RMR is 2275 and with current activity and I should be able to consume 3100-3500 calories with no fat gain. My goal for post-surgery is current RMR + 10% = 2500 calories, which should keep me in decent shape even without my usual activity level. I want to be able to be able to move around with my walker and crutches without the difficulty that comes with too much body weight.

● Month 1 Recovery
Here, my goal is to do exactly what I am told by doctors and physical therapists. Rehab in this stage will be focused on knee range of motion and walking. I also want to maintain my weight through proper diet, since gym activity will be limited to therapy and some light upper body work.

● Month 2 Recovery
I plan to strengthen my leg muscles and walk with minimal assistance from a walker or crutches.

● Month 3 Recovery
I will add weight resistance depending on my recovery pace. I will also add bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges. My cardio will increase on a treadmill, bike, or other low impact forms.

● Month 4-6 Rebuild
At 12-24 weeks I’ll start the use of light weights to rebuild muscle. I will work with coaches to further PT for the functionality of my legs. I’ve set a normal cardio goals of 4-5 30 minutes sessions per week.

● Month 7-10 Endurance
I will be working on increasing my endurance for a longer workout and cardio.

● Month 11-13 Grow Time
I’ll slowly increase weights to safe max levels for growth and endurance. Ex: Squat for 15-20 reps only.

● Month 14-22 Masters National Contest Prep
I will begin my prep to return to the stage in the classic physique over 40 class in Pittsburgh, taking place in July of 2019.

As long as I can avoid any major setbacks out of my control, I should be able to step back on stage right where I left off in June of 2017.

Joe Fantauzzi on stage

I am a firm believer that you should always strive to be a better version of yourself in each contest you do, no matter what results get. By looking at my whole rehab as the contest prep for Masters Nationals in 2019, I can break down the recovery into mini contest prep goals, similar to how I break each month of a normal contest prep into five or six little goals. No matter what your goal is, you can accomplish great things by breaking them down into smaller goals that you are able to focus on while working to achieve the big one.

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