On 30th May this year I made a decision to contact Rob Whitfield to find out his thoughts on my potential to compete in a men’s physique competition…….yes at 47! A long term plantar fasciitis injury had left me re-evaluating personal goals and challenges, and this was the route I decided to go down.
Rob is a respected conditioning coach with a good record of producing results with clients, and is himself a competitive bodybuilder.
My initial enquiry related to competing in 2018, but Rob suggested that I could compete in Cardiff in September this year, as I wasn’t in bad nick for an old man and pretty lean at the time, weighing at 71kg (11stone 2lb). I decided to give it a go and see where 3 months training and strict dieting would get me!
My partner Karen had been working with Rob as her online coach for the past 3 months and had seen some significant body changes with Rob’s training and nutrition plan, along with her hard training and dedication to the strict diet. Karen would also be competing at the Wales show.
The training plan was based on a legs/push/pull workout, eg Monday legs, Tuesday chest, shoulders, triceps, Wednesday, back and biceps. These were followed by a rest day and then repeat. There were 3 rotations, with different exercises and rep ranges for each body part on each rotation.
My diet was strict, not too outside of the structured way I ate normally but now I had specific quantities which meant weighing the food, and timings of meals throughout the day.
I had to check in with Rob on a Wednesday and Saturday with my weight, front and back photos, and a summary of how the diet and training were going, energy levels and any upcoming events.
I got stuck into the training, hard going to get used to after a few years doing triathlons and fit around work, same for everybody on that score though. The cardio of 90 minutes per week was taken up swimming, due to us entering the Ten Foot swim prior to this goal
The Ten Foot swim was a great day, challenge and achievement, but was also good to get done so the sole focus could be on Cardiff. I switched my cardio to running 3 x 30 mins per week to work alongside the training.
Coming in to this process late, my diet went quickly to prep phase. The carbohydrates in my diet were reduced incrementally as the weeks passed to help reduce body fat, but protein kept high to maintain muscle.
Show day quickly arrived, final weigh in had me at 66.5kg, the weight loss most definitely coming from fat%. Breakfast followed by a very nervous drive up to Cardiff. We registered and went to get our spray tan. Removing body hair and having a spray tan was a first on both counts for me, but a requirement to enter. After being sprayed a lovely mahogany colour,(joke!) there was nothing else to do but eat your last chicken and rice, and wait for the show to start. I received a quick phone call from Rob to wish me all the best, stay calm, enjoy it, but to remember I was always being judged on stage.
Show time and the category’s went along quickly in a well drilled show. I waited backstage as my category came closer. It was very busy here, competitors coming off stage and waiting to go on, final preparations and pumping up.
Finally my class was called, and we stood in line looking onto the stage waiting for the previous class to be judged and placed……guess who was first in line! My heart was racing as the guys on stage came off, and our class was called, shit this was it!
We walked to the front of the stage in line and faced the crowd and judges. I went into a front pose, shaking like mad, while trying to smile and tell myself to keep calm. The judges kept us there for what seemed like an eternity before they called the first quarter turn to the right. I went through my quarter turns which I had practised so hard, until we faced the front again. We were moved about a bit for comparisons, then all left the stage, while the judges picked the top 3.
We waited briefly and then my number was called…… I had to go back on to stage and perform a solo routine! I came on and walked along a marked line along the back, then straight down towards the judges (T Walk), going through my quarter turns again
Routine over and I waited to the side of the stage while the other 2 guys were called on for their routines, but remembering what Rob said about being judged all the time.
We were all called into line for the final result. 3rd place……Gerald Brace! A mixture of amazement at placing in my first ever show, and relief at getting through it without cocking up big time or fainting came over me. 2nd and 1st places were called, we were all presented with a nice trophy, and all of us had an invite to the British Finals in October!
I came off and waited for Karen as her category was next. She looked amazing and breezed through her routine, placing second. We got changed and left St.Davids Hall for a well-deserved burger and chips, which tasted unbelievable after weeks of a strict diet.
Reflection:- I’m so glad I went through with the decision to enter, a completely new challenge which tested my self-discipline, commitment, dedication and patience to the limit. The training was hard, but the diet is where the real battle lies. The endless weighing and preparation of food along with exclusion of certain foods can be monotonous, but the results come with consistency, and are worth the effort.
I won’t be going to the British finals in October. It would be a big step up from a qualifying competition and have been advised to enter a show in April next year if I wanted to continue. For now I will happily take placing 3rd!
So would I do it all again? Undecided at present………who knows what will be next!