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Bigger and Badder

Ron Partlow
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Distracted Dieting: Taking your Mind off Your Meals

I get a lot of questions from young competitors about how to deal with contest prep and how to make it from one small meal to the next without thinking about food constantly. I know the feeling. I’ve been there for weeks and months on end, and it’s something that some people are unable to do. No amount of advice could keep them on low carbs or a calorie-restricted plan for any length of time. However, there are others who could make it through prep if they didn’t think they had to put everything else on hold. That creates way too much space for your mind to play tricks on you.

I look back on all the shows and one thing is clear: One of the secrets to getting through contest prep is to keep mentally busy. Some shows in which I did extremely well happened to take place when I had a lot going on, from taking on a ton of clients and changing jobs one year to going to college full-time and moving three times during prep another
year. The year I turned pro, I sold my house and moved from Edmonton to Vancouver to start my first day job in 20 years, then spent seven weeks of my 20-week prep in foreign countries, constantly having to adapt, day to day. I think I did well at those shows because I had to be focused on the moment. Time passed quickly. Prep flew by. Endurance, funny as it sounds, seemed less of a factor. My dedication was sharpened, and my stubbornness to get
everything done was enhanced.

Then there were the other shows where I did the opposite. A few times, I cleared my schedule for three or four months and just sat inside to prep with zero other responsibilities, driving myself insane and overanalyzing every little detail because I had the time to do so. See, that’s the problem: time. Getting through contest prep is like a slow walk through hell, so time is the key factor. Anybody can diet hard or be perfect for a day, but stringing 100 days in a row together? Most people can’t do that. The ones that are really good at it are also the ones that are good at being mentally busy. I see really good bodybuilders make this mistake all the time; they drop everything for the show and then lose their minds.

Of course they go crazy! The framework of bodybuilding is a lot like a computer program that you can let run in the background, like iTunes playing while you surf on Google. If you close the Google window, then you’re left staring at iTunes, and you’d go crazy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that an insane schedule of hard manual labour is what we all need. Not at all. The physical stresses of “life” are never a great thing to add to prep. Ideally, we should be occupying our minds while our bodies rest to recover. I know that for me, having things to think about, learn, and focus on made life much more normal while getting ready for shows. I used to know a guy who took 16 weeks of guitar lessons every time he did a show. One lesson a week, and he practiced 30 minutes a day. After a few contests, he was pretty good on his six-string. I think that more people should do little things like that for themselves. Just something to ponder.