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Shawn Ray

Shawn Ray

Shawn Ray, a titan in the bodybuilding industry, now brings his extensive experience to Muscle Insider’s audience. A Hall of Fame bodybuilder, Shawn has stood among legends in the sport, including Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, Dorian Yates, Kevin Levrone, and many others. Whether winning the Arnold Classic, or his many near victories on the Mr. Olympia stage, Shawn has continued to evolve in the industry, and transitioned into various roles like journalism and event promotion. Known for his articulate insights and profound knowledge of the sport, Shawn's writings are expected to enrich readers with deep dives into the technical aspects of bodybuilding, fitness trends, and athlete development strategies. His experience not only illuminates the complexities of competitive bodybuilding but also guides enthusiasts and professionals alike through the evolving landscape of fitness.

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Navigating Peak Week Successfully

Every athlete preparing for competition has similar but not identical preparation goals and plans with varying degrees of superstitions and rituals performed during the last week otherwise referred to as “Peak Week” which is typically the final week of preparation prior to stepping on stage at the Saturday Night Finals.

Staying Focused Under Peak Week Pressure

That final week is hectic and stressful for the most seasoned veteran athlete full of anxiety, sleepless nights, low carbohydrate intake, sun tanning, extra posing, extra cardio and in general an overload of central nervous system and basic self awareness. When all the above factors collide for the final 6 or 7 days leading up to a major contest they can make or break you by the time you step on stage to compete. Many athletes use various techniques to manage stress and the final contest prep period, but nothing really prepares you completely other than bracing for the journey and simply taking things as they come. It’s times like these where you can really separate the strong from the weak, while many will crumble under the weight of the occasion. So much to do and so little time can make an athlete’s cortisol level skyrocket, hold water, spill over, or go off the deep end regarding the strict diet protocols which can also lead to self sabotage.

Early Preparation Helps Ease Peak Week Stress

During “Peak Week” the athlete must remain calm, focused, and not try to change what’s been working for weeks. I’ve personally tried to push like hell during the early stages of contest prep weeks 1 thru 10 so I could back off and cruise during peak week which worked for me better than most throughout my 13 years as a top Olympia competitor! Getting ready early during prep is key in efforts to help eliminate anxiety, stress, and sensory overload. Typically, I’d prepare for a 12-week pre-contest period leaving the last week for small details like, tanning, low carb intake, photo shoots, and extra posing, not extra training!

Tactical Adjustments for Peak Week Success

Get ready early so you can unwind a bit going into the big show and not stress out trying to play catch up for lost time, which is where you can overdue the amount of training, dieting, and in essence ruin your overall look then flatten out to the degree that all your hard work can implode by show time. Shorter, faster workouts combined with extra posing, tanning, cardio, water intake and low carbs which help rid the body of excess fat and water until you hit the Thursday prior to Saturday morning prejudging at which time, I typically stop tanning, stop the cardio and training while reintroducing more quality complex carbohydrates back into my system all while continuing to practice posing two to three times per day.

Mental Preparation During Peak Week

By the time Thursday arrives prior to the show, I become more aware of my need to decompress and try to remain calm by eliminating certain aspects of activities I typically engage in like no more TV, social isolation from friends and listening to non-lyrical classical music in efforts to relax my mind and remain calm. I try to not schedule appointments, book work, travel nor conduct business activities the final couple of days as I re-focus more on the 2-3 minutes I’m going to have on stage performing my posing routine and competing with the best in the world. I rehearse my posing routine time and again memorizing the positioning of my feet, transitional poses as I visualize the entire event unfolding from prejudging to awards.

The Pitfalls of Overthinking

Peak Week has ruined many dreams for dedicated athletes from amateur to pro’s due to overthinking. There are no “last minute” quick fixes and nothing you can take to make up for lack of preparation meaning you’re either ready or you’re not. The solution to the issue isn’t a magic potion or magic pill but rather early preparation. Where preparation meets opportunity is where you will find success!

Don’t wait until “Peak Week” to start ramping things up, do the work early so you can wrap things up the final week, stress free and without urgency. It is at this time and place where champions set themselves apart from the wannabes.

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