The Blog

Sacrifice Like Lambs

I have been inspired to write this piece with both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. This is not for my own personal benefit, but rather quite the opposite. Now that the competition season is beginning to wind down, I would like to address a few matters of concern.

The sport of bodybuilding is evolving- as every other sport tends to do. Skilled sports such as hockey, baseball, football and the like are always looking for better and better from their athletes. Faster, stronger, more agile- supply and demand commands better to keep it interesting. However with bodybuilding, as the name implies, we are looking for BIGGER, harder, ‘freakier’. My issue is not with the father category that is bodybuilding: my issue is what’s happening to the other categories that fall under the bodybuilding umbrella. Figure, bikini, men’s physique and even the women’s physique division have been changing drastically in the past 3 years- from an observational standpoint. While I could go on about each individual category, I’d like to focus the attention on to the category dearest to my heart: figure.

2016 Figure Olympia

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Nicole Wilkins’ Figure Olympia 2009

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Nicole Wilkins’ Figure Olympia 2013

 

For those of you that don’t know, the Olympia is the equivalent to the Superbowl for bodybuilding. The very best athletes from all over the World in each respective category gather every September in Las Vegas to compete for the title of the best in their division. This year in figure, Latorya Watts won for the second year in a row. She has a very beautiful physique. In previous years, the Olympia had crowned Nicole Wilkins 4 times- almost setting the standard for the desired ‘figure look’ in years 2009, 2011, 2013-2014. While Nicole is a fantastic role model and positive influence on women of all ages- it is very obvious the changes that have been made to her physique. After last year’s Olympia, the IFBB (International Bodybuilding Federation- the sports governing body) released a statement stating that they would be looking for a more ‘down-sized’ look in the sport of figure, meaning less muscle and softer conditioning.  After seeing the athletes that made the top 3, it is apparent that this wasn’t the case.

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Figure Olympia 2016 top five, from left to right: Swann de la Rosa (5th); Cydney Gillon (3rd); Latorya Watts (1st); Candice Lewis (3rd); Nicole Wilkins (4th)

 

The uproar that this has caused, and why it matters, is the message it sends to the sport at the amateur level… Which brings me to my next area of concern.

 

 

 

 

Regional and National Level Competition

In Canada, bodybuilding is governed under the CBBF: Canadian Bodybuilding Federation. The CBBF is to carry out their judging of athletes as close to the protocol as the IFBB states. The system is not perfect. As much as one can try to standardize and structure judging, all areas of bodybuilding are ultimately subjective. Historically, judging at the National level in figure has typically been a harder, more muscular look than what you’d normally see in the IFBB. Why- you ask? It’s just the way it’s been. I have noticed this past year at the regional level the more ‘downsized’ look was rewarded in figure. This was good: as this is what the IFBB said was expected, right? I know of many figure athletes headed into Nationals happy with the new protocol- only to be met with the same judging from years past, leaving many of them feeling defeated. They want you big, hard, and full- yet still ‘feminine’, if you can manage that.

2014 CBBF Figure Nationals

2014 CBBF Figure Nationals

I’m here to state a hard truth- some of you who know the sport well will not even flinch, the rest of you are in for a surprise: it is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve what the judges are asking of these women COMPLETELY NATURAL. Even with the very best genetics on your side, we as women are not meant to have that amount of muscle with a body fat percentage below 13% and still hold onto what makes us feminine: plain and simple. There are a vast amount of competitors that have made their peace with the fact that they will have to resort to extremes- such as steroids and diuretics to achieve the approval of that panel of judges. Unless you compete in a drug-tested division, it’s pretty commonplace. In fact, every category under the umbrella of bodybuilding in every level of competition has athletes resorting to these extremes (yes, even bikini). There are of course those exceptional few that may be 100% clean, but they exist in small quantities.

What disheartens me the most is just HOW extreme things have become: women taking steriods that they haven’t even researched the long-terms effects on; causing irreparable damage to their bodies (voice changes, thickening jaw-lines, loss of menstrual-cycles, infertility, etc.). Women blindly taking whatever their coach thinks may/may not help them place higher at a show where they are on stage for 10 mins, tops. Girls wearing waist shapers almost 24/7 to atrophy their midsections to create freakishly exaggerated proportions like it’s the 1800s. Hours upon hours of cardio while on limited food for months on end: only creating a sort of ‘food-phobia’ for regular meals once their show is over and done with, and even exercise bulimia. Not everyone will have an eating disorder after competing, but I can guarantee you will have an element of body dysmorphia.

 

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2011 CBBF Figure Nationals top 3: (from left) Emily Zelinka (2nd); Michelle Krack (1st); myself (3rd)

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2013 CBBF Figure Nationals top 3: myself (2nd); Emily Zelinka (1st); Tamen Ewasiuk (nee Stuve)(3rd)

I went into this sport originally for the physical and mental challenge of bringing my body to its utmost physical peak; and I feel I did do that. I remained informed and educated on each and every method I put my body through, and my doctor was completely in the loop. I drew the line when I saw just how extreme things would have to get in order to achieve that ‘pro’ status. I knew my health, my life, my family, my appearance- who I’d want to see in the mirror each day was so much more important than all that. I have a hard time calling these shows ‘fitness competitions’ anymore: they should be called ‘Sacrifice Competitions’. The more extreme the judging becomes, the more extremes these ladies will resort to- sacrificing like lambs to the judges that are herding them. If you are one of those individuals that can compete simply for the love of the stage, kudos to you. I for one can’t see putting your body, your free time, your finances, your loved ones through all that each year for simple ‘fun’. I can think of 100 other things to do that are fun, that do not sacrifice all those things. But then, it’s not always about winning. I do not mean for this to sound like I’m ‘hating’ on the sport of figure, but rather as an advisory for those who may not know what they are getting themselves into. If you are reading this and you are either just beginning or are in the midst of your journey- please ask yourself your WHY. Follow your heart, it is usually right 😉

So Ya Wanna Be A Spartan?

The summer of 2016 has been an eventful one for Lindsay Lee Orange. 2 triathlons (placing 3rd in each-yay!), Femsport in July, and on Sept. 3rd I completed my first-ever Spartan Race. Not just any Spartan: the SUPER! Many people usually enter in the 5 km, or ‘sprint’ distance for their first Spartan. I was advised by several others that as a runner I would find the sprint distance ‘too easy’. The Spartan Super-distance is 12+ kms, with 27 obstacles. The farthest I had ever ran in recent years is 10 kms, so I had my work cut out for me. I thought I’d share my personal experience in both training and completing my first Spartan. Some of you can take this blog as a useful tool if you are truly interesting in entering in a race yourself, or simply as good reading material: the choice is yours 😉

 

Set your goal

For the last 4 years I had pondered the idea of doing a Spartan. It wasn’t until I had competed in Femsport (an all-female strength-agility competition) that I truly felt I was primed and ready to take on the challenge. Since I had been training for my triathlon races all summer, I knew my cardiovascular ability was at an all-time high. I was told the 5 km would be a ‘cake walk’ based on my endurance level; so I went ahead and registered for the Super. Coming off my triathlon race on August 7th, I had 4 weeks to try to bring up my strength and agility as much as possible for the Sept. 3rd race.

 

Training

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There are many people that will enter in a Spartan without any type of formal training. While this is entirely possible, it would depend on the individual’s existing physical condition/athletic background upon entering the race. Also, if your goal is to do fairly WELL- I do advise conditioning yourself accordingly:

Running

The most basic, but most necessary training you will need. Whether your race is 5 km, 12+ km, or 20 km (that would be a ‘Beast’ distance): you need to be able to run AT LEAST that distance. The race is not just running: you are faced with obstacle after obstacle, many of which are much more physically demanding than actual running. And for every failed/incomplete obstacle, your penalty is 30 burpees. Yep. 30. It’s no cake walk. And that brings me to my next tip:

Practice Burpees

Nobody likes burpees. They are hard, they are exhausting, and no matter your pace doing them, they are going to kill your Spartan time. For those of you that don’t know what a ‘burpee’ is: Google it. They’re no joke. But let me tell you after 4 weeks of practicing drill after drill involving burpees, I was beginning to get pretty lean- especially in my midsection! Here are a couple of drills I did to help me prepare:

1) Indoor Drill (with treadmill)

*4-5 min warm-up, at 4.0 mph, incline at 1.0%

Sprint 30 sec at 9.0 mph, incline at 7.0%

Walk 30 sec at 4.0 mph, incline at 15.0%

15 burpees

x 8 rounds

2) Outdoor Run Drill

For every mile (1.6 km), stop, drop and complete 30 burpees

*I would complete this drill on my 5 mile runs (8 kms)

As brutal as these drills are, the idea is to bring up your physical conditioning so that if you miss many obstacles you are physically prepared to finish the entire race regardless.

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Strength Training

This is an area that I feel many endurance athletes overlook, in general. Although you most likely won’t know exactly which obstacles you will be faced with, I can tell you you will need to be able to pull your own body weight (several times), climb over walls/fortresses, and be made to lift some challenging weight. Working on my grip strength was a big one for me. I worked on my strength training 2-3 days/week involving exercises like:

  • conventional deadlifts
  • seated rows
  • pull-ups
  • farmer carries up/down stairs
  • planks/core strength
  • wrist curls

It helps having My Champ as the awesome trainer he is, to advise me on all of those. Lift, pull, carry as heavy as possible (while maintaining proper form) to ensure you will be ready for ANYTHING!

OCR (Obstacle Course Race) Training

At Femsport I was fortunate to learn there is an outdoor-fitness club called ‘River City Fitness’ that offers training specifically for individuals entering in obstacle course races (Spartans, Tough Mudders, Rugged Maniacs, etc.). I was only able to go once in my 4 weeks of prep, but I found it super helpful!! It was a good way to train for the ‘unexpected’, I found. The group was super friendly, very positive- much like the people you will meet at your race! I had a great time. Check out their website: www.rivercityfitness.ca if you are in the Edmonton, AB area.

Nutrition

image-91If you have been following me for a while, you already know that I’m a pretty huge advocate for eating well. I found with training for triathlons it was important for me to keep my carbohydrate intake fairly high to sustain my energy for the long distances. For Spartan training, I made adjustments to cater to the strength demands, high-intensity and endurance training, as well as efficient recovery. While everyone is different, I found that my body works best with a 40/30/30 ratio (carbs/protein/fat). I stuck to whole foods during the week, while allowing myself a couple of ‘free’ meals on the weekend- like pizza with My Champ or apple pie with my family. During the week my diet consists of foods such as:

  • oats
  • egg whites/whole eggs
  • sweet potato
  • whole-wheat wraps
  • avocados
  • nut butters
  • yogurt (plain, either 0% or 2%)
  • reduced-fat cheese
  • chicken
  • fish
  • bananas
  • apples
  • berries
  • salads/veggies
  • protein powder
  • almond milk
  • protein powder

As you can see, tons of variety! I keep track of all my food intake on an app such as MyFitnessPal.

What to wear

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This I had to resort to the Internet myself for info- I was completely lost. So I am here to help! First off: invest in a GOOD pair of trail shoes. It is worth the money. It is so important for your overall run and joint health to consider this. Yes, your shoes will get crazy-muddy during the race- but good quality shoes can be put through the wash! Good as new. I went online and bought myself a pair of Reebok ‘All Terrain Thrill’ shoes, and they were great. There are many other good brands out there, but do go out and get a pair. Make sure you have ample time to break them in before your race as well. In addition to good quality shoes, I do strongly advise you to either tape your ankles/wear ankle braces for your race. The terrain is extremely uneven and slippery: the LAST thing you want is a blown ankle. My Champ taped me up using Pro Wrap and stick tape and my ankles were injury-free.

image-97Every site I visited stated ‘less is more’ for clothing. This is totally sound advice as you will be trudging through several mud bogs as well as walking/swimming through bodies of water (rivers, maybe a lake) so you don’t want to be wearing anything that will weigh you down when wet. I ended up wearing a thin tank and 3/4 length lululemon pants (to cover my knees) in 13C weather, and it was perfect. I wore gloves, but I did have to take them off for most things about halfway through as they became far too muddy to help me any. I still say they are worth bringing if you like using them.Because my race was going to be quite long, I invested in a hydration backpack from MEC to get me through. I say it was money well spent. Those packs are super lightweight, and it also held my energy gels for ‘just in case’ I felt my blood sugar crash.

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Pack: a towel, crappy clothes to change into (even that pressure hose at the end doesn’t get all that mud off), face/baby wipes, garbage bags, snacks, your ID, and money for the beer gardens!! And your smile- the whole thing is seriously so much damn fun. You get oh so muddy, but you’ll love it. You will amaze yourself when you reach that finish line, and find out what you are truly made of 😉

 

 

Spartan Race