Yes, because of the timing and specific stipulation of which organization I can compete in, a stipulation I no longer prefer to discuss on forums (by voice with people I trust is different).
No, I don’t think so, mainly because I was taught posing in person by Stu and Arash, and Stu came up with a simple routine for me. Now, there is not one judge who said my personal routine was spectacular, but they said nothing negatively either. As for mandatories though, I KNOW my posing was far better than my competitors! I saw various pictures and even a noob such as myself could point out what they are doing wrong. My mandatory posing was actually pretty good! Stu and Arash taught me how to do them. For example, the other competitors were not aware of what to do when judges called for showing of the right hamstring. NONE of them smiled, or rarely smiled, and Stu frequently reminded me that one should look as if there is no other place they’d rather be that day! And in an email and IG post, a judge complimented my smile (eg, “there’s that smile again!”) Of course your smile is not a pose, however, I think on a subconscious level, it can influence a judge. Grimaces make one look stiff and ungraceful. They just doesn’t look pleasant.
My package would have been the same, if… IF… someone else had the same attention to detail and, uh… (how should I say it?)… “babysitting” skills as Stu does! There’s no other way to put it. Dan Duchaine once said that being a contest prep coach is like being a babysitter for a 250 pound baby! Well, I am not 250 pounds, but I think he implied that it’s akin to babysitting an adult! A large part of this is mental and emotional, especially if one wants to get really shredded, I’ve come to learn. Being it was my first contest prep, I really had no idea how grueling it is in the last six weeks of prep or so. So I was speaking to Stu everyday, mostly about what I was experiencing, not what I had to eat or how to train. I ate whatever he prescribed. Considering I am pretty disciplined, that was not hard to do.
For me, the hardest part was dealing with the ugly side of contest prep, not the restrictive dieting itself, but what it was doing to me because I was worried about my well-being. My sleep was horrible, averaging three to five broken hours per night. I developed sciatic pain towards the end. My mind was depersonalized. And with the fatigue I would experience at the end of a day of awakening at 3:30 to 4:430, doing fasted LISS cardio before breakfast, attending work from 8 to 4, then gym sessions at night… AND… real life (wife, family events on weekends, errands and chores, all that stuff), I felt like a broken human being at times! If I did not have a close friend for a coach, and my other friends who went through the same thing (one of whom is in his mid fifties and has done 60 shows), I really don’t know how I could have done it! That’s why I don’t think it’s wise to be a competitor as an outsider, so to speak.
Despite all of what I say here, it was all it was all worth it! Pardon my French, but EVERY… FUCKING… DAY… of the prep, no matter how miserable I felt, was worth it! In some bizarre way, it was the most difficult but satisfying six months of my life.
One guy I know who was in the show with me, from talking to him, I found out he was doing this all alone. He doesn’t hang with bodybuilders, and doesn’t know many bodybuilders.
I understand this, but this was a team effort and I could not have gotten in the shape I did alone. Very few people can do their first prep alone, and with all my credentials in nutrition, I still couldn’t. No one learns contest prep decision making or poses in a classroom. That’s why, with all the credentials, I can’t give a rat’s ass about most studies and “data”. Even my wife helped out with food prep and made concessions in our life so that this could be done.
I understand why you are hesitant. Maybe I am not as tough as I thought I was, or maybe some just don’t have to “go the distance” to get shredded, but I think contest prep is excruciating for those with normal adult lives, a full-time job, and a wife or family.