Journey Back To Strength 22

Racing To The Stage

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The Stage
I know it has been a few weeks since I last posted. I do apologize, but when traveling and competing alone, it is nearly impossible to even check emails let alone put two sentences together because the total focus is on peaking for the stage.

Let me back up a few weeks with a little recap going back a bit to Figure International and the weeks leading up to that show.

Looking Back: IFBB Figure International Recap

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The StageAt about 4 weeks out from the show, I could see that I had put on quite a bit of muscle. I was really pushing hard in the gym during this journey because I was trying to build muscle that I had lost completely AND lose body fat. As I finally started to lose the body fat, I could see that in fact my muscle came back. I knew I trained hard, but I also could see that I had to stop lifting at that point. There is a certain density to my muscle from the lifting and from my genetics. I have always been able to build muscle, and as you lift over time, there’s a certain amount of memory and maturity and it comes back. I also trained very intensely and implemented many styles of training. Because of those factors, I am able to maximize my time in the gym always shocking the muscle for new growth. Lifting is my passion, and I have lived in the gym since 2005, experimenting and learning constantly, the exception being the months in 2013 after my surgery.

I have a lot of styles of posing that I can use going into the show depending on how my body looks. I make choices about the best way to present the physique I have at that time. It’s rarely the same show-to-show so I practice posing…a lot. If you are serious about being a top professional athlete, you must pose. For this show, I knew I had to pose “less”. I was asked by a few people why I “barely posed at the Arnold.” The truth was that I was trying to shed a little muscle at the end and if I spread my lats and open up all the way, I knew I would appear too hard. So I opted to do less and rely on my symmetry. I made that choice and felt it was the best option.

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The StageFor prejudging, I was off a bit on my meal timing for the show, so I was a bit flat in the glutes for prejudging. I did manage to fill out more for the finals. My suit was not fitting in the morning, because I was flat and I was scrambling to get my glutes to fill out, glue the suit, not mess up the tan and get some food in. There’s a lot going on the morning of the show…and I was also first up. Despite the obstacles, I was mentally ready. I am mentally prepared for things to go wrong…you must expect that in all competition and still be able to perform. There is no way for everything to go perfectly for any competitor. And I am no exception. That being said, my glue was wet as I walked on stage, and I prayed it would just stay put. But you gather yourself and go and do the job anyway. No matter what happens, to the best of your ability, you never let anything affect your performance. That is what I try to do anyway.

After the morning show, I knew I was not in the top 6. It is imperative as an athlete to find another reason to be on that stage other than to win. Of course I wanted to win the show, I won’t lie and say I didn’t. That is my dream to win a major title. BUT…there is a joy in my heart that a placing cannot take away. At the night show (finals), I felt incredible. Being up first and knowing I was out of the top 6, I went inside and focused on my heart. Contemplating the reasons I am on this path and what I have learned along the way, I wanted to show who I have become when I came out on that stage at the finals. That was my sole focus. Being up first, I knew this would be the first time many could see us on the webcast, and I just wanted to give it my all. I felt good about my journey, about the decisions I made along the way to be on the stage again and that I made it! I was there, and I made it. Thanking God, I prayed that my inner light shine that night.

After the show, I didn’t want to really dwell on things too much. In all honesty, it did hurt, but I am able to look at myself objectively and my guess was my leanness. Really, I allowed myself to feel what I felt after the show alone in my room. But I had another show to do and by the next morning, I was ready to be better for my next show. I felt good and was ready to get on my flight home for a few hours to get ready for my trip to Australia.

Preparing For The Australia Pro

Apart of the plan to be better was to eat, and I did immediately after the Figure International and the next day as well at the expo. I also went to the restaurant in the hotel and had steak, rice, bread and butter by myself. Interestingly, a judge from the show came up to say hello, and I felt embarrassed that I had only at that point in the meal had the breadbasket and butter in front of me. With half a roll in my mouth, I stood up to say hello. I could feel the heat of embarrassment in my face as I was asked what was next for me. I said I’m going to Australia…fumbling to find the words, I mentioned that I think I needed to eat. Lol yikes! But I knew I needed it.

The plan in my mind was to eat hoping to fill out. I didn’t fill out, my glutes were flat, which means I was so depleted that I needed to eat until they started to fill out. It was a tough call, because I had another show, so I was making a lot of my own decisions because I had to. I didn’t want to look the same the following weekend.

Sunday, I got home, raced to do laundry, pack, measure my food for the two-day flight, measure sodium and water that I was to drink before getting to the airport. Once at the airport, I had to buy the remaining allotted amount of water at the to get me to Australia.

I was through most of my food, as I got on the red eye flight at LAX. The good news is I was able to sleep most of the way to Melbourne, but I made a decision to eat the food served on the plane. When I went to the bathroom, I looked at myself and knew I had to eat. I had a small dinner, snack and hot breakfast—extra sodium and all. I was flat as a pancake. I use the term “flapjacks” to describe the look of my glutes.

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The StageIt’s scary to make decisions on your own, but I couldn’t reach my coach as he was busy traveling and I was flights and couldn’t let him know what was happening. But I also know what I need to do…it’s just at this level or when you compete, it’s best to listen to one person the whole way…and usually not yourself. There are too many other things to be doing and worrying about other than what to do food-wise. It was without question a source of stress. By the time I got to Australia, my coach was flying there, and we couldn’t reach each other at all. I went food shopping and bought a bunch of extra steak and sweet potatoes. I bought enough food to get me filled out. When he was finally able to reach me, I had already knew to eat more, so I did. If I wanted to look different than I did at the Arnold, I had to follow my instincts. I was able to calculate how much extra I consumed and he was able to make adjustments and I was able to fill out nicely. Those few days from Wednesday to Saturday I ate more than I had in a long time. I felt really good from the calories.

For this show, I had set up an appointment with an incredible make-up artist Nicole Rossetto and met another competitor Rinnah Schmid (pronounced Renee! Lol) who did my spray tan. I went over to their hotel where they roomed together, and I was admittedly nervous because the hair and make up is EVERYTHING! And I do not know how to do that for shows. I am too high strung to do that in addition to everything else. When I arrived, she was finishing another competitor and I know instantly if someone is good…she was good! We compared notes on ideas and make-up colors. And she had some lashes to die for. I took a progress picture to check my eye make-up with my phone. At this point we hadn’t powdered or done lipstick, but I was so happy with her work.

And here we took a few back stage and at the expo.

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The Stage Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The Stage Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The Stage

I also have to say that the people that I met in Australia are so nice, it’s quite shocking. Meeting other women from Australia like Rinnah, Amanda Doherty, and Nicole was quite a treat. Tony Doherty couldn’t be nicer, and his dad who I met while at the Doherty’s Gym booth on Sunday was so nice I almost fell over. Heck, even the cab driver who drove me in the morning to Nicole and Rinnah’s hotel was a dream! He called me “my sister.” Being kind goes a long way with me. And, yes, he got a great tip! I really hope to get back there next year.

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The StageHere’s a pic with Rinnah and Asher before we were going to walk over to prejudging.

We walked into the show, and it was packed! There were a lot of competitors. I was doing very well, feeling calm until I got held up with something and then was told we were on. I raced back to the competitor area and found out I was up first, just like the Arnold. I was like, Oh no! I was up and my suit wasn’t glued. Panicked, I raced around trying to find my glue, and I couldn’t get my suit to lay correctly…I was in disbelief. I was like no way this is this happening—my suit isn’t glued and I am up…again! So Tony gave me a few moments to have several people try and help me. I was NOT going to let my suit malfunction or the fact that I was up first shake me. I worked too hard, so I focused on the mental strategies to help with obstacles during competition. I took a moment to gather myself mentally, walked up the stairs and onto the stage. I was up and felt better than ever with my presentation. Here is a video of prejudging.

After prejudging, we stayed at the location, because the night show is very close in time to prejudging. I had to shower because the glue messed up the tan. I only use Jan Tana High Definition color, and at the show, they had Jan Tana’s Ultra. So I used that and I think it turned out nicely. I needed that tan to dry and go salvage my make up from the unexpected shower. I’m glad I bring back up make up, because my make up artist couldn’t come back there. True to form, the clock was ticking and I was racing around again.

I was working on that suit glue again, and my name I believe was called twice before I walked out for the night show. I placed 3rd, and my Journey Back To Strength was complete. There I was racing through the entire 7 months to make it happen until the very end. Racing up onto both stages at both shows…. but I made it!

Journey Back To Strength - Racing To The Stage

Heading Home

On the way home, I didn’t sleep on the plane, so as of now, I am a bit OFF. But I wanted to get an update to you and give you some insight from behind the scenes. I came back to Florida with a feeling I have never felt. As I walked from the car to my apartment, I took a deep breath of the warm, balmy South Florida air and felt overwhelmed with a certain knowing that my life is really about to begin.

Just know the reverse dieting will also be apart of that new life—more on that in my next blog. For now, I am going to get unpacked, go grocery shopping and get my game plan on paper. I will catch up with you next week, fill you in on my plans for maintaining my hard work, and where the next part of My Journey is going to go.

Ava Cowan is an IFBB Figure Professional, a CPTS® and full time online coach and consultant for women of all fitness levels.

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