Off Season Part 4

Pushing Through Lows & Highs

Off Season Part 4 - Pushing Through Lows & Highs
This post has been written over the last two weeks. Within these two weeks, I hit some highs as well as some lows. I want you to see what a week on the down is like and a week feeling great is like. It truly is incredible how quickly motivation and self-confidence can shift from up to down.


Off Season Part 4 - Pushing Through Lows & HighsI am starting to break. My mental and physical stability are starting to crumble, and it is starting to make me question the decision to continue on this competition journey. I completely underestimated how hard the off-season would be. I knew that to put muscle on I would have to really step my game up in the weight room and shift my eating habits. I knew that I would have to gain weight in order to build the muscle I want to have for my next competition. What I didn’t know was how this weight gain and increased intensity in the gym would affect my confidence and emotional wellbeing.

Off Season Part 4 - Pushing Through Lows & HighsI feel as if all my motivation and energy has simply disappeared. Each morning, I wake up, hit the gym, eat, hit the gym again, eat and go to work. That same cycle goes on day after day. Yes, I am seeing some great growth in my muscles and shape, but that rush of confidence and excitement I get from seeing my shoulder caps pop only lasts so long. And when that rush of endorphins has dissipated, what is left is the letdown.

These last couple of weeks, I find myself reaching for answers. Is this truly the right decision? I love the feeling of getting stronger and being on stage, but is it worth feeling terrible about myself and being in a perpetual state of exhaustion? More importantly, am I alone in this off-season battle? Is this a normal letdown during the first off-season?

In my attempts to ride this rollercoaster that is the off-season, I have made a deal with myself. I know that I love contest prep and showing that transformation off and on stage. I know that if I decided to end my competition career now, I would regret it later on and would never know if I could hold my own on the national stage. I have decided that I am going to continue on with this off-season and compete in two spring shows. After the spring/summer competition season, I will sit down and re-evaluate what I want to do.

In order for me to make it through this off-season, I am trying to find the positives in each day. To be honest, I don’t find a lot. My outlook lately hasn’t been great; however, I am forcing myself to look at the scale less and positive moments more. One of these moments came when shopping for a new pair of work jeans.

Walking into the store I didn’t know exactly what size I should grab. During my last contest prep, I went down about three pants sizes and have stayed relatively close to that size since then. However, I haven’t worn any of the contest prep clothes since then, as I have basically been in restaurant work clothes and gym clothes for the last month, so I didn’t think I would be the same size. Thus, I pulled the next size up and made the dreaded walk to the dressing room. I pulled the jeans on, and to my delight, they were actually too big. I was relieved knowing that, while I have gained weight, it has barely affected my jean size. Unfortunately, this feeling quickly dissipated. I soon felt bloated, exhausted and just plain discouraged. My only hope was to push through the extra-long workweek and hope Monday brings a change.


Last week was not good. I haven’t fallen to a low like that in a very long time. No matter the reassurance I received from my loved ones or the amazing individuals that have followed me throughout my competition journey, I was simply in a funk. Luckily, however, I believe I am slowly building my mental strength back up. Last week, in addition to feeling exhausted, I was having a lot of bloating and stomach pains. This just added to the discouraged feeling. Trying to combat the bloat this week, I have not taken any supplements (except protein powders during work). The results? I am feeling great. I am going to slowly add my supplements back into my diet and try to determine what may be setting my stomach off.

Battling the bloat has been only the first step in regaining my confidence. I have tried my best to weigh myself only once a week and lessen the importance of my weight. It is about how strong and healthy I feel rather than how much I weigh. Yes, it has helped…a little. Shifting a mentality that I have held for so long takes time—I can only keep pushing to break the habit.

During my week of panic, I reached out to my coach for reassurance, but because we weren’t able to meet until this week, I had to use his reassuring email to get me through. Luckily though, I met with my coach on Monday for a training session and check-in. To begin, he kicked my butt with a killer leg workout…then came the dreaded check-in. I changed into my suit, put the heels on, quartered turned and waited for his thoughts on my progression. What I heard has helped to calm my nerves. I am getting great muscle gains in my shoulders, back and legs. While I have gained a little bit of a tummy, I am lean throughout the rest of my body. We simply need to reevaluate my diet and nutrition to help alleviate some of the bloat. I am hungry all the time, so my metabolism isn’t an issue. It is just trying to figure what best works for my body. That is what I am working towards this week. Sticking with my nutrition program (no bites of granola!) and being more creative in the kitchen to help break the monotony of a clean, lean and mean diet are my main focuses this week.

One of the last changes I am trying to make this week in order to help me move forward from my last low week is to stop comparing myself to others. To many, seeing successful competitors push and train at incredible levels is inspiring. While it is inspiring, but more often than not, when I see some of these incredible women and their results, I feel like I am failing. I tend to measure how hard I work to what others are doing and how others look. I know this isn’t the way to becoming better inside and out, but changing this mindset is a daily struggle.

Here’s the deal…I look up to these women so much, but also find myself being incredibly jealous of their ability to work hard and push through all the struggles in the kitchen, in the gym and out in the real world. I understand that we are all human, and I am sure that those women do face times where they struggle. But, unfortunately, those moments aren’t as readily shared, making my expectations for myself somewhat distorted. This off-season has been a struggle, and it is far from over. I am more than certain I will encounter more lows but also enjoy more highs. I can only take one day at a time. I am hoping that with the support from everyone that follows this blog as well as friends and family, I will keep my perspective and positive outlook. Please follow me on twitter or on Facebook. And, as always, #trainhard.

Also, here’s a killer shoulder workout for you to try…

Standing Dumbbell Side Raises 6 sets 20,16,12,10,8,8reps
Standing Rope Cable Front Raises 6 sets 20,16,12,10,8,8reps
Standing Cable Side Raises 6 sets 20,16,12,10,8,8reps
Bent Over Dumbbell Rear Delts Raises 6 sets 20,16,12,10,8,8reps
Machine Side Raises 6 sets 20,16,12,10,8,8reps
Seated Smith Machine Shoulder Press 6 sets 20,16,12,10,8,8reps
Rachael Olkin

Rachael graduated from UCLA in December 2010 with a degree in International Development Studies. She is currently working towards admission to nursing school, where she hopes to obtain both a Bachelors of Science in Nursing as well as a Masters of Science in Nursing.

Rachael is also preparing for her first Figure competition and will share her journey along the way, including her goals, aspirations and struggles.

Find more of Rachael on:

Muscular Development