“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
In our last blog, we looked at a journey from bodybuilding to CrossFit. This week we flip it around. Natalia Dracheva is a mother of two, has been a fitness instructor for a decade, and just competed in her very first bodybuilding competition.
Natalia has had a passion for fitness since the day she was born and started out in dance. This woman is a machine, the type of person who runs the Grouse Grind, trains twice a day, and loves a good CrossFit class. Not only is her ability to train impressive but she also has a few trophies including a 1st place in the Super Spartan race in Korea, 1st place in the Queen of the mountain race in Korea, and 3rd place in the Rugged Maniac in Vancouver. Recently, Natalia added a 4th, 5th and 6th trophy to her collection. In her very first natural bodybuilding competition, she took home 4th in bikini novice, 1st in fitness novice and 1st in the fitness open.
So, why go from a sport that relies on performance, to one that is purely based on aesthetics?
Why did you decide to do a bodybuilding show?
“I was driven by a variety of reasons. As a fitness coach, it is an amazing experience, to mesh theory and practice together. Honestly, I wanted to see how lean I could get and I always wanted some photos to prove how far I could push myself. Oh, and another trophy is always nice!”
How did Crossfit help (if it did)?
“CrossFit is my life! I kept training up until the last week before the competition. Strength training is undoubtedly great for the body but it’s not as much fun as crossfit. When I just started my prep I was bored in the gym and the only thing that kept me on board and made me happy was crossfit. Yes, it was a mad time: 6am CrossFit and 6pm gym workout almost every day! With CrossFit, I didn’t have to do extra cardio like many other athletes.”
How did your training differ during prep?
“I stopped deadlifting because this exercise tends to widen waist. I did a lot of isolated exercises for each muscle group.”
How did your diet change?
“I had to increase my protein which was difficult since I don’t eat meat, chicken or a lot of shellfish. My main source of protein for me was fish and egg whites! I was Paleo before but I started to eat more grains and would eat five times a day! The hardest part was all the meal prep…especially when you have a full house to feed!”
How did your mindset change? Was it difficult? What struggles did you have and how did you overcome?
“In any sport, mental preparation is tough. No pain no gain. For myself, it was mostly mental struggles. You have to be disciplined with your food and in your training, and attempt to keep your real social life at the same time.I had a goal. I told many people that I would be on the stage. I talked to my trainer every week and sent her my photos. I promised my kids I would be the best mom on the stage and I wanted my family to be proud of me. So all of this was keeping me motivated. Every day walking home from the workout I imagined myself on the stage with the trophy in my hands! It was in my head and now I have it! Dreams come true if you really really want it!I followed some simple rules:
- Never skip a workout.
- Follow the meal plan 100% (ok, sometimes I did 90%)
- Make your goal your first priority.
- Never finish when tired, finish when you are done.
- When you loose motivation go to your why? Why do you want it? What are you willing to give up?
- Visualize your end result.
- Be organized.
- Be disciplined.
- No excuses!!!
- Smile! Enjoy the moment!I know the struggle. It is very easy to just quit. The competition is not against the other women on stage. Those women are the ones who were able to put everything aside and focus on the end result. The competition is, in fact, you versus you.”
How did you feel before, during and after the show?
“I was lucky because I was ready three weeks out of the show. It means I had to just to maintain that body. I didn’t have to endure a water cut, salt cut or no-carb period. In fact, the last week of prep I took 100-200 grams of carbs daily and my body weight was decreasing. Magic!”
With all the mental toughness, the strict dieting, and the intense training, how was Show Day?
“Show day is real happiness! It’s a day I had been waiting for. I crossed out days on my calendar before the show and thought about the delicious food I would eat after! It was a really fun experience; makeup, hair, and tan were done and I felt like a princess. So I stepped on the stage as a princess and was enjoyed every second! The moment I heard my number as the winner is unforgettable!!! It’s proof that all the effort and limitations I was faced with paid off!!! I won in fitness category but initially, I trained for bikini. I am so thankful to my coach who saw me three weeks before the show and told that I am too dry for bikini and should try fitness. So I did both!It’s weird but after one week after show, I was back to my normal weight. Can you imagine?! It took me 6 months to lose about 8lbs and just one week to bring it back! I know, it’s mostly water but still hard to embrace it.Now, I have kept up the resistance training and CrossFit, but just one workout a day, six days a week. I try to follow a healthy diet but not so strict as during my prep.”
Would you recommend doing a show?
“It depends on your goal. Firstly you should ask yourself: “why do I want to do the show? What drives me? Will it keep me motivated?” You should understand that this final body form is just for the show! You can’t keep it forever without compromising your health. Everything you see on the stage is fake: false lashes, long hair, false nails, but the hard work in the gym and in your kitchen is a reality!!!If you decide to do a competition, check your finances first. You will pay a lot and even if you win you won’t pay off all your expenses. It’s crazy expensive!”
“Good question. The last six months I was sure this would be my first and my last bodybuilding competition, but now I would say “never say never!” Right now, I want to stop thinking about my body size and weight and just enjoy the training, but who knows maybe in 20-30years I will come back on the stage to prove my grandchildren that their grandmom is best of the best.”
This is an excellent insight into the world of bodybuilding. The truth is, yes it is all about aesthetics in the end but the journey to get there is built on discipline, self-control, and motivation. The training is intense, the nutrition is strict, and it takes a great support system to make it through. We only ever see the end result, we don’t often hear about the struggles that happen in the background.
The body that steps on stage is for one day. Nobody can maintain that level of leanness in a safe way. Natalia was very honest about this, how it is impossible and even unhealthy to attempt to stay “stage lean”. You must be mentally prepared for life after the show. For some healthy body fat to creep onto your frame, the reverse dieting, and the hardest part of all is being comfortable with yourself after being so lean.
What do you think? Would you do a show? Are you prepared to give it absolutely everything for one day on stage?