Twenty-two weeks out. That’s where I’ll be this coming Saturday, October 19th, 2013. Twenty-two weeks until I next step foot on stage. That’s 154 days, or just under 3700 hours. That means I have two more weeks of “pre-dieting” before the insanity sets in—two more weeks to feel somewhat normal, somewhat adjusted, somewhat balanced, before the all-consuming fires of pushing the pedal through the floor dominate my every thought and breath.
I will begin my contest prep officially at 20 weeks out for next year’s NPC Baltimore Gladiator Classic on March 22nd, 2014, and then, if all goes well, the NPC Metropolitan in New York two weeks after (April 5th, 2014).
I have a slightly different, perhaps slightly more extreme way, of approaching my contest prep, than many of the other individuals I work with.
This year, I ended up prepping and helping more competitors to reach the stage than ever before. Some of them had amazing journeys, where they planned well in advance, had everything set up perfectly, hit the stage, and dominated. Adam McVey started his diet 26 weeks in advance; by 12 weeks out, he was basically stage-ready. And we walked into the NPC Mid Illinois, where he handily won his class for the first time, and almost took the overall.
Prep client Mark Blocker in Michigan started his prep nearly 6 months ago with me, fighting through week after week of being as strict as possible, to then take the stage at the NPC Natural Northern Michigan, where he took the overall title.
These individuals are just a few of the many standouts from my prep clients this past season. Why are they standouts? Because they won, right? Well obviously, that’s part of it. But why did they win? They won, because they did things the right way—planning well in advance, pushing with everything they had for a serious amount of time, and devoting themselves fully and totally to one thing: being their absolute best on game day.
I also had many competitors this past year come to me on short notice, asking if I could help get them to the stage on time. I had several people come to me 6 or 7 weeks before a competition, people I had never worked with before, whose bodies and unique metabolisms I wasn’t familiar with at all, that sought out my help. Perhaps foolishly, with most of these individuals, I agreed to help and do my best—this is my job, after all, and sometimes I have to throw the Hail Mary and try to get someone into amazing shape in an incredibly short time.
But almost without fail, even if these individuals placed well, they didn’t place as well as they would have or could have, had they planned farther in advance and done things right. Their shorter preps usually consisted of crash dieting, doing double cardio sessions every single day, and overall, feeling like shit, having anxiety about whether they’d be ready or not, hoping, praying, crying—all the shit one does not want to have to go through when preparing for one of the biggest days of their life.
See, I was always a “big prepper”. Almost every time I have competed, I have had to come down between 60 and 80lbs in order to be ready for my show. And because of how far I have had to journey with each prep, I always had to start my prep well in advance—minimally 20 weeks, often times closer to 26 weeks. Twenty-six weeks of grueling prep is considered a pretty miserable proposition, even by most hardcore bodybuilders. But I always knew that that’s what I had to do, if I wanted to be successful. And it showed in the results—of my 9 shows to date, I have taken 1 overall victory, a class win, and beyond that, never placed outside of the top 5 in any of my showings. Despite being a fat kid, despite having to drop far too much weight to be ready on time, despite having the odds stacked against me.
It’s because when I do this, I do it with everything I’ve got. No stone unturned, baby, and rocket boosters primed on full-throttle.
My prep usually begins well before my prep begins. What the hell could that possibly mean? It means I start getting my head into the game weeks, if not months, before the prep proper begins. I start making playlists for my iPod to get me through those tough workouts and cardio sessions. I start looking for motivational pictures and quotes. I usually order brand new knee wraps, wrist wraps, a new lunchbox, a new food journal, with every day charted out in advance—6 months in advance. I buy a calendar and slap it on the wall, and fill in the weeks leading up to the show, so that at any given stage, I know precisely where I’m at, and how much farther I have to go.
I don’t half-ass it. I don’t roll out of bed one morning and say, “Geez, I look pretty good. I think I’ll compete”. I respect bodybuilding too much for that. I respect bodybuilding competition as one’s claim of, “Hey, this is the absolute best that I am capable of, and I will look back at these pictures, look back at these trophies, look back on this day, when I am an old and feeble man, as the days when I was a fucking warrior.” I will show those pictures to my children and grandchildren (I’m sure), and hold my head up high, knowing that I did everything I could have done to be my best. It wasn’t a compulsive decision. It wasn’t the whim of the moment. It was planned insanity, a calling to push myself beyond the boundaries of comfort and joy and pleasure. It was me committing myself wholly to a singular vision: of being physical perfection, for just one moment in time.
And so, here I am, 22 weeks out, already slowly turning to the insanity of contest-prep thinking. I’ve actually been pre-dieting already for 12 weeks—I am down about 14lbs, body fat is down a lot, everything is looking tighter and better than I have ever looked leading into the beginning of prep. In 2012, when I took my first overall title, I had to drop 80lbs in 26 weeks to be stage-ready. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have to come down more than 30lbs tops. The process, this time, should be easier than ever—but I will not hold back, I will not water it down, I will not look for shortcuts. I will be just as crazy in my approach as ever, knowing that, if I start in a better position, and apply myself as full-force as I have in the past, the end result will just be that much more impressive.
Twenty-two weeks, baby. One hundred and fifty-four days. 3700 hours. Fucking easy. Time to show the world what I am capable of. Time to win.
-David A. Johnston