The March to Competition Season

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With the hellacious winter that has been thrown at us during the last several weeks, it’s of little surprise that my mind can’t help but drift into thoughts of the more pleasant spring season that is to come. To me, there are a lot of great qualities to the spring: days continue to grow longer, the weather starts to get warmer, I become another year older (and hopefully wiser, but that’s not always a guarantee).

Despite all this, there is another, more significant reason that I look forward to the spring: competition season. You see, for me, an individual who partakes in natural bodybuilding and Olympic weightlifting, the winter is an “off-season” of sorts. This off-season period is a much needed one of course; however, I can’t help but get the competition bug once the holidays have come and gone.

So, as of about a week and a half ago, my contest preparations are officially underway and the march to competition season has begun. I started my pre-contest diet, which, for the first couple of weeks, mainly just consists of cleaning up the crap that was in there. Though I generally eat pretty well, I must admit that I do allow myself a fair amount of leniency during those off-season quests for superior size and strength. All-in-all, I eat fairly clean year round during the day. It’s those nightly binges that kill me. So, this problem area is the first thing to go and is the official start of my diet.

Before I move on to my goals, a little background might be useful. I have been competing in natural bodybuilding since 2007. I started competing after ceasing my involvement with team sports and have participated in 12 shows since.

Olympic weightlifting is something that I have loved since high school, but only recently have I started to become technically proficient at it, at least proficient enough to feel ready to compete. Last April was my first attempt at competing in Olympic weightlifting and this May will mark my third.

This year, I am looking to repeat the crazy schedule of last April where I competed in two natural bodybuilding shows on back to back weekends and then in an Olympic weightlifting meet on the third weekend. It was a fun challenge for sure, one that I am unsure if anyone else has ever attempted, and I am excited to give it a second go during the last few weeks of April.

Now, on to those goals…Without a doubt, this (12 weeks) is the longest amount of time I have ever given myself to prepare for a bodybuilding show, and I have allotted this time to ensure that I am going to be more ready than ever before. I am looking to best my performance from the spring of 2009, where I competed in arguably in the best overall condition I had ever achieved (Note: I was actually my leanest in 2007 during my very first competition, however my overall size and presentation was much improved in 2009, and so I count that as my best showing).

Pre-comp pics from that 2009 competition week can be found below. In that pic, I weighed 175 and was about 4% bodyfat (self-administered with calipers; 3-site formula; I am not really concerned with accuracy of the actual estimation but more with the consistency of the readings I get when measurements are taken). So, I am looking to beat that level of conditioning while holding on to more muscle mass than 2009.

I have also posted recent before pictures taken Tuesday, February 1, nine days into my diet. My starting bodyfat on January, 24 2011 was 8.5% at a bodyweight of 203 pounds. As you can see I have some work to do.

My goals for the weightlifting competition are pretty simple: I want to get PRs in both the snatch and the clean and jerk. In my first meet last April, competing in the 85 kg class, I snatched 89 kg (196 lb) and clean and jerked 124 kg (273 lb). I competed again in the late summer with lifts of 94 kg (207 lb) in the snatch and 128 kg (282 lb) in the clean and jerk. None of those lifts are PRs, as I have lifted 215 lb in the snatch and 285 lb in the clean and jerk during my training. So this spring I am looking to snatch at least 220 lb (100kg) and clean and jerk over 300 lb (137 kg).  Below are some videos taken from my previous competitions.

2010 CT Open 94kg Snatch

2010 CT Open 128kg Clean & Jerk

In closing, then intent of this entire post is two-fold: Firstly, it serves as a reflection on perseverance. I have come to you to share my passion and to give insight into what drives me. So, I ask you to now look inside yourself and find what exactly is it that drives you. What are your goals? What are you looking to accomplish this year? This spring? This week? This very second? If you haven’t already, it’s time to set your sights on success and let nothing stand in your way.

The second purpose relates to accountability and the power it has in bringing us to the highest levels of achievement. In voicing my goals to each of you, I am creating a circle of accountability to assist me throughout my journey. I have made public my plans, voiced my commitments, and I now must be expected to keep them.

This is something we should all do anytime one embarks upon a challenging endeavor because our chance for success is elevated the larger our circle of support. So when you have your heart set on something, set on a change in your life for the better, don’t keep it a secret; share your goals with every single person you can, and you will notice your confidence and strength grow each and every time you do.

So, it’s surely lined up to be an exciting spring for me. Don’t forget to check back frequently in the weeks to come for updates on my contest prep. In the meantime, I would love to hear about your personal aspirations for this spring and beyond. Share your story and let’s all make this a year to remember!

Take Care,
Michael Craven

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