Dawn V Irish - Figure Competitor
I have always been passionate about fitness, health and nutrition. I am an RN and health coach for a profession. I spend much of my day helping people live healthier lives.
My first love was marathons and I have run in a handful including Des Moines, Chicago and The Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. Two of those gave a large amount of their donations to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which took my grandmother’s life so I was honored to be a part of that.
In 2012 I had a health incident and was completely sidelined from being able to run long distance. It was heartbreaking for me but I knew that wasn’t going to change my competitive spirit or break me as a person. On suggestion from a friend, who had often seen me lifting weights in the gym, I pursued becoming a member of a competition team for Bodybuilding. When I first started, my intent was to do the bikini division but along the way I discovered that Figure was a better fit for me. I had my first competition in the fall of 2012 and took first place. I got the “bug” and haven’t stopped competing since.
This July I qualified and went to Nationals in Pittsburg and placed 3rd which was a huge honor and only 2 steps away from getting my pro card. Many people work their entire careers to get first call-outs at Nationals, so this was a great and humbling experience.
I have always used a well-qualified coach for my nutrition. Although I have pretty good knowledge of nutrition I feel it’s important to have an expert when you are prepping. The primary change for me during my “off” season vs “on” is that in my off season my goal is to gain muscle mass. This includes upping my caloric intake. Of course I also want to stay within a reasonable weight so that I don’t have to take months to get stage ready by just shedding extra fat. My stage weight is a drop of about 10-15 pounds from my off season. My total calories and carbohydrates as well as protein needs go up in my building season. Timing is also important to focus on muscle synthesis and growth and replenishment of nutrients after a hard training session. Water is always very important.
Typically, the closer I am to the stage, the lower my carbs will go. Near the end most of my carbs are focused on non-starchy vegetables and a smaller amount of complex carbs after a workout (sweet potato, whole oats, etc). Whether I am on or off season, I typically eat 5-6 times a day with my nutrients spread out. I do not focus on “calories” but macro-nutrients. I do weigh and measure my food out either on a food scale or measuring cups to ensure the correct portion. This is where your coach comes in to play if they are creating your meal plan.
Every BODY is different when it comes to nutrition and how you respond during prep. There will be trial and error. For me, the hardest part has been to get rid of the last stubborn fat area on my backside. My error has been in not cutting calories enough (in addition to some cardio) to allow my body to burn that fat. I was always too fearful of losing my hard-earned muscle. With the right coach pushing me on, I was able to over-come that my last season. I know this is why I placed as well as I did in my last two competitions. It’s easier to get lean on top for women, but having the lower half lean takes a lot more work and dedication.
I don’t consider my competitions “strutting” on stage. I am by nature an introvert actually. I do however have to look at getting on stage as almost a “show” which helps to put me in a very different frame of mind. It might be comparable to acting. You need to go out there and portray confidence, which is what the judges expect in the top athletes. It helps to keep in mind all the hours and hours you spent getting to that point. Gym hours, meal prep hours, posing hours, grocery shopping hours, etc…You tell yourself those few minutes you get on stage better shine because it’s all that you have worked for!
Being a figure competitor, one of my primary goals is to gain lean muscle. I do not want to be bulky and typically the judges are looking for that “V” taper in the back or the “X” with a smaller waist. Nutrition is a large part of the physique and then the other component is what you do in the gym. I nurture the areas I am weakest in and based on feedback from my coach and respected judges. This has evolved over time as my physique has developed. This off season I am spending time on widening my back, primarily my lats and focusing on making sure they look good from the front pose. I will be focusing on posing because of this as well.
Other seasons I have focused more on my glutes and hamstrings as they needed to come up. I count on my coach to give me her honest feedback on the areas I need to improve on and work hard in the gym to focus on those while still maintaining focus on all areas. You have to continue to work on all muscle groups. Symmetry is the hallmark of a great physique and what wins shows. If you don’t have it by genetics, you have to work extra hard to try to bring those lagging areas up.
I have had a lot of experience with competitions and many feelings both during the prep stage all the way through to the night show. One of the competitions that stands out most for me was this past May (2016) and a large regional show (Muscle Mayhem I competed in). I had taken a significant amount of time off to build and develop muscle after not doing as well in a show 18 months prior (Florida, October 2015, placed 4th). The prep was one of the most grueling for me as I was learning how to get rid of the extra fat on my lower half that had always kept me from doing my ultimate best (even though I’ve always placed in the top 5). So, mentally and physically it was a tough prep. I was also spending a lot more time learning better stage presentation and posing, which has been a weaker area for me. I had given it my all this prep and had in mind that if I placed 1st I would consider going to Master Nationals in July. If I didn’t. I would not be going. Getting back on stage was scary and I was nervous but ready as I knew I had given my all. My coach said I was ready and that I just needed the confidence to get up there and do it. In the end I came up with a 1st place win in my class ( C ) and took the Master’s Overall! This is something I had never done.
What got me just as excited was when I got the judges feedback and they generally agreed that I had some of the best conditioning they had seen for a Master figure competitor at a regional show and that I was ready to go to Nationals! I don’t always like to use the word proud because of the negative connotations, but I was proud of myself that weekend. I was on cloud 9. I took a little bit of a break, consulted with my coach and decided to go to Nationals!
My future plans are to continue to develop my physique and to get back up on the national stage. I placed 3rd at Nationals and my goal is to better this the next time I go.
I am currently looking at various sponsors and opportunities. Inquiries can be sent to my inbox messenger with FB under Dawn V. Irish or my email account: firstname.lastname@example.org I also have a IG account to follow: SheLifts123.