Eleathia Harding - Figure Competitor
Eleathia: I was athletic all through school, but when I got out I gained some weight from not being involved in sports. Then when I got pregnant I gained a lot of weight and kind of stopped caring about myself for a while. I was lost. It took till my daughter was 2 years old for me to start doing something about it. I decided that taking time for myself was ok and that I was tired of feeling bad about myself. I started going to the YMCA and joined a spin class with a friend. I also started doing a diet for my blood type. I stayed very committed to both and lost about 40 pounds. At this time I was only worried about losing fat and didn’t think too much about muscle at all. My confidence and energy level made it easy to keep going with it. That’s when I met my husband. What a great team we make! We started studying nutrition and started p90X. P90X was a life changer for both of us. We finished P90X a few times and needed something more, so we joined a gym and started getting very into lifting weights. Seeing your body transform is addicting. We studied nutrition and weight training pretty much every free second we had because we loved it. During this time I had lost about 35 more pounds and gained a lot of muscle. All of this was a process that lasted about 6 years. In 6 years I lost about 75 pounds. In the last 2 years I had people coming up to me almost daily at the gym wanting advice and asking if I was training for a competition. This is what got me thinking about competing.
I take pride in eating healthy and love the way it makes me feel, so off-season and pre-contest are very similar in my diet. Off-season I consume more calories and carbs than my pre-contest diet. I allow a cheat meal once in a while and I feel stronger and have more energy because I am getting the fuel I need to build muscle. Pre-contest I cut my calories and consume less carbs, and the carbs I do eat, I try to eat them around my workout. My protein macros stays the same throughout both. I have tried to cut carbs too much before and I do not like the way it makes me feel, so I think lowering them and staying consistent works well for me. Carb cycling seems to stress me out, so for me, staying consistent works. During off-season my diet has more variety. During pre-contest I eat the same thing almost every day. Food definitely becomes for purpose and not pleasure.
I weight train 6-7 days a week all year round. Splitting up muscle groups and hitting areas I want to improve twice a week. That stays consistent all year. What changes from off-season to pre-contest are the rep ranges, rest periods, and amount of cardio.
When I am trying to build muscle on the off-season:
• Intake more calories and carbs
• Protein macros remain the same
• Lifting gets heavier (more weight/less reps)
• Longer rests between sets
• Cardio about 3 times a week for 20 min
I almost always know 100% what I am doing before I walk into the gym. If I have a plan before I walk in I know that I will do AT LEAST that or more.
• Calories drop and carbs are minimal
• Protein macros remain the same
• Lifting changes to lower weight and more reps
• Add cardio on my rest periods
• More drop sets and burnouts
• Cardio becomes daily and sometimes twice
• Alternating days of steady state cardio and HIIT about 40 min
• Take more supplements
You can't lift as heavy because you don’t have the strength from your food. Since you aren’t eating enough to sustain your hard earned muscle you need to take supplements. EEA, BCAA, glutamine, and fish oil I think are the most important.
Gaining the confidence for a contest definitely came from the strangers that would come up to me and make comments about my physique. People that didn’t know me feeling the need to compliment me and ask if I did competitions. It made me go to check out a competition for myself. The day we went to watch our first contest was the day that I decided this was the life for me. I took a year to prepare and did that very same contest the next year. There were times I would freak out and think, “Why do I think I can do this?” Then I would go somewhere and get compliments again. It was a rollercoaster of emotions in that years time. I learned a lot about myself in that time. Getting spray tanned and hair and makeup done helped the confidence level go up! Doing something you are scared of feels great when you are done!
Competing in a figure contest is such a rewarding experience. What a feeling of accomplishment! I remember the feeling of mailing in my entry form. I was so nervous just putting it in the mailbox. It made my decision to compete final. When that day finally came I was unusually pretty calm about it. Like a weight was taken off my shoulders. I met some wonderful friends that I can't wait to see again at future competitions. I keep up with them on facebook now. It’s a huge group of uplifting, confident, motivating people with similar interests. It was nice meeting women that I had a lot in common with. I was the “new girl” and they took me right in, answering questions and giving guidance. I didn’t have a coach so I really appreciated it! The feeling of standing in line getting ready to walk out on stage for the first time is unexplainable. INTENSE! And I was first!! I was scared to go first but when the time came I just had to suck it up and go, and I was trembling. I walked out and it felt like I was floating. No stumbling, thank goodness to those hours and hours in heels! I remember shaking so bad and just looking at the judges and smiling. I was way too nervous to look for my family. The first quarter turn made me feel so much better because I could see everyones hair vibrating in the bright lights. They all felt the adrenalin rush like me.
The long break before the evening show I just tried to relax. I got some advice from one of the big bodybuilder men about trying salt for my muscle fullness and vascularity so I tried some of my daughters French fries and it worked. It went away before the evening show, but it's definitely something I will use at my next show. Salt use was something I read about but I was terrified to try it because I am so sensitive to sodium, but when I am dehydrated for a contest it does me good! The more I do this kind of thing the more I learn about myself and how my body reacts to different things. Everyone is different. You can't just do exactly what someone else does and have the same effects.
The evening show came and my nerves were back. I was more nervous for this one, and again. I was first. Going out all alone and model posing with an even bigger audience was intimidating, but it was awesome! This time out I saw my family. My little girl was waving real big and I could see how proud of me she was. I ended up getting 2nd place in novice figure and 3rd in open in my very first competition.
I plan on doing competitions for several years. My husband and I are taking clients for personal training and diet coaching. We love that we both share this passion and feed off of each other. We can relate to all different types of people and their lifestyles and goals because we have been there! We can be contacted at: