Heather Prescott - Figure Athlete

Being 35 years young is exactly how I feel now, young. This sport of strength training and weight lifting is fairly recent, however for almost 20 years I've been an active runner so life was not so complicated as far as keeping a decent physique. Growing up we all complained about having strict parents (for those who can relate) as my mother was always on us for being healthy and eating right for the most part. Looking back at it now it was the main reason I was able to rack all those years and miles running. Towards the end of those days I joined the Air Force at the late age of 30 which was a concern that the younger generation would run circles around me. Surprisingly it was the opposite and was awarded "Most Physically Fit" female in my flight and carried the same title to my squadron for the duration of my first duty station. Continuing running after discharge was tough since living in Los Angeles is generally a more desirable climate versus now still living in Florida where it is very hot and humid as my body is still struggling to adapt. This is when I decided I should invest in a Personal Trainer to help me expand my knowledge from just running.

I did not go into strength training with competing in mind as I was only looking for a new challenge that could perhaps benefit me more than my long-term hobby. I was never overweight, as a matter of fact I was always on the small-side, not just from being petite, but also from eating fairly well and staying active. However, I was never as lean I was am now and had never really challenged my upper-body either until I joined the military. But it wasn't until learning what I know now from my Personal Trainer that there is much more to training than just running and push-ups. As my training was progressing I was also learning that a major role in this sport is nutrition. Just because I always ate pretty healthy was a huge eye-opener that there's a big difference from what mom puts on your plate to having to learn about all the importance and differences of macronutrients (carbs, proteins, fats) and various micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that have such an impact on taking it to the next level. As I started going from an "off-season" diet which is still considered healthy, it's just more relaxed with the ability to have a few more "cheat-meals." I was continuously cleaning up my diet which was where I started to see myself lean-out. Not only could I feel the difference in my performance at the gym, but my trainer at the time suggested I consider a competition at some point.

As time went on, I wasn't just seeing my results, I was understanding them which made me eventually agree with my trainer and decided to set a major goal and sign up for my first competition in February of 2012. By then I was no longer training with her as finances got tough but she was (and still is) a good mentor. Going "on-season" didn't take long to adapt to since my goal was now only 2 months away with pre-competition meals being small, frequent, and consisted of lots of protein and complex carbs such as fish, chicken, brown rice, sweet potatoes and lots of green veggies. (I haven't eaten red meat or pork in nearly 20 years for reasons that I simply do not like the taste so unfortunately I can't consume now for not having any enzymes). Eating clean didn't necessarily make me lose a lot of weight since it was never an issue, but it was definitely a major part going from about a 20% body fat composition down to about 10.5% by my first show. The decrease in numbers are indeed significant, however, being 5'4 and starting at 111 pounds is not an "unhealthy" appearance as I just went from a "soft" to firm physique with a weight loss of only 8 pounds. These differences I made in my diet are what were most effective to reaching my goal.

After 2 months of training with a professional, going solo wasn't easy. I ran into typical struggles of finding what's right to build more muscle while working on leaning out even more which was of course frustrating. At that point I have now dropped the majority of fat to compete in the Bikini division from of course healthy eating and consistent exercising. But where I found myself struggling to build more muscle is I eventually learned that I was not eating enough, basically over-training and under-eating, not compensating my body for the high demand in physical challenges. I was religiously eating clean for so long, but only about 900-1,300 net calories without even one "cheat-meal" so my body started to plateau.

After asking around with people in the gym they suggested I have a few "cheat meals" here and there to shake up my metabolism. They explained I should try eating more clean calories and good carbs to get my body on-the-go again but were not very specific so that's where I started "playing with my food" so-to-speak to see what works best to keep me full and performing well without the use of supplements. I was not very familiar with them anyhow and continue to feel more comfortable keeping my body on the most natural, regulated routine. I know there's 100's of products out there that can probably do me wonders as lots of people say, but because of the variety, there's also a variety of side-effects and I personally don't feel like spending my money and wasting my time to see which ones work great and which ones don't, including protein shakes. I'd rather continue to learn more about food which is already an expense, I just can't afford healthy eating AND expensive products so I take my risks of a slower muscle build but that's just my personal opinion and method.

Over time of crankin' it at the gym and progressively eating more, my small-frame started going from looking like a "beach-body" in the Bikini division to having nice, proportionate muscle tone and symmetry now with a body fat composition of 8%. These pleasant results were from changing up my exercise routines, adding more weights as well as another set to really challenge my body because I wanted to build myself up to be in the Figure division. (I finally achieved and earned some "hardware" on a few occasions so this is a nice reassurance that I'm doing something right). But with this whole challenge was MORE eating! I found myself going from eating not enough to consuming 5-6 meals a day totaling about 2,500 net calories to maintain my physique which so far has been successful.

About 7-8 days before a show I tone it down at the gym because I cut carbs, sodium, and fat down to a minimum but leave my sugars just above minimal to avoid getting light-headed, dizzy, etc. as well as take in extra water than normal, about a gallon. Then a few days before the event I'll carb-up about 50-60% and dehydrate just to avoid appearing to be "too full" on stage. But overall my challenge is not so much my diet or exercising, my challenge is me. I take how I looked and performed as well as what I ate, how much I drank to try and take it to the next level each time. So as of now I can't say I practice too much consistency nearing a competition other than what I specified simply for the fact that I'm always trying to better myself. The food at competition time is always different and in different amounts so that's the risk I take to see if I've made improvements or learned a lesson.

What I do strive in consistency is maintaining my physique to be always be at least 4-6 weeks out from competition-ready by just clean eating which is a lot of fish, chicken, turkey, non-fat Greek yogurt and cottage cheese, berries, apricots, kiwis, baby spinach, zucchini, squash, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, brown rice, beans, pure chocolate, almonds, avocado, egg whites, oats, whole-grains, etc. most days of the week. I do enjoy some treats once or twice a week if I have no events I've committed to. This is of course accompanied by a regular workout regimen of 6 days a week anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. I work biceps and triceps on day 1, legs and glutes on day 2, back and core on day 3, chest and shoulders on day 4, day 5 is rest, then day 6 is repeated back to day 1 and so-on.

I look back and shake my head with thoughts of why haven't I ever incorporated strength training before? Why did it take me 33 years to start and see how my life and health can significantly change in such a positive way? Well these last 2 years have been so rewarding and leave me confident that hitting the next decade in age or even more are going to be even better. Having experienced competing has now practically become an addiction, I love the discipline, I love the lifestyle, I love the positive energy. Having become a Personal Trainer myself now has given me the same chance to change others lives the way my trainer changed mine. Not just for competing, but also realizing that health IS wealth.

Heather Prescott
Email heather.pl78@gmail.com

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