Suzette Henderson - Physique Competitor
My first competition was in 2006, after a move across the country. I was in a town where I knew no one and had a lot of extra time, stress and energy to burn off! I'd been taking my training more seriously for about a year prior to moving, and using the gym as an outlet... well, it started really paying off, I was making some great changes, and someone suggested trying a show. It's a good fit for me. Training was always an interest, competing was the natural progression. At one point, about 17 years ago, I was almost 40% bodyfat and in every way unhealthy. So, from one end of the spectrum to the other, one end of the country to the other, it's been a progressive journey that has often been marked with challenges and difficulty, and has become something wonderful and transformed.
Diet and Training
My food is pretty much the same year around. It wasn't always that way though. In the beginning, I would diet for the show, and then go back to an unstructured way of eating. It didn't work, and the more I learned and desired to progress, the more shaped my off-season became. I enjoy healthy eating. I'm not of the mindset to eat clean all week to "earn" the cheat meal on the weekend. I enjoy cooking, and food prep isn't a burden. My work is very physically demanding, as a sports massage therapist, so my calories stay a little higher. Some basics that I've discovered about myself - I need more food, I utilize carbohydrates very well, I do not digest fats well at all. Putting these components into the right numbers, at the right times has made a tremendous difference in the pursuit of improvement. Staying consistent, without huge variables, no crazy manipulations, and utilizing reverse dieting post-show keeps me where I like.
In the beginning I worked with someone who pushed hours of cardio, miniscule meals, that worked initially but eventually caught up with my adrenal system in the form of chronic fatigue. I've worked with one particular coach in the past, that believes in pushing a lot of food, including a lot of fat, and forcing growth by also accumulating fat. This did absolutely not work with my body type, and actually ended up doing some harm to my metabolism that took me about a year to recover from. Whenever there's a plan in place, that has too few calories, with too few carbs, and fat, the backwards slide is very visibly obvious. I also don't feel well within myself, and pay attention to these cues. I work with a coach now who has taken me to the next level. His knowledge of nutrition, and support of longevity and healthfulness has created a completely different physique.
I enjoy morning fasted cardio, every day. Some days steady-state, some days HIIT. I lift in the afternoon, 5 days a week. Legs get two training days a week. I used to do way too many high rep exercises, thinking more was better. When I started to incorporate more sets with Time Under Tension, and utilizing pauses in lifts, things really started to change. Going slower, more tension, and focusing on getting the most out of the lift, I see the most progress this way. Some days I'll still do sets of 20, 25, but will increase the weight as I go. Every day my goal is to give 100% and make it count... even if my strength is less, calories down, or depleted. I make sure to take my days off, and enjoy time out of the gym. I do time my two present cheat meals a week around my heaviest lifting days.
Self-confidence: I still get stage fright!! I'm a very confidant person, so the thought of being on stage isn't an issue. When I first started, I hadn't found self-belief. I'd become nationally qualified in figure division more than once, but never went further to a national stage because I didn't see it as me. Switching to women's physique division about four years ago, was a perfect fit. I feel authentic in this division, and have since been to a national stage several times. I own my physique now. I see it, I believe it, and I PRACTICE for it. When I am most prepared, I am most confident. I pose, I visualize, I meditate, and know that I done my best.
I competed at nationals last November. I went, knowing that I wasn't at my best. Some things were off with my diet, it just didn't come together, but I chose to have the experience anyway. I'm in this for life. A show is just one day. I've met some wonderful people in this sport, and was excited for the opportunity to see them again, and share the stage. I went through the steps of checking in, met some new friends who I'd only known through Facebook. Prejudging was uncomfortable, because I'm a perfectionist, and I felt for a moment that I'd failed. But waiting for finals, it came to me that I was ok, that there will always be another show, and that I'd needed to do this. Needed to grow within myself, being exposed even when most vulnerable. Needed to experience satisfaction in all that I've accomplished up to this point, and that one event going wrong, wasn't a reflection of my desires or efforts. Finals went as expected, I didn't place last, and I took myself to an amazing post-show celebration meal.
I'm currently in prep for master's nationals in 7 weeks. I was in the top 5 last year at this show, and what I'll be bringing is truly my best look to date.