Tracy Peterson - IFBB Physique Pro
In 2013, I turned 45 years old and that year my mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Watching what the disease was doing to my mother terrified me and I saw a strong lifestyle component with how the disease seemed to progress. I had worked out “casually” up until that point, but never with a trainer and never with a concrete goal. At that time, I tried out a number of different efforts to get fit – 5Ks, beginner triathlons, etc. but the training always felt like a chore. I came across the over 40 amateur page on Bodybuilding.com and I was completely inspired by the fantastic physiques that women my age were able to build. I decided at that point that I wanted to get a trainer. The trainer I connected with just happened to be the local NPC bodybuilding show promoter. I saw many ladies my age getting into shape and going through the process of prepping for contests and I decided to give it a try. I started working out and prepping in November of 2013 for my first competition in April of 2014. I had been on the fence about whether or not to compete in Women’s Figure or Women’s Physique. I ultimately decided on Physique since I was worried I would not be able to walk in 5 inch heels.
Diet: I am very fortunate to have a super-charged metabolism. My last off-season I was consuming about 2800-3000 calories a day with a weekly (sometimes twice weekly) cheat meal in an effort to pack on some mass. I have a number of food sensitivities so eating clean is not too difficult for me. Off season I consume 6 meals a day spaced 2 to 2.5 hours apart. I also have a peri-workout shake that consists of protein and carbs for energy during my workouts. I noticed the biggest changes in my body when I shifted my dietary focus from carbs to protein. I have protein at each meal and focus more on carbs in the morning and around workouts, and healthy fats later in the day. I am 5’1” and my max weight during my off season is 130 pounds.
My last prep or cutting diet started at about 16 weeks out from my competition. For contest prep, I follow a carb cycling plan. Initially it was one moderate carb day (180 grams of carbs/day) followed by two low carb (100 grams of carbs/day). As I got nearer to my competition in the last 6 weeks or so, I would have a moderate day of 160 grams of carbs followed by 4 low days of 80 grams of carbs. My caloric intake shifted gradually downward during prep from about 2400 calories a day to around 1700 calories a day. My stage weight typically comes in around 114 pounds.
Prior to my very first competition I was in a panic about getting my middle-aged body up onstage in a tiny little posing suit. I didn’t really understand that cutting for a show isn’t a diet in the sense that I had always perceived it to be prior to competing. As a result, I pushed too hard and embarked on a starvation diet thinking I just needed to lose weight. I lost most of my muscle along with the pounds I was dropping. I did well in the competition, but definitely found that a more balanced approach results in a fuller, more appealing look on stage.
In my off season I have minimal cardio. I do only 2-3 times a week for about 20 minutes of moderate cardio. I got a second hand treadmill from Craigslist so it makes it much easier to balance my schedule so I’m not spending three hours a day in the gym. For weight training, I do a 5-day split with two leg days weekly focusing on either quads/glutes, or hamstrings/glutes, chest, shoulders, and back. During off season, I consume about 100grams more carbs on lift days – so 300g on list days and 200g on non-lift days.
Once I enter the contest prep phase I increase my cardio sessions to 5-6 sessions a week with 2 of those sessions being a 30 minute HIIT workout. In the last 2 weeks before a competition, my cardio is 50 minutes, 6 days a week with three additional HIIT sessions. I also continue to train on my 5-day split, so I have a very busy schedule in few weeks leading up to a contest since I’m a mom and I work full-time outside the home too!
I was so nervous about stepping out on stage the first time. I was in my mid-40s and had given birth to four kids so I was very self-conscious about my body. I had not even gone swimming in a bikini for more than 10 years. Even worse, I was heading into my first competition without ever having even attended a bodybuilding event as a spectator, so I did not really know what to expect. Competing in women’s physique also meant having to perform for 60 seconds to music – and I felt incredibly challenged just memorizing poses and moves for my routine. I think what forced me to get up on stage was the support my family had given me to go through with it and just reminding myself of all the cost and effort it had taken to get to where I was (long hours of training, special food, posing suit, spray tan, and hair/make-up). However, nothing prepared me for how exhilarating and satisfying it was to compete and do well. I was definitely hooked after that first competition and wanted to start training again right away to see what kind of transformation I could take my body through to get to my second competition!
My most memorable experience to date was when I went to Masters Nationals, where I earned my pro card. I knew there was going to be some amazing competitors at the show but I was completely blown away by how many competitors there were! In my class A grouping (up to 5’2”) there were 17 women. I had no real sense of how I would do since everyone looked amazing, but when I made first callouts – it didn’t dawn on me that I had done well until I came off-stage. I looked at one of the other ladies who had also made the cut for first callouts and we grabbed each other and started jumping up and down. At that point I was so happy and excited, getting my pro card at that show was just icing on the cake!
I just made my pro competition debut at the end of August 2016, so I am planning on enjoying a long off-season. I know I have some serious muscle that I need to pack on to be able to come back in a more competitive position. I’m not sure if I will compete again in the summer of 2017, but if not, I look to get back onstage in early 2018. For me the best part of the process of having a continual fitness goal to work towards. My husband is my regular workout partner and has been a constant source of support and motivation. I have also had an outstanding personal trainer/coach for the past two years that has really helped me bring in my best physique to date. When I’m not competing, I stay connected to the competitions by judging the local NPC competitions and/or helping out backstage with setup, oil, and glue at the shows. I love the lifestyle and I feel very fortunate that I get to be a part of it.
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