Getting Back on Stage Post-Pregnancy | Carissa Johnson
When your competition spray tan begins to fade and turn to a very splotchy, unattractive burnt orange, you know it's time to look back and recap your competition journey. My most recent competition prep was unlike any other I've done. With a 9 month old, things are a bit chaotic and yes, I'm a bit sleep deprived as well (understatement of the year, but totally worth it).
Competing gives me a goal; something to strive for. I've fought my way back to the stage in the past, so naturally training to get back on stage after having a baby only made sense. People say your body will never be the same after having a baby, which is very much the truth. However, that doesn't mean your post baby body can't be "better" than your pre-pregnancy body. My skin is stretched more than before, my hips are wider, my abs less dense and still separated, but none of that matters when considering the miraculous God given gift of my beautiful baby girl.
I'm currently still nursing, and have avoided most supplements since discovering I was pregnant. That being said, if you are looking to step up your training game, make sure to supplement with HMB and/or BetaTOR as well as PEAK ATP. Not only are these supplements scientifically backed when it comes to training and recovery, but I've seen the incredible results in my life before getting pregnant, and I plan on continuing supplementation once I stop breastfeeding.
For the first time ever, I recently competed as a Bikini Model Pro as opposed to a Fitness Model Pro. Between nursing, my interesting love for cardio, and not supplementing with HMB in particular, I lost some of my lean muscle and have a bit of a softer physique. Instead of fighting my circumstances, I decided a realistic challenge would be to get in Bikini Model shape this time around.
Prepping for competition with my baby has provided both motivation and challenges. Post baby, I had a grade 2 tear and my body required a good 6 weeks to recover. I attempted some lighter work after 3 weeks, but had to proceed with caution. I had to start slow, with lighter weights and higher reps much like I did throughout my pregnancy. I also battled diastasis recti, so I avoided many abdominal exercises during pregnancy and was very careful with what exercises I performed post pregnancy. Thankfully, with time my abdominal separation has greatly improved. One of the hardest parts of post partum recovery was my head thinking I was ready to jump into everything when my body still needed time to heal. I'm not going to lie, I tested the whole 6 weeks of recovery that my OB said were required a few times, and discovered that only time, not willpower, would get me where I wanted to be. Reflecting on the patience required for my postpartum recovery, I feel it is very similar to seeing results and improvements in my overall fitness. Results aren't always visible right away, and more often than not, require time and patience to achieve desired goals.
I'm so thankful for muscle memory - that along with nursing, a balanced diet and my workouts helped prep me for show day. With my focus on my baby, I trained but with less stress and pressure than usual. I gave my body more grace than normal and never once counted calories, instead eating everything in moderation. Like I mentioned earlier, I did lose some lean muscle along the way but I plan on re- gaining what was lost in the coming months. In spite of muscle loss, I'm excited that I did make improvements in my glutes and legs.
Traveling with a baby was a daunting thought, but my mom and I welcomed the challenge by road tripping from Denver to LA. It was quite the endeavor, but praise the Lord, my sweet baby girl did so much better than expected. In order to ensure I remain sane and bring my best to the stage, I always research hotels in advance and make sure they have a fitness center. Getting that early morning HIIT session always helps make road trips much easier. While my early morning cardio gives me some sense of normalcy, I've never experienced a road trip quite like this. I was bound to the backseat, entertaining and playing with my precious baby girl as we crossed state borders.
In LA I had the honor of shooting with my friend and incredibly talented, internationally published cover photographer, Noel Daganta. We have shot many times before capturing almost every classy look and style you can imagine. This time around I had the pleasure of working with the amazing fashion designer Joey Galon, to do a glamorous fashion shoot unlike any I had done before. After the photo shoot was all said and done, from there it was time for competition tanning followed by meetings and then game day.
With incredible physiques from around the world, from Australia to Asia to the UK, everyone brought their best. One of the biggest challenges with competing is that you can do everything in your power to bring the perfect physique, but if your tan, your hair and your makeup fail to come together on show day, your presentation and everything you've been prepping for can all fall apart. I learned this very early on from my first competition back in 2010. Little did I realize fitness competitions were treated much like beauty competitions for the fitness world. Not going to lie, more often than not something goes wrong in at least one of those areas. This year, while my tan appeared perfect off stage, on stage I appeared as white as ever. The lights apparently showed through the tan to my pasty white base; so unfortunately that was not ideal. Thankfully, I was able to ensure my hair and makeup turned out better than in years passed as there was no morning show this time around.
Then of course when it's your turn to take the stage you want your performance, walk and posing to be seamless, but that is not always the case. When the backstage director had me walk to center stage, unfortunately the number before me was missing and hence, I was walking and posing much before my name was even announced. Sometimes you just have to roll with it (lol), so that's just what I did. It threw me off a bit, but I was eventually able to get my head back in the game and pose away. I did not place, but I enjoyed the challenge this time around to compete in bikini and improve my often-neglected glutes.
I am extremely happy with the physique I brought to stage, especially since this was my first show post baby. Through this whole postpartum recovery and show prep I've learned so much. Every body is different of course and it's so important to do your own thing and not get discouraged by the thoughts and opinions of others. I don't know how many times people told me my body would never be the same and that it would take a very long time to get back in shape post baby. It was frustrating to hear this, but I wanted to see how I could do, not for anyone else but to be better than I was yesterday. And not only that, but to hopefully inspire my baby girl one day.
- Carissa Johnson, WBFF Pro/Fitness Model