In the theatre and events industry, a show has a bump-in (setting up and rehearsing) and a bump-out (taking everything out of the theatre). It is common practice to spend almost all of your time planning and working on the bump-in and show and not worrying too much about the 'out' which can be messy and unglamorous.
As a result, this is the time when things always go horribly wrong - delays happen, things get broken and people get injured. Everyone is so tired after working long hours on making the event happen, that the next phase is poorly planned and executed.
Last year when I competed, I never planned my bump-out. I planned and worked on getting stage ready and then competing, but I only vaguely considered what would happen afterward. And as long time readers will know - things got broken and people got hurt.
This time it is going to be different. This time I am looking at the entire project and not just the preparation and competition. In my mind, the mission this year is to get competition lean while retaining as much muscle as I can and then return to a lean athletic physique that I will work to establish as my new 'set point'. The competition is only phase 1, the return to a sustainable weight is phase 2 and convincing my body that this is its new 'happy weight' is phase 3. I think that all of that will take up most of the year when I can do it all again if I choose to compete in 2010.
I believe that whatever training and nutrition strategy I employ to get me to comp day, I have to be willing to continue for the same amount of time afterwards. If, for example, I drop calories and carbs for the final month and do cardio twice a day, then I must be willing to continue the same strategy post show with only slight adjustments (incremental calorie or carb increases OR incremental reduction in training) for at least the next month. I need to replace the fat ideally as slowly as I lost it. If I suddenly go back to complete relaxation around my eating and drop all my cardio the week after competition, I am asking for a rebound and tears before bed.
This highlights a few interesting points
(1) I shouldn't undertake severe restriction or extreme training to lose that last bit of fat without committing to doing it for the same amount of time after competition (that puts me off a bit)
(2) My pre-comp program needs to be sustainable for much longer that 12-16 weeks because it is the template for how I will eat and train post comp.
(3) Getting to the stage is only 1/3 of the way through the project and more than likely the easiest part.
Even if you are not preparing for a competition and are just dieting down to your goal weight or doing a 12 week challenge, the same principals apply. Once you reach your goal, the easy part is over and the hard part starts. Whatever methods you used to get there will need to be continued for probably as long as the weight loss period to retrain your body that this is where you fat levels need to stay*. If you are low-carbing, you will need to stay low(ish) carb. If you are counting points, you need to keep on counting. If you are running 5 km every day, you need to keep on running.
I plan to be logging my food, weighing daily, lifting weights, doing cardio, analysing the data and hitting targets long after I have eaten my post comp treat meal. I have it all planned out in my trusty spreadsheet. This time the bump-out will be given the attention it deserves. This way, no-one gets hurt.
*it is possible to change your so called set-point - even though I spent all my adult life somewhere around 80kgs, my body now prefers to be in the low 60's (after being near this point for about 4 years). Any weight I gain over that is easy to lose, and if I am under this point, my body fights to get back there. Even though my nightmares tell me otherwise, I will never again wake up one morning at 85kg unless I work really really really hard at it for a long long time. I basically spent from May to November bingeing at least once a week and still didn't gain much more than a couple of extra kilos over my re-programmed set point.