My Best Conditioning Yet

Won several overalls attained my natural pro card

By: Cathy Vail, IFPA Natural Pro Womens Bodybuilder
Magazine 15 #1

Weightlifting and competition

Weightlifting has been a part of my life for more than 20 years, but not competition. I was always afraid of the DIET. Then about five years ago a friend and I attended a local competition. A few months later, I entered my first bodybuilding competition. Since that time I’ve won several overalls and attained my natural pro card in two organizations. My first pro competition was in the WNBF. I now compete in the IFPA organization as a natural pro. I placed 2nd in both my pro competitions this year, the Show Me Pro and the IFPA International. This year I achieved my best conditioning ever and I’d like to outline how I did it.

Cathy Vail double bicep

Contest Diet

I began my 12 week diet at 1500 calories (about 500 below maintenance) with a macro breakdown of 40% protein / 40% carb / 20% fat (that’s about 150 grams each of protein and carbs). At 8 weeks out I reduced carbs by 25 grams (45/35/20); at 4 weeks out reduced carbs by 25 grams (50/30/20); at 2 weeks out reduced carbs 25 grams and upped protein 25 grams (~55/20/25); NO manipulation of sodium, water, or carbs during peak week – everything stayed the same as it had been.

Here are the foods I ate. I varied the amounts of protein and carbs based on my goal macros (see above)

  • Protein oatmeal (oats, ground flax, UMP or MP, cinnamon) – either as oatmeal or cooked up as pancakes
  • Muscle Provider shake with Italian oat pancakes
  • Oats or brown rice, egg substitute, whole eggs
  • Chicken breast, bison, lean steak, extra lean ground beef, turkey breast
  • White potatoes and sweet potatoes (only sweet potatoes after 8 weeks out from the show)
  • Beverly refeed with green vegetable, sweet potato, oats, banana, peanut butter
  • During the first 4 weeks of the diet I also included whole wheat breads and pasta and chicken sausage. I cut these foods out when I got to the 8-week out point.

My supplementation focused on preserving as much muscle as possible while leaning down. And, it worked! In the past, I had lost about 5 pounds of lean mass along with strength during contest prep. What a great feeling I had this year! I was holding on to my muscle, getting leaner, and still getting stronger during m contest prep.

Cardio Schedule

(Not a fan of cardio, so there is no favorite!)

LISS: 30-45 minutes of light intensity steady-state (easy walks or easy elliptical), 1-2 times a day, on empty stomach.

*I started with shorter sessions once a day further out from the show, then increased time and eventually added a second session as show got closer

HIIT: 20 minutes of high intensity interval training (sprints, elliptical, straddle hops on box), 2 times a week, warm-up then 15 second work intervals alternated with 45 second rest intervals.

Phase 2 Training plan

My husband and I followed the Phase 2 Training plan from Beverly’s Contest Prep Manual (pg 39). Day 1 was supersets of chest and back. Day 2 was supersets of legs. Day 3 was shoulders and supersets of biceps and triceps. Rep ranges varied from about 7 to 12 reps, and sets varied from 3 to 5 sets. We kept the weight as heavy as possible throughout the prep. I gained strength during my entire leaning phase.

Presentation Tips

Practice posing and holding each pose. Over and over and over again. Pay special attention to your transitions, make them smooth.

Cathy Vail bronze stature taking center stage

Formulate a posing practice plan just like you have made a workout plan, and then follow it to the letter. Smile and have fun at the contest!

Prep Experience

This was the best and easiest preparation for a show that I’ve had to date. My husband, Corey, deserves a huge part of the credit. We tried some different approaches to diet, supplementation and training, and it really paid off.

Bodybuilding is currently a fun hobby in my life. I make sure that it fits into my life but does not consume it. Still, I look forward to seeing what I can accomplish with my physique in the years to come.


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