Competing has been a part of my life the past couple of years and I am currently 9 weeks out from my next NPC figure competition and wanted to share with you my thoughts on the sport and my reasons for doing it. Though very important to me, competing is something that by no means defines who I am as a person, but is rather an extra activity conducive to my passion and love for fitness.
There are many stigmas out there regarding competitive bodybuilding and fitness athletes. Things from coach and/or self-induced “metabolic damage” (that is a popular term today), or that competing is something that is an all-consuming process and those who do it sacrifice their families, their finances and overall mental and physical well-being. I’ve also heard that competitors tend to use competitions as their way of staying in shape, using continuous shows as a way of keeping “on track” with their overall fitness, which is not, in itself, a healthy outlook to have on fitness, in my opinion. Additionally, I am sure you’ve heard that finding a “balance” is central to a healthy and enjoyable prep, and with this I cannot agree more.
All of what I mentioned is true…there are certainly competitive athletes out there guilty of these behaviors; however, I do not think it is the standard for the whole of those who compete. I think it is fair to say that whatever the topic may be, the worst of it, the downside, is always quick to get highlighted and brought to a forefront. There are many men and women who compete who do it for the personal achievements and satisfaction it brings them, and for what challenges the process presents; they do it because it is FUN. I am one of those people.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not ALWAYS fun, there are absolutely days where I am exhausted and the last thing I want to do is even put my gym clothes on. I have days that I either want to eat everything in sight, or not eat at all. There are days when things just do not go as planned…kids get sick, husbands have to work late, your babysitter cancels, or the gym is closed by the time you actually can go. These things happen and you simply have to adjust your plan and deal with it.
Now, the good days when training for a competition far outweigh the bad. Finding a reasonable balance between contest prep and the rest of your daily life is key and I feel that those who can find that balance are the ones who enjoy the process the most, and are the most successful. No doubt, the majority of competitors have obligations outside the sport just like everyone else; families, jobs, school, ect.
Though competing does require increased personal efforts and attention (and can be quite expensive), it forces me to become that much more organized and focused in all areas of my life. Competing is important, but it is a hobby, it is a side note. It is something I do in addition to caring for my family, training my clients and finishing my bachelors. It is significant, but does not take precedence.
On another note, there are many approaches to preparing for a contest in terms of nutrition and physical training; there is no one method that will work for everyone. I often read competitors rants about how they think clean eating and daily cardio is outrageous and how their techniques work equally as well and make for an easier or more enjoyable prep. Well, that is great! They have found a process that works for them! I know many people, competitors and those simply living a fit and healthy lifestyle, that enjoy natural, staple foods and HIIT sessions; I know others who swear by the “IIFYM” (if it fits your macros) approach….I know others who opt for intermittent fasting and cringe at the thought of eating every 2-3 hours…all are okay! Finding what works best for you will take experimenting, and what may have worked well for one prep, or for the last six months of your training, may not work for the next, and that’s when you must change your game plan. Whether you are getting ready for the stage or just love weightlifting, finding what works for you is what matters; it’s about what makes YOU feel good.
What I love most about competing is that it takes my commitment to fitness to an entirely new level! Living healthy and fit IS my lifestyle and is one that reflects positively in all aspects of my life. Competing allows me to set new goals and raise the bar higher. With each competition my aim is to make improvements and present a better physique than the last. The work required to prepare for a show offers new challenges that work to make me a better ME. I honestly believe the mantra, “you are your best competition”.
Yes, we all want to win a competition, I have never met anyone who goes in wanting to lose, however, regardless of placing, as long as you can look back on your prep having given it your all, then you’ve succeeded. I reinforce this to my clients all of the time. When you have set a goal for yourself, whatever it may be, it is important to give it your very best effort, day in and day out, without sacrificing responsibilities that are above your goal. Everyone’s “balance” will be different and your approach to achieving that balance will depend upon your lifestyle and goals. Finding equilibrium is not always easy but it is achievable and can make training for a competition a fun and gratifying experience, while learning a lot about yourself in the process. Find what works best for you and be proud of what you have accomplished!
Please feel free to share you thoughts, I’d love to know what you guys think!