Guide to Competing – Part 1
HUGE CONGRATS to you! You’ve decided to embark on what WILL be one of the hardest journeys you will ever pursue. I’m not going to title this journey “most important” because although it WILL consume about 95% of your life for the next (insert adequate prep time here) weeks, in the grand scheme of things, this is not your life. You’ll still have marriage, babies, graduations, etc. But I digress – you’ve chosen to compete! It’s said that out of all gym-goers, no more than 10% will decide to compete and less than 1% will ACTUALLY go through with the competition (though once you compete for the first time, you’ll make so many friends that it will seem like EVERYONE competes). So by deciding to compete, you have now just joined an ELITE group of physique athletes. You’re kind of a big deal.
I’m here to help guide you through this arduous, complex, mind-altering journey. We’ll deal with the psychology, physiology, and psychophysiology of competing as well as all aspects in between. I’ll do my best to hold your (virtual) hand from start to finish to post-competiton. The following series will be based on my experiences as a competitor (ten shows in the bag, baby!), upon science, and upon the anecdotal evidence (read: BroScience) of fellow competitors. So for those of you seasoned veterans out there reading this article, while a lot of aspects may not apply to you (because I am a bodybuilder versus fitness, figure, or bikini), a lot of it will be relevant. If anything, read it to help with facets you neglected during your last prep or facets you could’ve just done better. There might even be facets you didn’t consider.
So without further ado, I present:
PART 1: SELF-ESTEEM
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
It sounds silly, but the first question you need to ask yourself is: Why am I competing? Follow that train of thought with asking yourself, “What am I trying to prove? To whom? What will I get out of this? What do I HOPE to get out of this? What will happen when it’s all over?” You’ve probably heard the old axiom, “Bodybuilding is a marathon, not a sprint.” Well the truth is, competitions have tried to make the process a sprint. Think about it; Over the course of your life, you might have spent 5, 10, 15 years putting on weight (by accident) and now you’re left with 10, 14, 20 weeks to get rid of it while trying to keep any/all muscle you built during that time (and maybe even build some more). The whole diet/prep is a hyper-speed version of what it takes “normal”, non-competitive people YEARS to do. With that said, this endeavor is going to be the biggest mindf*** of your life. It’s going to play MAJOR games with your head, and you need to be prepared for that.
A lot of people, especially women, get into the sport because they have previous experiences with an eating disorder (or may currently be experiencing one) and/or body dysmorphic disorder (defined as a “disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features”). If there’s one thing I can suggest to ANY competitor, be it a rookie or a veteran, it would be: If you suffer from ANY issues surrounding food or body image, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE seek help before you begin preparing for a competition. I can almost GUARANTEE you that competing will not help your cause. Many people think, “I bet I could stop binging if I just put myself on a solid, hardcore, contest prep plan.” NO! In fact, your binging will probably get worse because you’ll be restricting yourself for so long AND you’ll subdue the feelings of why you’re binging in the first place, thus never really tackling the problem head on. So trust me when I say, sort your life out first…then compete. If you’re already feeling poorly about yourself and you think that getting a contest body is going to solve your self-esteem issues, get out now. I’ve been there, done that. You can have six pack abs, capped delts, and CRAZY willpower, but still be unhappy with who you are on the inside. If you have self-esteem issues and they’re rooted in what you look like, perhaps you have bigger fish to fry than just trying to walk in clear heels.
Along the same lines, don’t compete for someone else; if you’re trying to prove something to someone other than yourself, pick another hobby. Bodybuilding is a niche sport – a lot of people don’t appreciate where we come from or what we do. They don’t like our look and they DEFINITELY don’t understand our diet or way of life. There’s a good chance that you might start to alienate people along your path – purposely or accidentally. With that said, although whomever you’re trying to get to notice you WILL notice your transformation, you’ll still be the same person on the inside. So when the dust settles after the show, it’ll still just be you, your trophy (maybe), and your six pack (maybe) standing alone. Do this show because YOU know you have the potential! Do it because competing in an aesthetic sport was always something YOU wanted to do! Do it because YOU want to be a role model of hard work, success, and determination. Do it for YOU!
Everyday, remind yourself WHY you’re doing the show. And get out the SECOND you think things might be going sour or downhill psychologically. Remember the Hippocratic oath: DO NO HARM. NOTHING is worth the cost of hurting yourself in any way (emotionally or physically).