Here I sit on a Monday morning around 8:30 AM. I’m dropping cold oatmeal on my keyboard, I’m chugging my water out of a gallon jug, all while attempting (poorly) to multi-task. This is peak week. For those of you unfamiliar this is a term used for the week of a bodybuilding / figure / physique contest. In 5 short days I will step on stage for the first time as an IFBB Women’s Physique Pro in San Diego California at the IFBB Ultimate Warrior’s Pro Women’s Physique Olympia Qualifier. I am buzzing with excitement as the long awaited day finally approaches.
“The real discipline happens not in the gym but at home in the kitchen, in the grocery store, driving in the car, during work hours, and on the couch. It is a process that never shuts off.”
Those of you that have experienced contest preparation or been around anyone that has prepped for a contest, understands the meticulous preparation and obsessive-compulsive behavior that accompanies, or should I say, IS the process.
Most outsiders believe this to be a test of shear will power. In actuality it is a test of discipline, preparation, time management skills, prioritization, and focus. No one moment is so hard that it can’t be done. It is series of repeated sacrifices, minor discomfort, and effort put forth on a regular schedule with the utmost consistency. There is no off switch.
When I was a competitive powerlifter, I busted my butt 2 hours in the gym four days a week at maximal effort. All other time was “time off” from the process. If I understood the value of a sound nutritional program while powerlifting, the previous sentence would read differently.
As a physique competitor I train 6 days per week. The sessions are not super long, nor do I work at maximal intensities for the most part. I never fear getting under the barbell. In some ways it is a relief, but I miss the satisfaction that comes along with conquering fears on a regular basis. The rest of my life is no longer time off. The real discipline happens not in the gym but at home in the kitchen, in the grocery store, driving in the car, during work hours, and on the couch. It is a process that never shuts off. It is very solitary. The fine tuning of nutrition, training, and rest is a full time commitment during contest prep. If I get behind or skip a step it is difficult to recover. In essence it comes down to this – meticulous planning and accountability to self.
Since my brain cells are not functioning at 100% right now I will endeavor to keep this simple. These are some of the lessons I learned during this amazing journey of self discovery and growth – this will be my fourth show in 2014. The past 10 months have been life changing.
- Respect yourself –Treat yourself with care. The process is not about punishment or paying retribution. It is about building yourself up to be the best you.
- Prepare – Plan ahead, make lists, label containers, devote a day (or two four hour blocks per week) to food prep. Wake up earlier if you need to. Adhere to a schedule. Set aside your stuff for the next day the night before the way that you would prepare a child going to school in the beginning of a new school year.
- Prioritize – This is a tricky one. If you want to be successful at this your training, rest, and eating schedule must come first. This is very complicated for most of us because we have families, jobs, and responsibilities that interfere or complicate what would be ideal. Do the best you can but remember that in 12 weeks or so the moment on stage will be over and that moment is not very fulfilling if you have alienated the meaningful people in your life. Remember when it’s all said and done that relationships and being true to self come before a trophy. I advise all that consider this sport to sit with their loved ones at the beginning of the process and explain to them the changes and sacrifices that will be necessary. This is not a 12 week pass for selfish behavior - don’t lose sight of the things that matter most in life.
- Shut out the noise – Stop listening to the arm chair critics. This is your journey. If you did it right, you have a solid plan. Stick to it. Don’t compare yourself to others and what they look like or what they are doing. You can only be a better you – you cannot be someone else. You are better off ignoring it and instead focusing more efforts on your own preparation.
- Don't fall victim to the hype – Don’t let this go to your head or believe that you are somehow superior to those that do not follow the lifestyle. If you step back you will realize that we are the odd ones. Additionally, don’t let the end result define you. Be defined by the character and integrity that you maintain during the process.
“In actuality it is a test of discipline, preparation, time management skills, prioritization, and focus.”
- You've done the work, have patience! – This is one of the most challenging parts. We want results immediately and often change things that are working rather than trusting in a process. We always believe that new and different is better. Stick to the plan. All good things take time – a short cut is exactly that.
- Don't forget where you came from – There were other interests before this and there will be other interests after this. Don’t shut out everyone and everything else in your life. Don’t bash other training methods or diets that you have used before in your life - there is a time and place for different approaches and it is likely that the day will come that you go back to what brought you pleasure, joy. and results in the past.
- Enjoy the moment – Look around you. Savor it. Take it in. Be present.
- Remember to say thank you – It is highly likely that you could not have done this entirely on your own. Remember to say thank you for the big things and the small things. We are often not very self aware during contest prep and lose sight of all of the little concessions that people close to us make to support us.
- Be the best sportsman you can be – Set the example. Don’t be petty, catty. or jealous. Be honorable. Be a fierce competitor but respect your competition. Help others – it does not detract from you, it makes you better.