I mentioned in the spring that I would write about my experience after my first show and then just never got around to it because life happened and then before I knew it I was back on prep. Two shows later, I am ready to reflect on my overall experience with bodybuilding. I have a lot to say so bravo to you if you actually read this entire novel. Before I get into too much detail, I want to reiterate that this is obviously just my PERSONAL opinion (hence the title) and everyone’s experience with competing is unique. I took a difference approach when prepping for each of my shows. In fact, I would say they were almost totally opposite approaches. For my first show I followed IIFYM (if it fits your macros). My coach provided me with the amount of protein/carbs/fats I should be reaching per day and I filled them as I pleased. I lifted 5-6 days a week and did minimal cardio. The most cardio I did was 4, 30 min HIIT sessions per week. My second show followed a specific meal plan. My coach told me what to eat each week and adjusted as necessary. I lifted 7 days a week and reached 2 hours of cardio per day by show time. I wouldn’t say there is a right or wrong approach as there were pros and cons to each of these approaches. Now, with that background, I am ready to dive into the good, the bad, and the roller coaster ride that is competing.
Getting up on stage was one of the most rewarding experiences. You put blood sweat and tears into transforming your body and get to show off all of your hard work. I really love setting a goal and actually following through with it so competing was a really satisfying accomplishment for me. Also, I am typically not a girly girl so it was fun for me to get all dressed up for the day in sparkly shit and have my makeup done beyond a layer of eyeliner.
Meeting New People
Aside from all the glits and glam, I got to meet a lot of really great people with that same passion that I have. I not only developed new friendships but also have learned a ton about fitness and nutrition from a lot of really smart people. There will always be a firehouse of information out there related to this industry but I feel that my experiences have taught me a lot about what my body needs to be healthy and I am so grateful for that.
The amount of positive feedback I have received is amazing. Selfishly, I went into bodybuilding to focus on myself, not realizing how much my journey would impact others. No I am not a sponsored athlete with 50K+ followers on Instagram, but having just one other person tell me that I inspire them is pretty frigen cool. I’ve recently been getting asked a lot of questions about my opinion on certain training and/or diet topics and while I am no nutritional coach, I could talk about this stuff for hours and love that I can share my opinions with others in hopes to motivate,inspire, or just provide some sort of direction.
Show Day Part 2
This is literally the longest effing day of your life. You put so much time, effort, and money into preparing for the stage. I am talking food prep, training, posing, money spent on suit, accessories, tanning, hair, makeup, the list goes on. And guess what? You spend 99% of the show day sitting and waiting. You get about 30 seconds on stage to convince a panel of judges that all of your hard work and dedication was worth it. When really at the end of the day the only persons opinion that really matters is yourself. You could be in the best shape out of everyone in your class but if you don’t present “the look” that the judges are looking for that day then no hardware for you.
Self image is something that I personally struggle with (shocker) and that goes for a lot of other females, and males. So for me, I am not sure the whole competing process is the best way to heal that. I am super competitive so when I walked away from my first show with nothing, as much as I like to pretend I wasn’t upset about it, I was pretty bummed. I walked away from my second show with two trophies including winning my open class and in the moment this was extremely gratifying. But guess what? My body isn’t going to stay stage lean forever and now I have to deal with the mental battle of accepting my body at its “normal” state. And depending on how you plan your post show diet, your metabolism can get super effed up. My last show ended right before Thanksgiving and I was on a pretty tight meal plan so my body was not happy with me going from 0 to 100. I did not reverse diet like I did with my first show and it resulted in a pretty quick and heavy weight gain. Do I regret not reverse dieting? Sometimes. However, I told myself after this show that I would give my mind a break from feeling like it was on a diet and that is exactly what I did. This “lifestyle” can become obsessive and I found myself missing out on a lot because I didn’t want to have a drink or eat food that I didn’t personally cook. I was constantly feeling the pressure to keep my body in the best shape it can be in because I made the decision to share my journey with friends, family, social media, etc. There have been times that I feared going out in public because I thought I was going to get judged for my actions or image. In general, the whole “off season” “on season” bodybuilding cycle really messes with my head so I’ve personally set a goal to break that cycle this year and find a comfortable balance with my body where I am happy and healthy.
SO NOW WHAT?
Will I ever compete again? I currently have no plans to. At least not in the near future. Right now I am just focusing on enjoying life in my mid twenties. Working hard in the gym. Working hard at my job. Spending time with the people I care about. I found that prepping for shows sometimes interfered with my focus at work and my relationships with friends and family. For me, if I can’t balance my relationships and my job while preparing for a show, it’s simply not worth it. Competing is something you really have to be all in for. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, health and fitness is a huge part of my life, but it’s not my entire life. There is a reason it is called a “lifestyle”. For some, competing is a part of their lifestyle and I fully respect that. For me, I see bodybuilding as a piece of the puzzle, a key milestone, in my journey to being the healthiest version of myself that I can be.