A bodybuilding competition is ultimately an event where one stands on stage to be judged on their body. I had a hard time with this fact for a while, but when I began to peel back the layers of what it takes to stand on that stage with confidence, it became much more to me. It is a challenge. It takes knowledge and/or guidance on diet and exercise. It takes dedication. And debatably most important, it takes a mindset that is motivated, positive and healthy. I set out on this challenge after deep deliberation, goal setting, and after years in the making of a solid foundation of knowledge and experience in diet and exercise. Disclaimer: I have done ONE competition. I am not a pro, and I absolutely do not know everything about this industry. However, I would like to share my personal experience in hopes to provide a fresh perspective on a very judged and controversial event. Keep reading to learn why I competed, what was personally most important along the journey to the stage, and if I will ever do it again!
Top 3 reasons I chose to compete:
- Curiosity. Competing is something I had wanted to experience for many years. I was always curious what it would take, what the process would feel like and if I would actually ever have the guts to do it. The first time I learned about the challenge was on Instagram about 6 years ago. I started following individuals who shared their journey of competing, before, during, and after. Some aspects peaked my interest, but others turned me away. I loved the idea of pushing myself to reach a fitness and nutrition related goal that takes time, patience, discipline and a carefully set mind. I however was turned off by the negative health behaviors, and rebound effect that it had on many individuals. After years of learning about the competition over social media, I was done being skeptical. Was it possible to compete without losing sight of health? Was it possible for me to coach myself based on my knowledge and experience? As a personal trainer, and soon to be Registered Dietitian (RD) at the time, it was the perfect challenge. I wanted to do it differently. I wanted to keep both mental and physical health in the forefront of the process. So there I went.
- Experience is the best teacher. I have dedicated my schooling and career so far to guiding others on their fitness and nutrition journeys. I love learning, and the competition world isn’t something that they teach in “dietitian school” or when you become a personal trainer. Competing is its own world of diet and exercise ideals, which is highly variable from person to person. It’s all about losing fat while maintaining all that hard-earned muscle. It’s a process that can be taken way too far, and rather dangerous if not done with health in mind. I did my own research on the topic, but nothing beats immersing yourself in an experience to truly learn the process. I set out to give it my all, absorb all the knowledge I could, knowing that this could become an avenue I travel down again, perhaps guiding others through the process as well.
- Proof. To prove it to myself. I committed to competing in February of 2017. To be honest, this commitment was not all that stable at times. Originally, I set out to compete early June, but did not until July 8th. May rolled around and I started to make excuses: “I don’t want to be judged on stage in a sparkly bikini, it’s just not me!” “I don’t want to be labeled at a bikini competitor, it’s too controversial!” “I am too busy studying for my RD exam (valid, but not good enough!).” Between achieving a stage worthy physique, learning how to pose and getting all the required attire and memberships, you could say I was a bit scared. BUT, I set out to complete a goal in February, and I had to complete it. That’s as simple as it gets. In hindsight, I am so glad I did. I very likely would have regretted failing to follow through. There really is nothing more motivating than completing a goal. I remained healthy physically and mentally before, during and after competition day, and proved to myself that I could not only achieve a spot on that stage, but take away the #1 place in my height class.
Would I ever do it again?
Beyond the spray tan that prevented me from showering and putting deodorant on for a few days, the experience was great! I learned so much along the way; about the process, about the industry, and about myself. I learned if done delicately with an especially healthy mindset, it can be a pleasant experience that does not rebound negatively with binge eating and/or poor body image. A slow and controlled approach, with the individualized body in mind is critical. I worry about the body image of those undergoing these competitions. They are set up to tear apart self- motivation if not approached in a delicate way. These are things I prepared myself for and learned how to cope with along the way. Diet choices and exercise patterns were also fun and interesting to manipulate along the way. Would I ever do it again? At this point, yes! I do not have any specific plans yet, so we will have to wait and see what 2018 brings 🙂