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Contest Prep: Knowing Your Strengths & Weaknesses

By Jillian Teta

It’s that time of year again! Contest season is getting underway, A quick peruse through Facebook or Twitter, and you’ll notice people posting about starting their contest prep. After a few months off for the holiday, competitors are getting back to business, as it were.

Incidentally, I will be starting my prep soon enough as well. Over the last couple of weeks I have been gearing up mentally to change my routine from a build/maintenance to a “cut” one.

For me, this process has very much become a mental game rather than a purely physical one. As I began to realize that I enjoyed competing, and that my yo-yo placings would likely get better with some measure of structure in the “off season”, I put some thought into how this would look.

A huge factor began to dawn on me, and on this factor we can hinge many of the other pieces of the puzzle. It is, simply or not so simply: Know yourself. Deceptively simple, right? Hey, I’m 5 foot 4, I like to work out, I do these shows, I like bacon and vodka and I don’t like feeling stressed out.

Nah, what we are talking about here is scratching the surface a little deeper. If we know ourselves – or at least are open to learning about ourselves – it will open up the way to not only make contest prep or body change easier, but will also help us enrich our relationships with partners, friends, family, clients, etc.

An easy way to initially approach this is to take stock of our strengths and weaknesses. Write them down. Start with your strengths first – they can be any type of strength, from a physical strength like “strong back” or physical attribute “great midsection” to mental/emotional/social strengths. Examples of this would be: I am a good planner, I can make people laugh, I can stick to a schedule, I am a diplomat, I am good at calming people down, I love to network, I am responsible, I am determined, I like to help others, etc, etc.

Next, write down your weaknesses, starting with the physical. Note that this is not a free-for-all for you to bash yourself, lol! Example: I need to bring up my shoulders to match my quads, my midsection should be tighter. Next, move on to other weaknesses. Sit with this for a while, and again it is not a carte blanche self-bashing session. Maybe you fall to pieces if you don’t have a routine, or discipline goes out the door if you get hungry. Maybe you get snappy if you perceive that other people are not acting a certain way or being sensitive to the fact that you are on a contest prep schedule. Maybe you blame others for things or spend a lot of time in negativity. Write it all down.

All of this information is extremely powerful – especially having it all laid out on paper. When we keep things in our minds, and don’t write them out, the brain does amazing mental aerobics justifying and hiding and supplying the proof for all your thoughts. Written out in the light of day, there they are.

Luckily, you are responsible for every single strength and weakness you have. And, depending on which ones you foster, that will be what manifests in your life. So, let’s play up your strengths, and understand the weaknesses so we can plan ways “around and through” them.

I will use myself as an example here. A huge weakness of mine is that I can find excuses to miss training, making me inconsistent, and I can resent the fact that I am on a contest schedule. In certain aspects, I find that I have good discipline, and I like to cook.

Knowing this about myself, I block out a daily and weekly training schedule. It is written out and on the calendar and it leaves no room for me blowing it off. Additionally, I block out time a couple times weekly to prep food. I never let myself run out of food because I know this will be a massive trigger for me. I have also learned to not have certain foods in the house – PowerCrunch bars, anyone? – to not trigger myself. I have a running mantra in my head for when I begin to feel like other people should be more sensitive to my diet schedule – “I choose this, and it is not a requirement, and not a necessity, and not a punishment, and I deserve it”. It is actually nobody’s business and nobody’s problem except my own.

So, knowing your weaknesses enables you to plan around them and anticipate them. It allows you to meet them as you would a small child who is confused – with some understanding. They are not inherent flaws. You are not defective goods. They are tools inward to your own self-discovery, and there is no better place to apply them then while doing something that requires such internal concentration as body change. Knowing your physical weaknesses allows you to keep tabs on progress and monitor change, all good things.

Knowing your strengths is helpful because you can pull on them in those down moments. You can use your strengths to overcome your weaknesses. You can use your strengths to share with others and to help bring them up as well. The world has never seen nor ever will see again the likes of you, so can’t we have all of the amazing things you have to offer?

I wish everyone good luck on their prep and their physique goals. What do you have in store for 2012? Let us know! ox Jillian

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