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May 6, 2011

Can Anyone Compete?

I asked this question the other day on both Facebook and Twitter to see what you guys thought…good trick right, doing my recon work on social media :) But I wanted to find out how people who have competed and also those who have not competed viewed the process.  I thought I would blog on this topic to de-bunk some misconceptions and also offer my two cents on the subject.  Many of you said that yes, anyone can do anything. Others said that to have what it takes, only a certain type of person was capable and still others said that nope, sorry, not for everyone.  Ready for my very vague response?……..I actually agree with all of these opinions to a certain degree and here’s why.

I have been training girls in competition prep for the last 5 years, and have seen many newbies go through the process. Some to never again grace the stage (“one and done”), others work on improving their package every show and still others go on to earn their pro cards to earn cash as a competitor.  Obviously every competitor starts somewhere and the reasons for competing are vast and varied. New goal? Push myself to the limit? Best shape of my life? Be a good example for my children? Older now and want to devote time to taking care of myself? Might as well do it while I am young? Why not?  The list goes on. The point is that all those who embark on the competition prep journey, eventually arrive at the same place, all possessing the same positive qualities during the prep process, which include:

Mental fortitude
And if they can get really clear on the process, they develop a non-victim mentality (it’s easy to fall into a “why-me?-pity-party” mentality during show prep–my very empathic answer? Because you decided to compete :))

It’s no secret that competition prep is not easy. The above qualities for many people are learned and earned. Some have them innately while others harness them in order to compete. I will pick on Jillian for a second because she is a great example of this…her natural way of being is to be still, relaxed, laid-back and not always so regimented with her workouts, and admittedly, she loves bacon and vodka :) However, she is a very successful figure competitor who puts those things aside when she is in contest prep mode and borrows from this list of attributes that defines a competitor.  The bottom line is that each one of us is different, with different motivations, different natural tendencies, different genetic makeup, different mental attitude and last but certainly not least, different body types.  However, if the desire to compete it there, there is no doubt in my mind that, yes, anyone can get up on stage.

I purchased the domain name last year (for potential future use? :)) because I felt it was in line with my purpose–to make any woman feel like she can compete and become her best self, physically which almost always translates into her best emotional self.  We saw in last week’s blog post from Dr. Hillary that getting her physique in show shape physically echoed positive repercussions in all other aspects of her life, from family to work to energy to mental attitude.  There is something about physical strength that transcends the mind–I have heard it from dozens of my female clients: “Physical strength begets emotional strength.”  It is a powerful thing, and yes, I truly believe that anyone, no matter what size, shape, background, age, socioeconomic status, etc can compete…as long as they have one thing, and that is the desire.

Now for the follow-up question: But will they be competitive? Or will they be that one competitor that everyone agrees should not have gotten up on stage? My short answer is that it is up to the competitor and coach to make the decision together. Ultimately, 90% want to be competitive and take home some hardware, but for some, simply getting up on stage is the icing on the cake, the process and preparation up until that point is where transformation truly happens. A good coach will be in touch with their clients’ goals, motivations, personal preferences and understand them as a individual. What is this client’s goal? When I did my first show, my #1 goal was not to embarrass myself! My second show, I wanted to win! Understanding the ins and outs of each competitor allows for the choice to make itself.

The more important question IMO: Can the potential competitor weather the mental game? Doing the diet, following the training program, abstaining from sweets, etc is all about will-power, practicing self-control and staying consistent. I believe anyone can muster these attributes. But what about the emotional roller coaster that competition can bring, especially for newbies, both during and after?  I liken it to pregnancy (though admittedly not the best analogy) where you are preparing for something for months and once it is over, there is the feeling of “now what?” For months leading up to a competition you are on a regimented schedule–eat, train, eat, sleep, repeat. You are receiving on-going attention as people ask what you are training for, friends want to know what you are eating and social media allows for an ongoing, personal cheer squad.  You are motivated by the physical changes you see, you love clean eating, it’s the best! Everyone should be eating like this, I’ll never go back! While at the same time, you are looking forward to your post-show meal and have been putting together a list of foods you can’t wait to have again. The show comes and you feel great, it’s the best night! All your friends and family are there cheering you on, you and the girls backstage bond over chocolate, wine and make-up. You are in the best shape of your life–you did it! It is an amazing feeling, and no doubt an accomplishment to be celebrated.  After the show, the post-competition meal is everything you were waiting for and more, what an experience!

The few days after the show you are staying fairly lean and then, whoa! All of a sudden you are feeling swollen in places, clothes are fitting tighter and you are understandably down about it.  The high has worn off and you are feeling bad about not being in the shape you were just weeks ago.  Eating is a crapshoot (what should I eat now?), should you be working out or not? and what happened to all the attention? Am I invisible now?

I have been there. I know exactly what this feels like.  For newbies to competition, this can be devastating, even on a subconscious level, and you may feel helpless to do anything about it.  I will be blogging on this very thing next week (“Post-Competition Blues”), but suffice it to say, that staying in “show shape” is not possible, nor is it healthy or advisable.  The second you start drinking water after your show, you will begin putting weight back on, it is the reality of the competition process and it is not something to be scared of, but instead something to be ready for, both physically and mentally.

More to come next week…but back to the question of, “Can anyone compete?” For me, the answer is yes, but each potential competitor will need to understand that the process is both/equally physical and mental.  For example, I would not advise someone with food/eating issues to go through a contest prep program.  Individuals who have a healthy relationship with food and strong self-esteem will fair the best, and even these people may end up with issues around food. My friend Rae, a seasoned competitor, said it perfectly: “I think one needs to ask themself if they can handle the emotional aspects of competing and dieting, especially after. There can be many implications to competing and unless you are a well balanced individual that can handle looking “perfect” for a week and realizing it’s not sustainable then by all means.”

Certainly, it is not like that for everyone, and it DOES get better from show to show as you learn about your body and how it responds, but this certainly something to be aware of if you are a first-time competitor. In conclusion, I am a HUGE advocate of creating your own reality, and if you have the desire to compete, then OF COURSE you can compete, how could someone else even attempt to decide that for you?  So, I say YES, go for it!  JillFit is here waiting :)

Let me know what you guys think! Thoughts? ox Jill

Learn, Grow,
Teach, Practice

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