Interview by Jillian Teta
I first saw Cheryl Davis while I was sitting in the audience at the NPC Elite last year. Her physique caught my eye instantly and in that moment she gained a fan in me. She won her class and the overall in that show, and I began to follow her on Facebook. I was thrilled to meet her in person some months later at the IFPA Pro Bowl where I introduced myself and we chatted for a few moments backstage. Cheryl placed well in that show, and then went on to win her IFBB Pro Card not long after that.
Cheryl is the type of athlete that gets your attention: she has an amazing physique that leaves no doubt that she will be a force in the IFBB, and even more special than that, her qualities of humility, kindness and “realness” make her shine. She embodies all of the qualities that we honor and strive to promote at JillFit.
It is then with great pleasure that we give you the special treat of Cheryl’s insight into the mental game of competing, no matter where you are in your process. Enjoy!
1. In terms of getting ready for a competition, do you find it more challenging to get your “mind right” or to actually do the physical work?
I think the contest prep process is at least ninety percent mental, whether we’re talking training, diet, sleep, motivation, etc. You have to learn to strike a balance between fearing failure enough that you keep striving for better results while not fearing it so much that it becomes debilitating and self-sabotaging. It also takes vision and will power to dedicate yourself day in and day out for weeks on end for a few critical moments that might amount to 10 minutes at the most when it boils down to it. And you have to recommit daily, sometimes hourly to the pursuit of a specific goal. For me, doing the physical training, while challenging and intense at all times, is usually something I can gear myself up for. I am, however, a serious foodie!! Dieting for me usually isn’t difficult because I want things that aren’t healthy as much as I want to eat a variety of foods and have the full cultural, social, and culinary experiences associated with food when I’m in my training season. So I’m usually coping with that aspect in my head for my entire prep, as well as trying to keep from worrying about the unknowable and uncontrollable elements involved in competing.
2. What inspires you?
Courage and kindness in all forms, there are so many ways to accomplish both (children are extraordinarily good at this!). I’m passionate about transformation and any truly transformative process requires a large amount of courage. When I see someone who has accomplished major weight loss or started their own business or followed their passion in a meaningful way or is intentional about how they raise their family, I know that at some point they looked in the mirror and had a moment of vulnerability and clarity and made a decision to transcend their doubts and fears and that’s a really amazing thing. I also really believe in serving others and seeing people that dedicate themselves to service to others is incredibly inspiring!
3. What is most important to your well being?
I’d say gratitude is the biggest contributing factor to my well being. There’s absolutely no substitute for it in gaining and keeping perspective. With respect to training and competing, I’m exceedingly blessed to be able to have fully functional limbs, a healthy heart, enough resources to nourish my body, and a great support system that’s even growing every day. So when I get all funky in the head, I focus on all the things I’m lucky to be able to have and do and say. Authenticity probably runs a close second. Walking my own personal path in a way that respects my values, principles, experiences, and what I feel are my obligations to others as a member of society really helps to give me a sense of guidance when I’m feeling confused or out of sorts. It always comes back to feeling comfortable with and loving who I am, which allows me to give others the same consideration.
4. What is your inner “talking environment”? In other words, do you positive or negative self talk, or both?
It’s mostly a positive talking environment, although I don’t hesitate to tell myself to get it together when I need to. I pretty much just don’t tell myself that I can’t do something, regardless of how difficult (or crazy) it seems lol. I’ve never been a person that responds well or is motivated by negativity or fear, so I go with what does work, which is setting myself up for success by trying to align what I think, what I say, and what I do with what I ultimately want. Most of the time I’m pretty successful at that and when I’m not, I tell myself to get it together :)
5. What made you decide to compete?
I had a few goals (well more than a few) set for the year that I turned 30 and I was looking for something physically challenging to add to the list. I was always curious about what my body would look like in peak condition and have always wanted to have the discipline of someone completely committed to a sport and training regimen. I thought about training for a marathon, but I wasn’t looking forward to the type of training I would need to do for it, i.e. sustained long runs. I initially was resistant to the idea of competing; I didn’t want to get to a point where I became obsessive over my appearance and honestly didn’t know much about figure since my knowledge of competitive fitness was limited to the fitness and bodybuilding categories. But over several months, I kept coming into contact with people who asked me if I was competing or who competed themselves and usually when things occur in my life and pull at my consciousness continuously, I try to pay attention enough to explore the possibility that it’s a sign from the universe. When I finally decided to compete though, I pretty much just jumped in since I tend to operate that way and it’s been a great experience ever since. I had taken a break from being onstage, so it was exciting to have a “performance” outlet in my life again. And it’s been a game changer for me in terms of aligning my career goals with what I love and am passionate about.
6. How do you keep your perspective through the rough patches of training? This could be patches of exhaustion, self-doubt, fear, insecurity, etc.
I try to focus on breaking things down into small, manageable segments and focusing on what’s real as opposed to things that are simply illusion whenever I start to stress out. I literally have a “grand scheme of things” list. If it doesn’t make it the list, I’m not going to worry about it. I also check in with myself a lot, making sure that whatever is going on with me is not simply a function of being tired, dehydrated, or TOM. I tend to reward myself with stress relievers – a warm bath (oh man, total heaven!), mani/pedi, massage, downtime to hang out with my pooch at the dog park for an hour or two, etc. As important as my prep process and fitness in general is to me, I also recognize that it’s important to keep the perspective that it’s not the end of the world if I fall down or off, I’m going to get back on. If I’m not at my best, well then I could probably use the wakeup call to motivate me towards my best the next time around. I try to look at my adherence to my process as a way to honor the people who support me and invest their time, energy and emotions in my journey because let’s face it, we all have those moments when there’s someone else who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. When all else fails, I think about what I would tell my children if they were in the same situation and if they would be proud of the choice I made in that moment and that usually does the trick if nothing else does. It doesn’t even make a whole lot of difference that I don’t have any children yet :)
7. What advice would you give to women who are considering competition or who are training for their first show?
Focus on and commit yourself to the process and the results will come. Give yourself enough time to see changes. There’s the day after the show and the day after that; if you run your body into the ground trying to make drastic changes in too short of a time period just to get ready for a show, what is likely to happen to your body afterwards? There is absolutely nothing “extreme” you have to do to prepare for your first show. Get a plan, work it and work it with fidelity. And allow enough space in your brain and psyche for your body to grow into the improvements you’re trying to make. Rome wasn’t built in a day…
8. What is next for one of the IFBB’s newest pros, Ms. Cheryl Davis?
I’m looking forward to getting my feet wet on the pro stage and getting a good sense of what the competition is going to be like going forward. I’m in prep now and feeling actually pretty good about it, hoping to dial my physique in perfectly for this round of shows and get some good feedback from the judges. I’ll probably do 4-5 shows this year. My goal is to qualify for the Olympia this year so I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me! I’ve also spent the better part of the last year working on a number of business ventures I finally have the opportunity to get off the ground and looking forward to launching those early this Spring as well.
9. Any last thoughts?
Just that you ladies rock hard! I’m a huge JillFit Fan and love seeing what you all are up to on the competition circuit and life path!! Thank you for allowing me to share and thank you for sharing so much of your knowledge and experience with us as well! xoxo