Is It Worth It?

I already know the answer to that question in a general sense – I know that come show day, I will think it was worth every hour spent in the gym, every day eating the exact same, bland foods, and all of the money and stress.  But what I am talking about is – is it worth it right now? 

I am struggling big time.  I have been a zombie all week.  I’m burnt out, overtrained, and exhausted.  I don’t mean the kind of acute exhaustion that comes from pulling an all-nighter or having a stressful week.  I’m talking about the chronic, long-term fatigue that comes from training 6 days per week, twice per day, for 13 weeks straight.  The kind of fatigue that comes from waking up at 4 AM most days to train and making it home each morning from the gym just as the sun is coming up…then heading to work for a full day of stress and responsibility…then heading to class or heading home to study…then heading back to the gym for a second workout before going to bed and restarting the whole process 6 hours later.

I am running on empty.  If my habits were not so well-established, I would be totally off track.  I’ve literally been on auto-pilot all week.  I feel nothing – utter apathy is the only way to describe how I feel – not just about the competition, but about everything in my life.  I have 7 days left.  I thought I would be super excited and motivated – instead, I am apathetic and lethargic.  Maybe part of it is that with only 7 days left, I don’t feel like I can really make much progress in one direction or the other in such a short amount of time, so it feels like it isn’t that important if I push myself as hard in my workouts or stick exactly to my meal plan.

I also have a discouraging sense of being back at square one.  I don’t feel any different right now than I did when I started.  I don’t even feel (in what I realize is a distorted view) that I look any different or am physically different in any way.  I literally weigh myself now not to see how much I’ve come down from the week before, but to prove to myself that I really am 10 lbs lighter than I was when I started and that I haven’t mysteriously gained all of the weight back overnight.  My perception really is that distorted right now.

All of this obviously impacts confidence and motivation.  I am fearful.  I think what I am most scared of is getting on stage and having the people in the audience (including my friends and family) and my fellow competitors look at me and say to themselves, “She worked this hard for this long just to look like that?  She doesn’t even look like a figure competitor.”

The final week of competition prep is aptly named “Peak Week.”  During that week, you make final modifications to your diet, and generally your training is at a lower volume.  I have to remove the Mrs. Dash, Stevia, and the Crystal Light that I have relied on so heavily to help me tolerate my competition food and drink the 1-2 gallons of water per day I need to.  On Wednesday, I have to start decreasing my water intake and taking diuretics to pull every last bit of water out from underneath my skin before the show.  I will be tired, hungry, and dehydrated.

I don’t know what to expect.  I don’t know how I will handle this coming week.  Everyone keeps telling me “the end is in sight” and “you’re almost there.”  I know it’s only a week, but every hour of every day feels like an eternity.  I’m doing the best I can to keep things in perspective, but I haven’t been successful.

There are days when I feel like I would give just about anything to be “normal” for a day.  Then I remind myself that I am chasing extraordinary, not “normal,” and that you must pay a price to achieve the really difficult things in life.  If it were easy, everyone would do it.  I’ve had obstacles and setbacks pop up along the way, but that didn’t prevent me from making progress and improving (despite the skewed perception I have right now).  The competition is a snapshot of one point in time – it doesn’t have to be the end.  I can keep working hard (regardless of whether I compete again or not) and continue to get better each and every day.  Maybe I place last in my height class.  Maybe the worst case scenario happens and I do look out of place on stage among my peers.  So what?  That is one point in a long journey.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, champions aren’t created overnight, and no matter how hard you work out or how clean you eat, time is still an essential ingredient to the recipe of physical fitness and health.  If I’m not satisfied with my physique or with my placing at the show, I can change it.  I have the rest of my life to improve.

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has offered me words of encouragement and support in the past week and during this whole process.  The bright spots in my week of apathy have been each of you.  I really can’t express how good it is to feel supported, and I especially love hearing from those of you whom I haven’t seen/spoken to in a long time.  I always seem to find encouragement and brightness in unexpected places when things seem the darkest.  You guys are awesome and I don’t think I could have made it this far without you!

Now, I’m off to the gym after having put it off all day.  I’m invoking my mantra – get out of your head and get into the gym!

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