T-Minus 3 Days

It’s Wednesday evening, and the competition is on Saturday.  I’ve been fortunate enough to take time off from work today through the end of this week so I can focus on finalizing all of the competition details and making sure I am as ready as I can be.  It’s also given me some time to reflect on my experience and think about the future.

Looking back at my blog posts over the course of the past 14 weeks, it’s clear that I am different now than I was at the start, and even where I was in the middle.  I was positive, motivated, and enthusiastic until about October.  At that point, I was getting burnt out, stressed out, and was really struggling.  I’ve realized that around that time, this process stopped being that enjoyable.  Although I tried to use process goals to stay motivated, ultimately, everything I have done has been related to my outcome goal, which is competing on November 5th.  If you remember from my goal-setting post, process goals are form or strategy tasks that you repeat frequently (i.e. keep your heart rate above 140 bpm during a cardio session).  Outcome goals are related to the results of an event, usually in the context of your competitors (i.e. placing top 3 in a figure competition).

It is the process goals that keep you motivated, not the outcome goals.  Process goals allow you to focus on the present without considering the outcome of the activity or perceiving the activity as merely a means to an end.  Outcome goals on the other hand can motivate you to a degree, but they also produce increased anxiety/tension and can lead to the perception of diminished choice.  I used to lift weights and do cardio to feel stronger and healthier; to reduce stress; to get that rush of endorphins, and to see improvement and progress over time.  Now I lift weights and do cardio because that is what I have been told to do by my trainer in order to look a certain way for the competition.  I no longer have the freedom to decide how I train, how often I train, or what I eat.  That is all decided for me and communicated to me by my trainer (which is, of course, what I hired her to do).  Yes, I have the choice to deviate from it, but not without a substantial amount of stress and guilt due to my outcome goal – competing.  Granted, feeling compelled to stick to the plan has taught me a lot about discipline and mental toughness too.

I’ve lost the joy of training for the sake of being healthy.  Instead, I am engaging in what some would see as questionable practices (i.e. cutting water intake and taking diuretics) in order to look fit and healthy.  There’s an ethical paradox in that which doesn’t sit well with me.  I also struggle with the fact that I am competing based on solely on my appearance, not on athletic ability or skill.  That’s what separates bodybuilding from mainstream sports – figure competitors train to look a certain way, not to perform a certain way (although the training demanded of figure competitors pretty much guarantees physical fitness).  Something about that reads a little bit superficial to me.  As I confessed in my perfection post, I am a hardcore perfectionist, and competing in a sport that requires you to aspire to a flawless physique has brought out some of my less than appealing neurotic qualities and has caused me significant emotional distress.

So, I am considering whether I will compete again or not.  I haven’t decided yet – I will need to finish out this process and then take some time to reflect after to know whether I want to do this again or not.  There are other athletic endeavors I would like to pursue (CrossFit, kickboxing, and/or yoga; possibly run the PF Chang’s half marathon again in January).  I also know that the first time cutting for a show is the hardest.  If I were to compete again, I would start off in better shape, I would know what to expect, and I would know what my pitfalls and mistakes were in my first prep so I could plan and execute better the next time around.  I would also have the benefits of a wealth of sports psychology knowledge at my disposal to cope better with the inherent challenges of competing in figure.

What’s next?  I’m not sure.  The only thing I can say with absolute certainty about the future is that I will enjoy eating whatever my heart desires after the competition is over – which will probably be the subject of another blog post!

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