I often have people ask me how I got into figure/bikini competitions in the first place. I still struggle with how to answer that question. I have been health and fitness conscious since high school (when I first started lifting weights). I was also a dancer from age 5 to 19, so being on stage and performing was a regular part of my life for many years. I worked in several gyms and knew a few trainers who underwent the transformation from regular run-of-the-mill fit person to elite physique competitor. I’m quite competitive by nature and very driven to not just be good, but to be the best at whatever I do. I’m also a perfectionist who struggles with body image and food issues. Somehow, all of those things converged into the perfect storm that got me into competing. It’s the combination of performing on stage, competition, and the physique required to be competitive that drew me in.
There’s more to it than that though. When most people hear how much I train or what I eat (or perhaps more accurately, all of the things I CAN’T eat), the inevitable response is, “Oh, I could never do that. I don’t have that kind of discipline.” Competing is such a challenge because of the mental strength required. You have to exercise a kind of self-discipline and mental toughness that few other endeavors require. You have to eat for function, not for pleasure or comfort. You have to train with intensity and consistency, regardless of whether you are tired, sick, carb-depleted, depressed, or busy. You are confronted with myriad choices all day every day that test your resolve. It isn’t a goal that you pursue for an hour a day at the gym and then disregard for the other 23 hours per day. It is an all-consuming, 24 hour per day endeavor that takes the highest priority in your life for months at a time.
The competitive process can break you. But it can also make you. When you make it through the grueling weeks of hard work and sacrifice and you step on stage to show off the body you fought so hard to create, it makes you feel invincible. Knowing that I have the discipline, the drive, the work ethic, the courage, and the ambition to successfully compete makes everything else seem like small potatoes. It is a battle of the self. And conquering the self is the ultimate accomplishment.
I am active in the competitor community (Facebook groups, blogs, MyFitnessPal, my gym), which is usually a great thing. Interacting with like-minded people who are serious about health and fitness connects me to support and motivation that is essential to long-term success. However, I’ve found that there is a downside to this as well. When I am surrounded by beautiful, super fit women, it’s impossible not to compare myself to them…and in doing so, I often end up feeling inadequate or inferior. I realize that two-thirds of the U.S. is overweight or obese, but in MY world, that demographic is definitely wrong. In my world, two-thirds of the people I interact with are competitors, trainers, or hard-core gym rats with incredible physiques. And sometimes, it’s hard to feel special or unique in that environment. This is also part of my argument for being anti-fitspiration.
So, I have been suffering with a bit of an inferiority complex this week. I know I need to remain focused on myself and not compare myself to others, and sometimes the only way to do that is to disconnect a little bit. I look at my progress pictures. I look at my stats. I even put together a list of PR’s to remind myself of my other milestones (these aren’t 1 rep maxes, just the most weight I’ve used for a working set):
- Bench press: 125 lbs
- Back squats: 205 lbs
- Leg Press: 450 lbs
- Rack Pull: 145 lbs
- Sumo Deadlifts: 195 lbs
- Military Press: 85 lbs
- Unassisted pull-ups: 6
I have no control over what my competition looks like on show day and surely I don’t want to begrudge anyone else the success they have had in developing an amazing physique. All I can do is work my ass off and be proud of the progress I have made. I am only truly in competition with myself. I just need to better today than I was yesterday.
On a positive note, my coach just sent me the following text message with the pictures below attached: Wow! Pic on the left was your first progress pic you sent and the one on the right is the most current. You’re way ahead of schedule! I am beaming! 🙂