We spend countless hours each day - and countless days each month - prepping for that one moment on stage where we will be judged almost entirely on our appearance. But is it all about our appearance? In other words, what makes you a champion?
For those on the outside looking in, the journey might seem trivial or trite: a check in at the gym, pic of our perfectly measured meals, a selfie in the mirror showing the millimetre difference we are so (rightly) proud of. But, the reality is, the journey to becoming a competitor and potentially a champion is an emotionally and psychologically complex one.
It takes real commitment and sacrifice to make significant gains, and there are many stumbling blocks that can derail us along the way. With competition season upon us, it might be helpful for us to shed some light on what we could potentially encounter as we sculpt ourselves to perfection, and a few Champion Guidelines we can follow to help get us there.
Peer Pressure and Diet
When you know from experience that one tiny rice cake can noticeably change your muscle definition before walking on stage, your relationship to food will likely be much different than that of the average person. And, when you are invited to restaurants or parties, at some point you inevitably find yourself explaining or justifying your eating and drinking habits (or non-habits) to someone. I can’t tell you how many times I end up ordering a white wine-spritzer to nurse for six hours straight just to get people - who can’t believe I don’t want to drink - off my back.
Champion Guideline #1: Do not feel bad, uncomfortable, or frustrated for what you must eat, not eat, drink, or not drink.
If you need to pack a lunch and open your tupperware container while everyone is eating off menus, do it with a smile. Deep down inside, people will either respect or envy your level of commitment, especially as they start seeing your results. Make no apologies for what you must do to get you to your goals. If you get tired of hearing the flack, you can always blame it on food allergies - people seem to have a higher tolerance for picky eating and drinking habits if you say you’re allergic. If pressed to explain further, you can always say you’re allergic to lack of commitment.
The Gym and Your Time
“What?! You go to the gym TWICE ...EVERY day?” You can almost hear the insinuiation in your voice that you’re bordering on obsessive compulsion or narcissism. We’ve all heard it, especially as we get closer to competition day. The people in your life might be getting tired of coming second to your training, family members might begin feeling neglected, and even you might start to feel like you have zero down time for yourself. If you have any friends or family around you who aren’t in the business of competing, the stick you’ll receive from others - and yourself - could derail you from your training goals.
Champion Guideline #2: EVERY gym visit counts and should get your undivided attention - but not at the expense of those most important to you in your life.
Each and every training session is essential if you want to compete and win. And, commitment of this nature requires so much sacrifice that if you don’t strike a good balance between the gym and the important people in your life, you will likely feel frustrated and stretched thin the closer you get to competition. The key to keeping your champion-worthy fitness regime, and your sanity, is a “gym-life” balance.
First, it is important to be present and fully committed when you train. Yes, that means “put your phone away”. Get in “the zone” and give your body the energy and concentration necessary for optimal performance. You should practice “mindful” body building: feel each rep and be conscious of your form, making each set a kind of “moving meditation”. You’ll quickly begin to visualise and feel when you properly target the right muscle groups and shape yourself the way you intend. Take it one step deeper and visualise your gains and success during your rest periods. And, when you’re in the mirror admiring the minor changes as a result of your hard work, pat yourself on the back and realise each millimetre of difference took miles of effort. This is YOUR time. With this “training as therapy” approach, you will more likely than not enjoy and look forward to each training session, even on those days when you typically don’t have the energy for it. Being a champion isn’t just about conditioning the body, it’s about conditioning the mind, and having this holistic approach will ensure a higher level of success over time than if you were to focus just on physical gains.
Secondly, try to make sure your gym time isn’t negatively impacting the relationships that are important to you. Becoming a champion is that much easier with the support of those important people in your life! We all can get so laser focused, it’s possible to bulldoze over anyone who gets in our way, including the ones we love. But a true champion does not step on the heads of others to accomplish their goals. Your key relationships are just as important as your “me time” in the gym, and a demanding training schedule will only be sustainable if you can train hard without neglecting your relationship responsibilities. Limited time? Sacrifice your own creature comforts than quality time with family and friends. If you have to get up an hour earlier, go to bed an hour later, or “gym it” on your lunch time, it’s much better to do so than pushing aside those people you know will be by your side, cheering out your name, on that important day.
Your Motivation for “Winning”
While you might have already mastered the common obstacles in dieting and training, it is your motivation for winning that can present most of the obstacles to becoming a champion. Specifically, if your motivation to compete and win is purely ego driven - that is, you just want to look better than anyone else - you will be more likely to get sidetracked from your programme and goals. Constantly comparing yourself to others will make you a human yo-yo. How many times have you trolled competitors’ instagram and facebook pics, one minute feeling superior and then next feeling less than adequate? Stop. Think: if you’re not putting your best efforts into your own training and dieting program, and measuring your progress against yourself, then you’re not focused on what it takes to win.
Champion Rule #3: it’s ALL ABOUT YOU. You loving yourself. You feeling the best you can. You doing your best when compared against yourself, NOT others.
If you are at the best you can possibly be at every given point, then whether you win the title in the end is really not the point. If you focus constantly on where everyone else is, you are going to push yourself only to where you think you’ll beat someone else, not where you know your absolute best is. This is something i instil into all I work with whether they are looking to get on stage or just off the couch #ninassecret.
Recently, Arnie’s 6 Rules of Success went viral. His words include: trust yourself, listen to yourself, break the rules, don’t listen to naysayers, and - when “working your butt off” - don’t count your reps by someone’s arbitrary numbers but compete against YOUR OWN abilities. This is ALL about putting yourself first, competing with yourself, and looking within yourself to be your very best.
As crazy as this might sound, the journey to being a champion is about one thing: YOU. That’s right...It’s all about you. This might sound selfish and narcissistic, but it is the very fear that we are being too self-centered on this journey to being our very best that leads so many of us to “fall off the wagon”. You want to be a champion? Be fearless of other people’s judgement and criticism for what you have to do to get there, be caring to those around you, and never measure your success and gains against others. Whether you walk away with the trophy or not, I guarantee you will