For about two years straight, I jumped headfirst into competing as an amateur figure competitor. I was dedicated to meal prepping, eating on a schedule, and never missing a workout or cardio session. I was happy doing this. It was 100% my choice. My goal was to win a competition. But, again, who’s goal isn’t that? I submerged myself fully in diet and training for 5 months prior to a show, of course I wanted that trophy to make all that effort worth something. I came close to winning, but haven’t yet reach that top spot. I did well enough to qualify to enter a national event. Last year, I took the leap and set my sights on the North American Bodybuilding Championships. This show pulls in competitors from all of the United States, Canada, and Mexico (maybe more, don’t quote me verbatim). It’s huge. I think there were somewhere around 40 competitors just in my height class. These women are the best of the best, everyone is chasing that elusive Pro Card. Only a handful of women walk away from this show able to call themselves Professional Bodybuilders.
Looking back, I feel like I gave it all I had. I’ve never been in better condition or shape (physique-wise) in my life. So, yes, I won the competition against my own self so to speak. I blew my previous competition package out of the water. I, however, did not blow my fellow competitors out of the water. Unfortunately I was quite dwarfed in size compared to the other women and it was glaringly obvious once we stepped on stage together. I did not place, but I walked away from that competition with my pride still intact knowing that I brought my best. I can make all the excuses in the book…1. other competitors were older, thus had more time to train and grow. 2. I got outsized (which is true) 3. I wasn’t what the judges were looking for that day. I could probably list more, but there’s no time to make excuses when you should just be using that time for improvements.
So, fast forward to now…and A LOT has changed. This is the first time in three years that I don’t count macros strictly each day. Hell, let’s just be honest, I haven’t counted anything in quite a while. I also don’t feel guilty when I take a day off from the gym. I give my workouts 100% when I am there, and if my body is telling me it’s exhausted after 3 or 4 days straight of training, then I take a day off. I am many more pounds above stage weight than I’d care to admit, but I don’t follow a set schedule and because of that, I feel free. My short term goals have changed quite drastically, and I’m learning new ways to train and I’m experimenting with different ways of thinking about food and eating. I am very much outside of the box. And although I am (if we’re being 100% honest) very much struggling with the weight I am currently, I am also loving trying out new training regimens and not worrying if I miss a meal or more often than not- if I eat two breakfasts instead of one. What I am doing is living. And it’s sometimes messy, and sometimes I go a few miles in the wrong direction before I have to recalculate, but I’m learning along the way. Life isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and too many people have had their chance at life cut short, so I’ve made it my goal to live each damn day to the fullest. If my day isn’t bursting at the seams, then I may have not done enough.
Goal-wise, I have zero plans to compete until at least 2017, maybe longer. My current mindset is simply to get myself to a weight that I can comfortably maintain without having to worry much. As hard as it is to understand that looking stage-ready year round is impossible, I’m finally learning to be okay with the extra curves. I want to be able to fit into all of my clothes, and not just the leggings and gym clothes. I am teaching myself that whether the scale says 100 or 140, if my jeans fit and I don’t have to resort to leggings or buy new, then that’s where I am comfortable. As much as I want to have a very visible set of abs back, I also know that I don’t want to forgo summer ice cream dates with my boyfriend, or the occasional Friday night pizzafest. Though it’s been just a few months shy of a year since I last competed, I still shiver when I think about eating chicken and green beans and losing my beloved coffee creamer. For this reason alone, I know that I’m not ready to consider training for the stage just yet. My mind isn’t ready. And if you ask anyone who has ever competed, they will tell you the same. The gym, the training, even the cardio sessions are easy compared to the mental strength required. If your head isn’t in it to win it, then there’s no point in wasting months of your life preparing.
I didn’t set out to write this like many people do who feel they’ve been dealt the short stick. I’m not going to cry and say that competing damaged my metabolism, my coach gave me bad advice, or the competition was rigged because none of that is true. My coach is fabulous and the women who did beat me fully deserved their placing. I’m not throwing in the towel on bodybuilding and competing. I’m just taking the long way around, a detour so to speak. I still love working out and I still have goals of improving my physique. I just have given myself a longer period of time to get there. I’m writing this in hopes that someone else who has or is feeling the way I feel, doesn’t feel like their choice is wrong. We are all free to choose our own path in life, and we should be taking full advantage of that opportunity. If you ask me, there are no wrongs in creating your life path so long as you’re learning and growing positively as a person while doing so. You want to dive headfirst into the competition life? Do it. You want to take up cross fit? Go get it. You want to climb a mountain? Upward and onward! Whatever it is that you choose to do to change your life for the better (and happier), then you should do it. So, I’m enjoying life. I’m training. I’m eating (sometimes too much). I’m balancing serious with fun. I’m making memories and I’m chasing my current short-term goal of a balanced life.
And you should, too.