There is nothing quite like being up on a fitness, figure, bikini or physique competition stage. You’ve trudged through months of weight training, downed dozens of chicken breasts and egg whites; you’ve declined many girls’ nights out. Your good friends now know that the best place to find you is either at the gym, sleeping, or … at the gym.
But one of the toughest things I had to learn during my long road to a pro card was how to properly transition from contest mode to normal life. And yes, it is a skill.
I am admittedly a natural “ham,” and I am very competitive, so showing off what I was made of was squarely within my wheelhouse and incredibly addicting. Where I faltered was not allowing myself to take it all in: the before, the after, the highs and the lows.
Instead of trying to understand myself better, I sought to push it all aside and to immediately register to compete in another contest right away before those pesky “blue” moods could even take hold. In my first year and a half of competing I did a total of 13 figure and then fitness competitions, all while maintaining a nine-to-five job as a production executive.
I racked up the trophies … and ran myself ragged in the process. My body became injury-prone as a result of not being given any rest; my mind and productivity at work suffered; my relationships deteriorated irrevocably. I did not see the connection between how hard I was pushing myself, unnecessarily — after all, there was no one forcing me to do so much in so little time — and what was happening in my life offstage. The feeling of post-show blues that I had tried so hard to escape was my body simply telling me, “Hey! Silly girl! Slow it down.”
You can aim to be at the top of your game competitively, but you have to respect the one thing that your body, your mind and all the vital components of your life do need: balance.
1 THE TROPHY IS SECOND: Didn’t place as high as you would have liked? So what. Smile big, strut and be proud of yourself. The trophy is the icing. The whole experience, your fitter body and the immeasurable boost to your self-esteem are your cake. Eat it up!
2 RESPECT THE “GAP”: The gap is the space between the shows. There is a reason that the pros take so much time in between contests: Your body and mind need a break. You will go into your next contest in a stronger state.
3 FIND YOUR ZEN: Nothing is meant to exist in a high-adrenaline state of being for an extended period. Burnout is common and has claimed some of the most promising competitive
careers. Disciplines like meditation, yoga and hiking are beneficial for boosting your mind/body connection. We are but how we think.
4 TREAT YOURSELF … BUT PACE YOURSELF: It is A-OK to enjoy something a bit tastier than salmon with mustard and brown rice after a contest! One of my favourite memories was sharing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s with eight-time Fitness Olympia Champion Adela Garcia in the elevator post-Olympia years ago. That red velvet cake? Have a slice — just not the whole cake. It’s extremely unhealthy to put your digestive system through a shock like that.
5 RECHARGE TO REBOOT RIGHT: Avoid the impulse to jump right back into intense training the day after a competition. Doing so will tax your immune system and make you prone to injury and illness. The most successful competitors always take a bit of time completely away from the gym after a contest. Whether it’s a week or a month, the rest segment of the contest cycle after the show is just as essential as the rest when you are in training mode.
6 USE THE GAP TO REFLECT … AND RECONNECT: Remember that the people who you want cheering you on are the ones closest to you. In your journey to the big stage, don’t take your support system for granted.
7 STAY POSITIVE, EVEN WHEN FACED WITH THE NEGATIVES DOT-COM: Funny thing, the Internet is. It can be very easy to get wrapped up in social media and to become overly concerned about what so-and-so might be saying about you on a digital platform. I used to believe that just avoiding it all was the answer — but then I had that “aha moment,” and I realised that if I was going to put myself in a position to be judged publicly, then I had to be mentally strong enough to take every part of what comes with being a public figure — the good, the bad and the crazy person who is a fan in the form of a “hater.” Everyone will have an opinion. So? Let them. You just keep doing you and let the negativity roll off. Instead, absorb the positives.
8 DON’T OBSESS, REASSESS: I have witnessed many of those new to the sport lose their cool over the postcontest weight gain. Yes, you should go back to incorporating
healthy food groups that were removed from your diet. Be mindful not to get upset over not looking “stage ready” all the time. None of us do! Maintaining extremely low body fat for an extended period is unhealthy and unrealistic — especially for females.
9 SO WHAT’S NEXT: Here’s the fun part. We all know that every contest and show is different and that competing in one particular competition might put you in a different or even better position for another. Do your research before registering for a contest. The more that you know, the more prepared you will be. Competing should be one of the most enjoyable experiences of your life.
Fitness celebrity Alicia Marie is the author of The Booty Bible (FitPOP Media) and co-creator of the 30-Day Butt Lift DVD. You can find her online at FitPop.com.