For the past year, my goals have been fitness competition related. I’ve been bouncing between bikini, fitness, and figure all year desperately trying to find my perfect fit. Struggling when I don’t feel a connection to the women around me and conflicted when I secretly despise almost everything about the fitness competition world.
Can competing be a tool for personal development, challenge your body and mind, and hone your skills in the kitchen and gym? Absolutely. Can competing damage your body, mentality, and general enjoyment of life? Without a doubt.
Just Like Seasons, People and Plans Change.
This post is not meant to trash the bodybuilding or competition world. Many of my wonderful friends compete, I coach competitors full-time, and my online “tribe” of amazing female friends includes multiple successful competitors.
This isn’t about them, this is about me.
Satisfaction for me has always come from competitive sports and I don’t consider posing in a bikini and heels a sport. My enjoyment comes from volleyball, lacrosse, and pick up games of soccer. Happiness and satisfaction come from outdoor activities such as trail running, mountain biking, and water sports. There is nothing more satisfying than a hard-as-hell mountain bike ride or finally conquering that 2,700+ ft elevation gain while running up a mountain. I’m an outdoor enthusiast and adventurer at heart and my happiness has been muted by focusing on the wrong activities.
Finding myself stuck between who I am as a person and who I am supposed to be as a competitor was frustrating. As a person and coach I promote balance. Enjoyment of life, enjoyment of food, fueling an active body, educating about nutrition, and learning to love lifting and muscle. Many of my beliefs cross over into competition world. You can certainly flexible diet your way to the stage and you can enjoy yourself while creating a stage-worthy body. Yet, right there, that simple sentence… makes me cringe. “Stage worthy body.”
I get it. Stepping on stage means being lean but when did stepping on stage become “miserable from lack of carbs”, malnourished or unnatural looking, and/or a beauty contest? Why are more young women than ever jumping on the bandwagon of low-carb, low-calorie, 2 hour cardio plans in a desperate attempt to step on stage looking “perfect”?
More importantly, why do I care?
Simple. I care because these women come to me post show, completely destroyed both mentally and physically, looking for answers regarding fitness, nutrition, and living a balanced life. How can I possible coach effectively and practice what I preach if I am part of such a warped “sport”?
For a while, I rectified my feelings by saying I was a different kind of competitor and coach. That I didn’t jump on the bandwagon of ridiculous “tricks” or tips that unqualified people sell for $1,000 a pop. That I would never sacrifice my beliefs for a trophy. As a coach and a woman who values and respects her body, I simply refused to “harm” myself to win first place.
This past year, I accomplished just that. I stepped on stage after 12 weeks of flexible dieting, low cardio, and structured lifting.
The result? Nothing spectacular.
Don’t get me wrong, I looked fantastic. I was lean and muscular and all done up the way a bikini competitor is supposed to look. Yet, I didn’t feel happy or accomplished. In fact, I felt out-of-place and agitated the entire day. Nothing about standing around in heels and a bikini made me feel athletic or competitive. Leaving the show, scrubbing off my ridiculous tan, and waking the up the next morning to all the possibilities of the Colorado Rockies was the best part of the whole weekend.
For many months, I was convinced it was the division. The feedback I received was essentially that I was “too muscular” for bikini division. The choice seemed clear, move to fitness or figure. I was happy with my decision for while. Keep lifting and growing and doing exactly what I love, because I do love lifting. I prepped for many weeks for a show this November. Because I wasn’t happy with my experience with NPC, I even changed federations. New federation, new division, and fresh goals.
After 8 weeks of prep, I was still questioning why I wanted to step on stage.
For me, posing is unnatural. Not because I don’t practice, but because I hate heels. My normal life doesn’t consist of string bikinis (and I grew up on the water and living in my “normal person” bikini.) You will rarely find me in a full face of makeup or with curled and sprayed hair. Do I love dressing up? Of course. Most women do. Do I want to parade myself around in a thong while teetering around on 5 inch heels? Not really. So, why was I choosing to “show off” my athletic body that way?
Honestly, I had no good answer.
Without understanding why I wanted to compete, it seemed silly to continue. With that realization, I exited the competition scene.
Do I still love lifting? Unquestionably.
Lifting changed my life 3 years ago and it will continue to be a fundamental part of whole I am as a person, coach, and athlete. You won’t find me skipping out on the gym simply because my overall goals have changed.
I spent the past several weeks simply living. Eating the way I usually eat which is a balanced diet of healthy, nutritious foods and treats and lifting 3-4 days a week (as opposed to 7.) I jumped on my mountain bike and donned my hiking pack for the first time in months. The pure joy and athletic feeling I got from biking around the lake and hiking through the fall foliage far outweighed anything I felt from stepping on stage.
My passion is adventure and outdoor activity. I’ve always known this and I don’t know why I’ve been fighting what I’m passionate about. Am I done competing? I have no idea. The idea of fitness and/or figure still intrigues me. The ability to sculpt a body simply through nutritional tweaks is amazing and I never intend to stop coaching my wonderful ladies. If I can be a voice of logic, reason, and science in a world filled with bad advice and unqualified coaches, I will be.
Giving up competing altogether isn’t something I intend to do but I needed to find a different sort of competition. One that not only resonated with my passions but with my personal definition of athletic.
Over the past several weeks I have become much more interested in triathlons.
Living in Colorado, triathlons have always been a huge part of the lifestyle. I never considered them because the competition out here is fierce. Then I realized, why should that stop me? If athleticism, competition, and like-minded people are what I’m after, it seems that triathlons might just be the perfect fit.
Moving forward, I will be training for my first sprint tri next year. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, a sprint tri is a short distance triathlon which is ideal for new competitors. Sprint triathlons usually consist of a 750-meter swim, 20k bike ride and a 5k run. This is half the distance of an Olympic triathlon and less than a quarter of the distance of an Ironman.
Competing in a triathlon is a physically demanding task, which is perfect for my lifestyle and goals. Even training for a short-distance triathlon, such as a sprint, can take several weeks or months of training, depending on your physical fitness level. Because sprint triathlons are endurance sports, the most important part of training is improving endurance with cardiovascular exercise. It’s impossible to compete in a triathlon without cardiovascular capabilities. (This is vastly different from bodybuilding.) Aside from the cardio aspect, developing muscle is also a key component to the training regime. Because triathlons are multi-disciplinary activities, and each discipline involves the use of different muscles, developing muscle throughout the body is very important.
Personally, I am restless and flighty and get bored incredibly easy. One sport simply isn’t enough. Overall, the mentality, athleticism, and competitiveness of triathlons makes so much more sense for my lifestyle and passion.
Most importantly? I will be able to participate in activities I actually love.
My take-away from the past year of immersing myself in the world of bodybuilding has been never force yourself to do something you are not 100% committed to and never underestimate the importance of having fun and enjoying life.
Diary of a Fitness Competitor will continue and evolve just as I have as an athlete.
With Happiness and Passion,