Two years ago I was training for my first competition ever, the 2008 Washington Ironman. As I would imagine for every competitor, this was a decision that was not made lightly or in haste. At the time, I was married, so it was a decision that my husband and I made as a couple since my contest prep would require so much dedication and devotion from me which, in turn, would mean that my family would have to make sacrifices along the way. My twin girls were turning 2 that July, my son was 4 and my oldest 12. Needless to say, I already had a full plate with 4 active children and a husband and a household to maintain. But I wanted so badly to compete. In every sense, it was a burning desire.
Although the trainer that I ended up hiring was pretty much useless, I was fortunate to have hooked up with the “legend”, Tanji Johnson who was an incredibly supportive influence, not to mention an amazing posing coach. For my diet I was working with a woman from my gym who had told me she had worked with competitors before. She hadn’t. I had several people influencing my diet and if you’ve competed before, you know that right there is recipe for disaster. And of course, as a rookie competitor I was completely confused and frustrated not knowing which advice to take and which advice to ignore. I literally wanted to put my fingers in my ears and scream to drown out the noise.
I remember those weeks leading up to the competition, wondering if I was really going to get up on that stage in those hooker heels wearing next to nothing. I mean, come on, I’m a mother of 4 children…aren’t I supposed to be vacuuming and doing laundry or something? I think many women feel like they lose a part of their identity when they become mothers. For me, it wasn’t so much after the first, but I can precisely recall a moment when I was driving up the hill to my house in my Suburban and I looked in my rearview mirror and saw my 4 children and thought to myself…”Oh my God, they are ALL mine! How did I get here?” I think the competition was something I could do that was completely all about me and no one else. It was my chance to focus solely on myself and then be on stage in the spotlight…as me. Not somebody’s wife. Not somebody’s mother. Certainly not somebody’s daughter (sorry dad!).
And then of course, there were the weeks and weeks of sleepless nights. What if I looked like a complete idiot in those heels? What if I couldn’t nail my poses? What if…what if…I didn’t win??? Ah yes, we all compete to win, right? Funny thing, as a rookie competitor, I failed to consider all those other women who would be competing against me that had been doing this for years and years. They had been working to perfect their physiques for a very long time.
Every competitor has “worked their ass off” to get on that stage. “Working your ass off”, I have learned is a matter of perception and varies in meaning from person to person. Regardless, each person that steps on stage has in their own way worked extremely hard and sacrificed a great deal to get there. Unfortunately, everyone can’t win, regardless of how hard we worked. This is where “spirit” and grace are very important. We all think we should win and if our friends want to remain our friends, they usually tell us: “You totally should have won. You looked better than all those girls. Those judges don’t have a clue!!” We all think we worked harder than anybody else on stage. Maybe you did, but you probably didn’t. The only thing that really matter is…”Did you work as hard as YOU could have?” If, at the end of the day, you can say yes to that question then nothing else really matters.
I have come to a point in my life, in my training and goal setting where I don’t so much care if I take first place anymore. I probably won’t. I’m not “genetically blessed” with a physique that adds muscle in all the right places. I’m a classic ectomorph and naturally put on body fat in my lower back and abdominal area first…and lose it there last. I am blessed with a body that can get lean fairly easily when I do everything right. I’m among the lucky ones that can eat relatively high calorie and high carb right up to the end. I’ve been pregnant 4 times, given birth to 4 babies, including a set of twins. When I get on stage, it’s not about who’s standing to my left or my right and being deemed “better” by a panel of judges. Getting on stage and knowing that I look, in that moment, better than I’ve ever looked in my entire life is the goal and can truly only be judged by me and me alone.
After almost every show (with the exception of the last two) I walked away frustrated, wondering what I should do differently to get a different result at my next contest. Judging for physique competitions is subjective, for the most part. There are guidelines and criteria that the judges are supposed to follow, but it doesn’t really always happen that way. Because of this, I have determined that if I am going to compete it has to be for me and only me. The win has to come from how I feel inside, not how I feel about where I place in the line-up. I know that if I work as hard as I possibly can and I present the best physique I’ve ever presented then I’ve won what I set out to win.
The last few months have been an amazing learning experience. In many ways I wish that I had done things differently and not ended up where I did, but I know that everything unfolded exactly the way it was meant to and I know that I’ve learned and am continuing to learn some lessons that I couldn’t have learned any other way than by going through this first hand. I haven’t enjoyed these past few months, but I realize the value in the lessons learned and I’m pretty certain that’s what this whole “life” thing is all about anyway.