I have always been very open about my journey when I was competing. Truth is, there are days I miss it.
The build up, the structure, the focus, the determination, the time on stage (although brief in many circumstances) it was so much fun and it taught me so much about myself and the health & fitness business…..but I don’t miss the dark side to competing.
I am NOT sharing this to prevent you from competing, (if anything I actually encourage you whole heartedly)! HOWEVER I am sharing this so that you can avoid the dark shadows that come with the sport.
We are at that time of year where everyone is hyped up and ready to “crush it” on stage…..sadly, most will step away being crushed by the sport itself.
I am one of the fortunate few who have walked away stronger, wiser & happier…..but most walk away broken, beaten & defeated, physically, emotionally & mentally.
When I started, man oh man was I ignorant. My first national show (my 2nd show I had ever done) was such an eye opener. By the time the day was over, it felt like I got punched in the stomach.
But by the grace of God I was given wise words that day, that helped me change the course of how my competing career turned out (I share them at the end below).
So, if you are thinking, OR in the process of preparing, for a show, here are some things to keep in mind as you move forward. I hope that it will help you avoid the dark side of competing so that it can be a part of your life journey that you can look back on and smile!
The dark side of competing #1: Relationships
Competing puts strain on friendships and especially relationships. Many times, extreme behavior is required to achieve extreme results. Days are consisted of double workouts & meal prep, 7 days a week. Diets that would make any sane person retreat to the loony bin. Strict time schedules & zero social life. Put this all together with a very low carb intake and you have a highly strung, moody individual who has little patience anything & anyone!
It’s a selfish sport as well. It’s ALL about the person competing and if you have someone who can handle and support that (I did, I was SUPER fortunate with a man that supported me every step of the way), you are blessed. However, I have witnessed many relationships fall apart during or after competing.
It’s not a normal or healthy way to function and when it is done for an extended period of time, it can cause a partner to step away and leave.
Be aware of this. Discuss it with your partner and make sure you are both in agreement with how things are going to go…..and just keep communication open! Make it a journey for both of you!
The dark side of competing #2: Juicing
Steroids, they get used & they get used often! I don’t care who or what anyone says, if you decide to go that route, you are digging a grave for your body!!!!
I have been in the industry for too long and have seen young bodies & lives being permanently damaged and destroyed by the irresponsible behavior of coaches.
If your coach says you need to take it if you want to get somewhere in the industry, you can either a) choose to fall for that crap and go with it (which means you have to take responsibility for the consequences as well), OR b) you can call BS on their pathetic coaching skills because clearly they have zero faith in their ability to get you to the top without that stuff.
It is not safe, period! And if you are currently on it GET OFF GET OFF GET OFF!
Can you get to the top without it, YES YOU CAN!
The dark side of competing #3: Knowing the right people
I have taken part in multiple shows where it helps when you “know the right people”. Remember, this sport has become a business and they have certain athletes on their radar that they keep a keen eye out to keep them in the federation. It makes the federation look good and it keeps the participation rate high. It also gives them a certain status level.
I have been a judge where the winners were determined based on their social media activity and number count!
I have competed against other girls who’s placements were determined before we had even stepped on stage because they were being coached by “the right people”.
It happens all the time but don’t let that stop you from giving it your best. Over time you can win the hearts of the judges and show them that you have what it takes. Just don’t feel you need to “belong” or “do things” you are not comfortable with!
The dark side of competing #4: Judgement
It is a sport of judgment and personal preference. You will be judged on your body and scrutinized to see your “weak areas”. It can feel like a “meat market” on a rotation belt.
I had the SHOCKING experience of witnessing the WORST POSSIBLE RACIAL BEHAVIOUR by 2 grown men during a judging debate backstage. It was embarrassing, disrespectful & downright pathetic! I immediately lost so much respect for them, as well as the other men who didn’t stand up & say something!
There is also a big possibility that you could be judged by individuals who don’t even look like they have seen the inside of a gym…or worse yet, have never stepped on stage! They will tell you what you are doing “right and wrong” and you will smile and nod and thank them for their honest and professional opinion, when in all honesty you are thinking: “….why don’t you put on the smallest bikini in the world with 5 inch heels and stand on stage in front of a panel of men to be judged on what’s “right and wrong” with your body…then we will see how you feel”.
But that is not how it works. You step up there & you be PROFESSIONAL & GRACEFUL AT ALL TIMES!
When you compete, you also make yourself vulnerable to social media judgement, badgering & trolling. People will pop out of the woodwork, giving their opinion on what you should or shouldn’t have done.
As much as you might try avoid it, it can hit your heart & spirit sometimes, especially if you were feeling good and proud of your achievements, no matter how small! One has to realize there are people out there who make an effort to put other people down just to make themselves feel good. You have to learn to IGNORE and rise above it.
The dark side of competing #5: Cost
Another dark shadow that many get caught up in before they even realize it, is the cost involved. It is a costly sport (like most sports), especially for women. Hair, nails, make up, tan, bikinis, shoes, gowns, coaches, registration fees, affiliation fees, supplements…before you know it, you can be a good few 10 000 in & not get anywhere! I know some who have gone into debt only to end up broken, broke & alone!
Budget for it! When I started I did EVERYTHING MYSELF. EVERYTHING! I made my bikinis, costumes, learnt how to do my hair, makeup, nails and tan. I coached myself (best decision of my life) used minimal supplements (only to realize in my final 2 years of competing, I never needed them to start!) and I even made my own evening gowns when I changed federations!
It’s possible but you must be prepared to put in whatever it takes to get your goal!
The dark side of competing #6: Reward
You will also spend months and months working EXTREMELY HARD, only to be given 5 min on stage. Yip, that is it for some shows (my longest was 45min….the lineup was over 80 girls….I came first ;)! However, when I went to London to compete there (…and after spending A LOT of money to get there and take part), the female pro line up was given 5min on stage…..we each got 30sec…..
That is why it is so important to have a DEEP SENSE OF PURPOSE as to why YOU are competing. That purpose should go BEYOND titles, placing’s and fame. That purpose is your reward every single day. So whether you are on stage for 45min or 30 sec, it won’t matter because you achieve your purpose for competing every single day….and THAT is your reward!
On a side note, I believe more care & consideration should be given to athletes who take part in shows and support them, so that they can keep going. I don’t care what your name is or who you are, the athletes are the ones that make your show possible! Treat them with respect & kindness!
The dark side of competing #7: Athletes
I have met so many INCREDIBLE people in my competing career with whom I am still in contact with. However, for every amazing person you meet (and you will meet them) there are a dozen out there who are manipulative, narcissistic & HIGHLY insecure. Be aware. I use to keep to myself at shows and was told I was “unsociable and rude”. In all honesty, I kept to myself because I didn’t know who to trust and I didn’t want to be sucked into the dark side of competing.
That is why it is so important that you go into competing with a strong head, strong mind and deep sense of purpose that you are doing it for YOU and no one else, regardless of what ANYONE SAYS or whatever the outcome may be!
That is what saved me after that terrible 2nd show….I had been placed dead last. In actually fact they didn’t even place me.
I couldn’t understand what “look” they wanted. The so-called “rules” somehow didn’t apply when it came to show day and the poor & pathetic behavior by most of the athletes backstage was just bizarre.
I was heartbroken. It was just NOT what I thought it was & after months of prep & hard work I was told I wasn’t even good enough to step back up on stage for the evening!
HOWEVER, something happened that day that changed my entire outlook on competing. At that show, we had Tony Freeman as a speaker. He gave an amazing presentation and just before I dragged myself back home, I plucked up the courage (with the help of my amazing friend) to ask him for some advice.
If there was 1 person I was going to listen to, it was going to be him because he LOOKED the part, spoke with respect & knowledge and there was zero ego.
I never will forget. When I ask for advice he said: “I remember you. You were second from the right in the bikini line up with the green bikini.” Not only that, he said I was classy, flawless & graceful & had incredible potential to achieve my dream of becoming a pro. “Don’t give up, keep your head down & keep doing.”
Paid off. I got my Pro card 5 years later, I placed 6th in the world out of 80+ best of the best pro athletes (my goal was top 10) AND more than anything, my health, happiness & integrity is still intact and strong!
I DO encourage those who want to compete to go for it! However, be aware of the dark side of competing. Don’t sacrifice your body or soul for a promise or placement.
You deserve better than that!
I recommend working on your inner strength, accepting yourself and your body for what it is NOW no matter what stage of prep you are at for your show.
I have a beautiful 30 Day SELF LOVE & BODY FREEDOM COURSE that will compliment any athlete getting ready to step on stage.