Whenever I sit down to write, I always want what I have to say to come from the heart. Today’s article is no different, but I want to delve a little deeper into what a lot of competitors may see as an internal struggle. And that’s when to say “when” in the case of competing – when to call it quits post competition.
The one thing that’s common among competitors is our relentless urge to be the best. To always challenge ourselves, and to never give up no matter what. I see it often with competitors I coach, and to be honest, I’ve been a victim of this myself…
We get so caught up in the fervor of the chase, to get to the next level, to win a show, or to just better our placings. Focused and driven, we push and push – regardless of what our bodies may be saying, or regardless of what we need mentally in the moment…
We get caught up in the rat race, and instead of taking the step(s) back that we need to recoup, we keep going. We keep pushing. Because in our minds, this is NOT supposed to be easy. So we’ve given ourselves permission to be uncomfortable, and to push far beyond our limits in every way, and to be honest with you, that mindset is at the core of our sport, so honestly how could you not? Here’s the thing that you need to ask yourself, “What is it all for?”.
Because that is the TRUE root of your conflict. You have to look yourself in the mirror, and stare right into your own eyes, and ask yourself why you’re doing this and what does it truly mean? We all have our reasons as to why we wanted to begin competing. However, as with anything in life, we gain experience, we evolve, and we change. And our intentions become different than they were at the beginning – and we have to accept that that’s ok!
At the end of it all, this journey and process should EMPOWER YOU. You should be finding joy in the process, regardless to how tough it is. You truly ENJOY it. And the moment you lose that is the time you need to step away. At my most recent show (at the time of this writing), I remember having great anxiety going into it. I had a ton of internal conflict whether this game was for me any longer, and my focus was so hell bent on the things in which I can’t control. I wanted to WIN. And so much so that the enjoyment of the process was lost.
I became hypercritical of myself, everything had to be perfect, yet in my own eyes nothing was. I stopped enjoying MY process. By the day of the show, I was able to gather my focus, but I didn’t enjoy the show as much as I had in the past when it comes to the actual event. I found myself more quiet and reserved backstage, and just anxious about how things would turn out. I ended up in 6th place, which I should have been proud of, but truly I found myself frustrated. It was at that moment that I realized that after 5 years of being a SUCCESSFUL competitor, I needed a break from everything.
As competitors what I think is important to realize is that the stage will ALWAYS be there. Each year this another local show, another national level show, another pro show, another Olympia. They aren’t going anywhere, and you will always have the opportunity to try again, even after a long break. And when you take a step back and realize this, you see how small a scale it all truly is. The anxiety dissipates, the mental clarity returns, and your passion for the process can burn bright and hot once again.
When you realize it’s all a small blip on your personal path and journey, your ability to do well and to be better grows tenfold. Now, how much time off you take is entirely up to you. But planning for it, and following through is just as important in the process as everything else. Breaks from the game allow you to re-center and refresh. To find normalcy again, enjoy time with family and friends, and allows your body a moment to deload and recover.
At the end of the day, this is the game of bodyBUILDING. And in our sport, that building happens away from the gym and off of the stage. Finding that delicate balance between the grind and resting is the main goal, and again, only you can dictate exactly how much you need. What I can say to you, however, is that you should only start back at it when YOU are truly ready.
The second hardest part in this equation (next to the actual decision to take the break in the first place) is remaining still – and actually staying seated once you’ve made the decision. There will be that voice in your head telling you not to quit, convincing you that you SHOULD be “out there”, you need to be seen, that your prize and win is right around the corner. But what if it isn’t? What if pushing only makes you physically and mentally worse? Is THAT risk worth it in the end?
And that’s what you need to keep in mind. Because the shows will come up, you’ll see pics of who’s competing, you’ll see photos of friends getting ready, and you’ll have that urge and feeling of obligation that you should be too. It’s in this moment you need to ask yourself again – *What’s it all for, and what’s my purpose?”. Once you answer that, and find your true perspective, you’ll be free to always play the game by YOUR rules, and on your terms.