I’ve chatted with a few people lately who have expressed concerns about upcoming events and how they would affect their ‘fitness journeys’. Not all of these events are major things; some are extended holidays and others are weekend getaways while the topics of dinners at restaurants and finger food at parties have also come up.
There seems to be a trend in the fitness community that I find particularly worrying and that is the “all or nothing” attitude.
Now, I know that comp prep is something very tough that requires a lot of dedication and discipline. Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. I’ve also been at the point where every day not on comp prep is taken so seriously that nothing “untracked” can be eaten and the desire to lose weight, gain muscle and lean up is so strong that it nothing else really seems to be important.
And do you know what the truth of the matter is? A competition is simply one small event, one short day in your lifetime. Being lean usually looks much better than it feels. Counting everything you eat down to the milligram can lead to some pretty destructive behaviour.
And, in 5 years time when you look back at your life, what are you going to remember and reminisce on? The happiness that came with reaching a certain weight? Having popping hamstrings and shredded glutes? All those meals you ate sitting at home by yourself after having weighed all the food on your plate?
What I’m trying to say is that tunnel vision is a dangerous trap to fall in to. I say this phrase all the time, but I honestly believe in it 100% – fitness should be a part of your life, it should not be the be-all and end-all of your life.
Have some balance in your everyday. Comp prep or not, please don’t put yourself in a position where, in 5 years time, you will look back and regret not having taken those holidays, not having spent more time with your family and not having enjoyed those special events. In exchange for those sacrifices, what did you get? A special number on the scale? A little plastic trophy and a few minutes of stage time? A six pack?
I’m not saying that these things are not goals that can be worked towards. But I am saying that putting these things above all else is going to be detrimental to you – you may not realise it now but you will in a few years time.
Let me use myself as an example.
In my first year of competing, I did four competitions and spent almost the whole year on prep. Do you know what I regret now? Not having gone on more dates with my boyfriend and instead choosing to bring my chicken and broccoli to his house. Not having met up with more friends over coffee and letting those relationships fade away. Doing only 2 units in my semester at university because I didn’t want to compromise my prep. And yes, winning all the competitions was absolutely amazing and made me feel out-of-this world at the time, but do you know what? Now, I regret not going on more dates, more coffee meet-ups and not focusing on uni. And I know that, even if I had eaten some meals at restaurants, drank more coffee and spent more time studying, I would have been able to do just as well as I did. Sure, it may have meant that I had to train just that little bit harder but, looking back, I would trade those extra hours at the gym for the extra memories in a heartbeat.
In my second year of competing, I learnt to balance my life a little more. I took the time to make those extra memories. And when my competition came around, I trained my butt off (literally) and came in leaner than ever. Yes, it took some extra effort and some extra sacrifices closer to the competition date, but now when I look back at 2014, I feel like I really lived that year. 2013 felt like a blur and maybe that is because I cared more about my competitions than anything else so they took precedence over everything. But 2014 was so much better for all the right reasons.
Remember the cruise I went on during my prep last year? If I have to choose between the cruise and the competition, I’d choose the cruise without hesitation. The competition wasn’t even the best part of my trip to the US; what I loved most was spending time with my dad and travelling with him. The places I visited and the memories and friendships I have made mean so much more to me than getting up on the pro bikini stage. Admittedly, a lot of them have been made possible by competing but I would never choose a competition over them.
Even if you’re in competition prep, know that there are balanced ways to go about it. Remember that the people in your life need to be given the attention they deserve. If those people are one day not there any more, will you be happy with how you treated them?
The fitness world is incredibly attractive and can suck you in and completely consume you. Winning competitions and looking great are amazing feats. But what will you remember most about your time now when you look back at your life?
Living in state of complete fitness-focus and tunnel-vision is something I have promised myself that I will never do again. I love competing and the fitness industry, but after taking a step back and looking at the rest of the world I excluded myself from for so long, I have realised that it is possible to both be (and look) fit and to live a wholesome, fulfilling life.
So when I speak to people concerned about small periods of time or small events (in the scheme of things) affecting their competition preps or fitness goals, it makes me so sad because it brings me back to 2013 when nothing else seemed to matter and I remember how unhappy I was and how little time I gave those that mean the most to me because I was so consumed with my own goals.
If you want my advice, here is is: remember that fitness is a part of life. It is not your whole life. And letting yourself miss out on memories and experiences is something you will remember in 5 years’ time. I know that life is a learning experience but please learn this from my mistakes – live your live as fruitfully as possible and choose to do things that you enjoy. If these things are fitness, then by all means make them a priority. But please do not make them the only priority because there is so much more to life than competing, being lean, having abs, looking fit and being a certain weight.