So, I just completed my journey towards becoming a competitive male fitness model and placed 4th out of 12 at the Miami Pro Championships on April 1st 2012 in my very first fitness competition. It’s a couple of months after the show and upon reflection, I want to share with you some of the valuable lessons that I learned during my 6 month journey..Buckle up and enjoy the ride!
1 – It’s not THAT hard when you’ve set the goal
When I spoke to people who had just discovered that I planned to compete, there was a common theme – “Wow bro! Mad respect to you for doing this. I could never do that. You gotta be totally dedicated!” – Well, I might have said the same if you asked me a year ago. I only decided to compete 6 months before the show and I looked and felt like crap at the time.
However, trust me on this – When you set that goal to get in the best shape of your life in front of all of your peers, friends, family and the hundreds of people that will pack out that arena on the day of your competition, it’s sink or swim!
It suddenly becomes a lot easier when you have locked in that date for your goal. What choice did I have but to do it? I purposely invited TONS of friends and family (The judges said my crowd support was crazy when I received feedback) – It was either achieve my goal or look like a complete mug on stage! The choice was easy and it will be for you too if you decide to compete.
2 – Everybody is watching
I documented almost my entire journey during those 6 months on YouTube and Facebook. Either through status updates, videos or pictures.
This not only helped keep me on track and motivated but you’ll be shocked at how many people and who exactly is watching! People I couldn’t even remember I even had on Facebook were inboxing me asking me questions.
That was when it hit home how powerful this journey of mine was and how many people I had following me and cheering me on. I knew I couldn’t fail and I knew that my journey now had purpose. I was inspiring more people than I could have ever imagined.
3 – A few people will dislike you for competing
This is an interesting one – I’m not gonna do the whole, “OMG I have sooooo many haters” because I believe the people who do that are those folks who have none at all! Anyway, I don’t think it was exactly “hate” I received from the odd few people. Let’s just say you will notice some people acting differently towards you.
Strangely, you would think girls would LOVE the fact that you compete and are in great shape. Don’t get me wrong, most of them do and are very supportive that you’re getting into tremendous shape but there were a few of my girl-friends that started acting a little differently. (Any other athletes notice that??)
Heard some strange things like,
“I just prefered you when you were fatter!”
“You’re just too much of a poser now”
“Hmm you’re too vain and just love yourself sooo much” (Ok, I’ve heard this one before..But it’s unjust I tell you!!)
“I don’t really want to see you until I’m in great shape. I don’t feel good enough” (That one made me quite sad..)
Obviously, you get the dumb shits who just don’t understand or are intimidated by what you do so they instantly call it “gay”, “vain”, “you have no life” or they even question your manhood for getting in great shape. Luckily, these people are very few and far between. most people who mean anything to you will be supportive and happy for you.
Just be ready to thicken your skin just a teeny bit. I love this quote which sums it up perfectly :
Want to avoid criticism? Do Nothing, Say Nothing…Be Nothing”
4 – Give Yourself Enough Time
This is an important lesson if you’re training for a physique competition or fitness competition. I gave myself 12 weeks to get totally ripped and stage ready from a starting waist size of 36.5 inches..
Yeah, I know – That’s crazy. It literally came down to the last week for me to get into stage condition and given the circumstances, I did pretty good. Feedback from the judges was that I wasn’t as lean as the top 3 and I totally agree. I was carrying a little round my lower back.
Amazingly, I was on stage with a 30.5 inch waist. Which means at my optimum for show day, I should probably be around 28 inches to really get an awesome V-Taper. (I have been as low as a 27 inch waist when I was boxing so I know that it’s possible)
Give yourself at least 16 weeks to get into stage condition if you’re starting with as much bodyfat as I did. Obviously you can shorten that time if you’re leaner and stay lean throughout the year. That’s the best practice! This also means that you’ll be in stage condition with a few weeks to spare so you can really nail your conditioning perfectly on the day of the show.
5 – Going gluten-Free, dairy-free, meat-free etc are over-rated.
Whoa, put your guns down vegetarians and children of the earth! Let me explain..
For the last 4 weeks leading up to my competition, I totally eliminated dairy, gluten and meat products (apart from fish) from my diet. I’d always heard that going vegan (I suppose I wasn’t totally vegan!) would literally drop 7lbs pounds off of your body in a week just by clearing out your digestive system and helping it to burn fat more efficiently. Not to mention the energy benefits have been well documented.
Personally, I didn’t see much difference in anything. In bodyfat level or in energy level. I just lost fat the same rate as I was before and my energy was exactly the same.
On top of that, the winner of the overall at the show, Jason Dwarika, didn’t drop gluten totally from his diet and came in head and shoulders above the rest of the competitors in terms of conditioning. There was only one other guy who’s conditioning was on that level and that was Rowan, the winner of my category. Guess what he told us he had to eat the week of the show? Mcdonalds..I kid you not! Of course, for some competitors, that might bloat you right out the week of the show but Rowan knows what works for his body and you should find out what works for yours too.
NOTE : That’s not to say that eliminating those things from your diet will not benefit YOU. Dairy and gluten are allergens which means that some people may react badly to them and bloat. Eliminating these foods can work wonders for some people! The only way to know is to try it. I will say that my diet is fairly low in these foods to begin with. I just discovered that eliminating these foods for me didn’t make enough difference to my physique and energy to make it worth doing on a regular basis. (If I ever have to drink a hemp protein shake again, I’ll jump off a bridge..)
What I AM saying is that it is not the end of the world for you to enjoy the odd bad food (mmm cheesecake) and that the whole thing MIGHT be slightly over-rated..At least for ME and if your goal is to look good. Especially if you’re following a fairly healthy lifestyle in the first place.
I firmly believe that at the end of the day, fitness should be a meeting of every kind of wellness. Social, physical, mental, emotional and health.
6 – Making Sacrifices Clears Your Mind and Makes You Stronger
It’s funny that this point should follow the last point I made..but there were some things I thought I’d be depriving myself of during this journey.
I thought I would miss going out and drinking – Turns out I really didn’t. I even went out for my birthday and had nothing but water or diet coke all night while my friends enjoyed our table in London with bottles of Grey Goose and Jack Daniels.
I thought that would be difficult for me – It really wasn’t. Making those sacrifices really opens your eyes and changes your opinion on things that you previously thought meant “living life”. I thought I had to drink to have a good time. After giving up drink for 4 months I realised I was wrong.
Why does anybody need drink to be social and have a good time?? If we do then surely our problems run deeper than a few glasses of wine or shots of sambuca can fix..
Making those sacrifices made me feel stronger, focused and more certain about my life than I’ve ever felt before. Make big sacrifices for big results.
7 – Fitness Competitors are some of the most positive people I’ve ever met
To everybody who asked me when the show was over, I’ve said time and time again, “If you compete, I promise you’ll get the bug for it and want to do it again and again”
One of the main reasons is the positivity that surrounds the entire event. It’s a huge buzz from start to finish and the biggest factor in that for me were my fellow competitors. I don’t think I’ve ever met such positive and helpful people in all of my life. You actually leave the competition a little sad that it’s all over and craving the next one.
You’d think a locker room full of about 15 muscular dudes, tanned and ripped out of their minds in swimwear would be awkward as hell..that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was inspiring, motivating, funny, helpful and an overall awesome time all rolled into one!
8 – Everybody gets to their destination in different ways
If you look at the fitness landscape especially in the era of the internet, it’s actually even more confusing than before.
Opinions about fitness methods are like religions and cults. You usually fall on one side or the other. I’ve been guilty of this myself. I have totally disregarded certain methods in the past. It can be difficult to challenge what we think to be true in any aspect of life and fitness is no different.
When it’s all said and done though, just talking to all of the athletes in amazing shape is proof that the method used really doesn’t matter so much as long as you are sensible, dedicated, challenging yourself and progressing.
Here are some of the things I’ve personally heard different athletes in tremendous shape say about their training :
“I used steady pace cardio”
“I used HIIT interval sprints”
“I did no cardio at all”
“I never train abs”
“I train abs every single day”
“I use carb cycling to burn fat”
“I just progressively lowered my carbs”
“I did zero carbs”
“I do cardio and abs on an empty stomach”
“I do whole body workouts”
“I use the XYZ workout method”
Do you see how many contradictions are in there? And yet every fitness athlete who uses these methods looks pretty much as awesome as the next athlete who uses a totally different method.
The method you choose to reach your goal isn’t that serious. What is serious is your dedication to that method and to your goals.
9 – WHO You Inspire. You’ll Gain More Respect.
Kind of a follow up to point 2 – Everybody is watching but you’ll also be surprised at how many people and WHO you inspire.
I get the feeling that nobody really thought much about me when I was training at my gym. I always wear a loose fitting t-shirt or a hooded jumper. I’m one of those guys that look like the average Joe with clothes on. Very deceptive.
So when I told some gym members and other people that I was going to compete, I could tell by the look on their faces that they thought I was nuts! (I think people still believe “competing” has to mean bodybuilding where you need to be the size of a double fridge)
What surprised me afterwards was that after my competition where I placed 4th, a lot of people I never would have expected started asking me about training, supplements and just for general advice. I’m talking about people who are experienced lifters!
When you compete and prove to people that you can get into great shape, your respect in the gym goes up 10-fold and you inspire so many people. That part shocked me the most and validated to me that I really do have an important role that can help people.
10 – Where You Place Doesn’t Really Matter
You can come 1st or 12th – It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Certainly there are some fitness models that will be more marketable than others and those are some things that you can do nothing about.
However, even if you came first and you’re expect everything to fall into your lap, you’ll be mistaken. It’s an amazing platform to get your name and face out there but it is up to you after the show is over to keep yourself relevant and in the public eye. (Which shouldn’t be too difficult if you love fitness, right?)
Simply put – If you use competitions as a platform to move closer to where you want to be, then you won’t come out of the show dissapointed. You can use them to give your personal training business more credibility, increase your exposure for castings, add it to your C.V, the sky is the limit and you can take it into any direction you want to go. If you go there expecting everything to fall into your lap – You’ll be bitterly disapointed..Fitness modelling is a tough game and fitness models are a dime a dozen! Work hard and you’ll earn your stripes.
For me, the 4th placing was a bonus. I wanted to prove to myself that I could get into amazing shape. The real win for me was discovering my purpose and how many people supported me or were inspired by my journey. Don’t forget to enjoy that journey too..sometimes we are so obsessed with the goal that we forget to enjoy the journey, myself included. ENJOY IT!
BONUS – Don’t go for a pee 30 seconds before you’re due on stage..
Of course, after my first 10 points I’ve obviously convinced you to compete! So here’s some free bonus advice. Go for a pee WELL in advance of your call-out to the stage. I don’t know whether it was nerves but when they asked for our category to come up and get ready to go out, I suddenly had an urge to go.
So I’m running as fast as I can to the toilet because I didn’t want to be late for my stage call and be disqualified. I get to the cubicle and do my thing as fast as I can…I finish up and do the customary “Shake and tinkle” but I guess in my mad rush I didn’t quite shake enough..
Big Turk goes back into my swimwear (Come on, we’ve all got nicknames for our lil man..) but decides to punish me for not paying him enough attention after my wee..The punishment? A slight leak down the inside of my leg. Which would have been fine if it didn’t take a big streak of tan down with it!
PANIC – There was nothing I could do really apart from try to blend it in and hope nobody noticed. Just trust me, you don’t want to be nervous and then worrying about a wee streak of tan down your leg on your first competition. Just make sure you’re relaxed and everything that needs to be done is done in advance.
As for me? I don’t think anybody noticed the streak as it was luckily down the inside of my leg and that wasn’t really on display too much. All’s well that ends well 😉
Well I hope that you enjoyed some of the things that I learned on my way to competing as a male fitness model. If you get the chance I would DEFINITELY recommend that you enter a fitness competition. If for nothing else, then just to get yourself in the best shape of your life and feel amazing. There is nothing like it and if you learn as much as I did during this crazy journey, then it will all be worth it.
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Stay safe and keep kickin’ ass