I’ve contemplated this blog too many times to count. Since arriving home from Barbados I’ve felt the need to write, even an obligation to write, and yet have not felt centered enough to do so. A friend and client of mine in an email said to me, “I think your clients are probably curious about your experience in Barbados. I can’t wait to read your blog about it.” I suppose that’s my signal.
But I’ve been so up and down and all around that creating a coherent blog for you has felt arduous and impossible, in much the same way that I felt the day after I took the stage at the WNBF Pro Universe.
I made the decision to compete in Barbados last January. I asked my good friend, Liz, who is also a WNBF pro competitor, if she’d like to compete with me there. Neither one of us had aspirations to compete until the fall, but we both agreed that a trip to the tropics to take the stage together was something we didn’t want to pass up. So we began our preparation process.
I kept my prep quiet, as has been typical for me the last couple years. Striking as much balance in my life as possible while I’m preparing for a contest is my biggest goal besides improving from the previous show. The more I can minimize competition prep becoming the apex of my world, the better. As I type this I am shaking my head. Any competitor knows that it’s a pipe dream to think that true balance is achievable when preparing for a bodybuilding contest. When the first think you do each day is weigh in, the second thing you do is take photos, and the third thing you do is have a specifically planned out breakfast, your life is governed by the one goal. I’m not implying this is a negative thing, but what I am saying is that over the years I’ve changed how I approach my prep, and there are many things I do that a lot of bodybuilders don’t. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just what I’ve determined has been best for me.
For example, you won’t find me eating by the clock. I schedule my meals around my client appointments. There is no way I’ll be going into a counseling appointment when I’m hypoglycemic. My clients deserve my best, and that’s what they’ll get. I don’t tell the world I’m competing. Why would I? I don’t do this for the attention. It’s a personal mental and physical challenge to see how far I can push my body. I won’t post photos all over Facebook every time I take a progress picture and can see another striation. People have better things to do than look at my photos, and I don’t need others asking a lot of questions. “How are you feeling?” “What are your food levels?” “What did you have for breakfast?” “What’s your favorite high carb day meal?” No. Honestly, I have more important things to focus on, like the couple who’s marriage is falling apart that I’m seeing for therapy, and the book I’m writing that will help others to understand weight loss and how the psychological components are just as important as the nutritional aspects for permanency. I love bodybuilding. I will never quit bodybuilding. I love helping others who want to excel in the sport. I’ve met the most amazing individuals through participation in the sport. And there are many other areas of my life that take precedence. I digress.
Liz and I made the decision to compete, and we did, this past Saturday, June 23. I competed in Barbados in 2009 and did not take any time after the show to enjoy the setting. This time Liz and I stayed a few days afterward.
The first day following the competition I can barely remember. I think there was a lot of crying. A lot. Lying on the beach, the waves would come crashing onto the shore like the discouragement rapping loudly on the doors of our hearts. My ocean of emotion was ebbing, flowing, rippling, and roaring. I said to a friend when I arrived back, “I am experiencing a tsunami right now.” At that exact moment I was. And a moment later I was floating on the calm waters before the tide comes in. The tears were saturated with sadness, embarrassment, fear, gratitude, happiness, joy, confusion, trepidation, ambivalence….
I just let them come, waves washing over me and then retreating. Liz moved from a friend to a best friend with this shared experience. I knew not until our time together that we were long lost sisters who had been separated at birth.
By now you’re probably wondering why such a crazy time.
I do seminars on the topic of the post competition period. Most individuals express a need to understand why they would binge after the show and the few days or months following the competition. More importantly, in my mind, is the significant emotional consequences that follow the competition. Like a birth, a death, a job change, or a wedding, what I had devoted six months of my life toward was now over. The tremendous drive, focus, determination, effort, and energy expended mentally and physically was now being forced to transition, morph, or be redistributed. The show was over. Now what? Couple that with a finish I was not anticipating, and I was reconciling in my mind what I could have done differently, if anything. So I was swimming in a sea of questions and unknowns, as many competitors do. Only I knew to expect this. Is it easy? Not exactly. For the first 4 days after I could just burst into tears without warning. A thought, an image, a look on Liz’s face, some words in the magazine I was reading– any one of these things could cause the dam to develop a crack or even a gaping hole.
When I arrived back in Evansville I felt a sense of relief but also had a strong desire to be one with the ocean again. For a few more days. I felt as if I’d been ripped away from it, and Liz, too quickly. Just as I was feeling the sandy floors of my heart begin to settle, we had to leave. Our embrace in the airport as we said goodbye was one I’ll not forget. After scarfing down an abbreviated lunch, barely saying anything but knowing what the other was thinking, I said, ” I love you, Liz,” and we hugged each other like we’d never see each other again. I will see her in a month, but it didn’t matter.
I’m contemplating my next move. Like I had to just start writing in order to formulate this blog, I know the decision will come to me in the same way. I can’t stop my life in order to generate answers. I have to live, and through living the answers will come to me. I have plenty to focus on- -a book, a magazine, childhood obesity curriculum, new programming, my telecourses, a roommate, oh, and my PhD–but I also know that I need a physical and competitive challenge to be involved in. Will I do another bodybuilding show? I don’t know for sure. What I do know is that I want a sense of “normalcy” in my life. I want to be able to wake up and not have the first question I get from my coach be “how much do you weigh?” I want to laugh more, not be emotionally depressed (yes, it happens to all of us whether we realize it or not), and be able to go out with friends and not worry about what my macros are. My coach said to me the other day, “You’ve laughed and smiled 495% more today than you have over the past six months.” I take things like that pretty seriously.
As the days pass, my emotional hurricane dissipates. A week ago it was so salient I had to keep reminding myself that it was temporary. It can’t go on forever. Whatever rises must fall. If there is a lesson in this for my readers it is to honor yourself. Let yourself feel. Know that not being okay is okay.
I didn’t get swept out to sea, lost, and drowning. I became the sea.
See the difference? Whether you’re a bodybuilder or not, it doesn’t matter. We all feel. Unfortunately, too many of us try to push those emotions away. They can free us, teach us, move us….if we’ll pay attention.