A Bodybuilder Is Born: Episode 31 - The Mind Game Of Competitive Bodybuilding.

Don't let yourself get beat even before the contest begins. As we will see in this article the message boards are no exception. They can mess with your head.

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Despite my experience being electronically crucified on more than one occasion on popular bodybuilding message boards on the Internet, I still cruise around them to see what's going on in my little muscle world. The net is still a wonderful tool for the rapid dissemination of information.

In the old days, bodybuilders had to wait for weeks, sometimes months, for the magazines to come out to find out who had won the latest contest like the Mr. Olympia. Why, until the advent of the telegraph and the telephone in the late 19th Century, all we had to deliver news were the Pony Express, the railroad, and ships and barges.

When Mortimer H. Henckenfuster won the Mr. Physically Robust Gentleman in October of 1884 in Las Vegas (population at the time: 4), muscle fans on the East Coast didn't get the full contest report until the week before the 1885 edition of the show. Mortimer stood 5-foot-11 and tipped the scales at a paltry 160 pounds, a far cry from Ronnie Coleman's 296 at the same height.


Click To Enlarge.
Ronnie @ The 2004 Olympia With Triple H & Arnold.

I believe Henckenfuster also used to promote a 'health tonic' with questionable ingredients such as bear urine, gorilla poop, and the gunk from the corner of a lion's eyes when it wakes up in the morning (gathered, no doubt, on his rounds as a zookeeper).

Apparently it didn't do him much good, since he died in 1901 at the age of 38. Medicine wasn't so advanced in those days, so the cause of death was listed only as something called 'melancholy spleen.' Ah, the good old days.

Ron Harris:
But back to 2005 and the travails of my protege, Randy. I was cruising around my favorite message board, one I will call Muscle Madness, when something led me to the section on upcoming NPC events. It must have been my Spidey sense, as I haven't so much as glanced at that area of the site in many months.

The thread, as each individual topic is called, was titled "Anyone else doing the New England?" The screen name under the thread topic, indicating the starter, was FordMuscle250. Hmm. Randy sold Ford cars, he was a young muscle man, and 250 happened to be what he wishes he weighed. I was almost certain it was the little rascal, and when I opened up the thread my suspicions were confirmed. I have copied and pasted it here exactly as it appeared:

    Randy:
    "Hey, what's up. Anybody out there doing the New Englands on May 8? What weight class? I'll be a light heavy and this is my first show. Post some pics up!"

Ron Harris:
Randy, of course, did not feel the need to disclose his weight class, or to provide a photo of his own. And I knew why. This thread was cleverly (or so he thought) disguised as good-natured camaraderie among local competitors. As if. With 15 weeks left to go until the show, he was already freaking out about who he might have to go up against in the open light-heavies.

I know what he wanted in his desperate state of mind. Randy was secretly hoping that every other guy he would be competing against would find their way to this thread and post up photos. Wait, that's not all of it. What he really wanted was for all of them to suck, and suck bad. He wanted to see guys with pot bellies, stick legs, concave chests, lats so high they inserted just under the armpits, and arms that looked like they belonged on Urkel.

Do's & Don'ts Of Your First Contest!
In this article I will talk about some DO's and DON'TS of contest prep!
Hold on, the actor Jaleel White might have had some guns underneath his nerdy clothes, so make that Horschak. For you younger readers, Horshak begat Screech, and Screech begat Urkel in the Old Testament of TV sitcom dorks. And if you're too young to even know the show Family Matters, maybe you need to stop reading this for a minute so mommy can change your stinky diaper and offer you a bottle of warm Similac.

Randy was so insecure and doubtful of his chances at the show that he was praying for an easy win over a field of bodybuilding misfits.

But as I explained in a previous episode, that was not going to happen at the New England. We only have one NPC show a year in the state of Massachusetts, with a population of six million people and five million Dunkin Donuts franchises.

This is only one of the several New England states, of course. Others include New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and several more where nobody pronounces their R's, and directions are often given in terms of landmarks (when you see the tree that looks like a giraffe, turn left and go five miles until you come to a field with an abandoned '72 Pinto on its side).

What I'm trying to say is that since there are so few contests for the bodybuilders in our region of the USA to choose from, the shows tend to be packed, and there is never a shortage of talent. It wasn't going to be easy at all for Randy, despite the improvements he had made to his physique in the time I had known him.

Sure enough, soon a few of the other guys doing the contest started responding to the thread. I knew Randy was growing increasingly distressed, as it was obvious from some of the photos that there were some big dudes getting ready for the show. It was tough for me not to contact Randy, but I had to wait for him to come to me. These days we don't get to train more than once a week together, and sometimes it's every other week.

Close to two weeks had gone by since I had noticed his thread before we met to hit chest and shoulders. In that time, close to a dozen men and four women had announced their intent to do the New England, and most had provided photos, both of how they presently looked, and shots from previous contests they had done.

Four and possibly five of the men were going to be in the light-heavies. The fifth one wasn't sure if he was going to make weight. But they all looked - how should I put it? They looked like they could all potentially kick Randy's ass all over the stage. Randy really belonged in a Novice division, but the contests around these parts just don't have those.

Randy:
"I don't know about the show," Randy started as he warmed up on the incline barbell.

Ron Harris:
"You're doing the show," I said coldly.

Randy:
"The thing is, my work is getting really busy right now, you know spring is our biggest time of the year at the dealership," he said as he racked the weight.

Ron Harris:
"I saw your thread on Muscle Madness, jackass."

Randy:
"You, ah, you saw that?"

Ron Harris:
"Yep," I replied as I slid on more weight for me. "You're getting cold feet because you saw what you're up against." I did my last warm-up set.

Randy:
"Well shit, did you see that Rocky kid?" he whined. "He looks like a pro, for God's sake. His arms must be twenty-two inches."

Ron Harris:
"He said he was five-six and he's planning on weighing about 185, so I kinda doubt his arms are anywhere near that. But they are pretty big and have good shape," I agreed.

Randy:
"And that Tom guy? What the hell? He won this show a few years ago, why is he even doing it again? What a jerk-off!"

Randy did his set, face set in anger. This wasn't the usual aggression generated and directed at the weights. He was furious at these guys for having the audacity to be entering the same weight division as him, and already conceding defeat - although things did look grim. Not as grim as the chances of a long and happy marriage for Paris Hilton, but grim nonetheless. It was time to give him the advice that I never was able to follow myself. Isn't that what mentors are for?

Ron Harris:
"You need to stop worrying about these other guys, seriously. People don't understand that bodybuilding is really more of a mind game than it is lifting weights and eating chicken breasts and broccoli.

Unless you know for sure that you are so incredible that no other human has a chance of beating you, it's only natural to worry about who you are going to go up against and what they will look like.

But this does nothing to make you look better on the day of your show. In fact, the constant stress might actually cause you to lose some muscle, and the worrying distracts you from what should be your real focus, getting into the best condition you can."

Randy:
"But those guys," Randy cried, "I can't beat them!"

Ron Harris:
"Maybe and maybe not," I said. "I have been through this a few times myself so I can give you some insight. Some of these people will drop out of the show. They might get scared, they might get injured, lose their job, their cat might get sick, who knows. That's one thing. Another thing is that not everybody gets in shape.

Some guy you are biting your nails over might show up smooth as a baby's butt, and you will feel like an idiot for worrying about him all that time. Others are only showing themselves from certain angles, or from the waist up, so they could be hiding significant physique flaws.

I'm not trying to make you think you're going to have an easy time up there, because you won't. This is your first contest, and you will be up against guys who have been doing this a lot longer than you have. And the light heavyweight are always a tough class in any show. That's where the guys with the really nice blend of size and shape often show up.

Many times the light heavy wins the Overall." Randy was crestfallen, and I had to perk him up before he started looking for the nearest bridge to jump off of. The Tobin Bridge was only about 15 miles away, and that sucker has a long drop down.

"Here's what I want you to do, Randy. Stay off that thread, because it's only going to mess with your head. Just worry about you. It doesn't matter if you win, take fifth, or dead last this time, as long as you get in the best shape you can and present yourself on stage like a veteran. We'll work on your quarter turns and mandatories after the workout for a solid hour, and you will need to devote at least a half-hour of posing practice every day on your own. One other thing ..."

Randy:
"What's that?" he asked.

Ron Harris:
"Got your checkbook on you, junior?" He gave me a strange look. Perhaps I was going to charge him for all the training and advice, making it retroactive for the past two and a half years?

Randy:
"Yeah, out in my car, why?"

Ron Harris:
"Great." I dug around in the plastic bag I carry around the gym floor with all my wraps, straps, training log, and assorted junk I need when I train. I produced an entry form and an envelope, already addressed to the promoter of the New England and with a stamp.

"When we're done today, you're going to fill this out, we are going to go to your car, and you are going to write a check for your entry fee. Then I am going to mail it. You're doing the show." Randy looked relieved, as if a burden had been lifted from him.

Randy:
"I owe you, Ron. I had the wrong attitude about this thing."

Ron Harris:
"Yes you did. And you do owe me - thirty-seven stamps for the postage."

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