I am competing again next year, and you can bet I will be following these strategies to make the competition an amazing experience. Laying down the foundations for future competitions and (fingers crossed) future success.
1. Assessment of Goals:
It is important that your goals are realistic, and represent what you truly desire. Of course, always shoot for higher levels and what you want to achieve in the future, as long as your goals are tangible and you can progress towards them in a continuous fashion then you're on the right road. It is also vital to allow for an element of enjoyment in achieving your goals, such as incorporating different training styles and methods periodically. This helps break the monotony and keeps the motivation high.
2. Maintain Strong Social Support and Communication
When planning your next competition, or just stepping up your training another notch, it is important to include those close to you. Make your family and friends aware of your future aspirations and competitive goals. Through making them understand the importance of these goals to you will increase their support, and further build communication levels for you to turn to when things get tough. If you make competing almost a team situation, the journey will be much better, they will feel a part of the whole experience and help reduce negative feelings and stress about the sacrifices ahead. This will also help to keep you on track, as you will now be accountable for your actions and keep you focused on the goals.
3. Accumulate as Much Knowledge about Bodybuilding Contest Preparation and Dieting Before You Set Your Plans
"If you fail to plan, you plan to fail". A common saying, but a very true one when it comes to bodybuilding competitions. If you know that you want to compete in the future, don't wait until twelve weeks before to find out the information needed to set your plans. Do it now. You will always learn more on the way, remember "Knowledge is Power!" However, get to know the best strategies for successful dieting, maintaining strength and muscle while you lose fat, finding out the best aerobic strategies and what supplements to take. Failing to do this leads to stress, confusion and general negativity. These are emotions you really don't want when leading up to a contest. Especially, as they will only worsen if you continue to do nothing about them. Read up, watch training videos, go to seminars, ask questions to experienced bodybuilders in your gym and then formulate a great plan that you feel comfortable with to enable you to achieve the competition shape you desire.
4. Prepare for the Time and Costs Commitment Involved with Bodybuilding and Competition
When making your plans, realizing the time and cost commitment from the start will prevent a lot of future stress. These include: the extra aerobic work, visits to the tanning salon, costs of supplements and general competition expenses. If you have successfully planned for these situations, and properly allocated time and financial expenses accordingly then they'll just become another part of your competition jigsaw that you are mastering. Neglect to do so and the additional added burden will cause frustration and distress. Which way would you prefer?
5. Don't Get Too Out Of Shape in the Off-Season
Dieting is never fun. That's why so many people in the general public struggle to lose weight successfully. However, over-indulgence in the off-season can be more costly to you in the long-term than it's worth. Firstly, you develop bad eating habits that are hard to break come competition time. Secondly, it's hard to properly assess you physique when it's blurred under layers of extra fat. Thirdly, the amount of time you'll have to diet will end up feeling like a marathon. This often leads to major boredom and resentment at the whole competition process. Finally, it's extremely hard for your physique and skin to harden up if you have just lost a load of weight. You need to maintain a lean weight for awhile before you start to attain that fantastic shredded and granite hard look.
By maintaining clean and healthy bodybuilding nutritional habits in the off-season, you are already set with discipline for the months ahead. You are aware what foods work best for you, and you don't have to diet as long. Great natural bodybuilders such as Skip La Cour, Chris Faildo, Bill Davey and Jeff Willet agree the days of 'bulking up' are dead, and that staying relatively lean all year round is the future. This helps reduce the potential for burnout, as you're not making a major lifestyle change to go into competition mode.
6. Learn Stress Management Skills
Learning skills, such as mental imagery, relaxation techniques, goal-setting and conducting a daily assessment of your progress, all contribute to elevating the pressures of competing. Using visualization to how you expect to feel and look on the day of the contest has quite a calming effect, giving you confidence and not being so over-awed at what the future holds. This helps with omitting feelings of the unknown, which leaves you feeling anxious.
If you follow the present Training Journals on Bodybuilding.com of Derek Charlebois, Phano Som, David Knowles and others who not only put their training and diet strategies on the web, but also their current mental states. You will see the benefit of daily assessment in action. Being honest with yourself and realizing if you are doing what you know you should be in order to achieve you best competition shape possible is important in dealing with and overcoming stress before it has a chance to develop into something more severe.
7. When Competing Only Be Concerned with Being Your Best!
Everyone wants to win, that's human nature. However, once you hit the stage only one person is walking away with the gold. Don't stress over that, because the judging is out of your hands. As is how the other competitors look. Don't consume yourself with negative comments on who has better genetics, who might be secretly taking drugs, or simply who makes you look bad! When it comes down to it that is not important.
The only thing you should concern yourself with is being the best you can be. So what if you don't make the top six, if you have worked your hardest for the past few months and achieved new levels of physique development, then you have won already. You deserve to be on the stage and use the experience as a learning tool, so that next year you come back even better. That's what it's really about, developing YOUR physique to the best of YOUR potential. Don't stress on stage. Smile instead!
8. Learn Effective Management of Post-Competition Emotions
Following on from the above, it is important to avoid negative emotions after a poor performance, as the stress created can be detrimental to future successes. Overcoming depression, anger and disappointment by assessing the situation and reassessing your future directions can be beneficial to maintaining a positive outlook and freeing yourself of the negative feelings that don't have any benefits.
9. Occasionally Take "Time-Outs" from Bodybuilding
If you are feeling negative stresses creeping into your mind, then realize that there is a reason for this. By dealing with it straight away and taking a short break from bodybuilding, this can do you the world of good. This allows for both a mental and physical recovery.
During your break, enjoy other activities that you don't usually do, spend more time with friends and family, and basically get your old positive self back. So that when you come back to training and dieting again, you're feeling refreshed and motivated, ready to make some serious progress.
You can plan these "time-outs" as well, even if you're not feeling any negative stress. Try to plan them to coincide with a vacation, so that you go away positive and come back even more positive!
Remember, bodybuilding is supposed to be fun and a great life hobby that has many wonderful benefits that you can use in all areas of your life. Acknowledging any negative emotions, assessing why they occurred, how you can overcome them and ultimately, how you can prevent them from happening again is the essential key to positively continuing your bodybuilding future.
I hope that bodybuilders who have read this article have found it of benefit, if anyone has any questions on this subject please e-mail me.
Good luck and all the best,