Most of us in the iron game are content with the benefits it brings; a muscular physique, a healthy outlook, strength increases and a positive psychological outlook are more than enough to fuel our passion for our hobby of weightlifting.
What about those amongst us who wish to turn this hobby to sport and test the fruits of our passion against other like minded individuals? Competitive, and particularly, natural bodybuilding has experienced a dramatic rise to the surface of sport over the past couple of years.
The World Natural Sports Organization, (W.N.S.O.) the largest drug-tested bodybuilding & fitness organization in Canada has flourished from their first "Muscle Mania" contest which had 18 competitors compared to their five year growth where they expect a whopping 700 competitors in the areas of bodybuilding, fitness, figure and fitness modelling; giving testament to the interest of putting your muscles to competition.
The sport of bodybuilding has blossomed from the depths of back-alley, sweat-shop gyms to the mainstream commercial entities as evidenced by the multi-mullion dollar health and fitness clubs which are garnishing our nation.
The I.H.R.S.A. (International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association) reports that the total number of health clubs in the United States grew by more than 2% in the first six months of 2002 to 18,203 fitness facilities.
This growth is up 39% from the 13,097 fitness clubs in 1997. As of January 2004, approximately 33.8 million Americans hold health or fitness club memberships.
All walks of life are embracing the benefits that having a fit, muscular body provides; from young to old, inclusive of all levels of social and economic status. Weightlifting, bodybuilding and fitness have quickly become big industry.
It stands without saying that given this rise in those flocking to gyms, our innate competitive nature will rear its head and large numbers will want to put their muscle to the test and enter some type of competitive event; be it, power lifting, feats of strength or bodybuilding/fitness contests.
Contests have been flourishing with prizes for those of us in the mainstream that compete to get in their best shape possible and pit themselves against those individuals in the same age group or experience level in an effort to emerge victorious. It is not uncommon to see such things as automobiles, motorcycles, lucrative endorsements and cash being added to the fitness purse.
The motivation for doing such varies from personal gain in having accomplished a personal milestone, much akin to a marathoner competing only to finish, to those who are earning substantial incomes from their competition winnings and endorsements.
The decision to take a different direction with your training is a big one to say the least. Large numbers of us at some time or another have likely pondered the thought of flexing our hard earned muscle for the benefit of sport as the growth of this particular industry is exploding by leaps and bounds.
The number of competitors entering physique shows has steadily increased over the years; sponsors, exhibitors and spectators have followed suit and jumped on the band wagon as well to take part in its growth. Prize money and offerings have followed this growth, making competitive physique contests a potentially lucrative endeavor for those who excel.
My direction is to those who are interested in the competitive aspect and are sitting on the fence about getting involved. It's certainly not an easy task stepping on stage under the brightest of lights in front of an audience of thousands wearing not much more than you were born with. A negative experience can easily be avoided by choosing your proper venue.
Look for organizations that offer the most competitive playing field, i.e. drug tested vs. non (methods of testing are tantamount), age categories, weight categories, physically challenged categories and divisions for those never having competed before will lend faith to your feeling of comfort in entering your first competition.
In addition, organizations should offer seminars or practice clinics for first time competitors as well as providing the "tools" or information that the competitors will require but may not have access to; i.e., posing outfits, stage props, specialized music, posing clinics, etc.
The first question of many to answer is the "why?" What are your personal motivations for choosing to compete? You will need to clutch to this "why" when the going gets rough and you need to stay focused on the tasks at hand; the task of maintaining a strict diet that go in to a winning physique is a challenge of itself for most.
A quick thought about your reasons for doing this are often enough to stay on top of your mental game and allow you to endure the challenges of competition training and dieting. Another question that is commonly asked is, "Do I have what it takes to compete?" This certainly bears a connection with the first question and for your reasons behind competing.
If you're not entirely certain that you'll "make the grade" I would highly recommend attending an event similar to the one you intend on competing in to gauge the caliber of competition and get a feel for what's at stake.
Quite often at events, the desire for those wanting to get involved sky rockets after a comfort level with potential competitors is overcome and you are left feeling that you would have had a shot at faring well.
As a bodybuilding judge, I have been approached mid-contest by excited spectators that are anxious to get an entry form for the next contest right away! Most reputable organizations that run physique events will have videos of previous shows available for purchase, which in my opinion is invaluable for the aspiring competitor to gauge their personal performance against those who have already proven successful.
Quite often, the common mistake of asking a loved one for their expertise in this area may prove futile as we'll likely hear, "You look fantastic honey" regardless of our present condition. Honesty is a tough nut to crack with loved ones in this respect.
Having a personal trainer or professional physique consultant is often the route of choice for those seriously involved as they can trust the opinions and advice offered without prejudice if you're still deep in though over whether you have the "goods to take the gold."
In our next installment, I am going to focus on the aspects of what to look for in a physique organization to ensure that your transition from the gym to the stage is not fraught with pitfalls that could potentially taint your experience and prevent you from ever competing again.
Your first competition is likely going to be your biggest, regardless of how well you place. It is an experience that you'll likely never forget. The personal rewards are bountiful and I will endeavor to assist you in making this transition as comfortable as possible so that you may enjoy the sport to its fullest.
For those of you sitting on the fence flexing your muscles, you may want to hop down and show us what you're made of!
Yours in good health.
About The Author
Bringing over 20 years of experience to the world bodybuilding & fitness, you might recognize Daryl from his numerous television appearances, radio spots and various lectures across the country.
Daryl can be contacted at FAME@FAMEworldevents.com for more information regarding their events or the FAME Agency.