The intention of this article is not to rehash what has been reported time and again on Bodybuilding.com and countless other websites and magazines (I will leave that to those amazing statisticians who can tell you that contest prep is "75% diet, 20% working out, 4% supps, 1% the length of your hair inversely proportional to the difference in the albedo of your posing trunks versus the shade of your tan. I always wonder how they quantify such things and what is the significance of the numbers, but that's another story. But to offer some suggestions on the single most important factor of them all: your ATTITUDE.
Granted, the four aforementioned factors (or insert any other of your choosing) are of critical import in and of themselves. What sets attitude apart is that it directly affects, make that determines, the extent of success we will have in realizing our goal. And that is: Being the absolute best one can be on stage or on the field or court or classroom!
So let's define attitude: to me it means having the mental and emotional maturity and fortitude to set goals and devise plans to achieve them; an unwavering commitment to stick to my plan, regardless of how I "feel," to do whatever it takes to be the best I can be. Following is a list of things that I do to help improve my focus before a competition. I call it being "hardcore;" my wife and friends call it monastic. Call it what you want, but if you can do these things or something akin to them pre-contest training and dieting should be a breeze-even fun. The first three items are what I call positive enforcers because they are things that I actually "do" that strengthen my resolve and attitude. Items 4-through-9 are things that I gain strength from by depriving myself of the luxury.
Either first thing in the morning or after your morning workout if that is the first thing you do. I'm talking no hot water from start to finish-don't even touch the knob. Let the water run down your back, on your armpits (my favorite), or anywhere else you think may be sensitive to cold water for longer periods of time. Don't worry the shrinkage is temporary. This is a great way to start your day, and will invigorate you more than any thermogenic ever will. And I guarantee that it will cut down on the length of your showers, leaving time for a few extra sets of crunches.
Eat Something That You Despise
I'm not talking about cockroaches or bull's testicles; rather something that contributes to your nutritional plan positively. Personally, I drink raw eggs (a little salmonella never killed anyone, did it?), or eat tuna, which I cannot stand. However, they are both good sources of protein and readily consumable, and by eating something I hate it makes me hard. I can't explain it. It just does.
Announce Your Goals
When I'm preparing for a competition I tell everyone I talk to about it and that my goal is, simply, to win. Realistically, every guy can't win every contest, but at least set a specific goal: first in your class, best poser, whatever. And tell others about it. Primarily it reinforces your goal in your mind, and if you tell enough others it can become a constant accountability check for you. People in the gym or at school or the grocery store will usually ask how you are progressing before the show, and after the show they are definitely going to ask how you did. What's so hardcore about this? Fear of failure is a powerful emotion. It can, literally, be debilitating. Yet it can be an immense motivator.
No Cheat Day/Meal
To me this seems painfully obvious, but I see a lot of guys do it. Maybe Bill Phillips is to blame. I am not arguing that it will ruin your diet, and I'm not even saying that it may not be good for some people. I am saying that it's not hardcore.
Do Not Avoid Temptation
If your friends are going out drinking or your family is getting together for pizza or your wife and kids are having doughnuts for breakfast do not avoid them. Look, touch, and smell junk food all you want. Just don't eat it (the jury is still out on whether it is acceptable to chew it up and then spit it out). Just by watching everyone in my family eating pizza while I drink a protein shake I feel harder.
This term is a little misleading. What I mean is make sure you get your certain minimum amount of sleep every night. For me it's seven and a half hours. Only you can decide how much you need, but once you decide stick to it. This is where the deprivation part comes in. My sleep time is "set in stone," and I miss out on a lot of things because I go to bed at 9 p.m.
Never Show Any Weakness
This holds especially true if you train at a gym where there are other bodybuilders whom you may compete against. When I hear anyone in the gym talk about how sore they are or how bad their biceps are burning or that they are having a terrible workout because they didn't get enough sleep last night, I just smile. If it is another competitor I get so motivated and pumped I can barely stand it - it's almost primal. I most certainly do not want to give that sort of ammunition to my opponents.
I try never to complain about anything in the gym or out. There are too many things to be positive about, and complaining is so destructive to a healthy attitude. Do not even agree with others when they complain about the weather or the music or the traffic. Instead try to turn their complaint into something positive. I have noticed after doing this to someone a few times they usually stop complaining to me and find someone else to commiserate with.
Give Up Television
I saved this one for last because I'm sure that some readers would have already clicked "Back" if they had seen this one coming. I don't think there is anything inherently wrong with television. On the other hand, I am hard-pressed to find anything about it that facilitates my contest preparation. (Perhaps that is due to the fact that I do not even own a set and haven't for several years.)
The bottom line is: If it doesn't help me improve my physique or reach my goals I don't do it.