How many of you have impulsively started preparing for a bodybuilding competition? Let's all be honest now because I know it's happened to a lot of you. I say this based on personal experience and experience with fellow bodybuilders. What happens is when you attend your first bodybuilding show, more than likely, you will get what my friends and I call "contest fever." Contest fever is when you all of a sudden have this urge to do a contest because you want to prove something to someone, you want to prove something to yourself, you feel as if you can place very well, etc. The list goes on and on. Sure, this is great and all but it causes the person to start prepping for a show without any thought to what he/she is doing.
For the majority of bodybuilders, you don't just decide to do a show without first properly planning. Ever heard the term: he who fails to plan, plans to fail? Well, for the most part, it is true here. I know I've been guilty of this in the past and I'm sure a lot of you wannabe bodybuilders and beginners are making this same mistake today. Now it's time to take the guesswork out of prepping for a show so you can be on your way to flexing on stage.
The mental aspect of prepping for a show is probably the most important aspect of prepping for a show. Some may argue differently but based on real life experience, your mind will make or break you. In order to be in the right mindset to prepare for a show, you must be free of a lot of distractions and stress. So if you're taking 18 hrs at a university while working 30 hrs per week, you might as well forget about it. Sure, it could be done but chances are very good that you'd burn out within weeks. Prepping for a show is an all day commitment every day for as long as you plan on dieting. You have to plan your meals, plan your training, plan your rest time and plan the rest of your daily activities. And the most important part of this is to see it through.
You're probably saying to yourself: I think I'm mentally tough, I can do it. Let me just say this: you think you know, but you have no idea! Sure, following a strict diet and training regime is easy if you do it for a few days, maybe even a week or two. However, try doing it for 10 weeks or dare I say 16 weeks? Some even go as long as six months. Now that's mental toughness. So think about it for a moment. Are you familiar with this concept of mental toughness? Good. Now where do we get our mental toughness? Hmm … that is a good question and many of you are not going to like my answer.
Mental toughness is something intrinsic which you develop as you mature. It's something that you've always had and as you grew older, you learned to harness its power without even knowing it. If you've always had a strong will to excel in school, athletics, or anything, chances are very good that you have a good base for mental toughness. The majority of the people I've encountered in my life have been the ones who give up easily and expect things to come easy. I'm sorry but that isn't how life works. On the flip side, I've encountered a few mentally tough individuals. These individuals had to endure various hardships in their youth and knew how to overcome adversity despite all odds. Sure, these individuals are far and few but they do exist. Don't be discouraged just because you aren't mentally tough now. That doesn't mean you will ever be mentally tough. You just have to learn how to tap into the power of your mind and harness your mental toughness. Just like anything else, it can be developed even at a later age.
There are many definitions of physical toughness out there which I'm sure you are familiar with. To save time, I will just give you mine. I define physical toughness as the ability to successfully adjust to a physically challenging situation. Now these situations can vary quite differently but the idea here is if you hit a road block, you're still able to continue. In my opinion, there is no better example of physical toughness than Dorian Yates. After tearing his left biceps 9 weeks before a Mr. Olympia competition, he somehow managed to train around that torn biceps to forge his way to another Mr. Olympia crown. Now that's an indomitable spirit!
I know this is one of the extreme cases but it all boils down to how much you really want what you want. I'm not going to lie to you and say that you don't get much of a physical beating when you diet down. The truth of the matter is, when you diet down, your body takes more punishment than normal. When you combine a restrictive calorie diet with an intense weight program and daily bouts of cardio, your body becomes more susceptible to injury and/or illness. Now I'm not telling you to go out and tear a muscle so you can train around it. Rather, you should be smart and safe when prepping for a show. You should know that your body will take a physical beating and you must endure through every agonizing moment of it. If you steer clear of testing your body's physical limits when prepping for a contest, it will definitely show on stage.
If you've ever been to a bodybuilding show you've seen guys up there with sub par physiques, you know what I'm talking about. For you to look your best on stage, everything has to fire on all cylinders: your training, your diet, your supplementation and most importantly, your mind. If even one of these things is missing in any part, then chances are very good that you will not come in at your best. So save yourself the embarrassment and do your homework before going to class.