"If you compete with others, you become bitter. If you compete with yourself, you become better."
^ A quote that was continuously running through my head as I was walking around backstage of my first competition, surrounded by dozens of girls with amazing physiques.
In a situation like that, it is so easy to get caught up in comparisons and to get down on yourself.
"If only my abs looked like that..." "If only my glutes were that round..." "If only my delts were that defined..."
I know many girls were playing this game on Saturday, and I had to snap myself out of it at times as well! I was having a conversation with another competitor and told her something that I was also telling myself that day-- everyone that we are envying or comparing ourselves to is envying comparing themselves to someone else! There is no point in wasting energy on negative thoughts, you are your competition, don't worry about anyone else.
Remember when I said that competing and prep are 100% mind games? I still mean that. Much like with prep, you need to enter a competition with strong mental health, self love, and positive body image or else you will tear yourself to shreds.
It is most certainly intimidating standing around for hours next to so many strong, fit ladies, and it can easily start to produce self-doubt if you let it. Key words there? If you let it.
Mental strength is a necessity; mental clarity is a necessity. You need to go into the day knowing that you worked your hardest and did your best to get to here. You need to think about where you started and look at where you are. Put on the blinders, fade everyone else out, be happy, be proud, be your own cheerleader!! Your positivity will radiate through in the form of confidence and genuine happiness-- and I promise you that the judges and other competitors will notice! Shell yourself up by thinking negative thoughts, comparing yourself to others, and filling your head with self-doubt?-- yeah, have no doubt that that will show through to others as well.
An added bonus of coming into a competition with a strong, happy mind? You'll be drawn towards like-minded people throughout the day and make instant friends! I met some amazing girls back stage and am so thankful for the quick friendships that formed-- friendships in which we empower one another and build each other up, rather than envy and compete. Would I have met such great people if I were staring them all down as my "competition"? Probably not.
Then there is the physical component of competing, much like with prep. Physically, you need to be ready for the show. You need to be ready to stand around in heels for (what feels like) hours on end. You need to be ready to twist and turn and squeeze and contract all different parts of your body for long durations. You need to be ready to lift and pump before you get on stage. You need to know what you are doing!
Come into your first show physically ready by seriously putting in the work beforehand. Don't expect a tan to instantly make you look strong and defined, don't expect a routine to "just come to you", and don't wing it on your posing. Being competition-day-ready means you busted your butt in the gym for however many weeks prior, you were dedicated to your eating regimen, you got your rest and sleep, you drank your water, you practiced and tweaked your posing, etc! There are no shortcuts, especially not the day of. Come prepared.
I am very grateful that I came in prepared because I'll tell you what, I think I blacked out every time I stepped on stage! My brain stopped working, my body just started doing, and afterwards, I stepped off stage and had no idea what the heck just happened.
Blue Steel, much?
Thankfully, muscle-memory kicked in when my brain kicked off and my poses started happening. About a month before the show (I know, I started a lot later than most! Not recommended), I began working on my posing. Once a week I practiced my stance full-out in my suit and heels for maybe a total of 2-5 minutes and then sporadically throughout the week in whichever nonchalant way I could-- in the back of the classroom while my students were busy working on something at their seats, in the public restrooms quickly after washing my hands before others would come out of the stalls, you know, usual places ;)
As for my walk, this was a little more difficult to practice because it required more space and I never could seem to get the room in my gym to myself! So, I practiced that maybe about 3 times quickly and rarely full-out, out of embarrassment of interrupting the other people always in the room with me. Mainly, I wanted to work on my timing as the rest felt very natural and I felt confident that everything would fall into place as I walked that stage (which it did as shown by my "Best Routine" trophy, thank you excitement and years of performing/cheerleading)!
Personally, I didn't practice any posing or my walk on show-day, though I saw many girls doing this in front of the mirrors all day long. I chose not to because I didn't want to psych myself out. I felt confident coming in and didn't want to ruin that by getting in my own head-- there is such a thing as too much practice, you know!
While that was my approach, I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. That was just what worked for me. I think this was because I was only feeling "excited-nerves" and not "anxious-nerves" all day. I was so excited to get out there, and after the first time, I couldn't wait to step back on stage for my next class and for my walk! I have no idea what happened once I got on stage every time because my excitement just kind of took over my body. As I said in my reflection part 1, it has been a long time since I've felt this naturally connected with a sport.
Everything about show day felt right, and natural, and comfortable (or rather, comfortably challenging). I was most certainly ready in every sense of the word after m̶o̶n̶t̶h̶s̶ years of preparation.
To anyone out there debating doing a show, if you are in a similar spot both physically and mentally, do it! Do it and I hope it is as enjoyable, fulfilling, and addictive of an experience for you as well!