The last month has been a whirlwind. The competition I prepared 11 weeks for has come and gone so quickly. I want to take this opportunity to reflect on my experience, share what I have learned, and talk about how I went on to win my first ever bodybuilding competition.
First off, I believe that I won for these main reasons: 1. I was prepared both mentally and physically 2. I had a great support network 3. I was confident 4. I only focused on the controllables (myself!)
For the first time in my athletic career, I experienced being “in the zone”. I have been involved in sport since the age of 5 and never have I been able say that I was so focused that I did not remember what happened. Being in the zone is where every athlete wants to be. Many of us think that if we practice enough we can make it happen more often - false. We should be mentally and physically preparing to perform well and consistently, rather than perfectly all the time. It is very rare that athletes perform at their peak and experience “the zone” - this is when records happen. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines it as “flow”. “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other… Sense of time disappears. You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”
Let me explain how I did this: As a mental skills coach I had the extra tools and knowledge to add mental skills training to my preparation and training. The strategies I used helped me increase my focus and confidence. My goal was not to win, it was to step out of my comfort zone and focus on being the best that I could be. I was not worrying about my competition or if I would trip on stage in those 5-inch heels. I did not let perceived pressure get to me, and I made sure to brush off any negative vibes that came my way. Was it easy? No, but I knew that to develop my mental toughness and to stay focused and confident that I had to try my best to see the positive in every situation and not care what other people thought of me and what I was doing.
When I walked on stage to do my routine I did not feel nervous or stressed for a split second. I was all smiles and found myself giving other athletes high fives as they walked off the stage. My preparation helped me feel confident about the package I was bringing to the show, so I was able to enjoy the moment, and before I knew it I was walking off the stage asking myself if I forgot any poses in my routine. Because I was so worried from the beginning of my prep about doing my routine on stage in what I was told was one of the biggest IDFA shows of the year, I had practiced it so much that it became automatic. Adding visualization to my training and getting those reps in (practicing every weekend and then every day for one week leading up to the competition), had me feeling more ready than I would have ever imagined. I have almost no memory of doing the routine because I just let it happen. I was in the zone - no worries, no thinking.
Fortunately, having an amazing support network of friends, family, and coaches helped me have an experience of a lifetime. Yes, I had toxic people thinking I was prepping in an unhealthy way and not eating enough, but it was up to me to choose to ignore them. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what people think. If you are able to focus on yourself and what you believe in, you won’t waste your time stressing over useless comments.
I decided to do this competition to step out of my comfort zone and face my fear of being on stage in front of a bunch of strangers. The training and macro counting was part of my routine since May of last year, so that part was a little bit easier for me since the transition period was way behind me. Learning how to pose and creating a routine/T-walk was my worst nightmare, but I decided to embrace the journey instead. It’s all about how we frame the situations we are in - focus on the negative and how things can go wrong, and yes you will get stressed and anxious. Focus on how you can get better and how you progress, and it is easier to overcome a challenge. We only grow when we step out of our comfort zone. This journey has confirmed my belief that the body can do anything the mind says it can. Say you won’t, and you won’t. Believe you can, and visualize yourself doing big things, and it will happen. Winning was just an added bonus and I believe that because I did not focus on coming out of there with a trophy, that I felt less pressure and was better able to focus on myself and what I wanted to accomplish. I pushed my mental toughness to another level and I am looking forward to helping other fitness athletes enjoy the journey as much as I did.
“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.” - Theodore Roosevelt.
Thank you… Curt Griffin for EVERYTHING - your knowledge, support, coaching and mentorship is priceless and I am so grateful for having done this in a healthy way because of you Catia Pavoni for your support and helping me create a T-walk that I felt confident with Kimiko for your support, friendship, feeding me backstage, and helping me feel so confident with my hair and makeup because everyone knows I am picky with that stuff Lori for all your help with the things I was anxious about - tanning, posing, nails.. the list goes on Caitlin and Tiffany for helping me with posing and giving me a good idea of how to approach my first competition Kim Richer for my amazing bikini Etienne for your support and patience - I am lucky to have you by my side Igor for being my gym buddy because we all know training everyday can get boring when you’re alone Rene and mom for your continuous support and believing in what I do Steph for believing in me and being being my personal cheerleader
...and everyone else who filled me with positive vibes and support throughout this awesome journey