Like most competitive bodybuilders, I started with other highly competitive sports. For me … it was gymnastics (a career that spanned almost 20 years). My parents got me started when I was almost three years old because I was always flipping around the house, landing on my head and tearing up the furniture. In an effort to avoid any potential injuries, they decided to put me in a controlled environment with a well-known coach so I could receive proper instruction. I continued in the sport all through college, not once taking a break or quitting. It was the only lifestyle I knew and a career I wanted to pursue.
During my early years in the sport I had a nemesis, an archrival, who was also my best friend. Although she will remain nameless, we started the sport around the same age (about seven years into our career). We were on the same competitive club team, we trained long hours together, we had sleepovers together and, all in all, we were best friends as we grew up in the sport. We’d laugh and play together, and even shared an obsession with WWE (then WWF) Wrestling. We competed together at various gymnastics meets around the country and our coaches pushed both of us to achieve our maximum potential during each and every practice but her potential eventually surpassed mine.
The sport came naturally to her and she seemingly flourished without much effort. She’d laugh with the other team members in between sets whereas, if I wanted to do well, I would have to spend that time between sets focusing on the intricacies of the next skill. I could count on one hand how many practices I missed throughout the years while she would miss practices from time to time. I had to truly work at the sport and nothing about the sport came easy for me. Regardless of how hard I worked, I’d compete against my nemesis and she’d inevitably win.
This was the story of my gymnastics career. What was I doing wrong?!?! I’d get frustrated. I’d cry until my eyes were swollen and I’d threaten to quit … but my parents and coach would always say how promising my future would be if I stuck with it. I was told, “Be patient” or “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel”. I was patient (but with a sense of urgency).
In the end, I didn’t quit. I remained best friends with my nemesis but, when we trained together, I was her fiercest competition. I was on a mission. Some may think it’s impossible for a child so young to be so competitive and driven, but I was different. I always wanted to win and mindset remains with me … even today. Competing is in my DNA. As a “fairy tale ending” to this real life story … several years later I was finally the one standing in first place on the podium while my nemesis came second, third, or was off the podium entirely.
The moral of this story is … PATIENCE.
Bodybuilding is most certainly not a sport for the weak (no pun intended). You have to be strong physically in order to conquer the weight rack. You have to be strong mentally to continuously push yourself through intense training sessions (sometimes on limited calories). You have to be strong emotionally to push through obstacles that may come up on, what seems like, an hourly basis. However, above all else, you have to be patient. As a veteran competitor I still struggle with being patient. I doubt it will ever get easier.
Preparing for a contest is a long, never ending process that truly tests your patience. Personally, I spend hours upon hours in the gym building my best body and I spend even more time strategically calculating my diet. I’m awake and in the gym when most are cozy in their bed. I spend a lot of time warding off cravings while sometimes sitting in hunger wishing what I ate really didn’t matter. While others head home to their comfy couches after work I hit the gym again. I do all of this, not for praise from my peers and co-workers, but so I can look at myself in the mirror and see progress towards my goals. I want to see my hard work show in my physique. I want my work, effort and sacrifice to have a purpose and I yearn for those attributes to show up in the mirror.
Unfortunately, that’s not happening right now and it’s discouraging.
Right now, I struggle … and continuing with the sport is taxing in all regards. Each day that I train my heart out but don’t see physical results is a test of my patience. Fellow gym-goers always tell me I look so comfortable in the gym and are impressed by my physique but it’s amazing what this sport has done to me. My standard of myself has changed dramatically. To outsiders I look amazing and I am told I inspire others. I’ve been told that I was made for this sport.
What do I see?
I see someone who has a lot of progress to make and is miles away from the finish line. At this point, I want to sprint. I have told my husband the story of my nemesis and he knows patience is not my strong suit. So, when my husband walks into the bathroom and sees me standing on the scale with a frown on my face, he doesn’t say much. He simply holds up his index finger and mouths one key word, “Patience”.