COMPETING IN FITNESS: IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
SHATTER THESE 5 MYTHS AND SUCCEED LIKE A CHAMPION
Submitted By Timothy Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT
Do you fear change… or do you embrace it?
When you think about it, your whole life is about change. Constantly. Everyone has done it many times, no matter who you are. Change is nothing to be feared; on the contrary, it’s something to be embraced in order that you make the most of your limited time here. Change is about learning, growth, development and improvement, all of which are wonderful things that have the potential to result in significant happiness and success. Depending on your background and life events, you may have changed gears in your life only a handful of times, or you may have changed so many countless times that you can’t remember how many. Sometimes you’ll have had to make significant changes in your life strictly because you had no other choice; other times, it’s been a conscious articulation of self. The point is that you’ve definitely changed before – and you’re definitely capable of doing it again.
Since you’re visiting this website, you understandably have considerations in your mind about your capacity to change into a fitness competitor. And that’s a very good start. If you enter into a program of training without any contextual forethought, you’ll likely limit your opportunities for performance improvement (commonly referred to as “gains”). To be sure, transforming your body substantially – or refining an already fit body – are tasks that require a great deal of effort from you. But looking back with honest retrospect, haven’t you already faced numerous challenges in your life that required your full dedication and commitment? Haven’t you already learned from experience how to overcome challenges and manage obstacles, whether in your career or domestically? When it comes to fitness, even if you’ve never touched a weight before, to think that competition is something beyond your ability is to sell yourself short. It’s therefore absolutely critical that you don’t put yourself off the idea of something as rewarding as fitness competition just because you’ve succumbed to misguided notions and misleading fallacies.
Here are five of the most common misconceptions about fitness competition from a personal standpoint, and why you should do your utmost to avoid believing them.
SHATTER THIS MYTH: “Not everyone was meant to be a fitness athlete.”
WHY: There’s no such thing as “fitness athlete DNA”. That is, all of the competitive athletes who’ve participated in contests – from the repeat champions all the way to the novices – come from different physical backgrounds. This phenomenon of course applies to all segments of the fitness spectrum, from bodybuilders and classic physique or physique athletes to bikini, glamour, fitness model and figure athletes. Absolutely NONE of them were born with the gift of being a competitor without having to consciously make a commitment and then work for it.
Believe it or not, many UFE champions past and present were individuals who once had doubts about their capacity to succeed in fitness. Many of them were even naysayers, skeptical of both their potential and the whole process. Yet something along the way happened to each and every one of them; some influence or life event that eventually put them on the competitive track. Influences include the success of a friend, or newly-gained access to training information. Life events include significant moments that may have been positive or negative, but in both cases prompted a desire for change. From your own perspective, it’s important to realize that all of these things are not out of reach for you. It’s very accurate to believe that if success in fitness happened to them, it could happen to you.
SHATTER THIS MYTH: “I’ll never be able to compete with the others. They know all the secrets that I never will.”
WHY: Time for a news flash. It doesn’t matter what your level of knowledge is regarding training and nutrition when you begin a competition journey. So stop worrying about what you know now, and appreciate that you’re going to learn a heck of a lot along the way. Consider this: did you happen to know how to ride a bicycle expertly before you actually got on one and learned by doing it over and over? It’s virtually impossible (and definitely not expected of you) to possess champion-level fitness knowledge if you’re relatively new to competition. It’s actually a great shame that many prospective athletes never enter a competition (and miss out on so much) simply because they look at themselves relative to the champions in their category and then mistakenly feel their knowledge is too inadequate to compete.
Don’t let that happen to you. Whatever resources you have available to you like personal trainers and nutritionists are great unto themselves, but what you learn along the way from the people you’ll meet (including other competitors) is extremely valuable too. Many top athletes have indeed reported that they knew very little about what they were doing at the onset of their training, but they picked up extraordinary amounts of knowledge and insight from within the UFE community. So much so, that in many cases, champions were forged out of people who were originally just novices. Fitness “secrets” are in fact knowledge that’s in the public domain, provided you make the effort to look for it.
SHATTER THIS MYTH: “Athletes have to be in competition shape 365 days a year. This will be a permanent change requiring permanent commitment.”
WHY: This short-sighted notion is way off track. If your mindset adheres to such a myth, you need to have reinforced in your mind the concept that fitness competition exists to be fun. Yes, fun – even in the midst of the ample requirements of discipline and commitment. That’s really what UFE competition is all about. Experienced athletes can pass on the wisdom to you that the number one goal is not to make a permanent, fixed transformation (although in many cases, this is a nice positive side effect). Rather, your primary target is to peak at a specific time; to match the time of your very best shape possible with that of competition day. Trust us, that’s what others do.
You may have noticed how happy athletes look after the completion of a competition. There are numerous reasons for this, including the great sense of accomplishment, hitting a goal and realizing personal growth. Often, you’ll see athletes after a competition – from champions all the way down the placing ladder – celebrate by enjoying pizza, donuts, cake, beer, wine and even champagne. Competition is not about depriving you of your future; it’s about adding to it and enhancing it. Many athletes derive great fulfilment simply with a “one and done”, wherein they execute training for an event and then bask in the glory without necessarily returning to the stage. But for most others, the flexible scheduling of events offered by UFE means they’ll compete three times each year, with plenty of time off in between for other endeavours. But make no mistake, competition does not permanently require you unnaturally to become something you’re not.
SHATTER THIS MYTH: “Training for competition will put my job at risk and damage my family life.”
WHY: We get it. Your life is busy with both your career and family. This is the norm of society in the year 2019 and if you come under this classification, all the more power to you. But it would be misguided to think that within the confines of a 24-hour schedule that you don’t have sufficient time to train for competition. Furthermore, it’s also a fallacy to think that spending an hour to 90 minutes of “me time” at the gym each day is going to compromise either your job or domestic arrangements. Simply put, all that’s required of you is a little foresight into planning and organizing your workouts and meals, then executing with discipline a sound course of action.
You may be surprised to learn that many employers will actually encourage individuals to partake in a journey of transformation culminating in improvements to their health. Instead of disparaging the process, many companies (and more specifically, your boss and/or colleagues) will support you in this new endeavour. Healthier employers often improve their job performance simultaneously to their physical status. They create new ideas, enhance their cognitive function, and improve their mood – all of which lead to greater performance. The same can be said of one’s home life. Your spouse and children will pick up on your improved well-being and your relationships with them often get a big boost. Leading by example and encouraging others to improve their health through fitness is often a by-product of training for competition that is accomplished sometimes even without intent.
Take a good, detailed look at the current legions of UFE competitors. You’ll see all sorts of people with busy lives including office executives and general labourers. You’ll see normal human beings with significant family obligations but who somehow still manage to find the time to plan, focus, train and compete. This phenomenon is a very, very common occurrence that shatters the notion of competition interfering with other important elements of your life. As always, if others can do it, so can you.
SHATTER THIS MYTH: “It’s too late. I’m too old for a fitness competition.”
WHY: Many, many UFE competitors did not even conceive of competing in fitness until they were well into their 40s. UFE is truly a breed apart from those cold, sterile other fitness associations dominated by younger people, and unwelcoming to those of middle age. Case in point: the Masters Novice category is very popular for first-time competitors who happen to be over the age of 45. Those Masters athletes who’ve competed more than once can also take advantage of the option to compete not only in their namesake division, but they are of course eligible to compete in the Open division as well. So shake off any absurd notions that something over which you have no control – that is, your age – should exclude you from the UFE community of athletes.
To examine the entire breadth of UFE athletes, you’ll in fact discover that while some come to the association under the age of 20, we also have a bevy of over-50 athletes, including legendary athlete Alec Dewdney, age 78. This remarkable man who only began training at the age of 68 represents a magnificent story that is unique to UFE. He’s not only become iconic as the association’s eldest competitor but his story has been told within the national media exalting Alec as the good-natured godfather within the UFE community. After his wife Sue was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the couple planned that Alec would get in great physical shape to support her. His hard work and extraordinary efforts paid off and then some, as he is now renowned for possessing the strength of men half his age. Alec has competed in numerous UFE events and is testimony to the human spirit. Making such a substantial change at the age of 68 – it can be done.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Never forget that naysayers, skeptics and lazy people will always try to rationalize their own decisions to avoid making the effort of training for competition. Don’t let their negativity influence your own decision. You’d be missing out on far too many great, positive things if you let yourself get persuaded by the gloomsters. It’s very easy to rationalize the reasons – that is, the MYTHS – why competition may not be for you. Don’t believe the hype.
If you were to take an exit poll of every UFE athlete who competed, as to whether they regretted their decision to compete, we’re confident that virtually NONE of them would answer in the affirmative. Too many good things come out of competition for not only you, but those in your immediate network; in fact, there are so many far-reaching benefits to competing that you’ll likely have never considered them all.
Stop rationalizing. Stop the excuses. Stop letting others dissuade you. Register with UFE, enter a competition and improve your life in numerous ways. You’ll be glad you did.
Timothy Rigby, M.A., NCSA-CPT is a freelance writer and one of Canada’s most published fitness writers.