I’m A Bikini Bodybuilder And Here’s What It’s Taught Me About Competition

It's more than I would have ever imagined.

September 18, 2016
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As a National Physique Committee (NPC) bikini competitor, I realize few people understand the sport of being a physique athlete. To most people, a bikini or figure competition probably looks like a muscular version of a beauty pageant. 

But it’s so much more.

My husband, Steve, has competed for over 20 years in amateur bodybuilding, to help keep his weight in check. He typically competed once or twice a year, and often teased he’d be big as a house if he didn’t compete at all.

For years, he has asked me to compete with him, and I shut him down every single time. I had no desire to get on stage and subject myself to being judged. I already knew all my flaws, and didn’t want to show them to the world. Why would I want someone else to pick my body apart for me? I do a good enough job on my own.

However, Steve kept telling me competing would take my training, diet, and physique to another level. I finally gave in and reluctantly decided to give it a try. I was scared to death. I loathed the idea of getting on stage, half naked. I’d rather sing the national anthem for a thousand people or teach a diet seminar. The idea of standing in front of a crowd in a bikini doing basically nothing but posing and smiling terrified me.

So I decided to push the stage out of my mind and focus on the training instead. And I quickly realized the competition was pushing me to diet and train harder than I had ever dieted or trained before. While I have leaned out for modeling jobs in the past, I never had the extreme drive and motivation that the stage began producing in me. I hated to admit it, but it was obvious that competing was exactly what I needed.

Train to Compete vs. Compete to Train

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You may be under the impression people compete because they think they can win a trophy for having such a great body. I’m sure there are a few of those people out there, but I believe it’s the opposite for most of us. Most people I know compete because they’re trying to conquer their body.

Competing is more about overcoming your weaknesses rather than showing off your strengths. Most people struggle with their diet, battle overeating, and are prone to inconsistency or intensity in their training. I don’t diet and train to compete, I compete to diet and train.

In other words, people (like me) use competitions like runners use races. The competition is the goal, and the stage is the finish line. I use the competition to help me take my training and diet to a new level. I do it to force myself to be more disciplined.

It’s not about winning for me. I don’t compete to win. I train to win. There’s a difference. I train to be my personal best and I give it my all, but my biggest prize is my own personal success—not a trophy.

If I get a trophy, great. But the reason I compete is to simply have something to train for. I’m naturally lazy and love to eat, so I need to force myself to be more disciplined. I realized competing is what I need to say no to overeating or skipping workouts.

While I do understand competing in a physique competition isn’t for everyone, I do believe it’s important to set clear goals that push yourself to succeed. Whether it’s a mud run, 5K, CrossFit Game, bodybuilding competition, or even an office weight-loss challenge, participating in a specific event or program boosts your chance of success.

Here are 5 benefits of participating in a fitness competition and event.

Something To Train For

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Workouts can get stale without clearly defined goals. Having something to train for gives you purpose— a real reason to diet and work out hard. When you’re training with purpose, your workouts become more structured and precise. You’re not just going to the gym and going through the motions. You no longer do what you feel like doing, but you start doing what you know you need to do to perform.

It Gives You a Deadline

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Many people set goals, but never have a deadline to reach them. Participating in an event forces you to stay on schedule and to reach your goal by a set time. Since I’m a big procrastinator, I found that this is probably the biggest reason I love to compete. I don’t really care about the competition as much as I just need that date in my head to force myself to stay on track.

It Holds You Accountable

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Anytime you join a public event, you’re putting yourself out there for all to see. Since most people don’t want to fail publicly, competing can offer that added push you need to succeed. I know the first time I competed I didn’t want to shame my team or myself. That fear pushed me to surpass my goals and do better than I ever dreamed.

You Can Measure Your Progress

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Whether you’re running in a race or competing on stage, each sport has a way of measuring your progress. I track my progress by tracking my body fat and muscle mass. Runners track their pace and time to measure improvement. Either way, competing is a great tool to track and continually improve your personal best.

It’s Rewarding

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If you reach your goals and do your personal best, it doesn’t matter if you bring home a trophy or not. You still walk away better than you were before you started. This makes competing a total win-win. I still finish feeling like a winner because I reached my goal.

Like I said, I personally don’t compete to win. There are so many amazingly fit people out there who have trained just as hard (or even harder) as me. It would be ridiculous to think I deserve a trophy any more than anyone else. People who only have their eyes on winning can get let down too easily. The winner depends on who shows up. Part of that is just luck.

Nevertheless, training to win will result in so much more gratification. It doesn’t matter who your competition will be, it’s just you against you. If you train to win, you’ll most certainly beat your old self.

When I prepare to compete, I’m focused on my own goals, my own progress, and my own journey. No matter how well I do compared to others, it doesn’t matter, as long as I continue to improve and reach my own personal goals.

If you’re stuck in a rut, can’t seem to get focused, or just need more motivation, maybe it’s time you take the plunge and try a new way to set goals. Maybe it’s time to compete for success.

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