There have been more and more stories coming out about the negative experiences women are having in the realm of physique based competition (figure, bikini, etc). I myself have even spoken on some of the negative side effects I had dealt with from my involvement in the fitness industry. So why would I voluntary return?
From a personal standpoint, I’ve learned so much about myself and gained so much insight over the past several years. And one thing that remains true is I simply love to train for things. I’ve reached a point in my life where being an athlete certainly doesn’t define me. I am comfortable in my own skin and I know who I am. But I truly and simply love to train to compete. If a person loves to sing she should sing, if a person loves to paint she should paint. I just happen to love training, especially with a goal in mind, so why shouldn’t I do it, so long as it’s done in a healthy way.
At this point in my life, my options for performance based training are pretty limited due to previous injuries. Things like fitness, crossfit, triathlons and even half marathons or other running based events are really not healthy choices for me as they will almost certainly exacerbate old injuries. But I CAN train for figure in a manner that allows me to keep my body healthy without further progressing those injuries.
But what about all of those negative consequences that go along with competing in figure? Well, one thing I’ve learned over the past few years is that in order to embark on a journey towards any goal in a successful manner, especially one that deals directly with your body, you need to have a very good sense of self. The fact is, when competing is approached with the right frame of mind, it can actually bring many benefits, none of which have anything to do with how you actually look. Discipline, persistence, work ethic, self confidence, strength, patience- just to name a few. There is nothing wrong with these characteristics. In fact, these are all pretty important attributes to possess to be successful for most things in life. The problem arises when these things are rooted in fear. When behaviors are rooted in fear- fear of gaining weight, fear of not looking a certain way, fear of not being enough, fear of failure or disappointment, fear of not measuring up, fear of what other people think of you–that is when things become excessive and unhealthy. Behaviors rooted in self love and a true desire to become a better person while maintaining a sense of contentness within yourself are not negative or unhealthy. It’s ok to want to be better and to strive to reach goals- it just has to all come from the right place. For example, discipline should come from a place of self love and self respect. It’s when discipline comes from a place of self punishment that it becomes unhealthy. Obsession is not healthy.
I can honestly say at this point in my life I have a very clear sense of what is healthy and what is not. When I look in the mirror and ask myself why I want to compete, my reasons are exactly as I have written. I love to do it. I love the process and I believe the process helps build me into a better person. There is no hidden feeling of the desire to “get lean” because I don’t feel good enough as I am. I love who I am. I say my goal is to match or beat my previous best physique. But the truth is, the actual outcome means nothing to me. It’s the behaviors and the process that truly matter. It’s challenging myself to overcome obstacles that used to cause me a lot of anxiety and feeling stronger because I can now push through them. It’s about learning to do the best I can, given the individual circumstances of each day, and feeling proud of myself for my efforts. I am no longer afraid. I’m not afraid of gaining weight after the show, I’m not afraid of what people will think and I’m not afraid of failing. I am choosing to do this for myself.
From a professional standpoint, I feel it is my responsibility to lead by example. There are way too many people in the fitness industry that are setting the wrong example. There’s way too much emphasis on the physical/vanity component with not enough emphasis on health. I want to show other competitors that they can choose to compete in a manner that emphasizes maintaining mental, physical and emotional health. But who am I to tell people how to do it if I haven’t done it myself. I also work with athletes. Who am I to tell them that they can reach big goals in a healthy manner if I’m not doing it myself. I’m a big believer in the concept of actions speaking louder than words. And so I hope that my actions are what speak to those who look to me for help.
That’s why I choose to compete.