By: Nick Hickey
If you are on the fence about competing in a strength or physique sport, I encourage you to do it. Not all people have that desire to put it on the line and compete, and that is OK. Those that do and are unsure about taking the leap, I would recommend you go for it.
I would venture to say most of the people who are committed to a hard training program do not put their efforts on the stage, the platform, the arena or the field in a strength or physique sport. There are many reasons one could think of in order not to compete. It could be a lack of desire, fear of failure, embarrassment or something else. But, in my opinion, those preconceived notions do not overshadow the benefits of competing.
The first main reason to compete is motivation. If your training is going stale, putting a date on the calendar where you need to be ready puts things into perspective. It forces you to commit to a goal. Goals fuel not only your training but your drive to succeed in life. Without a training goal, your workouts are less inspired and less targeted. A specific competition on a specific day will motivate you to train harder than ever, to avoid displaying anything but your best on "game day".
Another reason to compete is to learn. Competitions for first-time athletes can be intimidating, but they are great learning experiences. Once you learn the ebb and flow of your sport by diving in, you will be more comfortable. Not only will you learn about how a competition goes, you will also learn a lot from other competitors at your contest. They are in the same sport as you. They may be bigger, stronger, leaner or more experienced, but you are all competing in the same game. Fellow competitors are a great asset to all first timers to learn tips and tricks about competing in your chosen sport. It can be nerve-racking to ask a more seasoned competitor for advice, but in my experience, people are usually very eager to help. The willingness for others to give you advice almost always leads to a very motivating and fun atmosphere.
That brings us to another reason to compete: fun. I have done a few competitions so far and every one I have competed in was absolutely fun. After the contest, when you reflect on your efforts, I'm betting you will look back and say you had a great time. If it is your first contest, don't expect to go in there and break world records. Head into it with the expectations to do well and enjoy yourself. If you do, I'm certain you will have a good time.
Finally, another reason to compete is to put yourself out there. Putting your lifts to judging standards or your physique to judging criteria legitimizes your training. It sort of makes it official. Powerlifters always say that gym PRs don't count. They will frequently say "put it on the platform". You can't win a bodybuilding trophy without stepping on stage. Forcing yourself outside of your comfort zone and seeing what you are made of is exhilarating. In my experience, I have had a lot of anxiety before contests. Joel always says, "If you aren't nervous, you don't care." Harness that anxiety, get out of your comfort zone and put your best effort out there. You may surprise yourself.
Pick a contest date and structure your training in a way that will set you up to peak for that day. Before your first contest, you should do as much research as you can to make sure you know the rules of your sport. There are tons of places online to find this information for all strength and physique sports. Look into food to pack for the day and try to find out what gear you might need. Don't try any unfamiliar food or different equipment on the day of the contest. Stick to what you know and what you have been training with. Pack your bag days in advance so you have nothing to worry about but going out there and displaying your hard work. Being prepared will take a lot of anxiety away.
From my experience, getting my lifts on the powerlifting platform or competing in strongman has definitely given me more pride in my training. Competitions motivate me to train harder and inspire me to succeed. If you are contemplating competing I suggest you go for it.
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