Do The Damn Thing
Posted On 04/04/2017 By Bryan Watmore
As I scroll through my Explore tab on Instagram, I am bombarded with fitness posts. This should be no surprise to me… I spend 85% of my time in the gym and the other 15% sharing my results online for my followers to see. Seeing dozens of contest prep updates, progress photos, and pictures of grilled chicken isn’t what bothers me. Instead, I find myself irritated at the number of individuals who put themselves on a pedestal for competing, as if getting stage lean is the only way to measure success in the fitness world. Now I am not here to say competing isn’t a measure of achievement, it certainly is, but it should not be the only benchmark used to determine one’s accomplishments.
When I first began working out in a gym setting my freshman year of college, I had no idea I would turn to weightlifting. Once I discovered what weights could do for my body, I was pleased. Once I was introduced to powerlifting, and the thrill of lifting heavy, it kindled a fire inside myself that hadn’t burned since my days as a high school varsity athlete. I was hooked on the feeling I got after moving heavy weight and hitting a new PR. I was building muscle and shaping my body, but considering what I was doing as “bodybuilding” and “powerlifting” felt weird to me because I was not competing in either. I felt like a fraud using these words to hashtag my Instagram posts, fearing someone would call me out for never having stepped on stage. People in the gym would ask me between sets if I competed and my response was always the same, “No, but someday.” I told myself I needed to compete if I was going to use these words to describe myself.
I tossed around the idea of competing about a year and a half after I began working out. At the time, I was training with Jen Jewell, a WBFF pro and Cellucor athlete. I admired her stage photos and the story of her fitness journey, which felt similar to mine. I thought the glamorous makeup, bedazzled bikinis, and thick spray tan was what I needed to feel validation in my body and its transformation. Now if you know anything about me, I grew up far from girly and was never big into sparkles and glam. I didn’t dream of being a princess or reach for everything pink. Instead, as a kid my clothes were marred with grass stains from playing with the boys at recess, much to my mother’s dismay as I ruined pair after pair of jeans. I kept asking myself why I wanted to compete. I realized it wasn’t something I truly desired, I just felt it was the next step I was supposed to take in my fitness journey. The truth is though, competing is not for everyone, and we should not feel like less of an athlete because we have no intentions of stepping onstage.
For me personally, the resentment of competing came from the feeling that I had to do it. I had a little bit of muscle now? Better step on stage. Body fat below 20%? Better cut harder and go get that trophy. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t in a place where I would have been able to mentally handle a prep, I began researching anyway. I looked up shows near me, the cost of suits, hair extensions, heels, you name it, I probably scoured the internet for information on it. I couldn’t tell you the exact time and place I screeched to a halt with my efforts, because I can’t recall, but I woke up one day and realized I was done with the idea of competing. As a natural athlete, I was not big enough for true bodybuilding, and knew I would have to compete bikini or figure. I was too muscular for bikini, but too small for figure, which left me lost somewhere in the middle. I never wish to do things with half the effort, and knew I would not be satisfied spending potentially thousands of dollars to compete, only to know I wasn’t bringing my best package to the stage. As a college student, the idea of spending copious amounts of money for a few minutes on stage seemed daunting and quite honestly, it made me nauseous to think about. It was then that I realized I was not going to compete.
I am not here to say you should not compete. If it gives you pride and satisfaction in your body, and provides a goal and accountability for you, GO FOR IT!! But too often, I come across girls and guys alike who make those who choose not to compete feel like less of an athlete for their choice to not step on stage. Competitors brag about their misery during prep, saying you aren’t doing it right if you are content during the process. It is a competition before the actual competition, seeing who can torture themselves the most with cardio, Tupperware meals, and countless hours of posing, documenting the entire process on social media. For what? To be able to write “National NPC Bikini Qualifier” in their Instagram bio? To tag #IFBB on their photos? To sell prep plans to others because they competed once? There has to be a greater reason for competing than these things, and if there isn’t for you, why are you even doing it?
I work out because I love pushing my body to new levels and seeing it do something one week that it couldn’t the week before. I work out not because I hate my body but because I love what it can do for me with time and hard work. The feeling I get when the music is up, sweat is rolling down my back, and the bar is in my hands is unlike any other. It’s hard to describe, but we all find this feeling in different ways. For me, it’s in the seconds before a pull that leads to a new deadlift PR, when I’m hyping myself up, and again right after I’ve locked it out. For some, it’s after completing their first half-marathon. And for others, it may be the feeling they get when their number is called on stage for first call outs. Whatever it is that gives you the feeling of worth, embrace it. But never feel as though you have to find contentment in the same things as someone else. Yes, I compete. I compete with myself every day I step foot in the gym. I compete with the person in the mirror. I compete with the athlete I was the day, week, and month before. I don’t need a trophy to validate that. Find whatever drives you to dig deeper and ignore any expectations others may have for you. Then go out and do the damn thing.