Over the past 6 months, I have had the pleasure of getting to know and follow Elissa along her journey towards her first figure competition. For those of us who have competed, you know just how much it can consume your life if you let it – the dieting, the discipline, the deprivation in some cases, the impact on those around us, the afterwards that so many of us are frequently completely unprepared for and possibly unequipped to deal with. Competing changes you, and for some the adjustment can be tough.
What struck me about Elissa right from the start, was her down to earth approach, her groundedness throughout the whole process even when things didn’t go quite according to plan, she has that rare ability to take a step back from the hothouse, assess the situation objectively and re-adjust her goals in a realistic and holistic manner. When she knew she wouldn’t make her initial competition, instead of punishing herself in order to get there, she took the brave decision to postpone and try a later competition instead. I applauded her for doing this, as it can be a very disappointing decision to have to make when you’re so focused on a goal or possibly have influences and pressures of expectation surrounding you that can cloud your judgement.
And now that Elissa has had a taste of the limelight, how did she go, what are her thoughts on the experience and more importantly how will she handle the afterwards?
Here are her insightful thoughts:
Final Update – No Regrets
So here I am a few days after competing.
I am not under any illusions that I didn’t need to be more conditioned for my first competition! I knew that many weeks out, and I took steps to adjust my training and diet however I feel that I only really nailed it from 4 weeks out.
Those months I spent in hiatus with my bloated belly and a lack of progression are all too real. I’m not at all disappointed that I didn’t place, I’m not at all regretful of anything I did or didn’t do for my prep. It is what it is! It’s done.
What I love about the way that I did my prep, even if I didn’t achieve what many thought was anywhere near my full potential, is that I didn’t compromise on my dreams or on my methods, principals and ideals. I would love to know that the women that shared the stage with me on that day could say the same – but I know this isn’t the case. I’m going to put it out there and address many of the ill conceived notions which we all have of competing and I want to ask a few important questions that I hope people will be able to answer both with logic and truth, and also with pride.
1. I did not place, I did not achieve my potential, but I’m truly happy. Regardless of winning or “losing,” in other people’s eyes – I feel fulfilled, happy and proud of myself. No one will take that away from me.
Can many other competitors say the same? Particularly those that took more drastic measures and felt the weight not only of their own pressure to “win” but that of their coach? Winning in my eyes – means having a sense of satisfaction and a lack of regret. It means looking objectively at the physiques of the other competitors – knowing that you could have done better but not letting this detract from their achievements on the day. Many of the women that I competed against were absolutely stunning ladies, both inside and out. I would compete again just for the beauty I saw in the conversations we had while lining up backstage. As one of them put it, “we’re all in this together. We’ve all done the hard work to get here; we’ve all won in our own way.” In a world where females typically scratch and drag each other down in perceived competition – here I was standing in the middle of an actual competition feeling more positive than ever.
2. At no point did I sacrifice my beliefs to get there. This was my primary goal.
Can many other competitors say the same? Knowing what we now know (or more importantly, what our coaches should know about metabolic adaptation), I believe that if you are aware of the dangers but are willing to submit or be submitted to nefarious methods – you haven’t won at all.
My contest prep had various ups and downs, and I hit the “ups” very late in the game, but now that I know what my body responds best to – my preparation next year is going to be very simple and effective indeed.
3. I’m still eating my pre contest diet and maintaining my training because I love it so much!
Can many other competitors say the same? Who amongst us has now added all their weight back again a mere week or two out from their competition? The day after my contest I had “blown” out by a shocking .7kg and 2cms on my waist. This would be the sum total of the chicken parmigiana, beers and cake I ate that night – completely erasable due to the fact that I still eat the same foods and quantities that I was during my preparation because it is still natural and enjoyable.
I would not give up this way of life or my training in the gym for anything. It means so much to me that I have to be able to continue to enjoy it and love it because to do anything but would feel alien. Can many other competitors say the same? How many competitors are having a forced break from the gym due to burn out and sheer hatred of it’s cardio equipment and squat racks because of the enforcement of extremes? My diet and my training is the same now as it was then because I have maintained a balance. I attack my training with gusto and my diet in a delicious and sustainable way. Can many other competitors say the same?
4. The methods I chose will ensure continual progression, not regression.
Can many other competitors say the same? From here on in, the maintenance of my diet and training and its’ balanced approach means that I can have a cheat meal without blowing out, I can take a day or two off from the gym and not feel guilty, I can achieve small but gradual improvements to my body in a way that doesn’t harm it because it’s easily maintainable and it works for me body, mind and soul! I’m not going to find myself with mental and physical difficulties which disable me from having a balanced lifestyle or the capacity to understand that life is so, so much more than stage lights and plastic trophies. How many other people are mired in defeatism and depression because their whole life has revolved around that one day for so long, that their myopia and the myopia of their coaches is emotionally and physically crippling them? How many are going to be stuck in a cycle of hating themselves for not being able to maintain their on-stage look? How many are going to yo yo back and forth for months, hating themselves for being “fat,” “letting themselves go” and deciding to give up on being lean ever again? How many people are going to berate and punish themselves for days for eating extra calories?
5. My clients have a positive role model who understands the need for moderation, knows that competing is not the be-all and end-all and sticks to her guns.
This is the most important thing to me, above all else. I would be a hypocrite of the highest order if I traded my clients’ respect for those five minutes of fame. If I decided to go completely against everything I have set out to teach them. If I decided that moderate dieting and training is not the best way but traded it in for hours of cardio and a protein and vegetable only diet.
No one should care that I didn’t win if I don’t and even then – I’ve won something far more valuable and that’s the retention of my morals, my own self-respect and the relationship I have with my trainees and clients. If the Earth seems so large to us but is merely a tiny rock hurtling through the vast emptiness of universal space – then in the context of competing and my life in general, these things are far, far more important.
When I look back on the last six months, and when I re-read over this article, I feel at peace. So I didn’t get the conditioning right. So I didn’t “achieve my potential.” So I didn’t “make it” the first time.
I know where I am headed, I love the idea of making that journey and I now know exactly how to get there. I am happy. I feel fulfilled. I feel driven, vigorous and enlightened. I loved being on stage and felt ridiculously comfortable up there. The ease at which I stood in front of so many people (in sub optimal condition!) and felt completely natural was such a shock to me. I wasn’t nervous because I knew that even if my body didn’t relfect my potential – my approach and my happiness in not compromising anything was far, far brighter. I nailed my presentation and posing because I knew that even if I didn’t win a place – I’d already won.
I’ll be getting back on stage every October looking better and better. Each year will bring a new height of achievement and of progress and it will be done in my own way. The way that makes me happy and doesn’t compromise my virtues. My way.
I truly hope many other competitors can say the same.