The definition of a milestone is an action or event marking a significant change or stage in development, and I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey”. Although we set goals and focus on reaching them (which is super important), the actual process of what we do in order to achieve that goal is what allows to really take in the entire experience, making the end result that much more worthwhile.
I’ve heard a lot of stories and read plenty of articles from bodybuilders both men and women who say that their contest prep is miserable or they get to the stage and look great, but then feel empty when the show is over regardless of how they placed. So many get caught up in looking perfect the day of or they get so intense about how hard it is to compete, that they don’t realize or appreciate how awesome the experience actually is. They get fed up with meal prep and eating all of their meals out of containers, they get fed up with workouts, the supplements and the amount of water that they have to drink. They end up stressed out over every potential hiccup that may or may not happen, instead of being able to step back and acknowledge that they are doing something unique and really spectacular. As a result, when all is said and done and the competition is over, many athletes find themselves thinking that it was so not worth it and either never compete again, or do compete again but end up with the exact same mind frame and experience.
When I took the decision to compete this coming November, I knew that it would be a challenge, but I set out to make the entire experience and process very positive. I would not go to any extremes where I would be so restricted with my calories that I would be starving all the time or eating the exact same thing each day and ultimately getting bored with the food. I decided to start early enough so that I could continuously eat well and incorporate my fitness and nutrition plan into my schedule without having to overhaul my entire life. The most effective contest preps, and healthy lifestyle for that matter, are the ones where you have control over your daily schedule and you set unbreakable appointments for cooking, meal prep, workouts, eating, sleep and downtime. Having a set schedule that works for you is one massive key aspect to accomplishment, whatever it may be. What is equally important is making the entire experience as pleasant as possible so that you can notice the small moments that are reached on your path towards your goal. If you are constantly focusing on the end result, you end up with tunnel vision the entire time and don’t fully take in everything that’s happening during the present moment; if you always look ahead and focus only the future, you may end up psyching yourself out altogether and having some serious anxiety.
The whole concept of living in the present sounds very hippie, but it actually has a big impact on your end result. Think about: when you are stressing out over something that you have coming up and constantly thinking “How am I going to do this” or “This is impossible to complete”, you end feeling so overwhelmed the entire time that when it’s all over you may think “Thank God it’s over” without fully appreciating all of the effort that went into your process. When you do look back, it’s almost always negative and it brings up those feelings of anxiety and stress again. There are several strategies that you can incorporate into each day leading up to your goal that can allow you to appreciate what’s happening all around you.
- Meditate: There are plenty of free guided meditations available on countless websites that are so helpful. A few examples include loriharder.com, gabbyberstein.com and yogajournal.com). These meditations allow you to quiet the endless stream of thoughts and focus on one specific thing for even just a few moments. This has a massive impact on your stress levels and overall health. If you haven’t tried yet, start now. Schedule it in as an unbreakable appointment into your calendar each day; even one minute alone is a big help to you.
- Start a gratitude practice: Again, this will probably sound hippie to many, but it is invaluable to take a moment each to day recognize all that you have in your life. It is especially important when you are in the midst of something special. A great example is when you are going to school; take a moment to realize how fortunate you are to get an education, to be well enough to learn and develop your skills and to have the capacity and means to do so, instead of only seeing the stress and amount of work that you are dealing with in order to pass your classes. The goals that we set out to achieve are a privilege to have in and of themselves and taking time out to appreciate that will allow you to continue moving forward without the continual intense mindset that most of us typically have
- Sharing your intention – Not only does sharing your intentions with those around you help to create accountability, but it also allows you to be more mindful of your progress. The people in your life will ask how things are going and where you’re at and this helps to slow things does so that you can take a look at what you are doing right then and there. To quote John Lennon “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality”
These are thee strategies that I have been using each day to help me stay in the now and appreciate all of the different achievements that I reach each day. I have reached some amazing milestones and some small victories on my journey to the competition stage and acknowledging them has helped propel me forward to continue getting stronger. The first milestone was when I was finally able to do hanging leg raises with my legs straight instead of bent; when I completed that first set I was jumping for joy (on the inside as I was at the gym!) and from there I was able to complete the remaining four sets that followed. Most recently, it was completing a set of 50 low-wide squats on a smith machine; the first week that I tried it I got to fifteen before my legs gave out, but three weeks later I did it and each week that followed I did it again. My legs are stronger and I feel even more confident that I will crush it in November. The biggest milestone of all was when women started to approach me about my training asking about my plan and any suggestions that might help them, and a few days ago a friend of mine reached out to ask if we can start working out together every once and a while as she wants to start focusing more on getting fit. I am so grateful for this, not for the affirmation that what I am doing works, but for the fact that I am now in the capacity to share my knowledge about fitness and health with others and also share some great resources (many of which are free!) that some may have never found on their own. I am able to share a message that you can be plant-based and strong and that you can compete without turning into a miserable recluse. I also consider this milestone to be my biggest yet because it has allowed me to recognize that women are empowering themselves to take a proactive approach to their health and fitness. More and more people are seeking out the help and information that they need to better themselves and are stepping away from the traditional aerobics classes and cardio machine (although they are great!) and are venturing into the weight room to strength train instead. What a beautiful thing it is to be a part of this!
By now you may be thinking that all those hot yoga classes that I’ve been taking have finally turned me into a complete zen junkie, but so what? Each day I am able to acknowledge that I am accomplishing something for myself and I am aware of all of the small victories coming my way. Bodybuilding is an experience that doesn’t have to be this super hardcore version of diet and exercise, you can have the best of both worlds where you are strong and fit while being well and finding joy in each moment.
Start It, Finish It