Posted 1 month ago

But what does it take?

Do you look at photos of competitors on Instagram and think “but how do you do it?”?

Do you wonder what it takes to get stage lean and question whether you’re capable of doing it yourself?

I know the feeling, because I’ve been there myself, multiple times! However, after completing two photoshoots and four shows between 2018-2019, culminating in a total of 45weeks of strict dieting in the last few years, here’s a few golden nuggets I’ve learnt that have helped me just do it and prove to myself I’m capable of that and more.

Knowing your WHY is what keeps you going on the hard days.

When preparing to step on stage, you’ll be starting a 12-18 week diet. A lot happens in that time frame! Some days you’ll feel great, some days you’ll feel shit; some weeks you’ll feel ready, others you’ll panic, doubt yourself, question every decision you’ve made. There will be days where you are tempted to quit, half-ass your training session, skip your steps, and/or miss your cardio. This IS normal.

However, on those hard days, you need to remember why you’re choosing to go through this process. Because yes, it is gruelling at times, but this is YOUR choice. Therefore, tapping into your why and reflecting on it can help you push through.

A good way to think about this is to consider how competing fits in with your values – for example, when people ask me why I compete in bodybuilding I explain that personal development is incredibly important to me. When I exercise the discipline, commitment and perseverance required to see a contest prep through to the end, I see myself practicing that value. In my experience, nothing can buy the return in personal joy, satisfaction and pride you get when you’re standing on that stage, showcasing your best physique to date.

Therefore, on the hard days where I genuinely want to throw my logbook against the wall and have a tantrum, I remind myself that personal growth comes from doing the dos even in absence of motivation; and the next thing you know, I’ve smashed my session, practiced posing, finished my cardio and I’m heading home, proud as ever.

That’s why knowing your WHY is so important.

Without a love for the process, you’ll hate every minute

Something I realised early on was that the real glow up is when you stop waiting to turn into some perfect version of yourself, and consciously enjoy being who you are in the present. This is incredibly applicable to contest prep, as it ultimately really is all about the process.

Prep is so much more than a diet and a training plan; you’ll need to train your mind, and that’s what separates those who make it to stage from those who don’t. You’ll need to get very good at being grateful for good and bad days, appreciating crazy hunger, extreme lethargy, and snappy moods.

They say that “In complete exhaustion you will find the most honest version of yourself” and I wholeheartedly agree. Prep shows you that version of yourself, and it will only bring you joy and key learnings if you focus on the daily processes.

Incredible physiques are not achieved by doing amazing things – they’re achieved by doing pretty mundane things, repeatedly, consistently, with a smile. Some days the smile only comes when you curl back into bed, but that’s okay. The goal is progress, and that can only be achieved by focusing on the process.

Your support system is everything

Your support system during prep will start with your coach. Therefore, make sure you invest in a coach, and trust their decisions too. They should have your best interest at heart, and if you listen to what they say, you will be fine.

However, remember that not even the greatest coach in the world can take a single step for you – all they can do is point you in the right direction, but you must be willing to continue to put one foot in front of the other.⁣What often makes that easier is to have a tight inner circle that can walk beside you.

Connecting with like-minded people is one of the best things I’ll always take away from this sport. However, your inner circle can be made up of people who have “been there done that” and also people who are clueless and think you’re a bit nuts. Just make sure that they’re on the way with you, not in the way!

In sum, stepping on stage is so much more than just a few months of hardcore training and dieting. It’s about delving deep, focusing on one day at a time, and surrounding yourself with people who motivate you to be better and show up.

If you are thinking about competing but don’t know where to start and have a million more questions, click here to arrange a coaching call with myself.

Clara Swedlund MSc MBPsS