Posted 2 weeks ago

The trap of competing each year

Let’s face it: once you’re in the bodybuilding game, it can become all too easy to fall into the trap of wanting to compete every year. However, I personally feel that once you’ve competed for two years in a row, it’s time for a break, and here is why:

Athletes will diet for roughly 16-18 weeks before their first show of the season – by this, I mean to highlight that most athletes won’t just step on stage once. In fact, most competitors are likely to complete a season of multiple regional shows followed by finals, a period which can last between two to three months. As such, an athlete must diet for 16-18 weeks for their first show, but then sustain a very lean physique for an additional 5-12 weeks. Finally, when the competitive season comes to an end, after 6 months, that same athlete needs to mentally prepare to do it all again the year after. It sounds exhausting just reading it, right?

And it really is! The problem here is that when an athlete sets out to compete year after year, they can often develop a very black-and-white mentality. As we know, bodybuilding requires discipline with your routine, food, training, and ultimately, micromanaging every hour of every day. Therefore, it is unsurprising that when an athlete has been so regimented for the majority of the year, once shows are over, they can lose their way a bit.

Switching off from robot mode back into human mode allows these athletes to realise how tired they actually are, which unfortunately makes them fall out of love with the process of bodybuilding. This could mean that 2-3 months will go by where they haven’t tracked their food, or properly trained; they may have binged or overindulged in food and feel all around out of shape. Dangerously, they then feel that the only way to get back on track is to do what kept them consistent and adherent last time: dieting for another show.

It should be obvious by now that this robot/sloth cycle is far from mentally/physically healthy or productive, especially when it comes to making progress in your physique between seasons.

As such, what can you do to avoid getting into this negative cycle where you really won’t look much different year to year?

Shorten your season
I will always suggest to clients to pick a maximum three shows, all contained within the space of a 5–6 week period. From experience, I’ve found that this allows one to present the best possible look for each show, improving if and when required based on their previous show’s feedback, without losing any muscle tissue or compromising their enjoyment.

By condensing your season, you’ll make the back end of prep less gruelling. In addition, and more importantly so, it will also mean that you’ll have a lot more time to spend in a gaining phase following the end of the competitive season. Although I am not against competing two years in a row, I do think that you need sufficient time between those two seasons to grow and make improvements. My best advice is to give yourself at least 16-20 weeks of gaining after the initial post-prep recovery phase.

Treat your off season like prep
It’s no secret that the ones who make improvements each time they step on stage are the ones who are focused during there off season. This involves ensuring that you continue to ‘tick the boxes’ even though there is no show date looming over your head. That’ll mean:

-Eating all your meals, not binging
-Training very hard, progressing the load on the bar
-Prioritising sleep
-Managing stress
-Doing your cardio
-Hitting your steps

The ones who obsess over the above will come back looking better and better each time they compete. It shouldn’t matter if the goal is two years away: if it means that much to you, then being disciplined with your daily tasks/habits shouldn’t be hard to do. Being disciplined in the offseason also allows you to progress as a bodybuilder: nobody wants to be a pro at just dieting, the strive for improvements should be seen and done across the board.

Give yourself and others time
If you know you need to make improvements, if you need more size, or need to bring more condition, then taking some time away from the stage is absolutely crucial. We all know that prep is hard, but sometimes what can be even harder is staying away from stage for a year. However, when you consider the bigger goal – coming back the year after as a force to be reckoned with – this should fuel your fire.

Equally, prep itself is hard on yourself, your body, and on the people around you. As such, having some time away from the stage can allow you to spend some time with friends and family across the year when otherwise you would be dieting. You can prioritise enjoying and being fully present in activities that do have to be sacrificed during prep.

Personally, I took three years away from the stage to make the necessary improvements I felt I had to make. Of course, not all of you will need to do that – in fact, there will be a lot of you who don’t need to make too many improvements as it is. That being said, after competing again this year, you won’t see me up there for a while. This will be due to wanting to start a family but also because I know if I want to step up to the next level, I simply need more time.

If you are thinking about competing again this year and improving on your last showing, then join the team today. You can arrange your free consultation where we can discuss if you should go ahead with a show this year or wait until 2022.

Vaughan Wilson Bsc Hons