by Ox

Right now, I’m three weeks away from a bodybuilding competition. And it’s funny because I just realized something; I didn’t say that I’m three weeks away from the 2012 Arnold Classic or that I’m three weeks away from the biggest show of my life or that I’m three weeks away from a moment that will determine the course of my bodybuilding career or three weeks away from being handed a verdict that will determine who I am or decide my fate. Damn, it’s just a bodybuilding competition. And while it happens to be on my mind a lot, while I think it through, I think through it at the same time. Physically, this prep has been pretty similar to most other pre-contest preparations I’ve gone through. Mentally, though, it’s been quite different. And come to think of it, maybe that has impacted the physical aspect of it more than I realize.

First and foremost, bodybuilding is a mind game. If acting without faith is dead then so is bodybuilding without a brain. As a bodybuilder, your thoughts are the primary impetus for change and accomplishing your goal(s). Without a desire to change, a vision of what that change looks like, an inkling of how to go about creating that change and the faith that what you’re doing is possible and that the way you have chosen to go about it will be effective, bodybuilding ceases to exist. Desire, visualization, drive, faith and reason are all born in the mind. Nobody accomplishes anything in this sport without using their brain. Everyone acknowledges the importance of the “mind-muscle connection” but many fail to recognize how crucial it is to use your mind every minute of the day, in and out of the gym in regards to being a successful bodybuilder. We can all agree that the mind controls the body and so long as we agree on that fact then we have to face the reality that before we can master our bodies and mold them to look as we want them to look, we have to first focus on our mental outlook. Using my mind more effectively so that I can better accomplish my goals is something that I’m always working towards.

Looking back at pre-contest experiences I’ve had over the years, I’ve thought and felt different things during each of them. The first show I ever prepped for carried with it the least amount of mental stress. During that prep, I looked at my contest preparation solely as time to get myself into the best shape of my life so that I would be proud of the way I looked. That was all I had. I had no hopes of qualifying to compete nationally or of one day earning a pro card or gaining sponsorship or furthering a career. Back then it was pure. It was all about bodybuilding; making my best judgments in order to look my best. Simple. The only stress I carried with me was the nerve racking feeling of standing on a stage in front of a crowd wearing a pair of posing trunks. For me, that was like dancing; some people do it for fun and love it and it feels natural to them. As for me, it’s just not one of those things I ever felt really excited about doing. But it’s part of it and it’s how you display your physique and that’s fine with me.  But other than that, no one knew who I was and the only expectations that existed were those that I held for myself. I knew that after the show, I would go back to work, continue on with life and continue on with my training. What happened on that stage was of no consequence to me. All I wanted was to be happy with how I looked.

But with each show after my first, there came changes. People began to know my name, people developed expectations and sometimes a lack thereof, opinions were formed, money became part of the picture, bodybuilding became my career and I began to feel that my success or failure in the sport was somewhat indicative of the same in my life. Yet, even to me, that seems strange because I never felt that bodybuilding defined me or was the summation of who I am nor did I ever feel that it was my only talent. I suppose the thing that got me was that bodybuilding was the thing in life that I had had the most success with and I more or less felt it was what I was supposed to do. And throughout my career as a bodybuilder I am constantly evaluating and weighing the good and the bad; doing a sort of risk to benefit analysis. Like anything else, there’s the good and the bad. I can think of reasons to stop and move on and I can think of reasons to continue. I suppose it’s hard to always know what you’re supposed to do or the best way to live your life, and the fucked up part is that the point in your life when you’ll be able to offer the best possible insight as to what was in fact the best thing to do you’ll probably be at the end of your life. You can ask for a sign. I’ve only ever told a couple people this but along the way I’ve asked the universe to give me a sign. If I’m not meant to bodybuild then let me fail miserably after having given all I could. Of course, I will always put all I can into being my best but if I did that and was a complete failure I would know that bodybuilding was not what I was meant for.

Fate. Do you believe in fate? I’m on the fence with that one. Do people have a calling? Is there that one thing that each person is meant to do? I’d like to believe that I can do a number of things and do them well. The thought of fate and a planned life course and doing what you were born to do is romantic and all but screams with thoughts of dependency and lacks dimension and roundedness. There’s no way to know. Reasons can be given supporting fate and others can tell stories claiming that each of us is our own maker. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

As I said earlier, I do try to think things through but lately I find myself thinking through things. The best I can do to explain what I mean by that is to provide you with an example. I’m currently 3 weeks away from a contest. And although I choose to avoid thinking of it in such a way, in reality it is a big contest, an international contest. There is money to be won, opinions have been formed, expectations have been made and many will value my stock as a bodybuilder based on my performance. However, I choose to view this contest as something that I am working on at the moment. I will continue my training and my dieting so that I can be proud of how I look. I will go to Columbus and compete. Many of my family, friends and fans will be in the audience. I will show them what I’ve been working on. After the show, I have so many things I’m looking forward to. Coming home and seeing my fiancée and daughter, having dinner with my family and friends, experimenting with new foods in my offseason, getting back to my training, learning more about bodybuilding and nutrition, working in the yard, tiling the backsplash in my kitchen, living life. And I only have three weeks until I can do all those things. There’s so much to do and I can’t wait.

What I now realize is that what happens in three weeks doesn’t change who I am. It certainly matters to me; I put my all into being my best. But whether I win or lose, I still have all the things I love most in life and am still able to do all the things I want to do. Win or lose I still get to come home to my fiancée and daughter. Win or lose I still have my father who is fighting cancer. Win or lose I have my home and my family and friends. Win or lose I still can’t wait for the feeling of coming inside dirty and sweaty after working outside all day and being able to look at what I accomplished. I still get to feel the satisfaction of making dinner for my family. I’m still free and able to do anything I feel like doing. My life is still mine. I still am who I am. Either way, not a whole lot changes. The people I love, the things I love to do, the things I take pride in and who I am is untouched by the outcome of a competition. That’s the feeling of freedom.

“The best road to progress is freedom's road.”
-John F. Kennedy 

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