It doesn’t matter if you’re a runner, a CrossFit competitor, or a bodybuilder. Whether you’re an amateur or even a pro; life after competition can be a struggle for all of us. You’ve worked for days, months, or even years for a single moment in time. It can last a few hours or literally a couple of seconds, and then just like that, it’s gone. You have changed your entire life to prepare for your event. Your perspective is different. Your eating habits have changed. Your workout routine is more intense. The competition has come and gone… now what?
Many struggle with life after competition. It’s easy to get so focused on such a specific goal for so long that it becomes difficult to transition back into normal life. As a pro athlete, I know this struggle well, and I’ve experienced it in years past. Honestly, I’ve had to plan the time after my competition just as I would plan the time it takes to prepare for it. It has taken me years to learn this, and it’s still a work in progress. It will take time, a lot of elbow grease, but if it’s done right, the strategizing is worth it. I just hit my 7th and final show of my first season as a figure pro in the IFBB. I’ve been in competition prep for nearly ten months, and I know the only way I will be able to find direction after such a long run is through proper planning. I also know my organized efforts will allow me to stay healthy both physically and mentally while providing me with a long and successful season in 2014. Here are a few tips I plan to implement and remind myself of in the weeks to come.
Many people who compete in sports fixate on their given event, so much so that they become anti-social. Isolation can be common due to the fact that every single thought revolves around one goal. If you’re still in competition prep, try to find more balance before your event is even over. Still enjoy time with friends and family who support your goals, and make sure you schedule time for yourself too. That way, once it’s all said and done you’re support system will embrace you as you enter life after competition. If you’ve just finished your season, make it a point to schedule at least one to two dates with friends per week. Being around other people who are not associated with your sport will also help you with your transition.
Ease back into it
You just hit the bodybuilding stage or maybe you just hit the pavement in a marathon event. Regardless, try not to go cold turkey when it comes to your training and nutrition. Many people feel like they need a break from it all after they finish competing, and they end up skipping the gym for a day, a week, or sometimes a whole month. A lack of exercise means a lack of endorphins and this can heighten that “lost” feeling many experience after a competition. First, make sure you have balance during your competitive season training. Overtraining will make anyone feel like they want to run out of the weight room or hang up their tennis shoes when the event is over. Secondly, once you finish your competition, don’t cut physical activity all together. After my first competition in the NPC, I did just that. Limiting exercise made it very difficult to get back into it. Not only that, but I became unmotivated. Here’s what I suggest instead. Stay with your current cardio schedule (as long as it’s not excessive), and slowly decrease it week to week. However, even in the “off season”, I am a firm believer of implementing a certain level of cardiovascular activity into your routine. Whether you’re trying to put on muscle mass or reduce body fat, cardio is important for disease prevention and overall health. This is a time to focus on that old cliché, “Everything in moderation.”
Understand your body will change, and that’s a good thing
As long as you have balance in your preparation for competition, you shouldn’t experience drastic changes, but you will see your body begin to change after a competition. Whether your eating habits change or you aren’t participating in running ‘X’ amount of miles per day, the change in calories burned or consumed will add up to a change in the mirror, and that’s OKAY. In order to become a better athlete, you’ve got to give your body a chance to grow and recover. You won’t and shouldn’t be 6% body fat year round, and you sure aren’t going to be able to run 26.2 miles on any given day. It sounds silly, but it may even help to hide the scale for a while if you’re having trouble with seeing your weight increase. If you absolutely need to see numbers to make sure you’re staying on track, a more accurate gauge of progress is body fat testing. An even better method…how you look and feel!
Finding balance, purpose, and a level of normalcy after competition can be very challenging. The key is to not allow minor slip-ups or bad days to prevent you from seeing the bigger picture. Recognize all progress no matter how small, and take it one day at a time. If you thrive on structure (as most competitive athletes do), you can always make new goals, but just make sure you’re life doesn’t begin to revolve around the next competition you’re planning on participating in. Focus on the now, and the changes you make day to day. Practicing this will not only give you longevity in your sport of choice but it will provide you with quality of life for many years to come.
Fitmark Ambassador 2013