By Lesley Timbol
I’m not going to even attempt to sugar coat this. Yes bodybuilders are crazy but allow me to unpack this statement.
It could be considered crazy to train as hard as we do, to adhere to a strict meal plan, to regularly look at ourselves in the mirror trying to perfect our poses, to make the financial investment we do before & during a prep as well as everything leading up to show day, to compete and to put our minds and bodies through this process more than once.
The average, “normal”, individual doesn’t want their flaws highlighted. So what woman, for example, in her right mind goes onstage wearing a glammed up, skimpy bikini only to be compared to other women on a stage and panel of judges to be marked and rated for her physical appearance and marked down for all of her flaws?
Doesn’t that seem just a tad on the crazy side?
But seriously, there is a pay off for all of this. While there may be some differences, we all have our “why’s” for competing which go beyond winning.
Having said that, there’s also a price and oftentimes more than one price to be paid for this ambitious endeavour.
Take a moment to think about, and really appreciate, the craziness of this sport, regardless of gender or bodybuilding category.
So is it any wonder that many competitive bodybuilders experience some mental struggles?
And the mental struggles are quite varied. The theme tends to be around your self esteem, in that your confidence can take a beating in different forms.
How often do bodybuilders check social media? If a bodybuilder makes a social media post and they get responses that aren’t positive, how does that affect that bodybuilder (especially on low carb day)?
What about checking out other bodybuilders’ social media pics, especially your fellow competitors, as the show draws closer? Does that get in your head? Are you doing comparisons? How does that affect your mindset, training, and adherence to the peak week game plan?
While it’s normal to have some anxiety, there’s a point that the anxiety becomes overwhelming and it can negatively affect our choices, i.e., emotional under or over eating, overdoing the cardio if you’re not as lean as you would like especially as you draw closer to show day, avoiding the bigger shows as the pressure is too much for you to bear, going off plan in any way as your mind gravitates towards the worse case scenarios, and of course something I call “competition brain”, which involves looking at yourself especially during peak week and seeing every flaw no matter how small and making the flaw bigger in your mind than what it really is. A slight variation of this is muscle dysmorphia, which are thoughts that your body is too small despite having a muscular build.
How many of us have gotten injured at one point or another? What about getting injured close to a show? What about sustaining an injury that prevents you from competing? Think of the mental number that can do to any bodybuilder.
What about coming into the show all fired up, looking the best you’ve looked to date, and you didn’t place as you anticipated? There can only be 1 person who wins but how does second place feel or the others? How do you process that?
Some don’t process those experiences well at all. In fact, they internalize them into messages of feeling “not good enough”. This can lead their minds down the proverbial rabbit hole and into depressive thoughts and behaviours.
I’m sure you’ve heard of post-show blues. Leading up to the show, we’re machines. We have a strict routine from the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. After the show, the routines become lax. Initially it’s nice but then laziness can set in and the associated consequences of poor food choices for prolonged periods of time, prolonged periods of time away from the gym, and no next goal can have detrimental effects to both our physique, health, and mindset.
Now answer me this question: Is bodybuilding more physical or more mental? Is competing more physical or more mental?
While there is most certainly a physical component to it, many bodybuilders don’t typically struggle the most with the training. If anything, like the example above when a bodybuilder sustains an injury, the issue transitions to a more mental one with the frustration of not being able to train to one’s potential and even falling behind schedule or being unable to compete.
Consider this. Bodybuilders hire coaches to help them with their training. Coaches are also hired to help with their meal plans both on and off season. Bodybuilders even hire coaches to help them with posing. These areas are all important.
But there is one massive area missing.
Why are bodybuilders not investing in the mental piece when doing a prep?
Look at Olympic athletes. You’re talking about the best of the best worldwide in various sports. Is what these Olympic athletes do physical? Yes! But many also hire mental game coaches and psychotherapists.
It comes down to this.
Do you want to win?
Don’t just say yes. Are you willing to cover all of your bases?
If yes, then fill in that gap in your training and address the mental challenges both personally and professionally as an athlete.
Not only can I help you personally, as I’m a Registered Psychotherapist, but I can also help you with the mental challenges that go with competing, as I’m a certified Mental Game Coach for athletes. Moreover, as a competitive Women’s Physique competitor, I can relate so yeah I’m a triple threat. :-)
Now I appreciate some coaches can help to some degree with the mental piece but respectfully, without the formal training, they are not specialised. Think of it like this. If you have a specific problem, would you prefer to see the family doctor or a specialist in the area of your issue?
Do you want an edge over your competition? It’s not a pill; I’ll tell you that.
The choice is yours so choose well.
Choose to gain a mental edge over your competition.
If you would like to learn how to address mental health challenges, both personally and/or in your prep, please text me at (416) 805-6155 or email me at email@example.com so that I can give you concrete strategies tailored to you so that you can truly bring your best package to the stage!