Today’s post is from a member of a men’s networking group Jay run’s.
Mike Hardy is a true renaissance man and an awesome father, husband and mortgage lender. He also happens to be an amazingly well conditioned physique athlete.
Here are his thoughts about competing for the first time in a Men’s Physique show.
When someone believes in you, it’s sparks a desire to grow, to achieve, and to satisfy that belief. My trainer, Cayden Riley, and Zero Gravity gym owner, Ryan Bentson, believed in me. Fueled with newfound belief and encouragement, I set a goal and an ambitious one at that. To compete in an IFBB / NPC men’s physique competition.
And to win a sword.
The swords are lined up and down my gym, Zero Gravity Fitness in San Dimas, CA. The allure of “the sword” had captured me.
Aristotle said, “We first form our habits, and then our habits form us.”
Although I have always been a fairly disciplined person by nature, this competition and experience would require me to reach another gear of mental and physical discipline. The body is the servant of the mind, although a rebellious servant at times. I needed to form some new healthy habits. Initially this new regimen seemed insurmountable as I have never embraced discipline with my daily eating, leaning on naturally high metabolism as a crutch.
To reach my goal, I had to keep in mind and abide by the following:
1) Follow a strict nutrition plan / carb cycle for 8 weeks.
2) Keep my heart rate below 140 (sadly, no triathlons, cycling or mountain climbing)
3) Workout 5 days a week. Don’t miss.
4) Understand and accept the reality that proper diet and nutrition is 80% of the battle.
5) Learn proper stage presence /posing technique and commit to memory.
6) Course correct. Truth tellers (trainers) are essential. Ask for guidance often.
The physical transformation I experienced as the show approached was exciting. I was skeptical at first, but the “carb cycle” results cannot be disputed. I did not think I had 15 pounds of fat available on my body to be burned off. My trainer proved me wrong.
The day of the show was surreal. After the initial spray tan is applied, (a surprising invasive experience for someone with a modest upbringing) you look, and feel like a different person. A sea of scantly clad bodies float by in every direction leaving little to imagination.
As a competitor, I stay focused not letting my eyes wander and hardly giving anyone else a second look. However, I can’t help but absorb the variety of demeanors jumping off the unnaturally tan faces of each competitor… Focused, self-absorbed, excited, anxious, proud, haughty, scared, ready, confident, lost, hopeful, eager.
For me, anticipation builds leading up to the big moment. I am physically “on point” and mentally prepared for the 15-20 seconds of limelight.
To be judged solely on appearance and physique rather than a speech, a product, my intellect, or some sort of business value proposition, is a new concept for me. My product is my physique. I will walk out on stage and will be accepted or rejected by the judges and crowd as compared to my peers. I have always had a difficult time with vulnerability. I cannot hide behind the pen, product, or spoken word. I will stand there and be critiqued. This experience brings vulnerability to an entire new level for me.
Back stage I had a few powerful insights. Along the way and at the competition, it occurred to me that the “fitness” industry breeds two distinct types of people. It seems that a significant cross section become highly self-absorbed. When you spend large amounts of time in self critique and self focused, there is a pride and vanity that can creep in and take an individual hostage.
Once that has you in your grasp, I would surmise that breaking free is next to impossible and a hollow and shallow existence ensues. The need for validation only escalates to slay the insecurities that will naturally accompany a physical only and superficial focus. Ironically as you age, the physical appearance slowly wanes leaving an individual struggling to be “god-like” and internal satisfaction that surfaces with the stage worthy physique. The high that accompanies the admired physical state and related limelight is a powerful one.
This group was evident and in some cases slightly disturbing. They lived in their own world. I have often heard and accepted that notion that “there is safety with a multitude of counselors”. I believe human beings are masters of self-deception. This group may have been on-point physically, but seemed way off-point mentally.
Without “truth-tellers” in your life, there are some extremes that can be accepted or justified that can push an initial healthy intention into an unhealthy existence. My lesson and take away is to always make sure that my “inside” (mind, spirit, soul) is healthier than my “outside” and to give license to a select wise and trusted group around time to alway provide prospective and always speak truth to me.
My biggest insight and what pleasantly surprised me was another smaller, but quite significant cross-section of this fitness sub-culture. This group is the most genuine, disciplined, focused, inspiring, encouraging faction of people I have ever met. I was highly encouraged by the quality and caliber of certain individuals as I engaged with some of the competitors. The dedication, sacrifice, and discipline needed to compete at this level is second to none.
There is a depth of character and healthy discipline that runs deep in this group that may be unique to this sport. It is a desire for self-improvement and a personal quest to maximize personal potential and I have also gathered. To conquer and to slay their internal demons while achieving a level of physical and physique excellence. This group had inspired me and has completely changed my opinion of the industry.
The level of self sacrifice, dedication, and discipline is worthy of the highest respect. Genuine. Focused. Disciplined. Caring. Encouraging. Motivated. Dedicated. I could go on, but you get the point. This group is truly the heart and soul of the industry — always on the edge in my opinion having an understanding of human nature, but keeping ego and ambition in check while genuinely seeking the betterment of themselves and of those around them.
“Seek to be worth knowing rather than to be well known”
is the quote that comes to mind as I think about this group.
My lesson to myself:
After a competition, take the time to focus exclusively on others for a window of time. Perhaps the same amount of time as the disciplined self focus in preparation for the show. This will clear your mind of any vanity that may begin to surface and prevent it from taking a foothold in your life.
Most sports require you to be at your peak physically and to “step up” mentally on game day. The men’s physique competition required a shift in thinking for me as I knew I would be depleted and at a weak point physically (and subsequently mentally as well) for my training and diet cycle to be “on point” land at the ideal aesthetic state for the physique competition.
To follow the rigors of training and strict diet for 8 weeks in exchange for 20 seconds of individual “performance” time on stage took a shift in thinking to mentally prepare in advance for every nuance of the 20 seconds of limelight. That’s about 1400 hours of preparation. In my case it took roughly 250,000 seconds of discipline for each 1 second of stage time.
Having the physique posing routine down and part of muscle memory was essential to protect against any panic or potential forgetfulness that is customary under in the limelight. I practiced about 50 times and received some critique that helped immensely.
A mentor of mine once told me that our world view is made up of the people that we meet, the books we read, and the experiences that we have. This experience has expanded my perspective and allowed me to prove to myself that I have the internal strength of will to reach another gear. For that I am eternally grateful.
If you are wondering… The first show went very well and I feel very fortunate to have won 1st place in my division as well as the overall for men’s novice category. I reached my goal and brought home a first place trophy and the coveted “overall” sword. It was a very special moment for me.
Will I compete again? After taking 2 months off to check my motivation (The Hardy family has some precedent to focus on goals at the expense of other more worthy priorities) and following some healthy inflection, yes, I have decided to compete again. It’s in the blood now.
My goal now is to win the open and masters overall and then earn a pro-card. Wish me luck.
Parting thought / quote that I feel compelled to share:
“There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man”
We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.
Be the BEST YOU EVER!