I’ve decided to comepte again. After two years off, I have decided that it’s time to go back. I have mixed feelings about this, because there are some very good reasons why I chose not to compete for two years. At the same time, I have some very good reasons for needing to go back. So while this blog is absolutely not going to be my contest journal, I will likely be writing about my approach to contest prep. To some extent, it will be an experiment.
So how does my package-free, sustainable vision meet with my bodybuilding lifestyle? How do I reconcile my non-aesthetic ideology concerning health with my participation in an entirely aesthetic sport? This is, ultimately, the experiment. While I have some answers, there is a lot I’m unsure of. There are tried-and-true methods to nutrition and training in bodybuilding that I’m going to have to part with. For starters, the quantity of chicken consumed in one contest prep is not sustainable if I plan to eat local, sustainable chicken. And, of course, there is the fact that bodybuilding is, by nature, an aesthetic sport and I have maintained that my idea of health and athleticism are not purely based on aesthetics. While the first issue can be conquered with a knowledge of food and my body’s reaction to it, I am prepared for the struggle I will likely face over the second issue.
I want to use my knowledge of food and my body to approach this contest prep in a
different way. At my most resentful moment, I have attempted to starve away this muscle. I have also tried to abandon it by neglecting protein and consuming large amounts of carbohydrates, which is basically the opposite of what any bodybuilder would want to do! All of this, with no change in my muscular frame. In the process of trying, I learned just how much my body can take. I learned that pumping myself full of 150g of protein a day probably isn’t as necessary for my body as it might be for someone else’s, and that carbohydrates aren’t [exactly] as evil as I once assumed them to be.
I have tried to run it off, yoga it off (yep, I just made yoga a verb), stretch it away…to no
avail. I have a muscular body type, and there is nothing I can do about it. I can’t keep regarding it with such ambivalence! I can, however, embrace it. What I have come to realize is that while I’m in contest prep, it inspires and excites the people around me. Not in the sense of “look what Sheena can do!” But perhaps in the sense of, “look what can be done! What things might I be able to do?” A bodybuilder in contest prep challenges everyone around her to wonder how they too can push themselves to be better. They see what focus looks like, and they start to consider the goals that they want to reach. They see possibility.
And here’s the precise moment that I start to worry: when I realize that the people around me equate “better” with “aesthetically better.” And that is not the effect I want to have on people. Part of the reason that I have not competed in two years is that I felt like I was contributing to the “fit=weight loss=better” monster that leads to body hatred. And my participation in this sport is for the SOLE purpose of leading others to body acceptance. Somehow, though, I have been misinterpreted in a way that I feel I cannot always undo.
Another reason that I have avoided the stage during this time is that I, too, become a victim of the “thin is better” monster. There is no place more degrading, no place more fickle and vain, than backstage at a bodybuilding show. The categories are set up in a way that is, in my opinion, degrading to female bodybuilders (For more of my opinion on this subject, see my Master’s Thesis….). I got lost in it, and before I knew it the sport that made me feel so good began to make me feel very awful. So I walked away. And I’m glad I did.
But now, it’s time to go back. It’s time to rediscover my love for my own muscular physique. It’s time to test it, push it, and focus it. It’s time to uplift the people around me who are STILL somehow inspired by something I haven’t done in two years. It’s time to test my own ability to stand up against the pressure of a society that equates thinness with femininity. I have to stand up to the monster, not just for myself but for the women (and men!) around me who are empowered when I do.