How to decide if you should compete?

By Jay Johnson


You get a steady training plan now, heading to gym on a consistent and frequent basis, your conditioning has improved dramatically, and have noticed consistent forward some movement in progress and your strength and endurance in the gym. That means now it’s time to step on stage right?


As with my other articles, I’ll bullet point the important factors to take into consideration when trying to figure whether or not you should compete, however there are a few general rules to remember and think of prior to making that decision to cross the line.


The most important factor of considering whether not you should compete should revolve around self improvement. This applies to both mental and physical in regards to preparing for competition. You should be in a healthy state both mentally and physically before taking that next step to prepare for what it takes to get on stage. Distractions during contest prep are inevitable, however you will want to ensure that there are none coming straight out of the gates to make sure that your purpose for preparing is clear to yourself with reduction of any noise.


Now that that’s out-of-the-way, important elements to factor in for preparing for a show are the following:


  • Family inclusion: Typically before they announce a competitor at fitness shows, they give a moment for them to give their thanks to the audience. There is definitely a reason for this. Contest prep when done right can have a good balance, however let’s face it, it is going to take a good portion of your efforts and time away. Include your family, and your friends into your decision to compete 100%. It will make things a heck of a lot less stressful, and help you understand their perspective on the entire endeavor. I’ve noticed the more in tandem that my family is with my decisions to compete in my journey with prep, the easier it is for me to stay consistent and on the course with their insight, support, and thoughts to help me along the way.
  • Life balance, balance, balance: The most important thing that anybody can do when they are deciding whether they should compete or not is realizing that other elements of your life help the sustainability of your ability to compete. For example, if you have a full-time job that is helping you with the funding for your food, supplements, and gym membership, obviously you don’t want to put that at risk for potentially losing or reducing during contest prep, it is counterproductive and will hurt you more than help you. The same applies for other aspects of your life, if it’s your children, your time with a spouse, or any other extracurricular activities that you may have, ensure to continue allowing those things to happen. Sacrifices will still have to be made no doubt, but only should be within reason and not put you in a worse position that you were in even before you began contest prep.
  • Have a plan, and trust the plan. There will be guaranteed setbacks: TRUST the process! Some processes may be more successful than others at an accelerated rate, the one thing that you can trust for sure is that all of them take consistency, and execution. The body takes time to be acclimated to a new process. Take the time to continue and stay the course regardless of if you have stagnated results at a period during prep.
  • Be honest with yourself: When deciding whether not you should get ready to step on stage, one of the best things you can do is take progress pictures of yourself from beginning to end. If you see that you are not in a state to be able to successfully reach your goals with a four month prep, then be realistic with yourself and set a goal for a six month or more prep. Hiring a coach, or asking another professional in the field for their personal opinion can be golden, as long as it is candid feedback this also applies when it comes down to make a decision on what needs to be prioritized after you prepare your plan for contest prep.
  • Stay five steps ahead of the process and allow yourself to make mistakes: Successful competitors are ready for the stage 2-3 weeks prior to showtime. A LONG prep will help you course correct and make some mistakes to stay aligned with your goals and steadily achieving what you know if necessary to be successful on stage. 
  • Have food prepared and ready, at ALL times: You’ll need to factor in that the time preparing food will be comparable to the amount of time that you will be training in the gym. Even when I first entered into the sport, I did not have a clear understanding of how much food I would have to prepare during the prep season.
  • As mentioned, do it for self improvement, not for popularity: While fame can be fun and enjoyable, it’s important to realize that it’s only a byproduct of doing something successful. In my experiences, the correct way to train successfully revolves around the passion of the sport, and self improvement and progress. This includes finding a better version of yourself, and losing yourself in the preparation. Reasons that I would not recommend to pursue competing would include those seeking after popularity, or exposure on social media. The mental conditioning and stress that preparing for a show may have on your body is more sustainable through internal passion, and not the ever-changing media of the public.
  • There are parts about the sport that others may consider “strange“, Or “weird“, but that’s OK. It wasn’t far into my bodybuilding journey that I realize that what I was doing was definitely a stray from the norm. Moment that stands out in my head the most was a time when I was standing naked in a hotel bathtub while my wife was spraying tanning product on my fully shaven body, I was eating a dense slice of vanilla cheesecake, taking very small sips of water, and literally eating potassium tablets, washing them down with the bites of cheesecake. Around this time I stopped everything and thought to myself “Just what the hell am I doing???” Realizing the process is a very different style of process and sport was one of the smarter things that I considered after I fully got into bodybuilding. You’ll be asked a lot of questions that may still not make sense or if anything be more confusing after you answer them to your family members as to why you were doing some other things that you were doing, and that’s OK. Realizing that the uniqueness and the differences in the sport of bodybuilding is what separate you and is considered a strength Will help you achieve your goals. Include your family into the new learnings and achieve the mission together.

After you review the above and realize that you want to compete, commitment is the end-all and matters the most. Willingness to undertake what you know you'll need to for success and being humble with yourself for continued progress is in summary, the most important ingredient for a heightened level of success!