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Are You Mentally Ready To Prep?

Scrolling through social media a photo catches your eye. At first glance, intrigued by the stage, the makeup, the hair, the suit, by a woman clenching her trophy for a win in her first fitness competition. Now the intrigue leads to desire to compete yourself, but are you ready?

The 99.9% Rule: Mental Toughness for Success

Mentally Ready

Many of my clients come to me with some level of disordered eating, such as frequent dieting or excessive exercise and have difficulty pulling back on training and/or cardio and are terrified of adding more food. Many approaches exist and it is important to find the approach that will avoid the fixation on calorie/macro counting or guilt with certain foods. Having an understanding of the process, the training, the prep nutrition and the post prep nutrition will identify those who will follow through with the process. This journey is 99.9% mental toughness, where the remaining 1% is your food and training. If you are not mentally ready, to make sacrifices to do everything possible to bring your best on stage, then you have failed on day 1. 

Building a Healthy Mindset

Prior to embarking on your first fitness competition, I like to walk future competitors through the process and what is required of them physically, emotionally and mentally. It is crucial to be mentally prepared to embark on your journey to ensure your physical and emotional health. One may think that the most aesthetically appealing women in the industry wouldn’t face the struggle of eating and/or body disorders, but they do.

Pre-Prep Assessment: Ensuring a Healthy Foundation

Eating Healthy

The first question I ask is, “Have you had periods of extreme dieting and/or binge eating?” This question is important to address prior to beginning a prep to understand where the client is mentally with their relationship with food and/or exercise.

During prep, the client will become conscious of the type of food they are consuming in combination with their training program. The structure of a prep is healthy, if the individual is not exhibiting signs of disordered thoughts or behaviors associated with food and/or exercise. If I identify disordered behaviors from the client, I implement various scales and evidence based interventions to address the issue prior to embarking on a prep.

Patience is crucial, and it is important to address this now or it will rear its ugly head in the middle of a prep. Even with the best protocols in place, it is not inevitable for these patterns to occur later on in the process.

For example, a client that is beginning to process the needed weight gain to return to a maintainable weight post show. This client begins to exhibit the urge to complete excessive cardio to “burn” the weight off or keeps caloric intake below maintenance in hopes to maintain the stage physique . This wreaks havoc on the body both physically and mentally, and can set the competitor up for having difficulty making progress in the postseason. A client who may have not exhibited any signs or symptoms prior to a competition, can develop disordered thought patterns after, confirming the importance of working closely with your coach post show. 

Building a Healthy Body Image

 I’m specifically going to focus on body image, as food and body issues boil down to dysfunctional thought processes with body image. I will employ a cognitive behavior approach that focuses on changing the negative thoughts or behaviors to enhance a change in emotion.

This process assists the client in addressing the factors associated with negative thoughts about their body, and assists in learning skills to promote positive thought processes. Our thoughts dictate our emotions, so if we can learn to address negative thoughts with positive reinforcement, healing can occur. Think about it this way, we have a negative thought about our body that results in negative behaviors, and our brain adopts a mental habit.

Exercise & Eat Healthy

Changing Your Thoughts, Changing Your Outcomes

In order to change our behaviors ,we must change our brain by creating a new and positive neural pathway. But it is not that easy. Our brain needs reinforcement to create a mental habit, so implementation of therapeutic exercises will be of benefit to the client.

For example, we work together in developing an Alternative Action Plan, which can be used to identify a problem and their triggers. Once the problems are identified, we will work on coping skills and the effects of these coping skills both short and long term. During prep if any of the set goals change, we will work together in identifying alternative coping strategies while maintaining a positive mindset.

Are you Mentally Ready?

For those who are inspired to compete in your first show, or veterans to the industry, ask yourself if you are mentally ready to commit to a prep. Each competition, and each post show process is a different journey for most. Some competitions are better than others, and it is important to have the tools necessary to address these concerns if they arise. Remember, the beauty is our brains adapt and will create new neural ways, so with positive reinforcement one will be prepared to begin her prep and remain confident through the postseason process.


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