Those of you who know me in real life, or who have been reading TFW for a while, will know that I competed in bodybuilding competitions from 2011 to 2014 (several shows a year). I haven’t competed this year. People are now starting to ask me whether or not I’m going to compete next year.
I don’t have an answer to that question yet.
But it did start me thinking about an interesting topic: whether or not to take a year (or more!) off. And why some do, and some don’t.
It seems to me that there are two types of (bodybuilding) competitor. The “every other year” guy (or gal) who competes every other year or perhaps two years out of every three.
Then there’s Mr or Ms “every season” who – for whatever reason – feels compelled to compete every year.
Which are you?
I was a Ms Every Season. I’m now a Ms “Time Off, Thanks Very Much”.
The way I see it is that bodybuilding is the sport of building your body. Yes, being lean on stage is one aspect of that, but just as important is the training, the building, the growing, the improving.
As natural bodybuilders, the only way we get lean for shows is to diet – sometimes aggressively – living in a near-perpetual calorie deficit. Muscle does not grow out of thin air. Particularly when you are a drug-free female pushing 40 years old (holla).
Hence my decision to take time off: quite simply, if I step on stage again, I want to be improved (size, mass, symmetry, balance… as well as condition/leanness). And I don’t feel I can make those improvements if I diet every year for 6+ months of the year.
Plus, I love training and sport in general. I’m really enjoying training for a powerlifting meet at the moment, and I’m loving boxing which I only tried because I wasn’t prepping. I had a lovely Summer being out on my road bike and doing a few sportives. I’ll never not train, it’s what I do. But there’s so much out there I want to do – in addition to my bread-and-butter bodybuilding training. I have a sneaking suspicion that other sports and other styles of training will benefit my physique, too, but that remains to be seen I suppose.
There are other reasons for the time off, too. Enjoying all life has to offer. That kind of thing 😉 Birthday cake on my actual birthday (in the middle of comp season). Channelling time, energy, brain power in to my business, my relationships. Doing things I need to be on the ball for (buying a home). Turning the spotlight off just one thing and shining my considerable energy on to lots of things, not just one thing.
But I know not everyone agrees with taking time off from a sport and a passion. Some feel that if you want to do it, do it now. And others know they probably should take time off if they want to improve, but they love competing so much they’d rather just crack on, even if it means less-than-optimal results.
Here are a few thoughts from my bodybuilding friends on the topic of “why do some bodybuilders seem to fear taking time off from competing”.
I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences…
I think some bodybuilders feel it is competitions that define them, rather than realising that it’s what we do day in and day out that defines us!
I think competitors worry that they will lose their identity if they are not actively competing year in year out.
People fear getting too out of shape and losing focus.
Some people fear falling off the radar and being forgotten about in comparison to the athletes who compete year in year out.
The attention one gets when in show shape is quite addictive. If you struggle to control body composition without an event to be working towards, it is easy to get out of shape. If you feel that your value comes from being in good shape, some can feel inadequate without that. Maybe the key is to work on being more self-aware and self-assured?
For some people bodybuilding IS their life and competitions are the highlight of it. Not competing can leave a huge void for those people.
Competition gives a massive buzz. The run up to competing, being on stage and everything that goes with it. However if you want to improve in bodybuilding you need time off the stage. This also gives you mental space to improve other areas of you life.
In reality each workout is the competition
It is foreign to some people’s thinking to consider themselves a top athlete in a sport yet have a 2 year interval from actually competing in it.
The stage is addictive. Being on stage matters more than substantial progress to some people
It’s the fear of being forgotten. It’s also that yearning to be on stage with your pals year after year and to see what you need to improve (that being said, if you don’t take the time to improve then you won’t!)
My body is telling me a year out. My mind is telling me I have unfinished business and I’m not getting any younger so I need to finish this. If I thought I was not making progress year by year I would take a year out but also I think it depends heavily on other commitments and finances as well. I, for one, work better if in regular interaction with a coach
I’ve wanted to take a year out for 4 years and still haven’t, simply because every year when others start to get their shreds on I just get pulled in… I genuinely wanted to take a year out this year but a few people advised me to stay on the circuit and it doesn’t take much persuading
LOTS more to say on this topic but I’ll stop here – maybe a few follow-up posts to be done!
Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.