Doing this competition taught me some serious lessons. I've done a lot of things in my life that were pretty tough, such as play NCAA football (earned a full scholarship) , wrestle in high school (#1 in my district), became a Special Forces Navy Diver (one of the few African Americans to go through that school) and much more. All of that, still could not have prepared me for my first physique competition. There were some critical lessons that I learned about fitness, as well as life in general during this process. Below I will explain some of these lessons learned.
Lesson # 1: The Slow Process Must be Trusted My show date was mid Match 2018. I began my dieting around the end of November, the beginning of December 2017. It was about a 14-16 week cut. In that time, I went from 220 lbs to 188 lbs on show day. A total of 32 lbs lost over 112 days. This cut, actually came ended up being PERFECT. I averaged losing about 2 lbs a week. This is what a person cutting weight should aim for. Many of those who didn't know I had been prepping for a show thought it just happened overnight. Those who didn't see me on a regular basis thought this had done with in a matter of days. Boy, were they wrong. I began to get questions like: What liquid diet you do to drop the weight so fast? Did you do keto diet? Did You do intermittent fasting? Did You become vegan? How many macros were you taking in? And so many more. The truth is I didn't do any of that stuff. I began the process knowing that there is "NO QUICK FIX" to losing weight the right way. If you want to get the best results, you must know and trust this as well.
Lesson #2: You MUST be mentally strong The body is an amazing piece of art. What the body is capable of, is outright tremendous. People are always pushing their bodies to the limit; breaking lifting records, running faster, jumping higher and much more. Many of these people have found their talent, and no doubt are good at what they do, but what makes them different than the average person is their THOUGHT PROCESS. Here is a prime example: going into this prep I would envision myself being #1. I didn't see it any other way. I would think to myself that "I HAVE THE BEST PHYSIQUE" or "NO ONE WILL OUTWORK ME." I would envision myself standing in the middle with the #1 Medal around my neck. I would not let myself think any other way. So, getting up at 3am to workout and going back to the gym at 8pm was not a burden. I wanted to win more than anything, so I was gonna do what it took to do so. Now, fast forward to show day. There was a competitor in my class that had a great physique as well. We began to chat about how we worked out and dieted during our prep. I told him the story of me having to meal prep over 40 meals one Sunday, in order for me to maintain my diet, because I was going out to sea for a couple of weeks. His immediate reaction was, "your crazy, I would NEVER do that." You see the different mindsets? He ended up placing 5th, when he had the potential to place much higher, but his thoughts hindered his progress. An aunt always told me, "Your mind will never lie to you. What you think, HAS to come to the physical world." I stand by that today. Even though I came in 2nd in the Overall judging, I stood in the middle with the #1 Medal around my neck for class.
Lesson #3 A Support System is a Must! I had forgotten this lesson over the years. It's been a long time since i've had my transformation from being extremely out of shape. I've been in my routine of getting up everyday at 3am to workout for many years now. I have not had to challenge my body in a long time. About 8 weeks in I realized why we need friends in our lives. I found that as things began to get harder, the more my mind began to sway from my goal of being #1 on stage. I began to think about quitting and questioned If I could do this. My mind began to think of every reason I would not be able to reach my goal. I began to make excuses about why this would not work out. This is when my support system kicked in. My coach would always hold me to a high standard. If he saw me slacking on a set, he would call me out on it. He would not let me settle for anything but the best I had. When posing, he would always be sure to encourage me but also critique me on every minute error. My workout partner/my client always looked at me as an example. When you have people that look up to you, that are around you consistently, then you have to live up to those standards you preach. My friends on my ship were always looking at me to see if I was going to stick to my diet. Everyone was looking to see if "Joe" was going to cheat on his diet. My wife was always in my ear, reminding me of my purpose for doing this. My support system surrounded me every minute of the day! It was almost impossible for me to fail. With all these positive inhibitors of course there were the negative people as well. These people became more of a positive force for me in the end. I began to take their negative energy and turn it into my fuel. I would constantly hear, "Joe, you will never be able to keep this up", "Joe, you can not place first, you're going to get crushed", "Joe, you're a fool, we are going underway for 3 weeks, how are you going to maintain your diet and workout routine underway?", "Joe, you cant...", "Joe, you cant...", "Joe, you can't..." I heard this non-stop. At the beginning it would bother the hell out of me. Then I began to use that anger and frustration as energy. I would replay what they would say in my head and it would infuriate me. Their negative energy would give me fuel during my workouts, motivate me to maintain my diet, do my second hour session of cardio late at night, and much more. I wanted every “hater” to regret doubting me. I knew that I was going to make them eat their words, and that's what I did.
Lesson #4 Set your next goal! Now that I have achieved my goal, the question is, “What's Next?” I did not give any thought to this, so when the time came for me to make that decision I was lost. Once the show was over, I was on a physical and emotional high. I had a lot of people at the show, taking pics and enjoying the moment with me. Most of us went out to eat, and I ate everything in sight. The next day I ate like crap again. When I went to the gym that Monday after the show, I was lost. I didn’t know how I wanted to lift. I didn’t know what machines I wanted to use, how many sets and reps I was going to do, if I was going to do cardio or not and much more. I was all over the place. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep my weight low and stay lean, get ready to do another show, bulk back up to 220 lbs, put weight back on but stay around 205 lbs, etc. I felt like it was my first time going into the gym again. During the days that I had no purpose/goal, my diet was the same. I ate horrible because I had no direction. Soon I knew I had to change because I was going to spiral out of control. Once I set my next goal, I immediately knew what needed to be done to achieve that goal. This all could have been avoided if I had planned better.
These lessons are not ground breaking, but lessons that can be applied to all areas of your life. I hope you found something to help better your life. I would encourage everyone to do something like this. Something that is going to push you to your limits. At the point where you think you may break, is where we learn the most about ourselves. This is where the greatest lessons are learned about ourselves. So challenge yourself. Push to the max. Don't be afraid to fail and take your lessons learned to achieve your next goal.