When we think of competing in fitness and bodybuilding competitions, we tend to think of all the work that goes in to preparing and show day itself; the workouts, the meal plan, the tan, the glam, the suit, the cheat meal. But we hardly really ever think about the “after”. Competitors want to put all of their blood, sweat, and tears into making it to show day.
"How will I place?"
"Am I prepared? I think that I am."
"I plan to bring my best."
However, the “after” is often the most important part when it comes to one’s own personal wellness. If one doesn't plan for the after, they can be blind-sided by rush of emotional challenges.
Post-competition “blues” can hit in different levels of severity, especially when one doesn’t prepare for post-show factors. If one doesn’t plan appropriately for life after show day, they could suffer some real emotional consequences. This is especially true for first time competitors.
Throughout their entire “prep”, they are working towards a goal and seeing progress. They make it to show day and see themselves as the best they’ve ever looked. They see the progress they’ve made, and then it’s over. Depending on their experience, they can be on a “high” from the excitement of the day and proud of their accomplishments. If they don’t do as well as they had hoped and did not mentally prepare themselves for disappointment, they can begin to experience negative thoughts about themselves and their appearance.
They can begin to second guess all of the work they put it.
"What did I do wrong?"
"What didn't the judges like about me?"
"But my coach said I looked great."
It’s hard to put yourself out there against a whole group of other competitors, and even harder to be judged on how you look and the package you brought that day. When first time competitors place well, they feel like all of their preparation was worth it, but if they don’t place well, they can feel like they wasted their time, money, energy and resources. Even long-time competitors can feel this exact same way. They all can forget about the fact that they just to step out on stage is in itself an accomplishment.
As they settle back into their routine, they are no longer working towards the same goal and are no longer holding onto that competition look. The tan fades and the leanness slips away. Often times, they can have unrealistic expectations and want to hold on to their competition look as long as possible. This is just simply unattainable; the body can’t handle it and there will be burnout, not to mention possible health consequences. During these times, one can see an increase in stress, depressive symptoms, body image issues, shame and guilt for not sticking to their diet, over eating, over exercising to compensate for eating, lack of sleep, etc. It can turn into a pretty dangerous cycle if they are unaware of what it is they are feeling.
In addition, during the prep, prep comes first. Workouts come first, meal plans come first, water consumption comes first, posing practice comes first. You get my drift. This may cause one to put other responsibilities and commitments on hold, like job responsibilities and relationships. Once show day comes and goes, one might find themselves overwhelmed with all they have put on the back burner. They can become distant, isolated, overwhelmed, stressed, and unmotivated.
It's extremely important for all competitors to have a plan once they step off the stage. Just like a reverse diet, there needs to be a plan put in place to adjust back to their normal way of life. Here's some ideas:
1. Reach out for support if you begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
2. Just like you plan your meals, plan time for you and other important things with your life
3. Don't be afraid to enjoy foods off your meal plan
4. Be kind with yourself when you have a cheat meal
5. Reconnect with other things in your life that bring you happiness
6. To avoid burnout, take some time off
7. Listen to your body
8. Try new things in your workouts
9. Be proud of what you accomplished, even if it wasn't what you had hoped
10. Love your body and respect it
11. Don't be afraid to seek out professional help if you need it
Feel free to share other ideas in the comments!