What now? bodybuilder

Coming down from the high of competition is a challenge in and of itself. If you or your clients are training for a show, here’s what to consider for the post-show period.

After a long day of posing, dehydrating, and nibbling on little more than rice cakes with almond butter, hearing your name called at that moment is unparalleled.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, our First Place Winner is…”

The exhilaration, the triumph, the glory…it all belongs to you and you alone. This is your night, your moment.  The cameras are flashing, the crowd is cheering, and you know in your heart that this win is well deserved.

Realizing that months of hard work, dedication and sacrifice were necessary to reach this moment, you deserve to feel on top of the world.

This may be the scenario for you or one of the clients you train for a competition.

Fueling The Obsession

Trophy for weightlifting

During those months of training, life is very full. In addition to maintaining a career and juggling a family, squeezing in extra cardio sessions and allotting time for specialized meal preparation leaves little if any time for the luxury of inner contemplation.

Although physical exhaustion often takes its toll, your emotional energy continues to charge ahead, and its momentum carries you all the way to an exciting win.

Embracing the Letdown

Driving home after celebrating with family, friends and fellow competitors, you allow yourself to take some deep breaths and begin thinking of Monday morning and returning to life as you knew it prior to training for the stage.

This is when most competitive athletes experience something for which they are not prepared.

The question of “What now?” creeps into the brain and demands attention.

Indeed, the days and weeks immediately following a bodybuilding contest are often fraught with emptiness and indecision. Whether this is a personal journey or one you are traveling with a client, the questions remain the same:

  • What training paradigm should I embrace now?
  • How do I adjust my meals?
  • What will I do with all of the extra time on my hands, now that I am not in prep mode?
  • What if I never take 1stplace again?
  • How do I define myself now?

I refer to these as the post-show woes, the incredible letdown after the excitement fades. It is the sudden realization that there is no longer a carrot dangling to supercharge your motivation. Can you come down from such a high and live more or less “normally” now?

Readying Yourself for Recovery

In the long checklist of what to bring to a big competition, “prepare for afterward” is something athletes often fail to include.  While perhaps not as much fun, this aspect requires just as much energy as you expend leading up to the stage.

If you or your clients are entering the competitive arena for the first time, consider seeking out seasoned bodybuilders and asking for advice. Only someone who has had this experience can make you aware of the emotions following a show, whether you receive First Place or Fourth. Handling the complexities of the letdown enable you to navigate a prudent journey in the days and weeks following the show.

Often clients will take a brief hiatus from the gym at this juncture, giving their bodies a complete rest from the workouts as well as the emotional tension. As trainers, giving them this much-needed space will allow them to return to you refreshed, relaxed, and ready to tackle the weights again.

If you have just competed, retuning to the gym cannot cease; after all, you have a business to run. It is easy to get pulled back into training mode, spending all day helping others lift hard and heavy. The temptation to return to what had become familiar is powerful. However, by not engaging in those challenging workouts, setting the example of self-care, clients will notice and respect this new dynamic.

Bouncing Back

It has consistently been my experience that these post-stage blues do not last terribly long. Perhaps it is Mother Nature’s way of assuring that our bodies receive the necessary recovery. Mind and body evolve together; and when the time is right, workouts once again feel amazing!

How have you handled post-competition emotions? Was this article helpful?

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Cathleen Kronemer

Cathleen Kronemer is an NFPT CEC writer and a member of the NFPT Certification Council Board. Cathleen is an AFAA-Certified Group Exercise Instructor, NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer, ACE-Certified Health Coach, former competitive bodybuilder and freelance writer. She is employed at the Jewish Community Center in St. Louis, MO. Cathleen has been involved in the fitness industry for over three decades. Feel free to contact her at trainhard@kronemer.com. She welcomes your feedback and your comments!