Been thinking of signing up for a CrossFit, powerlifting, weightlifting, strongman, or bodybuilding competition? Wondering if you should register for a Spartan race? Here are 6 strong reasons you shouldn’t submit your paperwork.
1) You’ll discover the limits you’ve been placing on yourself are invented, assumed, and inaccurate. You won’t be able to take the least disruptive, easy path anymore. Every competition I’ve ever done – from CrossFit to powerlifting to strongwoman and even bikini – I’ve walked away having done something I didn’t know I could do and realizing that was only the beginning of what’s possible for me. If possibility scares you, keep doing what you’re doing. Competing isn’t right for you because it will reveal to you the beginning of a potential far greater than you’d ever dared imagine for yourself.
Photo Credit: Dare to Dream Photography
2) You’ll have to improve your training, nutrition, and recovery. Forced optimization is the name of the game. Signing up for a competition demands you to be closer to your peak than you are now and it will push you to dial in some areas you may be neglecting. As soon as you’ve clicked “register” or sent in your form, there will be a shift in your mindset. Suddenly it’s go time; it’s time to focus. Don’t get me wrong – you’ll never become perfect at nutrition, recovery, or training (even the greatest athletes in the world are still human) but signing up is going to force you to improve. If you want to keep skipping the gym and eating fast food regularly, don’t sign up for a competition because it will force you to confront neglected habits head-on.
3) You might stop hating your body – Now that you’ve bit the bullet, signed up, and learned some discipline, your body is going to respond in the most glorious of ways! When your nutrition is dialed in you’ll probably find you lose several inches in the first week just because your body isn’t being thrown for a loop every day. If you’ve signed up for a CrossFit competition, a strength sport meet, or a race, you’ll start using new measures to judge your body besides the mirror and the scale. You’ll count the number of pull-ups you can do, the weight lifted on the bar, or the speed at which you can move. As these numbers improve, so will your body composition, but even on your “fluffy” days you’ll still be able to say, “Yeah, well, I can squat over 200 lbs” and your life will go on. Maybe you can even perform better at your sport by carrying extra body fat, and if you can embrace that I think you’re on an entirely different level completely. I look up to you. Regardless of your chosen sport, once you start competing you’ll no longer be derailed emotionally every time you look in the mirror, and you’ll actually start loving what you see because of not only the aesthetic results, but also the athletic ones. If you want to keep hating your body, don’t compete.
4) You might be forced to make friends outside of your current circle. You’ll find other human beings who are seeking to smash their own limits. You’ll meet people who think bigger than you – who are better than you. If you’re a single girl who lifts you might meet a single guy who lifts and also isn’t an asshole. You’ll be surrounded by people who seem to care about you more than any other random group of strangers ever has, because they’ve learned to really look after themselves through discipline, and because you can connect on a level of interest that runs so much deeper than coincidentally ordering the same brand of pint. If you want to keep thinking the way you’ve always thought and achieving the things you’ve always achieved, keep hanging out with the people you’ve always hung out with; don’t become a competitor.
Pictured: Taunia Stevens of Mettle Performance Training in Regina, SK Photo Credit: Sandra Provick
5) You’ll be challenged to leave the job you hate. You’ll meet other human beings who practice their sport for a living and who don’t hate their jobs. If you always believed work was a means to an end – that you have to work a 9-5 you despise before you can head to your happy place that idea will be challenged because you’ll see people who live happily all day. You’ll meet entrepreneurs who own entire successful nutrition companies – people who delight daily in the transformations of bodies (and spirits) without having studied nutrition in University. You’ll make friends who turned a random idea into thousands of badass t-shirts and hoodies adorning fit bodies all over the country with their own amazing apparel company. You’ll encounter people who’ve dropped out of college or left high-paying jobs with pensions to coach athletes, and when you talk to them you’ll hear passion flow out of them that you just can’t match. Being around people like this could be scary and painful and it might force you to face a fear you’ve been avoiding. If you want to continue believing you have to work a job you hate, don’t compete.
6) The idea that there is a ceiling on the threshold of human capability will be absolutely wrecked. We thought the four-minute-mile would never be broken; now if you don’t run a sub-four mile you’re considered an amateur. No one was supposed to be able to repeat at the CrossFit Games; Rich Froning did – four years in a row. Once you start competing you’ll see world records broken regularly. Just when people call someone, “the best in the world” someone better will come along. You’ll hear someone say, “It can’t be done,” and moments later, someone will do it.” Once you’ve seen someone squat more than 1000 lbs something shifts in you. You start asking questions, “If they can do that, what can I do?” You’ll stop saying the sentence, “That could never be done,” and you’ll start stating, “I wonder what we’ll do next!” The idea of human capacity becomes intimidating when you forget limits. Most importantly, when you realize there are no physical limits, you’ll start asking emotional, spiritual, and mental questions. Maybe I really can have the relationship I always dreamed of. I wonder if I can feel at peace constantly. What if I have been really limiting myself with my mind? What will happen if I allow myself to think bigger? If you want to remain convinced that ordinary human beings can only do so much, never sign up for a competition.
Pictured: Kanako Macdonald Photo Credit: Chad Benko
If these six warning signs ring true to you, don’t register as a competitor. If growing scares you, never leave the walls of your home gym. If you’re happy with your current friends group and don’t want to open yourself up to bigger thinkers, avoid the races. Do discipline and results sound overwhelming? Do you enjoy berating yourself every time you look in the mirror? Want to continue believing part of being human is working a job you hate? Then never step foot on a competition floor. If you don’t want to see the world and humankind as freaking gorgeous and capable of doing truly anything – of lifting heavier, running faster – and if you don’t want those thoughts to lead to believing that a simple smile sent to a stranger can transform her life, thoughtful acts can take a bite out of world hunger, dedicated individuals have the power to cure the most unstoppable illnesses, and individuals have the capacity to stomp on racism – if you don’t want to believe we, as imperfect humans are capable of achieving the impossible – don’t compete.
“If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.” ― Bruce Lee
Brittney Bergen is a national level powerlifter and Olympic weightlifter in Canada. She's the creator of Idealistic Isabel - a blog and business devoted to lifting weights and uplifting bodies, minds, and the world. She co-hosts the podcast Project Possible, sharing the stories, tips, and tricks of top athletes and entrepreneurs. Check out idealisticisabel.com for more blogs like this, or for nutrition, fitness, or personal development programs.