Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Everyone's Got a Different Story

When people ask me how I got interested in competing, I tell them that I simply wanted to see if I could do it. Five years ago, I hadn't even heard of competitive bodybuilding. Sure, I knew who Arnold Schwarzenegger was (who doesn't?!), but I'd never given bodybuilding more than a passing thought. But when I started to look at photos of competitors, I asked myself, "I wonder if I can do that?" And thus began my journey into the world of figure competitions.

I competed in a couple shows, and assumed the other competitors were there for the same reason as I was: To get a trophy, of course! It wasn't until my fourth show that I discovered that everyone has a different story.

A Dose of Humility

As I was standing backstage before the 2008 Contra Costa show, I began to size up my competition. Thoughts running through my head were:
  • "Wow, her delts are totally striated! Wonder if mine look like that?" *immediately checked own delts in mirror
  • "Oooh! Her suit is really pretty! But mine is prettier." *admired own suit in mirror
  • "What in the world is THAT girl doing here? She's not even in shape! And she can't even pose right!"
Yep, I really did wonder why that lady was there. She had visible cellulite on her thighs, no ab lines, and her suit cut into her sides where it should've layed flat. She was surrounded by a couple women who were trying to teach her how to pose. I wondered why she even thought she should do a show if she wasn't conditioned and didn't know how to pose.

And then I started listening to what she was saying ... and discovered that she had recently lost 90 lbs, and had made it one of her goals to compete in a figure competition.

"I'm in the best shape of my life!" She exclaimed. "I'm so excited! My whole family is in the audience!"

Boy did I feel like an ass! Who was I to judge whether or not someone should compete in a show?! Did I really think I was that much better than her? That lady was in the midst of achieving a dream, and I had the gall to think snarky thoughts about her. I felt lower than low.

I walked over to her and asked if she wanted any posing pointers, and she gratefully accepted my help. I was so proud of her when she walked on stage and posed beautifully while her family cheered for her.

Everyone's Got a Different Story

Since that show, I've opened my mind and my heart to all competitors. It takes a lot of guts to stand on stage in front of a whole auditorium full of strangers while wearing a suit smaller than your underwear. Everyone who stands on stage at a bodybuilding show is a winner in my book.

Who knows what obstacles they've encountered in their journey to the stage? Who knows what adversity they've worked through to get to the show? Who knows how long they had to diet and how hard they had to train to feel ready enough to compete?

No one has the right to judge other competitors for being on stage. We're all part of a family when we're backstage.

One of my favorite things to do backstage is to listen to the stories of other competitors. Some of them have struggled to put on muscle, while others have struggled to lose weight. Some of them have been obese for the majority of their lives, and decided to change their lives. Some of them have been training and competing for years and years, while others are at their first show. Some of them have been diagnosed with cancer, while others are in a wheelchair. Yet, they're all there for the same reason: to stand on stage and present the result of all their hard work.

At your next show (whether you're in the audience or on stage), I challenge you to open your mind and to remember that every competitor has a different story. Everyone who steps on stage is displaying courage, so give them encouragement and support by clapping and cheering.


  1. And that is why I admire you!! This post literally made me cry :) Always keeping it real!

  2. I love this post! I have been reading your blog for sometime and love all the insight you have! Today was one of those days where I didn't feel like getting up and running on the treadmill- but I did anyways. It is times when I don't feel like working out that I day dream about what my transformation story is going to be like. It gives me chills to think about having my dream body and one day standing up on stage- but most importantly it gets my butt on the treadmill! Love your blog!

  3. I LOVE this blog!!!
    thanks for keeping things real!

  4. you always know what to say :)

    And during my show last year, i was that girl ;) I achieved the goal of getting up there, but in comparison to some of the others, i knew where i stood and accepted that....and i understand other people's goals as well...which is why i never judge anyone who has the guts to get up there! Just getting to that stage is an accomplishment in my book :)

  5. What a great post! LOVE this and it really is so important to remember. I agree that everyone on stage is a WINNER!! Thanks for posting this!

  6. LOVE this post. I appreciate your thoughts about us all accepting and being proud of eachother. This is a tough enough sport, let's support eachother, not bash eachother!!! =] Keep rockin' these blogs Kari!

  7. Great post, Kari. I actually know of a woman who has lost over 100 lb with a goal of competing. I too am quick to judge so humility at first glance is something I need to work on. After reading your blog for many months now, I too am becoming more interested in competing. You are such an inspiration.

  8. This is so true! It's all about how you feel up on stage and no one else.

  9. Thank you Kari! I was that girl a week and a half ago. I know I didn't measure up in the least to those other girls. But I felt great and happy and excited. I knew I was going to place last and I didn't care. I wanted to be proud of everything I accomplished because I've only been lifting for 10 months. Anyway, thank you for posting this, it's so true!

  10. Thank you. Just what I needed to hear before I go on stage this weekend. It literally made me well up with tears. You are awesome.