Good question. J asked me that last week while we were discussing competition plans for next year. I pondered the questions all week, and then when we watched the Rocky movies on Sunday evening, it brought the conversation to the forefront of my mind again. This question keeps running through my head like a skipping CD:
"Have you ever dedicated yourself fully to something?"
I could argue that I dedicate myself fully to every competition I do. But is that really the truth? Do I do everything I possibly can to win the show? And right now, am I truly doing everything I possibly can to achieve my Pro card?
Before you say, "Yeah, you're dedicated, Kari!" think about this: I've always tried to find a balance between my prep and other things in my life, such as work, family, friendships, and relationships. I've always said that "prep is my own thing - it's not anyone else's issue." And so I've tried to still lead a halfway normal life, doing "normal" things like going out dancing, going out to eat (either finding something not too detrimental to my diet on the menu or even bringing my own food), and being an attentive girlfriend.
But as I really think about it ... did I really do a good job balancing it all? Or was I simply doing an adequate job and not really succeeding in all areas?
I keep asking myself these questions:
- "What if I gave it my all?"
- "What is my 'all'?"
- "What does it mean to give everything?"
- "What would giving everything entail?"
- "Could I really do it?"
- "Am I mentally strong enough?"
What does it mean to "give my all"?
Let's get this out of the way: Since I compete naturally, giving my all does NOT include taking drugs, prescription fat burners, or prescription diuretics. So that's not even an option.
I suspect that my "all" means training hard from now all the way up to the show. Not that I don't already train intensely, but my focus would be strictly on the exercises and muscle groups I need to improve for the show. I keep remembering the scenes of Rocky training in a dungeon or in the snow in Russia - he trained with an intense purpose. Heavy training may mean getting bigger and carrying more weight than I'm comfortable carrying, looking bigger than I prefer (cuz let's face it - most of us girls don't want to feel like we look "big").
It means dieting harder than I ever have before. That doesn't mean fewer calories (don't want to destroy my metabolism after all!), but it does mean no Treat meals through the whole prep period. That's right - no cookies. (Can't believe I just wrote that.) I've never dieted without periodic Treat meals before. I'm talking about a 16 - 20 week prep ... which is about 5 months of no carbs.
Wait a minute ... I said no Treats, but I bet you're asking yourself why I just said no carbs too. The reason for no carbs is because I use the Keto diet to get lean: high protein, high fat, no direct carbs. Before you get your posing suit in a bunch, remember that every body is different, and my body does NOT process carbs efficiently. I've tried several other approaches, but none have been as effective for me as keto. And believe it or not, I have the most energy on keto, and don't lose muscle.
So, to recap thus far, my "all" includes 35 weeks of intense training, with 16 - 20 of those weeks doing straight keto, no Treats, no carbs. (Am I crazy?!)
What does it mean to give everything?
Well, I guess that giving everything means not attempting to lead a "balanced" life. It means dedicating everything I do to my goal - every activity I do, every piece of food I put in my mouth brings me a step closer to earning that Pro card. I would not attempt to do Normal activities like sight-seeing at the Smithsonian, going on vacations or family visits, or spending the day at the beach. Essentially, my social life would be put on hold for roughly 5 months. I wouldn't worry about being a good daughter, sister, friend, or girlfriend. I wouldn't move to Russia, like Rocky did, but I would essentially isolate myself.
Training in any condition
This last part sounds awful, to be honest! I don't know if I could intentionally isolate myself and not be the best person I could be to the people who are important to me. On the other hand, nearly every person I can think of who successfully achieved a significant goal made personal sacrifices at some point in order to achieve their goal. Perhaps if I explain to them beforehand and help them understand that I'll be back to normal after the show, then those close to me will still be there at the end?
I honestly don't know how I feel about this yet. While it seems like a solitary sport, bodybuilding at a high level is almost a team sport. Nearly every successful bodybuilder (and I use this as a generic term for everyone who competes) has a strong support team behind them, helping them along the way.
Even when he isolated himself, Rocky still had a support team with him.
Am I mentally strong enough?
I honestly don't know if I have what it takes to give everything. Part of me wonders if I even want to do it. It'd be the most difficult thing I've ever done, but has the potential to be the most rewarding.
"Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty... I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well."
~ Theodore Roosevelt
I ask myself, would the reward be worth the risk of losing everything and everyone that means anything to me? Would the reward be worth the price? I don't want to be that person who stands all alone with only her cold trophies beside her because she alienated everyone who cared about her along the way. I don't want to become a leech - sucking energy from everyone in order to bolster myself, and not giving anything back. I don't want to not be true to who I am, what I stand for, and what I believe in.
At this point, 35 weeks from Team Universe, I honestly don't know if this is the path I'll take.
If I do take this path, after the show, regardless of the results, I could honestly say I did everything I possibly could do to prepare to win the Pro card. But on the other hand, would I be happier knowing I somehow found a balance during prep, at the expense of not doing everything possible? Or would I always wonder if I could've won it if only I'd done everything I could do?
Standing on the threshold
I now stand upon this threshold ... excited at the prospect of the greatest challenge of my life ... yet scared and apprehensive. I'm sure this is how Rocky felt at the prospect of the Title Match. In a sense, Team Universe is MY Title Match.
Mr. T is my Pro Card
Is embarking upon this challenge something I truly want to do? Because if it's not something I want with 100% zero doubt, I will not do it ... I won't be able to. If my resolve and belief in myself aren't 100%, and my dedication isn't completely solid, there's no way I'll be able to commit to the challenge.
If, however, I decide to give everything, I will do it. And I will give 100%, even though there will be difficulties, frustrating challenges, and times when my mind will be my worst enemy. It will be like Rocky overcoming doubt and adversity just to get in the ring for the chance to win.
"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."
~Booker T. Washington
It will be both the best and worst times of my life. And no doubt - it will be an immense learning experience with lessons I can't even fathom at this time.