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I have been competing since 2012 and learning how to juggle my normal life and competition life was a huge struggle at first. The main reason I struggled with this is because I’m extremely competitive and give everything I do 110%. While this is a great trait to have, this can also lead to tunnel vision which may cause you to miss out on other important aspects of your life. I thought when I first started competing that I would fail if I wasn’t 110% all of the time. I made sure to exercise and eat perfectly every day, and I wouldn’t go out with friends as it would mess up my schedule, which I thought would absolutely lead to my doom and failure. Over time I realized I was half crazy. My obsessiveness was unhealthy and resulted in relationship problems.
So where do you start when learning how to juggle your work life, home life, personal time, friend time, and competition life? It may seem obvious, but time management is key. My days are completely planned out from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. Here’s an example of how I schedule my days during off-season. I work from 8 am to 4:30 pm, so if I get up at 6:30 am that leaves me plenty of time to get ready and pack all the meals I need for my work day. I train either at my local gym or my boyfriend’s gym after work, then eat dinner when I get home from the gym. I am usually free by 8 pm so I’ll either stone a competition suit or food prep. At 9 pm, I’m usually studying for my NASM CPT/FNS or hanging out with my boyfriend before it’s time for shower and bed. On Saturdays, I train glutes in the morning and have posing class in the afternoon. I take a full rest day—no training or cardio—on Sundays. I try to fit everything else I need to do on the weekends (chores, grocery shopping, and food prep).
My schedule is pretty crammed and I have to stay relatively strict with it or else I start to feel overwhelmed. Sure, I’ll occasionally grab fast food if I don’t feel like cooking after training in my off-season. I’m also not 100% on schedule every day, but a schedule absolutely works for me and keeps me on track. The best thing you can do is write down your schedule and look at where you have free time, even if it’s just 30 minutes to cook ground turkey, rice, or whatever may be on your meal plan. You may also have to get up early to get everything done. An extra 30 minutes in the morning can be the difference between you staying on track with your food or falling off track and not following your food plan. Or maybe you prefer to train in the morning before work so that you can free up your evening schedule. Ultimately if it’s important to you, you will find a way to make time for it. You may have to cut some stuff out or learn how to multitask more efficiently. Not every day will be perfect—that’s ok. Your goals are not completely thrown out the window. Strive for consistency not perfection, as there is no such thing as perfection. Small successes lead to big end goals, so just try your best the next day.
I used to do everything in my power to avoid going out and meeting up with friends. Now, I realize that I can be more lenient with my food and just make smart choices, especially when I’m off-season. There is more to life than bodybuilding…and an occasional cheat meat won’t make a difference. When I’m on prep, I will bring my food in Tupperware containers and bring some water enhancers with me. If I know where we’re going ahead of time, I can also look at the menu and see their food options. Most restaurants have a basic salad with grilled chicken and vinegar dressing. Anyone on prep can make that work as it’s super clean. If the menu doesn’t have any options and bringing in your own food isn’t allowed, you may have to eat before you meet up. Or you can also schedule your cheat meal for the next time you and your friends hang out. You can have a social life and still be a competitive bodybuilder or athlete.
You should know that you won’t lose all of your gains if you do not work out every single day. You also won’t gain 10 lb of fat by taking an additional rest day. More often than not, the extra rest day may be just what your body needs. Sometimes we push ourselves too hard and we start to see plateaus or possible weight gain. That could be a sign of our body being overly worked and hitting a wall. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t feel guilty for taking a day off in the middle of the week. Remember, strive for consistency not perfection. Now if you’re taking multiple days off every week, then those days will add up down the road, but a day here or there won’t be a deal breaker.
Juggling your normal life and a competition life isn’t easy; it will take some practice plus some trial and error. I promise it will get easier and you will feel less and less stressed the more you do it. I know women out there who have a full time job and kids, train, run a side job, hold down the house, and compete. Talk about total boss women! Trust me, though, they struggled too, but they found a routine that worked for them and they stuck with it. So take a deep breath, ask for help if you need it, and don’t sweat the small stuff. In the end, it’s all small stuff.