by Christian Duque
The choice for a person to compete is a very personal one, and so too, is the choice of whether to go pro. I want to state this from the outset because sometimes a competitor may initially compete out of love of training or because they like the competitiveness of the stage, but they start feeling obligated to live up to others’ expectations. Whether that means living up to a coach’s expectations, a team’s, a gym’s – whatever! The second an athlete no longer has their heart in the game, then it starts to feel like a major drag.
On the flipside, a competitor may compete against the wishes of loved ones. Many times a significant other might pressure their partner out of competing. Some employers may even threaten the competitor with their job; we see this often with teachers and corporate employment. While they may not dare to expressly prohibit what employees do in their free time, they might imply that competing puts their future employment at risk. Others may feel that competing, training, and/or appearing on fitness publications might hinder their chances of advancement.
Remember, that a great many people simply don’t understand what physique-based sports are all about. They may sexualize them or associate them with a drug culture. The fact is competitors have to compete because they want to and they have to be able to overcome pressure and/or adversity. So long as the decision to prep and battle on stage is entirely their own, then we’re off to a good start.
The next decision is when and where to compete. You’d be surprised how many people don’t make it past the first paragraph. So many competitors feel obligated to get up there. I know of many people – men and women – who simply don’t want to let their coaches or teams down. Let me stress – here and now – for the last time, you have to compete for yourself. You can do a contest to honor someone, but please don’t subject yourselves to months and years of abuse simply because you want to make others happy. That’s just as bad as not competing because others would rather you live the way they want you to. Both situations are wrong.
If a competitor wants to compete and they’re doing it for the right reasons then the question becomes what are their goals. The vast majority of competitors want to compete locally. They want their friends and families to come root for them. They like knowing they don’t have to sleep in a hotel room, don’t have to take planes, or be at the mercy of others. When you’re competing far from home there’s also a lot more stress to take into account, not to mention extra time off from work and also the amount of added money that’s spent.
Most competitors are happy to win a local title. Others are happy to place well. The vast majority simply want to look contest-ready, pose on stage, and have contest shots that they can use to promote their training businesses and/or use to promote themselves in many different career paths. Competing on a bodybuilding stage is very much like running a triathlon, climbing a mountain, or earning an achievement. It also shows people another side of them. Those who want to compete and climb the bodybuilding ranks, however, should be aware of a few things.
For starters, there’s no money in bodybuilding. Most of the money in question will be coming out of your pocket for a federation card, entry fees, suits, training, drugs (natty or not) and FOOD. The food alone could put most people in the poor house. Keep in mind that good food isn’t cheap. You need to eat according to how your body responds. In fact, a great many fitness enthusiasts opt for organic, they might eat keto, and they may only drink alkaline water. I know many competitors who will only eat a certain kind of protein, will only shop at certain high end markets, and they won’t do it because they want to show off, it’s because regular markets simply won’t cater to their needs. As competitors compete at higher and higher levels, nothing can be left to chance. If the goal is to be a pro because of the title and the respect, then more power to you, but the chances of turning pro are pretty slim. I know of people from Louisville who go to these national shows and every year is going to be – the year – and so far, no year has been it.
What’s there? What’s on the other side? Certainly not a pot of gold.
I’m not looking to discourage anyone from competing with this article. I just hope you’re competing for the right reasons and that you’re realistic with yourself. I’ve interviewed hundreds of athletes who turn pro and they have these huge get-rich-quick ideas. They have such drive and vision for what that pro status is going to mean. To date, I haven’t met a single person who’s hit it rich just because they became a Bikini Pro, a Physique Pro, or a Bodybuilding Pro.
In fact, as a Pro you still have to pay to go to local shows just like the rest of us, you don’t get more business, and you don’t get more followers just because you got a card. You don’t get anything just for being a pro. Those who turn pro and market themselves as such can see success, but simply being a pro doesn’t give you anything. And to be honest, I don’t think going pro 5, 10, or 20 years ago did either.
Now if you won the Overall at the Nationals or USA’s then sure, but that’s a handful of people out of a country of 300 million!! All I’m saying is, be realistic with yourself.
If the pro card is your goal – great! But for most it’s just not something they’re gunning for and maybe it’s not something worth their time. And that’s OK too!! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not wanting to go all the way. Going all the way is reserved only for a select minority. And it doesn’t mean that they are any more driven or hardcore than you. It’s just different goals for different people.