Business Lessons Learned Training for a Bodybuilding Competition

At 45 I entered my first bodybuilding competition. It was a dream I entertained since I was 27 and it sat untouched at the top of my bucket list. With each passing year the dream thrived, but also the fear of never having it realized – it being that one big regret in my later years.

So, with just 18 weeks until competition day I met with a personal trainer, beginning the quest to gain serious muscle, get unrealistically lean and prove to myself and my girls that anything is possible.

It was an aggressive goal with an even more aggressive timeline. Through this journey of transformation and self discovery it occurred to me that there are many parallels between business-building and body-building. These are just some:

It’s a Daily Grind
Transformation is hard and not realized overnight. Discipline, persistence and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone is where the real growth happens. It will hurt, but that short-term pain will bring long-term gain. There will be moments when you feel like giving up, but you have to keep going. This has become even more evident with COVID-19 as many businesses had to reinvent themselves to survive. Those first few months were excruciating, but with hard work and ingenuity many have survived and thrived.

Your Biggest Competitor is Yourself
It’s imperative to set your own goals at the onset so you have something tangible to work towards and mark your progress along the way. Stay in your lane. Sure, know what the competition is doing, but don’t focus on them. Know what sets you apart and use that to your advantage. On stage my legs were not as defined as others, but my back was one of the best, so I was sure to emphasize it in my presentation.

Work with a Coach
A good coach will help with goal setting, keep you on track, hold you accountable and be unapologetically honest. Praise will be given when earned and encouragement offered when falling behind. That coach will also push you beyond what you think you’re capable of and will know how to work to your strengths and weaknesses. The same goes at work. A good manager or coach can be instrumental to your development. Don’t shy away from asking your manager for more guidance – asking for help is a sign of strength and willingness to grow, not a sign of weakness. An executive coach is a great resource for all levels of an organization and can act as an advisor, sounding board, strategist and help you gain self-awareness to unlock your full potential.

If It’s Important You Will Find the Time
It’s often said, “when you want something done, give it to a busy person”. It’s always easy to put off the hard or time-consuming work for easier tasks, unproductive meetings or idle office chitchat. But if it’s important you will make it a priority. During my training work was insanely busy including launching a major project for a client. And as a single mom, finding time to train two to four hours a day, seven days a week, was a challenge. Adrenaline became my friend and I powered through, knowing that I needed to get both done, and done well, to be successful. Putting one off for the other was not an option. They were equally important so they were scheduled like critical client meetings that could not be missed.

Nourishment and Self Care are Critical
Without the proper food and natural supplements, I would never have been able to power through my intense workouts and sustain energy throughout the day. Without enough sleep my body wouldn’t have been able to repair and build itself and without my self care rituals my mental health could have suffered. The fuel you feed your organization is critical too. Do you foster an environment of creativity and openness? Do you challenge your team to grow and reward them for hard work? Do you promote a healthy work/life balance? If your team is not properly nourished the health of your company will suffer.

Check in Regularly, Even if it Feels You’re Not Making Progress
I had weekly check-ins with my coach. These were truth sessions, testing my courage and vulnerability. It required me to bare my all, literally, as I stepped on the scale to see what I accomplished the past week. Some weeks I felt elated, and others I questioned the validity of the scale. But, numbers don’t lie and some days my coach called me out on my lack of progress and tasked me with extra work for the week ahead. Regular check-ins at work are beneficial too. We’re all human. We all have feelings. We all make mistakes. It doesn’t take long to ask someone how they’re doing. But ask with sincerity; stop, look in their eyes and really ask the question, not just in passing while walking by. It’s not just the asking, it’s the listening that’s equally important; be prepared to engage and offer support if needed, and if it’s not possible at the moment, schedule a follow up discussion.

The Big Moment – Enjoy It Regardless of the Outcome
All the hard work is done, nothing has been left on the table. On the day of the competition, pitch, presentation, etc., relax, be present, and enjoy the moment. If you’ve prepared properly, practiced endlessly and feel confident in your abilities then the outcome will be a positive one. You many not get a medal or the results you hoped for, but if you know with certainty you brought your best package to the stage then that itself is the win. Be proud, acknowledge the hard work and celebrate regardless of the result. Then the next day, with a clear head, do an honest self-assessment, target areas for improvement and adjust your plan for growth.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I earned two silver medals at my first competition. I cried on the way home, overcome with pride – pure tears of joy! It was a gruelling 18 months and some days I questioned my sanity. But I persevered, and like the tattoo I got commemorating my personal and competitive win reads, it was simply a case of “mind over matter”.

Shannon Foster
Director, Marketing & Communications

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