Long Live Competitive Fitness!

Competitive Fitness is a sport that can absolutely take your breath away!  It is arguably the highest level of competition in the family of physique display sports which includes bodybuilding, figure, bikini, and physique.  It requires explosive athleticism, strength, flexibility, aerobic conditioning, aesthetic development, and a great degree of dedication to maximize training, nutrition, recovery, performance, and time management.  The women who participate in this sport are truly special.

I initially developed my affinity and respect for fitness competitions and the women who did them because I got to see first hand how hard they worked and how incredibly talented they were.  I remember sitting in the aerobics room of Gold’s Gym in San Jose, CA where I worked and in one day getting to watch Fitness America Champions and future IFBB Pro’s Tanya Merryman, Julie Childs, and Sherlyn Roy all run routines as they prepared for an upcoming show.  I had the pleasure of training and training with Tanya many times, and as a prep coach, many of the very first athletes I worked with were fitness competitors.  It was much more of a challenge for them training and striving to have that perfect look onstage while still practicing and working on achieving the perfect routine performance.  They needed to diet hard enough to get competition lean, yet still have the energy to workout and perform.  They still needed to have the balance, symmetry, and proportion while fighting the natural development adaptations of constantly working on the mandatory strength moves.  It brought out the best in me as a coach to work with these incredibly driven athletes which included two California State Fitness Championship winners.  For a time, I was even a coach on Tanji Johnson’s Save Fitness Team and I had the pleasure of coaching people like Kristine Duba and Alissa Carpio as amateurs who would later go on to become IFBB Pro Fitness Athletes.

A recent announcement by the National Physique Committee stated that they will be removing the 2-piece physique comparison portion of fitness competitions.  While I’m sure they have their well thought out reasons, I am just as sure that there are a lot of unhappy fitness purist, mainly the competitors, who have devoted so much time, effort, energy, and money towards being the best they can be in their sport.  A number of top pro and amateur competitors took to social media to voice their opinion and displeasure.  I found myself commenting about what I considered to be some important points to know about the state of the sport many people love.  I thought I would share those thoughts with you:

“The fitness division (including the physique display 2-piece round) is a marque division and has more potential for growth and expansion to mainstream popularity and acceptance than any other.  It has the greatest entertainment value and “Wow factor”, and the greatest degree of displayable athleticism.  It simply needs to be marketed and promoted better and prioritized to be given the opportunity to grow.  I would much rather see high-level fitness competitors guest performing at shows than the current level of accepted guest posing conditioning.”

“What needs to happen is a fundamental shift in how women are marketed and portrayed in the fitness industry.  An IFBB official remarked to me that women simply could not draw the numbers financially and attendance wise to support their sports.  I disagree, I think they are marketed as “eye candy” not athletes and role models.  They are paraded out even at the top events as someone to look at as opposed to look up to.  Positioning them and showcasing them to inspire other women would mean focusing on who they are and what they have accomplished, along with how they look within the concepts of fitness, as opposed to within the confines of booty shorts.  So it’s all about image and marketing, both the individual athletes as well as the sport, and the challenges and requirements it demands to be successful.  Then the proper respect and appreciation will follow and the numbers will be there as well.”

Competitive fitness is a sport in which the athletes who participate in it do so out of love.  They have arguably the greatest level of camaraderie and kinship of all the physique sports.  I’ve personally witness the helpful nature of the experienced competitors towards the newcomers.  They actively recruit others to try their sport, always working to dispel the myth that you need to be a former gymnast or elite dancer to be successful.  They toil away for the opportunity to get better, both in their routines and with their physiques.  They had to fight very hard for acceptance when the sport first came onto the scene and the typical bodybuilding crowd, including many of the bodybuilding competitors, were slow to warm to the them.  But the physiques developed and displayed by some of the sports champions have shown that they are as hardcore in the gym as any bodybuilder.  They have earned the right to showcase themselves onstage with their physiques as well as their performance.  So it is understandable that they will be extremely disappointed if they are no longer able to do so.

The future of fitness is still largely unwritten.  If how it actually plays out is determined by the amount of passion and dedication is possessed by the women who practice it, the future can still be quite bright!

Photo: Terry Goodlad

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