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Competitive Encouragement

The main thing to keep in mind throughout contest preparation is that it’s probably one of the most physically difficult things that he’s ever done.

Q: My boyfriend has decided to compete in his first bodybuilding show. I work out but not very seriously. I want to help him as much as possible, and I wondered if you had any advice for me.

A: That’s a question I rarely get, but it deserves some attention. Whether your significant other is preparing for a physique contest, shaping up for some other event—a wedding, class reunion, Body for Life contest, etc.—or just trying to get into better condition, your support is crucial. You have the ability to make his or her quest for a better body as fun and easy or as difficult as possible. Since you’ve asked the question, you’re obviously hoping to make things easier for your guy, and that’s a wonderful thing.

Keep in mind that there are going to be times that will be very difficult for you. As the contest gets closer, he may become more irritable, less patient, less talkative, less considerate, constantly hungry and tired most of the time. I realize that doesn’t sound very appealing, but the more helpful and supportive you are, the better he’s going to feel and the better life will be for both of you.

There can be a lot in it for you too. Obviously, your man is going to end up in the best condition of his life, and what woman doesn’t want her guy to be in great shape? You could also end up in fantastic shape. A number of years ago I was dating a woman who didn’t work out at all and whose diet was the worst imaginable. She decided to diet along with me as I prepared for the Natural World Championships. With just a little training and following my diet, she ended up losing about 20 pounds and looked great. Another benefit for you—actually for both of you—is that working together to accomplish his goal could bring the two of you even closer and deepen your relationship.

Okay, let’s get down to the specifics of how you can help. I get the impression that you may not be too much into weight training, but don’t worry about that. If he’s decided to compete, he’s already hardcore and doesn’t really need your help with that, other than maybe some encouragement to persevere anytime he’s feeling “too tired to go lift.” The words that motivate me when I get like that are, “Do you want to be a champion?” That always gets me going. You might want to remind him when it looks as if he might falter in training or diet that he’s going to be standing onstage in posing trunks with a group of competitive bodybuilders. As I prepared for my first show, I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t like taking my shirt off at the pool with a bunch of beer-swilling knuckleheads.

You can really help by doing cardio with him. Very few male bodybuilders enjoy doing cardio. In fact, I’m going out on a limb here and saying that 99 percent of us hate it. So it’s that much more tolerable when my girlfriend does cardio with me and I have someone to talk with. She’s been great at prodding me at times to get my cardio done. Besides, we quite honestly have some great conversations during our cardio sessions together. Not only will you be helping him, but you’ll also be working yourself into better shape.

The most important thing you can do to help your boyfriend succeed is encourage him stick with the diet. That doesn’t mean you have to prepare all his meals for him, although if you enjoy doing that sort of thing, it’s a tremendous help. The best thing that you can do is diet along with him or at least not eat stuff in front of him that he can’t eat. It’s a huge, huge help to keep things out of the house that he can’t eat while he’s on his contest diet. You have no idea how difficult it is to have to smell pizza or cookies baking or watch someone eat a cheeseburger and fries or open the freezer and see a half gallon of ice cream when you’re on a rigorous contest diet. Eliminating or minimizing temptations is the very best thing you can do to help him. Once again, you’ll be helping yourself as well.

This year has been great for me with respect to the support I’ve gotten from my girlfriend. The date of my first contest of 2008 was actually her birthday. Of course, I asked her if she was cool with me competing on her birthday, as I had other competition options. She said it was fine, and she decided to train and diet to be in her best shape for her birthday. She was really great about making sure that I got my cardio done, and diet was never an issue throughout the preparation period. She told me that she wanted me to win the contest—the NPC John Sherman Classic—for her birthday, and I was able to deliver.

Two weeks later I had an even bigger challenge—the NPC Masters National Championships. One big issue was making weight in the welterweight class, which had a 165-pound limit. On the morning of the weigh-in we got up at 3:15 to make a 5:30 flight. Since I was four pounds over the weight limit when I got up, I decided that in order to make weight I’d have to go without eating or drinking until after the weigh-in. 

While Diana could have eaten all day long, she engaged in “sympathy abstinence.” Aside from a small portion of scrambled eggs in the Atlanta airport, she didn’t eat either. Needless to say, we were both starving by the time I finished weighing in about 7 p.m. As we discussed it while waiting for our dinner, it hadn’t really been a conscious decision on her part not to eat. We also realized that because I had not been drinking any alcohol for weeks, she’d also unconsciously cut way back on drinking. “Sympathy abstinence,” along with doing cardio and dieting with me, helped her get into such good shape that people were asking if she was competing at the Masters Nationals too.

Posing is another area that you can help your guy with. Look for an experienced posing coach. Try to find someone who’s competed and judged. Go with your boyfriend to the posing lessons and pay close attention to the posing tips that the coach is giving him. It helps tremendously to have someone who can help you on a regular basis, especially when preparing for your very first show. Get a list of the mandatory poses and call them out for him; you can e-mail me for a list. Have him hold each pose for 10 to 15 seconds and coach him through each pose, making sure that he’s flexing everything. Make sure, too, that he keeps his face relaxed and works on smiling while posing. There’s nothing worse than having your body prepared, then posing poorly and/or making weird faces in all of your photos. Posing is difficult and grueling, especially when your adrenaline is pumping at the show. Both of you will probably be sore the day after the contest. That’s right. You will be too because you’ll be “chair posing” right along with him. You’ll probably be exhausted from flexing in your seat by the time he’s done with prejudging.

The main thing to keep in mind throughout contest preparation is that it’s probably one of the most physically difficult things that he’s ever done. Add to that the fact that he’s hungry all the time and worried about getting into good enough shape. Just try to understand what he’s going through and be patient with him, and I’m sure he’ll make you very proud.

Okay, now make sure he reads this: Dude. Be careful not to get your head so far up your own butt that you can’t see what’s going on around you. While you’re getting tunnel vision, everyone else has to try to live a relatively normal life. Your girl is trying to help you as much as possible. You’re going to have to make a concerted effort to be considerate of her needs and thank her at every opportunity for everything she is doing for you.

Best of luck to you both.


Editor’s note: See Dave Goodin’s new blog at Click on the blog selection in the top menu bar. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to  IM

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