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Contest Stage Fright

Q: I’m writing because I’ve seen you compete a number of times, and you always look so relaxed onstage. I’m an absolute nervous wreck every time I step out there. I need help. What’s your secret?

A: I know exactly how you feel. Walking out onstage under bright lights in a tiny posing suit is not a normal thing. It’s quite traumatic, and there is not much that can prepare you for it. In fact, I once had a client—an exotic dancer—who competed in one of my contests. She has a great naturally athletic body and generally wants to be the center of attention—some would say that she’s obnoxious, but I’d never say that. When she came onstage to compete in figure, though, she shook so violently that I was certain she was going to fall down. She ended up placing in the show but not nearly as well as she could have had she been able to project confidence. When I asked her later what the hell happened, she replied, “Dave, those lights were so bright, and right before I went onstage, I realized that none of those people were drunk.” She was the last person I thought would get contest stage fright, but it happened—and she goes onstage daily for a living.

I was extremely lucky when it came to getting good stage advice. I competed in my first contest mid-May 1983. I was so nervous that I hardly remember anything about being onstage other than the elation I felt when I was awarded the third-place trophy—totally unexpected. Just two weeks later I competed in the NPC Mr. Sunbelt in Galveston, Texas. Before the night show I was sitting in the theater talking to Craig, another guy in my height class. Lee Labrada, who was judging the show, walked up to speak with Craig.

It turned out they were training partners. Craig asked Lee for a critique, as did I. Lee told me I looked great and said to keep training and putting on more muscle size—I weighed 147 for that show. He asked me how I felt about the night show, and I told him that I was nervous. At that point Lee gave me the best advice I could have ever gotten. He asked me, “How long have you been dieting for the show? How much cardio have you done? Have you busted your ass in the gym—for how many weeks?” After I answered his questions, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Dude, you’re going to have 90 seconds up there onstage. You’d better enjoy it.”

That brief conversation totally flipped my perspective. Rather than worrying about being onstage, I looked forward to it. From that moment on I’ve looked forward to everything about the actual competition, and when I’m on the stage, I enjoy every moment for which I’ve trained so hard and sacrificed so much. When you see me smiling in the symmetry round and during the mandatory poses, it’s because I’m having fun. When I’m out there doing my posing routine, I’m having a blast.

When you think about all the time and energy you put into preparing for a show, your actual stage time is infinitesimal. When I finally realized that being onstage is the ultimate goal—the fun part—I began to enjoy the experience to the fullest.

I’ve been able to transfer my enjoyment of being onstage to other aspects of my life, and it’s served me very well. When I’ve had opportunities to speak to groups, appear on the radio, appear on the news, be interviewed for documentaries or play and sing onstage at nightclubs, I’ve always taken the same attitude. I just think that whatever I’ve been asked to do, I’ve worked hard for a long time to earn those moments in the spotlight—and I’m going to enjoy it.

Anytime you get the chance to showcase your talents, whether in a physique competition or speaking, singing, cooking, whatever, just think, “I’ve earned this. This is the fun part.” Enjoy your time in the spotlight. Your enjoyment will shine through, and everyone who witnesses your performance will share in your hard work and your enjoyment. Trust me on this too: You will inspire others.

Late addition: I wrote this column about 10 days before we held the 12th annual NPC Nutrishop Texas Shredder Classic. Beverly Williams-Hawkins, competing in her first show at age 56, went out there and had fun. She owned the stage. And let me tell you, she brought the standing-room-only house down. Today several over-50 people talked to me about Beverly and about the possibility of competing next year in the Shredder Classic.

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

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