When I work with competitors and posing clients, the number one critical practice is mental training. While this is a physical sport, you cannot be successful without the proper mindset. Self-talk can go a long way, and it shows on stage too. When I have test judged, I can almost immediately separate the champions from the participants, just by their demeanor and attitude on stage. They have a certain factor that those even with incredible bodies but doubtful minds, don’t possess. Mental practice can take a while to master, so it’s a great idea to start weeks and months in advance.
BALANCE PESSISM AND OPTIMISM WITH REALISM
In order to become your best, you will need to address your weaknesses first, in order to correct them. Make a check list of things that you can improve…but also make an equal list of strengths that you already have. This will avoid self-defeating negative outlook on your body, and also avoid false positives that you are already perfect. Nobody is perfect. Not even the Olympians. But everyone can always improve their physiques, no matter what level you are on, and every person owns an advantage that someone else may not have.
WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE
This applies both to verbal and body language. Verbally, you should replace the words “I don’t, I can’t,” or even “I will,” with “I do, I can, and I am.” Don’t focus on the lack thereof; focus on what you have right now. The issue with “I will” is that it puts your approach in the future tense, rather than the present tense, which alludes to the idea that you do not already possess this quality.
Body language sends a strong message to your audience. I take this very seriously as I work with my posing clients closer the their show deadline. Lowering your chin, caving on with your spine, looking down at the floor, and “sinking” all signal weakness and lack of confidence. Walk and stand with a tall, elongated spine, head held high, and chest up to promote the message that you are strong, powerful, and proud. You will not only convince your judging panel, but you will also convince yourself.
Even if at first you have doubts that you are, in fact, a champion or winner, I encourage you to fake it. Wear it like an outfit until you get so comfortable that it fits like your new skin. I firmly believe that practicing physical actions send a strong signal to your brain, and can completely change your mindset in a matter of minutes. Even if you are nervous and anxious, but you continue to smile or laugh, it will eventually put you more at ease. If you feel low, stand tall and smile until you belie you are great. Practice makes it perfect, so I tell my clients to do this on a daily or hourly basis. Practice your posing and walking to death, until you can do it on auto-pilot, and that will train your brain to come into the moment.
Meditation can be used in many ways. You can take a few minutes a day to close your eyes and repeat a mantra or focused thought. You can use it to let go of stress and worry. You can use it to become thankful and grateful of all the good that you have in your life. All of these practices let go of the negative, and make room for the positive thoughts and feelings. This will also calm your psychological and physiological responses to ease anxiety and your heart rate. You can even do this in the moments before you go on stage.
TUNE IN, DON’T TUNE OUT
Awareness is very important while you are leading up to your competition and on stage. Ask yourself, “how does this pose feel? How do my muscles feel? How do I feel?” I would even go to say that how you feel emotionally can carry over into your external signals. If you pay attention to how things feel, and bring your awareness to your body at that very moment, you can control it. If you lose focus, get distracted, or lose your awareness, your smile, posture, and muscular contraction will fade. You may miss an instruction from the judges, or a helpful cue. Pay attention to what is happening on stage, don’t get lost in the bright lights and sounds from the audience.
PUT SOME MUSIC ON
Toward the end of the posing season, I tell my athletes to pose to music. Music can compelety change how you carry yourself, whether you need to use it to feel empowered, sexy, happy, or fun. Everyone has a different persona, and your music should fit. Make a posing playlist, and even listen to it before you go on stage. Do you ever notice how Ronda Rousey has the same Walk Out song that plays before each of her fights? She has conditioned herself to get into that fight mode when she hears that song. You can do the same thing.
GET INTO CHARACTER
Just as an actor must get into character before their theatrical performance, you must get into character for your event. At this time, you are not a mother/father, a sister/brother, a wife/husband or girl/boyfriend, a partner, a boss, an employee, a teacher, or a student. You are an athlete. A strong bad ass who has overcome many obstacles. You are deserving and you work hard, and now it’s time to show the world and reap the reward. In this moment, you are a competitor. You are dominant. You are a champion.
I literally practice winning every time that I practice my posing. I finish my presentation and comparison turns, than I start a new round for the finals. I walk out into my relaxed side stage position, count down the announcement of 5thplace, 4th, 3rd, 2nd, and then I announce my name as the winner. I walk out to the front, hit a pose, then practice bending down to pick up my trophy. Sometimes I even practice an Overall comparison round. Not only does this make me feel like a champion, it’s fun to pretend that I am winning until I am proven otherwise. It surely can’t hurt!
Bringing the right attitude and personality to a stellar physique and hard work can make or break a placing. It takes practice to build on belief, just like building fibers of muscle. Use your winning mentality every day, even if you don’t feel like it. Run that stage like you own it, and I guarantee you will have a great competition experience!