What it Takes
This was the first article I wrote for NB&F magazine back during the fall of 2009 when I was prepping for the WNBF US Cup and World Championships
What It Takes
By: Kurt Weidner
As I sit here and write this article, while I consume another delicious serving of chicken and broccoli, I begin week 16 of a 25 week preparation for the WNBF World Championships. This preparation really began over a year ago last summer, when I returned home from the WNBF Mid-America. The end of this summer also marks over twelve years as a competitive natural bodybuilder, for me (Worlds will be the 29th show of my career). In that time bodybuilding has certainly become a very large part of my life. So I would like to share with you my perspective on what this sport is about to me and what it takes to succeed not only onstage, but also as a competitor carrying out all the other demands that life places on us. First of all, what is natural bodybuilding about to me? For me it is about challenging the limits of the human body. Every day I am manipulating my physique via specific regimented training and nutritional methods with the end goal of maximizing muscle mass, shape, definition and symmetry while minimizing subcutaneous fat and water to look as close to perfect as possible for a single day…in an event in which I am compared to others trying to do the same thing. Everyday leading up to that event the actions I take bring me closer to my goal. In each 24 hour period I am focused on every detail…every hour of sleep, every meal, every workout, every posing session…it’s all part of the bigger picture even if my next show is a year away. The package I present when I step onstage is the culmination of all those things. Discipline, focus and sacrifice to be my absolute best for one day. My lifelong challenge is to see how far I can take my physique. Part of the challenge is to do this without the use of performance enhancing drugs. In my eyes, those who choose to build their physiques using drugs lack the mental fortitude, patience, discipline and dedication required to do it naturally. Besides, I am not interested in destroying my body, which is what drugs do, no matter what kind you are talking about.
Having competed in sports my entire life, I can honestly say that this sport (I prefer to call it a lifestyle) is very unique. It requires complete focus and attention to detail all the time…not just while you’re onstage or in the gym. If you truly want to succeed at the higher levels you must be willing to devote all of yourself, not just for days or weeks, but months and years! While I do not claim to be more than an average bodybuilder, I do feel that I have worked hard enough over a very long period of time to demonstrate considerable positive changes in my less than genetically optimal physique. It took me a long time to get there. I began competing at 21 years old and I did not win my first overall title until I was 26 (if I remember correctly) and had competed in nine or ten shows already. Let it be known that I am an extremely competitive person and I do not enjoy losing…for me taking second place is a loss (it’s not a win). I took my fare share of second places as an amateur and as a pro have yet to win a class. Every single time, year after year, contest season after contest season I go back to the drawing board and figure out what I need to do to improve. How can I train harder? What can I do to bring up my weak points? How I am going to make sure the outcome is better next time? How am I going to assure myself that the overall package I bring to the stage the next time around is going to be harder to beat? If it’s not, then there’s no point in me ever stepping onstage again.
I get very frustrated with young competitors, who think that because they trained hard and dieted strict for a few months that they should be able to step onstage and win. YOU HAVE TO PAY YOUR DUES!!! There are competitors out there who have been paying their dues for years and you are going to face them when you step onstage. You want to win? Ask yourself: How many years are you willing to train as hard as possible, eat right everyday, practice posing, do the right thing both in and out of the gym DAY IN AND DAY OUT??? Don’t tell me about it, just do it! Then one day you’ll step onstage and it’ll be your turn to reap the rewards.
Bodybuilding is a very physically and mentally demanding LIFETSYLE. Everyday we are putting pressure on ourselves to bring our physique to the next level…to raise the bar and set a new standard of excellence! Physically we are pushing ourselves to the limits. What’s more is that we are doing it while in a constant caloric deficit. Ultimately, we are making our body do something it doesn’t want to do…THAT’S WHY IT’S AWESOME! WE WANT TO PROVE THAT IT CAN BE DONE! THAT’S WHAT THAT DAY IS ABOUT WHEN YOU STEP ONSTAGE!!! You must be willing to do whatever it takes to get there, because you know that the feeling of achievement far outweighs any degree of sacrifice you had to make or pain you had to endure to get there. If you’re like me, you’ve experienced that feeling onstage enough to know that you’re willing to put yourself through anything (no matter how hard) to get that “high” again, but only better. This is why I don’t need drugs. I get a natural euphoria from competing that I created myself. It comes from within.
This is where I would like to point out something else that I think is very important. While the lifestyle is demanding and implementing it to the degree that will bring you success at the highest levels is even more demanding, you have to remember one thing…YOU CHOSE TO DO THIS! Why? For me, it gives me purpose, it provides a challenge and gives me a constant goal to strive towards. NOBODY IS MAKING ME DO THIS! For that reason, I do my best to never complain about feeling tired, light-headed, exhausted, etc. I am a bodybuilder and it is part of my life, but life goes on. I have plenty of other tasks that need to be performed on a daily basis and they are indifferent as to what I’m putting myself through. Housechores must be done, the dogs must be walked and given attention, I have to continue to devote myself to my clients at work. I must invigorate them and motivate them to continue improving their own lifestyles. The lawn has to be mowed. Life does not get put on hold during contest preparation. You must be able to balance things and get it all done and most importantly, be able to do so without complaining about it or without it affecting others’ perception of you or your bodybuilding lifestyle. If you are going to constantly complain about how tired you are, how hungry you are, hard much carb depletion sucks, then CHOOSE another activity. This is not for you. We all have our days when we may be a little irritable, but the bottom is, if you are in this for the long haul, then you need to learn to suck it up and deal. Besides, while I love bodybuilding and I am willing to dedicate quite a bit of time and effort towards improving my physique, it does not pay the bills and it does not take precedence over certain other priorities. It shouldn’t have to. You must learn to balance it with everything else.
Along the same lines, remember that since you chose this lifestyle YOU NEED TO LEARN TO ENJOY IT! I have often heard competitors gripe about what they have to go through and they dread beginning their contest preparation diet. You should look forward to the beginning of a new season, enjoy the transformation process that your body goes through and not just simply look forward to it being over so that you can eat your favorite foods again. Preparing for a show is an exhilarating experience. Take pride in what you are capable of doing during this time. When I get light-headed, walking my dogs up the hill by my house in the later weeks of contest preparation, it tells me that I’m getting closer to my goal and thus I enjoy it. I take great pride in finding a way to work just as hard in-season, completing 50 set leg workouts on 1500 calories less than my off-season maintenance level. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I remind myself before every workout that I absolutely cannot allow caloric restriction to prevent me from having a good workout. This lifestyle is as much about breaking through psychological barriers as it is physical barriers. On your absolute worst day of contest prep, when you are as run-down and depleted as you can be, remind yourself this: there are many people out there who deal with pain and suffering everyday with no choice in the matter. Some face conditions that offer little for them to look forward to and they would give anything to have the opportunities that you have, yet somehow they don’t complain and find a way to smile each day.
Focus on the positives. Don’t think about the food you can’t eat. All the restaurants and grocery stores will still be there when your season is over. Don’t think about being tired. Find it in yourself to give more and convince yourself that your body will follow your mind. Think strong and be strong. Remind yourself everyday of why you measure all your food, plan every meal, push yourself to exhaustion in the gym, , endure more pain…because you know that in the end IT’S WORTH IT! There’s no better feeling in the world than producing a finished product worthy of your own satisfaction when you finally hit the stage and more importantly, being able to look back at the 6 month journey leading up to the show, knowing there was nothing else you could have done that would have made you look better.