By Gina Melnik

“I’m not strong enough. I won’t be competitive.” We have all heard this before.

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So many times I’ve talked to people that really wanted to do a certain show and then decided not to because they think they “aren’t strong enough.” Something about it scares them and it feels safer to just keep on doing what they’re doing until they are finally “ready” to compete. For newbies it might be hesitation to do a first show. For vets, maybe it’s shying away from Nationals even though you qualified and earned the right to be there.

To all those people: you have it backwards.

You think you need to get stronger before you enter that contest. What you actually need is to do that contest to get stronger. If you don’t have goals that seriously challenge you (and even scare you a little), you aren’t working nearly as hard as you could be.

Here’s a personal example. I considered not going to Nationals this year because even though I’d been back at lifting a while, my weights were still down following the birth of my daughter. All I wanted out of my lifting was to get back to where I was and I imagined that I’d just keep on doing what I was doing and somehow I’d get back there. But, the thing is… the way I got to my peak pre-baby strength was by doing 2011 Nationals. I’d been doing strongman for a few years at that point and never worked so hard for a show before. Not shockingly, working harder than I ever had before got me results like never before. The same thing happened this year. Given my new family obligations I couldn’t always put as much time in as I did back in 2011, but I definitely stepped up my game and put in more work and I saw the results. Somehow I made enough progress that I placed 3rd in my weight class and qualified for the Arnold Amateur World Championships!

And you know what happened when I kept up the hard training for the Arnold? I finally started to hit new all-time PRs for the first time since before my baby. That’s all I really wanted out of this year. In theory I didn’t need to go to Nationals or the Arnold to make that happen. But, in reality, I needed a push to hit that level.

There are a lot of sacrifices that go into prep for a big show and it’s not always fun. Doing Nationals and Arnold prep along side of my family and work obligations was brutal at times with free time and energy levels already low. Sometimes it was too much for me and I needed to back off my contest prep to keep other areas of my life on track and I’ve got no regrets about that. Everyone has their personal limit and that is a healthy thing. The real key is though, there were many times when I was able to put more time, schedule planning, energy, or focus into my contest prep — even though it was hard and I had to fight through it. There’s no question that having a contest that was important to me was a difference maker during these times.

So if your goal is to get stronger and you think you might want to compete for the first time or you’re a vet that wants to do a higher level show, quit worrying about whether or not you’ll be “ready”/”strong enough.” Just sign up and get focused on what you can do to make yourself better. Even if you are behind compared to what your competitors can do, you’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make if you truly commit to a contest goal.
“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”

Gina Melnik is a PhD.,   She has competed in powerlifting, bodybuilding and strongman over the past decade.  It is in strongman competition where she has made the highest distinctions, placing nationally and competing at the prestigious 2015 Arnold Sports Festival Amateur Strongman World Championships.  She is co-founder of N.E.W.S., New England Women of Strength, an organization dedicated to networking and promoting strength sports among women and representing gender equality.

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