Bodybuilding remains to me one of the most unique sports in the world. It's a bit like the Olympics in the sense that one prepares diligently for a moment on stage, an allotted time to prove to the judges that you are the best of the best in your class.

OK. This is the time of year when I get a lot of questions about bodybuilding competitions.

Often, it’s not really about the competitions themselves, but more about the preparation. It remains to me one of the most unique sports in the world. It’s a bit like the Olympics in the sense that one prepares diligently, in some cases for a significant amount of time, for a moment on stage, an allotted time to prove to the judges that you are the best of the best in your class. There are expectations that must be met. Your preparation is on full display. It will show your respect for the sport, and the respect of the person who has coached and prepared you for that moment.

Now why am I bringing up this subject this month? Because one of the reasons why I am pressed with questions annually is because bodybuilders, especially the ones who compete in categories like Men’s Physique, Female Bikini, Classic Physique, and Female Figure, represent the possibilities of how the average man and woman can redefine their bodies on their quest for the gold.

Competitors all have workouts and meals prepared by their coaches. I typically will give curious clients who are not competing a taste of what this prep feels like this time of year. They do different weight resistance splits throughout the week, like chest/triceps, back/biceps, arms, legs, shoulders, etc. They also do varying amounts of cardio, sometimes on machines, and sometimes outdoors. They also must get proper rest, give alcohol a rest for a few weeks, and stick to their schedule.

For me, dedication and consistency is expected, but it’s not torture as many may believe. Many of my competitors over the years have compared the process to having a part time job; one where you must do your workouts and eat the meals assigned to you by your coach. The photo with this article is one of my competitors, Daniel, who will be competing in his first competition in a few months.

Practically, everything I’ve taught my readers over the years comes to play here: listening to your body, understanding your body, respecting it, staying positive, never giving up, having faith, looking at where you want to be long after the event, etc. Over the years, many of the competitors I’ve coached use these competitions as a bucket list item, like seeing your favorite singer, or visiting the country you’ve always wanted to see, while you are still healthy and able.

I have no problems with bucket lists. I think they often give men and women a reason to fight to live healthy, to stay hopeful, and to stay positive. However, as most of you know, I don’t believe in small snippets of happiness. I prefer a goal for longevity. If you decide to do one of these competitions now, plan to do it again next year, and the year after that, and plan on continually improving and evolving throughout the process.

A typical day in a workout for this may start with early morning cardio, followed by your first meal, followed by your day job, with several of your meals prepared and eaten there, followed by one of your workouts, followed by additional meals, supplements, and rest. Some of these days will also include posing clinics to prepare you for judge expectations and overall stage presence.

I encourage everyone to either do one of these competitions or get on a program similar to one a competitor follows; Like with standard exercise, don’t talk your way out of it. If you feel that defeatist attitude creeping into your brain, kick it to the curb.

Most of you know I’m very big on learning as much as you can about improving your physique and health, not for just for tomorrow or the next day, but also for next year and 5 years from now. The more we take care of our bodies, and prepare for the future, the healthier we’re remain throughout the course of our life and the more likely we will improve our longevity.

Whether you’re strictly working out at home, or primarily working out at a gym, make the most out of what you have access to, and stay the course for realizing your goals. Ensure you follow your coach’s instructions on everything you do when working out, including your technique, repetitions, sets, and even breathing. Rise above any self-defeating thoughts. My cousin Bob Marley once said, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” That statement can apply to many situations, including this one. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback.

Michael Shaw is a certified fitness trainer, sports performance nutrition specialist, owner of Shaw LLC, a member of the Maryland Advisory Council on Physical Fitness, and a fitness and fashion model agent. He can be reached at www.michaelroyshaw.com.