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Not Ready for Your Contest?

Dave Draper, Marina Del Rey.

Hey. It's me — Laree's husband, Dave. We're back from our wild and crazy adventure across the wilderness of America. We flew to Florida, rented a mini-van and drove back, following our cooperative nose. A magnificent country, this USA, with a few exceptions.

Do you realize how many fast food places there are? Every off ramp — any highway. Astonishing. The usual chains plus a dozen I never heard of. Good thing we took our canned tuna fish and meal replacement packets with us or we'd have clogged arteries and substantially enhanced bodyfat content by now. A fate worse than death. They're trying to kill us out there. Pass the mayo, the butter, white bread, fries and Super Cola. Easy on the protein, please, thank you.

Anyway, I'm beginning to sound like a cynic and that's worse than belli-bulgis muchos. So, on to constructive thoughts and words of inspiration, the bread of life.

In our hemisphere we're entering the season of physique contests, summer and early fall. Prime time to be in shape after the sunless winter hibernation and bulking, after the fair-weather spring revival and renewed muscular focus. Thousands of shows are in production from Mr. and Ms. Contra Costa to the famed "Big Boy" contest of Malibu, the Muscle Beach to the Olympia.

These are the times that try the souls of budding bodybuilders, the up and coming muscle builders determined to give it a shot. The dais, the lights, the oil and pump, your favorite throbbing music — double overhead biceps — one, two, three — down into a ¾ back shot, slowly leaning, right arm raised skyward — flex, relax, flex. You and the crowd.

We're a competitive creature, if not with the person beside us, within ourselves. Unless a person is neurotic, this is good — causes us to strive to become better and better, perhaps the best. Competition is seductive, however, and can cause us to lose our balance. Be careful. Oh, yes, there's pride, that thin rivulet of vanity that trickles thru our being like the mighty Mississippi. Its power can not be estimated. No gauge has been devised by man to measure its limits.

I was in a Piggly Wiggly market in Georgia restocking our ice chest when I noticed a big guy following me around the fruits and vegetables. (I was with Laree, felt safe.) He finally cornered me by the frozen foods and asked how he could get ripped — he had a contest in six weeks. I stood there, looked at Laree and she looked at me. He went on to say he noticed I had veiny forearms, that he weighed 270 pounds at 5'10" and got down to 240 pounds last year for the local show but that didn't cut it. He shrugged his shoulders and in despair asked, "What should I do?"

In spite of the question and the fact that he didn't know who I was, he turned out to be intelligent and a nice guy. When you're 40 pounds overweight and 6 weeks from showtime, you tend to babble. He was with his wife, and half my age, training for 10 years. A brute with thick traps — he could pull a freight train.

This is what I had to say...

If I were you, I'd reconsider entering the contest. You're too far out at this stage of the game. You have mass, shape and tone; but you don't have the muscularity to impress the judges. You can diet down but it'll cost you a fortune in muscle mass to lose the bodyfat. The next 6 weeks will be a nightmare as you watch yourself decrease in size and painfully notice your strength and energy diminish.

He was a black guy with soft eyes who had POWERLIFTER written all over his chest, traps and shoulders. He nodded in unison with his wife as I spoke. "I hate to lose size," he muttered with reluctance yet conviction. His wife shook her head and rolled her eyes, declaring, "He's already complaining he's getting too small."

There are no secrets you don't already know, no ingredients this side of the pharmacist's counter. No supersetting, bombing, blitzing system that'll do a healthy restructuring for you at this point in time. The most you can do is sacrifice this year's hard work to gain mass by starving yourself and senselessly overtraining in the next 45 days. Not smart.

Do this instead. Get a pair of tickets and watch the show from the balcony. Use the bodyweight you have to continue your hard and heavy training. Stay tight in building muscle density and separation as you serve yourself an abundance of protein and carbs needed for repair, resistance and drive. Don't be gluttonous or menu-careless, be wise and generous. Be happy and enthusiastic.

Build your body core over the next years establishing muscle maturity, training wisdom through creative experience and persistence. Don't toss your mighty delts and arms in quest of a biceps vein or a cut in the obliques.

We parted, wishing each other well. I don't know what he decided, but his wife was smiling.

I see the same phenomenon year after year when the spirit of competition rises in the gym. It's exciting, it's healthy, it's a solid goal. Know yourself and enter when you're ready for the experience and the fun of it. Drop a few pounds of excess, increase the training pace and go in thumbs up. Don't beat yourself up and waste time in search of an ab at the expense of your biceps when it's simply too soon.

Save it and invest wisely.

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Here's more about getting lean for summer