How to be an Unsuccessful Athlete

Heading into my third consecutive bodybuilding season, and my third season coaching myself through the process, I found myself reflecting a bit on what it is I’ve learned. From the very beginning, from the day I registered for my first show, I’ve used this space to keep track of, make sense of, and share my research, my trials, my successes and my failures. Let’s be honest, it’s been a LOT. I’ve said about a zillion words to share my experiences and hopefully, to help others who may want to pursue a similar path.

But this post is a little bit different. For this one, we are going to go backwards.

You see, I’m ten weeks in to a a 22 week FIRST show of the season prep (meaning that I will actually be on contest pre for another, like ten following that show too, leading into two more shows…), and it has not been a carefree-doughnut-eating-no-cardio good time like two years ago. This year, I’m finding that even I am not on my own team. My successes have been sometimes despite my actions- I’m a roller coaster right now, and as much as that sucks, I am relieved to admit it. I haven’t even posted a single prep-related post in TEN WEEKS, because I’ve felt like such a fraud this year. Who knows how realty-based that is, some might be nerves, to be honest I’m COMPLETELY FREAKING OUT at the knowledge that I compete as a PRO this year…
Because of this weirdness in thought and action, however, I’ve been able to learn a few more things to add to my repertoire. Through my own actions- self-sabotaging though they may be at times- as well as observing my friends and others who might think occupy that title, and experiences with clients and informal clients via the amazing individuals who have come to me for advice I took on in the last year, I feel pretty confident that I can speak on the topic of how to be an UNsuccessful athlete. While failure is still absolutely not an option for me- this is the mentality that I’ve always approached my sports with, and it’s served me well- I’ve peered down the path, and I’ve watched other take it, and I think it’s important to take stock of some of the patterns I discovered or observed.

It turns out, it’s a lot easier to be an UNsuccessful athlete than a successful one. I can fit most of it into a single post!


1. Don’t bother doing any research or reading. Nobody ever improved their BODY by exercising their mind- get real. Whether you’re coaching yourself, or being assigned reading by a coach that you’ve hired, this can come to no good. You’re just going to second guess everything you already know and ultimately not learn anything useful to implement anyway. And if your coach really needed you to know something, they’d just set aside the time to teach you one-on-one, rather than giving you resources, which is incredibly lazy. You pay them to do the thinking for you, right?

2. Don’t bother monitoring your intake- but forever be mad that you’re too fat or not gaining enough muscle. If it’s the offseason, you can definitely just wildly guess what a serving is. Don’t even open your calorie tracker if it’s the offseason. Just eat clean- you can’t possibly get fat if you just eat, like, rice and chicken. That’s just not how clean foods work in your body, so don’t worry about it. And if you don’t already know how to count macros, don’t bother learning now. Wait until it’s contest prep time to figure that all out. No sense in getting a leg up on things now!
3. Never mind following your programming- progressive overload and monitoring specific volume is overrated. I mean, progress is all about how you feel anyhow, right? Whatever some spreadsheet shows is just numbers. Test your maxes whenever you feel like it. Feeling strong on a Tuesday? Awesome! Call over a spotter and test that max, even if you aren’t due to do so for another three weeks. A PR is a PR no matter when it happens, and it won’t at all disrupt your fatigue levels, recovery ability, or muscular and metal adaptations for the next few weeks until you’re supposed to test. This is especially true if you paid someone to program for you. They can’t possibly know how good you’re feeling through this spreadsheet- if they did, they’d totally tell you to go for it.
Alternatively, you can just “test” two or three programs each month, just to see if you get the promised results. No booty in the first 9 days on Get Glutes? Ditch it. On to the next. Nobody has the time to fuck around with programming that doesn’t deliver, and quickly. Try that one fitness model’s 30 day bikini booty builder blaster for, like, 8 days.
                     T-rex is suddenly good at everything
4. Take imprecise and sporadic measurements of progress, just however and whenever you get around to it. As long as you do them sometimes, I mean, that’s good enough. Time of day, lighting, hydration, day of your cycle, and previous meals will have such an insignificant impact anyway. You’ll be able to make direct comparisons between the photos anyhow, right, just put them next to each other and *boom* compare. It’s as easy as that! This is the only way to see progress. Never mind that your goal was to gain size and strength, focus on the fact that you also gained some fat, and feel bad about that, instead, because fuck your goals and using the right tools to measure them, too.
5. Never sacrifice or put yourself into uncomfortable territory. Your social life and ease of daily life, paired with your DESIRE to be better should be enough to push you through to at least an elite level in your sport. Being an athlete should always enhance your life, so if you have to make any sacrifices whatsoever, like skipping the pot luck or going to the gym when your significant other wants to see a movie, you’re doing it wrong. Changing things in your life isn’t how you change yourself into a better athlete. You CAN have everything- and at the same time- don’t let anybody tell you differently. It’s called “balance,” according to fitstagram. Your comfort zone is just so nice and comfy, why would you ever leave it?
                    Doin a heckin balance
6. Blame someone else when you don’t make the progress you wanted. Blame your coach for not giving you enough resources to learn from and not portioning your meals for you. Blame your family for celebrating birthdays with cake. Blame your coworkers for not being on board with your fitness goals and enticing you with happy hour twice a week. Blame your job that has you traveling. But never- EVER- accept responsibility for your own lack of progress. There’s always something that can shoulder that weight for you. You just keep doing you, the rest will get on board eventually.

So there you have it. I’ve spent years compiling information on how to be a successful athlete, but it only took a few months of experimenting and observing to figure out how to be a bad one.

So now we can just scratch those things right off our lists and carry on being better than that, yeah?

2 thoughts on “How to be an Unsuccessful Athlete

  1. You just painted my self portrait, thank you… 😉 (The smiley means, yeah, I know, stupid times trying to balance things as a non-athlete who is just trying to “be better” yet I keep sabotaging that effort for reasons I try to understand. Except for your #6. I’m too cheap to have a trainer / “it’s straight-forward, right?”..)


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