Competition is not just for the Trophy? What? Okay, okay breathe... The trophy is still extremely valuable to the person winning it, however there is so much more than the trophy you get to take home with you. The decision to start training for your fitness competition will forever change who you are as a person and how you perceive yourself. It was by far, one of the best decisions I have made thus far in my life. I honestly would not be the strong, disciplined and confident woman I am today, had I not taken that first step towards the stage. During my journey to the stage I learned a lot about my body, how it reacts to certain foods, supplements and even different levels of water intake. It’s amazing what your body can tell you if you just take the time to listen. Through training I not only gained strength, but also knowledge. The most important thing I learned from competing wasn’t how my body reacted, nor how I looked on the outside, it was what I learned about who I truly am on the inside. I was at a point in my life where I was turning 30 years old and still didn’t completely know or love the person I was, or did I know who I actually wanted to be. Through all the pain, sweat and tears (lots of them), I finally learned how to love myself for who I am on the inside, and to then love what I see in the mirror. You know the saying, “if you can’t love yourself how are you going to love somebody else?” This is so true and should be taken to heart no matter what your situation. After going through this process of self-discovery I finally feel like I have found my passion, not only in fitness, but also in my career. I’ve learned what true dedication is and have been able to apply that into my everyday life. When you're training for a competition, life can get rough (quick) and take you down a rollercoaster ride of emotions that you’ve never experienced before. It’s a lot to handle at first, especially if you have no clue what to expect or know how to handle it all by yourself. There were several times where I wasn’t sure if I could continue on, but it was in those moments I knew it was just my body and mind testing me. I kept telling myself, “You can do this.” I started training for the competition to test my limits and see how far I could push myself to become the best version of me, compared to the woman that I was. I wasn’t about to give up on all the work I had already put in when I hadn’t even reached my end goal. I put it in my mind that if someone else can do it, so can I. There were a lot of people who doubted I could actually follow through and make my way on to the stage, let alone think I would actually place in the top five. That doubt just drove me to want it more and more. I will admit, life got a little lonely for a while. I wasn’t able to go out for a glass of wine with my girls or meet my parents out for dinner, however that was a sacrifice I was willing to make to reach my goals. At the end of the day, competing is an experience you will take with you for the rest of your life. It will teach you a new lifestyle which includes discipline, self-love, determination and strength. Taking home a trophy at the end is a bonus and becomes a sentimental item that represents all of your hard work. I promise, you will never regret your decision to step on stage and accomplish what most cannot. My next article will help navigate the first time bikini competitor through competition and answer all of the questions that keep filling up my inbox. These are the same questions I had when I was preparing to step on stage for the first time. Stay tuned friends.