Gary Leake

Student, Teacher, Coach, Technologist, Lifestylist

So You Want To Be A Competitor?

Have you ever been in a situation where you've heard the same questions so many times that you have an answer ready as soon as you see a stranger across the room give you "THE look"? That look most introverts like me play out this internal dialogue, "Oh we made eye contact... If I look away quick enough maybe they'll think I was just scanning the room... Damn it, they're coming this way..."

Very similar to when the narrator in Fight Club, going by Cornelius at the time, meets Bob, the character played by Meatloaf, at the Remaining Men Together meeting. Except Bob was the ex-bodybuilder, not the other way around. I digress...

You know how someone can look at you and you get kind of what they're thinking? You can see the question coming out of them. There's a degree of excitement/giddiness underneath. If you're a trained professional you know what's coming.

Hey man, you look like you compete. I’ve been looking for a diet coach because I’m thinking of getting into bodybuilding!

Will you help me with my diet?”
— Ibid

My retort. You ready for this?

"Ok, but if we are going to work together I have to make sure you can handle what I'm going to ask of you. Can you do that?"

General uncertain head nodding ensues by the other party.

"Alright, I want you not to eat bread for 2 weeks and come back and see me. This means no sandwiches, crackers, rolls or anything that smells like bread. No rye, no whole wheat, no pumpernickel. Don't come back until you have gone 2 weeks without."

About half of the people were never to be heard from again. But after 2 or more weeks the remaining half of the people would be back and very proud of their accomplishment!

"I did it, made it 2 full weeks with no bread. When do you want to start with my diet?" they ask. "I have a show coming up that's 18 weeks away and I think I can just make it. My friend says I look great and if I just eat these protein bars that'll help me retain my muscle during the dehydration phase."

Eeeasy little camper!
I say when we start.
— says I

"I'm very proud of you for cutting out what many have come to see as a staple in their diet for 2 weeks, but you know that competing is a lifestyle, not a sprint, right?"

Again, general head nodding ensues.

"Well you just ran about 50 meters."

"So now I'm going to ask you to not drink sodas for 2 weeks IN ADDITION TO that no bread thing. That means no Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Coke with Splenda, Coke Clear, Coke with coke, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, or any of their generic or other name brand counterparts."

Inevitably, this is where they would get a defensive look and say something like, "But what about..." You could insert any of the flavored sparkling seltzer concoctions you want here, it was asked and noted by yours truly for use at a later time.

"And one more itsy bitsy little thing" I'd add. "How many shows has your friend done?" Usually they'd respond with a slow blink. 

"That's exactly in proportion with how much input they should have on your diet. You can only have one coach for this."


You may have picked up on the point of this exercise already,
but the idea is twofold.
  1. Are you willing to do what is asked of you regardless of what anyone else says or what current biases you hold?
  2. Do you have the ability to eliminate outside distractions and truly commit to a plan?

If you made it through the 4 weeks and I feel that you have answered yes, through action not words, to both of these questions, then you are someone I would want to work with. Someone I wouldn't have to worry about sneaking off for a cheat meal every Friday night.

This is definitely not the only way to skin this cat however. I know there are other coaches out there that believe in other methods and approaches, some more and some less strict. Those obviously work well for them, just like this works for me. But you shouldn't engage a coach for something like this unless you're really ready to commit to whatever they ask. They've seen it before and know what's what.

Even though I've softened my approach now to work with a more general "fat loss" based clientele, I still get "THE look" occasionally, and when I do guess what I tell them to do?

I'm interested in what coaching experiences you've had. Let me know in the comments.