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Based in Birmingham, Alabama, These R my People is a blog written by Sharron M. Swain. In which I get to talk to great people doing amazing things, then share their stories with you. 

Broccoli, bikinis, and bodybuilding, oh my!

Broccoli, bikinis, and bodybuilding, oh my!

Reflections on Janelle Smith's first bodybuilding competition

Photo Janelle Smith

Photo Janelle Smith

One month ago today, Janelle Smith competed in her first-ever bodybuilding competition. Click here to read about her journey to get to that point. Today she and I had a chance to reflect on the competition and to talk about what’s next.

How was it?

It was really fun! It was stressful, and nerve-wracking, but really, really fun. It went by really fast - the whole day was a blur of nerves and stress. I’m happy I did it and was happy to be finally getting it over with.

The experience itself was fun: meeting other people, getting to talk to them, having the camaraderie of people who were going through what I was going through. I made up my mind to have fun and enjoy the day, and I did!

Photo Janelle Smith

Photo Janelle Smith

The best part was eating afterward - I ended up having a burger and fries. Classic, but that’s what I wanted the most. The next morning I had pancakes, which is what I was really wanting.

It all tasted so good. It wasn’t chicken and broccoli, so I was pretty happy. It could have been anything, as long as it wasn’t chicken and broccoli or rice cakes.

What did you learn?

Honestly I think the biggest thing I learned was that it’s really not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s not as glamorous as it looks or sounds.

The sobering thing for me was that I had spent about 8 months working so hard for a total of maybe 15 minutes on stage, and it really puts things into perspective. I spent so much of that day worrying about what I was looking like, avoiding food so I wouldn’t bloat.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that serious. One show, one day, doesn’t dictate your whole life. I learned how to put things in perspective, especially as far as health is concerned. Some things are worth the struggle and some things just aren’t.

For example, I had had such a tumultuous relationship with my body, and I worked so hard to essentially be judged by people who don’t know me and don’t know what I’ve gone through.

I had to learn how to separate that competition experience from reality. The judges don’t have the facts; they just know what I looked like on a certain day at a certain time. They don’t see all the hard work and what goes into it.

It was a lot to take in and a lot to learn and adjust to after the fact.

Photo Janelle Smith

Photo Janelle Smith

How do you relate to your body differently, having been through the competition experience?

Now I’m open to listening to it. Before, during contest prep, I would be exhausted and hungry, and I would still go to the gym, only eat a certain amount of calories even though I needed more, and work out 3 times a day. I had a goal in mind, and it didn’t matter how I got there.

Now, I’m thinking about my long-term health. I want to compete again, but not to the detriment of long-term health. I’m learning to listen to my body, and to make real, sustainable changes for this body.

What surprised you?

All the gluing. SO much gluing. I had to glue so many things! Literally, I had to glue myself into the bikini.

And all the rice cakes. So many rice cakes.  

You can’t sweat during the competition. So I had to be mindful of my sweat glands so I didn’t ruin the tan. This was super-weird, ‘cause you’re sweating because it’s hot and you’re waiting, and you can’t touch anything, and you definitely don’t want to slip out of the bikini.

That was probably the most surprising - all the gluing.

The glue came with the tan kit. That’s just a normal thing for women in bodybuilding competitions.

How do you get out of the bikini after you’re glued in?

Very carefully. You just slowly peel yourself away from the bikini.

The tan gets everywhere and on everything as well.

You spend all that time working super hard and the thing you worry about the most is the butt glue not holding!

What’s next?

Right now I am relaxing. This is technically for me my offseason. I’m just trying to make sustainable and maintainable healthy habits that I’ll have for the rest of my life, keeping in mind that I want to compete again next year. I’m making plans for that, and not going super-hard right now. And I’m opening my mind to whatever adventure pops up next!

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