Olympia Qualification: 5 Factors Why I’m Not Competing

TAGS: Olympia contest prep, Olympia qualification, IFBB Arctic Pro, Olympia, life priorities, ifbb pro, Mark Dugdale, bodybuilding

Last weekend I competed in my 36th IFBB professional contest, placing third in the Vancouver BC 212 Pro. To some degree the result didn’t matter, at least in terms of an Olympia qualification, which I already cinched two weeks prior by winning the Arctic Pro. However, the depth of the competition in Vancouver exceeded my previous outing and, at the end of the day, I’m fiercely competitive. I go to war with the iron and suffer through weeks of dieting for the ability to contend for a win.


RECENT: Another Victory at the 2017 IFBB Arctic Pro


Going into Vancouver I sought to improve both my fullness and dryness in comparison to the Arctic Pro. I felt like I achieved my goal and, my bride who is my harshest critic agreed. She said my conditioning outmatched everyone in the 212-pound and under division without giving up a significant amount of size. She further saw my proportion and symmetry equal or superior to those to whom I was compared. At the end of the day, the judges felt otherwise, but I have no complaints based on what I brought to the stage. Bodybuilding is a subjective sport and, like I’ve always said, “If you can't handle subjectivity then take up bowling so you can count the pins.”

Here’s the final scorecard: 

Vancouver Score Card

Here are some comparisons of the Vancouver Pro finalists:

Side Chest - top 3

Rear Lat Spread - top 3

Back Double Biceps - top 3

Ab Thigh - top 3

I titled this article "Olympia Qualification: 5 Factors Why I’m Not Competing" because the Olympia looms roughly nine weeks away. Joe Weider’s Olympia represents the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding, in which IFBB pro bodybuilders around the globe vie for qualification annually, and I’m blessed to have set foot on that stage five times in my career. This year would be my sixth, but after much soul searching I’ve decided to forgo joining the rest of the field at the Orleans Arena in September. The following factors, in no particular order, played into my decision-making process.

Factor #1

Rarely does a day pass in which my body fails to remind me of my age. This past weekend capped off my eighth competition in the past 13 months. At 42 years old, I can honestly say I enjoy training as much as any time since I picked up my first set of plastic weights in my teens. However, expecting to improve means I can’t live in a perpetual state of dieting for months on end. I considered labeling this factor "a time to rest," but rest isn’t something for which I’m easily inclined. I want to spend a good amount of time in an anabolic, calorie-surplus state to ensure I bring out the absolute best in my physique the next time I step onstage. I hate settling for mediocrity in any area of my life and want to realize tangible progress.

Factor #2

If training is my first love in terms of bodybuilding, Christina (AKA my bride) is my first love in terms of relationships. Anyone who has been married or in a relationship for any length of time with a competitive bodybuilder knows the challenges it presents. It’s the reason why I gratefully credit Christina for the solidarity she’s provided me and our girls over the years.

This August Christina and I celebrate our 20-year wedding anniversary and her birthday is a couple weeks later. 20 years of faithful commitment to a spouse is a long time, particularly in modern American culture, and I want to celebrate my love and devotion for my girl unencumbered by a contest-focused diet. Splitting my focus isn’t something I want her to endure again this August and September.

Factor #3

Living off bodybuilding might work for some competitors who do double-duty personal training on the side, or those fortunate to command huge endorsement contracts, but these situations are few-and-far-between. A large portion of my time is consumed by the business I run, and I’m in the midst of a succession plan with my current partner. The timing of the transaction and a number of other business related endeavors eating into my bandwidth will culminate in the coming months. Adding in an Olympia contest prep would do a disservice to the wonderful people I employ, the valued customers we service, and the various business facets requiring my attention.

Factor #4

The “business” of bodybuilding is really unlike anything else. The typical ethos of how businesses operate and the work ethic, professionalism, integrity, and drive required to experience success in other segments of the business world simply aren't applied in most instances to bodybuilding. I’m a numbers guy, which means I often think in terms of return on investment (ROI). I’ll often ask myself, “What is the emotional, physical, and monetary cost of a given endeavor in relation to the reward?” My last three Olympia appearances resulted in a negative ROI, because placing 10th or lower really doesn’t accomplish much in regards to career advancement. It partly plays into Factor #1 above, but I also clearly don’t possess the type of physique that gets rewarded by an Olympia judging panel. Unless I can improve, entering the Olympia might feed my ego, but it’s otherwise a losing proposition.

Factor #5

I believed something 10 years ago that I now consider total BS. The belief went something like this: Invest in raising well-behaved little children and they will not stray during their teen years. This logic holds true providing biblical sanctification is brought to completion before age 13, but Christian or otherwise we all know that’s simply not the case. I’m living those teen years with 14, 16 and 18-year old daughters right now.


WATCH: Dugdale UGSS Presentation — Protecting Your Joints and Life Balance


As a guy whose worldview is shaped by the gospel, I’m now getting a small glimpse into the full magnitude and enormity of God’s patience, love, and grace. How so? First, daughters stumble and fall down as teenagers just like they do as toddlers, yet with the potential for much more costly repercussions. I’ll argue the majority of the world’s thinking in regard to God and Christianity is all wrong. The expectation is that God perpetually watches and waits for us to stumble so he can punish or shame us in the moment of our failure, but this is not how things play out in scripture.

On the contrary, the picture more closely resembles the following: Jesus and a multitude of angels are eagerly watching and waiting when we fall down. They seek not to condemn but to applaud when we arrived back on our feet. It’s this eager anticipation and almost quiet encouragement saying, “Come on, get up. You can do this. I don’t care how many times you’ve fallen down; get back on your feet!” This, in a nutshell, is called grace. It’s what I’ve sought to extend to my daughters while attempting to safely navigate them through the tumultuous teenage years. This is Factor #5 because shepherding a teenager’s heart isn’t something you can schedule. You are on-call 24/7.

Bottom Line

When asked, I’m typically quick to point out that my identity is rooted in who Jesus says that I am rather than who I think I am. Sometimes Jesus calls us to a place in which our actions must align with our words. This is one of those moments for me. I never dreamt as a teenager that I would one day win the USA title, compete in the IFBB a total of 36 times, and win a handful of pro contests en route to five Olympia appearances. There’s angst in my heart, competitively, to step back on the Olympia stage, but it doesn’t outweigh the other five factors that rightfully deserve precedence in my life right now. I’m going to rest in the identity given to me by the King and trust in His will that in the future — I’ll be back!

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