Stevenson Learns Lessons at Masters Nationals

TAGS: purpose, Masters Nationals Bodybuilding Championships, courage, Scott Stevenson, bodybuilding

I write this just a few hours after the pre-judging of the 2014 Masters Nationals Bodybuilding Championships. For those who don't know, the pre-judging round basically determines show placing for the various divisions, with the exception of overall winners. This has already happened. I now have a good idea of where I will place.

Although staunchly competitive individuals may feel differently, I believe that the victories of competition can come in ways other than first-place-finishes. While I’m fairly certain (bodybuilding call-outs clearly indicate this) I’ll place much lower than in years past, I’ve earned a winner in the form of insight. I've earned this the hard way.

As usual, I ventured off to my favorite Pittsburgh all-you-can-eatery (a sushi place I hit as often as possible) to replace lost glycogen and re-load psychologically after the “morning show.” In the past, this is typically when I would eat and drink to optimize my look for later at the night. This meal was different: I wouldn’t need to optimize anything because my placing would ensure that I wouldn’t even be performing a posing routine that evening (or be in an overall comparison).

I was led to my insight via a fortune cookie, graciously accompanying my typical bill (provided, in typical style, long before finishing my meal). The “fortune” read:

“Effort and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”

My wheels started turning. Effort was clearly put forth in the past several months. That’s a de facto ingredient in any show prep.  However, its the inter-relationship of courage with purpose and direction that led me to the source of my realization.

You see, this year, my main purpose and direction lied in publishing my e-book ( and finally moving from Arizona to Florida, to live closer to my parents. During my normal off-season, I went through the typical injurious trials and tribulations of a 40+ bodybuilder. More notable than that, though, was the bizarre bilateral injury to my upper quad/tensor fasciae latae area. I was able to remedy this issue several times, but it kept recurring over the year. This, in essence, prevented normal leg training until about 11 weeks before the competition. As it turned out, I was creating a kind of crush injury to those muscles when I was squatting, caused by my belt pressing into my thighs. I only felt pain minutes after a set or hours after a workout, but never during the training until I took a full inventory of possibly mechanism at work. Simply adjusting how I wear my belt has since remedied the issue.

scott stevenson legs training elitefts 072114

Without being able to properly train my quads/thighs or do any heavy deadlifting or rowing, I (sensibly) held back on eating to gain a normal amount of off-season body weight (and muscle mass). I stayed lean, still trained as hard as possible (working around the injuries), but did not progress as I would have preferred.

Back to the fortune cookie. Less than three months before the Masters Nationals, remedy in place, I mounted the courage – going forward despite my fears – to prep for the show. I did this with the knowledge that I would likely not be at my best. At 43, my competitive years are far from infinite. I don’t like to miss chances to compete.

And therein lies my lesson: A show prep that results in on-stage improvements most often requires a full year’s plan, including a true off-season. I wasn’t lacking in effort or courage – I feel I have those in spades. Actually, the effort for this prep may have been greater than in many years. The lower starting body weight and caloric intake meant dropping calories lower the normal to get in shape. This also meant more hunger and more fatigue.

My purpose and direction over this year (injury rehabilitation, a cross-country move and the finishing of my book) was simply not in sync with presenting a better physique than last year. I will say that I would likely not do anything differently (except recognize the mechanism of injury immediately) if I could do this off-season over, but I might not have taken part in this competition, either.

This year, instead of a better on stage physique, I have obtained a deepened understanding that, for me, no amount of pre-contest effort and courage can compensate for off-season improvements. My overall purpose (to learn how to become a better bodybuilder) was indeed served nonetheless.

“Victory” does not always mean winning.

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