by Erin Fergus
I’m not even two weeks into this season’s contest prep (at the time of writing this article), and I’m already overwhelmed. Every day I dream of coming home to some type of personal assistant, minion, cabana boy or kitchen bitch, and every day there’s only my wiggly butt dog sitting by the door to greet me. She’s wonderful, but she doesn’t help with meal prep or gym bag packing.
I am reminded of last year’s contest prep. I had only lived in my new city for three months after living in a city I called home for 11 years. I hardly knew anyone, and definitely no one I knew was vegan or competing. My family and friends were seven hours away, and I wasn’t dating anyone. I have always eaten healthily and taken my own food to work, but my body had never required as much food on as important of a schedule. I quickly got sick of plastic containers and lids, washing dishes (which I do by hand), chopping vegetables and filling protein shakers. I would tell myself I’d go through another grueling workout if I just didn’t have to pack another lunch box or gym bag. I made more friends at the gym, but I still felt isolated when I got home.
I felt even more isolated when people couldn’t understand being vegan or thought I was being obsessive about my goals. People would comment that I must feel so deprived by eating vegan food, but I defended my beautiful, delicious food every time that came up. Others would ask about if it was “hard” or if I felt “tempted.” I once said, “If it’s something you believe in, it’s not hard at all and totally worth it.”
I had all sorts of coworkers and friends cheering me on throughout the process as it got closer to the end, and at that point I realized that no one could truly “help” me. The drive and the work all had to come from my heart, mind and muscles. A majority of the people who promised they would be in the audience bailed out last minute, but my parents and a few others were physically there. Others were there in spirit, and I realized that nothing could dampen the joy of completing my goal anyway.
This year is the same but different. I’m still just as far away from my old friends and family, and I still haven’t made as many new friends as I thought I would because I feel like I’m “replacing” the old ones. I still have a love/hate relationship with plastic containers, although I love the new BPA free set I received for Christmas. My stocking didn’t contain the minion I was hoping would be in there, but at least it had a Sharper Image multi slicer/dicer/chopper that makes food prep a breeze. I still have moments of doubt and wish others could do some of the work for me, but I remind myself that if it were easy, everyone would do it. I’ve met two fit vegans here in real life and connected with a total of 13,000 fit vegans through various Facebook groups. I have an incredibly motivating workout partner, and all of the students I teach personal training to at a community college are in my corner. I have started an Instagram account and Facebook athlete page so that people who have been following my journey from afar can show their support and (I hope) gain motivation for their own goals. The best part of this year is that I am part of a TEAM, a family that is a mix of seasoned competitors and novices. Our journeys are individual, but our goal unites us.
The most important thing I have learned so far is that I am never, ever truly alone. I prefer to hide my weaknesses and moments of doubt, but I now know that any time I show them, the people around me will help me lift myself back up. Never be afraid to tap into your support network. The journey to the stage is an incredible one, and it doesn’t have to be lonely.
by Erin Fergus