Is it possible to be successful in fitness and physique contests with a history of bad health and illness? Yes, absolutely! You can overcome past challenges to succeed in new contests. Here’s how.


Be open and curious

Especially when we have experienced a setback, we can use so much energy mourning the loss of what was. We have no energy left then to invest in what can be. For example, each year Atlanta hosts the Peachtree Road Race. More than 60 world-class wheelchair athletes from around the world compete in the popular 10-k.  Many of these athletes, some former runners, bikers, skiers, ball players and climbers, started racing after a spinal cord injury. Try and shift your thinking away from what you can’t do to what you can do. And then do your best.


Talk with your doctor

Understand the implications of your health challenge or illness. Your healthcare provider can give you the go ahead to resume normal activities as well as help you understand or work around any physical limitations. Use this information as a way to make successful adaptations to the way you train or even choose your sport.  


Consult a dietitian

Lethargy, migraines, joint pain, high cholesterol, obesity and other markers of poor health may be related to diet. Many people have been able to overcome health challenges by going paleo, vegan or gluten-free. Others may eliminate sugar or all processed foods. There are countless stories of how dietary changes led to feats such as marathon racing or becoming a yogi.


Change your mind

There is a saying that goes whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. When you decide to compete, have the discipline to give it your all. Make a realistic training plan you can commit to. Have a plan for how you will get back on track after a setback such as an injury or too much holiday celebrating. Set small goals and monitor your progress. Think of preparing for your competition like you would think of doing a job.


Get the scoop

Talk with others who have competed successfully. Also, talk with those who have successfully navigated an illness or health challenge. Ask what helped them and what advice they can share with you.


Get clear about your motivation

Knowing why you want to compete can make the how of it easier. Your motivation should be a powerful driver, so get clear about what it is. Condense it into a word or mantra you can use when the going gets tough.


You have the power to push past your past. Condition your mind and body so you have sufficient physical and mental energy to step away from setbacks and into the winner’s circle.