I vividly remember a morning commute to work from earlier this year. As I sped down the Dallas North Tollway, I noticed something in the distance doing somersaults and barreling down the left lane towards me. It looked like a brown paper bag. With paws. Wait. Those actually were paws. Attached to a bunny. An actual bunny. On the Tollway. A place where cars careen at 80 mph. That bunny pitter-pattered down the lane, racing and tracing the yellow line of the inside shoulder and steadily facing my car. Its paws pushed its cardboard brown body along the cement surface, maintaining a feverish pace.
I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland. What was this bunny doing on a three-lane highway that had zero shoulder space? How did it get onto the highway? Never mind that. How did it get across all three lanes of traffic to reach the most inside lane without being splattered by revolving rubber tires?
But here’s the question that lurked in my mind like a monster beneath a child’s bed at midnight: How would the bunny get off the highway? That thought haunted me for days.
I’ve been competing for almost 18 years. For a few of you reading this, you were in diapers and babbling with a toe in your mouth when I first applied a coat of Dream Tan to my body and then sprayed myself with Pam Cooking Spray to get that golden glisten that would help me bake to perfection if I stood in a skillet. I get asked by my parents, “How much longer will you do this?” To which I respond, “Until I’m done.” The honest truth (as opposed to the alternative truth) is that I just don’t know when I’ll get off the competition highway. At this point, I don’t think I know how. I’m like that bunny in the left lane, sprinting into oncoming traffic, knowing at any moment I could be run into the ground, and still fighting to get to my destination…wherever that may be.
I’ve fought hard this current contest prep to figure out my root motivation. I preach to others: “Find your motivation. Write it down. Return to it when you hit a wall of doubt.” Luckily, a healthy lifestyle is easy for me. I eat six meals a day all year long. I train in the gym all year long. I check my biceps bulge all year long. I am bodybuilding. Bodybuilding is me. I’ll never be free. But I still can’t determine that deep-seeded motivation factor to boil my blood and stir my heart in 2017.
When I was an amateur and fighting for the seemingly elusive IFBB Pro Card, my obstinance toward my goal to earn that pro status and stand on a pro stage drove me day in and day out. The year after I earned it, bringing my best to the pro stage and showing that I deserved that pro status drove me further. But this year, I seem to be in neutral. Don’t get me wrong. I’m putting in the time, effort, and sacrifice necessary to bring a quality physique to the stage. But I can’t yet figure out the “why” of what I am doing this year.
I’m not sure if it’s a bad thing. Think about that bunny. I just don’t think that bunny knew why he (or she) was on the highway nor where it was headed. It just knew to stay in the lane, avoid the lumbering, loud obstacles in front of it, and keep running. Once it got to where it was going, I’m sure it figured out why it was there (provided another driver behind me wasn’t texting and subsequently smashing the fuzzy bunny in the blink of an eye). I just need to stay out of traffic’s way and harm. For me, that means avoiding comparing myself to others who might be five, six, seven, or eight weeks out and shredded to the gills already. That smashes me every time. Imagine it. A head-on collision between my esteem and other competitors’ supposed social media appearances. Can you see the fur flying and the guts sprawling on the pavement? Can you feel the lurch and bump of the tires over my confidence? Even as a pro, this examination of other competitors and comparison of their progress to my own is a debilitating act that will render me unconscious, flattened, without a pulse. I’ll never find my motivation that way.
I needed to write this in order to remember this. I tell everyone else these words. I am my own coach. It’s about time I take care of more than just my nutrition and workouts and start giving myself a dose of my own pep talks.
I still wonder where that bunny is and how it is doing. I have faith it survived. I do. As I know I will too.
Jodi Leigh Miller is a Women's Physique IFBB Pro with experience in all divisions. She is a record-achieving power-lifter, posing specialist, certified trainer, life coach, and author. She is an experienced, knowledgeable, multifaceted phenom.