Expert Tip: Winning essentials

By Krista Schaus


What can you learn from these winners and true champions that can be applied to your own preparations and bigger journey? They exude “winnerness.”

As a lifelong competitive athlete, I have spent a great deal of my time with and around winners. The past five years in particular has been a series of one athletic event after another, as athlete, coach and mentor. My sampling of athletes has ranged from powerlifters to fitness models, from Australia to within my own home, old and young, male and female, novice and elite.

In spite of all these differences, common winning essentials exist within those that I immediately labelled as winners. What can you learn from these winners and true champions that can be applied to your own preparations and bigger journey?

They exude “winnerness.”

“Focus on the ‘doing’ and the ‘being’ will come.”

What is “winnerness”?

Unfortunately “winnerness” is difficult, if not impossible, to articulate. It is the “it” or “X” factor that Simon, Paula or Randy from American Idol would understand.

Those that exude this quality may not even have to speak or move and you can recognize it. They exude it is like a force field, an energy, an essence that they simply have. Some have always had it and others develop it.

A winner exudes their “winnerness”. The moment they walk onto the stage, step onto the lifting platform, or just walk into a room, everyone is keenly aware of it.

In Figure competitions, this is the competitor that you cannot keep your eyes off of.

I recall going to a bodybuilding show and watching a Junior competitor doing his routine. Someone commented that he had a good physique and great stage presence, but did not remember him from the comparisons at all. I responded, “That’s because he was standing beside the winner.” The winner hadn’t yet been revealed, but unfortunately this young man paled in comparison to his competitor who exuded winnerness.

Those that exude winnerness know they are the winner. They are there to let everyone else know it too. They are not proving or demonstrating it, they are exuding it. They have come to their contest. They gladly and openly welcome others to participate in it with them, but it is their contest.

How do you exude winnerness and avoid becoming invisible on stage?

Tamara Vahn CBBF Fitness Pro exudes “winnerness” at all times, on and off the stage.
Tamara Vahn CBBF Fitness Pro exudes “winnerness” at all times, on and off the stage.


Mastery in anything takes an investment of both time and money.


No matter what area of your life in which you want to excel or be a winner, there is an investment. The bigger the investment, over a longer period of time, the better the returns.

I often hear, “I have to deal with this injury but I can’t afford the treatment”, or “I know I have to put some size on, but protein is expensive!” Everything is a choice. And results are directly correlated to our choices.

Prioritize the various aspects of your preparation and budget accordingly. If posing in your biggest weakness, invest in a posing coach. If you have never used supplements before, budget for the basics such as SuperFood, Fish Oils, a multivitamin and ZMA.


Be patient if training or competing is new to you. Sometimes is it just a matter of time and experience, as an athlete and as a human being. Those that are “natural” winners have spent much of their life developing the skills that are required to be a winner.

Some have spent many years in other sports such as figure skating, gymnastics, powerlifting, competitive dance, team sports and track and field. These sports not only develop the physique required to make winning seem effortless, but also the discipline and mental toughness of an elite athlete.

It must come from within

Winners have a strong intrinsic motivation – their motivation for competing is deeper than simply winning a trophy or title.

You must know why you are competing. Your drive must come from a deeper place and a healthy place. Take the time during your contest prep to ask yourself these questions and dig deeper into each component of your answer.

Separate yourself

Winners separate themselves from the rest of the competition, literally and figuratively.

Alena Shpotrun, Johanna Dejaeger, Jo Stewart, Amanda Graydon, Maria Mikola, Frances Manias… they all had this in common. They separated themselves and stood out as winners.

This does mean you have to be socially isolated or a competitive snob. However, contest time is game time. Separate yourself in order to mentally prepare and focus. Other people’s energy can be distracting or draining and interfere with you competing at your best.

Amanda Graydon's athletic background made her win at the OPA Regional Figure Championships seem effortless
Amanda Graydon’s athletic background made her win at the OPA Regional Figure Championships seem effortless

Less talk, more action

Winners also do not talk about winning.

If you say “I have to win”, “I’m going to win this one”, “I really want to win it”, etc. then you are not there yet. It’s like style: those that have it don’t have to talk about it. They show it.

Practice talking less about what you are going to do, and more time doing what you need to do. There should be constant internal dialogue and visualization of you succeeding, however you have defined success. Eventually that internal dialogue will not have to be forced. You will just naturally think and behave like a winner.

You must behave and think in a manner that is conducive to being a winner in all areas of your life in order for you to exude that quality on stage.

And being a winner and the winner are not the same thing.

A winner vs the winner

Note that I said “a” not “the” winner. If dream of being “the winner” in an upcoming contest, then you are likely not yet “a winner”.

Winners do not have visions of winning the big trophy or fans pawing at them or admirers emailing or shouting out compliments. That is a desire to be the winner.

Winners are winners in all aspects of their live or at least are continually striving to be. If you are continually dreaming of being the winner, then you need to ask yourself if you are a winner within your mind, within your life. Are you a winner in your relationships? Are you a winner in your career? Are you a winner in your mind? Are you a winner in your community? If not, then what makes you think you are going to be a winner on stage?

And it does happen. You can be the winner in a contest, and not be a winner. But are you really a winner? You have a trophy and a prize package, and your name is listed on the website or magazine, but that’s where it will end.

Remember, winners are winners in all aspects of their life, so the winning will continue. However if you happened to be the winner for whatever reason at a particular contest, it you are not truly worthy of that title, then the glory will be over in a very short period of time. And often you’ll experience a serious letdown. You got a taste of what it feels like to be a winner, only to realize that your life hasn’t changed in any way. You still have work to do to transform yourself from the winner to a winner.

Do the work. I am not talking about training harder, but examining what you lack as a human being — true character development. Do the work, and you will transition towards becoming a winner.

How do you transition from being the winner to a winner?

Do not put off the hard work

Often the things we put off doing because it interferes with us being “the winner” are exactly the things we need to do to become “a winner”.

For example: “I can’t think about that right now or deal with that right now because I have a contest coming up in 5 weeks and I have to win it.” It may just be that thing that we are putting on the back burner that holds the potential of moving us into a winning position. You have to be ready, willing and able to be a True Champion in order to progress from the winner to a winner.

Find a coach or mentor, preferably both

Many competitors are coaches or trainers themselves and are reluctant to seek out a coach for fear that it will give the perception that they are incompetent.

Everyone can benefit from a coach. Working with a coach heightens and enhances learning, as your education is both traditional and experiential.

Good coaches are winners and can teach you more than how to pose or what to eat the week before the contest; they can become a mentor and teach you the finer points of winning. Look for a coach that is a winner and a true champion themselves.

Not everyone has access or the ability to hire a coach. Mentors and coaches can come in various forms. A supportive, information community full of like-minded people and experienced team members such as Precision Nutrition can also serve this role. What makes a coaching team is that they provide accountability, expertise and guidance through your journey.

 Frances Manias, my physique coach – a winner and true champion
Frances Manias, my physique coach – a winner and true champion

True champions

Winners are true champions.

In 2005, I attended a private nutrition seminar led by one of the industry’s best. I learned a great deal. However, one of the most valuable lessons came from a quote written on the bathroom wall at the La Guardia Airport in New York.

“You just expect more of yourself than you expect of anyone else. And you expect it all the time. You don’t try for it, you don’t hope for it. You become it. Winning at that point takes care of itself. So the question is…. Are you willing to be a champion or will you settle to merely win?”

One can win many titles and not have a clue what it’s like to be a champion.

  1. Champions are humble, professional ambassadors of the sport and of hard work.
  2. Champions do not speak poorly of fellow competitors, referees, organizations or the sport in general but they are willing to speak up and represent the masses when an injustice has been served.
  3. Champions treat their body as a temple and understand the importance of eating well, training smart and giving back to the body with proper rest and recovery.
  4. Champions never think the sport revolves around them. They understand that each participant both on the field and behind the scenes work in synergy for the sport to thrive.
  5. Champions celebrate the success of others and are not intimidated by it.
  6. Champions are more than competitors in the sport – they foster growth in the organization, volunteer their time to the benefit of others and inspire and encourage new athletes to realize personal betterment and growth.
  7. Champions know that the glory could be gone at any moment and that they may have to be their own Number One Fan and that is good enough for them.
  8. Champions rely on good software (mind) to be a top competitor rather than simply adding to the hardware (equipment).
  9. Champions do not question who they are or what they stand for.
  10. Champions do not have to be told that they are champions.
  11. Champions can accomplish incredible things all by themselves and tell no one.
  12. Champions are not thrown off by harsh words, criticisms or ignorant accusations – they are positively fuelled by them and strive to enlighten and educate.
greg-doucette-pl1 greg-doucette-bb

Greg Doucette is a professional ambassador of both bodybuilding and powerlifting

You may possess all or many of the elements of a winner, a true champion and have done much of the hard work to be worthy of being a winner. But if something is still holding you back, you may need a detox to rid yourself of any losing elements in your life.

Loser detox protocol

To start the process of becoming a real winner or true champion you need to do a Loser Detox.

1. Conduct a personal inventory

Take the time to assess your life – activities, people, priorities – and consider what things will help you be a winner and what may be holding you back. This first step of the detox might be “difficult difficult” and thus should be taken seriously. You may need the assistance of your mentor or coach, a close personal friend (who is a winner) or someone unbiased like a sports psychologist.

“There is hardly anything you can’t do if you have, and you nurture, the proper support systems. Don’t lower the goal, increase the support.”— Jim Hayhurst, Sr., The Right Mountain

2. Implement a media ban

The vast majority of what the media reports on is negative or involve losing situations or people: murder, theft, disasters, abductions, assaults, environmental threats, terrorism, computer viruses, economic crisis, celebrity gossip, contagious diseases, accidents, injuries and personal loss. Routinely reading the newspaper, listening to the radio and watching the news does you little good.

Try a one-week media ban and you will find yourself thinking and acting like a winner.

3. Forget Facebook and forwards

Limit your use of social networking sites (like Facebook or MySpace) or use it for professional purposes only.

If someone is truly a friend, you will not need Facebook to maintain or develop your relationship. Many of these communities or resources have become loser magnets. The more time you spend in Facebook, the more time you are taking away from doing the things you need to do to be a winner.

Forwards are also energy suckers and time wasters. You can recognize them in your inbox immediately – delete them. Ask your friends and contacts to exclude you from their forward list.

Everyone is a winner in progress

Winners may lose. Losers can win. And everyone has winning moments that are lost to them.

Every person has the potential to be a champion of champions or a big loser.

Everyone must also lose in order to go on to win.

This is life – highs and lows, good and evil, winners and losers. As long as you continuously work towards your best, then you are in a winning game. Accomplishment takes work — consistent, long term, progressive, difficult work. If winning comes easy, then you are in a losing game.

To all the aspiring champions and winners in progress – keep focusing on the doing and the being will come.

Further resources

Amanda Graydon

Frances Manias

Talbott, Shawn PhD. The Cortisol Connection – Why stress makes you fat and ruins your health – and what you can do about it. Hunger House, CA 2002.

Wilson, D. & S. Maimes. Adaptogens – Herbs for strength, stamina and stress relief. Healing Arts Press., Vermont 2007.

Learn more

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