Sometimes when I see my bikini/figure/bodybuilding clients enter the final week before their shows — “peak week” — it’s all can do not to start blubbering.

Maybe it’s partially out of empathy because I know what they are going through: the workouts, the diet, the nerves, the waxing and the tanning. Kidding! (Well, kinda.)

It’s more about having the privilege to watch them work so hard for so long and then to finally have it all come together.

Physique competitions are like ultra-endurance marathons: they require discipline, stamina and patience. There’s some pain and some sweat. They also require a lot of courage and willingness to step outside your comfort zone. Getting up onstage in front of people wearing skimpy outfits (and for the women, high heels) is not for the meek at heart.

For 8 members of my gym’s bodybuilding team (Team Maximus/BBAC), this is peak week. They’re set to compete this weekend in the Maine Event, one of two natural bodybuilding shows in Maine each year (the other is the Pine Tree State Championships in April).

Our team is kind of an odd little northern outpost in Brewer — we’re a small gym in a small city, sending an often disproportionate number of competitors to the regional natural bodybuilding shows.

Here are some very tan members of Team Maximus/BBAC at a 2014 competition in Westbrook

Here are some very tan members of Team Maximus/BBAC (and one very pale coach) at a 2014 competition in Westbrook

The team started a few years ago kind of by accident, after I competed in a few figure shows and someone asked me to help them get ready for one, and it snowballed from there. Now we’ve been at it long enough that our competitors are starting to mature.

Because as I said, bodybuilding is a long-term proposition, as change is slow (years!) in coming. It takes time and consistent training to gain the kind of muscle it takes to be competitive. For most of us, it takes more than a couple months to get ready for a show — it takes a few “progress” and “leaning out” seasons.

Progress seasons (often called “bulking”) are when you train (and eat) to put on muscle — hopefully without gaining too much fat. “Leaning out” seasons are when you train (and, more importantly, eat) to lose fat and keep as much muscle as possible.

So to see the progress the competitors have made over the past few seasons is pretty overwhelming.

What made me feel so emotional this week was watching three of my clients practice their posing, all in separate sessions. We have a rule that what happens in the posing room stays in the posing room, so I hope they don’t kill me for this.

These sessions occurred after their workouts, when they felt sweaty and gross. And during the sessions all they could could see were areas they wanted to improve.

And all I could see were their transformations. Their consistent, disciplined effort in the gym had definitely paid off.

But what got me the most was the transformation in their confidence. They shone (even though maybe their shoes pinched, their suits needed fixing, they didn’t have a tan, and blahblahblah).

Where before they felt tentative and maybe even a little awkward, now they were self-assured. Watching people find their groove is frickin’ awesome. Being a part of it is even awesomer.

And that’s why I’ve felt a bit verklempt all week.

It’s really a gift to be able to be part of it all.  And there’s really no point to this post except to say that.

(I’ll post pix from the show, so you can see what I’m talking about.)