The 2013 Women’s Physique Olympia champ Dana Linn Bailey is one of the most popular bodybuilders of her generation — and she’s maintained her strong following despite not competing on the stage since 2015.
In a recent video on her YouTube channel, Bailey revealed why she stopped competing and why she believes she can have a more positive impact away from the sport of bodybuilding. Check it out below:
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Dana Linn Bailey on Her Early Years
In the video, Bailey says she only started taking lifting seriously in 2005 — and by 2006, she stepped on stage for the first time in the Figure division. By 2011, she transferred to the Women’s Physique class.
The highlight of her on-stage career came in 2013, when she won the first-ever Women’s Physique Olympia contest. Her time on stage then came to an end in 2015 at the Arnold Classic, where she was the runner-up to Juliana Malacarne in that show’s first Women’s Physique contest. Bailey hasn’t competed on stage since.
The Mental Toll of Contest Prep
Bailey reveals she was doing four to five shows a year for a few years, which took a toll on her body and mind.
“What a lot of competitors don’t talk about, especially after a show, is the depression that happens after a show,” Bailey says. “You get on stage, and you’re the most in shape you’ll ever be. You’re the leanest, you’re the hardest, and you’re the biggest you’ll ever be. And that’s now your new perception of what is in shape.”
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She calls this the “post-show blues.” She said that bodybuilders would immediately gain the weight back swiftly once they start eating on a normal schedule again.
“I knew what I looked like on stage — it’s not physically possible to stay looking like that all year round,” she says. “However, the many, many years of dieting and getting in shape and the cardio and literally weighing every single ounce of your food […] it changes the way you think about food [and] it changes the way you think about training.”
Bailey says despite “having a good head on [her] shoulders,” she was still adversely affected by the years of non-stop prep.
Why Dana Linn Bailey Never Returned To Stage
Getting second place at the 2014 Olympia was what put Bailey’s retirement consideration in motion.
“I got second place, and I thought my world was going to end,” she says. “I thought everyone would stop following me […] [I thought] sponsorships were going to end, and I wouldn’t be in magazines anymore.”
But, according to Bailey, “nothing changed” when she got to her supplement booth after her contest was over. She says there was still a line of fans waiting to see her.
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“I realized, like, it doesn’t matter. It didn’t matter if I got first place or 10th place,” Bailey says. “[The fans] were there for the journey because I brought everyone along for the journey.”
A few months later, when Bailey competed at the 2015 Arnold Classic, she did so with a different mindset.
“I didn’t have that pressure of being first place anymore, so that made that prep amazing,” she says.
Instead of following her previous prep protocol, she concentrated on getting stronger and lifting the way she wanted to in the lead-up to the Arnold. The end result was a second-place finish and the realization that she doesn’t need to compete as a bodybuilder to succeed in the fitness space.
Life After Competing
Despite stepping away from the stage, Bailey says she’s now in the best shape of her life, which she credits to not having to do drastic contest prepping. She now believes she can touch more lives and connect with more people now that she’s not dealing with the turbulence and time bodybuilding prep can elicit.
“I had my journey, and I was the best of the best. And now I can move on from that and keep living through that legacy I created but creating a different legacy,” she says. “And I think I’m doing that in a such a great way where I can touch more lives; I can be involved with more people. So that’s what I’m focusing on now.”
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