I knew I wanted to compete in a fitness competition the minute I picked up a copy of Oxygen magazine in 2008 but figured I would never have the guts to go through the intense training, be able to give up sweets, and even more daunting – be in a itsy bitsy suit in front of an audience.
Last year, I made the decision to finally go for it. It was the busiest possible time in my job I could have signed up to prep for one – but I needed that laser sharp focus to time manage. It was a very rewarding experience and I would definitely do it again (I plan on trying my hand at the Figure division down the road). I’ve had quite a few people ask me about it as they consider competing so I thought I’d put it all my advice here.
1) Your mind must be in the right place. Take personal inventory on why you want to take the plunge. If you want to do one because you view it as a way to lose weight, because you want to see how lean you can get, and because you can’t wait to get reinforcement from people on social media when you post selfies of your ab progress, stop right there and don’t do it. If you put your self worth into your appearance or have a poor body image, realize that you are paying for people to judge the way you look and the mix of those two things will only be detrimental. I had to resist the urge to constantly critique my own physique as the show approached, even though my goal wasn’t necessarily for the stage. While competing seems like a narcissistic goal (and trust me, it is if you are doing it for the reasons above), it should be aiming for an accomplishment of hard work, discipline, and results from the weight room.
2) It costs $$$. Training, National Physique Committee Membership card, the Ooompa Loompa spray tan (yes, its required and costs about $120), suit, supplements, entry fee, travel & hotel, competition hair & make up…it all adds up. I was able to save a little by borrowing a suit and found ways to work it into my monthly budget. I also looked at the costs as an investment. I learned a great deal about nutrition and still use a lot of my workouts I learned from my trainer. The cost did prevent me from doing another months later as my husband and I are saving for a home, but I don’t regret a dime that was spent for my first show.
3) You’re going to be a time management expert. My life for 13 weeks was the following: Wake up at 5am, do a half hour of cardio, pack meals in tupperware, go to work, weight train, prep meals for the next couple of days, repeat. I have the utmost respect for mothers who compete because honestly it felt like a full time job. Even though my life felt rigid, I also was able to accomplish a great deal in my limited time. Time Management was one of the best things I learned in the competition experience.
4) Your booty might show up in a Google search. Mine is not, thank goodness. However, if you do multiple shows (especially the bigger regional ones), chances are the professional photographer at the event will throw those pictures up online. Competition suits leave little to the imagination. While they show off the results of your hard work – having your glutes for the world to see online is just something to consider.
5) People won’t understand what the heck you’re doing. You’re going to get asked questions, because what kind of freak carries a cooler around with them and eats chicken, asparagus and brown rice out of tupperware during a catered work meeting? Most of the younger generation is aware of fitness competitions as they have increased in popularity. Try as I might to explain what I was doing to some, they still had the impression I was doing a power lifting competition or Hawaiian Tropic bikini contest.
6) Post Traumatic Competition Disorder My husband and I stopped at the Otis Cafe the morning after the competition and I proceeded to eat enough Cinnamon Roll French Toast for four grown men. I definitely indulged after the show but luckily found this article before the contest day that explains how detrimental it is to pig out without abandon after being on a strict diet for all of those weeks. Again, if you have a poor body image, the weight gain after a competition can throw you into a depression after seeing yourself so lean for all of those weeks.
7) There is a Dark Side to Competing I didn’t have this experience but many in the fitness community online reveal that they had coaches who put them on 900 calorie diets, loading them up with stimulants, and 2 hours of cardio each day to get ready for a show. Run as fast as you can from these “coaches”. Do your research and ask questions before you sign up with a coach. FYI – my coach was Amy Ramage based in Oregon City, who I highly recommend. Your health is not worth compromising for a few moments on a stage. Even though I had a healthy prep, I took a full week off from the gym after the show and my body thanked me for it. I was exhausted from all of those weeks of training.
8) You’ll have to dig deep. Competition prep is anywhere from 20 to 10 weeks long. There will be days when you don’t feel like going to the gym and you’ll have to say no to delicious food at social gatherings more times than you can count. I’ll tell ya though…there is no greater motivator than knowing that you’ll be up in front of an audience of strangers in a competition suit.
9) Say Goodbye to your Comfort Zone. I didn’t know this until I had committed to a show so I’m going to let ya’ll know you have to be naked when a random person applies your spray tan. Also, posing just did not come naturally to me. I felt completely silly but its such a huge part of the judge’s decision, especially in the Bikini division. Come up with an alter ego if you must when you practice, but practice often.
10) Have Fun – Its just a fitness competition, not the Olympics for goodness sakes. Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the accomplishment. I didn’t need a plastic tiara or trophy to get something out of the experience of competing. To be honest, the glamour and fanfare of the competition wasn’t at all my favorite thing. It was hard work of the training and day by day individual responsibilities that proved to myself how mentally and physically tough I could be.
For those getting ready for or thinking about preparing for a show, get ready for a rewarding and challenging journey. Just remember to stay true to and be kind to yourself.