Competing is a great goal to give yourself if you want to increase your motivation and take your body to the next fitness level.
My original goal of competing was just to prove to myself I could get on stage! The thought of being judged based only on my physique- and compared to other women- frightened me, to be honest! I mean, what woman in her right mind would want to put herself through rejection? LOL. Not me! But, I decided to take the "plunge" and just go for it! I decided in my mind that I was doing it for me versus a trophy. This coming from a woman who never thought she’d be in a bikini again….ever.
After all, I was coming from a chunky, fifty-pound overweight body. The fact that I was in a bikini, on a stage with beautiful women....even being compared....heck, I just wanted to say "I DID THAT!" Definite bucket list item.
I think you have to decide on your goal for the competition beforehand. If you just want to prove to yourself YOU CAN do it, then you'll be happy placing or not placing as long as you give it your ALL. To me, my body was my trophy. The fact that I left my first show with a 3rd place trophy, that was icing on the cake!
So, if you are thinking about GOING FOR IT, here are a few things to consider.
I want to say these things FIRST because I don’t think ladies think about it. If you have a history of eating disorders, really put a lot of thought into committing to a show. I’ve spoken with competitors who had eating disorders prior to entering the fitness world and training for a competition caused the disorder to resurface in many cases. I would seek guidance from a counselor or nutritionist to see if it's right for you.
Super lean body / realistic expectations:
Think about it, you are restricting yourself of cheat meals (I did) for 12 weeks, sometimes longer. Your body is going through an extreme transformation and training program. You get super lean and everything fits perfect. I told myself I would be able to stay that lean (10% body fat) after the show because I felt great in that body. However, after the show I realized that it’s not a healthy or realistic goal to stay that lean for long periods of time. I was fortunate enough to have a nutritionist who kept me on the same meal plan that I eat year round, we just altered my portions.
I made the mistake of going on a two week eating spree after my first show and I bounced back up to 18% body fat FAST. Just ease into the cheat meals after your show is over. Maybe have one or two cheats that weekend, then go back to your clean eating the next week. You can always have another fun meal the following weekend. It’s common to feel a little “fluffy” the month after a show. Just don’t overdo the cheat meals and you’ll be fine. Remember, 20-25% body fat is a healthy range for a woman.
Coach / Nutritionist / Trainer:
Super important advice- this is probably the most IMPORTANT decision you can make about competing. Hire a professional to guide you. Just because someone claims they know what to do and may have competed once or twice, does NOT make them a professional and equipped for guiding you on your journey to the stage. If you take short cuts, it will show.
Also, you want to make sure you are eating enough to fuel your activity level. I have often seen competitors train hard for 8-12 weeks, following a low calorie meal plan they got from “somebody who knows what to do” for free or next-to-nothing. These ladies damage their metabolic rate, making it harder for them to lose weight later. If you cut corners, it will show. I have even seen competitors back out of a show due to not being “ready” in their mind. Don’t damage your body, it’s the only one you have. Treat it like a temple and hire a professional. I hired a certified nutritionist to help guide me and have never regretted it.
A professional can also guide you with water manipulation the day of your show.
I chose the NPC (National Physique Committee) to compete in and have done five shows. This was the federation that my nutritionist recommended, so I went with it. If you compete in the NPC, place top 5 at a local show, this usually qualifies you for nationals (if the show is a national qualifier). Nationals are usually out of state- here you can earn your PRO card (by placing top 1 or 2 depending on the show) and become a member of the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding) and become recognized as a Professional Competitor. Check out the NPC website for a competition schedule in your state.
Here is a link to several bodybuilding and fitness federations: http://www.bodybuildbid.com/federations.html
Once you choose the federation, choose the division. For example, I chose the Bikini division because that is where my body type fit best with the NPC. The NPC also has Bodybuilding, Figure, Fitness, etc. Each federation has their own divisions. A good thing to do is search YouTube for IFBB bikini, figure, physique and fitness competitors and see where you fit best. A trainer or nutritionist can also help you decide.
It’s important to choose a suit that compliments your skin color and that fits you. Bikini competitors can buy “off the rack” aka in the store or online. Figure, physique and fitness competitors usually have their suits custom made to fit their bodies. This can get expensive. You can also rent suits or check eBAY.
Here are several sites I recommend:
Shoes (You’ll wear heels on stage in figure and bikini): http://www.suitsyouswimwear.com/products.php?cat=Clear+Shoes
Competition – Expense:
Something you should know that I wasn't really prepared for...is the price of a competition. It's a bit expensive. You will need a suit, the clear high heels, a tan (around $100-$175), your food, makeup and hair (I did mine myself for the first show)....hotel room....your NPC card (around $100), contest entry ($90-100). Anyway, you get the idea. Just be prepared and save your money.
Some competitors are able to get sponsors for shows. This might include friends, family members or supplement companies. If your goal is to get sponsored, I would recommend sending your resume and some fitness photos to the supplement company's athlete manager. You don't have to have professional photos, but it does help. Also, if you have a following on social networks, be sure and tell them how many people you reach daily with motivation. They like to see that you have an audience and are marketable as an athlete. Most supplement companies will sponsor you with supplements, but some will actually sponsor competition costs. Never hurts to ask.
I would also recommend practicing posing and stage presence with someone who has had experience. You can also YouTube the IFBB Bikini or Figure pro’s for demonstrations.
Schedule a Photo Shoot:
I can't tell you how many athletes I've seen pass on photo shoots before competition and regret it later. Your body is in tip-top shape and it's a major accomplishment to be PROUD of! I would recommend hiring a professional photographer to capture some images of you right before or the day after your show. You can use these images on business cards, your website, social networking, to send to modeling agencies and magazine submissions. I recommend researching your favorite magazines and shoot images similar to their style if you want to submit to them for possible publication.
THE DAY OF THE SHOW:
You will probably be up early for hair and makeup. I would recommend getting two coats of spray tan the night before, depending on your skin tone. You can always have a touch up the morning of check-in. You typically go check in for a show and then spend a few hours waiting to go on stage. Bring a blanket, pillow (to sit on) and all of your food to last for half the day. I typically bring a small cooler and small rolling suit case with makeup, hairspray, etc. Bring your phone, iPod, a book….something to keep you busy. Most of all, relax! Your hard work is done! Time to get on stage and show off your hard work!!! Let your confidence shine! You typically have a break before finals, so go back to your hotel room to REST. Bring enough food to last you all night because finals can run late.
NOTE TO SELF: It’s a good idea to pack a back-up suit in case your tan stains your suit. Yes, this happened to me at my first show in a white bikini. Good thing for back ups!
Before you start training for a show, it’s a GREAT IDEA to tell your family and loved ones. You will need their support. Not everyone always understands the goal to compete, so just be aware of that. My best advice is to not push your views or lifestyle on anyone. There may come a point in your training that you get moody or impatient- just remember that this is YOUR GOAL and try not to take your choices out on other people. Remember why you chose the goal in the first place and FOLLOW THROUGH! You will be glad you did. Training for competition can also bring out those in your life that are negative. I would distance yourself from negativity at all costs. Training for a competition takes determination, drive and persistence. Don’t let the opinions of others get you down. Stay positive!
I welcome your feedback. Please let me know if I left anything out and I’ll be happy to add it.