In 2016 I did something I never thought I would do—I signed up for a bodybuilding competition. Think sparkling bikini, a bronze tan, and 5” inch heels (walking in those took some practice!). The experience was a 12-week physical transformation and emotional rollercoaster. I learned about macros, carb cycling, building a strength program, posing, and sacrifice. The day of my show I woke up, looked in the mirror, and thought “Holy cow! Who is that?” Next thought, “damn, I look good.”
For six months (two separate preps) I learned an incredible amount about myself, the fitness industry, and just how hard fitness cover models work to maintain that rock-hard bod. Considering entering a physique competition? I’d love to share more about my experience, and five things to consider before starting your first contest prep.
Get Mentally Prepared for Prep Life
While your bikini idols on Instagram may make it seem like competing is all about show day glamour (I will admit, my makeup looked amazing), there is a LOT more to it. Prep will test your willpower, confidence, body image, and more in every way. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Every day was meticulously planned to ensure I was on track for showtime: workouts, meals, and water intake. Many girls report having body image issues as a result of competing. While prep itself may not create those issues, if you experience them before you start, things will only get worse closer to showtime. Everyone at all points is beautiful, and start with confidence in yourself, your body, and the journey.
Prep is a team effort. Make sure your family and significant other are onboard too. I couldn’t have done prep without my husband’s support. From meal prepping, sweaty laundry, and late night (or early morning) runs to the grocery store, he was there 100%.
Identify Your Purpose For Competing
If you are interesting in competing I highly recommend you identify your purpose for doing so. Are you doing it to lose weight, build your brand as a trainer, or simply for fun? Give it some serious thought, then write it down.
Revisiting your purpose will keep you consistent, and help you push past some tough moments (like when you really want more almond butter!).
Work with a Coach
I loved and hated every minute of prep. The grueling workout regime was my favorite (yep, you read that right!). I spent hours lifting and walking on an incline, but I grew stronger than ever before. The day my squat hit 150 pounds I immediately ran and gave my husband a high-five.
My coach, Chris, taught me patience, creativity in the kitchen, and how to train properly. I have been physically active my entire life, but I had never developed a weight training program for strength before. I learned what being sore really meant, and there were days (particularly post leg day) where I literally fell out of bed 🙂
When looking for a coach, do your research. A good coach can guide your preparation from start to finish, but not all coaches are the right fit. If there’s a good local coach in your area, other competitors probably know who he or she is (I got connected to Team Titan on referral). Make sure their training philosophies are similar to yours before setting up time to chat. Come prepared with questions for your meeting, and make sure you feel extremely comfortable with the coach before signing the dotted line.
A few questions to consider:
- How much time do I need to prep for a show? (Prep times could be 8, 12, 16, or 20 weeks depending on your current physique)
- What is your cost structure?
- What is your check-in procedure?
- How many days are you available for personal training?
- Do you offer online coaching, in-person, or both?
- Who have you trained previously? It is ok if I contact them for a reference?
It can be cheaper to follow online guides, but I highly recommend working with a veteran coach for your first show. If nothing else, they will hold you accountable.
Research the Costs
Prep is not cheap, and I was hit with major sticker shock when I went to get my suit. It’s best to get an idea of what costs will be before you start. Create a budget to ensure you’ll be covered and be able to financially finish the process.
Here are a few things I paid for during NPC Bikini prep:
- Hiring a competition coach: $500-1200 (depends on the package)
- NPC Competitor’s Card: $120
- Contest Registration: $150
- Competition Suit: $250-500 (depends on the bling)
- Suit tip: I highly recommend asking other ladies for a referral. My first suit was a nightmare, and I had to borrow one last minute.
- Makeup/Hair: $250
- Competition Jewelry: $50
- Stage heels: $50
- Tan: $150
- Posing lessons: $30-50/each
- Admission tickets for your supporters: $35-50/person per show (prejudging and finals)
- Stage photos: $150-200
- Hotel (if you’re away from home): $150-250/night
Sheesh! Competing is an expensive sport.
Cost savings: Keep in mind, you will save a TON of money not eating out at restaurants/bars and preparing food in bulk. Costco is great for items like rice, quinoa, spinach, and protein.
Attend a Local Show
I highly recommend attending a show. Watch competitors on stage and ask questions. Is this something you can picture yourself doing? Although I loved the prep process, posing in a bikini onstage was completely out of my comfort zone. I felt a bit awkward and uncomfortable in a teeny bikini, five inch heels, and bronze tan (it took seven days to come off!).
I know a few gals who have attended shows and then decided competing wasn’t for them. That is extremely important to know before you make the investment. A few of these ladies trained with a coach but did not step on stage. What did they do instead? They took pictures, and looked amazing!
Why you should NOT Compete
Perhaps this isn’t what you were expecting, but this section is very important.
First and foremost, I have an incredible amount of respect for those that compete, and the amazing team that helped me prepare for my shows. I do not regret my experience at all. But, the recent “bodybuilder to body lover” message from Jolene Joles resonated with me right away. During prep, my life was controlled by my eating schedule, water intake (hello bathroom breaks), and workout regime. On the road to six-pack abs and “perfection” I felt trapped. I couldn’t travel, meet for happy hour, or plan a date night with my husband. Was I really living? Was it worth it?
Life is All About Balance
After my second show I gained the weight back. 15 pounds of fresh salads, sushi, dark chocolate, and lots of food love. Working out is one of the best parts of my day, but now I choose what and when. Yoga, pilates, cycling…it’s up to me. Yes, I’ve lost a bit of muscle, but my joy isn’t measured by what I can lift, or what the scale says.
Prep taught me so much, including the importance of finding some balance. Life is all about balance. You can be strong, and still enjoy some ice cream every now and then. I find that we (women) are so hard on ourselves. But right now is an amazing time for #bodylove. Your body, your rules! #girlpower
A few months ago my husband looked at me and said, “hey babe. I like you better with a little bit of meat.” And you know what, I don’t mind it either.