I get asked a lot of fitness and nutrition questions but one of the most popular questions I get asked is, “How do I get started in physique competitions?” The decision to prepare for and enter a physique competition can be a daunting one, but I’m here to let you know that it is entirely possible for ANYONE to achieve their goal of competing in fitness, figure, bikini or bodybuilding if they work hard, believe in themselves and most importantly NEVER SETTLE!!! When I first made the decision to compete in 2005, I had been fascinated by fitness competitions for years, in awe of the professional competitors I saw in many of the fitness magazines. It took a while for me to gather the courage to actually enter my first competition, but I believed that I could be successful if I put in the work and never lost sight of my goal. Now, 5 years later, I am a national champion and gunning for a pro card! Competing has given me even more than I have put in and in the end, all the sacrifice and hard work has been worth every single drop of sweat! So, if you have decided this is the year you are going to compete, here is my how-to guide to show you how to get from here to the stage!!
Enlist the help of an experienced Professional
You will want to start by getting an accurate assessment of your physique and level of fitness to gauge how much time you will need to prepare for your competition. Typically, contest prep programs range from 12-24 weeks but you may require more or less than that depending on your body fat, physical fitness and the type of competition you are entering. Let’s not forget that we are talking about a physique competition here and you will need to be fairly lean in order to be successful. If this is your first competition, it is a great idea to enlist the assistance of an expert to guide you through your diet and training as well as take measurements to track your progress. Ask around to see who in your area is an experienced trainer for physique athletes. You want to avoid asking the advice of anyone who is inexperienced in helping athletes prepare for competition. There is a science to getting your body ready for a competition, so you want to trust only the opinion of an expert. I personally leave my contest prep in the hands of my experienced coach, Kit. I prefer to leave my diet and training program up to him because then I don’t have to second guess every minute spent in the gym and every morsel of food I put in my mouth. My coach is also a great listener and it helped me immensely to have his support during the contest prep!
Set the date and choose a competition.
There are many organizations that host bodybuilding, fitness, figure and bikini competitions. You may already have a show in mind or maybe you are not sure where to look for a competition to participate in. Here is just a short list of some organizations that sanction physique competitions year-round, all over the US and Canada:
– NPC (National Physique Committee)
– NANBF (North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation)
– Fitness America
– OCB (Organization of Competitive Bodybuilders)
– WNSO (World Natural Sports Organization) to name a few
Find a suit
Start by looking on-line at the various figure suit and competition bikini websites. Keep in mind that figure suits are generally custom-made for each competitor’s particular body measurements. The suit designers generally require 8 to 12 weeks to make a figure suit. As another option, there are plenty of gently used sparkly figure suits for sale on the internet also. This might be a great idea for your first competition as you can save a lot of money this way! For a bikini competition, you can choose an off the rack suit (providing it isn’t a thong) or string bikini. You want to choose a suit that flatters your body and that is classy yet revealing.
Other things you will need to purchase for your show:
Here is a checklist of other items you will need for your competition
– Rhinestone jewelry (dangling earrings, a bracelet).
– Tanning products (stain applied to your skin prior to your competition to look extra dark on stage). Some shows have “on-site” professional tanning. This is a service you can opt to pay for and have professional airbrush tanning applied at the time of your show. Be sure to call ahead to book an appointment for this service. If you decide to do it yourself, have a friend apply a coat the night before the show and a coat the morning of. I like to use Jan-Tana products because they smell great and I like the bronze color it gives my skin.
– Suit adhesive to stick your tiny suit to your body! Fashion tape or a roll-on adhesive called “Bikini Bite” are two of my favorite products.
– Exercise bands to pump up back stage (these are used prior to posing onstage to pump blood into your muscles to enhance the look of your hard earned muscle onstage).
– Darker makeup than you typically wear. Because you will be wearing a dark tanning stain on your skin, you will need to bronze your face to blend in with the color of your body. You will also need darker blush, lipstick and eye make-up for the day of the show. I also put on false eyelashes for extra drama! The stage lights tend to wash out light colored or natural looking makeup so you will want to wear more dramatic makeup for your competition. You may decide to hire a makeup artist for this also.
– A pair of flip-flops and a loose warm-up suit to wear over your suit backstage to keep warm.
Stock up on supplements to complement your competition prep diet
With the goal of building and preserving lean muscle mass and losing bodyfat, you will want to choose the highest quality, most efficient supplements to use to prepare for your show. I used 1st Phorm Level-1 protein in preparation for the IFBB North American Championships this year and I was so pleased with the results! Not only did Level-1 help me to get lean, I loved the taste and I really looked forward to my protein shakes for curbing my cravings for something sweet! I also used 1-Db° and Thyro-Drive in my contest prep for my last show. The unique thing about these two products is that work synergistically to burn fat, boost energy levels, curb hunger and enhance your metabolism. I was blown away with my results using 1st Phorm supplements. So much so, I approached them about being a part of the team. I have never looked better and I walked away from the competition with 1st place honors in my height class!
Train hard, don’t cheat and stay focused!
Follow your eating plan and training schedule 100% and aim for no more than 1-2 pounds of fat loss per week. As you come closer to your show, your trainer may suggest increasing your cardio sessions to continue your lean out process. Be sure to listen to your body and get enough sleep. Focus on your goal and visualize yourself stepping on that stage as a lean, beautiful champion!
Pose hard, pose often!
To look like a confident competitor onstage, you will need to dedicate a good chunk of time into practicing posing and walking in your heels before you compete. Posing for a physique competition requires you to flex and tense your muscles and hold in your abdomen in front of a judging panel (and a large audience) all while smiling and looking relaxed. Your competition coach will help you learn the poses and you will want to practice them every day the month leading up to your show. Onstage during your competition, you will be required to hold your poses for the judging panel for minutes at a time. Practicing your poses will help you to look comfortable onstage and give you the stamina required to perform the day of your competition. I have always believed that practicing my poses also helps to harden up my muscles for a lean look onstage.
When it comes to the day of your show, just try your best to relax and don’t let your nerves get the best of you. When you get backstage, you will find a flurry of hairspray, spray tan, boobs, muscles and nerves! It can only take a fraction of a second to see all this commotion and all these beautiful girls and wonder what the heck you were thinking signing up for this competition! One thing I always repeat to myself is this: “There is nothing else that I could have done to prepare for the show. I trust my coach, I trained hard, dieted hard, practiced my posing and put the whole look together. It’s in the judges and God’s hands now.” It’s so much easier to relax and have fun if you stop worrying about things that are out of your control. I usually pack a small, wheeled suitcase with all of the following essential items to take with me backstage:
– my suit, shoes and jewelry
– suit adhesive and tanning product for touch ups
– a large mirror
– hairspray and makeup for touch-ups
– exercise bands for pumping up
– minty gum for dry mouth
– a camera
– my iPod to put on if I need to zone out
– a good luck charm- I usually bring one of my son’s matchbox cars to bring me luck!
Preparing for and competing in a physique contest is an amazing journey so make sure that after all the hard work that you enjoy yourself the day of the show! Whether you take home a trophy at your first show or not, be proud of yourself for making it through the intense workouts and strict diet! Way to go!
Good luck, Femme Phorm readers and be sure to email me at Gillian.Risebury@1stphorm.com to let me know what competition you are doing so I can keep my eye out for you and cheer you on as the competition season begins this spring!
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