7 Tips for Your First Competition
Posted on January 09 2016
I am currently training for my 7th NPC Bikini Competition and have been receiving numerous inquiries from women who are considering competing in this sport. I have found that competing is an excellent way to test your limits, build discipline, and learn about your body, however it is not a commitment to be taken lightly. The decision to start training for a competition will impact all aspects of your life. No goal worth attaining comes without its fair share of trials, but if you do it right and commit 110% your life will never be the same. From contest preparation to show day, I’ve compiled a list of the top ten most important things you need to know if you are seriously considering competing.
- Gauge how long it will take you to get ready
Consult with a coach, judge, or an experienced competitor and do an honest evaluation about how much work it is going to take for you to get stage ready. Competition prep meal plans range anywhere from 6 weeks out (if you are already very lean and stage ready all the time) to twenty weeks plus. The key indicator of being stage ready is your body fat percentage. The average American woman is 25-31% body fat according to the American Council on Exercise. Female athletes are typically 14-21% body fat. A bikini competitor is anywhere from 8-13% body fat. As a general rule of thumb for women, in order to show 6 pack abs, the body fat level needs to be <13%. Reaching this ballpark is the best way to gauge how long it will take to prepare for a show with the guidance of a coach.
The other side of being stage ready is less concrete and slightly more complicated. Competing really takes an emotional toll on women between the constant critiquing of your physique, preparing to be judged solely on your physical attributes, and the rigid diet that has real effects on energy level and mood. If you are not in a good place emotionally and do not have a positive, comfortable relationship with your body, competing can do you more harm than good. For those with a positive body image and strong sense of self, a healthy dose of self-discipline can yield a rewarding and exhilarating experience. So be honest with yourself and assess if you can handle the physical and emotional states associated with the journey to the stage.
- Prepare to be lonely
Before I started preparing for my first show, I had been eating very healthy and exercising regularly for 2 years straight, enjoying the occasional weekend indulgences like wine or pasta. When you start preparing for a competition (especially around 4 weeks out to your show), there is no cheating allowed and the occasional treats are completely off-limits. Regardless of the many temptations, you must stick to your meal plan to lose weight, become leaner and get in perfect shape for you competition. Many competitors feel isolated from their non- athlete friends and family members as restaurants and bars are typically avoided to stay on track for the stage. Depending on the interests of those closest to you, the preparation can be lonely where the hours you’re used to spend doing social activities are filled with hours in the gym. The results you will achieve will be 100% worth it, and the hard work will pay off, but there are real sacrifices to be.
- Competitions get expensive
Coaching can cost upwards of $200/month. If you decide to use a personal trainer in addition to a contest prep coach, a single session can range from $50-$100. An off the rack suit suit starts at $150 where custom embellished crystal bikinis worn by bikini pro’s cost anywhere from $600 to $1000. Tanning at the show is typically upwards of $50, shoes are another $50, posing coaches’ range from $20-$50/hr, and supplements are not cheap either.
In order to reduce these costs, you can purchase a previously worn suit online from the manufacturer or from a competitor looking to sell a suit. Another option is to purchase a plain suit and add the embellishments, connectors, and custom fitting if you are good with a needle and thread and/or know someone who is. Another way to save is to go to a stand-up tanning salons for a few sessions prior to the show to get as dark as the competition tanning company.
- Manage your expectations
While with any competition, we all want to walk away with some hardware, you shouldn’t be upset if you don’t place at your first show. Although you’ll hear this over and over again, this doesn’t typically sink in with most first-time competitors. If you are going to compete, you have to appreciate the progress you’ve made in yourself without becoming fixated on the outcome of the judges final decisions. As long as you know that you gave it very best effort, you can walk on the stage proudly of what you have accomplished without worrying about how people are judging you. A realistic goal for a first competition is to look like you fit in with the rest of the girls on stage. If you go in expecting nothing and end up placing the aware will be that much sweeter.
- Competitions are very public
First time competitors should be aware that competitions will change your google results forever. When you enter a competition your name ends of up results pages of several online magazines and websites as well as the sites of photographers taking pictures of all the competitors. If you have a sensitive job (i.e. teachers, etc.) this should be taken into account. Several competitors who compete use their first and middle names, others change their name entirely for competitions. While competing provides a more objective view of the human body, discretion should be used when posting progress pictures.
- Have fun!
While you may not know many people before the show, the competition venue itself is a great opportunity to meet people and make friends who have similar goals and aspirations as you. Backstage can be crazy with people getting last minute spray tan touch ups, make-up, hair, suit adjustments, bikini bite (a skin safe glue to keep the suit in place), and all kinds of commotion. Going into it with a friendly attitude not only makes the experience fun, but gives you people to commiserate with, chat about prep strategies, and gives you a great sense of camaraderie that you missed when you were explaining to your friends and family why you were eating broccoli and chicken out of plastic baggie in the car the other day.
Once it’s finally your time to present your hard work to the judges, you must own it. Appearing self-conscious, even if you feel it, doesn’t help and will only take away from the months of hard work you’ve invested in yourself. It is an exhilarating experience being on the stage especially if you are well practiced in your posing, as your comfort level will show. Once you come off the stage, solicit feedback from the judges in a respectful manner to learn and ask questions about how you did and where you can improve. I placed 2nd at my first show and after the show I talked with the judges about how I placed and what I can do to improve for my next show. I learned that they found my suit distracting and that I wasn’t wearing the best color for my skin tone and had I selected a different suit, I would have placed 1st. Also know that looking good on stage isn’t the end all be all thing in life and that by the time you actually step foot on that stage, you have completed something that most people in their right minds would never even consider doing. Your hard work and discipline deserve to be acknowledged so a pat yourself on the back!
- Avoid Post-Competition Rebound
After months of taking yourself to your limit of fitness and health, it’s most likely been ages since you’ve had cheats. During my first competition prep, I found myself literally dreaming about donuts (I’m not even a big fan of donuts) but your body starts craving food like you’ve never imagined. You will spend weeks strategizing and thinking about your post-competition meal and loosen up your diet for the next few days. Beware that falling completely off the wagon can happen so quickly. Some competitors gain 10-15lbs only weeks after their show by “rewarding” themselves with food. Be cautioned that this happens to most first time competitors and that you need to be patient and allow yourself to settle into the great feeling of eating healthy food most of the time for the days following your competition so you can continue on in eating healthy and avoid a serious rebound.
- Apply What You’ve Learned to Your Life
Even if you never step on stage again, don’t let the lessons learned throughout this journey go out the window. It is advised to use this as an opportunity to learn and reflect on what worked and what didn’t. What foods gave you the most energy? When did you feel your best? Your worst? How did your body react? You don’t need a strict meal plan to benefit from the healthy habits picked up along the way. Working with what you’ve learned and adapting it into your normal everyday life makes the process worthwhile and supports a lifetime of good nutrition and health.
About The Author: Christine Hronec is co-owner and the food scientist behind Muscle Gauge Nutrition a cGMP certified dietary supplement manufacturing facility based out of West Chester, PA and owner of Gaugegirl Training an online planning, training, and coaching service. Despite running two companies, she actively trains and competes as a Nationally Qualified NPC Bikini competition and manages a low-maintenance healthy lifestyle based on scientifically balanced nutrition, weight training, and cardio. For more information contact Christine@musclegauge.com.