It will not be easy….
You will have to wake up earlier….
You will begin to feel out of the loop with your friends and family….
I can’t believe it is already time to begin preparing for my second (and last) competition of this year. I will be preparing for NPC Nationals in September. This is 12 weeks away. The offseason since the Arnold in March FLEW by—and I may have enjoyed the cheat meals a little too much and too often. But, such is life and now it’s time to work. Thinking of what the next 12 weeks has in store for me inspired me to write this article.
Things you should know before entering a bodybuilding competition
There may not be a better feeling than stepping on stage, feeling proud and confident—showing off all that you have worked for. All eyes are on you. It’s a thrill, really. You are the star of the stage, if only for a minute or two. But during that minute, you get to showcase all your dedication spent to this sport.
Bodybuilding.: A sport in which you present yourself to an audience full of strangers wearing practically nothing but a sticky false tan. It is an opportunity to show off your fitness and dedication to the gym and your diet regime. A sport in which many may seek to find their “ideal body” or “body goal” and train hard with the aspiration of reaching. That is what the majority of people work out for, right? The goal: to one day have that lean body and just the right amount of muscle. For those that reach that success as a result of working out, why not show it off? Or for those that need motivation in order to reach it, signing up for a fitness show is a for sure way to get your butt in gear. But, before you sign up for a bodybuilding show, there are some things you should be aware of.
The bodies you see on stage are NOT seen year round. Despite what many online fitness accounts seem to show, many, if not all, of these competitors do NOT walk around year round looking like they do on that stage. It would be entirely unhealthy if they did! So if you are working out with the hope of dwindling your body fat down to nothing to live there—think again.
Support is essential. If you do not have a solid support system, the preparation for a show will be very difficult. You need someone, or better yet, multiple supporters, that truly understand what you are doing,. Understand that you will not be able to go out for drinks, get brunch, or demolish a pizza. Someone that will not be judgmental when your gym hours get longer and your exhaustion levels rise. If your partner, friends, or family members are not supporters of your challenge, there will be strain on those relationships. For those that do not support, you may be seen as self-obsessed, egocentric, or someone that “doesn’t have fun anymore.” Find those supporters and stick to them. Be sure to talk to your closest family and friends before entering into a competition to see if you will have their support—especially significant others. If you don’t the competition preparation, in worst case scenarios, may be a matter of choosing between the show and the relationship. It may seem a bit blunt, but it is the truth. Your partner will take a direct hit when you are preparing for a bodybuilding show. The time you usually spend together will be lessened as you spend more time at the gym. The dates you normally go on will be paused because you are unable to eat anything on the menu. The diet and amount of exercise can make the happiest person cranky and tired—making for dull conversation or, out of nowhere, explosions of why there are dishes in the sink. I have been so fortunate to have my support through my friends, family, and my boyfriend. All of which have been able to brush off the cranky times and love me regardless.
If you have a body image or eating disorder , DO NOT COMPETE. Heal from your disorder. Fix yourself before the thought of entering a competition. You must LOVE your body to compete. If you believe the only way you will love your body is if you are “Stage lean” you are wrong— you will ALWAYS find something wrong with yourself, especially if you have a body dysmorphia disorder, and you will continue to diet and exercise under extremely unhealthy conditions to attempt to fix these “problem areas” Being on stage while being critiqued by complete strangers can put a toll on someone with a body image or eating disorder sending them into a downward spiral of self abuse. Love yourself. Love your body AT ALL STAGES.
It can be a lonely sport. You present yourself on stage alone, you may have to train alone, and you may have to turn down plans with friends in order to make training or stick to your diet. For me, since beginning bodybuilding, I have trained alone. I often envy the many gym goers that always come in with training partners. I always think it would add an additional motivating factor to have someone else to train with, someone else to compete with. But, nevertheless, I go in and get my work done.
It is time consuming! I will be honest when I tell you 50 minutes in the gym WILL NOT cut it. You will be spending at least 1.5 hours per day in the gym with the strength training AND cardio. Many people split this up into 2 AM/PM sessions, but I usually just get it all done in the morning. I wake up at two and a half hours early in order to get my workout in before work. The meal prepping aspect may also be time consuming. You need to have all your meals prepared and ready if you are working. Even if you do stay at home with the kids, preparing all your meals at once is much easier and allows you to enjoy your family instead of preparing your competition prep meals each day.
It is a very expensive sport. For men, it may be a little cheaper. But for women, a show may cost anywhere from $1,000 PLUS. The suits you see on stage are always expensive—they are no ordinary “swim suit”. They are blinged out with crystals and rhinestones, even the cheapest are approximately 150-200 buckaroos. You must purchase special heels and flashy jewelry. Pay for a spray tan. Pay for the federation card and the show registration. These are just the bare minimums—usually you may feel the need to pay for a coach, professional hair and make up, etc. If you have it in your heart to compete, begin to set money aside.
You will question your decision almost daily. It will be a constant battle between you and you. You will find that as soon as someone offers you a donut at work, or when your alarm wakes you up to go to the gym at 430am, you will question if you really want to do this—will you be able to? Will you be ready? Will it be worth it? You could be in the best shape you’ve ever been and yet you will still have self-doubt. This is where your mental game has got to be sharp. You will have to convince yourself that you CAN, it WILL be worth it.
Please keep in mind, competing can be done in a very unhealthy way. The bodybuilding industry gets a bad reputation because of this. If you do not prepare correctly or do not choose a coach that is right for you, you may be at risk for putting yourself at risk. RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH! If it seems wrong, it probably is! Do not fall for the “sweat suits”, extreme calorie deficits well below your BMR, or the illegal supplements. Do not hesitate to question your coach, or find a new one. If you prepare without a coach– do not go much lower than your BMR–this can be found by calculators online.
You will be eating a lot of vegetables. In order to stay full and satisfied when the calories and food intake decrease, you will find that the best way to do this is to load up on low calorie foods like vegetables. The final month I usually have 1.5-2 CUPS of veggies per meal prep. My go-to are green beans, but zucchini, asparagus, broccoli all do the trick. I would also make LARGE salads, 2-3 cups of spring mix topped with my protein of choice and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar.
All in all, it will be worth it. There is something about accomplishing something that you have set your mind to. Seeing the final result of your hard work pay off– Validating the early mornings, the evening cardio, and the hours of meal prepping. I did not write this post to stop you from entering a competition, I love this sport! I am just here to dig deep and tell you how it really is before you decide to enter into a competition. Hopefully this helps anyone that is on the fence about competing and gives you a little food for thought!