Prep Chronicles: Things to Consider Before Deciding to Compete

I have secretly wanted to compete in a body building competition for well over a year. I fought the urge, acted like I thought it was stupid, got annoyed when people asked if I had any interest in it, and wrote it off for as long as I possibly could. Why did I do this? Because I was scared. When I started prep 16 weeks ago, that was the leanest my body had ever been at that point. I was not a skinny girl in highschool, so being lean does not come naturally for me. I have struggled with weight issues my entire life. I didn’t truly know if a bikini competitor physique was even possible for me.. and if it was, I had doubts with myself that I would be able to put in the work to accomplish it. What if I tried and failed? What if I told people I was competing and gave up half way through prep? These were all questions running through my mind. However, I’m glad I took that time to really think about whether or not a bikini competition was for me, because it takes a lot of commitment and it’s certainly not something you want to just jump into. Maybe you’ve been considering taking the leap and doing a competition like this. If so, I’ve compiled a list of things to consider before deciding to compete.

Ask yourself why you want to compete
Let me just start it off with this one, because I talk a lot about body image issues on my blog. One thing everybody needs to understand about the physique that you achieve for stage day is it is not realistic to think you can maintain it. With that being said, what is your reason for wanting to compete? Is it so you can finally achieve your dream body? If so, competing is probably not going to be healthy for you. You might really struggle mentally when your show is over and you start putting some post show weight on. A couple years ago if I had competed, this would have probably been my reason for it. One of the reasons I knew it was the right time for me to compete was because I was actually very happy, healthy, and confident with my body before I started prep. I didn’t mind having some extra fat on my body. I actually enjoyed having thicker legs and hips. Being able to love your body in all stages is SUPER important to set you up to have a healthy prep (mentally).

When are you most motivated?
One of my last blog posts touched on prepping through the holidays. That might seem like hell for some people, but for me it was one of the most successful times I could’ve picked for prep. When deciding to compete and choosing a show day, think about when you tend to be the most motivated. A lot of people get motivated in the spring and summer because they are thinking ahead to shorts, tank tops and bikinis, and they want to get in the best shape possible for summer. A lot of people don’t like going to the gym in the winter because it’s cold outside and they would rather snuggle up, watch TV and eat comfort foods. I’M THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE.  In the winter time I’m like “heck, there’s nothing else to do… might as well go to the gym”. In the summer when the weather is nice, the LAST thing I want to do is be at the gym in the evening after work when I’ve spent all day wishing I were outside. I’m good about sticking to my morning workouts in the summer, but prep usually requires working out twice a day. My evening workouts wouldn’t stand a chance. I’d rather be outside with my husband taking our dogs for a walk, grilling out on the back deck, or just sitting outside with him listening to some music. Think about your own habits and make sure to choose a show date that will work to your advantage.

Do you truly have the time to dedicate to prep?
When I first decided to compete I thought to myself “I’m already a gym go-er. I workout 5-6 times a week, this will be relatively similar, just need to clean up the diet”. Then I saw my plan and realized I’d be lifting 5x a week in the evenings and doing cardio and abs 5x a week in the mornings. Then as prep went on, my cardio got switched to daily. As my prep went on more, I added another 20 minutes of cardio in the evenings after I finished my lift. THEN adding posing practice on top of that. It. Adds. Up. Many times you will get home from the gym, eat your last meal, and go to bed just to wake up 7 hours later for cardio again. Trust me when I say this – THE PROCESS IS WORTH THE HARD WORK. But be honest with yourself, are you really willing to give it all you’ve got? You WILL have to make sacrifices. Your social life WILL suffer. Your spouse will be wishing it was over after a couple weeks. Again, I find it’s totally worth it – but it’s definitely something to consider.

Do you have a solid base for competing?
Be honest with yourself about this one. Are you at a good starting spot for prep? I’m happy I pushed off competing for as long as I did because last summer I stopped trying to cut and my goals shifted. I ate intuitively, had a lot of fun trying healthy new recipes with Cam, and focused on increasing strength in the gym. I was able to increase my calories a bit, which gave me a higher amount of carbs to start my prep with (praise God). Through this I was also able to develop my arms, shoulders, and back a lot more and it put me in a much better starting spot for prep. Ideally I would’ve spent a little more time building up my glutes before deciding to compete, but I couldn’t shake the desire to want to compete and the timing seemed right for everything else. With that being said, the last thing you want is to spend 12-20 weeks preparing for a competition and feel like you didn’t bring your best package to the stage. A lot of bikini girls lean out and they’re skin and bone. The judges want to see a little muscle on you too! It is a bodybuilding competition after all!

Everybody talks about this one and when I first heard someone say competing was expensive I thought “yeah, yeah, yeah… there’s plenty of ways I can cut cost”. Spray tan? I just won’t use the vendor… I’ll get one somewhere else the day before for way cheaper. Professional hair and makeup? I can find someone for that! Jewelry? I’ll be thrifty. Suit? Maybe I could make one myself. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE ways to cut the costs of bodybuilding competitions. But for me personally, all of that training for 3-4 months comes down to a few minutes on stage. The judges don’t care who trains harder in the gym – they have no idea about any of that, but they ARE looking at the package you bring to the stage. And things like makeup, hair and spray tan are all huge factors in those decisions. After 4 months of hard work, those are things I’m not about to attempt on my own and have them end in an epic disaster. I did end up making my own suit for one of my upcoming shows (for a fraction of the cost!) but I would've had no clue where to start had I not had a professional suit in front of me as a guide that I purchased for my first show. So let me tell ya, it adds up – quick. Here’s an idea of some things you’ll be shelling out money for:

  • NPC Registration card - $125
  • Show registration - $100-175
  • Professional spray tan - $150
  • Professional hair and make up - $75-270
  • Competition suit – ranges anywhere from $220-$1,000 (You can get a plain suit with connectors and no jewels for about $125.. but you will want SOME bling)
  • Coach (another blog on this to follow) – The range for this is HUGE. Some coaches might lump your entire prep into one payment. Some charge anywhere from $100-400/month!!
  • Jewelry - $30-60
  • Shoes - $30-50
  • Tickets for family and friends – Anywhere from $15-45 depending how much of the show they want to see
  • Hotel - $100
  • Any gas money or plane ticket if traveling is involved
  • Supplements and food – varies

As you can see, this is not a cheap sport! I know several people who have had to drop out of shows due to the cost. Don’t let that happen to you! Information about the cost is openly available – take some time to truly decide if you can make it work or not.

Do you have a post competition plan?
I’ve seen a lot of girls negatively affected by this. Maybe they had a bad coach, maybe working with their coach ended as soon as the show was over, I have no idea. But the last thing you want to do is finish your show, take a week off the gym because you’re over it, and eat like a crazy person. You will balloon up. Some girls finish their show and 2 weeks later look like they’ve never stepped foot in a gym. A lot of girls also struggle with what’s known as the “post show blues”. It’s similar to how some women feel after planning a wedding for a year (although I never felt this way). You put so much time and energy into it, the big day comes, and then it’s over… you’re left feeling like there’s nothing for you to do. Your mental health, commitment, and dedication are just as important post show as they are during your prep process. Don’t have the mindset of thinking you’re going to step off stage and the work stops. You want to make sure going into prep that you have a solid plan to help you rebound out of it, where you are slowly increasing calories and decreasing cardio.

Has anybody else out there competed before? What are some things you wish you would’ve known before starting the process?