Making the decision to prepare for your first fitness competition an exciting first step to an extremely rewarding journey as long as you plan ahead and prepare for what’s to come.
Before you make the decision to take on the stage for the first time, whether a bikini competition or physique competition, here are a few things you should consider to ensure a successful and positive contest-prep experience:
1. What’s motivating you to compete?
Before you make the decision to commit yourself fully to taking the demands of a competition prep, it’s important to consider why you’re choosing to compete in the first place. With the “trend” of fitness competitions rising it can be easy to get caught up into competing for the wrong reasons, such as peer pressure or feelings of obligation because “everyone’s doing it.”
Just because you love to train and embrace the lifestyle, doesn’t mean you have to (or should) get on stage!
2. Are you in a healthy place physically/mentally/emotionally to take on a prep?
Assessing whether you’re truly ready to take on the challenges of a competition prep means assessing your well-being not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally.
Unfortunately, the mental and emotional well being of athletes is often over-looked during the contest prep process, which can lead to long term negative effects such as self-esteem issues and negative food relationships if not dealt with accordingly and managed throughout the prep process.
If you struggle with issues surrounding self-image or disordered eating, the pressures of contest prep may accentuate these problems so it’s important to be objective in advance.
3. What’s your end goal?
In making the decision whether to compete for the first time, it’s important not only to assess why you’re competing, but also what you aim to achieve as a result of competing. In a subjective sport such as bodybuilding it can be extremely difficult to accept negative feedback and criticism from a panel of judges after you’ve worked tirelessly for months to achieve your best physique.
This isn’t to say you need to be thrilled if you don’t place how you aim to, but it’s important to know in advance that if the judging don’t reward your physique you will be content with knowing you did everything you could to bring your best package to stage.
4. What are your priorities?
If your goal is to bring your best package to stage you need to weigh your priorities before investing yourself fully into a prep. With demands and responsibilities such as family, school, and career, it can be taxing to balance everything it takes to succeed in a contest prep, from meal preparation, to training, and for many athletes prep takes priority for the weeks or even months leading up into a show.
If you’re unable to prioritize your contest prep, you may not receive the results you desire, which may lead to an overall negative experience in the long run.
5. Are you financially able to invest in competition?
Competing isn’t a cheap activity, especially for female competitors. Taking the time to map out a budget and assess whether doing a show is financially responsible for you is an important step.
Take the time to price out the costs of: organization memberships, registration fees, competition suit/shoes/jewelry, contest tan, hair/makeup, travel expenses, coaching fees, and other potential costs such as nails, photo shoots, added food expenses, etc. The costs can add up quickly and if you don’t set a budget it can become easy to lose track of your true spending.
6. How are you going to make prep work with your schedule?
We all have “real life” demands outside of the gym and our contest prep duties and it’s important to figure out how you’re going to make it all work before you get started. How will you make your training/cardio/posing sessions fit around your work/school/family demands, when will you prepare your food and find time to eat your meals in the day?
Fail to plan, plan to fail! It can feel impossible to fit it all in in a day if you don’t plan your days in advance.
7. Are you making an informed decision and aware of what it takes?
With more people adopting the “fitspo” lifestyle it can be easy to get caught up in the positivity and excitement that surrounds embracing the challenge of competing. However it’s important to do your research and inform yourself on what it really takes to bring your best to stage before jumping in head first!
Are you ready to make the potential sacrifices when it comes to your social life, dietary restrictions, and training demands? The benefits of competing don’t always outweigh the challenges for some competitors, and it’s important to distinguish if you’re ready to embrace the challenge fully before getting started (it’s not always as glamorous as it seems on Instagram!
8. Which coach is best for you?
As a new competitor it’s important to enlist the help of a professional to ensure you’re making the best decisions for your body as well as mind. Take the time to research different coaches and get to know them and their style of coaching.
Some athletes need more emotional support than others, while some prefer to work independently, and different coaches cater to different needs. Ensure that you’re hiring a coach who truly knows what they’re doing and has the credentials to reflect their experience.
Don’t hesitate to ask them about their education and experience, as well as contest prep history, and consider contacting previous clients to get an honest interpretation of their experience with the coach.
Related: 4 Reasons To Hire A Personal Trainer
9. What’s your support system like?
Spoiler alert: contest prep can get hard- and there will most definitely be days where you feel like throwing in the towel. If you’re going it alone and have no one to support you throughout the prep process it can be extremely challenging to get through the physically and emotionally draining days leading up to a contest.
By ensuring you have a supportive system around you and friends and family who encourage and support your endeavour (whether or not they understand why you’re putting yourself through it all!) a successful contest prep will be more realistic and sustainable.
Maintaining a level of social normalcy is crucial in order to achieve a successful contest prep and having loved ones who accept your temporary shift in priorities can make all the difference.
10. What is your plan for after the competition?
One of the most important things to consider before competing is what your plan is for after the competition. By ensuring you have a plan in place post-contest to return to a balanced lifestyle in a healthy and moderate way you will avoid the potentially negative mental and physical results that can occur post-show.
Post-contest rebound and rapid weight gain and/or post-contest blues after the show is over are challenges that face many competitors and its important to plan to combat these results before you begin your contest prep journey.
Related: Reverse Dieting Explained
By taking the time to consider these questions before embarking on your contest prep journey you will be likely to ensure a positive and rewarding first- show experience. Don’t forget to enjoy the process- it’s a long way to the stage for only a few minutes in the spotlight so embrace everything you learn along the way and focus on your personal growth and transformation, mentally as well as physically!