Lessons from Competing

It’s been almost 3 weeks since my first competition and here’s what I’ve come to realise:

  • Research! Reading other competitors’ experience and tips online. Search for competition videos online. Ask people in your gym. The more you know the more prepared you will feel for the big day. It will also give you an idea of what you might and might not like about competing.

Research

  • Find the right people. Competing in any shape or form is not an easy task. It requires a strong support group – from your friends & family, to your coach and even work colleagues! Needless to say, your coach selection is vital here. Training with someone who has experience in comp prep is a huge advantage, not only in the gym but outside as well. Your coach should ideally be able to help you with nutrition and provide guidance pre-competition (psychological support, registration, skin care requirements, beauty tips, etc.). Surround yourself with the friends and colleagues who respect your decision to compete – they will be the ones to help you stay on track outside the gym when the going gets tough.
  • Start early. I decided to start my comp prep a year before actually stepping on stage. At that time I wasn’t sure when exactly I would compete, but I knew I had to learn the basics of bodybuilding as it was an entirely new discipline to me. Typically, it seems that most people start serious comp prep 3 months out. But in order to build enough muscle and avoid any drastic body fat % drops I started my ‘comp prep’ about 6 months out. That is also when I started posing practice. This gave my body enough time to adjust and gradually change my body composition. Don’t underestimate posing practice! It takes a lot of work and the earlier you start the better. In most sports, when you are 2 weeks out from a competition your work is done. This is because there will hardly be any further improvements to your skills & performance and it is more important to preserve your energy for the big day. In bodybuilding, this is slightly different, but again about 5-7 days out you can’t expect any major changes in body fat %.

“Peak week should be thought of as recovering slightly, being fresh, and focusing just on making sure the muscles are full and hard yet visible because of proper subcutaneous water elimination. Fat elimination should be over before this last week.” – Bodybuilding.com

  • Expect the unexpected. Even though you might have done your research, there will always be one or two things that will surprise you. The tanning experience isn’t great if you haven’t done it before. You might forget to pack slippers or a robe for backstage. Your travel plans might not work out. You may struggle to find your next meal. You might really enjoy being on stage… or not at all! The most important thing is not to freak out and try and find a solution (because most things do have a solution). You’ve come this far, don’t let the little surprises throw you off course.
  • Focus on the details. If you have done your research right and have experienced support, you will notice that the devil is in the details. Plan ahead and make sure you have everything you need with you (a packing list to be posted soon!). Know where you are going and how things will work on the day of the comp, so you don’t have to stress about not knowing. When you get on stage, everything has to be perfect – not just your body! Your bikini, your hair & make-up, the way you act on stage. You need to  be composed, confident and glowing. Make eye-contact with the judges. Smile. Your movements should be smooth and flowing.
  • Try to have fun! OK, I have to admit that it is hard to really have fun when you are tired, worried, and most likely having a million and one cravings, but the key here is to find ways to distract yourself (especially in the last few weeks/days before the competition). Go to the cinema (with your food boxes of course!), hang out with friends, watch a movie, go for long walks… Just because you are on an intense diet & training programme doesn’t mean you have to hibernate at home! At the end of the day, once you get on stage, you have achieved your goal, no matter what the outcome is.

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