Over the last couple years, fitness competing has blown up. The odds are that you know someone that has done a show or is prepping for one now. In fact, its pretty likely that at some point you thought about competing. I don’t blame you, you get to be in phenomenal shape, strut around in a sparkly bikini, and get glammed up. Who wouldn’t want to do that? I get excited just typing about it! However, that raises the question, just because you want to, should you, and is it the right time? I think bodybuilding is one of the coolest, most challenging sports you could do. But its not for everyone.
Here are a few things that you should think about if you are considering stepping on stage:
Where is your body image at? Are you happy with your body and just want to push the limits? Or are you unhappy with your body and think once you have a competitor body all your body issues will disintegrate while getting sprayed for your fake tan? If you feel like you have a healthy body image, then by all means give competing a try. But if you have even the slightest issues with any body part, I would rethink competing. Unfortunately, those issues will not get fixed, they will get magnified. You are signing up to get picked apart and scrutinized for weeks, and then judged in front of a lot of people, while wearing next to nothing. If you don’t start with a healthy mind set, you have no chance. You must be able to separate your thighs as a normal human being, and your thighs as a competitor. For an everyday person they may look great, for a bikini competitor they may be too big or too fat, or for a figure competitor they may be too small. You must be ok with hearing criticism on your body, because your coach is doing their job and making sure you do the best you can. But that entails constantly critiquing your body and seeing what improvements can be made. Also, once the show is over, you have to be ok with putting some weight back on. It is not healthy to maintain show weight for very long after the show. You have to have the mindset that you got to the extreme, and now you are going back to healthy-not getting fat. That can be very hard to see for someone that has body issues or body dysmorphia.
Relationship with food
How is your relationship with food? Are your eating habits pretty good, or do you emotionally eat? Can you eat a “cheat” food without binging or punishing yourself afterwards? This is really important to think about. Just like I mentioned above, restrictive dieting will usually not fix these problems, they will usually make them worse. You will be on a very restricted diet for at least 12 weeks. The time leading up to the show usually isn’t the hardest part for people because the show in front of them keeps them focused. The problem usually happens after the show. Once the show is no longer there, you have to be able to return to eating healthy amounts of calories. You body is a little out of whack and depleted after the show, so cravings can come up, and they are given into a lot easier since there is no show on the horizon. If you have a habit of binging when you have “cheat” foods, and then starving yourself the next few days, this can lead to a really unhealthy cycle post show. You want to make sure you go into a prep with the healthiest relationship with food as possible.
How is your health? Prepping for a show does not make you healthy, it makes you quite the opposite. Your body is put into a very stressful state due to the restrictive diet and excessive workout schedule. Your goal is to get to unhealthy levels of body fat. This is ok to do if you start off healthy, the body bounces back. However, if you start off with issues such as thyroid, hormone, or gut issues, prepping can make them worse. You want to make sure any issues are addressed, fixed or at the very least communicated to your coach before starting a prep. The goal here is to get to an unhealthy state in the healthiest way possible. The best way to do that is learn about your body and know your obstacles. Also make sure you pick a coach that asks about your health. If they aren’t concerned about it from the beginning, they probably won’t be towards the end.
What does your schedule look like? Is it jammed packed with stuff, or can it fit in workouts 6-7 days a week? Make sure this is something you can give time for. It’s a large time commitment. Find a time in the year where your schedule slows down. A lot of factors impact the body, and sleep and stress are two of the big ones. If you are burning the candle at both ends and hardly have time to sleep, the odds are that prep won’t be pleasant. You want to set yourself up for success, so try to make the timing as perfect as possible.
Do you have a lot of stress in your life? Do you have a lot riding on your shoulders? High levels of stress can ruin a prep faster than a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. The many effects of stress are not prep friendly. Life is stressful in general, but you want to try to get it minimized as much as possible before diving into preparing for a show. When your stress levels are high, your cortisol, blood sugar, and amount of water retention can all be affected in a negative way-not to mention the ever-important hormone levels. Yes, you can feel de-stressed after a workout after a hard, stressful day. What you must remember is, physical, mental and emotional stress are all the same to the body. Working out and doing a lot of cardio is a stress to the system. Restrictive dieting is stressful to the body. Obsessing over calories or how your body is progressing is stress to the body. I can go on and on about all the ways prepping stresses the body. That is why you want to minimize all other stress in your life as best you can, so you can handle all the extra stresses of prep.
Do you have a lot of supportive people around you, or does everyone think you are crazy for wanting to do a show? You want to make sure you have a good group around you that are very supportive and will help you achieve your goals, not hinder them. Prep is hard, there is no denying that. There will be times that you will want to quit and throw in the towel. You want people in your life that encourage you to keep pushing during these times. There are a lot of temptations out there, and you don’t want friends or family to add to them. If you don’t currently have a group of supporters around you, go find them. Make new friends that understand your goal. You can meet people at the gym, seminars, and going to shows. The sport as a whole loves to welcome new people that share the passion for it. It doesn’t take very long to make a new, supportive friend.
Those are just a few important things to consider when making the decision on whether to step on stage. If some of these areas need work, don’t cross off competing entirely. Take some time and work on these areas and revisit the idea at a later time. There is nothing wrong with doing a “prep” for the actual prep. Having all these factors in order will set you up for success and give you longevity in the sport. This sport is a lot of fun and the more prepared you are for it the more fun it will be!
If you have any questions on competing that I didn’t cover, feel free to leave it in the comments below or shoot me over a message!