What I learnt from competing in fitness / bikini / bodybuilding competitions
A few years ago (in 2012 and 2013) I competed in not one, but two fitness modelling competitions. Now before you judge me – you shouldn’t! Straight out. Everyone has different fitness goals, motivation and aspirations. At the time I was living in Darwin, and to be honest – unless you’re into fishing/camping/hunting, there really isn’t a lot to do. My running had taken a back seat – as it was incredibly hot, so I needed a new goal. A new friend of mine at the time from Crossfit, Marnie I knew had competed before – and coached women to get to stage.
I had been in the weights room at a gym before so I knew I’d need to do that, and more than anything watch what I ate. I thought it would be a great challenge to try something new – and push the boundaries of what I’d achieved prior. Boy was I wrong about the commitment and determination I’d need!
After two competitions (and over 9 months of combined preparation for both of them), I learnt so much about myself, but also so much about what it takes to get up on stage and strut your stuff!
A lot of people are quick to dismiss the bodybuilding industry, but there is so much to learn from it that you can bring into your own lifestyle.
To give you a bit of background reading – or if you’re thinking of competing. These posts are a little insight into the process of entering, preparing and competing in a bodybuilding / fitness / bikini competition (click the links to read the posts):
- The moment I entered my first fitness model competition
- Two weeks out from my first fitness model competition
- Final week of preparation (2nd fitness model competition)
- Part 1 – Evaluation of my 2nd fitness model comp (preparation)
- Part 2 – Evaluation of my 2nd fitness model comp (one week out and comp day)
Today I thought I’d share with you a few things I learnt along the way, that I still use today to some degree – and hopefully inspire you to try something new:
It’s not all about high heels, makeup, long hair and bikini’s!
I’m sure when people think of fitness or bikini competitions they just think of the end result. I know I did when I first competed – trying to imagine myself in an itty-bitty sparkly bikini, ‘stripper heels’ and glitzy jewelry was all I could think about. I really didn’t process what the steps would be in-between and also on the day in the lead up to those photos on stage.
There are many days spent calculating “macro’s” (macro-nutrients), your head buried in my fitness pal – working out your meals. There are early mornings getting in weights sessions (or in my case stair sprints – fasted cardio). See, I found when I was living in Darwin, the quickest and most effective way for me to do my cardio was in the morning, before breakfast running up and down the ‘Deckchair cinema’ stairs. These are the things you do, yes some women (and men) train up to 8 times a week – for me it wasn’t quite that match thankfully – but many mornings and many evenings were spent running, walking or lifting barbells and dumbbells in the gym.
It’s not just about a spray tan (or 3!) – it’s about getting in enough food to keep your muscles full, your muscles recovered post-workout and your muscles fulled pre-workout. Some day’s you’re eating when you don’t want to eat (you’re literally full), or your eating the same thing everyday because it’s easy.
It’s more than just a bikini!
Workouts have to be periodic, calculated and worth your time – no mucking around!
I worked with a coach, Marnie Scobie from Entity Personal Training for both of my competitions – and was lucky enough to receive nutrition and training plans that I loved. Sure, there were times when I didn’t want to train, I didn’t want to get up early, but I did anyway!
For my second competition (final result pictured above, where I placed 2nd in the INBA Fitness Model division) I trained and dieted for about four months – with my competition early May 2013. In the lead up to this, I had competed in the September prior, and had a few months nursing a fractured wrist and training in the ‘off-season’.
My four month program was specifically tailored for me, and my goals.
That’s the thing with Body Building – you can’t get a generic fitness plan and expect it to work!
I had a process of building up muscle for a bit, focusing on hypertrophy weights training. building muscle and not doing a lot of cardio. It then changed to include a few more reps in my weights training, more cardio – and so on. Most bodybuilding programs are called ‘split programs’ – and allow you to focus on specific muscle groups each time to you train (eg. Leg day, Back, Bicep’s and Triceps, etc). There are various ways of training for bodybuilding shows – but this is the method I used and felt comfortable with.
Nutrition makes up about 80% of what your end result is on stage.
I swear as soon as everyone hears you’ve entered a bodybuilding competition they immediately think chicken and broccoli – it’s not just that! There is so much precision – weighing, calculating and working out what to eat, how much of it and when plays such a huge part in preparing for a bodybuilding competition. I grossly underestimated how much time I would spend at the supermarket and in my kitchen preparing my meals.
Did you know that most bodybuilding competitors eat up to 6 or more meals a day?
I sure didn’t! I was lucky enough to have an amazing coach that was flexible in what I ate (as long as I met my macro nutrients – protein, carbohydrates and fats!) Throughout my competition I was able to eat a variety of foods – trying new recopies and fitting foods that I loved into my plan to help me bulk, and then shred! I enjoyed kangaroo sausages, so so many vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, beans, cauliflower and more), steak, fish, lean pork and pork mine as well as prawns, salads, oats, berries, eggs and more.
Today, while I’m not preparing for stage I’m grateful to have gone through the experience. I learnt about adequately fueling your body for exercise – both for repair and fuel is vitally important. Yes, eating a square of chocolate every now and then didn’t kill me – but eating quality, wholesome foods equaled a better look on stage.
I also learnt about eating for muscle gain, and fat loss and learnt how to “eyeball” meal quantities after a while, not needing to weigh them out! Magic I tell you! ;)
I also learnt that filling my belly with nutritious meals – less supplements like protein powder, and pretty much zero stimulants or fat burners resulted in a naturally, lean looking body on stage. Food is fuel. Food is life!
Workouts and exercise can be fun (no really!)
As I mentioned before my coach (and friend) was awesome, and gave me the flexibility of doing cardio of my choice (those stairs – quick and dirty!), and weights sessions that were enjoyable. I did hiit (high intensity, interval training) where I could, and did compound movements where I could because I loved them.
I opted to do stair sprints, or sprints rather than steady-state cardio (walking on a treadmill) because I enjoyed it.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring, and I actually came to love it!
You have to love your body anyway.
I asked Rosie Johnson, a previous bikini model this same question, “What is one profound thing you learnt while competing that you can pass onto others?” She said:
“If you don’t love your body right now, loving your body won’t come from having a perfect body, losing 10kilos, getting rid of your cellulite or having a tight set of abs. Love yourself the way you are, right now, and you will not only appreciate it so much more when you reach your goals, you will also automatically want to treat your body in a healthier way”. Rosie Johnson Health
Have you competed before? If so, what’s your number one thing you learnt from the process?
*As always, please note I am not a qualified Personal Trainer or Nutritionist. This post is based on my personal experiences. If you do have any questions for me, please email me via the contact us page! I’m happy to help!