Everything I Wish I Knew At My First Rodeo

Written By: Alex of www.fitgal.ca


2018 was a big year for me. I decided in December 2017 that I was going to do my first bodybuilding competition – which was no small feat given that getting on a stage and showing off my physique was the last thing I ever thought I would get roped into let alone sign up for myself!! – and set a target to compete May 5th at UFE Revolution.

Following four months of absolutely intense prep on every single front, I’m so proud to say that I walked away with a 1st place finish in my category – Novice Bikini. The day of the show was absolutely  amazing – a culmination of so much hard work and preparation. I walked away with new friends, a renewed and refreshed sense of self and the desire to help more people find their way into this sport!

In this article I hope to share my journey with you to inspire you to compete and to help you understand more about what it takes to get through prep and get on that stage!

When I decided to compete in December I knew that come January 1st, there were going to be big changes to my overall routine both on the fitness and diet front. First a very lean mean and clean bulk marked by crazy food consumption (to the tune of 2700-2800 calories daily) and heavy heavy weights to build as much muscle as humanly possible. This followed by an extremely strict low carb cutting phase (during which I’m so proud I still kept my calories up at about 1800-1900 daily!) with a few different styles of weight training and the return of cardio (blehhhhh!) and absolutely ZERO alcohol and ZERO sugar during both phases.

A lot to take in right?! And that’s just scratching the surface! Layer on finding the right bikini, shoes and accessories, posing routines, hair and makeup looks, booking everything for show day and prepping your skin for the tan and it becomes a whirlwind of information! So much to do and seemingly so little time!

I tell every girl I meet that wants to do their first show the same thing – do your research!! It’s crucial to understand what you’re getting into so you’re able to budget your time accordingly and plan for all the important details that will make of break the overall package you’re coming in with. It’s equally important to understand all the costs associated with the sport – training, food, supplements, show day look & prep costs – to know if getting into the sport is viable.

So… here are the TOP TEN facts to consider if you want to become a professional bodybuilder!

1- Training – The Time & Monetary Investment

When you initially get into the sport, I would highly recommend getting yourself a trainer. Learning proper techniques and form is essential to building muscle and sculpting your body. If you are considering a 5-day split, for instance, I would invest in AT LEAST 10 sessions with a trainer that will aid you to determine which muscle groups you’d like to aggressively target and which you may maintain, based on your individual musculature. See from there how accountable you are with yourself and what level of oversight you will require from a coach.

Now let’s get back to the work itself. A 5-day or 6-day split is common for bikini competitors in my experience. On those days, and depending upon your individual goals, most competitors will incorporate double workouts. Add in cardio during the cut and there will be days that you are spending 2+ hours at the gym, easily!

The average commitment, time-wise, for training ALONE is around 10 hours per week – it’s starting to sound like a part-time job right? That’s because it is – and that’s  the dedication it will take in order to do well in this sport. Persistence, consistency and dedication in aces & spades.

2- Gym Gear & Laundry – Self explanatory 

5 Day Split.

2 Workouts per Day.

7 days of cardio during the cut.

That’s 17 sessions per week if you’re not combining cardio + weights and a minimum of 10 if you combine your workouts with every day.

When you’re going through 10 – 17 workout outfits, you either need an extensive gym wardrobe or need to prepare to do a TON of laundry. The choice is yours!

For serious competitors and even those that are rising stars in the sport, there are tons of opportunities to get sponsorships or brand ambassador agreements with activewear lines which will help to absorb a lot of that cost.

I must sound insane ranting about laundry but you will see, it adds up 

3- Nutrition – Food Costs & The Cut

This is a two-part tip – first off, there’s food costs & prep time to consider – and at 2000-2700 calories worth of plant-based whole foods per day – that’s significant!

Secondly, there’s the psychology of the bulk and the cut.

The bulk is difficult to get accustomed to – for some women, eating those volumes will be a challenge in and of itself. For most, what’s challenging is that you’re putting in all that work at your weight sessions and you seem to be getting bigger rather than more cut! Get used to the fact that you cannot build muscle and cut fat at the same time. You can do as lean of a bulk as possible but you will probably get a bit bigger before you start to get shredded.

What accounts for a lot of that is muscle growth and the fact that you’ve pushed the fat from inside the muscle (inner-muscular fat) to the outside so it can be released more easily.

Now on to the cut! 

Cutting is the most rewarding process! It is the art and science of revealing all the muscle you’ve built during your bulk. It is also extremely restrictive in terms of carbs, fat and sodium at different points.

Peak week (the final week before the competition) is where things get really crazy. You will start manipulating water weight here as well.

All in all, it’s crucial to remember that this is going to be difficult, eating large quantities then tapering it off is a challenge and add in carb and fat restriction and you’re bound to feel a bit off for the first week. The best way to get through it in my books is to know there’s an end in sight! You will be rewarded for all that patience and perseverance with post-show pizza and cookies!

4- Picking a Show & League – How do I start?!?

There are many leagues out there and where you should start will be partly determined by your physique.

For your first show you should be looking for local competitions to compete in with smaller leagues that have reputations for making the show day experience fun!

From there, you can hop around from league to league until you find your favourite and as your overall physique evolves!

You can compete in multiple leagues if you so choose, but be aware that once you are known within a league and develop close ties with the other competitors, you’re not going to want to leave! 

Register early for your show as there are often early bird discounts available! Budget the cost accordingly as it can range from $75-$500+ to register depending on the show and number of categories you will be selecting!

5- The Bikini – Choosing the Perfect Suit for You!

Decide on a suit colour first – one that compliments your hair and eye colour!

Ideally none of the classic colours which many other competitors will be wearing – you want to stand out from the crowd and choose something unique!

Avoid jewel tone red, green and blue. These are the traps – they look good on everyone, and everyone picks them!

Instead, go for a teal blue, mint green or aubergine! Your individuality will be rewarded.

6- The Shoes – Finding the Right Pair

The key here is practicing walking around in heels for 30+ minutes at a time and getting a sense for your tolerance for heel height & platform height.

The rule is always the higher the better. The other girls will be taking advantage of the highest heels to make for the leanest, longest appearance. You will want to do the same 

Remember, you’re measured barefoot in most leagues so your heel height won’t push you into another category in those cases but when measured with HEELS ON that’s a different stour – then your decision has to be a bit more strategic to ensure you can be one of the taller girls within your class.

7- Posing – It can make you or break you!

The first step is figuring out which poses are going to best flatter YOUR physique. Every body is different. You may be particularly proud of your hip to waist ratio or the size and definition of your glutes or how far along your shoulders & biceps have come. It’s all very individual – particularly if you’re also competing in a fitness model or sportswear category in addition to bikini. Find your angles and work them!

Once you’ve identified your poses, it’s time to stitch together your individual T-walk where you will reach two opposite spots on the stage and do 1-2 poses in each and the walk to the centre and show off 3 poses (front, side, back).

Flexing all your muscles in ways you’re probably not accustomed to is not going to come as naturally as the walk itself, and the transitions between poses? That’s the most difficult part.

What does it take to make it all feel natural? Daily practice.

You need to be willing to take time every day to go over your routine so that when you hit the stage it feels like second nature.

Finally, the quarter turn round. You will be in a lineup with all your competitors showing off every angle of your body. The key here is to bring in the poses you’ve practiced for your t walk that will make you stand out from the crowd.

Is everyone holding the exact same pose for the side view during the quarter turn? Incorporate some arm and hip movement to show off different angles while everyone else looks like a statue. Make eye contact with the judging panel & keep the judges eyes on you!

8- The Tan – Preparing your skin to become a bronze statue!

One month before, start exfoliating twice per week and moisturize daily after showering. Get your skin accustomed to shaving so you don’t end up with bumps and red skin on show day.

Book your tan with the sponsor for the tournament – they are the only ones allowed backstage and all touch ups are included – you will need them!! Spills happen, the suit rubs the skin, it’s not a good situation after a 12-hour day when you’re about to go claim your trophy and look splotchy.

One week before the show, stop exfoliating and base tanning as it will dry your skin out top much.

In the two days preceding the show, you will need to stop moisturizing and wearing deodorant as it affects body chemistry and may contribute to your tan turning green if you continue to do so! Be smelly for two days so you don’t have to change your whole t walk because you can’t raise your arms due to green armpits!!!

Shave your whole body the day before the spray to ensure it goes on evenly and take a warm (not hot) shower.

Once you have your base spray the day before the comp, no more showering for you! You will get another 1-2 layers of tan the next day and then on the stage you go!

9- Show Day – What to consider from costs and timing to back up plans (should you need them!)

The show day will be a very early one after what will likely be a late night full of excitement and insomnia!

The night before you will get your base tan and likely attend an athletes registration meeting. Try to get as much sleep as possible thereafter to ensure you’re rested and fresh faced the next morning.

Always stay at the sponsor hotel (as long as it’s also the closest to the venue!). If the show starts at 11am and you have zero travel time to consider in the morning you will probably be waking up around 5am. You don’t want to add a lengthy commute to that!

The morning will consist of more spray tanning, getting makeup and hair ready, eating whatever you’ve agreed to with your coach for your show day breakfast and arriving early for tan touch ups and a stage meeting with the full group prior to the show.

Budget your hair makeup and tan costs accordingly and ensure you are aware of payment schedules associated – vendors will likely take a deposit and then you will be responsible for bringing cash to your appointments on show day. Ensure you have it all planned for so you’re not left without the services you’ve signed up for!

It all takes a lot of time and one delay can throw it all off so on time means being early, might I add!

Lastly, always have a plan b on show day in terms of your hair, makeup, suit and shoes. Bring your makeup with you in case you need to make tweaks or touch ups! Bring your hair tools so you can ensure your hair stays smooth and frizz free or bouncy and voluminous, whichever you go for 

At my show, one girl’s hip connector broke in the locker room! She was lucky enough to be lent a suit by a fellow competitor but you may not want to rely on the kindness of strangers solely. Similarly, I’ve heard of heels breaking, shoe straps getting torn and all sorts of other mayhem. Basically, be sure you have a back up (even if it’s just a posing suit and heels).

On to the schedule for the day —

There is a morning show – this is where you will be judged – and an evening show.

The morning is critical for scoring – ensure your poses are down and you are working it every second on that stage. You are visible for the duration of all the t walks in your category which can take a long time depending on the number of girls in your class! Make every moment count and know you’re always being watched and scored.

The evening show is solely for fun and to present awards! Here’s where you can add some hop to your step and engage the audience more and make it about just that – having fun.

The time in between can be used many ways – photo shoot, nap time, socializing – just monitor your energy level and give your body what it needs because you will need every ounce of energy possible for that evening show and awards ceremony once you take home a trophy 

10- Mindset – Making sure the experience is great!

You’ve put in the hard work in the months of preparation and restriction leading up to the show.

The show day itself is about showcasing your progress and having fun.

Don’t make it about your placement and scores.

Go out on that stage with all the confidence in the world knowing you have accomplished your goal.

Walk like you don’t have a care in the world. Pose like you’re the only one on stage. Connect with your competitors backstage. Eat all the treats together to celebrate! Enjoy the whole experience and trust me, you will come off that stage itching to get back on!