I remember my first competition. I knew no one would out work harder than me in the gym (probably not a unique thought among competitors, but nonetheless I believed it!). I felt I had the physique that, if I slept and worked out correctly, had a chance to be successful. And I thought I knew what and how to eat to build lean muscle and burn fat, I had no idea how to prepare correctly.
I asked a lot of experienced competitors and, surprisingly, their routines were all over the board. Over the years I refined my competition preparation based on my learnings and experience from others. I launched Nutrology with my husband and totally ingrained myself in nutritional fitness science. And, I’m proud to say, I achieved my goal of winning a major fitness competition!
Here’s what I learned, and I hope it can help you as you prepare for your first (or next) competition:
1. Start 12 weeks out. It's like landing a plane...you need to start well in advance and prepare. Take you weight and body fat levels every 2 weeks to make sure you are on schedule to be in peak shape on competition day.
2. Practice walking in high heels. Obviously this is for the ladies, but it is listed #2 on the list for a reason. If you can’t do this, not only will you look wobbly (at best) on stage, you have a better than average chance of falling at some point in your competition.
If getting up on stage in a bikini in front of a crowd of strangers does not scare you then try doing that in 6" heels. If you have not practiced walking and standing in heels your legs will start to shake as nerves kick in.
3. Don't overthink the water. Getting rid of excess water before a show is critical to looking great but don't overthink the process. If this is your first time competing then start reducing water 2 days before a show. Drink half your normal water the day before the show and only sip water on competition day to keep your mouth moist.
4. Tan like a pro. Most fitness shows have tanning vendors that can spray on the perfect tan on competition day. Getting just the right tan is critical....too little and you will look washed out under the lights....too much and you will look like a roasted, orange turkey. Unless you really know what you’re doing, let the pros handle your spray tan.
5. Check your hamstrings. Want to know if you’re ready to get on stage? Here is a quick way to check. Look at the back of your legs (hamstrings). Most women hold bodyfat in the back of their legs, as your body leans out for a competition the legs will usually be the most stubborn. When you can clearly see your hamstring muscle without a layer of bodyfat, then you’re ready to get on stage.
I didn’t talk about perfecting your weight and cardio routines because that is a completely different article. But suffice that learning to walk in heels on stage is no substitute for hours of refines weight training in the gym!
Best of luck, and drop me a line to let me know how your first competition goes!
Joanne Tull, two time Fitness Universe finalist and Fitness Canada finalist. Joanne has appeared on ESPN, Fox Sports and TSN after finishing a storied athletic career as a state champion, collegiate and national level gymnast. Joanne’s common sense approach to nutrition will educate and motivate people on how to live a healthy lifestyle while balancing career, kids and fitness goals.