From the time we are old enough to realize that our world no longer revolves solely around the praise of our parents or caretakers we strive to seek acceptance, admiration and praise from those around us. Quite often we do so without even realizing it. From choosing the clothes we wear, to having the right pencil case for our first day of school we want to not only fit in but to hear recognition for our choices and our accomplishments. For some that comes quickly and easily - for others it is a daily battle.
As adults, we have moved from the perfect pencil case to carrying the right cell phone, and of course it has to have the perfect case to hold it. Our shoes, clothing, the way we style our hair - often is influenced more by our social environment than anything else. The buzzword of late for women all over North America is that strive for the “fit” body. The body you see on the cover of fitness magazines, supplement ads, etc. With the addition of “bikini” in the world of bodybuilding competition we have seen a significant increase in the amount of women walking across the stage with their well toned, muscular physiques. Hair perfectly groomed, makeup professionally applied, posing suits blinged out with more swarovski crystal than one could ever imagine possible. The world of glitz and glamorous muscular physiques is now easily attainable for the average person. Or is it?
At the Novice level it has become the “in” thing, the new “fad” to use a bodybuilding competition as a goal for weight loss and “improving” one's lifestyle. It is a great goal, if and only if it is approached in a healthy manner. Unfortunately, this does not always seem to be the case. What one is seeing more and more of are people (mainly young girls) basically crash dieting for 12 weeks, lifting weights along the way and after having 30 seconds on stage - which basically amounts to a photo op for most - then begin to eat as though the world is soon coming to an end. Copious amounts of high sugar, empty high calorie food as all of a sudden “balance” becomes the new buzz word. How did it all of a sudden become cool to starve oneself for weeks on end, doing hours upon hours of cardio? How did that become healthy?
When I entered the world of competing it didn’t take too long for my eyes to be opened wide. For a period of time I felt disappointed, let down, that what I believed to exist did not truly exist. The term “smoke and mirrors” came to mind. It was only after getting to know individuals who had been competing for years, some of them pro’s, that I realized it wasn’t all “smoke and mirrors” and the ones that stayed competing and had success were the ones who had embraced the sport and it was their lifestyle, their passion.
While it may sound fun and exciting to compete - and it really is - it is also a lot of hard work. It is a hobby that easily takes over your life as a show date nears. It becomes difficult to focus on anything else other than your next meal and your next workout. Hours upon hours are spent solely on grocery shopping and prepping your meals. Countless dollars are spent on coaches, gym membership, supplements, a suit, makeup, hair, shoes, entry fees and photographers. It’s expensive to compete! You can cut some corners here and there, but the costs still add up.
Competing can be a fun and healthy hobby. Like anything else though you need to keep your head about you and your priorities straight. Surround yourself with people whose lifestyle mirrors your own. If you decide to hire a coach, don’t just do as you’re told. Do your own research, ask why you are doing the things you are doing. Learn about the supplements you are taking. Learn how you will be able to incorporate most of what you are doing into your life post show. Just because many people “bulk” up dirty post show doesn’t mean it is the right way or the only way to do it. You need to find the healthy state for your body to be in, not worry about someone else's. This is especially important if you plan on competing regularly. If you crash diet eating a very low calorie diet (I’ve heard of some girls eating as little as 600 calories per day - saying you do whatever you have to) combined with hours and hours of cardio - you can be pretty much guaranteed that you will have issues post show, most likely putting all that weight back on and then some. You simply cannot take your body from pretty much a fasted state, with hours spent in the gym to all of a sudden filling it with all sorts of yummy treats, dropping the cardio and going from 10 hours of weight training per week to 3 or 4 hours on a good week. If that is what you are going to do, then save yourself the money and the heartache and don’t compete.
Prepping properly for a show takes time. It is a process that while it can be rushed, it quite simply should not be rushed. Be realistic with your goals. If this is the first time and you have been serious about training, take the time to build a good solid base before you even begin to entertain the idea that you may want to experiment with various compounds that are available. The term “12 week prep” came in long ago for bodybuilding as it was the typical length of a cutting cycle that would be used just prior to show. Unless you are already fit, doing a “12 week prep” is not going to be of benefit to you long term - in fact it will just make things harder.
If you are competing solely for the thrill of going on a stage, just to be able to say you did it - have fun with it, but be smart and realistic about it. If you are wanting more, then be smart and realistic about it - and still have fun. Just because your coach tells you “all the girls are doing this” or “all the girls are taking this” doesn’t mean they are. Before you hire a coach make a clear list of what you hope to accomplish (be realistic), what your goals are both long term and short term. Write out a budget - figure out what you can afford before you get started - make sure you can afford to do this show. If it’s going to be tight, then start working now towards the next show. The more time you put into prepping, the greater your results will be. Muscle is built over time. Yes, you can take enhancements, boosts to speed up the process - but you need to ask yourself is that what I really want. At 20 years old, do I want to start experimenting in that world? You will be told by countless people “there are no risks” - bullshit! There are risks to everything in life - absolutely everything has a possible negative outcome. RESEARCH - make yourself aware and only once you have a firm understanding are you even remotely close to being able to make that decision to go ahead. Bikini and Figure Competitors - it's not about how big you are … its about balance, symmetry, poise, femininity. Yes you need to be lean, but depending on what category you are in, how much muscle you have will affect how lean you need to get.
By the way - you don’t need to compete to lift. You don’t need to compete to be fit. If you decide to compete, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. If you are doing it for the right reasons, prepping for a show will be an exciting experience you will not soon forget. If you are competing simply to gain attention, you will find prep hard. Damn near impossible some days!
The quest for perfection can hinder you or spurn you along. Just remember, perfection is in the eye of the beholder. What may be “perfect” for you may not be to someone else - and that’s ok. This is your body, treat it well. Don’t worry about how someone else looks - focus on how you feel. If you are happy and healthy that is “Perfection” at its best.
Donna Garron | @DonnaGarron
Canadian National Figure Competitor l Owner of Titanium Fitness & Contest Prep