Stepping on stage is a hot topic right now. You either know of someone, or have considered it yourself.
We caught up with top local Bikini and Fitness athletes to reveal the truth about competing. This article includes some topics we covered in the June issue of Fitness Magazine, along with additional answers that did not feature in print.
A lot goes into stepping on stage to compete in a Bikini and Fitness show. It’s not just about working out and following a diet, there’s also mental, physical and emotional preparation required before and after competition, and don’t forget about the financial commitments!
What do you need to know before deciding if you’re ready to step on stage?
How should athletes, especially first-time competitors, prepare mentally and emotionally for a competition?
MARCELLE COLLISON: I’d recommend being correctly informed about what competition you’d like to compete in, as well as the criteria. Talk to a few athletes who have competed to prepare yourself mentally. From an emotional perspective, create a support structure and include your partner, friends and family so they understand the process and what’s involved. It’s also important to realise that judging a physique is subjective. You need to set realistic goals, understand the process your body will go through with the dieting. You must also define your reason for competing; is it something you’d like to tick off your bucket list, or is it something you’d like to see how far you can take?
AMBER BLOM: Set clear goals and define what will make the experience a success for you, regardless of the judges’ opinion. Also know that your stage weight and condition is not maintainable all year. After the competition, you’ll put on weight, which can be scary! Prepare your mind and accept that this is normal. Finally, if you don’t love yourself as you are, getting on stage won’t fill that void. And if your happiness depends on your physique, then you may need to reevaluate why you want to compete.
What goes into a competition prep physically, mentally and emotionally?
IRINA NESTEROVA: Physically, you must be ready to train almost every day, or sometimes twice a day. You must keep your food choices clean, practise your posing and visualise your stage performance. Emotionally, you must focus on yourself as much as possible. Keep reminding yourself that it’s about improving your body – that’s all you can control. It’s intimidating when you arrive at the venue because everyone looks great. What helps me is not to compare myself to the other athletes. Analysing the other girls can drive you crazy.
AMBER BLOM: Competing can create unrealistic goals and expectations of yourself. Without any guidelines or further information, we can fall prey to constant physical comparison, which can make us feel inadequate and affect our confidence and self-esteem negatively. This can lead to the constant need for validation from our friends and family, and on social media.
What’s best to minimise any emotional or physical damage during the post-contest rebound?
CHANEL ERWEE: A reverse diet is essential after a calorie-restricted eating protocol, where you slowly increase calories back to maintenance level. The theory is that after a prolonged period of calorie restriction, the athlete’s metabolism operates more efficiently, effectively burning fewer calories per day. If the proper dietary adjustments aren’t made to account for this slowdown in energy expenditure, the body will store extra calories in the form of fat.
IRINA NESTEROVA: Emotionally, what helps me it is to ensure that I stay busy and know what my next target will be. It doesn’t have to be another competition. It can be a photo shoot, a trip or a course to study. When your mind is busy and you focus on something exciting, there’s little time for negative thoughts.
AMBER BLOM: So many focus on the show as the end goal, and don’t know what to do or how to move forward afterwards. No matter how the competition goes, it is only one day. If disproportionate emphasis is placed on this day, no matter what the outcome, it can feel really empty afterwards. So, be sure to plan some other things after the show so that you realise that life will still move forward! If you find yourself struggling afterwards, know that you are not alone! Reach out to someone, talk about what is going on.
What should you look for in a potential coach?
JENADINE HAVENGA: Do your homework. Look for someone with experience as there are many athletes who have competed once who now consider themselves a coach. However, what works for them won’t necessarily work for you. Everyone is different. Choose a coach who understands the federation you’re competing in. They need to know exactly what look the judges want, as you need to diet and train accordingly.
AMBER BLOM: Find someone who is honest. Sometimes the truth hurts, but in the competition world you need honest feedback.
Is competing expensive?
IRINA NESTEROVA: Competing is expensive and you definitely don’t do it to make money. Here are just a few expenses you’ll encounter:
Federation membership/entry fees.
Hair, make-up, tan, nails and waxing.
Bikini, shoes and jewellery.
Hotel room and travel expenses.
Coaching and posing lessons.
Tickets for your family.
There are ways to save, though, like buying second-hand bikinis, only attending local shows and doing your hair and makeup.
How time-consuming is show prep? Can moms or those with full-time jobs compete?
JENADINE HAVENGA: Towards the end of your prep you might have to get to the gym twice a day for morning cardio and weight training in the evening. That can be tricky with a full-time job. And being a mom is no excuse not to compete. In fact, I encourage it. Being a mother doesn’t mean women have to set their goals and dreams aside. Setting an hour a day aside to train is something you should do for yourself in any situation. You will have to prep your food separate from your family’s, but this is an opportunity to introduce your family to healthful nutrition and good eating habits. Food prep is ultimately what’s most important; your coach might control how you train for an hour, but you control what you eat the rest of the day. Diet is everything.
KARIEN VAN DER WAL: It’s how you approach it. I know many athletes who are moms with full-time jobs. I’m a wife and mom running my own bootcamp and doing full-time online-and personal training. Plus, I’m still studying. But this is my lifestyle. I prep my food when I pack my kids’ lunchboxes and prepare healthy meals for my family, so there’s no need to cook double.
Saying you don’t have time to prepare healthy meals is like saying you don’t have time to stop for fuel, because you’re too busy driving. It’s merely something you have to do. I train when I can by working around my clients’ and family’s schedules, but that’s the fun part.
AMBER BLOM: Preparing for a competition can take time away from our relationships, friendships, and life, so finding a healthy balance is extremely important.
Think you’re ready to take on the stage? Then read this about your competition prep.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.