Disclaimer: I have only competed once and I didn’t place.
I’m not claiming to be a competition veteran here. But I will share a couple things about competing as a rookie that drove me absolutely bonkers and that no one had warned me about.
If you’re thinking about competing in your first body building competition, I commend you. It was the single most exhilarating experience I have ever had! But I wouldn’t do it again and here’s why:
- Say good-bye to your social life. I wish I could tell you that training for a competition and having a social life go hand in hand. But they don’t. You might be allowed some cheats in the beginning but they do go away eventually and that’s when you have to be careful. Life still goes on and holidays continue to be celebrated and parties continue to be hosted and then there’s you, the sober one eating veggies out of a Tupperware container. Besides working full-time, there’s also kids. Now add in time-consuming food prep, a rigorous training schedule, and the only time you actually have left is for sleeping and you’re going to need a lot of it! I’m not saying you’re going to lose friends over competing, but you will have new commitments and some people just may not be able to understand it. They might stop calling, but that doesn’t mean they’re gone forever.
- Water depletion. Okay, so they do tell you about this one. But I had no idea what it would be like without water in my system. There is something called Peak Week and that’s when you start to screw around with your salt and water intake in order to get that “dry” look that every competitor tries to achieve. I started the week drinking 6L of water and then I drank less and less until 36 hours before the show when I stopped drinking altogether. I honestly didn’t think it would affect me much, I mean I’ve gone a full day without drinking water before, it couldn’t be that bad right? WRONG. Why? Because of point number three…
- Hope you don’t mind pasty mouth. This is a real thing, people. I could hardly function for the desert sandstorm happening inside my mouth. You might actually feel like you’re going crazy because your brain is screaming at you to drink some god damn water, but your training is telling you otherwise. “Just make it through the next day, that’s all you gotta do,” I kept telling myself. It didn’t help that I had a giant bottle of Gatorade staring at my soul, but I had to save it for the end of the show. Lessons learned: sugar-free gum is your best friend. Also swishing water in your mouth works too, but I literally cried because I knew I had to spit it out.
- Diuretics. Not everyone uses these. But I did only because my trainer suggested it. I had no idea how it would affect me, I just assumed my trainer knew what she was doing. I probably should’ve looked into it a bit more myself first. Diuretics are supplements that promote the excretion of water from the body. In other words, it gives you an extra little push during water depletion. It was probably the reason why the pasty mouth was so horrible. If I ever did another competition, I would use more natural ways of dehydrating the body, like black coffee.
- Cliques. They’re everywhere. In school, at work, at the mall, and yes at competitions. I really just find them annoying which is why I’ve added it here. Everyone I met was super nice, but there’s also the competitive veterans who have been competing for a while and know everyone there. Sometimes they just like to eye up the competition. Of course, if you’re not in it to win it, this won’t be a problem for you. So overrated.
- The after-math. Traditionally after the show, everyone goes out for a cheat meal to celebrate. This can be a good or a bad thing. If you’re like me and you’re aching to taste cheese again, you’re probably going to order a giant plate of loaded nachos and the biggest glass of beer they have. It’s great for a minute and then it hits you. You’re not even half way finished your plate and your now very small stomach feels like it’s about to pop. Do yourself a favour and order something that won’t be such a shock to your system. And if you’re also like me, you’ll probably want to immediately destroy a bag of candy and a few chocolate bars the next day. And then the day after that and the day after that. Please, please, please if you take anything away from this, stick to your reverse meal plan after the show! I’m a walking example of what happens when you don’t (no joke, it took me almost a year after the show to finally feel like my body was back to normal). Your body is not used to all this water and carbs being dumped into it and so it will go into “starvation mode.” This means that your body will hold on to all this great stuff that makes it feel good because what if it never gets this again? Then before you know it, you look like you’ve gained 20-30 pounds. Obviously it’s normal to gain some weight after a show, but not so extreme. Which leads me to my next point…
- Body dysmorphia. Once you see your contest body, you may never look at yourself the same again. This is real and I have experienced it. It’s not fun. You thought you were self-conscious before, well this is a whole new level. We obviously can’t maintain a contest body 24/7, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to. Just remember that very few can maintain their contest body all the time and if they do, it’s probably not natural. Just be aware that you may gain a couple pounds but it’s much easier to maintain an off-season body and it looks healthier too! Love yourself no matter what size you are and you will conquer body dysmorphia.
- It’s so “judgy.” Think about it. In the end, you’re letting about 5 people in front of you judge you based on the way you look. How often do we see that in today’s society? That shit can really screw a girl up. It’s just a little too superficial for my taste. I would rather love my body the way it is, not based on a score card. However, if you can make competing your sport and not let it get to your head, you’re already a pro in my books.
Keep in mind, this is absolutely not meant to turn you off from competing! The points I’ve made are easily manageable and should never deter you from completing a major goal like this one. I’m basically whining here.
In my opinion though, a combination of all these points was enough for me to know that this wasn’t going to be my passion like it had become for so many other people. Which was disappointing for me mostly because I was looking at taking my fitness to the next level and keeping it there, only to realize afterwards that it just wasn’t a practical lifestyle for me. Some of the ladies I competed with for the first time are still going strong and placing!
What I most enjoyed about competing was the ladies that I met and trained with. I was lucky to have so many of them around me, all going through the same journey together. It’s important to have a support system on a journey like this one – trust me, you’ll need it! All those moments you just want to stuff your face with an extra cheesy pizza (and there will be many of those moments), they are there to keep you on track!
If you’ve decided to compete for the first time, I’m proud of you. Enjoy the experience, learn from it, love it, make it your passion or don’t. Especially, don’t forget to love yourself first.