10 Things To Know Before Your First Fitness Competition

There are so many beautiful and fit women all over the world, and it is no surprising that many of you follow these women for motivation and inspiration. I mean let’s be honest; we all have those days when we just don’t feel like going to the gym, and many times seeing fitness models and their inspirational posts gives you the motivation to get off that couch! After seeing your fitness icons enough times in major magazines, fitness catalogs, and several forms of social media, it may inspire you to take your fitness to another level.

After thinking it through, you decide to compete at your very first competition – which is great and all, but do you know what it takes to get ready for one? To tell you the truth, I had no earthly idea what I was doing or where to even begin when I decided to compete at my very first NPC show. I just knew I wanted to set foot on that stage and compete. I didn’t really have much of a plan nor did I have a clue where to begin. I was fortunate enough to have the right people in my corner to guide me through the process, and even then, I still did my own research.

To help get you started, I put together some helpful tips to make your fitness competition journey easy and painless. I’m sure there is more to this list, but these are important, and have been very helpful to me.

1) Keep a fitness diary
A fitness diary is great to have so you can jot-down notes and track your progress. Your notes may include how you feel after each meal, or how much water you consume daily. Knowing these things will help you be able to adjust your diet/water intake so you know what works for you. This may seem like a lot of work, but trust me it is really helpful. I learned during this process that I can not have carrots or red bell peppers in my meal after a leg workout. I also have to drink at least a gallon and a half of water each day, or I get very dehydrated.

2) Attend competition events
There are many federations that exist including (but not limited to) Muscle Mania, WBFF, INBF/WNBF, and NPC/IFBB being the largest and the oldest federation. Attending shows sanctioned by each of these federations is always a great idea as it allows you to see how each show is run and gives you an idea what the athletes look like. Before deciding to join NPC, my trainer advised me to do my homework. I did a lot of research, attended several shows, and I just felt that NPC was more my style. My advice is for you is to do your homework and figure out which one is more you. Keep in mind that each federation has their own set of rules and regulations, and each one is different. Visit bodybuilding.com to learn more about each organization. I know that to join and compete in NPC/IFBB, you will need to apply and pay for a membership.

3) Choose your division/category
Once you decide the federation you want to be a member of, you need to make a decision on which category you want to compete in. For NPC/IFBB federation, you have many options depending on which look you’re going for. Maybe you have a background in dance and gymnastics, so fitness might be a great category for you. Adela Garcia and Monica Brant are big names that you may know,  and they competed in the fitness division. Or perhaps bodybuilding, physique, figure, and/or bikini is more your style. Just remember, each category has their own mandatory poses, which if you’ve never posed before, you will need to get with a posing coach and start training. It may look easy, but trust me it isn’t for someone who’s never done it before. I’ve done many shows now, and I still get sore after each competition.

4) Choose your show/event date
There are many bodybuilding shows all throughout the year. Based on your starting point, decide on a show and register for it. Don’t forget to mark it on your calendar! If you register early you may avoid having to pay late registration fee. Plus, registering early will force you to be committed! Each show has different deadlines to register , so make sure you check all divisions that you want to compete in on the form. For example: novice, open, masters, etc…

5) Keep a calendar

Mark all the shows and events that you plan to compete in on your calendar. This will help you be able to visualize all of your goals, and where you need to be by a certain date. Calendars are also great to help you track your progress, and how many weeks away you are from each show. I like to also enter my weight & body fat % at certain dates so I can see how I am progressing. All in all, it helps me stay organize, on time, and on track.

6) Have a road map

How will you know where to go and how to get there if you don’t have a plan? Knowing which show to do and when it is will not only give you an idea how many weeks you have to get ready for the show, it will also keep you accountable. You’re giving yourself a time-frame to achieve your goals. Everyone is different; some may need 16 weeks or longer to prep, and some may need 10-12 weeks, or maybe less. So choose a show that is a realistic amount of time away – within the time-frame you need to get ready.

7) Hire a good nutritionist, trainer, and posing coach

In my opinion it is worth the investment to have someone who knows exactly what to do. Many coaches will actually offer all three services. I recommend doing your homework and really take the time to research your coaches. Find out their accomplishments, background, education, certifications, etc… before making your decision. There are so many options for competitors nowadays; you can work with someone locally or online. As many of you may have realized, this is definitely not a cheap sport. If you’re going to invest some of your hard-earned money, let it be with someone who knows how to give you proper guidance.

8) Take before and after photos
Before starting your fitness journey, I highly recommend taking before photos; preferably front, back, and side views. I would even go so far as posing like your mandatory poses on these photos. It’s up to you how often you take your progress pictures. I personally prefer taking them weekly. Your progress may seem small, but at least it will give you an idea what areas you need to focus on based on the changes you see. Remember to keep your old progress photos; it’s a great way to keep you motivated. When you see what your body is capable of doing, it makes you want to exceed it. I love looking back and comparing old progress photos to my current ones. You’ll be amazed at your own transformation. Before stepping onstage, don’t forget to take your final progress pictures, ideally before your spray tan and again afterwards.

9) Put together an overall package

Having the overall package is just as important as having an amazing physique. What does this mean? Having an amazing body is great, but your hair, makeup, spray tan, competition suit, jewelry, shoes, and posing need to be on point too. I’ve seen too many competitors backstage and thought they will definitely win based on their physique only to catch them onstage with terrible posing or their spray tan is way too light that they look washed out. You’re spending a lot of time and money to prepare for your show, make sure that you don’t forget these important details.

10) Body image dysmorphia

The struggle is real. Athletes are susceptible to this because of pressures and trends promoting muscularity and leanness. Therefore, it is not uncommon for competitors to experience body image dysmorphia after their show is done. Remember that your physique is geared to look a certain way for stage. When competitors experience body image dysmorphia, they have a self-dissatisfaction of muscularity and leanness after their show has occurred. If this happens to you, you’re not alone. It certainly happened to me after my very first show. Luckily, I had a trainer who was aware of this issue and talked me through it. It worked out well for me in the end. Do not be afraid to talk to someone if this becomes an issue for you. Embrace your body and what you have accomplished; don’t stress and obsess over it to the point that it becomes unhealthy.

About the Author: Sheiryll Ray

Sheiryll Ray has a bachelors degree in physical therapy, is AACE (American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist) certified, & works full time as a diabetes solutions specialist. Through her work, she is able to educate others, change people’s lives, and help make a difference. However, her passion for health and fitness does not stop there. Sheiryll also competes professionally in bodybuilding as an IFBB Bikini Pro & because of her own success has inspired her to motivate others to achieve their ultimate fitness goal.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.