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10 Things To Know Before Entering Your 1st Competition

by: Ashley Nicole Rouston

It is one thing to lift recreationally and it is another thing to lift for competition.  Not many people can handle what it takes to get on stage and compete.    If you are someone who dares to compete, I am going to show you 10 things you need to know before entering your 1st competition. 

I stepped on stage for the very first time in 2013. Coming to the end of 2015 I have competed in 2 natural figure competitions, 2 NPC Bikini Competitions and 1 National Show. Being a competitor I have many friends who compete as well as many people who follow me and have looked into competing someday.

Competing can be a great way to test your limits, build your mental and physical discipline levels and learn more about your body. However, it is not something to be taken lightly. It is more than the final product you see on social media. If you are someone who is interested in competing for the very first time, trying to figure out what and how to do it may seem foreign to you.

#1. Make Sure Your Mind Is In The Right Place

Competition prep can be mentally and physically tolling on a person. So, before you start the process of a prep make sure you are not just physically ready, but mentally ready as well. The biggest downfall as a competitor can be self- hating , image issues, or un-realistic expectations/goals. The process of leaning out is most definitely a confidence booster but it can also lead to some serious side effects like malnutrition or eating disorders. Most people get into the habit of looking at pro competitors or national level competitors and wondering why they don’t look like that within the first few weeks of prepping. What we fail to understand is the amount of years and work they have put into those bodies. Setting an expectation of yourself that you have to win or place your first show can also be a huge downfall. Go into a competition by bringing your best and expecting nothing. As long as you are happy with what you are bringing to a stage you cannot fault yourself for not placing well. There are many factors involved for not placing, so don’t be too hard on yourselves.

#2. Be Ready For A Complete Lifestyle Change

Many of those who are considering their first competition have already been a part of the eating clean and going to the gym regimen. A show prep is going to bring it to a whole other level. Competing is something that should not take over your life though. You should be able to have a balance. Try not to avoid family, friends ,get-togethers, or restaurants just because you are prepping. There are of course some sacrifices we make as competitors when it comes to these things but try not to let it control your life.  The key to making it through to the end, as mentioned, is having BALANCE.


#3. Expenses

One thing many people do not realize is how expensive it is to be a competitor.  Competing is not a cheap sport! Between the tan, the suits, the shoes, the cards for that division, the entry fees, it can range in the $400-$500 and that is if you are competing locally. Not to mention, paying a coach for a diet and training or the supplements you need. If you are going to consider prepping for a show, keep in mind the expenses that come along with that final day on stage.  You will want to buy bulk items especially when it comes to your supplement needs. 

Oh! By the way, those wholesale warehouses will be your best friend to buy in bulk.


#4. Don’t Do It Just For The Stage

If you are going to compete, you have to learn to love the whole process and not just the end goal. Many people see just the stage pictures and the final “selfies” leading up to stage time. As a competitor it is important to remember to enjoy the process and not fixate on that "show day" look (we all know it's temporary). Learn to love your body before and after.  Looking good is one thing but feeling great about your accomplishments and how far you have come is another.  I understand it may never be good enough for us and that is what drives us.  Just remember, keep everything in perspective at all times and you will be happy with your end result vs simply the stage result. 

#5. Don’t Do It For The Placing

As a competitor I have known many athletes who talk about how well they have done in a show, only to find out they got 1st place out of 1st place. When you are competing there is nothing wrong with competing in a smaller show and placing, but please don’t try to falsify the placings to make it seem bigger than it is. We all put in the work and I have seen many who looked amazing not even place in a show. I, myself, have placed 4th in one show only to compete 2 weeks later with the same package and get nationally qualified. Humility goes a long way in this sport.

#6. Be Yourself

Competing can consume you in envy if you are not careful. Always comparing yourself to other competitors and wishing you looked like them. Others can absolutely degrade competitors they don’t even know just based on the fact they have done well in previous competitions. The most important part of being a competitor is to remember to BE YOURSELF. Not only that, but be happy with yourself. We were all made differently and we all will bring different looks to the stage. Remember to not only support yourself but your fellow competitors as well because this sport really is rewarding and we are a family. 

#7. Have Fun

I know what you are thinking, "How the hell am I supposed to have fun when I am sleep deprived, carb deprived, and I am literally on the verge of insanity?".  Yes, those the feelings and emotions we go through from time to time but hold on now!  Competing is fun!  It is not for everyone like I mentioned.  That said, HAVE FUN going through the process.  You will have lots of ups and downs but hopefully more ups.  The ups should be celebrated.  Remember, little successes are wins so celebrate those little successes.  If you dropped 1 pound celebrate it.  If you were able to rest 8 hours, celebrate it.  Believe me, you will need to find every reason to celebrate little successes; otherwise, you will be fighting an uphill battle against yourself. One of the best parts of show day, however, is meeting fellow competitors and making new friends. Show day can be stressful and having a new buddy there with you can make the experience ten times better.

#8. Picking a show

The moment of truth begins to set in when you start to look for a show to be in.  The entire time pre-picking a show was just a dream of wanting to do it.  Now you are actually getting closer and the dream is becoming a reality.  Many new competitors I have known seem to forget how many competitions are out there. While it is good to have a show day in mind to prep for, your first competition is usually a trial run. So, if you are not feeling quite ready and need some more time before you step on stage just pick another show. Don’t stress yourself out or increase your cardio and drop carbs excessively to be ready. There are ALWAYS shows and lot of time.

#9. Post Show Rebound

The absolute HARDEST part of a competition is actually AFTER a show. After months and months of restricting yourself from things you want (not need) you feel like you have to have all these things as soon as possible post-show. This is where the binge-eating comes in. Believe me, I am one of these people. The hardest part is remembering to enjoy yourself but not to overwhelm yourself. Gaining weight after a competition is normal. But gaining 15+ pounds in a few days post show can be dangerous to your health.  Just like you would not drop 15+ pounds in a few days, so is true for gaining weight in that time frame.  If you have been doing your prep correctly, you will enjoy a cheat meal here and there to help with your sanity and cravings.  This should help post show so you don't binge. 

#10. Apply Competition Prep To Your Life

The experiences and lessons you will learn as a competitor will help you beyond the stage.  Competing is an extremely good learning process. During a competition you learn a lot about not only your body but yourself. You have learned that the things you thought you needed were just things you wanted and can go without. You have learned what your body can and cannot take and how it responds to certain things. You have learned what training works best and what doesn’t work for your goals. All in all, the entire prep should be something you can learn from and continue to adjust and apply.

You think you are ready now?  Then, get to it and start the journey to your first competition! 




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