A lot goes into competition prep. Here are a few tips to help you through the prep process.
You can’t expect to be at your best if you don’t have a plan to follow. If you don’t have a clear plan to follow and only a plan in your head, that plan can change day to day based on many factors. Your mood can change day to day; energy levels go up and down, which can inhibit progress. You will want to sit down and write out step by step the goals you have throughout your entire prep, with the end goal being the competition its self. From there write a new plan to follow post contest. Without this plan you essentially won’t be at your best, you’ll be underprepared, and the end result won’t be anything close to resembling what you set out to do.
After the contest it’s just as important to stay on track. You hear horror stories of people gaining a lot of weight, becoming depressed, and falling off the wagon all together. To eliminate this, be sure to have strong goals set for yourself and keep to your diet. Slowly add in calories week to week which will allow your body to balance out slowly. If you take in too much this can cause many issues for you that can send you into a downward spiral- be prepared!
Some people start their prep without factoring in the extra expenses that will be incurred while getting ready for their contest as well as the expenses of doing the contest itself. Extra expenses due to increased food, supplementation, tanning, posing trunks/suits, travel costs, organization fees, coaching/trainer, and more need to be considered. If your budget is tight, you may want to hold off doing a contest until you are better financially stable to do so. If you don’t, you may find yourself halfway through your prep without the finances to continue. This can also affect your home life and the bills you need to pay to support yourself and family end up going unpaid. Remember this is a sport/ hobby…your “real life” expenses needs to come first.
If you are really serious about competing, enlist the help of a good coach/trainer, because that takes the guesswork out of the equation. Take the time to consult with multiple trainers before you choose one. You want to find someone that you will work well with. If you don’t, then your prep could become a nightmare and the end result won’t be something you’re proud of. Feel free to ask for references, photos of past clients, what they offer in their training package, how well their previous clients have done, experience, if they will be at your contest, and their training style. In most cases you can find out a lot about a trainer online by looking at their websites, Facebook pages, Googling them, or even the websites of contests they have had athletes compete in. Take the time to find a trainer that you respect and that will respect you back, and someone that is willing to invest their time in you equally as much as their other athletes. Once you have hired a trainer, only listen to them and not everyone else. People will try to give you their input on what they think you need to do, but if you have hired someone you have full confidence in, then others opinions shouldn’t matter. Stick to your plan no matter what anyone else tells you.
You need to start off with the right pre-contest mindset and mentally prepare yourself for what’s to come. You can ask anyone that has competed, your mind starts playing games with you. You’ll start to tell yourself that you are too skinny or too fat, that you need to eat more or less, that you need to do more cardio and so on. You will become more worn down as your prep evolves. You may experience physical and mental fatigue. You can also become moody and start taking your frustrations out on those around you. Always try to keep calm and remember you decided to do this, nobody is making you. Try to always look at the positives and what you can do to improve, don’t focus on the negatives or they will eventually bring you down and bring your progress to a crashing halt. Small steps add up over time, so even small victories are still progress. “It’s not how hard you can hit, but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward that counts.”
Consider the extra time that will be spent in training, tanning, posing practice, and meeting with your trainer. You will also need to consider the time it takes to cook all your meals, and even consume them. This is a very time consuming sport, so you will need to be proactive in scheduling your time wisely.
You will need to execute the plan no matter what. Don’t complain or give yourself reason to fail. You essentially have to apply the just “shut up and do it” attitude, and do what you need to do to succeed.
Having a support group behind you can make the prep process go a lot smoother. Having someone to workout with, help prep meals, or someone just to listen to you can make all the difference. You have to remember though that you are the one doing the contest, so that makes you responsible for everything that needs to be done. People can and will fail you, so if it’s important to you, do it yourself. Also take into consideration that yes your life revolves around training, cardio, and diet, but unless the people around you are competing too their lives do not. So if all you do is talk about the contest and how hard it is and your diet, you will find that people will eventually start to become wary of talking to you. They won’t have the excitement you do, so be conscious of this. Keep it in small increments and your support system will continue to support you and help you reach your goals. You will also want to talk to your family and friends before you start and let them know what’s going on. Explain the process, your plan, and what it will take to achieve your goals. If you don’t do this beforehand, you will constantly be answering questions throughout the process which will get old fast and cause tension that you don’t need.
Only compete against yourself. You cannot control who will show up, and you cannot control the outcome of the show. At the end of the day, competing is a highly subjective sport. The judges have their opinions on what best represents your class and you can’t control that. What you can control however, is how you look, and your attitude regardless of placement. Remember competing is a sport, and sports are essentially a game, competitive yes; but they are meant to be enjoyed and for you to have fun during the process, all the way up to the end result. If you are coming out of the process better than you started and enjoyed yourself along the way, you have something to be proud of and something to build upon for your next competition. You have to be happy with yourself regardless of where you are at every point of prep and life in general. If you’re not you will always be critical of yourself and never be happy with how you look or any placement but 1st. If things don’t go exactly how you want, you can use your placement and show condition as motivation to better yourself in the future.
You could have the best physique on stage, but if you don’t know how to present it and all its positive attributes then you could easily be beaten. Through posing you can show and even enhance your best attributes, hide you’re your weak points, and even give the illusion that you are bigger or smaller in areas that could possibly help improve your placement. Practice posing; and that means not only your posing, but how you walk, stand, and even keeping a smile on your face, nobody likes a crabby looking competitor. Simple things like learning to breathe through your chest instead of trying to breathe through your stomach will help your stage appearance and make you look more relaxed and natural on stage.
As you go through your prep your dimensions change. What fit you at the beginning of prep won’t necessarily fit you at the time of competition. It’s good to try on your suit/trunks/shorts periodical to make sure they fit. You don’t want to be the person on stage with their clothes falling off in front of the judges, or your friend and family for that matter.
Getting a good base tan prior to any spray application is critical. A blotchy appearance will take away from months of dieting and training, and will have an adverse effect on your stage appearance/definition. A good looking presentation looks sloppy if your color is running. Invest in either quality products and have them applied by someone with experience, or hire a professional spray tanner. This will assure good color that will help bring out your best attributes on stage.
Never give yourself an excuse to not have the food you need at any given time. Make a list of what you need each time before you go to the grocery store. Have everything you need on hand as to not find yourself rushing to the store or having to replace a meal with something that’s not on your plan. Prep your food, days and even a week in advance, and have food prep time scheduled in to your weekly routine. If you travel, have your meals pre-packed and ready to take with you. Eating is the biggest part of the prep process; if you don’t have your diet down all the training in the world won’t help you.
Some Items to consider packing:
Written by Team Bodybuilding.com Athlete Brandan Fokken
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