The World of Competition – The good, the bad and the ugly

With the 2014 competition season getting underway, I shelved this blog post until now.  It’s a cross section of experiences, from veteran fitness competitors to newbies to the competitive stage.

Here four beautiful and strong women candidly share their thoughts, feelings and personal experiences regarding competition and training, and life around both.

ALEX

First up is Alex. I met Alex while I was training with Mindi O’Brien. While she hasn’t entered one yet, Alex is currently training for her first bikini competition this year.

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How long training?

I have been training for 4 months with my coach, but prior to that I started really focusing on working out about a year and a half ago. I have always been active, played sports and worked out, but it was always just something I maintained mostly cardio and bootcamps, etc.

How long competing?
I have never competed although I am planning to do my first one in April.

What made you decide to enter your first show?

A number of reasons actually…

I am 30 years old and been through a lot in my life so far. I have had an interesting journey that most are quite surprised at when they get to know me better. This next year is going to be full of many more changes for me and I want to focus on something that will be a visible testimony to my growth. I’m doing this for me and only me. Sort of an expression of the challenges I have been through to better myself. I love tattoos and art as expression forms, and my physique is proving to be an expression of me as well. I have no idea where this will take me or even if I will actually get up on stage, but right now this is where I stand.

Advice to someone thinking of competing?

No I am not sure what kind of advice I could give except to talk to some of the women who have already done it. The women I have met in my training that are in this sport are some of the best people I’ve ever had the blessing of meeting. A huge part of my confidence and inspiration have come from conversations with these women.

What have you learned about yourself throughout your journey?

Even though I am just starting my journey in terms of prepping and training for my first competition, I have already learned I am stronger than I think, that I need to listen to my body, and that my body, mind and spirit are connected and cannot operate in a healthy productive way unless they are all being cared for by me.
Cost? Monetary, family, relationships?
So far it’s cost a lot more in terms of paying for a coach to work with me for training programs, nutrition etc. Also doing some personal training which costs extra. The food and supplements are pretty in line with what I’ve been spending the last year and a half so not a bit change there. The training itself takes up 6 days a week where I absolutely make time of get to the gym…. I do notice that I don’t have much of a social life at work since I spend my lunch hours at the gym (I’d rather go on my lunch, than after work when I’m tired) and I often do not go out with friends or my boyfriend because I “have” to/choose to stay home and cook or meal prep, or even just to get to bed early. My social life is pretty much non-existent, but I didn’t have much of one anyways this last year or two lol

BARB

I met Barb through Team O’Brien. Our friendship was solidified over Swedish berries, backstage at the Toronto Pro Provincial show in 2013. I can honestly say I love and respect this woman. She’s smart, strong and beautiful – inside and out.

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How long training/competing?

Training /competing since Feb 1st 2013, and one show remaining, nationals 2014 in Winnipeg.

What made you decide to enter your first show?

I just wanted up see if I could do it. To be disciplined and dedicated enough and to see if I could transform this 41 year old body. I have always looked after myself, and I have always been in shape – especially after 2 kids and 2 c-sections!

I have always been athletic and involved in sports. My body frame has never been curvy, but definitely not as muscular as it is now.

I had never stressed about food, or the thought of what I chose to eat, as I allowed a cheat day a week as well as a cookie or an ice cream.

Advice to someone thinking of competing?

Well, I wish I had known what I would have been like today because I would have thought twice about it.  Competing is tough and, in my opinion, definitely one of the toughest industries to be in. It’s definitely not one for people who don’t like to be judged, like me who is extremely happy with myself and can’t stand the thought if busting my ass to be in the best shape of my life, but also to look in the mirror and pick apart my imperfections (which is crazy since I know my body has never looked better) to give it your all and to only be critiqued.

Peak week is definitely my favourite because it’s amazing what happens to your body with some simple tweaks of food. It’s when I like my body the best, but the most unrealistic and unhealthy. Show day is the hardest because you’re in a room full of competitors, looking and judging everyone. Insecurities are everywhere. It’s the day you think I want to be bigger, or better, oh and that my glutes were better, I wish I had striations in my quads, is my 6 pack showing…etc. I know, and I can

honestly say that at the end of my day I really don’t care what the judges have to say because I’m so happy that I did it. I have already won.

I have one show left to do because I promised my best friend that I will only do it with her. She knows this industry is not for me but I will be there to cheer her on every step of the way as she gets her pro card.

I will always train and workout hard because that’s just who I am. What I really and truly hope for is my simple life back, where I could eat whatever (always clean except my cheats) with no guilt knowing I’ll be at the gym the next day. Not portioning 4 oz grilled chicken breast when the 7 oz is good. I have 2 girls, 13 and 9, and I am trying to teach them proper eating habits, eating clean and healthy and to have that sweet if you want it, everything in moderation. However, when that food scale comes out it makes me feel awful. I have to explain to them that this is just for a little while and that it’s not normal. Eat that 7 oz chicken with your rice and your veggies and try not to look at what mom’s doing.

I am hoping that I will not always being obsessed food, my intake and what it will do to this body I have worked so hard on getting. The guilt that I have for eating that one cookie or that one ice cream (those are my faves) is terrible. I can only hope that I get back mentally and emotionally to the way I was.  Life is too short to stress about food plain and simple. I have learned along this journey that I love me. I will give myself healthy clean food because that’s what I love. I will always take the time to eat well instead of the simple convenience food. I will always be active and workout because it’s means it makes me happy. The thing I hope for the most is that I will try to allow myself to have no guilt and not to be so hard on myself. I am hoping to just get back to someone I used to be before, just with a more muscular frame. And, to not care so much about the foods and ultimately to put that scale away.

Cost? Monetary, family, relationships?

The cost was a lot to get me where I am today, thousands. Training, meal plans, travel, prep for shows, etc. But the part I cannot get back is time away from family. Prepping food and gym time takes hours, and when competition is so close it just gets harder. I have two kids that thankfully are amazing and cheer for me along the way because they know I am almost finished my journey.

I want to say through this journey I have met many women, success stories, many truly inspiring women who have surpassed their goals.  I may not like this industry, at all, but I have met lots of great women, made new friendships and one who I have grown to love. She keeps me going, puts a smile on my face throughout the day, has become my travel companion and who I will get old and grey with. It’s funny when I think who would have thought that Swedish berries and apple cinnamon rice cakes would have given me such an amazing friendship.

Lisa, thank you for doing this post. I know when we went to Costa Rica I asked because I would love women to really think twice about it, to research it before jumping the gun like I did. If they choose to do it then great because they’ll know that after competitions things happen regardless of our strengths, and if they choose not to, well my advice to them is: care for your body because it’s the only one you have. Workout, eat clean, have that sweet if you want it but have it in moderation, realize that goals take time, but have the patience to do it because it will come. Mostly be happy with yourself 🙂

Xoxo

JOLENE

I’ve known Jolene for about 7 years, and had the honour of sharing the Provincial stage with her at the Toronto Pro Show in 2013. Later that year, Jolene won her IFBB Pro Card in B.C.

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How long have you been training?

Training for 21 years. Yikes!

How long competing?

Competing for 6 years

What made you decide to enter your first show?

My husband wanted to do a contest and needed my support dieting/training. He did a show, took 2nd, but hated every minute of it.  I on the other hand was hooked.

Advice to someone thinking of competing?

I have a few words of advice…

  • First, do it for yourself,
  • Be sincere and helpful to those around you,
  • Competing can be expensive. Buy a custom suit and use it until it falls apart.

Learn how to do your own hair and makeup. Sephora gives great free lessons (with a min $50 purchase). Press on nails are amazing! $5 at Walmart and Target.

  • Best purchase (other than your suit) would be a great spray tan. Pay the money and let someone else do it for you.
  • Clean your jewelry, suit, and shoes after each use.
  • If your competition has showers back stage, take shower products (soap, scrub mitts, towel) to clean there instead of in the hotel.
  • Don’t gorge out on food before contest or after prejudging. Sip on water
  • And finally, remember to smile…competition is suppose to be fun.

Cost? Monetary, family, relationships?

Juggling family, training, competing and work can be difficult; Try to maintain a good balance.

As I always say to my daughter, “Good things come to good girls.”

MINDI

I started working with Mindi in July 2012. She has forged quite a name for herself in the fitness industry, earning her IFBB Pro Card in fitness in 2004, Mindi was the first Canadian to ever win an IFBB pro event in fitness. After a 2 year break to recover from injury, Mindi returned to the competitive stage in 2013 at the Toronto Pro Show, as a physique competitor, where she has found her new calling.

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How long training?

I have been lifting weights since I was 10 years old.  I broke my arm when I was 10 years old (had to have it re-broken 5 times and was in the hospital for over 2 weeks).  My coaches hired a personal trainer to help keep me strong and to help speed up recovery.

So, I have been lifting weights for almost 30 years.

How long competing? 

I have been competing since 1996.

What made you decide to enter your first show?

After retiring from gymnastics I still had the competitive bug and I needed a new and challenging goal. After researching Fitness, it only made sense to make that my next goal.  I could incorporate my 15 years of gymnastics into a routine and it allowed me to continue following a very structured lifestyle.  It was a very smooth transition.

Advice to someone thinking of competing?

Before you begin, you need to be realistic with your goals – I have athletes come to me that have only trained for a few months and think they will earn their pro status their first time competing!! It’s going to take time and you need to understand that this is a personal journey and you’re doing it only for you!

You need to set both short and long term goals concerning your health and fitness as well as your competition plans.

I would strongly recommend to learn about all of the different competition organizations/federations, and to understand their rules and regulations. Go to a regional level show, see how the posing looks and see how the show runs.

Know that this sport can be physically, mentally and financially draining.

Know and inform your family, and friends that you need to be 100% dedicated and disciplined in order to succeed in this sport. You will be following a strict meal plan, a strict workout plan, and you will be mentally and physically drained.  You need them to understand that your social life will be put on the back burner for 12-16 weeks.   A strong support system is needed!!

Here is a list of things that I hand to my clients or potential clients to help them make an educated/financial decision.

It’s very expensive to compete in the fitness/figure world.  Before you take the plunge into competing, here is a list of some of the expenses you will incur:

MEMBERSHIP FEES: Once an organization/federation is selected, you will need to become a member of it.

Fees will vary depending on the organization: $50-150.00

CONTEST ENTRY FEE: these fees will also vary: $50-$150 or more

NUTRITION & TRAINING PROGRAMS: Hiring an experienced competition coach to design your nutritional/supplementation programs, weight training and cardio programs, and working with a posing and stage presentation coach will definitely take the guess work out for you…  It’s very difficult and challenging to prepare for a competition without guidance in these areas.  Hiring a coach/trainer should be an anticipated cost.

POST COMPETITION BLUES: coaches should discuss this with their clients….awareness is needed!

POSING SUITS/ROUTINE OUTFITS/SHOES:

Posing suits are a considerable cost.

Most suits start @ $250 and up (most professional suits are over $1000.000)

I don’t recommend buying a suit off of the rack…they need to fit like a second skin and fit like a glove…enhance your overall physique…suit design/cut can make you or break you.

Routine Outfits: $$$

Heels: usually range between $80-$100.

There are many competition suit designers in Canada and the USA . Do your research and find the best designer for you.

TANNING: whether you order your product on-line or hire a professional to spray you, there will be a cost. (usually $60-$150-cost varies)

JEWELLERY AND OTHER ACCESSORIES: Most figure/bikini/fitness athletes wear earrings, rings and bracelets (usually rhinestones) to contribute to the overall package.

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOS: You have worked your butt off preparing for this very special day…It’s highly recommended that you higher the official photographer to take some up close stage shots…capture that special moment!

FOOD: Your grocery bill will definitely go up!  Your nutritional intake is 80% of your success rate.  You will need to fuel your body with the best foods available.

TRAVEL EXPENSES: If you have a competition in your area, than you are very lucky!!  Most competitions are usually a couple of hours away or if you are competing at Nationals, you may need to travel outside of your province.

-gas

-airfare

-hotel

-food- packing your own food is crucial

Competing is definitely worth it…I highly recommend that you plan well in advance to prepare for your show.  The cost definitely adds up, so knowing in advance what will be needed, you can start budgeting your money.

From my experience and my personal journey of being a professional athlete, over the years I have learned so many things about myself.  It started off with a vision and passion. Over the years, I have learned a better self understanding (to gain knowledge and foster personal growth), self improvement-by assessing my weaknesses and work towards consistently improving, balance, courage, responsibility to my own training, to do my absolute best and accept my part in the outcome, resilience, and enjoyment….

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