Preface: Due to how lengthy this post can get, Part I of this blog will focus more on my reflection and introspection of my first competition prep process. I plan to write a recap of the actual competition day in Part II 🙂
Jitters, nerves, excitement, a spray tan that is a bajillion shades darker than your average tan, five-inch heels, blinged-out suit, intense stage makeup…and the thought of my celebratory post-show meal always in the back of my mind.
Months and months hard work and intense dedication that is put into a fitness competition prep boils down to a maximum of probably half an hour of stage time. And I have no regrets whatsoever of my first bikini fitness competition experience.
Never would I have ever imagined myself to step on stage in front of hundreds of people, including my boyfriend, family, and friends, to be compared with other women in the same category by a panel of judges on the level of conditioning our bodes are in, how sculpted our shoulders and glutes are, and if the ratio of our upper body, waist and lower body are on point.
Is the sport of bodybuilding subjective? Yes. As with all sports that focus on aesthetics, you can’t please every judge. You can’t control the physique that the competitor next to you brings to the stage. But you CAN control the level of effort you put forth into the preparation, training, and dieting regimen required of a fitness competition.
Before I made the decision to compete for the first time, I had no expectations to win or place at all. The only expectation I had was to put in my best effort and dedication towards the preparation for the competition and to keep a well-balanced training and nutrition regimen while keeping the healthiest mindset. I sought professional guidance from my very knowledgeable coach and nutritionist, Alexa Jaye, who had me follow a training and flexible macro diet regimen to a T for about 10 months. I lifted heavy weights, ate a ton of food, and probably ate more than the average person on most days. Some days were harder, some were easier, but if I must give one piece of advice to anyone interested in competing or reaching a specific fitness goal, my advice would be to find a coach whose values and principles conform with your own. My main thing was to keep a healthy outlook on fitness, body image, and nutrition throughout prep, and to never go overboard on the training, deprive myself of certain food groups, or feel miserable throughout the whole process.
Of course, the closer a competitor is to a competition, the stricter the regimen is. But I can safely say that I never went insane doing 2+ hours of cardio a day, or craved certain things like sugar and fats, because it was never fully cut out of my diet.
The first half of my ~10 month prep consisted of consistently eating enough food and following a 5-6 days/week weight training regimen. How much cardio did I do throughout most of my prep? Probably 10 minutes a day tops, as a quick warm-up before my lifts. When your goal is to put on muscle, there is a very fine line when figuring out how much cardio to add into your training. Too much, and you risk losing the muscle you worked so hard for since you’re cutting away at both the fat and muscle.
The second half of my prep consisted of slowly adding in more cardio and HIIT workouts, which are SO efficient at leaning out the body overall. Alexa and I also slowly started to decrease my macronutrient intake that consist of a well calculated intake of carbs, proteins, and fats–these are essential nutrients necessary for building and maintaining muscle. It requires a very knowledgeable nutritionist to manipulate these numbers for you to meet your fitness goals.
Alexa and I gave my body enough time to build enough muscle before the “shredding” phase, which is when the magic happens and suddenly ALL the muscles you never knew existed start showing a few weeks leading up to the competition due to a caloric deficit.
With a coach like Alexa, I can say my first prep was bearable and actually ENJOYABLE. I enjoyed seeing all the stages my body went through, from being at 18% body fat when I first started training in October 2016 to 13% body fat the day right before show day on June 23, 2017. The day before the competition, I weighed in at around 90 pounds of lean muscle mass out of the overall 103 pounds that make up my 5′ frame, and I’m damn proud of the muscle that I’ve worked so hard for.
I’ve been asked by numerous people why I decided to choose the sport of bodybuilding. My answer is simple: I enjoy a challenge and I wanted to see how far I was able to push myself out of my comfort zone. Plus the aesthetic results are a great bonus 🙂
I have always had a small physique at 5′ and was always somewhat active growing up. After college, I put on an extra few pounds because I’d taken advantage of my metabolism, haphazardly ate anything, and worked out less than usual. Around October 2016, I decided it was time to start living a healthier lifestyle.
The physique the judges look for seemed almost unattainable and impossible when I first started my prep. But as I put on more muscle, my shoulders rounded out, my glutes became perkier, my abs became tighter and my legs gained a lot more strength. Most importantly, my energy and mood levels were up, and I was more excited than ever to train and eat afterwards. I was probably eating 2-3 times more than I originally was before the prep, due to the fact that the body needs way more fuel and energy for the amount of work that it was doing during training.
Where am I going with this, you may ask? I want to make it a point that the body needs way more food to put on muscle and strength, and for women to not be afraid of eating and fueling their bodies. Of course, coupled with the surplus of food, you must also have a well-balanced training regimen. Which brings me back to the point of finding a well-trusted nutritionist to guide you through your fitness goals. Of course, there are those who choose to manipulate their own diet plans, but unless you have a thorough knowledge of nutrition and your body’s physiological needs, you are probably better off finding a knowledgeable nutritionist so that you don’t mess with your metabolism.
I couldn’t have asked for a better prep for my first competition experience. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to properly fuel my body with the right foods, and now I know what makes my body feel good vs. what makes my body feel like crap. I feel the strongest and the most empowered I have ever been, and I’ve learned how to leverage my motivation and drive on days when I really didn’t feel like doing anything (we’re all human!), and even apply these skills to my career and everything else in life. For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to start blogging again. Well, now I have a story to tell for anyone willing to listen 🙂
Stay tuned for my recap of show day in Part 2 of this post!