Uh…Now What?

You’ve decided. You are all in. You are going to compete in a bodybuilding competition.


Maybe you’ve told all your friends and family or maybe you haven’t told a soul but it doesn’t matter, you are doing this thing.

Except there is one small problem. You have asboslutly no idea what you are doing.

And Google will not give you a concise answer of what to do.

So now what?

I did it the hard way and attended the School of Hard Knocks. I don’t want you to go there, it really isn’t that much fun. So I compiled some of my experience and asked very wise, seasoned competitors and the Bikini Or Bust women for some advice.

What should a first time competitor do?

  • Get an experienced coach. Even though Margie is a personal trainer, her first step was to seek out a coach that has successfully trained other competitors. Her foresight earned her first place in her first show. Seek out the experts.
  • Do everything your trainer tells you to do. Kari is right to say it is ok to ask WHY you’re doing/eating things, but trust that your trainer knows what he/she is doing. Don’t do extra sets, add a cardio session, give yourself a treat meal, or eat a couple extra almonds. Follow your trainer’s plan to a T. That said, it’s also necessary to give your trainer feedback. If something isn’t working for you, tell your trainer and he/she should adjust the plan accordingly. Do not take matters into your own hands. Doing so jeopardizes your trainer’s attempts at successfully preparing you for the show.
  • Budget for it. There are costs associated with this sport such as training, bikinis, tans, jewelry, posing coaches, nutrition plans, supplements, smaller clothes, groceries and gym memberships. Be prepared for the costs so this doesn’t become an obstacle for you to reach your goal.
  • Have confidence in your self and your ability. Chantelle is living proof that you can honestly do anything you want. Anything. The only person holding you back is you. Realize that this journey is not just about the outside and what you look like, it is a journey of finding out who you are and building the muscles of self confidence, self worth, and knowing who you are. The inside muscles are harder to grow some days than delts or quads, but these are the muscles that truly matter.
  • Keep both a written and photo journal. Write down your thoughts, feelings, and where you are at. Get over your self esteem issues and take pictures of yourself in all your puffy glory. One day this will all be a distant memory and when you are on a stage in a bedazzled suit you will want to remember where you have come from.
  • Have patience. Liz put it best when she said, “This sport takes time, you must be willing to put forth the time to get the results. It takes even more time if you are starting from square 1.
  • Research and don’t compare. When you start out gather all the information but don’t get intimidated by someone else’s pictures. Michelle has always had great perspective  – “This sport is about you. Anyone can do it no matter their age, shape, or size.
  • Get a customized nutrition plan made specifically for you. Every single person on the planet is different. There is no way you can buy an ‘off the shelf’ plan. If it worked for someone else, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you. For instance, Kari gets the best results from a Keto diet where her only carbs come from green vegetables, whereas I can’t even metabolize green vegetables. You must find what works for you. Throw everything you’ve been taught about dieting and nutrition out the window, because it doesn’t apply to competition prep. Your diet should NOT be well-balanced. If it is, you’re probably not going to get lean enough to do well at a show.
  • Embrace being a science experiment. Write it down, everything. Track what you eat, how you train, how you feel, and results. If you don’t have the data you won’t be able to make informed and wise choices based on what works for you and your body.  Kari and I completely agree on this. “This includes what you ate, when you ate it, the amounts you ate, what you drank, when you drank it, and the amount you drank. Also record how you feel throughout the day, and how you feel when you eat different foods. Write down all your workouts – exercise, weight, reps, the time you trained, the time you did cardio, cardio time length, and cardio exercise (treadmill, bike, etc.). Your journal will serve as a wonderful tool for future shows and for learning about how YOUR body works.
  • Understand that contest prep is time consuming. Not only will you will completing more workouts, but you will be getting food ready, grocery shopping, and planning all of the time.
  • Your social life may change. Lisa wisely says, “It is hard going out with friends and not indulding in delicous food and drinks like everyone else. People look at you funny, might make fun of your diet, or ask a lot of questions. It’s definitely good to be prepared for these types of things that may come up.
  • Know exactly why you want to compete. Faith knows from experience that there will be days when you question why you are torturing yourself and you need to have an answer. “It affects EVERY aspect of your life and that’s why it will be the hardest thing you ever do. Know that you want this bad enough and holdfast!
  • Be accountable and in community. Tell someone what you are doing, someone besides your coach. Then find like minded people to encourage and support you. It is important to have people to talk to that ‘just get it‘. People that aren’t immersed in the sport rarely want to hear about the macronutrients that you get to eat, how much tupperware you go through in a day, and how much your butt hurts!
  • Don’t expect others to understand. Training, the way you eat, and your lifestyle may forever be a complete mystery to them. Kari is right on the money when she said – “Keep in mind that it may very well be a total waste of your time to even attempt to explain your diet and training.” And be prepared to always be somewhat shocking to people; they may be uncomfortable with it, but it doesn’t mean you have to be.

I know all the ABC types are wondering, ‘Where is the list of steps? Great advice, but how do I implement?

  1. Decide. Pick a category to compete in and some possible show dates.
  2. Research. Find an experienced and successful coach for training and diet.
  3. Work Hard. Train, journal, diet, and learn about who you are.
  4. Have FUN! Embrace this time as you only get to do your first show once.
  5. Connect. Find like minded friends online or in person. Community and success go hand in hand.
  6. Kick Arse. Glue that suit on, strut your stuff, and love every minute of it.

Obviously there are TONS of other things to obsess and wondering about, but start on the journey and take it one day at a time. You are about to do something amazing, something that most people would never even think about doing, something audacious.

Go be all of your fabulous self and remember to give yourself grace every day.

Champions fail all of the time, but what makes them a champion is that they get up and try again, and again, and again, and AGAIN.

You are about to be a champion.

(Special thank you to Lisa, Margie, Kari, Chantelle, Faith, Michelle, and Liz for their contributions to this post!)

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  1. Love it! Great job

  2. Love it. this is so helpful for people!! Keep up what you do, you are such a great inspiration to us all!

  3. Tiffany Miller says

    This was a perfect post! Thanks for all your hard work in putting it together. Cheers, Tiff

  4. I love the one about being a science experiement! That’s exactly how I describe prep – it’s an experiement – you tweak, adjust, modify, until you get it right 🙂

    Wonderful post, D (and contributors)!!!


  5. Thanks for this post. I have a private blog where I keep track of my workouts and foods for the day. Take lots of pictures. It has helped me see things in a new light. What a great idea!

    • bikiniorbust says

      I love this idea! You are so smart. 🙂 I am totally going to be telling people to do just that. Awesome. Thanks for practical tip.

  6. Here’s a great blog that gives the in’s and outs to stepping on stage!

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