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Essentials of Preparing for the Stage

Goal setting is a crucial component when it comes to taking your fitness to the next level and no goal is too great nor too small when it comes to your health and wellness.  Beginning with a plan of attack is essential for your success in any area in life, because it helps you identify your passion, the steps you will take to promote reaching your goal and the satisfaction of seeing it through to the end. That said, many set their sights on a fitness competition as a means to do just that.  There is no one way to cross the finish line and different things work for different people, so always do your research, follow you gut and make the best decision for you.  Taking an educated approach will help you manage your expectations and outcome.  Whether you plan to compete in one local show, or work your way up the ranks with the intention of reaching the national stage or beyond, here are some things to consider before setting your sights on the stage.

Hiring a qualified coach

The world of online training and nutrition plans is a highly saturated one, but not everyone is certified in all areas they are preaching about.  Just because someone has taken the stage once and done well, doesn’t necessarily mean they are qualified to coach you. While you may be in great shape, a qualified competition prep coach will be able to share their knowledge of this very specific area, in the hopes of bringing you in the absolute best shape possible.  From a meal plan, training program, weekly check ins, a supplement schedule, posing assistance and an ear to bend when you need to vent, these are all areas of expertise that a qualified coach can assist you with.  Their knowledge of which shows to enter, how the judges tend to score or what the current look or guideline is in your division, are all things a coach can bring to the table.

I’m not just referring to hiring any trainer at your local health, I’m speaking about someone that specializes or at least offers coaching specific to the competition realm.  Many mistakenly sign up to work with people whose credentials are greatly lacking.  Just because someone may have hired their own coach, competed in one show and now offers “online training,” does not make them a qualified competition coach.  Someone without proper knowledge and background in this area, should never take your money, but sadly it happens all the time. If someone takes on too many clients at once, there is a good chance you will not get the attention you need and/or they may be providing you a cookie cutter meal plan and training program that is not customized for your unique needs.  Referrals are great along with testimonials and ultimately RESULTS, so don’t be afraid to ask around.  There are many qualified competition coaches, but do your homework to be sure the person you chose, is right for you.  Presenting your very best package possible will depend on it!

Training and nutrition 

Beginning with a plan is the first step.  Once you’ve interviewed different coaches to establish their approach to getting you stage ready, make the best decision for you.  Taking before pictures along with measurements will be a great guideline to monitor your progress.  A coach may supply you with a nutrition and a supplement plan, create a program based upon your unique macros or allow flexible dieting (sticking within specific fats, proteins and carbs range each day without a set meal plan) according to the macros they feel best suite you and your goals.  No one way is right or wrong, but because there are many schools of thought, working with someone that you gel well with will be important over the course of your prep.  Most preps are somewhere between 8-16 weeks, depending on where you are to begin with, how responsive your body is, etc.  So don’t rush into a show if you will be hard pressed to be ready in time.  This can be extremely stressful and the process should be fun and manageable, if it is to lead you to a better lifestyle, a healthier body and an overall improved perspective on your self-image.  Ultimately, you should enjoy the ride and not feel it is a punishment!

Stage presence and posing practice 

You’ve put the blood, sweat and tears into the behind the scenes daily grind, but now is your time to shine!  Don’t think you just put on a sparkly bikini and jump out on that great big stage without having put time and effort into how you move your body.  Bikini and figure competitions are judged upon a set of guidelines.  A certain look is established by the organization and they do vary from one organization to the next.  A good coach will know these guidelines well and put focus on areas that need additional muscle or brought down in other areas if need be.  The repetition of posing practice is what will help your confidence and allow you to shine on stage.  Women that do not nail their mandatory poses are scored more poorly than those that appear polished and move with grace and elegance all while contracting every muscle in their bodies as if it were effortless.  Not an easily skill, but with practice, you can ensure that your hard work is what stands out.  If you never walk in heels, you better start well before the day of the show.  Clomping out on stage like a derby horse will catch the eye of the judges and not in a good way.  Select the proper size and style of competition heel that you feel most comfortable in and work it like your hallway is a runway every day until show time.  The walk, the transition from one pose to the next, are all being highly scrutinized, so be sure you’ve not only done your work in the gym and in the kitchen, but also in front of the mirror.

Choosing the right suit

There are lots of suit designers, but seeking out someone that offers the most flattering cut and color for you, is just as important as every other component of your preparedness.  Suits range from hundreds, to several thousands of dollars depending upon the designer and extent of crystal application.  Judges will score against you for ill-fitting, lackluster suits.  It doesn’t have to be the most expensive suit, but the most flattering cut and color for your hair color and skin tone will serve you best.  Once you’ve got the perfect suit and you’re all tied in for the day of the show, you must glue it in place so there are no wardrobe malfunctions, since there isn’t much fabric to begin with.

A solid stage tan

Stage color is definitely not the same as that healthy summer glow you get from hanging by the pool.  The entire premise behind stage color application is to define all the muscles and make them pop under the bright lights of the stage.  Without this, you will completely wash out all of your efforts and not present your best look.  A professional tanning company is present at most shows and can be booked in advance of your arrival. I highly recommend you utilize their services to ensure the best possible color if you are not accustomed to this very messy process.  If you are experienced with tanning yourself, you can travel with the products and tan from the comfort of your home or hotel room.  Always bring a set of old sheets to put on the hotel bed to avoid being charged for staining theirs.  Prior to tanning, it is suggested that you shave your entire body and exfoliate well, because the tan can appear muddy after several applications over even just peach fuzz. Lastly, rule of thumb…when you think your tan enough, apply another 2 coats! Judges can and will hold a poor tan against you, so air on the side of, “more is better.”  They will glaze you with a light sheen just prior to taking the stage to additionally enhance your physique.

Makeup and hair

Stage makeup, as is stage tan, is also not a typical daytime look.  For that matter, it’s more of a theatrical look because the stage lights wash you out, so compensating for that is a priority.  Many makeup artists work shows, so find out who is available and consider booking them in advance to take a bit of stress off the day of the show.  It isn’t necessary to hire someone to professionally do your makeup if you are good at this task yourself.  Many YouTube tutorials are even available to assist you with this very specific look and can take the additional expense out of the equation if you feel confident in this area.

Booking a photoshoot

Capturing your physique with a photoshoot around the time of your show is a fun way to celebrate your hard work coming to fruition.  Whether it is just for you personally, or if you plan to share your images with the world, reaching out to reputable photographers to gather pricing and details on their services in advance, is a great way to do just that.  Always have the conversation up front about where and what they will have access to, how much they charge for how many hours/looks and how you will obtain images after the shoot.  All of this should be arranged up front for your own safety and everyone’s expectations.  Be leery of anyone offering anything for free.

A plan for after the show

Just as I speak about goal setting prior to taking the stage, so too is the importance of setting your next goal once the show is over.  I’ve seen and personally experienced post show blues before and learned a very valuable lesson in this myself.  I’ve realized the value to establishing your “what’s next?” even before your final coat of spray tan has dried.  The feeling of complacency can lead to depression or slipping backwards after you’ve accomplished such a great feat, so plan something, anything, to avoid the potential pitfalls of a rebound.  For example, plan your next show, an obstacle course race or even a 5K just to have something new to look forward to.  If your training for preparation of the show has you dreading the gym, seek out a new form of fitness to mix it up and get you excited again.  Change it up with something different that appeals to you and that you find challenging. Breathing new life into your fitness goals is not only fun, but essential to keep things from becoming monotonous.  Just because the show is over, doesn’t mean it’s time to coast, but maybe it’s time to adjust your direction a bit as you prepare for your next goal!  If you do plan to enter a show, good luck and remember to have fun!