1. How did you get started?
I’d honestly been curious about bodybuilding competitions for awhile & had already researched and looked into it, but I thought I’d never find a coach that was the right fit for me. Nor did I know any competitors in person to ask questions. Then I was out with some friends & I was doing a cut at the time & was very lean with visible abs & vascularity in my arms. My friend remarked that I looked like the competitors who went to her gym & then she spent the whole evening trying to convince me to do one–including showing me the instagrams of the two people who would become my first coach & posing coach. The very next morning I signed up. (For context I had been weightlifting & doing bulks/cuts on my own for a few years so I already knew I loved going to the gym & the process of literally building up the muscle on my body. This just felt like a natural upgrade!)
2. How did you pick your coach?
(See above) But also I had three main stipulations I couldn’t budge over when picking a coach:
1. No meal plans. He had to be okay with macro-tracking & wouldn’t restrict my foods. I was already into flexible dieting & I knew contest preps COULD be done with macros & flexibility after reading Holly Baxter’s Contest Prep Recipe Guide
2. Deadlifts, Squats, & Benching still needed to be mostly in my workout plan. I like being strong. I find the big 3 powerlifting movements to be empowering & hitting PRs is what pushes me day in & day out in the gym! I knew it was unconventional for a “bikini competitor” but I knew I didn’t want to entirely give them up. (Now I don’t typically have all 3 movements in my program at once, but my coach does a great job at programming them in for me when possible)
3. No Bro Science. I’d already done my research on bikini competitions. I purchased and read Holly Baxter’s & Layne Norton’s Complete Contest Prep Guide. All that stuff you read about water manipulation and salt manipulation the week of your competition was thoroughly DEBUNKED in the book. It’s unnecessary & in some cases dangerous. A LOT of competitors still do it, but I knew I wanted a coach who was up to date on science-backed research & not just assigning me protocols because “that’s just the way everyone does it.”
Aside from those three things, I knew I didn’t want to be part of a giant team with a bunch of other bikini competitors. I was scared I would feel lost & looked over. As it turned out my first coach, David Iglesias, was actually based in the same city as I am so I was able to meet him in person for a few workouts & he came to my first competition, which means a lot.
Make sure you carefully consider your own coach before picking one, because I have heard of more BAD, nightmare level coaches than I’ve heard of good ones. Check for experience, if their coaching style is a good mesh for your personality, maybe you’d even PREFER a meal plan over macros. Maybe you’re the type of person who wants a LOT of cardio. All questions to ask a potential coach. And make sure they can actually explain the reasoning behind why they’re giving you a certain protocol and not just “because I said so.”
Update: I switched coaches in August 2020. I felt I needed someone with a bit more experience on the national stage so I switched to Team NK. Nick coached me for the national stage & then I’ve swapped to Chelsea Cross within the team for my off season. I’ve also made a ton of friends being on a team!
3. How expensive is it?
There’s some things you can be thrifty with, but other things you just have to bite the bullet & pay for. Here’s just some of things you have to pay for:
Coaching (ranges from $150-250/month, but you get what you pay for)
Posing Sessions with a posing coach ($50-100 per session x6?)
A bikini (or you could rent one) ($600)
Hair Extensions (kind of a non-negotiable alas)
Competition Heels & Jewelry ($50-100)
NPC Membership Registration (or a membership in the federation you pick!) ($100)
Show Registration ($100-200)
Fake Nails/Pedicure ($100)
Hair/Makeup the day of the show ($150-200)
Spray Tan for the show ($100+)
Hotel Rooms for the show ($??)
That said… my second year of competing isn’t going to be quite as expensive in some areas since I can reuse the extensions from the year before & since I knew I was going to be competing again I’ve been saving money ALL YEAR for this. I’ve saved up at least $200 a month since my last competition.
2020 update: my goal for future competitions is to learn how to do my own hair & makeup! More so to save TIME than $$. At my nationals competition this year my hair & makeup appointment were at 3AM. Ridiculous.
Money saving tip! I downloaded this budgeting app called Albert in 2018. My favorite function is that it takes small amounts of money from your account a few times a week. $5 here, maybe $50 a week when you don’t spend much & places it in a savings account. So you don’t really notice the money leaving your account. Then a few months pass and you’ve got a couple thousand dollars saved up–like what?!! I set savings goals for 2 weeks pay (back when I was a teacher), then another savings goal for competitions, & now a savings goal for taxes now that I run my own business–eek! It’s a lot easier to save when you don’t have to consciously think about it.
4. Do you have a coach year round?
Yes. It would be a very stupid thing to have a coach only for prep in my opinion. Not only is it called bodybuilding–so you need to actually BUILD muscle in the “off” season & have a specific workout program written to build muscle in the areas you need, but the first few months post-show are extremely important diet wise as you can’t just start to eat whatever you want post-show.
You have to reverse diet after your show by very carefully increasing your calories. The reverse diet is harder than an actual prep. You will want to say “F&*% it, I’m gaining weight so might as well eat nothing but cake and cookies,” but your coach is there to hold in those reins & keep you sane.
5. How do you pick which competitions to be in & when? Is flexibility allowed?
Since I live in Texas, I just look up bodybuilding shows in Texas & pick one usually based on location & date. Of course I discuss dates with my coach, but show dates are extremely flexible. You don’t even need to register for the show until a few weeks before so you’re not locked in.
6. How much time do you devote to this whole thing? Is it like a part time job?
Right now in COVID-19 quarantine… I spend about 3 hours between cardio/workouts every day (except Sunday which is my rest day, so I just walk for an hour-ish)
Prepping/Cooking food takes up time as well, but pre-quarantine I would spend 1-2 hours on Sunday prepping my lunches for the work-week, then maybe an hour total every evening between cooking dinner & dessert. To be clear though: I LOVE cooking, so I don’t really care how much time it takes me.
So yes… it is like a part time job. (I think my tally is over 30 hours right now)
7. Do you think someone working full time could do this?
I work full time 🙂
October 2020 update: I quit my job to coach online/recipe develop full time. BUT I did do this with a full time job for two years in a row!
8. How do you pick your bikini?
My first ever posing coach picked out EVERYTHING for me down to the different stone colors on the bikini. It was awesome, Brittany is amazing. I ordered swatches from the website & we held them up next to me to pick out ones that best complimented my skin & hair.
This time around since I needed to pick a suit while under COVID-19 quarantine I did a consultation with Toxic Angelz & Margaret (the owner) helped me pick out everything.
But if you are a pale person like me light colored suits should be avoided.
As far as sizing–I sent them my final measurements a few weeks from my show!
9. What is the average weight gain post-show?
It’s truly different for everyone. And you MUST gain weight after your show. Staying stage lean year round is dangerous and unhealthy. A lot of women, myself included, lose their periods (I haven’t this year though!) during prep & it is extremely important for your long term health that you gain weight & get your period/hormones back in order after a competition season.
Some people might gain only 10 pounds. This past year (2019-2020 off season) I gained about 20 pounds total over the entire off-season, but 6 of those pounds were muscle according to the DEXA scan I did. Even others might feel their best at 25-30 pounds over their stage weight.
10. How much cardio is done towards the end of prep, other than daily steps?
This is another one that’s completely different for everyone, especially based on their coach. Last year I didn’t own a step tracker so I didn’t have a daily step goal, but I was only doing about 3 hours on the elliptical total for the week. Peak week I did a little more on certain days, but I personally don’t usually have a lot of cardio.
I never do HIIT cardio. It’s always some form of low intensity cardio.
But again, everyone and every coach is different.
UPDATE: For my prep in 2020 my steps started off at 8k per day at the beginning of prep & then went up to 13.5k steps the last week or two before my show–that’s IT! (13.5k was a lot for me though to be clear!!)
11. How do you gain confidence to be comfortable on stage?
Practice practice practice and FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT.
No joke, I was SCARED my first time on stage. My legs were shaking.
… but no one could tell because I kept my smile on 😉
It’s something I’ll get more used to over time. I also enjoy practicing my posing with music & having fun with it!
There’s a playlist on spotify called NPC Bikini Posing & I practiced with it a LOT lol. Ironically the EXACT remix of Beyonce’s Run the World (Girls) came on RIGHT before I stepped on stage for my first show of 2020 and WOW did I get hyped. In my head I was like “THIS IS THE EXACT SONG I’VE BEEN PRACTICING TO!!!” Of course that didn’t happen again–some music on stage is pretty cringey, but that playlist is full of confident jams.
12. How do you balance celebrations/social life during prep?
TBH COVID-19 MAKES THIS SO EASY. Nowhere to go & no one to see–it’s perfect!
Honestly, if you explain it to friends & family, they should be understanding. & if they aren’t then they’re not the right friends for you.
I bring my own food when I hang out with friends, or offer to cook for them. I almost never drink while on prep, so I usually just order diet sodas if I have to go somewhere. I brought my own food to a friend’s birthday party at a Mexican restaurant pre-social distancing. I knew she wouldn’t mind & the restaurant didn’t mind either.
Personally, I don’t like staying up late in prep. The less sleep I get, the more hunger I experience the next day and the worse my workouts are, so if I go out with friends in prep its usually not very late either.
Also… I have never prepped over Thanksgiving/Christmas/my birthday in February for a reason 😉
13. Why is the tan so dark?
Stage lighting is the opposite of flattering. Also the darker you are, the leaner and more defined you look.
I had to get THREE WHOLE COATS OF TAN. (TWO the night before the show and one the morning of)
If you’ve ever gotten a spray tan before, you know you usually wash off after the tan develops. For the stage tan–you can’t get ANYTHING wet or it smudges. Once that tan goes on there’s no more… deodorant, showers, hair washing, hand washing (I carried around baby wipes), peeing normally (you gotta use a pee cup), the list goes on.
Here’s another comparison for my 2020 shows! Each stage looks different with lighting!
14. Why can’t you just eat normally after a competition? Why do you have to reverse diet & why does everyone seem to fail at it?
I think it’s a little difficult to explain to someone who’s never gone through a contest prep, but I’ll do my best. Reverse dieting is SO much harder than prep itself. It’s like the second your body gets a taste of just a FEW more calories…
the hunger beast is unleashed
I’m not being dramatic. You’ve been starving your body for months, your body thinks you’re dying and desperately wants you to put back on a healthy amount of fat so it feels like it sends you ALL the hunger signals AT ONCE.
It’s what I imagine being a vampire is like.
A never-ending, unsatiable, PIT of hunger. (You guys can look up the research on this on your own, I love Holly Baxter’s Reverse Diet Youtube Series) But if you let that hunger rule you… you’ll be gaining a TON of unwanted weight VERY quickly with your damaged metabolism.
Granted, I’ve only gone through one reverse diet so far, so maybe its different each time. I felt like I did a REALLY good job with mine, but there were still several nights I had a spoon in the peanut butter jar and my other hand in the oreos. Here’s my post that goes over it some more:
A few disclaimers to anyone considering competing:
- If you struggle with a lack of self-confidence or have any body-image issues… going through a contest prep is probably just going to make those issues worse. You need to love yourself BEFORE the stage.
- Why? Because you will get leaner than you EVER have been in your life. You will look the best you ever have on show day, & then you will have to GAIN weight after to get healthy. If you have a poor relationship with your body before prep, having to put weight back on after seeing yourself shredded probably won’t put you in a great headspace. And if you don’t place as well as you hope you need to have the self-love there to realize it’s not an indicator of your worth, your drive, your beauty.
- Also… you’re stepping on stage and literally ASKING a panel of judges, to JUDGE YOUR BODY. I thought getting feedback like that would upset me, but honestly the feedback that I got last year (glutes almost too big, build your shoulders up more) was just invigorating! I’ve been so excited to build this year.
- If your coach suggests that you need to be on “Anavar” or any other steroid/fat-burning drug… RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. I get it, you’re paying them, they’re in a position of power over you, you trust them, you want to WIN. But you’ll be messing yourself up in the long term. Don’t do it.
- But if you do choose to do that… you can still be beaten by an all-natural woman, just saying.
- If you haven’t spent time BUILDING muscle, you’ll pretty much be skin and bones at the end of a prep. You have to spend time lifting heavy in the gym before you expect to win.
A final note:
If you’re considering competing and still have questions–REACH OUT!! If not to me then to someone else who competes! The first year I competed I knew NOTHING about the industry, but now that it’s been a couple years I have a lot more ~knowledge~ about different coaches & their styles. It’s important to make sure you find the right coach for you–I can always point you to someone who’s currently coached by or was previously coached by the person you’re considering so you can ask them more questions!