With the bodybuilding competition season set to begin, novice athletes all around South Africa are deep in preparation. Excitement, no doubt clouded by training schedules, meal plans and posing classes and of course the lemons of life getting in the way…cue COVID-19 *insert collective eye-roll*
If you are thinking about competing this year, here are a few tips for getting through not only the novice show but also through the season.
As enticing as it may be seeing other female competitors in their sparkly bikinis and 11-inch heels exuding confidence and sass, whilst they strut their tight and perfectly bronzed bodies across a stage. The reality is, a lot and I mean A LOT of hard work, dedication, time (months to be exact) and let’s not forget the cost of getting stage ready, for quite literally a few minutes on stage.
If you are solely thinking about competing based on getting to wear a sparkly number that fits into a Ziploc bag – you are in for a rude awakening.
I will always maintain if you are wanting to compete just to be relevant, your competition journey will end at the novice show – purely based on the fact that if you do not place in your line-up you will become resentful, always having something to prove, and let’s face it, anything done without passion ultimately drains the joy out of everything. Also, no one wants to share a space backstage with someone who is negative.
Think about why you want to compete. Personally, my reason for wanting to step onto an IFBB stage, at first was based on curiosity and to challenge myself. I was already training with the intention of getting stronger, so training towards another goal was the obvious step. However, after stepping on stage for the first time – the IFBB bug bit along with newfound confidence.
I did not mind putting in the work that was required in order for me to step on stage and oddly enough, I enjoy the process of getting my body stage ready. My reason kept me in the sport for two years before I decided that helping other women gain control of their physical well-being is truly what I enjoy doing.
Whatever your reason for wanting to embark on this journey, make sure it is going to keep you focused, consistent and most importantly bring you joy.
Be discerning as to the coach you will be using to get you to peak condition. The purpose of any industry is to make money and this does not exclude the fitness industry or the bodybuilding component if it.
For every coach specializing in getting athletes stage ready, there are those who are not equipped with the education or the expertise to get athletes prepped with their health and wellness being a priority. Prepping to step on stage takes months depending on the division you choose to compete in. Having a coach who will explain the pros and cons of competing is what you require.
Your body will be put under immense pressure and with that your mental health can take a beating. The right coach will serve as a pillar of strength during these stressful periods. Being a first time competitor can be daunting, having a coach who will hold your hand through the process is what you will require.
So your coach has gotten you to show day, you step up, place on your line up…then what? No doubt recognition will go to where it’s due, but what happens when the season is over, stage lights have been turned off and you are headed for some down time.
The coach you choose should also be preparing you to get back to your lifestyle prior to “stage life”. You cannot be expected to follow a meal plan for the rest of your life and for starters (pun intended) you will have to be weaned into eating “normally” again.
There should be no pressure regarding your willingness to do what it takes to step on a stage and represent someone who, one, probably has not competed before and therefore does not know what your body will be going through during your prep months and two, has no inkling of what to do in getting an athlete back to normality after the competition season.
So choose wisely, the competition season runs for an eight month period depending on the shows and selection of the National Team.
However your body is forever and it requires your optimum function for life.
Stop the Comparison
While it’s easy to scroll through social media looking at images of athletes, sooner or later you are going to compare bodies and whilst it’s nice to draw inspiration from others, it’s better to stay focused on your goal and what you are required to do for the end result.
Reach out to someone you know (in the same town or province as you) has competed (for me that was Samantha Naidoo), this way you gain a first-hand account of what can be expected. A “real” person giving you insight is far better than someone who is in another country and whose life you know nothing about – for all you know they could be sugar coating bullsh*t just to appease you.
Whist being a beginner is daunting, remember at some point even the athletes you hold in the highest regard started in the same place as you.
Get Yourself A Hype Team
Like a good bra, a support system is very important. Your family, friends and even your significant other will deal with a lot of your emotions during these prep months. Trust me you will get testy.
There will be a lot of gatherings you will not be able to attend, or if you do, you will be carting around your own meals (ignore the stares), declining sugar dusted goodness coupled with trying to explain why you’re eating or training the way you do, can leave you feeling isolated and a little miffed.
The people who choose to stand by you during this time, will be your sanity keepers, they will be the ones encouraging you, making you laugh and pushing you to continue in this journey. They will also be the ones making sure your tan is perfect, your bikini is glued to your peach, they will be your entertainment for the nine hours you spend backstage and they will be ones cheering like banshees when you step on stage for the first time and every time after.
Granted this is not a very long list of “help me outs” but these are the ones I found are most important.
Deciding to compete is easy however putting in the work is all together a different story. You will have to give up so much in order to step on stage and as long as you understand what is required of you, you will be okay.
When show day arrives, go in with the intention of learning. You will meet a lot of new people, and some of these people will be sharing the stage with you but I hope you never see them as “competition”. Be kind, some athletes may not have the support structure that you do, so be willing to help them, a little kindness goes a long way when you’re cooped up backstage.
You have worked hard and so have other athletes so do not be despondent if you do not place, this is just an opportunity to come back better.
Competing has not only given me confidence I have not known but it has brought lifelong friendships that extend beyond the stage and I hope you find as much as joy and passion in the sport as I have.
So here’s to the 2020 season, may it be an unforgettable one… oh and as long as you pick a hip Bernie isn’t that scary!
Melissa Kannigan. Find her on her instagram, and her vegan blog.