When I first decided to compete I was absolutely lost. I was so overwhelmed, and I had no idea where to start. I was scared, nervous, excited, and worried that SOMETHING would go wrong. For instance…
- Where do I get my suit?
- How long will it take to get my suit?
- Is that really how much a suit costs?
- What about shoes?
- Where do you get them?
- Do you really have to wear 5″ heals or are 4″ heals okay?
- I really have to walk in these things? Like, without falling?
- Who can help me with posing?
- Posing will get easier with practice? Sticking my butt out will look “normal”?
- What about diet? Surely my abs won’t pop eating what I’m eating now.
- What about jewelry?
- What about color? Some people are getting spray tanned, not once, but twice? I don’t have the money nor the time.
- Waxing? I hadn’t even thought of that.
- Someone’s doing your hair and makeup?
- What about my nails?
- How will my suit stay in place?
- How do you get all shiny?
- And what about decency back stage? How do you stay covered without ruining your color?
- NPC (or NGA) card? What’s that?
I was even worried about the things I hadn’t thought of. I was sure there would be oodles of things that would come up I hadn’t taken into consideration, and that alone had me worried.
So many things go in to competing. It’s not all training and diet. It’s more – so much more. And it’s expensive. Even if you cut corners, it’s not cheap.
You are judged on your overall package, so that means everything. Your body, your look, your hair, your confidence, your walk, your posing, your color, your amount of “shine” (you can get docked for being too oiled up), your suit color choice, your everything. And yes, you are judged not only by the amount of muscle you have but by the symmetry of muscle on your body. Does it all balance, and on top of that muscle do you have just the right amount of fat to smooth it all out? Being too striated doesn’t pay off – nor does vascularity. Of course what the judges are looking for can change from show to show from season to season. But, for the most part, it’s the same.
So, where to start?
- Once I made the decision to compete, I talked to my trainer at the time, LuAnn VanAkin. She has become a dear friend of mine (we are running Moab together), and she’d already gotten a few comps under her belt. So, my first tip, network with other women who have competed – ideally someone who’s competing in your same division (ie. if you’re figure, network with figure GALS, and if you’re bikini, network with bikini GALS).
- The second most important thing is to swallow the reality that competing is most likely going to be more expensive than you initially thought, and that’s even with cutting corners. At this point it’s probably going to be hard to know how much to budget, but I would plan on budgeting no less than $500 for your first competition. If you are lucky you might be able to come in under that, and if you are like most competitors, you’ll probably come in way higher than that. Just be glad you don’t have to start with two suits (one 2-piece and one 1-piece) like I did when I first started a few years ago.
- Probably the most exciting and the most stressful task will be choosing a suit. Are you planning to buy a new custom suit made specifically to fit your body for show day? Knowing that your body will lean out considerably from the time you order it to the time you need it? If you are wanting to go this route, and you’re competing in Figure, I’d say the least you’d be looking at is $300, and that might even be too low. The last couple of suits I’ve purchased have been between $350-$550 new. We GALS are lucky to be associated with so many amazing suit designers. We all have our favorites. Really, there are many I’d love to try that I simply haven’t yet. But I do have a deal worked out with a good friend of mine who has my GALS in mind, Melissa Francis, owner and designer of Muscle Bling. Not only are Melissa’s suits exquisitely handmade, they are reasonably priced. Have a seat. It’s true that some designer suits can range in the thousands of dollars. Thousands. Some of Melissa’s suits are up there, but she has oodles of choices starting in the $300′s. And…that’s custom-made. So you get to choose your color, your fabric, your cut, amount of stones you want (for a fee of course), and have it made to fit YOUR body. Huge bonus. When you are on stage if your suit does not fit right, you will most likely be docked, so it literally pays to have your suit fit right. The best part of our GALpartnership with MuscleBling is that Melissa will pay for shipping. Once you design your suit, Melissa will send you the suit to try free of charge. She will also include an envelope for you to send it back free of charge. Then she can make any necessary changes, add the bling, and then she will send the final product back out to YOU free of charge. Not a bad deal. Just mention you are one of my GALS, and you’re set. So, that’s ONE option, but there are others too.
- If you don’t want to buy a new suit, you can rent. If you’re lucky and know someone, you might even be able to borrow. But if you want to rent, that’s a great way to go as well. Why? Oftentimes you can get a really nice suit (one that costs way more money than you’d normally pay for) for a fourth of what it costs full retail. I have several suits posted on my FB recipe page that are available for rent. Each rental is for 3 weeks. I simply ask that you return it within a few days after the show. I will even clean it for you. I hand wash all my suits because of their delicate (and expensive) nature, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. I ask that you take careful care of my suits just as I would yours. I’ve rented several and so far I haven’t had any issues. It’s been a win/win for everyone. If you are interested in having me rent one of your suits (for you), please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in renting one of my suits, email me at the same place or message me through FB. Here’s the link to what’s currently available: Jen-Fit Suit Rentals. Just make sure the sizing is on – again can’t stress this enough.
- If renting doesn’t appeal to you, but you’d still like to save some money. You might want to consider buying a used suit. There are several sites on the web where you can buy used suits. I’ve used Diva Exchange Classifieds more than once. I’ve bought AND sold suits on that site. I also have a few suits for sale on my FB fan page for you to check out. Maybe one of them will work! Either way, it’s another option to help you find the best suit to fit your body and make you look like the glamorous buff diva you are come show day.
- Now that you have your suit, what about shoes? Simply put, I ordered mine from Snaz 75 online. **smile** It was one of the least expensive places I could find them. I think mine ran around $20. I recommend you size down. I normally wear a size 7 1/2. I ordered a 7. Why? The plastic stretches with wear, and you don’t want to be sloshing around in 5″ heals. Period. You want your feet feeling secure in those things. I don’t care who you are – walking in 5″ heals does not come naturally, and by the time you have your tan on and are oiled up, you are going to feel a little wobbly walking around in them . Now the question is do you want to get the 4″ or the 5″ heels. Everything I read a few years ago pointed me towards 5″ heels. This would not have been my choice, but it appeared at the time that it was the standard, and I didn’t want to get docked for not having the right height of shoes. Next question. Do you want open heeled shoes or ones with straps? Both have their advantages. Mine were open heeled. I wanted shoes I could slip on and off easily back stage. I didn’t want to have to wear them any longer than I needed to, and I also didn’t want to have shoes that might be difficult getting on especially if I was in a hurry. However straps look really nice on stage, and they are more stable. So…it’s up to you. Clear shoes are the standard. Don’t get any with color. Platform shoes in the past have been discouraged. Crystals are okay.
- Now for posing. FIND. A. COACH. I don’t care who it is. Find someone who specializes in it, find a dvd, fin a video online, and at the very least find someone who’s been on stage and can show you the basics. You will need to practice time and time again. And then when you think you are ready? Practice some more. You will never be over-prepared when it comes to walking and posing on stage – in your suit and in your shoes. Practice. And if you feel you’ve conquered it at home alone in front of the mirror? It’s time you put on your shoes and take them to the gym and practice where there will sure to be onlookers wondering what the heck you are doing. You need to be comfortable in front of people. If guys weren’t such perves I’d suggest you put on your suit at the gym too, but I think it’s safer you don’t. Only do that if you are with your posing coach or with a larger group. Just be smart. Don’t wait til the last week before the show to start posing. I’ve been on stage 7x (which is nothing) and I don’t feel comfortable posing. I have friends who sweat confidence – it oozes out of them – and they clammed up on stage. What you think “feels” right will not “look” right from the audience. Posing requires you to learn completely new stances. You’ll be sucking in your abs without having them concave, you’ll be lifting your chest, you’ll be balancing at times mostly on one leg while relaxing the other, you’ll be pulling your delts back, you’ll be sticking out your glutes, and a myriad of other things. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t come natural. It only starts to feel natural when done over and over and over again. Find a coach. Pose. Walk. Practice.
- Diet. This is a tough one. If you have the budget for it, I say find a coach who is familiar with the term “bringing you in”. That means someone who is comfortable with pre-comp diets, is familiar with your body type, your needs, and will be able to measure how your body responds to the diet while adjusting as necessary to bring you in those final weeks pre-comp. What you are doing now most likely won’t be enough for the last 6-8 weeks out. Many girls start dieting 20 weeks out. Some 12. Some are lucky or smart enough to be under 10 pounds from their contest weight, so it might take them less. You need someone who doesn’t give you the cookie cutter diet that he/she subscribes to everyone. You want it fine tuned for you. The scale is not your gauge either during this time. The key is to lose bodyfat, not necessarily weight. One of the biggest risks we all run when leaning out is losing muscle. If you are losing weight too fast, there’s a good chance you are losing muscle right along with it. Not good. Find someone who works with bodybuilders and/or figure and bikini girls that can help you preserve your muscle while shedding bodyfat. Also, the last week, “peak week” is a very critical part of the whole dieting process. This is the time you’ll likely be cutting carbs, cutting sodium, and cutting water. Just so you know, not all coaches and trainers cut sodium. It’s not as commonly practiced as it once was, but there are still some that do. The few trainers I’ve worked with always cut mine. It’s a science and not one you want to try on your own without guidance. At the end of the week is when you add carbs back in to help give the illusion of fullness in the muscles. Every coach, trainer, and/or nutritionist has their own way. Find someone who knows what to do, has done it, and can do the same with you. Again, don’t wait til the last minute. Ask around for referrals.
- Jewelry is probably one of the easiest to-dos through this whole process. Chances are you’ll have something on hand or that you can borrow from a friend. Wait until you have your suit picked out though, so you can coordinate similar gem colors and style with your suit. I prefer simple sophistication to gaudy. I’ve seen both. It’s a matter of preference. Most GALS keep it to a bracelet or two and either hoop or chandelier earrings. No necklaces and no anklets. Both are distracting and take away from your physique. You want the emphasis to be on the lines of your muscle tone. Necklaces and anklets break it up.
- Suit color. I should have written about this above. Suit color is VERY important. Every “expert” I’ve spoken with has stressed the importance to go with darker colors. They will lighten up on stage when the show lights are on you. For those who still want to go lighter, its usually the blonds who can pull it off. Darker haired GALS like myself are recommended to go with the dark, deeper colors. Get and opinion though, and then get a second opinion. Some suit fabrics have glitter sewed in to them. They look incredible from offstage and are a less expensive way to go to get that “bling” appearance from the audience without having to invest a lot more for rhinestones. I especially noticed this from the judges’ panel. It was the first time I’d been up that close, and some of my favorite suits were the ones that were simpler with less stones. It was the fabric that made them stand-out.
- Tanning. To tan or not to tan? I will tell you this…I DID hit the tanning beds (the ones that cost the most that supposedly eliminate the majority of the harmful tanning rays) to give me a good base. Again, this was recommended to me. I’d been told that if I didn’t do this my color might look too orange on stage. So, I did choose to tan a few times beforehand. With my shows typically being on Saturday, I usually tan the Saturday before, Monday, and Wednesday, and then that’s it. If I’m going to flake, I want to give my body enough time to shed the dead skin before I apply my liquid tan. A lot of people get spray tanned. This is a GREAT option, but you’ll likely need a couple of coats. This always has been hard for me – not just because of price but because of time. With two little ones at home, it’s hard for me to justify getting spray tanned, waiting a few hours, and then going back. Yet, I know a lot of people love going this route. It’s a little more cost wise, but the results look great (usually). Those who spray tan sometimes get a base tan using the tanning beds too. Another option and the option I used was Jan Tana. This is a dark liquid tan you apply yourself. The week leading up to tanning you’ll want to be sure you are shaving and exfoliating completely to help loosen and remove any dead skin. If you fail to do this the Jan Tana will cake on your skin, and you’ll look like you have scales. I know because I’ve done it, and it’s not pretty. So, wash, scrub, exfoliate, dry, and moisturize the week leading up to tanning. The night before the show you’ll want to put on your first couple of coats. Now my IFBB friend Michelle Battista gave me one of the best tips. She told me to buy a big sponge applicator from the car detail aisle at the store. They are about 6″ in diameter and have a soft cloth side. They absorb more color than the smaller ones sent with the product. It takes less time to put on, which means you’re less likely to streak when applying it. By the way, wear gloves.Jan Tana Hi Definition Color Collection Competition Tan soaks in to the fingers, knuckles, elbows, and knees quickly. Have someone help you apply it to your back and if possible your glutes and your hamstrings. Even if you think you are putting it on evenly, it looks way different from the back. Liquid tanner streaks and leaves lines, so you want it to be as even as possible. Once applied, let it dry for at least 30 minutes. Then do a second coat. You won’t be tanning your face, but you will be tanning everything else – including your armpits. Don’t leave them white. They will truly stand out against your dark body on stage if you leave them untouched. Once you’ve applied your Jan Tana for the evening, let it dry before going to bed. Lay an old sheet or a towel down before sleeping because some of it will rub off during the night. In the morning be sure to get up early enough to either apply a 3rd coat (which I always do) or touch up some of the areas that rubbed or sweated off during sleep. Once you are dry again, wear loose clothing. I usually wear a tank top and loose sweats to and from the show. I take a loose silky robe to wear backstage over my suit. Something that keeps me relatively modest but doesn’t rub my tan off. Jan Tana isn’t permanent, so if it does rub off on clothes, walls, toilets, sinks, or you name it, it WILL come off. **smile** Thank goodness. I usually buy my Jan Tana from Bodybuilding.com or from AllProSupplements.com. You can also order it from Amazon at Jan Tana Hi Definition Color Collection Competition Tan. Shop around.
- Two more things you’ll want to order at the same time you order your Jan Tana are Performance Brands Bikini Bite Suit Fastener, 3-Ounce and and Jan Tana The Color Collection Hi-Definition Glaze. Again, shop around. I’ve included the Amazon links out of convenience, but you might find them for less elsewhere. Bikini Bite keeps your suit in place (invaluable), and Glaze is rubbed on before you go out on stage to help show the definition of your hard earned muscle. Some people use Pam cooking spray, but I’ve heard its discouraged because its too shiny. Just keep that in mind. Both last forever, so you’ll be able to use them for upcoming show. Just be sure to write your name on both because when you are backstage among all the commotion, guaranteed it will get mixed up with someone elses’ or borrowed. While the Glaze is applied everywhere, Bikini Bite is not. You’ll want to apply small amounts along the rim of your suit on your glutes, just slightly in the front, under each breast, and along the outside of the bikini top. You want to be able to pose (think of how your pecs stretch when you pull your shoulders back) without revealing the girlies. Same goes for below. You don’t want one of your bum cheeks hanging out when you’re doing your back pose. Bikini Bite is awesome. The only con? It’s really hard to use the ladies room once it’s applied. You’ll have to get creative. I won’t write about that part.
- Some people wax. I haven’t, but I should. Actually, I was going to wax last time, and my “waxer” called in sick that day, and I never rescheduled. Here’s a reality check. Judges CAN and DO see stubble. I didn’t think they did prior to Saturday, but as I was sitting at the judges’ table, I found out differently. I was wrong. They can. Either shave as close as you can the morning of or get waxed.
- As for nails, it’s not required that you have them done, but most people do. It’s encouraged to keep your nails and toenails clean and simple. I read once before my first competition that french manicures are preferred. This last season I lived on the edge and had my tips painted turquoise to match my suit, and then I had my tips painted black before the Emerald Cup. Whatever you do, keep it simple and as non-distracting as possible.
- Hair and Makeup. I do my own. Again, a lot of girls don’t. Many will pay to have their hair curled, streaked, straightened, or whatever just for show day. If you have long hair, wear it down, and work it to your advantage. Just remember to pull it to the side when you do your back pose. Same goes for makeup. Some shows offer make-up services on the spot. If that is the case, I encourage you to take advantage of it. The only show I’ve down where they’ve offered that was the Emerald Cup, but it was a long wait. Just know that your normal day to day makeup application WON’T do. Your foundation needs to be a lot darker, as does your eyeshadow, blush, liner, and mascara. Everything. Think of stage makeup. This is what you are shooting for. What looks really trampy up close looks incredible from the audience. **smile** I felt so made up on show day – very uncomfortable, but I loved how my pics always turned out. Now here’s a tip for foundation. Hopefully you’re Nordstrom will be as cool as mine. I simply asked for a sample of one of the darkest shakes they had. I told them what it was for and that it would only be for a one or possibly two time use, and I didn’t want to pay $30 for a full bottle. The sales lady I worked with was very understanding and gave me a sample for free. I had enough to last me four shows. Not bad. Definitely invest in false eyelashes. You don’t have to have them done professionally. You can apply them yourself. Even if they aren’t perfect (which mine never were because I so rarely use them) they will look striking from off stage.
- Last but not least (but of course I’m sure it won’t be last because I’ll probably think of things to add after I post), don’t forget to get your NPC or NGA card (or whichever organization you are competing in). Each organization has a membership card and associated fee that goes with it. Most are good for the calendar year. You will need to have a current one prior to competing. They’ll want to see it when you check-in for the show or when you submit your registration. Here’s one of the many links where to get your NPC card. It looks like membership is now up to $100.
- And finally…registration. Don’t forget to register for your event. Most shows have a cut-off date when they are no longer accepting competitors. Don’t miss it. Also, find out if you can cross-over in to another category. For example I often will compete in my open class height as well as the masters class. Some allow it; others don’t. Emerald doesn’t. Each division you compete in will require additional registration fees, so it does add up, but it also means you get to have that much more time on stage. I haven’t seen a show registration for less than $60. I’d expect at least that and more for additional cross-overs.
So that’s it. There you go. Later when I have more time I’ll tally the fees involved. Worst case scenario vs. best case scenario, but this should give you an idea of all the various fees and to-dos associated with competing. So many people think it’s just training and dieting, but it’s so much more.
I had a GALfriend return a suit she rented for last week’s show. She told me she was astounded to how it added up.
It sure does.
Competing is expensive…but can be oh….so rewarding! Happy Prepping!