By: Marie Gibbon, IFBB Pro
It’s a new year, which means a new beginning and for all of us a chance to set new goals or a fresh start to reach our old ones. For those of us who compete in physique sports it’s a new beginning: the beginning of a new competition season. For many of you, it brings the decision to compete for the first time.
The first competition is always the hardest, and when you’ll question yourself the most. Veteran competitors are used to the road ahead, the trade-offs, and the hardships. For them, it’s not a hobby but a way of life. First time competitors will wonder if the end justifies the means and if the goal is worth the sacrifices. They will also learn that they are not on the journey alone but have unknowingly brought their family and friends along for the ride.
The most important element to succeed and reach your potential in physique sports is HONESTY. First and foremost, you need to be honest with yourself, and also with your trainer. You will need to honestly evaluate yourself, determine what is required to be “stage-ready”, and what you are willing to give up to get there. From honesty comes trust, and the belief that together with your trainer you can develop and stick to a workout and diet plan. Remember, this isn’t an overnight transition; it will take weeks and even months to transform your body so be patient. You will quickly learn this is a 24-7, 7 day a week commitment.
Diet is the key to success. You have to follow the plan exactly, regardless of well-intentioned advice or well-meaning friends who insist “just have a little”. It will be hard, may hurt, and you will frequently battle cravings and peer pressure. The decision is yours: what do you want more? Pizza, or the winning look on-stage?
When I first started competing, I thought I was very disciplined and ate pretty well except on my designated “cheat” day. On that day I happily indulged in my biggest weakness: ice cream. One of my friends who had already achieved her IFBB Pro card told me her cheat meal (not day, but just a meal) was a grilled chicken salad in a restaurant; she didn’t cook it, so it was considered cheating. This changed my whole outlook on food. Excuses, second-guessing, rationalizing and cheating will only destroy your consistency and slow your progress.
As a first time competitor, you will learn to rely on yourself for motivation and staying true to your goals. For other things, you need to know when to ask for help and one of those is choosing a category to compete in. For men, the choices are limited and clearly defined: bodybuilding or physique. On the other hand women have a variety of choices: bikini, fitness, figure, physique and bodybuilding. Your choice should be based on your goals and personal preferences, but also on your body type and natural aptitudes. One of my friends, Brenda Gabbard from Cincinnati, was convinced she should compete in the bikini class, but even with a great physique couldn’t place highly in events. She was sure she lacked the musculature for figure but after some convincing tried and won both her classes. Choose wisely and never hesitate to ask; as an NPC judge I can easily say all of us judging competitions love this sport and welcome any and all questions.
You should also seek out help with your posing, suits and jewelry and definitely your tan. While seemingly less critical than your physique, a great body can be lost under “bad color” or ineffective posing. Take the time, get some help, and practice – holding a pose when you’re tired, hungry and dehydrated is not as easy as some people make it look.
Competing in a physique sport is not easy. It takes a lot of time and hard work. It will hurt. You will be exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. Belief in yourself is critical – I honestly believe if you can do this you can do anything. You will have the drive, dedication and discipline to take on all obstacles.