I have recently competed in my first ever bikini-fitness competition, and I loved it.
I loved it so much that I jumped into another one just 8 days later! I came third, and despite the norm being only the winner qualifies for the UKBFF British Finals, I did too. Because the standard in my class (Junior Bikini) was so high!
Having stepped on stage for the first time, I felt so incredibly accomplished. No, I did not place. But I had managed to get my body in the best condition that it has even been in, and stand on stage in front of hundreds of people wearing just a bikini. I was so happy for the girls who DID place, and I did not feel upset at all! There was absolutely no bitterness or hard feeling backstage that I could sense, which showed how wrong the stigma of backstage cattiness is! All the girls were helping and complimenting each other, and I have become close friends with a lot of them!
Often your friends just don’t ‘get’ the whole health and fitness thing. They don’t understand how you can ENJOY spending time in the gym, saying no to a second slice of cake, and tracking macros. Being introduced to people who share similar lifestyles to you is brilliant, and it seems that you just ‘click’ straight away. You can share your favourite recipes using protein powder and training techniques without being politely (or not) ignored. They are TRULY interested, and when discussing these things, you can continue without worrying that you are boring them.
The build-up was incredibly challenging.
Yes, there were days during prep when I felt horrendous, but these were rare and they greatly strengthened my mind and showed me how far I really can push my body. Mindset is everything, and if you are not in a good mental place when you go into prep, you will crumble. You learn so much about yourself during prep. People do always say this, but let’s delve deeper.
You come to realise how powerful your mind is.
You learn how to tolerate things, how to get sh*t done even when you literally feel like all you can do is lie in bed watching chick flicks (with even the thought of this sometimes being draining). You come to realise how powerful your mind is, and this furnishes you with the skills to push through when times get tough in any aspect of your life. Your levels of discipline and persistence are through the roof during competition prep. These characteristics are transferable to anything, really. You put the work in EVERY day, yet results are not seen every day. But you keep pushing, because you know that in the long term, it will happen. You will make it happen. You can see anything through, and it really is so rewarding at the end.
Typically, people associate competition prep with a meal plan and meal prep. I did neither of those. I did not restrict foods, and I continued to eat what I enjoyed. Some people eat the same, boring foods during their prep, however it does not need to be done in that way! You can track macros and still get equally good results. You can eat chocolate, and still get results. And yes, that does include Reece’s.
Eating out? Not an issue. Yes, precision is very important during contest prep, however doing it rarely and remaining focused on the goal will NOT affect your progress. Unless you are one week out, of course. That’s when precision really is key.
Speaking of one week out, let’s talk about mine. Well, in the end I had two ‘one week out’s in a row. Two ‘peak weeks’, as they say. Usually, people manipulate sodium, potassium, water, carbs… the list goes on. Did I? No.
Myself and my coach both believe in evidence-based training and nutrition. And the evidence behind doing any of these manipulations is minimal. In fact, doing this can cause you to look WORSE! Imagine that, after all your hard work – dieting for weeks on end – you manipulate your water intake the week before your competition and it makes you look fluffy and watery! No. Thank. You! It is risky and, quite frankly, unhealthy! I am all about BALANCE and I have always promised myself I will never do anything I am not comfortable with or anything that is unhealthy. This is my life and I don’t want to cause myself health problems just for a sport. It should be FUN and something that I love doing. If I don’t do well, it’s not the end of the world! Competing should be enjoyable.
Let’s talk about post-show eats.
People who follow a restrictive and low calorie diets tend to drastically overeat. There are cases of people who gain 30 pounds in 2 weeks. They were deprived during prep and feel the need to eat EVERYTHING! Just think, the human body cannot tell whether you are a caveman being starved to death, or a person dieting for a bodybuilding competition. The physiology is the same.
Post-comp, I had absolutely no cravings and still don’t today. I included all the foods I liked during my prep and ensured that I did not eat so many of them that it would prevent me from hitting my macros. Of course I ate delicious foods on the days of both competitions, but I didn’t go overboard and stopped before I felt sick!
Similar to runners, competitors do face post-competition blues. Bodybuilding is a sport, and very much relatable to the training of a marathon runner. After the runner has done their marathon, they will switch up their training and diet in order to ensure they recover properly. Similarly, bodybuilders must recover their metabolism and take themselves out of a caloric deficit in order to ensure their metabolisms are 100% fixed in the case that they have been damaged. There is such a large build-up to both events that when they are over, competitors can feel lost. Some marathon runners desire to keep their training up to maintain their fitness, and some competitors want to do the same to stay at their level of leanness.
I have seen a very high volume of recently recovered eating disorder patients go ‘into prep’, potentially as a way to continue striving for an unmaintainable body fat percentage. And that’s what it is: unmaintainable. It’s incredibly important to realise this before you even begin thinking about doing a bodybuilding competition. In my opinion, it is really important that people realise that being at a competitor’s body fat level is not a long-term thing. It is simply for one day. Just like the marathon runner trains for race day, the body builder trains for show day.
This is something that I make incredibly clear to my followers and it is a message which I wish was shared more by competitors, rather than taking hundreds of photos while they’re lean and staggering them throughout the year – this is simply giving off the wrong idea! To compete, you need to love your body. You need to love how you look before you’ve even lost a gram of body fat.
Competing is the new black, which may not be such a good thing.
At the moment everyone wants to compete in a bikini competition. There is so much information out there with regards to drastic fat loss and the glamorous side of the competition, however the dark side of prep and post-comp struggles are rarely shown.
After the competition, you WILL gain body fat. You WILL look a little ‘fluffier’, but equally you WILL be able to eat more and be able to progress further in the gym. You will be able to improve your body in order to bring an even better package than the time before, and that is exciting!
Competing has taught me so much. I have honestly learned so much about myself and I now understand how strong a person I am. My confidence has increased drastically and I feel comfortable in myself no matter how I look (during the deepest stages of prep, the under-eye bags are REAL). Getting all glammed up on competition day is just a minor fraction of it. Bodybuilding is about the journey to AND from the stage, rather than just the couple of minutes you are standing ON the stage.
What are your thoughts on bikini competitions? Share by commenting below!