Prepping for Prep

Do you compete? When are you stepping onstage? Are you prepping for something?

If you workout in any commercial gym, chances are you have been asked one or all of these questions. Living in Boise ID, the headquarters of Bodybuilding.com, the number of ‘competitors’ or at least people who follow the sport of bodybuilding in general, seems extremely high. It was only about 3 or 4 months after I moved to Boise from Bozeman that I was asked ‘if I compete’. I had previously been a marathon runner and I was still more focused on training to avoid injury than to build muscle. I definitely felt the pressure to eventually step on a stage and compete – however, I also felt that it was a major compliment to be asked that. It means that you look like you work hard, know your way around the gym, and have built a decent physique.

Before you submit to peer pressure about doing a show or commit to doing one because your trainer says to, there are a few things you should know… and these are things I wish I would’ve fully appreciated before I started competing.

  • Cost
    • Let’s face it, bodybuilding shows are expensive. You have show entry fees, tanning, the suit (for women these suits are $200-$1000!), travel costs, an annual membership fee for whichever federation you compete in, food for your meal prep, and a trainer/coach if you are using one
  • Time
    • This includes the time you spend in the gym weightlifting and doing cardio, if you are doing cardio at a separate time of day, time spent meal prepping, and time for posing practice. This is all time that you could be spending with your family and friends.
  • Mental Aspect
    • If you have ever talked to or followed someone who competes, they will tell you one of the hardest parts of competing is seeing your body ‘stage lean’ versus ‘offseason’. Keeping your body in the body fat range required to be on stage is not only unhealthy, it’s unrealistic. Many competitors end up with varying levels of body dysmorphia – a body image disorder that involves a preoccupation with an imagined defect in your body’s appearance. Another factor to keep in mind is that you are very literally stepping onstage to be judged by strangers. They know you have worked hard and struggled through, but they are only there to judge you based on your appearance. This can damage anyone’s confidence.
  • Food
    • There are so many different ways to prep food during a competition prep – there are proponents of strict dieting in which you eat the same thing multiple times a day for days on end, there are those that follow IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), and those that fall somewhere in the middle. I can tell you that I generally fall in the middle, and I even have a meal prep sponsor (@Feedmyfit). The most important thing to keep in mind, is that everyone else around you continues to live and eat as normal. That means family dinners, company BBQs, birthdays, and holidays. The willpower that is required to maintain your diet is nothing to joke about. However, you should also remember that just because you are dieting, doesn’t mean you need to take it out on your family and friends by making them feel bad for eating ‘normal food’, or become a complete hermit and avoid everyone. The key is planning.

I will end by saying that I love competing, and I have built more confidence in my body and in my willpower by doing so. That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been difficult or trying on some of my relationships with friends, family, and coworkers. I believe that if you are well educated and have realistic expectations going into competing, it can be an amazing opportunity for personal growth. On the other hand, if you know yourself and you know that these things will cause too much stress, then don’t force yourself into something because your fellow gym-goers think you should.

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