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What You Should Know About Competing At National Competitions!

Several years ago, if someone told me that at some point in the near future I would be entering figure competitions, I would have laughed in their face. Well everyone, here I am doing what I once thought was impossible; what was once only a dream to me.

Several years ago, if someone told me that at some point in the near future I would be entering figure competitions, I would have laughed in their face. I would have laughed until my stomach hurt and until tears streamed down my face. But more than anything, I would have been crying on the inside wishing that it were true all the while never imagining it even remotely possible.

Well everyone, here I am doing what I once thought was impossible; what was once only a dream to me. I proved a lot of people wrong, including that pessimistic little girl that lives inside of me. I am no different or braver than anyone else - I simply made up my mind to do this once and for all and everything else eventually just fell into place.

Why I Decided To Compete At Nationals...

This past May, I competed in my first figure competition and ended up taking third place. After the shock wore off and my cheeks stopped hurting from smiling so much, I started thinking about what my next course of action should be. I knew there was a National show coming up in August and that the top 3 girls in each height class would receive their Pro card. Quite honestly, I knew that I was not ready to compete in a National show. I knew that I had made significant changes in my physique, but I also knew that I had been consistently working out for just a few months and if I did choose to enter this show, I would be going up against girls that have been doing this for years!

My before & after pictures.

After going back and forth for days, trying to weigh the pros and cons, I decided to go ahead and do it! Being overweight most of my life, I was constantly afraid of something. I was afraid of people staring at me, or talking about me behind my back. I was afraid of being in social situations yet also afraid of being alone. Basically - I was afraid of everything and I made a decision not too long ago that I was not going to live my life that way any longer. If I felt scared, or panic stricken, I was going to deal with it and face it head on. If I was afraid of something then I would take all of that energy and redirect it. That afternoon, I mailed in my application to compete in the Figure National Championships.

I had done some research on what it was like competing at the National level and I read over and over again that competing at the local level and competing at the National level is completely different. So, upon mailing in my application - I told myself that I was entering this show for educational purposes only and I needed to do this without any expectations in mind. I decided that I would take advantage of the opportunity to compete at this level so early and to learn all that I could from this experience and put it to use when I entered my next national show, somewhere down the line.

Also, because I was feeling a little overwhelmed and frightened, I knew I needed to do something to ensure that I actually went through with this and did not chicken out at the last minute. That is when I ordered tickets to the show for my friends and family and told them to make the appropriate changes to their schedules at work, if need be. I knew that if for instance, my mother and father both took the day off from work in order to come to my show, I would not disappoint them. Once I mailed in that order form to purchase tickets, I knew that I was going to do this!

Tell Me Again... Why Am I Doing This??

While preparing for my first show, whenever I was a little stressed out or fatigued, a few friends told me not to worry, because preparing for my first competition would be the most difficult and although it never gets easy, it does get a little easier. Well, let me tell you - for the record - my friends are liars! Big ones too! Ok, maybe I am being a bit harsh here, but personally, I found it to be much more difficult the second time around.

Maybe because I was anticipating how much harder it was going to get those last few weeks - or maybe it was because I was getting ready for this show in the beginning of the summer and I was missing out on so many BBQ's and parties. Whatever the case may be, I must have questioned my reasons for doing this every single day for the last 5 weeks, if not longer. The fatigue I experienced was almost unbearable and there were times that I fell asleep at my desk while at work.

On top of the terrible fatigue - I had mood swings that were in a league of their own. One minute I was happy and anxious to talk to anyone who would listen - about my preparation, my training or my diet. A minute later I would be hysterical crying and an emotional mess. So I figure it out to be, approximately 10% of the time I was babbling a mile a minute and approximately another 10% of the time I was crying. The other 80% of the time my mood was fairly consistent, I was just a raving B**TCH!

My boyfriend's patience wore very thin, as did the rest of my friends' and family's. Personally, I don't know how the people who are closest to me put up with me because in retrospect - if I put myself in their shoes, it would have been very difficult for me to remain as patient and understanding as they did. One of the many things a competitor learns while getting ready for a show, is the meaning of unconditional love and who in their life will really stick around when times get tough.

The whole process involved for someone entering a bodybuilding, fitness or figure competition, puts a tremendous amount of stress on the people who are closest to them and who frequently interact with them. I think this is an extremely important issue to address for anyone considering competing for the first time. At times, it is just as hard on the people in my life as it is for me. Sometimes, I think it might be even harder on them.

Words cannot express how truly grateful and thankful I am to have so many people in my life who have supported me and encouraged me throughout both of my shows. There are so many little things, as well as big things to worry about during the entire preparation process, and having people by my side who at least try to understand all that I am feeling and going through, makes it that much easier.

How Can They Forget The Syrup?

The morning of my competition, I woke up at approximately 4:30am and began what would prove to be one of the longest days of my life. I started applying my Pro-Tan and then began to go through the checklist I had made the night before of things I needed to pack. I then did my hair and makeup and started bringing my bags out to the car. I am going to backtrack a little - about 3 weeks out from my contest, I received an email from my nutritionist that detailed what my diet would consist of the final week, up to and including the day of the show.

I screamed in delight when I read that the morning of my show, my breakfast would consist of 2 medium size pancakes with LOTS and LOTS of syrup and butter! My final week, all I could think about was how good those pancakes and syrup would taste. With that said, I could not get out of my house fast enough that morning - to go get my pancakes! My boyfriend and I went to the McDonald's drive through before getting on the highway to begin our drive to NYC, only ironically enough, as we pulled out of the parking lot - when I went to eat, they didn't give me any syrup or butter. Sometimes I think God has a warped sense of humor.

How Many Girls Are There??

Unlike my last competition, we were unable to have anyone with us backstage, so upon arriving at the Tribecca Performing Arts Center, my boyfriend handed me my bags, wished me luck and kissed me goodbye. Little did I know that I would not see him again until much later that evening. I then went backstage for my mandatory competitor meeting. When I walked into the room, I thought I was hallucinating. It is truly incomprehensible how many competitors there were backstage. We were then told where we could change and get ready and that we would not be going on stage until the bodybuilding and the fitness pre-judging was over. In other words, I had plenty of time to kill.

The amount of girls competing in figure, outnumbered the men's and women's bodybuilding AND the fitness competitors, combined! This was the biggest turn out they have ever had. Out of the four height classes, my class (the tall class), had the most competitors - there were over 60 of us. I know I had said that I had no expectations going into this show, and I honestly didn't.

However, it was a very humbling experience, walking into a room with well over 100 girls that were among the finest athletes I have ever seen. Simply put, their conditioning was incredible! I had felt pretty confident up until this moment, but now, I was truly questioning my being there. On top of feeling a little out of place, I didn't know a single soul! A lot of these girls knew each other and had competed together in the past, on more than one occasion. So, not only was I feeling out of place, but I also felt very alone.

It was then that a group of girls from Florida started talking to me. Suddenly, I felt a little less uncomfortable and a little less alone. It turns out that not only were these girls nice, but they were funny too and shortly thereafter I knew that I had made new friends. Whether they knew it or not, these girls are what helped keep me sane that day.

Will The Pre-Judging Ever End?

My last show, prejudging was over at approximately 1:00pm and that takes all the competitors into account. Well, I guess the main reason why I entered this show was to gain experience at the National level, and boy, did I ever! Pre-judging at this show did not end until approximately 4:30pm and we had to be back to get ready for the night show at 6:00pm. Most of us were truly exhausted and in a little bit of pain. We were all on stage for extremely long periods of time and we had to keep everything flexed and tight the entire time.

Click To Enlarge!

Anyone that has ever posed before will tell you that you know you are doing it right if you get tired while doing it. On top of that, add standing in 5 inch heels into that equation and basically you come out with over 100 extremely tired women! Also, the required quarter turns that we do are not very comfortable positions to hold. It puts a lot of pressure on your lower back and after doing this for so long, all you heard backstage were the moans and groans of the girls in pain. All except for the girls that got the first call out in the comparison round, the rest of us just wanted it to be over. We all worked so hard to get there and you try to enjoy it while you are on stage - but I think it was nearly impossible to do at this particular show mainly due to the amount of competitors.

After the pre-judging was over, I went into the auditorium to finally see my boyfriend and my family, where I was greeted with donuts and candy! I had reserved a room at a nearby hotel in order to rest a little bit between pre-judging and the night show, although there really wasn't much time for that. In any case, my boyfriend and I went back to the hotel to relax for about an hour. The girls from Florida I had met earlier in the day were staying at the same hotel and we ended up meeting in the lobby to go back to the Performing Arts Center together for the night show.

Chocolate, Cookies Or Donuts?

When we got back to the Performing Arts Center, most of the girls were in better spirits because we knew it was almost over and we would all be eating chocolate and cookies soon enough. Upon arriving in our dressing area, we were informed that once again, the figure competitors were to be last on stage. The atmosphere was so much more relaxed than it was during pre-judging and most of the chatter heard backstage was about what we were all going to eat that night. When it was our time to go on stage, they lined all 60-something of us up and then one at a time, they called out our name, where we were from and then we walked off. For those of us that did not make the top 5, our day was finally over.

Backstage, I witnessed dozens of competitors throw all of their discipline and will-power right out the window while they stuffed their faces with cookies, chocolate and donuts. I couldn't help but smile as I glanced around the room. It was a long-awaited moment and a very satisfying one for all of us. I was surprised to see that most girls were hugging and congratulating each other on all of their hard work. I thought there might be a little more "cattiness" backstage - but I was pleasantly surprised at the lack thereof. We all work so hard and sacrifice so much to be able to do this and it was truly heartwarming to see most of the girls giving each other their much earned respect and credit.

Was It All Worth It In The End?

In conclusion, my first National show was a huge success. Although I did not make the top 5 call out, it didn't matter in the least bit. This was only my SECOND show - and there I was, on stage next to girls that have been competing for years! I feel truly blessed that I was even in the same room with some of these women, let alone on the same stage with them. I did exactly what I set out to do and that was to simply learn all that I could and take that knowledge with me to my next competition.

Now I have a better idea as to what I need to work on in order to get that top 5 call out at my next show. So, keep your eyes open for me in the Spring of 2004 when I will make my next appearance on a National stage. One final thought to anyone considering competing for the first time, or considering entering their first national show - Just go for it! I once heard someone say, "You can achieve anything you want in life if you have the courage to dream it, the intelligence to make a realistic plan, and the will to see that plan through to the end." Believe in yourself and all is possible.

There is nothing impossible to him who will try.

- Alexander The Great

Ready to take it to the next level? Check out Will Brink's article:
So You Wanna Be A Fitness Model?