04 Dec The Pros of Doing a Bikini Competition
One year ago, I competed in my first bikini competition. Although I manifested a statue-esque golden goddess, I still didn’t veer far from my innate soccer chick persona. After four months of strict dietary and training commitments, I vowed to never do a show again and quickly returned back to soccer training. As a result, I suffered months on end from post competition blues – including severe metabolic syndrome, weight gain of 25 pounds, lack of sleep, loss in self esteem, and increase in eating peanut butter by the jar. Yes, it’s a disease.
And you guessed it: as a coach, I swore to never train someone for a show. Ever. Training and dieting for aesthetics had its way of soul sucking every inch of my essence, making me lose my enjoyment for exercise and the gym, and hone in on constant body dysmorphia.
Now here I am giggling at my drastic change in mindset from anti-competing to “FUCK YES! LET’S COMPETE!” (minus the enthusiasm over eating asparagus and cod). Since last year, I have trained women for several shows, with the most recent client participating in the Jay Cutler Classic in Baltimore, MD. This client, however, differed from my usual roster of mid 20s girls aspiring to achieve itty bitty waists and look good for their douche bag boyfriends.
Meet Laura: A 47-year-old mother of two, fitness store manager, and certified badass.
“Do women my age REALLY compete?” she asked me in our first meeting.
Tempted to slap her across the face then force her to drop and give me 20, I refrained. I didn’t want to scare Laura upon first introduction, but I wanted her to believe in the power of her age – the ability to regain strength and prevail in anything in life. And I get it. A lot of my mom clients use age as a crutch. Excuses like ‘I won’t ever be able to do a push-up’ or ‘I can’t dead lift’ or ‘Menopause destroys lives.’ *Me rolling my eyes and wanting to punch a wall*
So what happened in the end?
800 kettle bell swings, 3 months of sessions 4 days a week, 269 tupperware meals, and 1,000 leopard crawls later, Laura gracefully rocked the stage at her first show. Age is a moot point, don’t ya think? ;-0
Laura taught me that competing can be empowering. It’s not all vegetables, fish, fat burners, and abhorrence for life. In fact, we did none of that. (<—- Clap it up)
But competing can be for EVERYONE, even if you’re a raging bitch suffering through menopause. And believe me, some sessions Laura wanted to chuck a medicine ball at my face. Alas, she put her own face into the ground and got to work.
With anything, competing has its caveats and I’ve written about those here. At the same time, I want people to have a comprehensive grasp on both sides of the spectrum. So without further ado, here are the pros of doing a bikini competition:
1) Makes your life more organized.
Bikini prep is the quintessence of a structured living. If you’ve ever been on a strict nutrition and diet plan, managing time is the only way to be successful. Saturdays and Sundays typically turn into meal prep days instead of hours spent in front of the television. Workouts are catered to first thing in the morning at 6AM sharp before the day arrives and you fail to workout after work due to exhaustion. Or Friday evenings become a date at the bar…the barbell, that is. This level of discipline permeates into your life, propelling you to get your shit together and find a way to make anything happen. And Laura exemplified setting priorities: she worked 6-7 days a week, managed a sportswear store, took care of two sons, and yet, didn’t skip one workout. So yes, anything is possible with proper time management. After all, if you’re reading this blog, you could be working out or prepping food for the week. But thank you for reading 😉
2) Builds self esteem and confidence.
Sure, a surge in confidence initially comes from the aesthetics changes during prep – but also from the mental toughness gained along the way. Waking up at 5am to fit in your workout before the day’s distractions? Orderly prepping your meals on the weekends when you could be having fun with your friends? Breaking your dead lift personal record? Grinding out your first pull-up? High volume strength training – the core of any bikini prep – magically boosts confidence. Laura reported feeling the strongest she’s ever felt in her life, and this elevated her self-esteem more than the seeing her weekly progress photos. Hard work also radiates externally. Your friends are now asking you for advice when they notice your hard work. Or guys are coming out of the woodwork asking you on a date. How can those NOT make you feel good???
3) Shows you new training methods.
We’ve all hit a plateau in our training. Can’t lose weight. Can’t build much more muscle. Can’t lose anymore body fat. Anything and everything we try seems to be like pushing a boulder up Mount Everest. If you’re a strength training novice, embarking on the bikini prep journey is sure to yield you tremendous results. Any stimuli – being hypertrophy training, cardio, interval work, and then heavy strength training – will sizzle your system and build a lean physique. For those of you who have done some form of resistance training, then you will blossom into progressive overload queens. And this is when the real fun begins – with varying rep and set schemes for the major lifts (squats, dead lifts, hip thrusts) or challenging progressions for accessory lifts, such as lever arm manipulation, force vector angles, and dumbbell complexes. Whatever your level, you’re bound to reap newfound training knowledge.
4) Lets you know what you are capable of doing.
Being able to summon our willpower and dive right into the fire is not something we do at the bat of an eyelash. For most, it takes being on a structured plan with an end goal. The goal could be to win your bikini class, break your hip thrust personal record, get 5 real pull-ups, or simply, do things you’ve never imagined. In the first week of training, Laura was hip thrusting a meager 65 pounds. When we hit her Peak Week, I decided to have her max out on all of the big lifts. Being the strength and conditioning coach that I am, WHY THE HELL NOT have a test week?!?! Peak week = test week, right?? Instead of focusing on the provincial peak week guidelines of dehydration and looking like a human prune, or taking dandelion root capsules at 5:51PM every night, we went down the beaten path. I wanted Laura feeling strong, confident, and empowered to step on stage, so what better way than to show her how much she can hip thrust and dead lift? And trust me, her physique definitely didn’t wither away. Her dead lift PR came in at 185 pounds and hip thrust at 210 pounds, all after a 12-week program. Here is Laura performing her 1RM hip thrust 3 days out from her show:
Done correctly, a bikini competition can be a gratifying experience. But please understand one thing: it’s not about the prize. Sure it’s nice to receive a sword and trophy, but they will just sit in the corner of your closet and collect cob webs. Where we get to keep the good stuff lies internally: the passion, the discipline, the motivation. A year later, I still possess a fierce drive and positive mindset that anything can be accomplished. Except for destroying the CrossFit cult.
People ask me if I will ever step on stage again, and I’m sure you’re curious after reading this post. My answer: probably. I will never rule out the possibility that this would happen, especially because I realize that we are capable of anything. But the reality is, whether that is for on stage or on the soccer field, I will always, ALWAYS train for performance, not looks.