By Dean Brandt (@DeanBrandt365)
We know that living your life by a schedule can feel frustrating, regimented, and downright annoying, but more often than not it can also be incredibly satisfying and rewarding. Setting a strict deadline for yourself can be the limit-pusher you need, encouraging you to achieve those goals you’ve been procrastinating about for weeks (or months, or years!). If a fitness competition has always been at the bottom of your to-do list, then it’s time to bump it up to priority number one. The time is now to make your dreams a reality — just ensure you do it right. Here are the seven things you absolutely need to do before you take the stage.
Search the internet and social media feeds for experts who can guide you to success, and tap into any other resources you’re lucky enough to have. If friends, family members, or even co-workers have already participated in a fitness competition, they may be able to offer unique advice, as well as prep and day-of dos and don’ts. It’s also wise to check out a few shows before your own. You can see how they’re run, and you can learn more about the different federations that you can compete in. Go with the organization and show that best suits your needs.
Invest In An Expert
Every great athlete has a coach, and a great coach always has answers when you need them. A professional coach will also keep you on track and provide the right feedback to help you constantly improve, which means that who you hire is a crucial decision. Coaching someone for a 12- to 16-week contest prep program requires a special set of skills, and not just any personal trainer will do. Competing is a process, and you can only truly understand it by going through the motions yourself, so find a coach who has personal experience with the biz. A coach who knows the grind will get you through your toughest days. When your diet gets frustrating, your program seems too hard, and you want to give up, this will be the person who understands and pushes you to be your best.
Choose The Right Category
Trying to win the Bodybuilding category when you’re tall and skinny is going to be a challenge, just as becoming the Men’s Physique champion is going to be near impossible if you’re short and stocky around the midsection. Pick the category that’s right for your body type, and be realistic. Being a bodybuilder may be your dream, but you have to start somewhere. Begin with the lighter weight categories and work your way up as your career develops.
Budget For Your Health
As with all other semi-pro and amateur competitions, you will unfortunately have to pay your own way until you make it to the professional level and get noticed. Know that competing is an investment in yourself, so it’s important to budget properly. Some of the big costs you should be aware of include your trainer’s rate, tanning, professional photos, supplements, and, of course, food. Ultimately, competing is a lifestyle. You won’t go out for dinner as much, you cut costs by nixing booze, and you’ll save some extra cash when you blacklist fast food. The money that you save by discarding bad habits will be a huge help in offsetting the costs of your new, healthier lifestyle.
Register, Register, Register!
You’ll never compete if you don’t take the leap and register for a show! Start by choosing an organization to compete with and selecting the show that’s the best fit for you. Make sure that you give yourself the right amount of time to prepare; 12 to 16 weeks is optimal. The longer you plan (and stick with it), the smoother the process will be.
Pay Attention To Detail
As your program develops, you’ll find you have little energy to spare, so it’s important to take care of the smaller things early on to help keep your stress levels low. Book your pre-show spray tanning service, your hotel room, and other travel arrangements well in advance to minimize the chaos.
Play To Win
You’re devoting a significant amount of time to your training, dieting, and preparation for the show, so you may as well play to win! Before you register, know that you will have to work hard, day in and day out, and that you will constantly be pushed outside your comfort zone. If you think you can handle that, then sign up, start prepping, and be sure to give it your all. Now you have all of the tools necessary to help you step up on stage in just a few short months. Increase your chance of success by doing your research, finding the right coach, budgeting properly, and registering for your show in plenty of time. Are you up to the challenge?
Dean Brandt is a trainer and fitness writer. He co-owns Body by Brandt with his wife, Leigh.