Line up at NABBA NI 2011

So you have decided you would like to enter a figure competition or perhaps you are in two minds on whether to or not?  Well once you have made the decision to compete, you will find there are several things that you need to think about.

In this article I will cover the top 10 things you need to consider, but first off I will tell you that you need to plan and plan well in advance.

Failure to plan, is planning to fail

Depending on how much bodyfat you have  to lose you may have to start dieting anywhere from 12 to 20 weeks out from the competition.  It is better to lose it slowly at approximately 1lb per week.  For my first competition I dieted for 17 weeks and lost around 18lbs. Even if you imagine that you’re athletic now, you must spend at least a few months to get in even better condition.

1: Select the competition

You’re going to need to learn where and when events are taking place. To find out this kind of detail, the best thing you can do is go online.   The UK federations include UKBFF, NABBA, and BNBF – check out the complete list on MuscleTalk.  Make sure you read the competition guidelines as different federations have different rules regarding suits, posing routines, music, etc.  Also look up the photo galleries from past events to see the calibre of past competitors.

REMEMBER TO JOIN THE FEDERATION AND REGISTER FOR THE EVENT.

2: Plan your Diet

Your dieting needs will be particular to you so I can only give general advice.  If you are not using a coach and planning your eating yourself remember not to drop the calories too low especially early on, this will result in your hitting a plateau which will be very hard to get past.  This is why you want to start dieting as far out from the competition as you can so calories can be dropped slowly giving your body time to reset it’s metabolic set point.

You could start your daily calorie intake at 12 x your body weight in lbs.  You will then only drop calories once you stop making progress and when you do, only drop them by 100 per day.  For example, if you are eating 2,000 calories a day when you stop making progress the following week you would eat 1,900 calories a day.  I say stop making progress and not losing weight as there will be some weeks the scales will not move but perhaps you will lose 1/2 an inch from your waist – do not rely solely on the scales for progress because they lie (this is a whole other article).  See this site for some further advice on how to calculate your macronutrient intake.

3: Pick your Supplements

There are supplements for everything on the market, pre-workout, during workout, post workout, early morning, late evening, to name a few and because of this how many you are going to take is a personal decision, between you and your bank balance.  You can find some more information on different supplements from bodybuilding.com.  I take a multivitamin daily, fish oils, whey protein, l’glutamine and BCAAS.

4: Plan your Training

Your training routine will be dictated by your own schedule, but I would suggest you find time to train every muscle group once per week.  Stick to the heavy weights and a low to medium rep range.  You may have people telling you to up your reps into the 15-20 range and drop your weights, but this will only have your body cannibalising your hard earned muscle due to the calorie deficit you are in.  This is bad as you are aiming to lose body fat while conserving muscle.

Use it or Lose it!

This is the catch phrase to keep in mind.  You need to keep lifting heavy so your body knows that you need the muscle.

When it comes to cardio I would say use it sparingly and when you do incorporate it either use HIIT, metabolic workouts or walking, no hours of jogging or stair mastering.

5: Suit(s)

This is where you are best spending some money, a good fitting suit can be the icing on the cake of your appearance, while an ill fitting suit can result in points being docked.  You need to think of a suit early on if you want it custom made as there may be a lot of people using the same suit designer and they will need to fit you in.  I had my first suit custom made and I am so glad I did, they are small enough without them gaping in undesirable locations.  Check out Fit for U Bikinis for your suit, shoes and tanning products.

6: Shoes

Heels for figure competition

A joy to walk in


Get heels that match the regulations of the federation you are competing in.  The standard is clear, 5 inch heels.  They can have straps or an open heel and they can have crystals, while platforms are generally discouraged.  Again I got these from Fit or U Bikinis.

 

7: Posing and Music

You need to practice  your posing from day one and you need to practice regularly.  Ideally, try to find a coach, attend a seminar, or get someone who has done it before to assess you and give you pointers.  Also watch videos and DVDs of competitors posing.  You need to be able to do it first of all in front of the mirror, then practice without the mirror and have someone take photos, so you can critique your stance.  Finally, practice it in front of a group of people, as it is only when you feel comfortable walking in 5 inch heels, wearing a very small bikini, holding poses you wouldn’t normally hold, will you look (and feel) confident on stage.

For some competitions you will have to do a routine to music, so pick something you are comfortable with and enjoy listening to as this is something else you will have to practice regularly.  You do not have to be a dancer but simply be able to move from one pose to another gracefully.

8. Jewellery

This is an easy one.  Simple usually works best, although only you will know what suits you.  Again check the federation guidelines.  Earrings and bracelets are good for adding some bling, while necklaces and anklets can be distracting and break up muscle tone lines, you want to avoid anything that detracts from your figure.

9. Tan

You will need to be tanned for the day of the competition.  How you achieve your tan is up to you, I personally got mine from a bottle.  When you are ordering tan remember you will need a number of coats so make sure you get enough.  I have added links for the products I bought; I put on 5 coats of pro-tan starting 3 days out from the competition, then on the day I put on the dream tan (always go for red bronze even if you are blonde).  Bikini bite is good for keeping your suit in place.

10: Hair, Make-up, Nails and Waxing

This last tip is about completing the package.  I realise by this point competing is looking quite expensive and in truth it is.  So how much you want to spend on each of these is a personal decision.

I did my own make-up but remember you will be on stage and you don’t want to be washed out looking.  Also you do not tan your face so make sure you get a darker foundation for the day.  I would suggest doing a practice run.

For hair I had mine up out of the way, which I was glad of because it was one less thing for me to worry about on the day.  But other competitiors had theirs down and that looked lovely too.

I got fake nails but in all honesty I think they were a waste of money.  As far as waxing goes I would suggest you should wax instead of shave at least a week before the show.  And don’t forget to get your arm pits done, I tried shaving mine the night before and lets just say it made a real mess of my tan – never again!

Bonus Tip: Network, network, network

Once you have picked the competition and the division you want to compete in try to find people who are doing the same.  This can be in person, for instance when I competed in NABBA I contacted the local organiser and he put me in touch with the previous years winner, who was more than willing to discuss hints and tips with me.  Some local gyms will have people who compete every year and will be able to put you in touch with them.  Check out if there are any workshops or seminars being run locally as these are a great place to meet people, Finally, online is another way to connect with like-minded people,  via resources such as forums and social networks.

After the Competition:

Competing in a figure competition may just be the best thing that you will ever do, however it is not just about the competition it is about you.  Regardless of whether you place or not, enjoy the journey to the competition, atmosphere and the buzz of the day, and speak to other competitors to get advice and motivation for the next one.

Remember, even though you may want to binge for a few days after your competition your body is not used to eating like that anymore and you will pile on the pounds if you binge for too long.  Set yourself a limit, of say, 3 days and after this go back to clean eating.

Good luck and please let me know how you get on.

Metabolic Training is becoming a very popular method of working out, you may of heard of CrossFit which is an extreme type of metabolic training.  The popularity of these workouts is due to the number of calories that can be burnt during the workout, the short amount of time the workouts take to complete, and the increased calories burnt after the workout due to their high intensity nature.  I have been incorporating metabolic workouts into my training routine ever since reading The Metabolic Effect Diet by Jade and Keoni Teta.

Metabolic Training is one of the most effective ways to burn fat.  It involves completing compound exercises, such as squats and chest press, in quick succession which leads to burning a high number of calories not only during the workout but also for up to 72 hours afterwards.  The workouts typically take anywhere from 12 to 25 mins to complete.  They are ideal for intermediate to advanced fitness enthusiasts.  You will be pushed not only anaerobically but aerobically because the exercises are designed to get you out of breath due to their high intensity.  There are also hormonal benefits from strength training at a high intensity which promotes “lipolysis” (the medical term for fat loss).  Metabolic workouts can also incorporate plyometric exercises, examples of these can be found in Insanity: The Ultimate Cardio Workout and Fitness DVD Programme, specifically in the insanity plyometric cardio circuit.  I have completed this and I can tell you it is tough.

The following is an example metabolic workout using exercise supersets:

  1. 10-15 reps squat into shoulder press
  2. 10-15 reps squat jumps holding dumbbells
  3. 10-15 reps dumbbell lunge into dumbbell lateral raise
  4. 10-15 reps bicep curls followed by tricep dips

Each exerise in a superset should be completed back to back with no rest between the exercises, i.e. for exercise 1 perform a squat and then push up into a shoulder press.  The idea is to move from one exercise to the next with minimal rest in between exercises, perhaps 30 – 45 seconds.  It is important to maintain good form to reduce the risk of injury so if that is starting to drop then a rest is essential.  For this particular workout you would aim to complete 4 or 5 complete circuits, where a circuit is one entire round through the 4 exercise supersets outlined.

If you are interested in trying this type of training you can get some some detailed information on the benefits of metabolic training and eating from  The Metabolic Effect Diet, if you prefer to workout with a demonstrator then Insanity: The Ultimate Cardio Workout and Fitness DVD Programme will provide you with a ton of workouts to complete, alternatively BODYROCK.tv is an excellent resource for daily free timed metabolic workouts, and of course you could always join your local CrossFit classes.

Please share any other good resources you have found for Metabolic Training in the comments below.

One of the best ways to keep on track with your nutrition plan is to be prepared.  My personal nutrition plan includes 3 meals and 3 or 4 snacks every day.  In order to avoid having to make choices when I am hungry I always have some healthy snacks sitting in my kitchen ready to grab.

It is inevitable that as you lose fat you will be hungry, but if you are prepared then the choices you will make when snacking will be healthy ones that compliment your lifestyle choices rather than sabotage them.

English: Alaska wild berries from the Innoko N...

English: Alaska wild berries from the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These are my top healthy go to snacks:

  1. Boil up a few eggs and store in the fridge: I would eat 1 or 2 of these for a snack, they will provide you with protein and healthy fats
  2. Defrost some berries: I usually have a bowl of these sitting in the fridge, they can be eaten on their own or added to a smoothie
  3. Make some sugar free jelly: now the healthy aspect of these is debatable because of the artifical sweeteners but I find them very useful for when I want something sweet, they are very good mixed with a TBSP of Greek yoghurt and defrosted berries
  4. Cottage cheese: this is great as either a savoury or sweet snack – with chopped vegetables such as carrots it is a handy dip or with berries it makes a sweet snack, it is also a good source of protein.
  5. Protein powder:  for a very quick snack I would always reach for the protein powder, 1 scoop mixed with water or sometimes milk.  Alternatively, add it to some fruit and make a smoothie.

I will add to this list as time goes on, but I would love to hear of other peoples go to snacks, please add yours to the comments below.

 

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NEWSFLASH: becoming a slave to the scales will not help in your quest to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

If you are one of these people who steps on the scales every morning, and I have been there, then it is best you break that habit early on.  There will be days when the scale does not move even when you are doing all your workouts and sticking to your diet 100%.  In fact, when you initally embark on a weight lifting routine, you may even see the scale go up as you start to build some muscle.  Don’t panic.

I know most people would like to see the scales going down as they want to lose some weight and if the scales do not move or move in the supposed wrong direction it can be very disheartening.  But remember this, (I believe) you are not exercising and eating healthy to be a certain weight, you want to lose fat and look better.  If you put on muscle, not only does muscle take up less space than fat and so you appear slimmer at the same weight but muscle is more metabolicly active so you need more calories to maintain your weight.  In this case the scales are not always the best way to measure your progress.    There are other ways you can measure your success, in conjunction with the scales, and I would advise trying at least one of these:

Before and After Photos:

Take a set of photos from the front, side and rear in swim wear, best if it’s a bikini.  But if you cant face that at less try some tight fitting clothes.  Photos do not lie and it will be rewarding to see how you body is changing.  Try to take a set of progress photos every 2 weeks and compare them – sometimes if nothing else is changing you will see some improvement in posture or shape.

Tape Measurements:

Using a measuring tape and noting the size of some key areas can be a good way of measuring success.  I would suggest chest, waist, umbilical, hips, bum, thighs and top of arms.  If the scales do not move but you have lost an inch on your bum I would doubt you’ll be unhappy.

Clothing:

I would think a lot of us have a piece of clothing we would either like to get back into or have bought in the hope of being able to wear, well now is the time to put that item to work.  One point I would make is that if you are a size 12 and the item is a size 6 that might not be the best item to select, try for an item one size smaller than you are now.  Try it on once a fortnight and you may be pleasantly surprised.  I find that hanging a lovely piece of clothing in plain view everyday that I can’t wear yet is an excellent motivator.

So there you have it 4 ways (scales, tape, photos and clothing) to measure your success.  It does take time for the body to adjust to a new lifestyle so be patient and don’t give up

Body Mass Index (BMI) has been utilised by the medical profession as a pointer of adult health and wellness in terms of the ratio of their height and weight. Excessive weight places a person at significantly greater risk of developing a large range of health concerns, for instance heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, high blood pressure and kidney disease, while being under a healthy weight can increase their risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis ), and iron deficiency among other things. I have more information at my hub

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This is a recipe I have been using recently when I fancy something that tastes like I shouldn’t be eating it. It is a very simple dessert and all you will need to make it is a blender and a fridge.

With 25g of healthy fats it may not suit everyone’s macro-nutrients, but it is full of goodness and extremely tasty. To bump up the number of grams of protein I suggest adding a scoop of protein powder per dessert.

To reduce the number of grams of fat you could use low fat coconut milk or make the portions smaller. Find the recipe here on HubPages – I hope you enjoy it.