With a new year around the corner, 2018 goals are top of mind for many of us. Our new #ThisIsTheYear series is a collection of stories about professionals who recently achieved major career or fitness goals along with their advice on how you can do the same in 2018. We are pleased to launch the series with Christina's story.
After gazing at some of your favorite athletes on Instagram or following a friend’s progress shots on Facebook for a period, you begin to wonder: Between work, travel, and other commitments in your life, is a bodybuilding show right for you?
Christina Moore, a fundraising consultant currently living in Houston, asked herself that same question in 2016. A former NCAA Division I rower at Creighton University, Christina’s previous athletic achievements also included a second place finish in a powerlifting show. Yet still, another goal loomed before her – a bodybuilding show.
“The inkling to step on stage was there, but I was really terrified and doubted my ability to do it,” says Christina. “So, as odd as it may seem, my main motivation was to prove myself wrong and go out and do something I was pretty terrified of doing.”
Christina’s previous reservations are understandable. Unlike other competitions like the marathon, bodybuilding shows require participants to display athletic prowess along with a very precise physique. (Read more about the different requirements for male and female show categories here.) To achieve this, competitors must be 100% committed to exercise AND diet for at least 20 weeks. Because Christina had to cut significant weight to transition from powerlifting to a leaner competition physique, her prep time was twice as long at 42 weeks.
Furthermore, Christina’s job is not a typical 9-to-5. As a consultant, she regularly relocates across the US to help non-profit organizations raise a lot of money. With relocation comes adjusting to a new environment while putting in extra hours to support colleagues, non-profit leaders, and volunteers throughout a fast-paced fundraising campaign. Yet, Christina took the plunge and entered not one, but three NPC figure shows.
If a bodybuilding competition is on the horizon for you in 2018, here are five things to know before entering a bodybuilding competition along with advice for maintaining a strong body and career while doing it.
Embrace the Extreme
Again, this type of training requires intense dedication and no shortcuts. Christina’s schedule included five days of lifting per week along with daily cardio– all prescribed by her coach. She also had an extremely detailed diet plan. “Specific food, brand, quantity, and preparation, to a T, were written out for me by my competition coach, and I followed it to the exact point,” says Christina. “For example, for 3 oz. of chicken, if the food scale read 3.1, I was shaving off the tiniest portion and putting it back.”
While most athletes fit in a “cheat day” now and then to maintain a little balance and sanity, this is discouraged during show prep. Thus, you sacrifice the activities you normally enjoy, like dining out at restaurants and grabbing drinks with colleagues. In fact, it is often necessary to bring your own food in containers to social and work events. Yes, it is a little extreme. However, as Christina points out, even committing to a portion of the prep difficulty is not worth it because without 100% effort, you won’t achieve the results you desire in the end.
Be Organized and Prepared
Failing to plan is planning to fail and nowhere is this truer than during competition prep. Balancing your time in a way that allows you to complete your job while getting your workouts and meals in can be a challenge. “There were many times I was sitting in my car eating cold chicken and broccoli, or scarfing down a quick meal before going into a meeting,” Christina recalls. Meal timing is critical during show prep, so Christina advises those who travel for work to buy meal prep containers and travel bags. (You can find these items on Amazon.) Also, always pack a few extra meals and supplements so unplanned events, like a flight delay, do not throw you off track. Another word of advice? “Live with a food scale in your bag!”
Set Aside a Budget
Bodybuilding competitions cost more than most people realize. “I would bet that the average competitor spends about $2,000-$5,000 per season, easy,” says Christina. Coaching, training, food, supplements and other costs are normal during prep. The costs of the competition itself include NPC membership card, show entry fee, custom suit, travel, and lodging. In addition, don’t forget that female competitors have to consider expenses for stage heels, hair, and makeup.
Look After Your Emotional Health
“Training, following your coach's orders, sending progress pictures, and weighing in on a weekly basis can make you extremely conscious of your body in a way that for some can become unhealthy,” Christina warns. “I say this seriously because I have friends who have suffered significantly from body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and other health issues that can arise from restricting for so long.” Those with a pre-existing history of these issues should think carefully before entering a bodybuilding show. If you start to experience urges to restrict, binge, or purge at any point pre- or post-show, seek immediate help from a mental health professional.
While there is a time-crunch during show prep, it is helpful to schedule time where you can for self-care. Get a lot of rest, meditate, and set aside a few minutes per day for a relaxing hobby outside of fitness.
Focus on the Positive Ripple Effects
For all of it's challenges, competing can build more than just your physical strength. When asked what she gained from her show experience, Christina exclaims, “I could write a book! But most importantly, I learned I can do anything. I set my sights on a goal, attacked it with everything I had, and accomplished it. It was all under my control to step on that stage; I just had to put in the work. That lesson translates to life and career.”
Christina’s first show has also made a positive impact on her career. “I've always been an organized person who manages time well, but this took it to another level. I had nearly every hour of every day scheduled to a T, with meals, supplements, meetings, workouts, office time, etc. It was great and has positively impacted my career.”
Although she is currently taking a well-deserved break from competing, Christina believes entering a bodybuilding show was one of the best decisions she has ever made in her life. Her advice to anyone who is considering following in her footsteps? “Go for it! You will have the time of your life. Be proud of every step you take towards your goal and don't look at show day as the ‘end goal.’ Take each day as it comes, and enjoy the external and internal transformation!”