Deloading; My First Experience (From the perspective of someone who has previously trained for aesthetics rather than strength)

Deloading is something that powerlifters are incredibly familiar with, but for those of us who have come at fitness from a different angle, it is a wholly unfamiliar territory. Working out at a gym where several people compete in powerlifting competitions, I had both heard the term and seen it practiced before I experienced it myself and I can’t say it was ever something I wished was in my program before!

But, what is a deload? A deload is a deliberate and programmed reduction in training volume and/or intensity. Its purpose is to enable you to recover from intense previous workouts and improve your future training sessions. Deload weeks in powerlifting training typically end with a ‘test’ on your compound lifts, whether this be a new one rep max attempt or a set where you get as many reps as you can at a percentage of your one rep max. Either test gives you a number for you to gauge your progress from your previous training block and to establish a new baseline for your next training block. 

Despite this all sounding great, I was very apprehensive to have a deload, mainly because I am used to (and enjoy!) pushing myself to my limits every time I enter the gym. It is not in my nature to ‘go through the motions’ in any aspect of my life; I either give it everything or I don’t bother. I also couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I would gain lots of weight from drastically reducing my time and intensity during the gym. 

So, post deload how did I fare?

My first day of my deload, I felt very lost in the gym. I was extremely hesitant to workout (especially as it was a Monday at around 6.30pm, one of the busiest gym times of the week!) I didn’t want people to judge me occupying a squat rack to move minimal weight for a few reps. Looking back now, this was a bit of a ridiculous thing to feel! I don’t go into the gym judging women (or men) who aren’t squatting much more than the bar. In fact, when I spot a new face in the squat rack, I get weirdly excited! I either assume it is someone who is new to lifting and get excited because I hope they develop the same passion for lifting as me, or I assume they are an athlete of some sort (the gym I am a member of is a bit fancy!) and get excited because I know they will, directly or indirectly, motivate me! Despite this, I still did feel very cautious about approaching Monday’s workout and made my warm up far longer than I normally would to delay me squatting! My workout didn’t take me as long as usual, so I decided to spend about fifteen minutes stretching and foam rolling. Recovery and mobility are aspects of my training I severely neglect, and, mid-Monday foam roll, I decided to fully embrace the deload and make these the forefront of my training for the week. Altering my mindset and approach to my deload helped tremendously. Instead of being nervous and cautious, I actually embraced the week. To be honest, I almost forgot that this concept was novel to me and went on with my week as usual. When I entered the gym on Tuesday, I approached the session entirely differently and had come to terms with the fact that recovery is just as important as progressively overloading my workouts every time.

This particular deload ended with me doing AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with 75% of my progressed 1 rep max on my compound lifts. I got between 8 and 14 reps on my squat, bench and deadlift and felt both energized and ‘fresh’ when doing so. I rarely start a gym session without some sort of muscle soreness (those people who say that after a while of working out you don’t get sore just doesn’t seem to apply to me…I am always sore!) so it was an unusually empowering feeling to feel so rested! 

Post workout of doing my AMRAP sets, I probably actually felt more sore than from a usual workout. I had a 60 minute massage after my final workout for the week and the masseuse said that my traps, back and glutes were substantially tighter than most people’s. To put this into perspective though, I hadn’t had a massage in about two months and most people that get a massage do not lift weights six days a week. 

Aside from feeling like a gym phony, my other main concern was my weight. Right at the start of my deload, my calories were actually increased by 27kcal a day. Doesn’t sound like much, but, over a week, equates to 189kcal. I was convinced that my calories would actually decrease with a lower output, not increase! 

I started the week weighing 117lbs (53.1kg) and ended the week weighing 116.6lbs (52.9kg). This has really shown me that calorie expenditure is comprised of how you spend your day as a whole, rather than your workout dictating your calorie burn. I have a sedentary job, but I use my lunch break to walk laps and get outside and I ensure I get up from my desk at least once per hour. I always volunteer for any office task that needs completing too, as it typically involves moving around. Over the past year, I have become a lot more aware of my NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis), I.e. My activity levels outside the gym, and I make a conscious daily effort to ensure I get a substantial amount of steps in.

So why have I written this blogpost? When I was dreading the start of my deload, I was frantically searching for anyone’s personal experience of it. I wanted some reassurance that I wasn’t alone in having my concerns and also some reassurance that it would be okay. So, my final thoughts to you on this are, that it will be okay – better than okay – you will learn a lot from it and you will feel so much more energized at the end! You will not suddenly balloon and you do not need to cut calories. My best advice – embrace it, and make recovery and mobility your priorities for the week.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

A Full Day of Eating; ‘Peak Week’ – 1 Week Out from the Bikini Stage

This isn’t going to be the prettiest diary of food, but all people are ever exposed to on the Internet or in magazine articles about ‘peak week’ are multiple versions of fundamentally the same diet. My macros aren’t high, but hopefully it shows you both an alternative to tilapia and asparagus 6 times a day as well as how you can make the best of poverty macros! Please remember, I am one week away from the bikini stage, this is not a sustainable diet!

Breakfast – 245kcal; 30p, 16c, 9f

1 pot of banana fosters Elli quark mixed with caramel Walden Farms syrup and 40g cookie dough favored G Butter, alongside a cup of black coffee, 2g salted caramel Slap! BCAAs, a multi-vitamin and a fish oil capsule.


Lunch – 120kcal; 22p, 10c, 2f * the 2g BCAAs I drank to facilitate protein synthesis as protein content was less than 25g

1 packet of Miracle Noodle fettucine, rinsed and sauted with 114g zucchini discs, 70g sliced mushrooms, 1 tsp ground cumin, 52g cooked chicken, 15g sugar free G Hughes maple brown BBQ sauce and 2g salted caramel Slap! BCAAs.


Pre-workout – 234kcal; 30p, 23c, 2f

1 Flatout original wrap with 40g iceberg lettuce, 80g arugula and 45g G Hughes sugar free hickory BBQ sauce, rolled into a wrap alongside 180ml vanilla Muscle Egg.


Pre/Intra workout – 16kcal; 4p

(4g Prosupps mixed berry BCAAs and 5g Musclepharm creatine monohydrate drunk pre/intra-workout).

Post workout – 279kcal; 31p, 30c, 4f

40g quick cook oatmeal cooked with 50g grated zucchini, 1/2tsp cinnamon and baking powder alongside a blended protein shake of 32g Dymatize whey isolate (chocolate coconut flavor) and 200ml refridgerated black coffee.


Pre-bed – 234kcal; 30p, 20c, 9f

180g non-fat greek yoghurt mixed with 100g blackberries, 2g unsweetened shredded coconut and strawberry Walden Farms syrup alongside 40g brownie batter G Butter.


I also drank 4 liters water, 2 cans Aquafina mango fizzy water, 1.5l Trader Joes lime fizzy water and 1 cup Teabella carrot cake flavored tea.

Total macros for the day – 1,172kcal; 146p, 99c, 25f. My prescribed macros for the day were 1,205kcal; 145p, 100c, 25f. Seeing as protein and carbohydrates are both 4kcal per gram, I left my macros as 1g over on protein and 1g under on carbs.

Next time I do one of these, it will be accounting for more calories than this!

Benchpressingbaubles, x

How to Maximize Minimal Calories

I am in no way advocating low calorie lifestyles. Just wanted to put that out there. Disclaimer down… let’s be honest, there are times for all of us that we want to drop a couple of pounds (and some of us decide to get as lean as possible and waltz about in a glittery bikini)! Unless you are consuming incredibly few calories, dieting does not have to be synonymous with bland, boring or monotonous. Being a foodie and, also, being in a calorie deficit for the past six months, I have developed a few tips on how to maximize minimal calories and am pretty well informed about low/no calorie flavoring options!

1. Think volume. I bulk up all my meals with tonnes of volume. I start most my savoury meals with a salad base and build from there. My favourite salad staples are different lettuces, cucumber, shredded cabbage, red peppers and celetry. It doesn’t have to be salad based either, I add mushrooms, zucchini and broccoli to a lot of meals too. You can grate/spiralize a lot of vegetables and either substitute your regular carbohydrate source for these, or reduce your regular carbohydrate and incorporate the veggies. For sweet dishes, I also add fruit or veggies to bulk out meals. Grated zucchini in oatmeal adds lots of volume, with minimal calories. Berries are low calorie fruit that can add bulk to a meal too. I also blend protein powder with ice and mix water into yoghurt to make it stretch that little bit further!

2. Think texture. Eating meal upon meal of ‘soft’ food only makes you crave the crunch of chocolate and pizza. Ensure your meals have different textures – even popping something under the grill gives your meal a crispier texture. I do this all the time with flatbreads and omlettes; even oatmeal!

3. Think herbs and spices. These have very minimal calories and spicing your food will make a world of difference. You don’t have to eat plain chicken if you don’t want to! My favourite herbs are fresh cilantro, mint and basil. Dried herbs, I tend to use an Italian herb seasoning. Spices; cumin, smoked paprika, BBQseasoning, fajita seasoning, nutmeg and cinnamon. There are an abundance of herbs and spices out there!

4. Think condiments.

I am a big fan of flavor. Here are my top 0 calorie sauce choices:

  • French’s yellow mustard
  • Fresh Market Sirarcha mustard
  • Frank’s red hot sauce
  • Frank’s buffalo sauce
  • Walden Farms dressings
  • Taco Bell mild sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Sicilia lime juice

Here are my top 10kcal and under sauce choices:

  • G Hughes sugar free BBQ sauce
  • Heinz reduced salt/sugar ketchup
  • Fresh salsa
  • Jardin’s street taco sauces

Here are my top sweet sauce choices:

  • Jordan’s Skinny Syrups
  • Walden Farms syrups
  • McCormick extracts
  • My Protein syrups
  • My Protein flav drops

5. Think flavored drinks. I brew herbal tea and refridgerate it. I also drink lots of sparkling water and green tea as well as decaf flavored coffee. I try not to drink too many diet sodas, but these can also be great to cure cravings.

6. Think adapatation, not deprivation. If you want a pizza, make a lower calorie version. Use a flatbread or a wrap, add your own sauce and toppings and you will easily cut the calories in half. I bet it tastes better too! Use the Internet to search for lower calorie alternatives or options. As I’ve said before, don’t focus on what you are missing, it will only leave you feeling like you are dieting.

The dieting world CAN have flavor and the dieting world CAN be pleasurable.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Counting Macros vs. Intuitive Eating: Aren’t we missing the bigger picture?

At the moment, I feel that the fitness world on Instagram is divided – there are those who count macros and there are those who eat intuitively. Both groups of people lull me into a false sense of security that everyone is more aware of food and nutrition than they actually are. I lose count of the amount of times people outside of my Instagram fitness bubble look at me stunned when I turn down a banana or an orange juice. ‘But it’s fruit?!’ Even at the gym, the discussion of specific nutrients leaves some people with confused looks on their faces. It is easy to forget how uninformed most people are about what they eat.

I dislike the nutrition labels on US foods and feel that some of the proposed FDA changes are for the better and some are for the worse. With the general population knowing as little as they do about nutrition, I feel that the simpler the nutrition labels can be, the more beneficial they will be in educating and informing the consumer. I obviously pay a great deal of attention to nutrition labels, but I only look at about a third of the information on there – the rest I don’t even glance at. All I am interested in is ingredients, calories, carbohydates, fat, fibre, protein and sodium. (I only pay attention to sodium because I dislike salty tastes, so if it is high in sodium, chances are, I won’t like it!) The rest of the information that is currently on there seems to be out-dated fad information. For example, the ‘calories from fat’ information probably stemmed from the time, about 10 years ago, that fat was the enemy and low fat diets were all the rage. One of the proposed FDA label changes now is to add ‘added sugars’ onto the label, co-inciding with the current anti-sugar hype. Give it 5 years and no-one will be interested and it will be another irrelevant aspect to the nutrition label.

I get asked a lot about my philosophies and protocols on nutrition, both on and offline. For me, I can’t imagine not tracking macros. It works for me, both mentally and physically. It enables me to pursue two of my passions (cooking and eating….yes, eating is definitely a passion) and it has enabled me to progress. It is as much of a part of my life as getting dressed. I don’t even consider not tracking macros. But, I do understand that it isn’t for everyone. I personally could not eat intuitively. I have a large appetite and would be forever worrying whether I had eaten too much. The ‘intuition’ would go out the window and I would let the unknown quantities of my food rule my head, filling me with obsession. For other people, I know they find intuitive eating liberating as they don’t have to weigh food or input/calculate anything. 

I have heard a lot recently that tracking macros is a diet, not a lifestyle. I think it can be both. As with any nutrition protocol, there are those people who are very familiar with it and there are loads who aren’t. To me, it is a lifestyle, but for a newbie, it may seem like a diet. Weighing food is exactly what you would do if you were baking a cake, it is not irrational, ludricrous behavior. Instead of the motive being achieving a perfect bake, weighing everything enables true flexible dieters to make progress and live sustainably. I am so familiar with it now, that it probably only adds an extra 15 minutes into my day. 15 minutes to enable me to live healthily and happily? I’d call that bang for my buck.

I have also heard a lot recently that there is a wealth more to nutrition than counting macros and I whole-heartedly agree. Flexible dieting is heavily glamorized online and perceptions seem to be that it is all about fitting in as much junk as possible and taking photos of it. For me, fitting in junk was a key step in my relationship with food. From struggling with binge eating for several years, the novelty that I could fit in junk and not gain weight was a key initial step in me achieving a more mentally balanced state. Now, I eat junk in small quantities but most of the time, I don’t want to eat it. I enjoy eating the fresh, crunchy textures of fruits and vegetables and there are few things that give me as much pleasure as cooking up delicious meals for the week. I love experimenting with flavors and different ingredients and am always happy (although teased for it!) bringing my Tupperware pots into work. Why would I want to pay multi-billion dollar companies for mediocre (at best) food, when I can do it better, cheaper and healthier myself?

I never claim to be a nutrition expert. I am not qualified and don’t pretend to be. I am always learning and feel my knowledge barely scratches the surface of all there is to know. I am also definitely not anti-intuitive eating, for some, it is the perfect approach for their lifestyle. But intuitive eating comes with the premise that you know both what you should be eating as well as understanding many complex aspects of nutrition. Forcing the idea that intuitive eating is the only ‘balanced’ way to approach living healthily is therefore very heavily skewed towards people submerged in the health and fitness industry. I think it is easy for online fitness communities to appear representative of society, but, they are very definitely representing only a very small minority of people. For most people, both counting macros and intuitive eating are completely redundant. So instead of throwing out blanket statements that one way of approaching nutrition is the only way of living, shouldn’t us folk who are passionate about nutrition understand that it is not a one size fits all? Shouldn’t we be spending less time trying to compartmentalize nutrition into boxes? And shouldn’t we be encouraging people who don’t live and breathe this to try new foods, cook more and understand exactly what they put in their mouth? 

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

Be Your Own Coach: Fitness Coaches Should be Facilitators

From the title, you may think I have lost it (I promise I haven’t), but, following an Instagram post I made a few days ago, I have been continually thinking about the importance of coaching in both reaching and sustaining your fitness goals. I am so grateful to have two extremely knowledgeable coaches on my side and feel I have made great progress as well as learnt an awful lot since being coached by them. There are two main reasons I think that are responsible for me making the progress that I have; 1. My coaches have a lot of both knowledge and experience. 2. I am also my own coach.

I am a firm believer in the fact that the best teachers are facilitators. The best teachers don’t spoon feed and tell you what you should know, instead, they establish an environment where learners feel sufficiently confident to explore possibilities, make mistakes, but ultimately meet the learning objective. From both a teaching and a learning perspective, there is nothing more empowering than utilizing current skills and knowledge to progress further and succeed. This philosophy infiltrated my entire teaching career and cemented my passion for teaching. Some people say that teaching is selfless or altruistic, I disagree. I got a lot of satisfaction from enabling children to grow and seeing how they became infinitely better at reacting to unexpected outcomes. From as young as 5, I taught children to cope with disappointment, failure and to apply learned experiences to similar situations.

Coaching in fitness, I think, should be approached in the same way. I perceive my coaches as facilitators, so the responsibility of coaching also falls on me. Like the classroom, I am given guidelines and parameters, but there is so much scope inbetween. It is how I use this scope that has defined my success.

For example, I am given certain macro-nutrients to hit daily instead of a rigid meal plan. I am given some guidelines on when is best to consume fats/proteins/carbohydrates as well as a fiber goal, but other than that, the rest is all me. Over time, I have learnt a lot. The freedom initially made me want to eat cereal and chocolate with every meal. I soon realized that this left my skin not as clear, as well as making me feel lethargic and forever hungry! Over time, I progressed, but I am still learning what foods and when keep me full, satisfied and full of energy. Up until 2 months ago, I was eating oats and protein for breakfast daily. Only when my carbohydrates declined, did I switch this up to a lower carb/higher fat option. I have found this to keep me full for so much longer. I am so pleased that I was allowed to experience this myself and make ‘mistakes’ to get there. Having experienced the difference between the two breakfast options myself is so much more beneficial to my fitness journey than simply being instructed on what to eat.

Facilitating is infinitely harder than teaching. Only people who really know what they are talking about are able to be good facilitators. With less definitive outcomes, there is more ‘grey area’, so there are more questions. Only people who are exceptionally competent in their field are able to cope with this as it tests exactly how well you know your subject area. This doesn’t mean my coaches know everything (though they do know a lot), but it does mean they have an extremely good level of knowledge as well as not being afraid to ask for others’ expertise where needed (Pete and Anthony have called a doctor to answer questions on bloodwork instead of claiming they were experts). Faciliating also requires confidence. Giving freedom to people you are teaching is risky! You are relinquishing control and enlisting trust in people you are coaching (and anyone can vouch for how difficult that is!)

From a learner’s perspective, faciliating, rather than being told what to do is also more difficult. It is easy to execute instructions – this is what I loved about group fitness classes. You really don’t have to think, you just ‘do’. While this was great for me at the start of my fitness journey, metacognition should infiltrate any aspect of life you value. You really should consider why you think and behave in particular ways if you want to understand yourself better and make progress. Lots of people talk about ‘mind-muscle connection’ whilst working out, and I completely agree on the importance of this. Really thinking about each exercise and the contraction makes you mentally, as well as physically, active in your workout. You know your body better than anyone and only you know the difference between an excercise hurting and an exercise really not feeling good. You also are the only one who can communicate whether the exercise is actually benefiting you.

Perhaps the hardest part for both coaches and coach-ees is motivation. Facilitating requires a lot of time and effort to successfully establish and continue, as well as a lot more responsibility and accountability for both parties. Unfortunately, there really is no substitute for motivation (see my post on ‘Seek Discipline not Motivation’) and the people who work the hardest, will ultimately get the best results.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

What’s Next? My post competition plans…

I’m writing this a week after my first bikini competition. My competition was a 4 hour drive away from my house and I drove back home straight after the competition. I also flew to a really remote area in New Jersey for work on Monday and Tuesday, which gave me a tranquil escape from my very hectic life back home. I am so pleased I was able to do both of these things as it gave me a lot of time to really reflect on my own and also a chance to ‘catch up’ with everyday life. Many thoughts have raced through my head over the past week – I am going to attempt to coherently convey them and organize them here!

Overall, it was a very positive experience. Fellow competitors were friendly and I learnt a lot about bodybuilding as a sport as well as learning a lot about myself. Anyone who knows me can vouch for how shy I am, so walking around on a stage in a bikini is something that took a lot of guts. Prior to lifting weights, I had little confidence. Eighteen months ago, I had even less confidence. I was absolutely miserable, hating everything about myself and my life…except the gym. In fact, working out and my gym gave me a reason to get through the day. When people commend me on how hard I work, I always shrug it off. To me, it doesn’t feel like hard work, it feels like the inspiration for my day. Every day at work, I look forward to the gym. I find it rewarding and gives me a chance to have a couple of hours completely to myself. People sometimes make fun of the fact my headphones are on, but the gym was, and still is, my escape. Walking on stage last week was a really proud moment for me – it was nice to be able to boldly show off what I am passionate about.

With that being said, I expected fellow competitors to be as equally passionate about bodybuilding as me. It was a real eye-opener to find that lots of people were there completely lacking any passion. They were there for the glamour. For the selfies and for the audience. I expected to find backstage inspiring; to be in awe of other competitors’ bodies and stories. Some people, this is definitely true of, however, the fact not everyone was there with the same work ethic and drive both surprised and disappointed me. It was a complete anti-climax. Together with the fact that, compared to my fellow competitors, I was not as lean as them nor as confident as them, I felt very disappointed. I completely panicked during my morning posing and was extremely upset with myself that I had forgotten everything I had been told and practiced the minute my sparkly heel stepped on stage. This whole portion of the day weighed heavily on my mind.

My initial reactions coming off the evening stage were mixed. I felt both exhilerated and upset. Everyone’s first questions to me were “would you do another competition?!” My mind was too busy to be able to answer, and, depending on when I spoke to that person, my answers varied greatly. So, after a few days soaking everything in, I checked in with my coaches and convyed how I felt. I told them I wanted to do another competition. I am not happy ending 2017 competing season with that being my only experience competing. I am going to give this prep my all, as I did my last one. I can’t promise I will work any harder, because I couldn’t have worked harder, but there are several things I am going to do differently.

Nine weeks from now I will compete again and that will be my last competition of the year. By this point, I will have been dieting for the entirety of 2017 and it will be definitely time for my mental and physical self to have a dieting break. I also love food and cooking (as you all know), so it will be nice to play around with more calories. Plus, I love lifting heavy (well, heavy for me) and I am interested in the whole powerlifting scene… I want to be able to squat 200lbs, deadlift 300lbs and bench 135lbs by the end of the year. I conveyed these strength goals to my coaches too as I wanted the written commitment that, after June, I will not be focused on being shredded. Knowing how I felt after this competition, I didn’t want June to roll around and me to say “I want to do another competition”. As I said, it isn’t healthy to be dieting all the time.

So I am going to make the most of the last couple of days of my diet break and zero cardio and get back on the prep train for another 8 weeks. I am aware this time it will probably be tougher and I will have to dig deeper, but I am focused on bringing a better package to that stage.

-Benchpressingbaubles, x

What no one tells you about bikini competitions…

There is a lot of information online about the nutrition and exercise preparation for a bikini competition, and although everyone adopts a slightly (or starkly) different approach, I think people are pretty well informed that, overall, it involves a reduction in calories, lifting weights and cardio. It all comes to a head when you step on stage, looking exceptionally brown in a sparkly bikini with over the top make-up and sass. It looks exceptionally glamorous, but, in truth, 90% of the day is far from glamorous! When I was getting ready for show day, I had to scout the Internet for tips and tricks about what to expect and found very little. In the end, I reached out to several people who had competed before in order to get some insight into what to expect. Hopefully, this helps to enlighten you as to what most of show day is like.

Don’t wear moisturizer for a week prior to the competition.
I learnt this the hard way – I had so many problems with my competition tan and ended up having to shower between the morning and night show and get re-sprayed as the tan wouldn’t take to my skin properly. I had been using moisturizer up until 2 days before the competition, thinking that would be sufficient, but the oil residue had lingered on my skin and made the tan go really patchy as well as me not being dark enough! It is really important to exfoliate properly too, I used pure brown sugar, which I think is the best preparation for your skin. I also got told to use baking soda, mixed into a paste and start this the week before the competition, alternating daily between baking soda and sugar.

Avoid deodorant.
Thankfully, I already knew this before competing. But the day prior to the competition until after the competition is over, you have to avoid deodorant, otherwise your tan will turn green or grey! (Not a good look!) Instead, use tumble dryer sheets, or baby powder. I sprayed perfume on my bikini to help me smell a bit better, which is definitely fine, just make sure you don’t get any on your skin!

Pack plastic cups with holes cut out in the bottom.
After you get tanned, be prepared to pee only into a cup! You don’t want to get any pee on your tan anywhere, and, although you can get it touched up, you don’t want to add any unnecessary drama to the day (and a streak down your leg is not the best look!)

Be prepared to be publicly naked, frequently.
When you get sprayed, you have to get fully naked and go into some very unflattering positions in order to get the tan in all the necessary places. At my competition, there were two different rows for men and women, but I have heard that this is not the case at other competitions! In reality, everyone is so focused on themselves that no one is really looking at you. In my opinion, best to just embrace it!

Get your bikini glued to you. There is special glue that glues your suit to you so it doesn’t ride up or move, and, needless to say, you cannot pee after it has been glued to you! The competition tan group glued my bikini for me, and, like when getting sprayed, get ready to hand your butt and your boobs to these people! I was concerned it was going to hurt peeling the suit off, but it doesn’t, although be prepared to be sticky!

Unless you really know what you’re doing, get tanned by the tanning company who are affiliated with the show.
I cannot speak highly enough about the tanning company at the show I competed in. They were very knowledgeable, experienced and kind! They gave all sorts of hints and tips as well as doing whatever was needed to make sure you showed off your physique in the best possible light. They oiled, glued, tanned and rollered me a number of times and did that for every competitor. Also, don’t get sprayed on your face. It doesn’t sit well and will clog your pores. If someone else is doing your make up, they will match your skin tone, and if you are doing it yourself, seek out the darkest foundation you can find and mix it with your usual foundation!

Understand that competing is incredibly expensive. Everything about competing is expensive, so make sure you are fully aware of all the costs involved. Take advantage of any special deals in the months leading up to the competition to try and reduce the costs and make sure you enter the competition knowing you are financially able to commit. I got my bikini custom made and bought it in a Black Friday 50% off sale (6 months prior to my show), but I have heard of suits costing up to $1000. Add in shoes, jewelry, tanning, coaching, posing, nails, NPC card, registration fees, hair and make up (I did mine myself), hotel, transportation and bits and pieces for show day (e.g. Robe, fake eyelashes etc.), expect for one competition to cost a couple of thousand dollars easily.

Be prepared to be rushed and be prepared to wait.
The morning judging was incredibly fast, almost too fast, and it was a big rush getting things done in time. The evening show, however, we had to wait about four hours to get on stage. The bikini category is typically last as most spectators (other than friends or family) come to watch the bikini athletes. Fellow competitors are much friendlier than you would think, so make the most of the nerve-wracking wait by either befriending others or bring some entertainment! Backstage was incredibly nice as I competed in a college theater, but lots of competitions are at schools, so expect backstage to be high school locker rooms!

Watch your step
. Again, I learnt this the hard way. After the morning show, when you go backstage again, be prepared for oil to be on the floor. I fell over in my heels and landed really nastily on my bum. I am now sporting a hideous bruise which is really painful!

You will be cold. Getting spray tanned is freezing and combined with low body fat, you will probably be cold a lot of the time. You cannot put clothes on over your suit, so some of us did some body weight squats and exercises with resistance bands in an attempt to warm up! As a bikini athlete, you don’t really need to ‘pump up’ with resistance bands, but mentally it can help as that’s what everyone else will be doing!

Come prepared with a bag of stuff. My top tips about what to pack with you: spare make up, eyelash glue, flip flops, pyjama trousers and a long sleeved top, a robe, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, all your food, a resistance band, water, hair straighteners/curlers, hairspray, dry shampoo and a phone charger.

Be prepared for friends and family to be the only ones that cheer for you. Standing on stage with the crowd shouting out both tips and encouragement for specific competitor numbers that aren’t yours was a bit of a shock. I have watched bodybuilding competitions before, but the reality of it didn’t really sink in until I was on stage! It sort of feels like being the last one chosen for a school team when the crowd is pretty quiet, as well as making you think you look awful. In reality, unless you are competing in a massive show, most of the spectators are friends and family!

The judging is done in the morning. The morning is called pre-judging, but, really, this is where almost all of the judging is done. The night time is the show, where you can put on a bit of a performance, but bring your best package to the morning show!

Be prepared to be dissatisfied. Having prep dieted before, and suffered big time with post prep blues, I was expecting this. You put all that work in for a few seconds on stage and, when you see pictures or compare yourself to others, you may be left feeling a bit despondent. I definitely felt like this both on the day and the day after. Yes, I am proud, but an overwhelming sense of failure also hit me. I panicked in the morning show and my posing was way off, and, seeing other competitors as well as photos of myself, I knew that my legs were too big and I wasn’t lean enough. When everyone else is sharing how proud they are of their physiques and you feel like you aren’t, it can be very intimidating. The very nature of bodybuilding is continuous improvement, and dissatisfaction is one of the factors that drives progress, but while everyone is congratulating you, it is okay to feel a bit down. For me, this is when I leaned heavily on my support network, both on and offline. To the everyday individual, they think you look amazing, so it is a good idea to share your feelings with your ‘fitfam’ too, they will get it and understand. Having utilized flexible dieting throughout my prep, I had zero cravings post show and actually, on show day, ate less than my peak week macros! It is perfectly okay to go and eat a nice meal afterwards (or a gross greasy meal!), but, for me, I didn’t want to. It is also perfectly okay to have a couple of days of being a bit less rigid with your diet afterwards, but make sure you have a reverse diet in place. You cannot go from peak week calories to continuous binging, or even high ‘clean’ calories overnight as your body is primed to store fat. Reverse dieting is hard, especially at the start when your calories are low and cardio is at its peak, but, exercise the discipline that got you to the stage in the first place and work through it. You will reap the benefits long term. For me, I am sticking to my macros as religiously as pre-contest, especially initially. I want to improve and I want to be happy, two things that will not happen if I am ‘yolo dieting’.

Be prepared to be sore. Waltzing around in heels as well as flexing and holding poses is not easy! Combined with the lack of sleep in the weeks leading up to the competition as well as the mental and physical stresses of high output, low calories and the stress of the day, your body will be exhausted in the days after. My muscles hurt so much and I am still exhausted.

Competing is fun, it is a great experience that pushes you to your limits in every sense of the word. You will be in the best shape of your life, accomplishing something most people cannot comprehend. I enjoyed the experience and met some great people too! But, it is not all tan, tensing and sparkle. Hopefully this blogpost will give you a bit more of an insight into what show day entails…

Benchpressingbaubles, x