Fit & Fresh

Diary of a Figure Competitor


I’ve always envied people who compete in figure competitions. Actually, maybe “envy” isn’t the right word. It’s more like “respect,” because I know the kind of self-discipline and determination it takes to tackle one fitness goal, and I feel like a competition is more like 100 fitness goals all rolled into one.

I got a chance to spend some time with my friend Jackie while I was in Michigan. I was super pumped (literally and figuratively) to join her in a workout with her trainer, Brad, and bend her ear about her experience winning the Grand Rapids Body Building Championship. My first questions of course had to do with food, because I wanted to know if she was allowed to drink red wine and still eat pizza. Sadly the answer was “no.”

I asked her what the hardest part of the process was, and her answer really made me think. “Food,” she said. “None of us eat to take care of our bodies; we eat socially. It’s a part of our culture. You’re not hungry, you just think you are because of habit.”

Wow! I actually need a daily reminder of that. The diet for a competition like this is not one-size-fits-all. Each person is going to be a little different and that’s why it’s helpful to get a nutrition coach on board to break down exactly how much protein, carbs, etc., you should be taking in to fuel your body.

I thought this was profound and really, it can relate to all of us even when not training for a show. Jackie says “I have a different relationship with food after going through this process. Food is more about taking care of my body, and less about indulging.”  It’s important for us to understand our own bodies; what fuels us and gives us energy, and what slows us down? What makes us feel good and what doesn’t?

All that said, she did get one cheat meal a week through her 14-week training and being a girl after my own heart, she carb loaded and had dessert each time! The best part of her telling me there was one cheat meal a week was that every time after she ate that meal the next morning she would wake up and look her best. Crazy? The cheat meal basically jump started her metabolism. She was eating so healthy that eating unhealthy gave her body the need to work it off and fast.

What amazed me is that Jackie said that by the time it came to show day, she had only lost four pounds.  I think it’s easy to think of these competitions as people starving themselves (don’t get me wrong there are people out there that do) but Jackie did it the healthy way and she just shifted her weight and created muscle, which is so cool!

In a figure competition the judges are looking for definition in legs and back. Needless to say the workout Brad took us through that Tuesday consisted of:

  • PUSH PRESS – As many reps as possible in 5 minutes, with 4 minutes of rest at the end (yuck) Jackie rocked out 60 reps, I on the other hand got 48
    Push Press

  • FRONT SQUAT – 5 sets of 4-6 reps, slow tempo (count down for 4, explode up no pause and then repeat), rest for 90 seconds in between sets
    Front Squat
  • BACK SQUAT – 5 sets of 4-6 reps, slow tempo (count down for 4, explode up no pause and then repeat), rest for 90 seconds in between sets
    Back Squat
  • CHIN UPS – 5 sets of 4-6 reps, slow tempo (count down for 4, explode up no pause and then repeat), rest for 60 seconds in between sets
    Pull Ups
  • ZOTTMAN CURLS – 5 sets of 8-12 reps, slow tempo (count down for 4, explode up no pause and then repeat), rest for 90 seconds between sets
    Zottman Curls

The workouts varied week by week and Brad coached her the whole way through. She started the workouts and food 14 weeks before competition. I think my favorite thing she shared with me was the day before competition going in for her spray tan. Her exact words were, “It’s the most absurd, weird, disgusting and strange thing.” By the time she hit the stage she had three coats of spray tan and she said she looked like an Oompa Loompa!

Jackie learned along the way and is actually training/coaching someone through the process this year. Her advice to anyone who wants to try this type of competition is to have people in your life that are going to support and encourage you. There will be days you’ll want to give up and you have to remember your “why” of starting in the first place. The biggest thing Jackie said she learned is not to compare yourself to others. What we see in catalogs and online is not reality. Those men and women have done some crazy things to get to that photo shoot day. Everyone’s body type is different and what everyone considers perfect isn’t necessarily perfect. Embrace where you are. In other words let’s strive for progress not perfection!



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