Competitive fitness is blowing up among general fitness connoisseurs, thanks to Instagram stars like Paige Hathaway and Michelle Lewin. Their bods and commitment are inspiring women around the world to set the goal of one day stepping on the stage as a fitness competitor in the bikini division at the next local competition.
At most shows, the bikini division is the most saturated with competitors. Many speculate this is because the process of building the ideal body for this division is a bit less intense than the processes for other divisions. Additionally, the "ideal" look for a bikini competitor is more aligned with what mainstream media currently considers an "ideal" body type.
Bikini competitors seek a softer overall aesthetic and the ultimate hourglass figure. Judges look for sculpted shoulders, small and toned waists, large and muscular glutes, and strong, defined legs.
Achieving this body and receiving an award for it may sound great to some. The trouble is, competing is a bit more involved than people tend to think. Along the road to becoming "stage ready," competitors take part in a number of seriously bizarre practices.
As a former bikini fitness competitor, I feel inclined to share the hilariously strange bodybuilding practices I took part in to earn a small statue, which sits awkwardly on my desk at home.
Here are the 16 bizarre truths about experiencing a bikini fitness competition that many outsiders don't know.
1. Your spray tan comes in layers.
Some girls got away with applying just three layers of spray tans but, thanks to my fair skin, I had to get four. You have to give yourself at least four hours between each spray tan application, and you cannot shower until the end of the show. It costs around $100 for the spray tan, and your car, clothing, sheets and shoes will be stained for awhile following the event. But your muscles look pretty cut coated in all that bronzer.
2. You pee in a cup for a day.
To avoid ruining your spray tan, most coaches recommend that you pee in a cup then dump it into the toilet each time you use the bathroom the day of your show. As bad as it sounds, it's even worse. The metal sanitary boxes, garbage cans and stall floors in every ladies restroom at the show's venue were filled with used plastic cups and we all knew where those cups had been...
3. Your suit is literally glued to your butt, boobs and crotch.
My trainer used Bikini Bite to glue the edges of my suit to my body. Some coaches used other adhesives for this, such carpet glue. The purpose here is to make sure the necessary body parts remain covered as you move through your poses in a suit that was made to show as much skin as possible.
4. A "good" suit can cost anywhere from $350-$1,000.
I was hoping to go with an inexpensive suit from Etsy, but my trainer had other ideas. Apparently a "good" bikini should be custom made and cost an absurd amount for very little fabric and a few crystals. My suit ended up costing me a total of $450, but it's not unheard of to spend up to $1,000 on a custom show bikini.
5. Certain muscles are trained to help you properly display your rear.
Image: Cosete Jarrett
The ideal rear pose has you sticking your butt out just enough to make sure it looks its absolute best, while also keeping your back upright enough to make sure the pose is family-friendly.
Turns out, you need to build a specific lower back muscle for this. That's why you'll see back extensions on almost every bikini competitor's workout program.
6. You eat zero calorie "food."
Zero calorie food actually exists, and what it lacks in calories, it makes up for in funky tastes and stomach aches that last all night. Word to the wise, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I used products from Walden Farms to spice up my meals with coach-approved flavor. The syrup for my protein pancakes was actually really good, but the salad dressings, alfredo sauce, marshmallow dip, chocolate syrups and jams were gross. The worst stomach aches came from the creamy products, like the ranch dressing and alfredo sauce.
7. You eat bags of veggies in one sitting.
The six meals a competitor eats each day might sound like a lot, but when you consider the portion sizes and the fact that competitors work out upwards of two hours per day, six meals can and will definitely leave a competitor hungry between each scheduled mealtime. Veggies are the one item coaches will allow their clients to eat on end. My competitor friends and I would eat bags of veggies at a time to stay full between meals.
8. You miss the days before you had a career.
For whatever reason, posing coaches, suit makers, trainers and tanning techs all need to see you smack in the middle of weekdays. This was a serious struggle for me at first, as I was working for an agency and my coaches weren't willing to work around my nine-to-five schedule. Fortunately, I signed on for a remote working position a month before my show which helped out in a huge way as things got even crazier toward the end.
9. You make it rain on the National Physique Committee (or National Gym Association).
Registration fees (including purchasing my NPC card) cost me around $350 the week of the show. This goes toward the physique competitor association you choose to compete with and their local affiliates who host the show. Needless to say, I opted out of the optional photo package for $60 after my bank account took that unexpected hit.
10. You dehydrate yourself.
Image: Cosete Jarrett
Most coaches recommend that you take natural diuretics (commonly called water tablets) several days before your show to drop water weight. These tablets work by helping your kidneys push more sodium into your urine. The sodium then takes water from your blood which helps you lose the salt and water that appears as excess weight on your body. The water tablets made me a bit loopy, but drinking about a gallon of water a day helped. My friends who were also competing were instructed to take the tablets and restrict their water intake to cut their water weight a few days before stepping on stage.
11. You use honey or cookie butter to save your falling booty.
Apparently, the water tablets you take to dehydrate yourself before a show can make your muscles (most importantly your glutes) fall flat. My coach had instructed my team to bring honey as a quick fix to boost our muscles should this happen. When I noticed my booty falling flat about an hour before I went on stage, I ate a spoonful of honey and it worked.
12. You get oiled up with cooking oil.
When you see a bodybuilder on stage, you might assume they smell of the coconut tanning oil you used before you realized skin cancer is a thing. Nope! It's cooking oil. The best part of having cooking oil on your body is the application process. Standing in a high school hallway getting Pam rubbed on me by the same nice lady who glued my suit to my crotch was definitely a highlight.
13. You eat an insane amount of carbs the final two days.
For the final month, a bikini competitor's carbs will be restricted as much as possible. This is why all competitors look forward to the glorious day they get to start carb loading. Although it sounds counterintuitive, increasing your carb intake right before your show helps you fill out your muscles to make sure they "pop" on stage.
14. Your family pays about $80 to come watch.
I didn't ask many friends or family members to come, mostly because I didn't think I had a good shot at placing. Even though I did end up placing, I was happy I chose to invite only a select few, given the outrageous admission fee. It cost my parents and my sister $80 each to get into the morning and evening shows to watch me compete then receive my award.
15. And you still think you're fat.
After all of the hard work competitors accomplish over the months prior to their shows, the truth is that many of them still feel as though they have a long road ahead before achieving their ideal physique. I spent hours agonizing over progress pictures as I picked apart my flaws and ignored the progress I'd made. Friends of mine who also competed told me they felt the same. This is potentially one of the most bizarre things about the whole ordeal.
16. You go ham on the post-show binge.
All competitors go a little crazy on their first meal after the show has come to an end. I went to town on a family-sized portion of Thai food, then went to the gas station to buy two jumbo cookie ice cream sandwiches. My friends who had been deprived of a cheat meal for several months took their binge to a much higher level, scarfing down Cinnamon Toast Crunch with whole milk, icing and tons of cream cheese, followed by waffles made from doughnuts and stuffed with Reese's peanut butter cups.
I hope that my experience and this article doesn't come off as an anti-competitive fitness, because it's not intended to be. When all was said and done, I was actually really glad that I set the goal of competing and followed through with it. The process helped me develop several healthy habits, such as eating small portions and balanced meals throughout the day and incorporating adequate strength training to complement my weekly cardio workouts.
However, before you decide to embark on a competitive fitness journey yourself, I recommend that you do some research, be honest with yourself about why you want to do it and what you hope to get out of it, and take crucial steps to be safe throughout. Other than that, expect these bizarre truths to become a part of your reality.
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Cosette is a tech and lifestyle writer at HighSpeedInternet.com. Coverage of society's strange love affair with social media is her writing forte. When she's not picking up random hobbies like body building, Cosette enjoys spending time in Salt Lake's mountains hiking, biking, and snowboarding. Check out her work on Twitter @CosetteJarrett