Competing 101- What I wish I knew when I started Competing!


Midway through a tough prep, you might start questioning why on earth you decided to compete. Although each competitor is motivated by different goals, most decide to step on stage again because they love the experience as a whole; from the first meal prep to a shining moment on stage, competing can be an extraordinary journey to embark on. The preparation process involves so much more than merely working out and following a strict eating regime; it calls upon strengths you never knew you had, emotions that have rarely surfaced, and a hefty dose of drive and determination you might have never thought possible.

I started competing in 2005 – dabbling first in fitness modelling, and later migrating over to the Ontario Physique Association Figure category in 2006. Since then, I have experienced a whirlwind of successes, disappointments, and surprises- all of which I wouldn’t trade for anything as they have all played a part in making me a stronger person and connecting me with people throughout the world.

Although the prep period can get tough, there are several things that I have learned over the years and that I would have loved for someone to guide me through when I first started competing. Here goes for all you newbies!

1) Do not underestimate the importance of practicing your posing in advance.

It is absolutely devastating to see a competitor on stage who has not given enough thought to their posing, but has clearly worked hard for their physique. Posing makes or breaks your showing and I recommend that anyone thinking of competing should start practicing at least six weeks in advance, three times per week. Download YouTube videos of IFBB Pro shows to learn from the top competitors in the industry and use their styles as a guide to crafting your personal posing strategies. Be sure to consider your own style and physique as different poses work best for different bodies. If you have a coach, ensure that you pose properly for them in your progress photos and either use Skype or meet in person to refine your movements.

2) The tan that won the show.

No, I am not exaggerating when I say that a good tan can make you look like a bronzed goddess, while a bad one will absolutely ruin your look and completely distract the judges. If at all possible, sample tanning products in advance to see how the colour looks on your skin (as they will have different tones depending on your natural skin colour, pH, and moisture levels). Also, if the company doing your tanning has preparation instructions available, please read and follow their directions to achieve the best tan possible.

3) Suit up!

Your suit is pivotal in showcasing your physique at its best. Whether you choose to compete in Bikini, Figure, Physique, Fitness, or Bodybuilding, you must ensure that your suit meets the regulations of the organization you compete with and that it fits properly from all angles. I recommend starting your suit search 10-12 weeks in advance in order to ensure it is ready on time (should you decide to have it custom made). Don’t be afraid to ask the designer any questions you may have, including whether or not you can rent versus buy, colours that would look best on you, and the most flattering cut for your shape. References from other athletes are always helpful when making the final decision.

4) Make-up and hair for the win!

A naturally enhanced version of you is the ideal look when you step on stage; enough make-up to be seen and look beautiful, but not so much that you would be better off in a circus. Foundation colour should be a couple shades lighter than your competition tan and you want to ensure it is smooth (not muddy). If possible, do a trial run with colours before the show and also experiment with your desired hairstyling so that you are comfortable with your look before the big day.

5) Salt and water manipulation- extremes are NOT necessary!

Let me be clear on this one; there are no extremes required for this when you begin competing- the important thing is to be healthy and listen to your body. Yes, you want to look your best on competition day (which for many of us means ridding our body of excess water!) but if anyone advises you to stop drinking water for a period longer than 12 hours and/or combines that advice with taking a diuretic, be wary. In addition, most competitors reduce their sodium intake close to a show (day or two before), but you should consult with an experienced coach on this before proceeding.

6) On the road (again!).

Traveling for shows can become quite costly (I had someone tell me just this week that they had spent $16K this year on shows) so be prepared to shell out some serious cash if you are planning on partaking in multiple contests. Do some research to learn which shows will help you reach your goals best (whether that be to compete with a certain organization or perhaps give you more experience) and if you can split hotel and transportation costs with fellow competitors, consider reaching out. When it comes to traveling, you will also have to prep, pack, and be able to store all your meals. Be mindful of the preparation required when thinking of travelling for a competition.

7) Are you the next “it” girl?

Marketing yourself and networking at shows goes hand-in-hand with finding sponsors and getting noticed by the right people. So if you have aspirations beyond winning a trophy for your mantel (I’m talking magazines, supplement companies, etc), then be prepared to smile, ask pertinent questions, and get yourself noticed. Pretty girls are a dime a dozen, but a professional, well-spoken athlete is the one that gets noticed when they speak with magazine editors and visit company booths. Also, have your contact information on hand at all times; simple business cards with your name, email, and phone number will do the trick.

8) Put your best face forward.

Being courteous, professional, and friendly will help you meet new people, leave others with a positive impression, and make your experience more enjoyable. The worst thing you can do is hole yourself up in a corner and avoid interaction with others. Humility amongst competitors is important- everyone works hard to be there.

Getting up on the competitive stage is a tremendous accomplishment, regardless of the outcome. Use these tips to make your contest experiences as smooth and positive as possible. Remember to smile, have fun, and ENJOY the moment!

Please feel free to contact me at if you have any questions about competing. Eat, Sleep, Train, Compete!


A professional fitness athlete since 2008, Natalie Waples is a proponent for natural, healthy athleticism. Her goal is to inspire others and motivate others to live a healthy and fit lifestyle, through example. Natalie believes in attaining a healthy and fit physique through a combination of balanced nutrition, a solid wellness program, and a challenging training regime. Natalie is an IFBB Pro, Fusion Bodybuilding, Suits By Amy and Liquid Sun Rayz Sponsored Athlete.

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