Competition Articles

Will You Step On Stage in 2015?


With fitness competing growing in popularity each and every year, you may be considering strutting your stuff in a show this year.  Competing is a significant commitment, and the prep itself takes a whole lot of commitment and dedication. As you set your new year’s resolutions, you may be thinking about adding competing to your goals. In all honesty, I originally planned to discuss the downfalls of stepping on stage as a fitness competitor in this piece. When I presented my idea to the editor, she encouraged me to make sure both sides of the story were shown. After thinking about it, I realized that I am by no means an expert in fitness competitions from my limited experience. Although I personally discovered that the stage isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, it obviously is for many, and it is not my intent to deter others from competing.

My Story

My personal story stems from being a competitive athlete my entire life. I have always loved setting goals and keeping my eye on the prize, whether that be a faster time, a higher placing, or advancement to the next level of competition. How I looked never impacted my performance; skill and physical fitness did. I lifted to gain power and I sweat to increase stamina.

After numerous ankle injuries, I put a stop to any activity involving impact, which included ending my gymnastics career. With my repertoire of crazy pursuits diminished, I found myself looking for something new to focus on. While I had sworn I would never enter a fitness competition, I found myself signing up to step on stage in 2012. The heels, the posing, the spray tan, and the skimpy bikini were all so foreign to me. Unlike my previous sporting endeavors, my workouts became focused on improving my outward appearance so I could be judged next to a lineup of women who were working for the same outcome.

When it came time to step on stage, I worked it as best I could. I rocked those four inch heels, limping across stage with my bad ankle and felt the rush of weeks of hard work and dedication paying off. I embraced the process and enjoyed my time on stage, even if it wasn’t what I was used to doing, or what I truly loved.

But, this article is not all about me. In order to gain other perspectives and viewpoints, I reached out to friends who have had more experience on stage in a variety of categories. In female fitness competitions there are typically four or five categories depending on the organization or event: bikini, fitness model, figure, physique, and bodybuilding.   There is also a fitness category which includes a routine of gymnastics, aerobics, and strength feats. The criteria and judging expectations differ in terms of muscularity and leanness, as well as how the athletes present themselves on stage. I wanted to be able to compare their answers, so I asked each of these competitors the same five questions to provide more insight into their stage world.


Meet Kim….


Age: 38
Number of shows: Two
Category: Bikini

Why did you decide to compete?

I decided to compete to step out of my comfort zone and get in the best possible shape I could.

What do you miss out on by making the choice to step on stage?

It’s 100% discipline. Like a second job, you have to be committed.

What is the best part about show day?

Watching how amazing your body can actually look and being proud of what you have accomplished.

What is the biggest struggle in the weeks following the show?

The struggle is watching your body change back again after the competition- a show day body is an unrealistic goal to try to maintain.

Will you do it again and why?

I would like to do it again so I can truly appreciate the process, plus I think I can place better.

Sum up your fitness competition experience in one word:



Meet Sarah….


Age: 33
Number of shows: Seven
Category: Figure (short)

Why did you decide to compete?

I started lifting weights when I was 14. I didn’t have a goal or anything in mind, I just loved lifting weights. I loved the feeling and I especially loved the way that I felt afterward. One day, someone in the gym asked me if I was training for something. This got me thinking that maybe I should focus my love of the sport and drive towards a goal. That’s when I decided to train for my first show. I then competed in November of 2009.

What do you miss out on by making the choice to step on stage?

There were some nights that I missed going out for dinner and drinks with friends. I didn’t look at it as missing out though. I learned a lot about myself and what I’m capable of accomplishing. The times I “missed out” on with friends helped me realize who my real friends were – those who supported me and respected my choices. After the show, I was able to make up for a few of those nights out with the girls anyhow!

What is the best part about show day?

The best part about show day is that you made it! The day you’ve worked so hard for, for so many months finally arrives and you can’t help but feel a sense of pride. It’s your time to shine… literally. It’s a surreal day, you meet new friends and see old ones. It’s a day you will never ever forget and I always want to do it all over again – for this moment. It’s amazing!

What is the biggest struggle in the weeks following the show?

The biggest struggle for me after a show is getting used to not being in prep mode. I know that I can’t stay as lean as I was the week leading up to the show (although it would be nice!). I know it’s not healthy to keep my body fat levels that low, so I try to be mindful and make good diet choices. I splurge and enjoy myself post show. The more shows I do, the easier it is for me to relax and get back to a normal healthy weight.

Will you do it again and why?

Yes, I would do it again because I love it. I love having a goal, following a diet, and training hard. Although there are good days and bad ones, the whole journey to competition day is an incredible challenge.

Sum up your fitness competition experience in one word:



Meet Katlyn….


Age: 24
Number of shows: Six
Category: Physique

Why did you decide to compete?

I come from a background of powerlifting. After attending worlds with the World Powerlifting Congress, I battled a shoulder injury that prevented me from performing my usual heavy training program. I modified my training to a lighter style to keep active, which caused me to start to lean out. I thought to myself, “Why not see where I can go with this?”.  After the first time I stepped on stage, I fell in love and haven’t looked back.

What do you miss out on by making the choice to step on stage?

I don’t actually feel that I miss out on anything. This is my life. I choose to live it the way I want. I feel a lot of people bring a negative attitude to the competition scene because they direct so much of their attention towards the things they have to give up rather than recognizing the achievements they have made throughout the process. I choose to find the positives. When I have tough days and feel like I’m missing out on life, I fight through them by thinking to myself, “This is your choice and if you’re not happy with it then stop”. I don’t believe you have to eliminate yourself from situations because you’re prepping for a competition. You choose to accept the choices you make and live your life how you’d like. I am also blessed with friends who understand what I do and are extremely supportive of my lifestyle.

What is the best part about show day?

I love to pose! The feeling of stepping on stage to showcase the body you have worked so hard to achieve is unparalleled. Showing up with the most aesthetically pleasing body is so important but, in my opinion, the perfect physique is worthless if it’s not showcased with the proper posing. The ability to present it in the best way possible is truly a skill. I take pride in my ability to pose and it’s something that I work on year-round. When I step on stage, I’m excited flex my muscles and you can bet I do it with a giant smile on my face.

What is the biggest struggle in the weeks following the show?

Post show is definitely an emotional roller coaster. I find that as I gain more experience competing, my struggles shift. I no longer freak out about the rebound or stress about the water retention because I expect it; it’s unavoidable at this level. My biggest struggle is going back to normal day-to-day life and easing out of the workload that was required in preparation for the show. Because I focus such a large percentage of my life on prepping during the season, it is easy to feel very undirected following the show.

Will you do it again and why?

Yes, yes, and YES! The dedication and drive it takes to prepare from start to finish is unparalleled to anything I’ve ever experienced. I love the work it takes to transform your body. Seeing weekly changes in my physique and knowing that it is not with the aid of some miracle drug or fad diet, but instead is a direct result of all the hard work and discipline I’ve put forth is extremely gratifying. The sense of accomplishment after a full prep keeps me coming back for more. The ability to have that much self-control makes me feel like I could get through anything!

Sum up your fitness competition experience in one word:

So there you have it- different categories, ages, experiences, and perspectives. This challenge of entering and preparing for a fitness competition requires a mindset unlike any other. Personally, I’m glad I gained the experience, but I still crave an objective outcome rather than the subjective outcome that accompanies competing and is based on how you look alone. Competing is a great goal to set, but I encourage individuals to understand all that is involved before committing. Additionally, consider what outcome you’re trying to gain from the experience. Do it for the personal challenge and achievement, rather than the placing at the end of the day; once the tan washes off, you just need to be proud you made it to the stage!

Will there be another one for me? One thing I have learned for sure is never say never.

Kristen Vidlak is a registered dietician and personal trainer. She grew up as a competetive gymnast and later attended the university of Maine on a full athletic scholarship where she was captain of their record breaking women’s track & field team. Currently, Kristen enjoys modelling and competing in fitness events throughout North America. Her experiences in athletic training and competing, coupled with her dietetic education give Kristen a unique and well-rounded perspective when it comes to health in fitness.

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