Competing for the First Time
by Scott Galton


Having recently competed in my first bodybuilding contest, I realised that there were a lot of hints and tips I picked up along the way that I could share with others thinking of competing in their first show. In this article I hope to make life a little easier for first time competitors.

1. Attend a bodybuilding show

To see what to expect when you compete. It is a good idea to go to a show organised by the federation that you want to compete in, as every federation runs things slightly differently. You may want to go to a couple of shows as itís a good way to feel comfortable in your surroundings without getting on stage.

2. Find someone who competes or has competed locally to you

You can find them by asking around your gym and expressing an interest and desire to compete, or by looking at internet forums. Talking to people with experience really helps you to have a clear understanding of what to expect for the diet and training regime, and most importantly the dedication and determination that is needed. If youíre lucky as I was, they may help you with your diet, posing, tanning etc.

3. Get your life in order

To compete, it helps a great deal if your personal life and work life are settled. By that I mean youíre not starting a new job or relationship. These can both be very exciting and may be stressful periods in your life, but if youíre trying to do your contest prep as well you will find it hard to give 100% to everything due to lack of energy and the obligations you have to your contest diet, such as eating on time and doing cardio.

4. Plan ahead and be organised

Whatever you can do early in your prep, get it done. Things like membership for the federation you are competing in, entry forms, buying your tan, posing trunks and planning your posing routine and music. These things can be very stressful if left to the last minute so get organised and do them nice and early.

5. Get your food preparation in order

Buy in bulk and prep ahead. Once a month I would buy all my meat (mainly chicken breast) and once a week I would cook up enough meat for 3-4 days so you only need to cook once or twice a week. Any time you can save is a God send as you will have lots of other things to do and also this saves you the worry of running out of food close to pay day due to finances.

6. Find a very low calorie food that fills you up and you like

I used lots of vegetables with meals, sugar free jelly and ďno added sugarĒ squash. They acted as little things to get me through the hunger and sweet cravings.

7. Get into a routine

Get up at the same time, eat at the same times, workout at the same times etc. This way you donít need to think about what you need to do next, you just do it. This routine quickly becomes a habit and habits as we all know are very hard to break, especially bad ones! It also helps your partner know how to arrange his or her day Ė especially at weekends. If you plan to go out for the day, make sure you take enough meals with you so you donít break the routine. Once you are dieting, itíll be harder to find places to eat out so BE PREPARED.

8. Practice the things you know that you are going to have to do

You will have to pose, do a posing routine, shave and tan. So practice all these things so you body gets used to doing them. By practicing posing you will feel more confident on stage and will stand out. By shaving early your skin will toughen up so will hold less water and be less prone to irritation, and by trying out the tan you will know what to expect from it.

9. Cut back on the exciting things in life

As the show gets closer you will have less energy for extra activity outside of bodybuilding and work so itís best to scale back on events outside of these two activities.

10. Be honest and open

It is best to be honest with your partner and family as to what youíre doing and whatís going on. Be open with them. I only kept a few close people in the picture and it made things more stressful as people thought I was really ill. Iím sure if I had let them in and explained, people would have worried much less. Also you will need help with shaving, tanning and maybe getting a few things you have forgotten so if people know, they are more willing to help you. Trust me this is a team sport as much as any other.

11. The day before the show

This is pretty much a day you will be inside at home. So donít plan to go out. You will need to have shaved the night before you tan. So if youíre competing on the Sunday, shave on Friday night. A partner or very close mate will be needed to help if possible as shaving your own back is impossible. The day before the show you need zero stress and you need to get your tan on, if youíre not using instant tan. I found 4 coats of tan with an hour and a half gap between each coat worked well on body and face. You will also need help with this. Sleep on old bedding as tan will come off in the night.

12. On the day of the show

Get up nice and early so youíre not rushing about. At this point you will be tanned, except for one coat in the morning (unless youíre using an instant tan which some federations have banned). You should have your food for the day packed, your show bag packed, and be wearing some nice loose fitting clothes for the day as you want to be comfortable.

In your show bag (one with wheels and a handle might be easier) you will need:

  • Towels (old ones)
  • Posing music - 2 copies
  • Entry form
  • Membership card to the federation
  • Food and drink
  • Light weights or bands to pump up with
  • Baby wipes to clean your hands
  • Your after show treat
  • Spare tan to touch up
  • Glaze

    That ladies and gents is my hints and tips for competing for the first time. Iím sure some more seasoned competitors could add lots more.