Riana Rohmann by Riana Rohmann

Being involved in figure or bodybuilding competitions can be an amazing experience, but there are things you should know before you dive right in. Part one of this series discussed four important considerations to help you to decide if competitions are right for you. This post offers five more things to think about before you make the commitment to compete.

Learn the categories. With your own physique in mind, watch a show to determine which category you want to compete in. For women, the National Physique Committee (NPC) categories are bodybuilding, physique, figure and bikini. If you happen to be very muscular, you might lean toward the physique category, whereas if you’re lean but have curves, you might be more of a bikini girl. For men, the categories are bodybuilding and physique. Before you decide, do some research and see what best suits your personality and figure.

Choose your federation. There are quite a few federations to choose from, each with their own costs, available shows, drug-testing rules and standards. Investigate each one and see which option best fits your personal goals. The largest federations with the most shows are National Physique Committee (NPC)—my  personal choice as they have the most shows and are most widespread—World Beauty, Fitness and Fashion (WBFF), International Natural Bodybuiling Association (INBA), Amateur Bodybuilding Association (ABA) and Professional Natural Bodybuilding Association (PNBA).

Be okay with weight fluctuations. Your showing on stage is the result of eight to 12 weeks of hard work, extreme yet safe dieting, hours upon hours of working out, and possibly sodium and water depletion. Not to mention the tan, oil and posing, all of which make you look phenomenal in pictures. Even so, you should expect to gain weight back after a show. First, the level of dieting that most competitors do is not sustainable for a year-round physique. Even if you have a coach help you to diet and exercise safely, you can still expect to gain anywhere from 5 to 10 pounds within a few weeks post-show. That is not only okay, but it is also necessary. Those low levels of body fat are not recommended year round, especially for women. Secondly, do not let the scale rule your life. It becomes a mental game. Talk to your coach about a post-show eating plan and how to safely put back on a few pounds without going overboard. Many competitors make the mistake of returning to their “normal” pre-show eating, rather than slowly ease back to into their “normal” lifestyle.

Stay focused on your goal. During your competition prep, keep your focus on you. You may hear negative comments from friends or family members about your changing body shape, your lack of time, your refusal to meet them for happy hour, etc. Your prep is all about you and it’s important that you stay positive. Stress can have a negative impact on your prep, so opt to surround yourself with positive people who understand what you are going through, such as other competitors. Also try to give your family and friends a heads up so they know what to expect. Who knows, you may even inspire them!

Do it for the right reasons. Know that competing is inherently selfish, as no one benefits from it except you. You do not get paid unless you win a national show and go pro, or miraculously get modeling gigs or sponsors—although it is definitely possible. Rather, you get the satisfaction and the glory of reaching your goals and showcasing your awesome physique on a stage for all your friends and family to see. Keep in mind, however, that competing is not for everyone. You are judged based on your physical appearance, and your placing will differ from show to show depending on whom you are competing against. I honestly did not know how I would feel until after my first show, but I knew it was something I always wanted to do. After my first show I got the bug, and now I’ve competed in five different shows. I love pushing myself to my limits and seeing the change in my body. I love the drive and I even love the oompa-loompa tans. I have met the most amazing and inspirational people and have an awesome coach and teammates (shout out to Team 619 Muscle and Sexy-Strong: Nutrition for Women).

I feel I’ve made the right choice for me. If you choose to compete, go at it with 100 percent commitment, drive and passion and know that no matter where you place on the stage, you made it there with no regrets.