It's Show Time! - What Competition Day is Like

Welcome to part three of our competition series! In this post, we’ll walk you through the day of your competition - with everything from what to expect, to what to bring. You’ve dieted down, and put in the work, and now you’re ready to rock that stage. Here’s what to expect from start to finish, on the day of your competition. As with the other  posts in this series, the focus is on women, but most of this can and will apply to men as well.

What to Pack:

Whether you’re staying at the host hotel the night before or arriving to the show day of, you’re going to want to know what to pack. Here’s the quick and dirty checklist on what to bring.

  • Your Suit/Heels/Stage Jewelry
  • A backup suit/heels/set of stage jewelry - because accidents happen, and you never know
  • Food - your coach should lay out your pre-contest nutrition, in as specific terms as possible. Bring extra of everything, because you never know.
  • Any special supplements - this includes vitamins, minerals, water pills, etc
  • Beauty supplies, if doing your own makeup. Tanning supplies, if doing your own tan
  • Extra Sheets/Pillowcases/Blankets, if staying at a hotel the night before. You don’t want to ruin the sheets with your tan
  • Baggy clothing and a robe, for lounging and backstage, once you’ve been tanned
  • Your Show Registration Documents and NPC Card
  • Pump Bands for Backstage
  • Mirror for Backstage
  • Post Show Outfit - Something you don’t mind messing up with tanner
  • Flip Flops - because you won’t want to walk around in your show heels all day.

The Morning of Show Day: Check-ins

Check-ins are typically 2-3 hours before the competition’s start time. If the show is run well, and most shows are, the check-in process should be quick and painless. You wait in line to hand in your registration confirmation and receive your number. Athletes are measured for height class and weighed, when applicable (such as in the bodybuilding divisions). If you hadn’t registered for the show ahead of time, check-ins would be the time to do it. After check-ins, there is usually an athlete’s meeting, where the showrunners break down the schedule for the day.

The Waiting Game:

Once you are done with the athlete’s meeting, the waiting game - a.k.a hanging out backstage until it’s time to go up - starts. Waiting backstage is where all the fun happens, in my opinion. It’s where you finally get to sit back and relax, not worrying about anything aside from making final tweaks before you go up on stage. The backstage area will be full of competitors, so it’s important to find a spot to park your stuff, and stay there. Try not to overpack for backstage, since there isn’t a ton of space, usually. I find that having a small roller suitcase with everything I need (robe, exercise bands, makeup, etc.), and a cooler bag with my food for the day is usually sufficient. Once you’ve got your spot secured, sit down, relax, and enjoy yourself! Talk to other competitors, make friends, share stories! Depending on how large the show is and what division you’re in, you can be waiting for hours. Prior to going up on stage, you’ll get your glaze on, and probably pump up with those bands you’ve got. Whatever you do, remain calm and relaxed. This is your time to shine! Coaches are allowed backstage, and purchase special passes so that they can hang out with you the entire time. They are there to help with anything you may need along the way.

Stage Time - Pre-Judging

Each show is run differently, and I’ve even come to find that the same shows annually may not be identical in format from year to year. That being said, pre-judging in most cases is when the actual judging occurs, and placements are decided. Typically, you’ll do your full posing routine first, and then stand in line on the side of the stage while every competitor in your class does their routine. Once everyone is done, you will then be called out in lineups, where judges perform comparisons to determine your ranking amongst that group of competitors.

If you are competing in multiple classes (for example bikini novice and open), you usually only do your full posing routine once, the first division you compete in. The second time around, you are only called into the callout comparison lineup.

Intermission - a.k.a That Break between Pre-Judging and Finals

What you do in-between pre-judging and finals will vary, depending on where the show is, and how long the break is. If you have a room at the nearby host hotel, going back to your room to hang out is the most relaxing option. You can put your feet up, have a meal, and relax until it’s time to go back to the venue. If you don’t have a room, or the break is too short, most will go out and enjoy a burger and fries, to “fill out” before the night show. Whatever you do, don’t go too far, and don’t spend all that time standing around. You risk leg swelling, which never makes for a good stage presentation.

Finals, a.k.a The Night Show:

Once you’re backstage again, the waiting game begins once more. Have fun, make friends, and enjoy the experience. The night show usually runs quickly, since most of the judging was done during the day. You’ll typically touch up your tan, fix your makeup and hair, and get another coat of glaze before you go back up on stage.

The night show is for the entertainment of the audience, and will feature guest posers and award ceremonies. Classes will be run through quickly, your name will be announced when it’s your turn to go up, you do a quick pose (usually), and then go into your lineup. From the lineup, first through fifth place is called up to receive their trophies. Professional photographers will be taking pictures from the audience, and those are usually available for purchase afterwards.

The Post Show Feast (But Not Binge!):

Once the day is over, the competitor’s first stop is usually to a restaurant for a celebratory meal. Anyone who has dieted down for a show probably has a laundry list of “forbidden foods” they were craving, and wants it all, at once. The trick with the post show meal is to practice moderation, and to plan accordingly. Pick a spot close to the venue that’s open (some shows run late so call ahead!), and enjoy a good cheat meal. Have that dessert you’re craving, too, but do not make it a free-for-all. I guarantee that if you skip the water and up the salt, you can end up with some really painful swelling. The next day, be sure to drink plenty of water, and enjoy a bit more freedom with your food choices without going crazy. That next Monday, hop right back on to a sensible meal plan, and you’ll skip the painful rebound that some competitors go through. Food isn’t going anywhere, so always proceed with caution, and be sensible. .  

Post Competition - The Take-Aways:

No matter how you place, you should be proud of yourself for conquering your prep and bringing the best version of yourself to the stage. If you win the show - that’s amazing! Perhaps your next step is to tackle the next level of competing. If you didn’t win, or didn’t place, do not get discouraged. If you truly love the sport of bodybuilding, and want to get back up there, be sure to get Judge’s feedback and make whatever changes you need to. If you’ve been there, done that, and decided that it isn’t for you, that’s fine as well. Do what makes you happy, always.

Be sure to make the most of competition day, because your first show is an experience you will remember, always.

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