With Fatima Leite Kusch, Competition prep coach and Pro Fitness Model competitor
Photography by Paul Buceta
You’ve always dreamed about stepping on stage and now, you’re ready to cross it off your bucket list. Join Coach Fatima Leite Kusch here for the next three months as she walks you through the steps of signing up for a show, and what to do once you’ve taken the plunge. She’ll be giving away her pro tips and secrets to rocking the stage, so don’t miss it!
Part 1: How to Choose the Right Show
Competing in fitness is so much more than posing in clear heels and a crystal-studded bikini. Before you can even think about stepping on stage, you have to do your homework first. There are several things to take into consideration before you even cook your first chicken breast: Which show is right for you? Are you best suited for the Bikini category? Figure? How much time will you need to prep? It’s very common to find competition prep plans that start 12-16 weeks away from a stage date, giving novice competitors the impression that they will be stage ready in this exact period of time. But everybody—and every body—is different, as is each category and federation. So let’s begin there.
CATEGORY AND FEDERATION
Deciding which category you compete in will play a key role in determining how much prep time your body will require. The categories vary from show to show, but we’ll focus on the three most popular right now: Bikini, Fitness Model and Figure. It’s important to note that each federation has a slightly different take on the looks, but here is a general guideline:
• Bikini, in most cases, requires a tight body, with a very feminine, and yes sexy, shape. Think curves! Muscle development is required to some degree, especially to build that shapely behind, but you are not expected to be super “cut” or defined.
• Fitness Model is similar to bikini in terms of muscle development but is leaner and more athletic. You will definitely need to have visible abs and muscle definition to place well in this group.
• Figure requires the most muscle building out of these three categories, as well as plenty of beautiful definition and symmetry. Think “V-Shape”: sculpted shoulders and lats, a tight waist with abdominal definition, and strong, developed quads and hamstrings.
Do your research! Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the federation in which you’re going to compete:
• Seek out amateur divisions. There are many federations to choose from, so start by researching a) shows in your area, and b) which ones include amateur divisions. Be sure to check out their websites and flip through photos from past shows. It’s also a good idea to ask around (post questions to social media, inquire at your gym or through friends who have competed), and read other competitors’ reviews.
• Review the categories. Not every show will include all categories, as they vary between federations. Which physique style appeals to you? Choose the one that you aspire to have, yet is realistic for you.
• Look at stage presentation. Become familiar with the category you would like to choose. Are you comfortable learning that style of posing? It’s important to select the category that you could see yourself most willing to present. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to pose just yet, BUT you need to be ready to learn.
Other Things to Consider
A competition requires a great deal of focus. If you have any other major life events that require your time and focus during prep, such as a wedding, work trips or a big exam, I would suggest you rethink the show date and consider competing at a later time. A major event may create added stress that will work against how your body responds to your training, and can make sticking to your training schedule and strict meal plans extra challenging.
So, now you’re familiar with some of the different federations and have an idea of which category you might like to compete in. But before you can sign on the dotted line, you have to make sure to give yourself enough time to get ready to take the stage. This is known as the “prep period.”
First, determine your current body composition. This is your body’s ratio of muscle to fat tissue. This will help you figure out how long it will take you to achieve the “stage look” you are aiming for. Most gyms offer these assessments.
What else to assess:
1. How lean are you currently? Do you have a lot of body fat to lose?
2. How much muscle do you have?
3. Is your body development symmetrical already? (ie: lower body muscle mass matches your upper body muscle mass, as well as the right side of the body matches the left side development).
If you have issues in any of these areas, you might consider hiring a professional competition prep coach (more on that below).
Creating a Realistic Time Frame – Do You Need a Coach?
If you do not know how to determine your current body composition and how to lay out a plan to get to your aspired stage look, I strongly suggest you hire an experienced competition prep coach to help you. While it can be costly, if you’re serious about competing, it is a wise investment. A coach provides both your training programs and meal plans as well as a realistic time frame to reach your goal, taking the guesswork out of prep, so you can stay focused on your training.
Need a coach?
1. Research Competition Prep Coaches. Find one that has a lot of experience and has trained several athletes who have been successful and achieved a high standard in a healthy way.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. This is your body and your money. Talk to the coach, and ask his or her clients for testimonials. Each prep strategy should be individualized to the competitor, but their answers should help you see what approach this coach has and if it is the right fit for you.
Questions to ask coaches and past clients:
• What is their prep like?
• How much one-on-one time is involved?
• Do you get to choose from a variety of foods, or are your daily meals usually the same?
• Are you required to take supplements?
• Is the coach easily accessible? How long do they take to respond to your questions?
• Does the coach provide you with a post-show plan? (More on this in Part Three.)
YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
You’re almost there. You’ve got your sights set on a show and have an idea of what your prep period will look like. There’s just one more thing to consider before you dive in: Do you have a solid support system to help you take this all the way?
Competing is a thrilling, rewarding experience, but it’s extremely hard work. If you do not have a network of people who will support you, it will be even more challenging to be successful. Discuss your goals with your closest friends and family, and help them understand why it’s important for you to have their support. If you’re concerned, you can connect with experienced competitors either through your coach or online for additional support. This journey is not for the faint of heart, and a support system will be a huge key to your success.
There is a lot to consider when deciding on a competition. It’s a big investment of your time and energy, so make sure you do your homework to make the most of your journey to the stage.