The time is now.
It’s busy, really busy. There’s bustling and hustling. People are rushing around. Other people are standing still in lines. There are beautiful, tanned bodies all around me. It’s dark, it’s loud. There is a unique smell in the air; Like sweat and peanut butter, spray tan and high protein diets. “Look at your number Annette, don’t forget your number” I say to myself as I chant 565 in my head.
A stranger rubs shiny glaze all over my body, and glues my suit to my ass. Is it too late to pee? I begin pumping up my shoulders and back muscles, with oily bands and spray-tanned weights. This is it. This is the place I worked so hard to be. This is the pinnacle of a year of sobriety and hard work in the gym, even harder work in the kitchen, and 4 months of intense, focused competition and posing training.
Someone asks me what my number is, and files me into a line up of bodies that are all in peak condition. What have these athletes gone through, to get here? What challenges did they have to face, and overcome to get to this moment. What an amazing group of humans.
It’s almost time! I can hear the crowd from behind the red velvet curtain. I can see a sliver of light, and a small glimpse of the class before mine. They are on stage, presenting to the judges. Now I can see the crowd. I have adrenaline surging through my body. I live for this feeling. “Butterflies in my stomach”, “nerves and fear” kind of feeling. It is only when we face our doubt, and our fear, that we can truly grow. These moments mold us. These moments are what life is all about. I calm my mind. I have to focus. This is no time to let myself get distracted. “565” I say again.
The line ahead of me begins to walk out. It feels like a wave pulling me forward. I take a breath, check my posture, and step out. The light washes over me. I feel the adrenaline rushing through my body. Exciting every cell. My senses are all overloaded with energy. I am addicted. That was all it took. One moment. In that one moment, I knew my life’s path. I am a competitor. This, is my destiny.
My path to competition wasn’t something that I really planned for or expected. I simply made choices. Choices everyday, to better myself. To become more of what I was really meant to be. Competing was just the final step for my sobriety and new lifestyle. It was a celebration of all that my husband and I had done, not just to get to stage, but to make better choices for our lives. No one sees the 2.5 years of training in the gym, of learning food prep, of posing class every weekend, of changing our whole lifestyle. It takes a lot. It takes everything you have. But that, is why it is so worth it!
Competition has taught me the value of working hard for what you want most, and when you finally reach your goal, it is a feeling that will never leave you. It is the feeling of achieving something you cannot buy, and can’t fake. Bodybuilding is a total solitary thing. You may be on a team, or have a coach, or a trainer. But it is YOU that will have to do the work. You will have to push yourself, push yourself past the point you were once comfortable with. It will be YOU that hits every rep, every set. And in the end, it will be YOU that grows, and gains from it.
Starting out competing can be difficult. Especially if you are not a “gym person”. My first suggestion is to make sure you love the process. It is a very challenging road to walk down. If you do not already love lifting, cardio and eating clean, it will be even harder for you. There are days when you fell like you are running a non-stop 16 week marathon. Am cardio, then food prep, then back to the gym for weight training, then work, life, family, then laundry, then pm cardio… and repeat. You are sore, you are smelly, you are tired, and you are broke (lol). But did I mention it is worth every minute of it!?
I would make sure that you go to a few shows first. Check out how the show is run. Find a team that you feel will fit your needs. Do your research. There are so many coaches out there, and no two are alike. You should always feel confident in your coach. Prep should never feel unhealthy. I was eating big, well balanced meals, every 3 hours. I wasn’t doing crazy cardio, until the final few weeks. If you are doing a prep on your own, make sure you are doing loads of research, and really design a plan for yourself.
Try volunteering with the BCABBA. Both my husband and I volunteer for the BCABBA. He bought a support membership so he can come to all the events and meetings and be a part of the experience, even though he is not a competitive member(yet). You do not have to be a bodybuilder to be a part of this amazing group. Because I only did one show at the local level, and winning overall at the Popeye’s Fall Classic 2015 qualified me for Provincials, I didn’t really get to have a lot of show/stage experience. I found that volunteering gave me great insight and experience into how the shows are run. I met all the amazing people who organize and run the shows (volunteers). I was able to really be there for the other athletes, on their special day and made so many new amazing friendships.
By the time I stepped on stage at my second show, Vancouver Pro\Am 2016, I knew all the amazing volunteers and I knew so many of the amazing athletes I was competing with. It really felt like a huge family reunion! I was so grateful that I had volunteered at all the shows, it made me feel like I was really a part of the bodybuilding community and I was able to share such an amazing day with everyone I loved. It was such a great feeling being on stage. Knowing that so many of the people in that room, were my friends, and team mates. For Steve and I, sharing our journey with everyone, was what really made it so special.
I have competed in 3 shows from Nov 2015 – July 2016. One local level, one Provincial level and one National level. I must say, at the core, they were all basically the same. There is an athletes meeting the Friday night before the show. Make sure you bring your suit for check in and lots of meals. You never know how long they might take. Bring (at least) 2 suits just in case you do not get passed, and be aware of the suit requirements. At Nationals they are very firm about these requirements so make sure you fit your suit properly. Bring your ID, and cash is usually required for booking the stage photographer(highly recommended and usually around $100). If you do not buy the professional stage shots, the judges cannot give you feed back. So be prepared for this extra fee. You usually get your first coat of tan on the Friday night too, don’t get wet after you have your tan on. Make sure you prep your skin properly the week before your tan. Ask your tanner for specific instructions to get the best result. Get good rest, and be packed up and ready the night before.
The morning of your show, will start early. Make sure you are listening at the athletes meeting, to know when you are supposed to be at the theatre. Do not be late. It is impossible to know exactly what time you will be called on stage. Some shows go really slow, but some shows go very quickly, so if you do not show up on time, you might miss your call. On show day, your only job is to NOT MISS YOUR CALL. Do not hang out in the parking lot, do not wander around the venue…just wait where the volunteers tell you to. They will find you when it is your time, but only if you are in the athlete’s area. I have seen competitors miss their stage, because they were on the phone in the parking lot, or they fell asleep between the morning and night show. You worked for 16 weeks, and show day is not the day to mess up.
For show day you may want to bring:
A big mirror, blanket, pillow, spray tan, bikini bite, water, snacks, paper towel, towels, shower cap, cups (lol), bands or weights, glaze, ID, magnesium for cramping, umbrella…
It is very chaotic backstage, and very messy. So try to keep your stuff all in one spot. Once you have your tan on, you cannot get wet. One drop of water, can run a streak down your whole leg. Touch-ups are usually available and can help, but its better to try to not ruin your tan. Make sure you are covered up until your group is called. If someone splashes water, clothing will protect your tan a little.
Make sure you are practicing your posing before you go on. Do not go out there “cold’. Run through your routine a few times to get your body ready. And also stretch! Get those beautiful muscles nice and limber. Once you are about to go on stage, remember, you are there to show people, what can be done with hard work and determination. No matter what happens out there, always present your best and have fun! You never know who you are inspiring! Always smile. Even when your face starts shaking, keep smiling. You want to make sure that you are projecting your energy outward. Shine! Be confident. Own your moment!
I would suggest booking photo shoots around your show day. Some people like to do the week before, and some do them the week after. It is important to capture all your hard work. If you are going to look for sponsors or start a fitness business, you will need pictures of yourself. Its really fun to look back and compare my stage and photo shoot photos, from each competition. It’s a great way to see your growth.
The goal is to place well on stage, yes. But what you gain is not from a trophy or placement. What you gain comes from every time you stepped into the gym, from every weight you lifted. Don’t forget, no matter what happens out there, YOU did all the work, and YOU overcame challenges. YOU are an absolute rock star! You will forever be apart of a family of people, who love what they are doing, and who live with passion. You will learn things about yourself that will surprise you. You will become stronger than you ever though you could be. You will rise, and you will lift others too.
Your time is now.
Follow Annette on Instagram @Annette_Corvette