10 Experts Give Tips On Competition Prep Just Days, Hours, Or Minutes Before Stage Time!

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10 Experts Give Tips On Competition Prep Just Days, Hours, Or Minutes Before Stage Time!
By Dr. DavidLast updated: Jul 02, 2010

Are you ready to step on stage? Are you sure? Don’t let stress turn your hard-earned physique soft! Read the best advice from the experts on how to prepare for those final days and minutes before you go for the win!
Article Summary:
Remember, if you’re stressed, your body will physically change your look in only minutes.
Too many times competitors run out of food and are at the mercy of whatever is available.
Athletes need to have a support team, family supporters, hair dressers, make-up, and more.
Failure to prepare is preparing to fail. -Benjamin Franklin
Are you scared to step on stage? Are you sure you’re ready? Being nervous is common for many athletes, but it not only hinders your performance, it directly affects your lean look. It only takes minutes if you are upset about something for it to have a profound effect on your stage look. Once it happens, the damage is done and it may take hours or days for it to correct. You have spent a long time getting ready for literally just minutes on the stage, so don’t blow it.

This article is geared to help you prepare for a competition. Not the training, not the diet, it is geared at the million other things you need in order to step on stage. Lots of athletes are trying to make their mark, but you only have a few seconds for a judge to see the final package. Do you stand out? Do you have the look for the first call out? Do you have the confidence and poise to stand there against all the odds?

I have assembled some of the best people in the world to offer you advice. They are current and former professional athletes or have trained more people to win more physique competitions than any other group in the world.

Given their past records, they have a keen lock on what it takes in the fitness industry to make it to the top. Some of their points may be repetitive, but on your low carb brain, if you heard it a hundred times…well then…you just might start listening. This article is likely more important than any training or diet article you will ever read for your competition preparation whether you are male or female.

Being Nervous Is Common For Athletes, But It Can Hinder Your Performance And Affect Your Lean Look.

Why Have A Team Of Experts?
Mike Davies (Fitness Factory), Kim Oddo (Oddo’s Angles), and Carla Sanchez (Team Sanchez) are the top three trainers of females in the entire female IFBB/NPC. Along with their suggestions are also top IFBB professionals to offer their own personal advice. If the comments are short, it is likely because it is important to them.

This article is only the start and is in no way a substitution for the actual trainers. Many athletes are afraid to take the step and financial burden to use these experts. The truth is that this article will only point out a few of the more common mistakes, but as I said, there are millions of scenarios and I hope you brought your “A” game.

Remember when you are low carb, under pressure, dealing with the unpredictable events of a competition, you need to search your soul for the strength to complete your goal. Ask yourself, “Am I sure I am capable of taking the final step? Can I make all the right choices?”

Think about the following situations you could potentially have to handle minutes before getting on stage. Will you be able to remain calm if your suit is lost, your heel of your shoe breaks, your suit drops a critical piece of rhinestone, your color starts to fade, your boyfriend is sitting next to some flirty girl in the audience, your dad dies (ask Arnold), your entry form has been lost, they shipped your bags with your food to another airport, the windshield of the airplane cracks and you are set down in the airport for literally hours while it is fixed without water (ask Karen Patterson, it happened to her before she won her pro card in NYC)? I could continue forever.


Most male bodybuilders live paycheck to paycheck, deal with what is right in front of them, think that only big muscles matter and think about their color for tanning only a few days before competition. They stress out at the last minute when something goes wrong.

Remember your body will physically change your look in only minutes and you will become flat or washed out. Not a good look to have on stage with lights set at F8 and all the judges eyes are on you and hundreds of people just looking for something to laugh at.

Kim Oddo: Oddo’s Angels, Personal Trainer and Competition Expert

Your contest prep motto: Be Prepared!

Sometimes in our haste to reach the stage, we forget to properly prepare ourselves for the weekend of chaos!! You need to make sure that all your contest prep appointments like tanning, make-up and hair, are scheduled with enough time so as not to be in a rush to get to the venue. Once you’re running behind schedule, the day quickly turns into a whirl wind adventure.

Bring Plenty Of Food

Make sure to bring plenty of food with you! Too many times competitors run out of food and are at the mercy of whatever is available, which may have hidden sodium in it and boom – water! If you can’t bring food with you, as soon as you arrive at the show location, go out to the nearest grocery and pick up your food needs.

Too Many Times Competitors Run Out Of Food And Are At The Mercy Of Whatever Is Available.

Pack your suits and shoes in your carry on with you on the plane trip, if your baggage is lost, you can still compete as long as you have your shoes and suit. Bring extra sheets and pillow cases to cover the hotel bed. Hotels sometimes charge for cleaning services now, and the bill is not cheap, usually hundreds of dollars!

Have Some Extras

Always bring a couple of extra photo shoot outfits; you never know when a photo opportunity will present itself. I have created a check list for both myself and my clients of everything needed for the show. It’s a great way to remind you of all necessities. As we all know how scatter-brained we get during those last couple of days.



Try to book all your reservations in advance as that is the best way to get the best deals, and be sure to ask your hotel if they have microwaves and refrigerators in the rooms as well as an exercise room.

Be Aware Of The Time

Very important: be sure to know all the check in times for your contest and pay close attention to registration deadlines and eligibility rules!

Many competitors have missed check-in opportunities, not had proper id on hand, or no current NPC card and as a result, they arrive unable to compete. Please be sure to check all the above to make sure you have all your bases covered!


Lastly and most important, be sure to bring a smile and lots of patience! Shows are very intense and hardly predictable, but they are very rewarding when you carry that smile around and just have fun!

Corry Mathews: IFBB Pro Figure/Fitness Athlete
If you can afford to have your hair and makeup done by a professional then do it! It is the best $200-$300 you will spend for your competition. It takes away all the frustration and worry of getting ready the morning of your competition! Let others worry about getting you ready, all you have to do is just be there. Think of it as a “Day Spa.”
Mike Davies: Fitness Factory, Personal Trainer and Competition Expert
Failure To Prepare Is Preparing To Fail

Traveling is tough and always stressful. Athletes who have stress, look flat and soft. Getting yourself together begins months before you step on stage. Trying to just “take each day as it comes” and not prepare is likely going to leave you out of the first call out.

Have Your Support Team

All athletes need to get their support team ready, family supporters, hair dressers, make-up, and more. You can’t prepare too much for a competition and that keeps your stress down and helps you stay lean.

Pack Your Own Food

The main reason I have seen athletes blow a competition is because of not having food ready for their travels. In some cases you will travel outside the US, and that takes extra attention to detail. Ship your food if you can’t carry it. It might be a few bucks to get it shipped overnight, but it will be there.

People come to the Arnold Classic every year and think, “I will just go to the store.” They are nuts, since a half million other people who eat just like them are in town for the show, and when they get to the store there is no “salt free tuna” on the shelf. Now they have to eat something that is not on their diet, and they lose their lean look in only minutes. Ship it! Fed Ex and UPS both have special boxes that you can get and even pack with dry ice to carry when shipping overnight.

Keep Spares

You should be packing simple and light, but taking two of everything is always wise. At the worst, you might be able to sell off your excess and make back some of the money you spent to compete or help out a team mate who is likely able to return the favor someday.

Bring Your Sheets

A note on hotel sheets: contestants often stay at the same hotels for the various events. Many hotels have realized that the spray tan and self tan are ruining their sheets. They can charge you for this! Take two old twin sheets and sew them together like a sleeping bag for you to sleep in while you are sporting your artificial tan.

You don’t need the note under the door from the hotel claiming damage. Also, it is a good idea to take a picture of the room on your cell phone before you check out. Keep it until the final bill has been processed from the trip.

Losing your temper, feeling that you are ripped off by the judges, can ruin your look from the prejudging to the night show. That might be all it takes. I am the one who worries, complains, and tries to keep things fair. Don’t lose your temper to make me have to work harder to calm you down.

Limit your exposure to anyone who doesn’t remain calm. Spouses, boyfriends, family can all stress you out with their fighting and complaining. Your calmness should be an infection to them, train yourself and those close to you to simply, “Relax, and let it slide!”
Carla Sanchez: Team Sanchez, IFBB Pro Figure Athlete
Work With Your Coach

After finding an experienced fitness and figure coach and beginning your pre-contest preparation, trust your coach and follow all of your coach’s recommendations only! It’s amazing how many people around you suddenly become experts when you begin training for a competition.

Don’t be influenced by a dozen different training and dieting philosophies. Save yourself the confusion and stress by sticking to one approach. After your competition, meet with your coach to evaluate your results and discuss the next step. Following that meeting is the time to decide whether you will continue a working relationship or choose another coaching route.

Trust Your Coach And Follow All Of Your Coach’s Recommendations.
Have respect for your fitness goals and give them the time and effort they deserve. If you want serious results, then you must take your training and dieting seriously!

Do Not Procrastinate

Regularly ask yourself, “In order to reach my goals, what is the best use of my time right now?”

No Excuses

Anticipate work or school deadlines and foreseeable high stress periods, plan your training and diet accordingly. Don’t use holidays, vacations, family activities, or work functions as excuses to miss your workouts or to cheat on your diet. Get up earlier to train and pack all of your meals with you. You will not reach your goals with a load of excuses. It’s up to you to stay on track!

Say No

Partying till the wee hours of the night or spending grocery money on frivolous items at the mall will not help you reach your fitness goals. You are a competitive athlete with better things to do with your time and money.

Say, “Maybe Later.”

Postpone social phone calls, visits from friends, checking e-mail and other interruptions or distractions for after your workout. Take care of business first, which is your training, and save the fun for later.

Postpone Social Phone Calls And Other Interruptions Or Distractions For After Your Workout.
Or Distractions For After Your Workout.
No Whining

There is never a good excuse to cry, complain, moan or whine about your training, diet or preparation process. Yes, you’ll be tired and of course you’ll be sore and hungry, but no one said this would be easy! It is your decision to make the necessary sacrifices and complaining about it will not help your efforts. It’s really not all that bad when you can look in the mirror and see a lean, shapely physique forming!

Jenny Gates: IFBB Pro Figure Athlete, Ms. Figure Olympia
Stay focused and organized! Start making all appointments as early as possible! That includes hair, makeup, nails, and spray tanning sessions! Always leave hair, makeup, suits, and tan to the professionals!


Hugo Rivera: Nutritional and Training Expert
The best pre-contest advice that I can give anyone is the following: know what to expect. Things to consider when you are signing up for a bodybuilding show are:

Extra Expenses

Extra expenses due to increased food, supplementation, tanning, posing trunks, contest fees, possible travel fees (depending on contest location), fees for coaching, and more. If your budget is tight, my advice is to not do a show until your finances get better.

If Your Budget Is Tight, Don’t Do A Show Until Your Finances Get Better.
A Show Until Your Finances Get Better.
Extra Time

Consider the extra time that will be spent in training, tanning, posing practice, and attending meetings with your coach.

Family Support

Make sure that you have your family’s support, because if you have to constantly answer questions as to why you are doing what you are doing, your task will be a million times harder to accomplish. Also, it is only fair that you get with everyone around you and explain to them about what it is going to take to achieve the goal of competing.

Pre-Contest Coach

If you are really serious about competing, enlist the help of a good pre-contest coach, because that takes the guesswork out of the equation. I always competed with the help of Tim Gardner. Once you have that coach, only listen to him and not to everyone else. It seems that when you decide to do a bodybuilding contest, suddenly everyone is a guru and will tell you what to do. My advice is to only listen to your coach and execute the plan no matter what.

The Right Mindset

Have the right pre-contest mindset. As those of you who have competed know, your mind starts playing games with you. Inner voices begin to tell you that you are too skinny, that you need to eat more, that you are losing muscle and so on. Sometimes, people around you do the same. In addition, your energy levels will be low all the time, especially during the last 4 weeks.

Become A Machine

You will need to become like a machine, like a terminator, and just execute the plan no matter what. Take all feelings aside and the only thing that will matter is executing the plan and your end result. Only the goal matters, period!

Compete Against Yourself

Only compete against yourself. You cannot control who will show up, and you cannot control the outcome of the show. At the end of the day, bodybuilding is a highly subjective sport. What you can control, however, is how you look! Therefore, only focus on that and stop caring about who else might show up on the day of your show.

You Cannot Control Who Will Show Up, And You Cannot Control The Outcome Of The Show.
Have Fun

Have fun and when you feel hungry and miserable just remember what the goal is and do not make those people around you miserable with your bad mood. One thing that I always did in preparation for a show is that when I felt horrible, I just smiled and that made me feel better. In addition, I would say to myself, “The worse I feel, the better I look!” Remember that at the end of the day, no one pointed a gun to your head to do this.

Lee Labrada: Former IFBB Pro Body Builder, Owner Labrada Nutrition
“God is in the details”

It is very important to get obsessed with the details of presentation. Many bodybuilders are only concerned with their diet and their training, and that is a mistake. It is important to consider how your skin looks long before you take a step onto that stage.

Base Tan

Getting a solid base tan prior to any spray application is critical. I have seen bodybuilders who have terrific muscularity and definition, yet their skin appears blotchy and does not look good to the judges. A blotchy appearance will take away from months of dieting and training and have a profound effect on your stage definition.

Proper Fitting Suit

Bodybuilders do not have many props and so making sure that your suit fits your body appropriately is critical. Take pictures of different choices and make everything in the picture identical except the suit and its position. Ask friends their opinion. It is important to try on different suits and mess around with their placement on your body. I would always personally choose a dark suit color to prevent the blotchy smeared look.

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[ Click here to learn more. ] Nice Even Tan

A good looking presentation looks sloppy if your color is running. Poor color is a nightmare when you are standing in front of the judges or you stepped into the back where the magazine/internet photographers are waiting for you. Posing and seeing a huge thumb print on your bright yellow suit is a sobering moment to remind you that dark blue or green or black wasn’t such a bad choice!

They’re Always Watching

When you step on the stage, remember that the judges’ eyes are on you all the time. When the judge says relax, that only means to stand there flexed. Lots of bodybuilders do not smile, or they will let their stomach sag while they are on stage or during the competition. It takes a lot to impress a judge, but it only takes a second for them to cast you off of the winner’s podium.

Practice Your Posing

Practice posing; and that means not only your posing, but how you walk, stand and move around. Simple things like learning to breathe through your chest and pant like a dog, instead of trying to breathe through your stomach, will make a long day go a lot quicker.
Leave The Stage Quickly

When the judges have you picked as the winner, you are usually dismissed from the stage quickly. The longer you stay, the more likely you are to make a mistake. Do it right the first time, and then you won’t have to stand there and keep proving your position.


Jan Tana: Jan Tana Tanning Products
Take the time to call in early for a competition and get a time for tanning that allows for the color to dry prior to jumping into your suit and walking on stage. So many times athletes are calling the last minute and begging for a time that is in their schedule. We tan hundreds of athletes for the nationals and they are all ready prepared and scheduled.

The last minute caller gets upset that the only time available is 4 AM or minutes before the show starts. So call early and avoid the rush and unnecessary stress. That way you can look your best on stage.

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Creates the darkest instant tan! Competition TAN’S dark bronzer gives an exaggerated deep, dark tan. Perfect for Stage use! Smoothes on easily, dries in minutes, and washes off! Makes tanning for your competition a breeze!
[ Click here to learn more. ] Be sure to try products out early and see what color looks best on you. Make sure you prep yourself prior to getting tanned for the best results.

Elaine Goodlad: Former IFBB Pro Figure-Model-Makeup Artist
You have to take what you have and work with it. Makeup is a key step in making you feel good about your look. Do you have the right shade for your new color and does it match with that new Jag suit?

I use several great lines of professional products for a simple reason, because they work, and the colors don’t run or fade as the day wears on. I have had to model in the freezing cold, boiling hot desert and on rainy days, so using the right product is a key at getting the right look.

Calling me months ahead of time will allow me plenty of time to help you with any color or skin issues. It takes time to really fix skin issues and the more time the better, so call today.

My background started back in the 80’s with me doing my own makeup and then helping others. Offering to help others is a great way to make friends and even start a business.

Offering To Help Others Is A Great Way To Make Friends And Even Start A Business.

Injuries were always my toughest obstacle and getting ready for a contest meant learning to train around those issues. Making sure that people were there to help me always made my efforts on stage go smoother.

To Do List:
Here is an example of your to do list.

Contest Prep Check List:

Set date for competition
Remove all activity the week before competition
Remove all job duties four days prior to competition
Check for financial support for competition (can I afford $4000-$5000)
Hire a trainer
Get Competition Suit and other gear ready
Book hotel and flight and rental car if necessary
Call to set up tanning appointment prior to show
Call for makeup and hair if applicable
Get teeth whitened
Get nails appointment (hands and toes) if applicable
Order extra tanning product (you never know)
Order supplements
Decide cheat meal after the show (Oh, so you are paying attention!)
Sign up for a posing class
Pick out music and work out a routine if applicable
Move aside two more hours a day just for cardio
Move Aside Two More Hours A Day Just For Cardio.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Move Aside Two More Hours A Day Just For Cardio.
I hope this list gets you started, but the list is not close to being complete. Make your own additions and keep to the schedule. Don’t panic if something goes wrong. What is best about having a trainer is that you can just follow directions. On a low carb diet, thinking isn’t anyone’s strong point when your brain is low on energy. Take the time now, before you get started, to prepare for the toughest times.

Best tip for women getting ready to compete.

Keep your tan looking good by placing a bit of paper in the bowl of the toilet prior to your next pee. The splash can ruin a tan, and I have had to re-spray many butts in my life from pee spray. Welcome to the real world.

There is one final key point to take onto the stage with you. Everyone loves to have fun and that includes the judges, so if you are on stage and having fun, or talking to them before or after the event, show some excitement and a positive attitude. Judges are human (except for Lee Thompson, he is the new Terminator) and they love a positive attitude and fun person. So shine on stage and backstage, then that powerful energy will reach the judges and the score sheet. Here’s to seeing you at your best

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