You have dieted for over twenty weeks. You’re now just hours away from stepping on stage. Instead of exhilaration, you get a sinking feeling. You realize you are running low on food and your veins are fading. You rummage through your bag for that last rice cake and slam it down. Time is running out. You rush to get glazed up and try pumping up for the stage. But the pump has forsaken you and your glaze looks drier than a desert. All the hard work and sacrifice was for nothing.
When I first started competing, I made a lot of mistakes. I didn’t have a coach and good, free information was hard to come by. So I’d just do the best I could and showed up at contests, hoping to learn something new each time. After years of learning, through trial and error, I eventually turned pro. Today, I know a little something about the sport. Let me share what I’ve learned with you.
Don’t Go Light On The Food
More often than not, a show runs late. Not just that, if you make the finals, the order can often change. That’s why you need to plan accordingly and have plenty of food backstage with you. If you start getting flat, it sucks if you don’t have the right food on hand–let alone any food at all. Then there’s the time after pre-judging and finals. After pre-judging will you stand around and talk to family that traveled just to see you? How far is the drive back home or to your hotel? You need plenty of food (and fluids) to be adequately prepared for all contingencies.
I recommend having a meal every two hours once you get to the show, and one extra meal for an emergency. I also pack rice cakes, almond butter, jam, muffins, and Rice Krispy Treats just in case I need some snacks to keep me going. To be absolutely safe, bring three solid meals and snack foods so that you can be prepared for anything. For fluids, have a jug of water and a container that lets you measure out the water in ounces. It is very important to keep track of fluids throughout the whole show process.
Pick The Right Tan
The wrong tan can ruin your stage look. If you go too light, you will be washed out and look softer than melted butter. Remember, the stage lights are very, very bright. So make sure the tan is dark enough. Take the stress off yourself and do not use a self tanner. Most competitors are not experienced enough to do it themselves. Ask yourself if the twenty weeks you spent preparing is worth $100 in having a professional apply the tan.
That’s why I would recommend booking the official show tanner. Ask around and see if other competitors have had a good experience with this individual. Remember, the official tanner will also be back stage and can fix your tan in case you get water (or urine) on yourself. The tanner can also put an extra coat of tan on if you have any doubts about your color.
Stay Warm, Stay Rested
At my last pro show, an amateur event preceded ours. Everyone that was waiting to go on stage was hanging out with their shirts off, bare footed, and standing around. These are all avoidable rookie mistakes. You want to stay covered up as long as you can before having to go on stage. Think about when you look the best. We often look crazy when we get out of the tanning bed. This is because your body is warmed up and blood is brought to the skin. Muscles stay more pliable and you are vascular. Standing around, uncovered, is going to make you get cold, stiff, and harder to pump up.
As for your socks or sandals, keep them on until the last minute. The floor can be cold, and bare skin on a cold floor will lower your body temperature leading to less than desirable results. Consider bringing a blanket and pillow with you back stage. Relax and stay comfortable. At least stay seated with your feet up on a chair. Standing will wear out your legs, especially if you are water-deprived and have had to endure a long, grueling prep.
The Pump Up Secret
Many inexperienced competitors overdo it when it comes to pumping up. In fact, this is such a widespread problem, I’d almost recommend not pumping up at all. Overdoing it can lead to a flat appearance. Here are my recommendations. First, don’t listen to the show expeditors. Their job is to keep the show running on time. They don’t know when you should pump up. I’ve seen guys pumping up an hour before they go on stage. By the time they are lined up, they are cold and their pump is fading. On stage, their pump is nowhere in sight.
Here’s what I do. I wait until I am lined up and can see my class is about to walk out on stage. This should give me about 5-10 minutes. In that time and while in line, I’ll either do push-ups (3 sets of 10) or some band work. That’s all you need to do and nothing more. When you finally get on stage, the lights are hot and just posing hard will get you pumped up. Here’s one final pump tip when pumping up in line. Take 2 tablespoons of honey with 4 ounces of salt water. This concoction will drive up serum sodium and glucose levels, and pull fluids into the vascular space to create some really nasty vascularity.
Glaze Up and Glue Your Suit
I can remember one time where the official tanner was using the incorrect oil for glazing up athletes. At that show, I got three coats of glaze that my skin soaked up, drying me out quickly. I went on stage with no shine. I looked really flat. You don’t want some thin oil. You want a gel product like Pro Tan Muscle Sheen or something like it. I would recommend bringing your own product and have a friend apply it for you if you don’t use the show tanner. Do a a few practice runs a couple weeks out to see how it looks and how to handle the product correctly.
Don’t forget the glue. In some cases, you might need some glue for your suit, which many tanning companies carry as well. The last thing you want is for your posing trunks to turn into a thong on stage. Or imagine one side glue covered and the other one exposed–it’s not a flattering look, trust me. To be safe, just glue the suit to your body so you don’t have to worry about this kind of wardrobe malfunction.
There are a great many tips out there for the new competitor. I’ve listed a few that I’ve experienced personally. As always, do your homework and be prepared for everything. There’s no feeling like standing up on stage under the bright lights. That brief moment is the product of weeks and weeks of hard work. You don’t want that hard work to go to waste, so be thoughtful and bring your absolute best to the stage.