I remember it like it was yesterday… My first national level NPC competition in figure, back in 2011. Such an exciting time, my goals set on earning my IFBB Pro card. I stood on stage at Team Universe, and presented to the panel of judges. Needless to say, I didn’t place that day – but the experience in and of itself was so worth it. And would lay the foundation for me to eventually earn my pro card, at that VERY same show, 2 years later.
Every competitor dreams of hitting that next level, and coming out on top. But every year, the competition gets steeper and steeper. In my year alone, there were over 900 competitors who graced the stage that day. And at that time, it was said to be among one of the biggest turnouts. Fast forward to today, you can expect to see easily 1000-1200 competitors IN A SINGLE NATIONAL LEVEL SHOW! It’s crazy! But folks are still coming out on top and earning pro cards – so why not YOU, if that’s your goal!
Today, I want to discuss with you a few tips to keep in mind as you embark on this next chapter, and new level. Here are my top 5 tips for your first national level NPC competition.
Tip #1: Just Because You’re Qualified, Doesn’t Mean You Should Compete
I really need to start this off with one of the MOST important tips anyone could give you. You know, I believe that if a coach REALLY cares about their clients, they will set their own motives aside and be honest with said clients. One of the things you have to keep in mind is that JUST because you’ve earned a national level qualification, it doesn’t mean you should step on that stage right away.
National level shows are pro qualifiers, and really intended to have the best of the best next to each other, all while they vie for that coveted IFBB Pro card. A lot of times, you’ll have a competitor who maybe competes in smaller markets, or smaller shows, that will earn a qualification by placing in the top 5. And that’s because the shows they were doing were simply national level qualifiers, so they luck out. In these kind of shows, often the competition isn’t THAT fierce, definitely not on the level as some of the bigger shows, or what you would see at the national level. Sometimes a competitor could be in an extremely small class of 5, or fewer (sometimes only competing against themselves as the only on in a class), and still earn that qualification.
You will NEVER really know, or get to see where you would be on the next level if you continually do shows like that. So that competitor shows up on the national level and are often disappointed when they see they aren’t ready.
So What Should You Do Instead?
I like to advise clients to first get some experience under their belt, and to not be in a rush to hit the national level stage. Entry fees for those shows are $200-250 for EACH DIVISION OR CLASS, so it’s not something you want to just show up to. This not including accommodations, tanning, coaching, and more (we’ll discuss this next).
If you continually compete in smaller shows due to your area or where you live, get out and travel! Look to step on stage at some of the larger shows in your region. You might have to fly or drive, and stay at a hotel, but you get to stand next to a more competitive pool of athletes. Even better, you’ll get in front of ACTUAL national level judges. So the feedback you get can truly help you to know exactly what you need to work on to improve for you national level debut. Plus, if you’ve never traveled for a show, your first national level competition should NOT be the first experience with it. Traveling to other shows allows you to become somewhat of pro at getting yourself on stage outside of the confines of home.
So step out, take a step back, and plan your progression in the sport the SMART way.
Tip#2: Save Your Money, and Make the RIGHT Investments
If you’ve been at this game for any length of time, you KNOW how expensive competing can be. And if at no other time, when you decide to do your first national level NPC competition is when you WANT TO invest as much as you can financially.
Let’s look at the potential costs of hitting up the national level:
Show Entry Fee: $200-250/class or division (some shows do allow crossovers).
Tanning: $100 to $150 for a full premium package (which you SHOULD invest in). As many coats as you need, plus touch ups, especially for 2 day shows.
Suit: $150 to $1500. Now this all depends on which suit designer you go with, and whether you choose to rent or purchase your suit. I’ve done both purchased custom suits and rentals. I prefer rentals, and that can run anywhere up to $300-$350 per show depending on the designer you choose. I ALWAYS rented from Tamee Marie.
Intangible Costs of Competing
Travel Accommodations: Varies. This really depends on whether you are fortunate enough to live in or near the city where the show is being held. Also HOW you travel (fly or drive), and where you stay (hotel or family/friends). So really, only you can figure that out, but don’t forget to make this consideration when choosing your shows.
Food and Post Show Stuff: You’ve got to remember your prep food! Whether you schlep it from home, or buy stuff when you arrive, you’ve gotta eat and stay on plan. Again, this is one of those things that really depends on your set up and what works for you. One thing for sure – it ain’t free!
Coaching Fees: You’re not planning on coaching yourself are you? I would suggest for your first national level show to invest in a good coach. This way you don’t have to think about all the crazy details yourself! Coaches of course range in cost. But my advice – don’t go with someone because they’re cheap. Like shoes from Payless vs. Louboutin’s – quality will always be reflected in how much you invest. Now, in the case of coaches, that may not ALWAYS be true. However a GOOD coach will not be basement bargain cheap. Remember, you always get what you pay for. And you will regret it if you make the wrong choice. So do your research, and prepare to invest.
Tip #3: Practice Practice Practice
I cannot stress this well enough, but when you do plan to hit that national level stage, you need to make sure to practice your posing DAILY. With so many competitors on stage, it’s so easy to get lost in the shuffle. The ones who stand out are the ones who are super polished and poised. And this is true across ALL divisions.
On the national level, you have about TEN SECONDS to wow the judges. Being nervous or unsure on stage is the quickest way to the last call out. But if you spend the time really working your posing in the days, weeks, and months leading up to your show, you’ll know how to work the stage like a pro. They want to see who is ready to move onto the pro level, and how you present is a MAJOR part of that. Knowing what angles work for your body is crucial so the judges see your strengths.
Do NOT sleep on your posing practice. It can literally be that final thing that can either have you in the first, second, third, or last call out!
Tip #4: Leave Your Expectations at the Door
Now, I don’t want to tell you to put your hopes and dreams on the back burner. Or to clip your wings, so to speak. But what I AM saying is to go into this with a REALISTIC perspective.
The truth of the matter is that you have NO control over what happens on stage – nor the outcome. Yes, you might look great and be bringing your best. But the truth is, so is everyone else! And someone else’s best that day might well be better than yours. So many times, competitors walk away from their national level experience feeling they were cheated, but the truth is, their coaches or they themselves are not being honest. I personally have had no problem telling a client that the competition was better on that day, but here’s what we can do to fix it. Sure enough, next show pro cards were earned, or bump ups in placement to top 5 or top 10 has been seen. But that’s what happens when you approach this with a realistic perspective.
Remember, nobody owes you anything. And just because YOU want that coveted pro card, and feel you deserve it – so does everyone else want the same, for themselves. Be humble, and don’t expect anything. Focus on showing your best up there, and letting the judges see your potential. The rest is out of your hands.
Tip #5: Be a Good Sport
The final tip for today that I wan to leave you with is all about being a GOOD sport. As I mentioned above, you cannot control the outcome of the show. And although it sucks monkey balls to not place, or to get a call out lower than you want, it doesn’t make up for you being a total asshole to other competitors. I’ve seen competitors throw tantrums like toddlers, throw awards for not being in the pro card earning placing, be mean to everyone because they now hate the world… I mean, these are ADULTS acting like children.
You know exactly what you’re getting into when you compete, nothing is guaranteed, so don’t act like it is. Now, I’ve gotten in my feelings plenty of times. PLEEENTY OF TIMES! But I never showed that on stage. I’d take it back to my hotel room. Cry my eyes out. Vent to my mother and friends. Cry to my coach. Whatever! I’d vow not to go back for finals, the whole 9. But I ALWAYS went back to finals to FINISH what I started, and I NEVER EVER let anyone know what happened behind the 4 safe walls of my hotel room.
Even if you don’t place where you want, keep in mind, if you plan to eventually turn pro, or do well in the sport, people WILL remember if you are an asshat. And that’s a reputation that you DO NOT WANT. Be gracious, accept your fate, and continue to work to bring an even better you to the stage next time around.
Are YOU Thinking About Hitting Your First National Level NPC Competition Soon?
Even if you are a seasoned competitor, like I mentioned above, having the right coach in place is CRUCIAL to do this stuff successfully. And you want to work with someone who understands the game, knows EXACTLY what the judges are looking for, and has been there themselves time and again. Not only that, you want to work with someone who has a track record of bringing OTHER competitors to the stage successfully – not once, but CONTINUALLY!
Look, it’s hard enough already to figure things out on your own.
The training, the diet, the posing… It all seems SO simple, but is truly harder than it looks. Why navigate all of that on your own when you can have a coach that CARES about you standing by your side – guiding you, teaching you, and showing you exactly what you are truly capable of.
And if stepping on a national level stage is in your near future, do NOT wait until the last minute to seek help. I have affordable plans for any budget, but most importantly, this investment in YOURSELF can mean the difference between first or last call out. I’ve been in both! And being first call out – and even better FIRST PLACE – is the best feeling in the world!
And you can have that too!
Click here to find out more about my contest prep services, and see if my nurturing approach will work well for you.