Welcome to my bikini guide for the first time competitors with everything you need to know as a newbie.
*Disclaimer* all my personal experiences are based on the UK bikini competitions. Requirements, details and prices can vary depending on your location. I live in London and some of the prices are higher.
Competing is a big thrill. It is also a tip of the iceberg, the final product of many weeks, months and sometimes years of preparation.
I highly recommend getting the ‘Complete Contest Prep’ e-book by Layne Norton. This book is truly a gem for people who wants to understand everything behind a prep for a bodybuilding show. Full of charts, science yet it's easy to follow. Female and male books are the same just with a different cover.
Women compete in bikini competitions for different reasons, some love the challenge, some enjoy the spot light, the others hope for the fitness industry’s recognition and commercial gains including prizes and sponsorships. To me - it was all of the above but mostly a personal challenge.
The more powerful your reasons are, the more chance you have to succeed in making it happen.
I highly suggest attending a live bikini fitness competition in your area as a spectator, as this can help with your decision making on a category you’d like and adjust your expectations.
Choosing the right federation for your first bikini competition is key. Do your research and spend some time on fitness forums. Some federations have more ‘glamour’ in them than others. Selected federations include Theme rounds in their bikini competitions, where you’d be required to wear a dress or a special costume.
Current leading federations with bikini categories:
Look through the above websites and their shows schedule to choose a date that works for you. Ideally a few weeks/months in advance if you feel your body is ready and all you need is the leaner stage condition.
THE BODY PREP
Depending on your chosen category and the federation requirements, you will have to do a ‘prep’•
•Prep = weeks/months of special training and diet prior to the competition = preparation season = #PrepLife
I cannot tell you how to train or what to eat as I’m not a qualified coach (I will share my personal training and diet routine in the next post), but I can tell you that the prep season IS NOT where you start to be serious about your fitness and diet. Prep season is for you to get into the ‘stage ready’ condition, i.e. lowering body fat percentage while maintaining muscle mass. I’ve been a serious gym goer for 3 years before my first competition this year. The LAST thing you want, after all financial and physical draining, is looking like you haven't worked out a day in your life. If you know one thing or two about fitness, you’ll know that a decent bikini stage body CAN NOT be achieved in a short time.
A good place to start is looking through the photos of previous competitors and winners of your chosen federation. Especially the winners. I’d advise to look together with your prep coach/personal trainer/fitness friend, to get realistic feedback on how ready you are. Let’s be honest, no one signs up to a competition just to take part in it. Every body wants to win. Only with the mindset of a winner, you stand a chance of getting the main trophy or shortlist in the finals.
If your coach and personal trainer think you need more time, simply trust them and be patient. You’ll increase your chances in the long term.
If your decision on taking part in a bikini fitness competition is set in stone, the very first unglamorous question you have to ask yourself is - can you afford it?
Keeping your finances in check and well-planned is crucial as competing costs don't only involve a gym membership and groceries. Let me break it down for you:
competition entry fee: £50 to £250 per category
There are many fitness and bodybuilding federations in the UK that include bikini categories. Entry fees vary from a yearly federation’s membership to one off competition payments. If you can opt for multiple categories - you can increase your winning chances. E.g. Bikini Model & Bikini Over 35+. Check out the federations list above and find out all about the fees.
prep coach: from £20 per hour
Extremely important. Ideally it is someone you’ve known for a while. Someone who knows your fitness journey, weight history and eating habits. Someone you trust 100%. There are plenty of so-called ‘prep-coaches’ who never competed themselves, or who rely on dangerous substances to lower your body fat %. And no, you cannot just use your personal trainer. Quality competitions prep coaches are very niche experts, and you must do research to find true testimonials from their clients. A good place to start is by finding your chosen federation’s competitors and asking them (most do tag/mention all their coaches on social media too). Fitness industry is a small world, therefore always choose coaches with the best reputation and at least 5+ years of experience. Unless you live in a completely remote area, I would never recommend an online prep coach. It’s best to invest into bi-weekly check ups in person to get real feedback from your coach.
I’ve been under Nash Jocic’s guidance during the whole prep, as he’s a leading UK personal trainer PLUS he has 46 (!!!) competitions under his own belt. I got to know Nash in 2014 when I became his client and fell in love with bodybuilding. As he's been witnessing my progress and knew how my body reacts to training and diet - it was the best decision to choose him as my prep coach too.
posing coach: from £99
Extremely important. Back to the Internet world of ‘experts’ - you can find 1 million YouTube tutorials and posing tips BUT getting a real stage posing coach is the best investment you’ll make. Ideally your coach should be well aware of each federation’s requirements as they all have different posing styles and walking routes. Again - opt for the real classes or online courses with top coaches like Audrey Kaipio. Not 2 bodies are the same, and Audrey is a master of choosing the ideal poses for your body type. I’d highly recommend signing up for her courses or at least her online course which has extensive teaching with quality videos and Skype meetings. Attending the group in-person course with Audrey has literally taught me everything I need to know about fitness competitions, industry insights, some great connections with photographers and most importantly it MASSIVELY boosted my confidence. Her course was one of the best investments I've ever made in myself.
spray tanning: from £40
Getting the right tan is crucial for your stage appearance, and unless you’re on a really tight budget, I’d recommend getting it professionally done. Again, each federation has various tanning companies they work with and you'd be advised on that after entering a competition of your choice. Yes, you can save money by doing it yourself. However my biggest concern with that is not only the quality of your tan i.e. lack of smudges and even coverage - but the colour. Professionally done spray tan would provide a perfect shade that works with the particular stage’s lighting. Every show is different and some have extremely bright light that require a very dark shade. You’ll get an additional peace of mind that the tanning crew will be backstage with you and can fix any last minute issues. Glazing will be provided by them too. To me, a tan can really make it or break it on the competition day, as it really ties in all your hard work, bikini, hair and make up. A perfect tan will boost your confidence even more, essentially by flattering and highlighting that gorgeous physique you've worked so hard to achieve. I’ve been tanned by the ShowTan crew and loved it. They've been super kind to become one of my sponsors for the future shows!
post-tanning dark clothing, towels and bed sheets: from £20
you’d need to invest in black bedding and towels in order to avoid any staining post spray tan. Loose dark clothing is a must to wear straight after. I got all of it at Primark for around £20. If you’re travelling, you'd need to bring it all with you so that you don’t ruin your host’s or hotel’s bedding. Keep in mind the bed size and bring the sheet that fit.
bikini: from £200
One of the priciest costs that you’ll have to commit to. I was lucky enough to find a second hand bikini that fits by LaDivaDesign for £240, but most competitors go through the custom-made route and spend from £350 upwards on it. You can also look on eBay for more affordable options. Make sure your bikini would fit your stage-ready body and doesn't' end up being loose. You can also do a DYI project by embellishing your very own bikini but beware of your federation’s bikini requirements like bottoms’ coverage on your bum area.
shoes: from £40
Each federation has it’s own rules on stage’s footwear. Some accept any clear styles and platforms, some have platform size restrictions and others require a certain style. Please check with your own bikini federation before committing to buy the shoes. You might want to invest in 2 pairs - for posing practices and the show day. There are some great options on Amazon, like the shoes I personally wore for my competition - Pleaser Flare.
jewellery: from £10
Choose a style of jewellery that compliments your bikini the most. Many bikini girls choose large drop earrings with crystals or anything sparkly. Necklaces aren't that common. Matching bracelets can add a wow factor to your look. Duringmy competition I’ve seen a couple of ankle bracelets too. I personally got all my jewellery from Primark. Beware of earrings that might tangle in your hair during your posing and walking on the stage. The jewellery should complete your stage look but not draw too much attention, distracting form your body and charm.
additional stage outfit: from £100
Some federations like WBFF require a full gown or a special costume for the theme wear round, which can end up costing double the price of your bikini.
make up & hair: from £50
Getting the bikini goddess look wouldn't be complete without perfect hair and make-up. Usually the federations work with particular make up artists who will be allowed backstage to make you look beautiful. Many bikini girls do their own hair and make up too. Some only do hair OR make up and get the other professionally done. As the beauty crew will be very busy during the day, my tip is to be one of the first girls as you don’t want to pay for a rushed service on such important day. Always bring your own make up for the touch ups or in case you don’t like how it’s been done. Look online for hair and make up looks that you really like - as that will ease the process on the day.
hair removal: £40 upwards (waxing)
You’d need to have a fully bold child's body for the competition. The tan will look dramatically better and the super bright stage lights won’t reveal your thighs’ tiny fur. How to remove the hair is your personal choice, just make sure you allow enough time to calm the skin down and not have any rashes/irritation on stage.
nails: from £20
Mani & pedi is essential for that last grooming touch. I personally went for the Shellac gel option on both feet and hands. That gave me a peace of mind that I won’t chip or scratch the nail polish. Nail extensions are also very popular if you like a longer glamorous look.
stage photos: from £40
professional photographs from the show would cost £40 and upwards, depending on the official photographer’s fees. Plus some more if you’d like the video footage too. There is a chance that your final images will be published online if you place in the top 3, however I can imagine that everyone would like a copy of high quality shots of such memorable experience
travel expenses / accommodation: ££ costs vary
consider the public transport, train tickets, parking + accommodation if your competition isn’t local. Definitely bring all of you dark towels and bedding for the stay
supplements & vitamins: ££ costs vary
your prep coach might add extra supplements like BCAAs, special protein or vitamins for your well-being
gym membership and groceries: ongoing ££
something you would already be paying for but your groceries budget might increase due to a restricted diet and volume
ON THE PLUS SIDE YOU’LL SAVE PLENTY OF MONEY BY HAVING NO SOCIAL LIFE DURING PREP. AND YES, BEING A MALE COMPETITOR IS DEFINITELY CHEAPER (or maybe not as they eat double the amount of food :))
By doing a little research and writing all the above costs down, you can get a rough idea about the DAMAGE you will be facing. Ask yourself again, if you can afford it and IF you’re truly ready. The LAST thing you need during prep is extra stress that can be avoided by budgeting in advance.
I find that we appreciate things we invest in more, therefore all the money you spend can be used as a huge motivation for keeping a strict fitness routine and diet.
Keep in mind that your physical state during prep will be affected, and you might have to take a few days off work. Especially around the final week. Bottom line - have a cushion of savings.
Download the printable check list here (COMING SOON)
Go to the resources page for useful contacts (COMING SOON)
A FEW OTHER THINGS
Because of the highly stressful fat loss process during the prep, your hormones will be going a little crazy. Be prepared for mood swings, increased anxiety, fatigue
Your menstrual cycle might be affected due to hormonal changes if you’re not on the contraceptive pill. Vast majority of bikini competitors experience a delay in their cycles after the shows, but getting back to normal once the body fat % increases.
You will be fully naked while getting a professional spray tan. You might be fully naked in the changing rooms. No way around it - you’ll have to become comfortable with your naked body in front of strangers and your very own competition. Despite the rumours, I found the girls from my competition very lovely and supportive of each other.
You’ll find that bikini girls have stretch marks, skin issues, scars, flat chest, saggy skin, breast implants - they all have physical insecurities to deal with (on top of emotional and mental ones like stage fright). But what unites them and boosts their confidence is fitness. All bikini girls look much better than they did in the past, it’s a challenging and rewarding journey that they’ve been on. I guarantee you’ll blossom and say goodbye to a few insecurities after doing a competition.
Family and friends
Be prepared for many questions and raised eyebrows after your competing decision. Having a strong support group around will ease your prep and keep you emotionally sane. Even if it’s only 1 friend, you’ll be fine. If you’re very alone on this journey - try looking on YouTube for other bikini girls videos and watching their experience and struggles. It helps to know that even if you’re physically alone, there are other girls in the world who are on the same journey. Competition prep season will really make you a stronger person. Your social life will be affected but the true supporters will understand and respect your choices.
Thankfully there is the social media outlet where you can find like minded people. Share your journey and follow girls that inspire you. Look through hashtags like #bikinifitness #bikiniprep #preplife and your chosen federation
I suggest picking up a new hobby during your prep or continue doing something you love apart from fitness. It will keep you grounded and distracted during the hungry emotional days. Reading, meditating, learning a new language - anything that stimulates your brain and doesn't drain the body
Make sure to document your whole prep by noting down your exact diet and workouts. Take pictures and videos of your body’s transformation as this will motivate you and help for the next competition’s prep. In addition to monitoring your body weight, I’d advise on using a measuring tape to see where the weight is coming off
Connections and Friendships
You’ll meet a ton of likeminded people and fitness industry professionals. It’s like being adopted into a new family, the one that supports your progress, understands your WHYS and never says DON’T.
ARE YOU STILL INTO THE COMPETING IDEA? IF YES, STAY TUNED FOR MY DETAILED PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH TRAINING SPLIT AND DIET NEXT :)
Any questions? Let me know in the comments below.