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Should You Compete? Eight Things to Consider Before Joining a Body Building Competition
By Jean Lam

Do you have what it takes to win at a body building competition? For many people, a desire to win can be a great motivator-and for others, just the thought of having to stand up on stage in a skimpy outfit can be enough to make them work out harder. Participating in a competition can be a great experience for any body builder-it gives you the opportunity to meet other enthusiasts, show off your progress, and work toward a specific goal.

But it's not all fun and games. To succeed in a body building competition, your body needs to be in top shape. Here are a few factors for success in any body building contest.

No distractions. Getting in shape for a contest requires intense concentration and commitment. If you have a lot going on in your life-a demanding work or school schedule, personal drama, or other distractions-you may not be able to focus a hundred percent on your fitness efforts. Many body builders fail to win because outside pressure from other areas of their lives interfered with their workout schedule, their diet restrictions, or their mental concentration.

Dietary discipline. To get into competition shape, you need to burn more calories than you consume. It's that simple. You'll need to commit to a "clean" diet and a more frequent eating schedule than most people are used to, without slipping or missing a meal, for weeks or even months on end. If you don't stick religiously to your diet, you'll undermine all the hard work you do at the gym.

Physical toughness. When you burn many more calories than you consume, your body takes a beating. Stick to a restricted-calorie diet while performing intense weight and cardio workouts, and you'll be more prone to injury and strain. You'll need to be careful-but you'll also need to keep going. The body builders who can keep motivated are the ones who succeed on stage.

The right lifestyle. Lifestyle can make all the difference. To succeed at getting your body in top form for a competition, you'll need to plan your day strictly from multiple workouts per day to the time you get to rest. You'll have to stick to a regular eating schedule as well. If you've got a lot of unpredictable factors in your life, from work or family or school, your lifestyle may simply not allow you to do what you need to do to get into top shape. Training for a competition is an all-day commitment, even when you're not at the gym.

Compete for the right reason. Keeping motivated may be the single most important factor in deciding who shows up prepared to compete-and who doesn't. There's no right or wrong reason for joining a competition; there are only reasons that motivate you and reasons that don't. Winning may not be your most important goal; you may simply seek self-improvement or a chance to gain recognition from family and friends. But whatever your reason for joining a competition, it had better be a compelling one. Otherwise, you'll have a tough time sticking to the strict dietary restrictions and grueling exercise routines you'll need to get your body in competition shape.

Mind control. Every body builder hits plateaus. When training for a competition, it's important to keep your outlook positive. Are you a naturally optimistic person, or are you a pessimist? If you're the latter, you may have a more difficult time keeping motivated through the tough periods. Experienced competitors will often say success is more about controlling their thoughts than anything else-making sure their outlook stays positive and hopeful, no matter what.

The right look. It's not just about fitness-it's also about presentation. Tanning can make muscles look more defined, and most successful competitors tan regularly. For women, the right makeup and hairstyle can help create a good "look" for competition. You'll need to know how to pose to show off your muscle definition to best effect, as well.

Experienced help. Most people who win body building competitions get help from those with expert experience. These people can include physical trainers, but they can also include posing coaches; nutritionists; choreographers if you need to perform a fitness routine; and even costume, hair, and makeup consultants. If you have the time and financing to hire a professional to help you out, you have a good shot at winning. If you don't, bear in mind that you will be competing against those who do. If you have any friends with competition experience, take advantage of all the free advice they're willing to offer.

Success in any body building competition depends on commitment, mental and physical toughness, and a lifestyle that can accommodate a strict workout and diet schedule. If you have all these things, you've mastered the toughest part.

It often takes competitors many tries to win their first competition, and winning isn't everything when it comes to body building contests. You'll get a lot out of preparing for a contest, no matter how you do on the big day. If you don't win first place on your first try, don't worry-you'll still have learned a great deal. Preparing for a competition shows you what your body and mind are capable of. With this knowledge, you'll be even better prepared to succeed in your next competition.

About the author

Jean Lam is the webmaster of Body Building Resource which provides articles on weight training, nutrition and fitness, body building book and DVDs.

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