My Fitness Journey as a Bikini Competitor
Do people simply wake up one day and decide out of the blue “I’m going to compete in a bodybuilding competition”?
My Fitness Journey as a Bikini Competitor
I think very few people simply wake up one day and decide out of the blue “I’m going to compete in a bodybuilding competition”. I’m sure they are out there. But I’m willing to bet that most of the time it comes after years of trial and error with working out, exposure to the sport from a video, meeting other competitors, or a life changing event that strikes a match that begins a fiery passion for the sport.
My journey towards competing started many years ago while I was in college. I had just changed majors and universities, and started a new job at a local gym here in the metro-Atlanta area. I started working at the front desk then gradually started taking shifts in our in-gym café. As I began getting to know my coworkers, I learned most of the personal trainers were current or previous competitors. A handful of the gym-goers were competitors as well. Day after day, I would see them come in, nail their workouts and drink their shakes or eat their meals they brought with them (the café was a great spot since there was a microwave for warming up post workout grub).
Chatting with everyone during the day was an eye opener. They were consistent and disciplined in their routines. I could watch their bodies change as the weeks went by and I was able to ask them about their experiences, even if it was just a few minutes at a time.
I found it fascinating! At that time, I had just started my nutrition classes and fell in love with how the body works, especially from a nutrition and sports/performance aspect. This started my interest in a consistent, structured workout routine, while applying my nutrition coursework on myself. I was not thinking of competing at that point, but more interested in seeing if I could improve my flexibility, endurance, stress relief etc. and I also saw a nice change in my body composition.
After a couple of years, I started thinking about competing and was ready to start looking for a coach. However, unfortunately, I did not have the support at home, so I let the dream go for many years.
Fast-forward after having my twin boys, I was learning how to manage life with two little ones and wondering how to keep my health a priority. Jogs with them in the stroller or Pilates in the living room while they napped was the daily routine for a while. Spin classes were a lifesaver since my momma brain was fried, I actually liked just sitting in one place having someone tell me what to do and think for 45 minutes, ha!
Being interesting in food and nutrition, meal prepping while my twins slept or played on the floor became an important aspect as well. However, as anyone with kids knows, you think you have a good routine going and then *BAM* life happens, the kids’ go through a growth spurt, or sleep regression, sickness hits the house, etc…
My life event was starting to go through the divorce process and working out was a way to keep my mind off of all of that drama, at least for a couple of hours.
I had joined a gym with a kids club, so I could maintain some semblance of a “normal routine” with the boys there with me.
It was therapy; being in the gym made sense to me and gave me focus, purpose, and drive at a time I needed it desperately.
I met other competitors and coaches then and decided to sign up for a bikini competition… it raised some eyebrows at the time but I stuck with my decision. Having the structure and accountability of the workout, diet, and check-ins with a coach showed me how intricately it all works together, and how different competition prep is from a standard workout and eating routine.
The competition world also has posing routines, bikini suites and jewelry, shoes, tanning, makeup, etc. things I certainly didn’t know about before my coach brought me up to speed. It is a fascinating and fun sport, but can get pricy, so beware. Thankfully, I met some great people who showed me economic ways to make my first show happen.
I practiced posing daily for about 8 weeks out from the competition and I’m so glad I stuck to that advice! It helps take the edge off and give you more confidence when you’re on stage; muscle memory for those poses is crucial with all the excitement and adrenaline of show-day. Also, if you’re putting in all the hard work at the gym, you need to be able to show it effectively on stage.
Twelve weeks of prep and show day arrives! I step on stage and win 1st in my Novice category and 5th in the Open… a great accomplishment for a first-time competitor. I was on cloud 9 for weeks.
Time hop again… COVID happened and shows were put on pause. I changed gyms, and coaches, and was blessed with an incredible support system that believed in me and encourages me still to this day.
The wonderful human beings in my corner encourage me to keep going, because yes, even when you’re passionate about something, you can still have bad days.
Competing and learning how your body responds to certain diet, exercise, sleep, and stress changes are all key to maximizing your physique. There has been something new I’ve learned through every prep and it makes me more excited and confident each time. Life is about learning, becoming wiser and applying it all so we keep moving forward.
Perfection is not attainable and I don’t think there is a point of “arriving” in life, but as you hit your goals and milestones, see how you can use what you learn in the next phase of life.
I just finished my 8th show and am preparing for my 9th, however this one is different as it will be with the OCB, an all-natural league. I’ve always been an all-natural athlete so it feels more appropriate to be a part of a league that is more in line with my approach and philosophy to the sport.
I am nervous and excited.
Nervous because it’s a new league and new show format, new posing routine, new show locations, new judges…new check-ins.
However, excited to get on stage with a more level playing field, and the opportunity to advance in a sport that I am passionate about. Excited because my coach, team, friends and family system is amazing and supportive of me and this change.
I have learned that most of the time our paths have twists and turns but as long as you focus on the small wins, the few steps in front of you, progress happens. Slow and steady wins the race.
You may have no desire to ever step on stage, and that’s OK!
Find what you’re interested in and do it with gusto and a willingness to learn along the way. You may find you’re passionate about some things and not others, you will find your groove when you look for it and pursue it, but don’t just wait for life to happen.
What I have learned the most in my journey as a bikini competitor is to let go of fixed, rigid expectations… that just sets us up for disappointment when things don’t turn out as we have imagined. Instead, as an author I like, Bob Goff put it, “embrace life with hopeful anticipation”. It leaves room for the unexpected and allows us to learn something from every experience and walk away with gratitude.
Whatever your fitness journey, I hope you don’t give up despite setbacks. There are many ways to get to a destination, some are more scenic than others, so enjoy the view on the road you choose. ☺
About the Author
Jessie Gall, MS, RD, LD
Jess is a Metro-Atlanta-based dietitian in the state of Georgia with 8 years of experience as a Registered Dietitian in the hospital setting, as well as corporate wellness events, and individual counseling. She received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Georgia State University and is a Licensed and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist.
Jess enjoys helping her patients have the “lightbulb moments” in their nutrition care and recommendations. Her “food philosophy” is that food is functional and fun! Eating for health does not have to be boring or tasteless. All things in moderation make for a more enjoyable, and healthy relationship with food. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition, but there are research-based recommendations, and she enjoys helping each patient/client find what works for their lifestyle, goals, and needs. Jess is also an NPC Bikini division competitor, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, and mother of twin boys.