Donna Shipman: Journey To My First Figure Competition

I would like to share with youthe journey through my first figure competition. I have always had a love for fitness and weight training. I discussed my interest in competing with a friend at the gym and he offered to train with me and show me some techniques to help me build more muscle. I spent 2 years training with my friend before deciding I was ready to compete.

Going through the process of competition prep is not easy and it takes a lot of hard work, strong focus and complete dedication to training, diet and most of all to yourself without neglecting those around you. If you really want to compete you have to commit and to commit you have to pick a show date. Once you pick a date you create a deadline for yourself and then it is time to get focused. There are a lot of organizations out there, so do your homework and find out what shows are in your area and how much the fees are to compete in each one. I picked a show that was just 13 weeks out, I gave myself just enough time to cut so there was no backing out!

You should hire a trainer that is experienced in training athletes for this type of competition and is fully aware of what to expect to help guide you. Look for one that can not only train you properly for competition, but provide you with a diet that can safely get you where you need to be and monitor your progress all the way to competition. This can be very expensive, so be prepared. When your coach provides you with your diet and training schedule remember, this is only the first stage and you will need to mentally prepare yourself for the weeks ahead.

The amount of food that you are required to eat can get expensive so donít be shocked at the increase of your grocery bill. You will spend one or two days preparing all of your meals for the week so that you are not caught without a meal causing you to stray away from your diet. During the first few days of being on my diet and not being used to eating six meals a day, I had a hard time eating all of the food. It also seemed as if I were putting on weight and not in a good way, but by the end of the week my body started to adjust to all of the food and I had no problem eating it all.

I trained six days a week. My day started at 4am for cardio and after work, weight training, more cardio, posing practice and tending to my family, I was able to finally fall in bed by 8:30 or 9pm. I quickly realized just how mentally strong, focused and disciplined you have to be to handle the stress of working, training, prepping meals and staying focused on your diet all while managing a household and family. I am very lucky that I had the full love and support of my husband and boys to help keep me on track!

You will face many other obstacles during the process. I unintentionally created my own obstacle when I pick my show date. I had forgotten about our family vacation scheduled just two weeks before my show! Thankfully, I was focused on my goal and very motivated to stay on course. Every day I got up early before anyone else ate my breakfast and did my cardio. I packed my meals in my cooler to eat on the beach, I never missed a meal. Every evening while they went out to dinner, I stayed behind to train and eat my dinner. By the time they were back I was finished and ready to go have some fun with my family. It was tough, but I made it through and we had a great time.

Ordering your suit will be the most expensive part of competing. You can find suits that start around three hundred dollars and they can go over a thousand, it just depends on how extravagant you want the stones to be. You can find rental suits for around $150 if that works better for your budget. Make sure that you chose a color that complements your skin tone so you donít look washed out on stage.

There is usually a hotel hosting the event nearwhere the show was being held where you can get a room at a discounted rate. I found this to be helpful so I could get my spray tan done the day before the show so it would have time to dry. That was an experience, no modesty there! Lucky for me I had made some great friends along the way to give me some great advice and let me know who to use and what to expect. I strongly suggest that you use a professional for your tan, there is usually a tanning business hosting the event where you can schedule a time in advance to be sprayed at the hotel or venue. After seeing all the trouble some of the other girls who applied their own tan were having, it was worth every penny!

I suggest that you schedule your appointment near the end of the day and wear something dark colored and satin that you can sleep in to your spray tan appointment so you donít have to change clothes. This will keep your regular clothes from getting stained and the satin wonít leave marks on your skin during the night. Silk pjís will work. Also, be prepared to bring your own sheets so that you donít ruin the hotel sheets; they will charge you. Touch ups for your spray tan will be done before your show and in between. They will be there during the entire pre-judging and evening show.

The morning of the show I strongly suggest that you get ready at the hotel before you go to the venue. You may not know how many competitors there will be or how long you will have to wait for the competitors meeting before you can go back stage to get ready. At my show the girlís dressing room was packed! Everyone was trying to get ready, scrambling for a place in front of the mirror to put on makeup and curl their hair. I was lucky to find a chair outside the room where I was able to sit, calm my nerves and take everything in after getting my shoes on and my tan touched up. I just remember thinking ďwhat chaos, Iím glad Iím ready to go!Ē

I did some research prior to my show on what to bring and I am glad I did. You want to make sure that you are well prepared and have everything that you need, such as exercise bands to use to pump up a few minutes before going on stage. They have weights back stage for everyone to use, but good luck getting a turn, if there are a lot of competitors. Remember there will also be male competitors as well and you will all share the weights! Remember to pack any meals or food that will need to be eaten. The time will fly and before you know it, it will be time for the show. They will call your group to the back stage area to get ready to walk out. I was nervous and excited at this point, but as I walked out on stage the nerves seem to just disappear. As you all line up and your number is called, you will take your turn at the T- walk; something you have waited and trained so hard for, so enjoy it!

No one had ever mentioned first call outs to me before so I didnít know until a friend told me after pre-judging that I had placed. If your number is called with others after everyone has completed their T Ė walk; that means you have placed in the top five, but you wonít know where you placed until the evening show. If you paid to compete in a crossover category, such as Figure Open you will go back and wait to be called to the back stage area again to get ready to go out. My number was called in the first call outs for Novice, which I placed 4th as well as for Figure Open, where I placed 3rd, I was one happy girl for my first show! I wasnít even off of the stage yet and was already thinking of my next show. After pre-judging you will have some time to relax before the evening show. Pre-judging is over and it will be time to really have fun!

Your body will need a break after competition and I cannot stress enough the importance of reverse dieting and allowing your body to recoup after all of the dieting and stress that you have put it through over the last few weeks. Ask your coach to help you with this so that you have a plan. You never want to just return to eating whatever immediately after a show, you want to gradually add carbs and fat back to your diet so that you donít ruin all of your hard work. I have done a lot of reading and research to learn as much as I can to train and compete safely. There is a lot of information out there, but please know, what works for one person may not work for you and what worked for you once may never work again. Your body is constantly changing and adjusting.

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to expect if you have an interest in competing. It was a great experience. I had a lot of fun, met a lot of new friends and I learned a lot about myself mentally and physically during this process. I had the best time! I went on to compete again 8 weeks later with the NGA placing 2nd in Open Figure and 2nd in Masters. I am currently training hard to improve my body and grow before I compete again. I plan to compete with the NPC in 2014. Best wishes!

Facebook page: Donna Shipman Natural Figure Athlete

Donna Shipman

Donna Shipman