Brittany Culp - Bikini Competitor

I always wanted to compete in a sport growing up. I was very interested in gymnastics and cheerleading in middle school. My hope was to try out for the cheerleading squad, so I began taking tumbling classes at a local gymnastics studio. After about a month though, I ended up quitting because the studio was poorly lit and Iíve always had trouble seeing in dimly lit areas because of my blindness. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) which is a disorder in the retinas that has caused me to lose my sight with age. Doing flips in a space that I could not see in gave me a lot of anxiety. Then I was also interested in trying track and field, but a lot of the meets were at night, and with my disorder night blindness is a part of it. It was frustrating wanting to do something so badly, but not knowing how to find the means of doing it. It didnít help that I was in a small public school and 1 of 3 blind students in the entire district. I donít think anyone really knew how to help me, and I hadnít really found my voice yet to establish ways to help myself.

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I gained a lot of weight after graduating high-school, and I was just really unhappy with myself. Not only with how I looked, but how I felt. Whenever I made the decision to get into modeling is whenever I started dieting and exercising. To be completely transparent, I became a cardio junkie. I would run 6 miles a day and honestly probably wasnít eating enough for my body type. I went from 160lbs to 108lbs. It wasnít until I heard about the bikini division of bodybuilding that I became interested in putting on some lean muscle mass. I just loved everything the division was about. You could be strong and muscular, but at the same time sexy with a nice shape. Iím all about the sass! I picked up my first weight in late 2013 whenever I hired my first personal trainer to prepare for my first show in 2014. I instantly fell in love with lifting weights. It not only changed me physically, but mentally as well. I felt a sense of power, control, and confidence that I never had before.

Competing in bodybuilding makes me feel whole. It combines the 2 things I love the most, modeling and weight lifting. It just fits and makes sense. It has made me learn a lot about myself and my body. If you would have told me 6 years ago that one day I would be my own trainer, I would not have believed it. I learned a lot from working with personal trainers, but I always felt like I was not reaching my fullest potential with them. Hiring an online coach to take the reigns of my nutrition and give me guidance on training was the best decision Iíve ever made. It forced me to push myself, be more accountable to myself, and gain more independence. Within the last 3 years I reached a point of training myself, and now training other people. I have been able to take all the things I learned, both good and bad through trial and error, and use that experience and knowledge to best serve my clients.

I think itís important to first understand that if your goal is to always be a competitor and eventually progress to the pro level, this is a lifestyle and not a trendy fad. With that being said, I still eat clean a majority of the time in my off season. Iíll enjoy a cheat meal or two per week, usually after training legs and glutes or whatever muscle group Iím trying to grow the most. Nutrition is 70% of your success towards building the body you want. You cannot out-train poor nutrition. If your goal is to build muscle, you need to eat more (a caloric surplus) so you can have the fuel to lift heavier and feed your muscles. If your goal is to lose body fat, you need to eat less (a caloric deficit) and burn more calories. Now when I say eat more, I donít mean go off the rails completely. I just mean eat more healthy foods. When I say eat less, I donít mean starve yourself. You have to eat enough to preserve your muscle mass.

Bodybuilding really is an art and a science. If you donít know what you are doing, its advisable to hire a coach to help you so that you not only get the results you want, but are smart and healthy about it too. I eat a balance of lean protein, healthy fats, and good carbs. During prep my carbs and fats get manipulated based on how my body is looking. Refeeds are done accordingly; sometimes your body needs one, sometimes it doesnít. I eat 6 meals a day, about 3 hours apart. For protein Iíll alternate between egg whites, protein shakes, white fish, chicken, turkey, and occasionally lean ground beef. For carbs I eat brown or white rice, green veggies, sweet potato, and oats. As for healthy fats, I eat almonds or cashews, natural peanut or almond butter, avocado, egg yolks, and coconut or avocado oil. Of course in off season thereís more flexibility so Iíll incorporate more fruits, whole wheat pasta, Ezekiel or whole wheat bread, and steak.

When I first started out, my first coach had me on a carb cycle. Looking back on it, it really was a terrible approach. It really just didnít work for me. I later learned with a different coach that my body responds better to a balance of protein, healthy fats, and good carbs. It is important to understand that some approaches work better for some people than others. It really all depends on your body type, current body composition, and personal preferences. When looking for a good coach, you need to be sure it is a coach who will customize the plan specifically to you and not give you a generic cookie cutter plan that they give 200+ other people. Also, that the coach is not one dimensional with their methods and is willing and able to tailor the methodology to best serve you and ensure success. Even if you have a plan that worked for you in the past, that doesnít mean itís going to continue working for you. Your plan and approach need to be updated in conjunction with the changes of your physique.

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I used to be very self-conscious and I have done lots of self-improvement both on my body and mind. I think it just becomes easier the more you do it. The first time is always the hardest, which can be said about anything in life. Something that also helps is consistently practicing your posing. The more comfortable you are with your poses and walking, the more natural it feels and looks on show day. Posing has always been the biggest challenge for me, not being able to see. People think posing for a bikini competition should be easy since I do so much modeling, but itís actually much harder. Modeling poses are totally different from competition poses, and the state your body is in and the environment are different too. With modeling, you are not manipulating water, you get breaks in between poses, and you have more time to adjust or get yor barings. With bodybuilding you do not get much time on that stage, you are posing against other competitors, you are in front of a huge audience under a blinding spotlight, and your body is more than likely going to be depleted and tired. Every second up there counts and you have to be on point and remember to smile! My posing definitely has improved from show to show. My goal for my next show is to have posing that is absolutely flawless.

Off season cardio usually consists of 25-35 minutes of fasted or post-lifting cardio, depending on my schedule for the day. I prefer steady-state fasted cardio because I feel like it just sets the tone for my day and I feel good after doing it; Iíll alternate between the treadmill, stair master, elliptical, and stationary bike. If I do post-lifting cardio, Iíll either do intervals or put the machines at a challenging resistance for the entire duration. I try to do 3-4 days of cardio in my off season to stay photo shoot ready and of course for my cardiovascular health. My training split pretty much stays the same in off season and during prep, which is lifting 5 days a week with 2 rest days. As a tall girl, its always been a challenge for me to grow my lower body in comparison to my upper body, so I train legs and glutes 2-3 days a week. The other days are split up between back and biceps, shoulders and triceps with some chest, and I may throw in more shoulders on one of my booty focused days.

During prep, I usually do fasted cardio and then go back later in the day to lift and do post-lifting cardio as well. It really all just depends on how lean I already am. No prep is ever the same; the body is always changing, therefore it will require different protocol each time. I always try to lift as heavy as possible, incorporate drop sets and super sets, and just be purposeful with my training. I treat each training session like itís my last. Sometimes itís tough because you are low on energy from dieting, but you have to dig deep to push through and just do all that you can on that given day. This sport is not for everybody. Itís just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. You also have to be prepared. I always prep my food on Sunday, and the occasional Wednesday. If Iím going somewhere and will be gone more than 2 hours, I take prepped meals with me. Like I said before, this is a lifestyle. It becomes second nature after a while and a lot easier the more you do it. Furthermore, itís a personal choice. Nobody is making you compete.

On Stage
Probably the most memorable show for me was when I won first place at a state level show, which qualified me for nationals. It wasnít just the placing that made it memorable, but the events that led up to that moment. Basically, anything that could go wrong during that prep did go wrong. Four weeks out I got extremely sick. I had to be on antibiotics, take medication, and take extra days off from the gym. I pushed through and was still committed to do the show. The night before we were supposed to leave, it snowedÖ in South Texas of all places! The electricity was all out all night and even up until the moment we got on the road to head out of town to the competition. I had to eat frozen asparagus, cold chicken and rice, and uncooked oats. I also had to shower in freezing water and blow dry my hair at a gym across town before we left. The morning of the show, my tan turned green because the PH balance in my skin was off. The ladies from Liquid Sun Rays were a blessing, doing everything they could to save my tan and make me look my best. They even began to apply tan on me by hand all over my body.

After pre-judging they had me go wrense it off completely and applied fresh layers for finals. Backstage before going on stage for finals, my heel strap busted in line. My boyfriend had to run out into the crowd to get clear tape from a friend of ours who was coaching competitors that day. My boyfriend taped up my shoe less than a minute before I walked out on stage. I ended up getting first places, so I had to stay up there for overalls with my messed up shoe. I battled it out in overalls but did not get the title. I stepped off stage with a terrible cut on my foot from where the tape was rubbing against my skin. It was one of the best days of my life and I still laugh about it to this day. Even though all of that stuff went wrong, I remember just feeling calm still. I kept telling myself ďNothing is going to stop me.Ē I just felt deep down that it was all going to work out, and I knew I worked too hard to let anything stand in my way.

Competing has changed my life for the better. It has given me a sense of empowerment and confidence that I never had before. It has taught me things that have translated into other aspects of my life such as dedication, accountability, determination, and patience, as well as mental and physical strength. It has given me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people and make meaningful connections, and shown me the people who did not need to be in my life anymore. I will say thisÖ there are going to be people who do not understand or support bodybuilding, and thatís okay. They donít need to understand, but they should at least respect it. If you have someone in your life who does not respect you or what you are doing, then that might be a person you need to have a discussion with or reconsider having in your life. Toxic and negative people will weigh anybody down, but especially an athlete in prep. Another thing to remember is that there is more to life than competing. You have to learn to balance stuff outside of fitness or else you are going to be lonely and miserable one day. Spend time with your friends and family, go to parties, travel, take relaxation days. Itís okay to do all of that. The stage and the gym will always be there. You can even do these things in a prep, you just have to stay focused and be prepared. Iíve gone to so many parties and family functions where I do not drink, I bring my own food, and I still have a great time. Perspective is everything. Always remember, competing is a choice.

Future Plans
I have my heart and mind set on becoming the first blind IFBB bikini pro. This journey of mine started out to prove other people wrong, but it has recently shifted. My soul purpose is to prove myself right. I donít care who believes in me or what I am doing. All that matters is that I believe it, and I am going to keep fighting for it. I of course also plan to keep building my brand, my business, and further expand my modeling opportunities. As of right now, Iím reverse dieting into an off season to work on putting on some more muscle mass before I compete again in 2020. The goal is to re-qualify for nationals at a state level show, and then attend a national level competition shortly after.

Social media info-
Instagram: @culpbrit

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