I have always been active. I began playing soccer in kindergarten, joined two separate competitive travel leagues, and was a varsity high school captain. At the age of 16, I had surgery, which caused me to stop playing soccer. With more free time, I shifted my focus to working part time with the intention of building my resume. 

Joining the gym
Lack of exercise caused me to gain weight, as one would expect. It wasn’t until March 2013 that I decided to join the gym. I did some research and basically taught myself what to do. As time went on, I got more serious about working out. I saw changes in my body, my confidence, and my health. I was successful in losing the weight, but I was no stranger to the cycle of putting some back on. Luckily, working at a gym was my daily reminder that I needed to work hard if I wanted to keep healthy and see results.

Bodybuilding Competition
I attended my first NPC (National Physique Committee) bodybuilding competition in April 2015. Watching the men and women on stage showcasing their hard work was incredible and inspiring. For those who are not familiar with NPC, it is one of many organizations that hosts bodybuilding competitions. There are different divisions, or levels, that one can compete in. Each division is then divided into classes based on height, and sometimes even age and weight. Organizations have individual requirements and judging is based on different criteria. For the NPC, bikini competitors wear a two-piece bikini that must follow very specific measurement guidelines. The competitor must walk on stage and complete her poses, which are also specific and structured. After each competitor walks out, the girls are lined up for comparisons. The judges then call out numbers and the placing is decided. In most cases, the top five competitors receive a trophy and are now qualified to participate in a national level show.

I chose to compete in the Bikini division. Judging in these competitions is said to be subjective as one cannot know exactly what look a judging panel prefers. As per the NPC official rules, a bikini competitor should have “balance and shape.” A lean and muscular, yet soft and feminine look is desired – I know, sounds contradictory. Bikini competitors are also judged on their appearance including hair, makeup, jewelry and suit choice. Your posing plays an important role in determining your placing; your stage presence should be confident and natural. 

So how did I get into this? Well, after attending a few shows I fell in love with the sport. After watching competitors on stage, I wanted to be up there. I began with Google, and researched and read countless articles and blogs on bikini competition prep. I did some research on local coaches, someone to guide me through the process. I felt this was necessary as it was my first show and having a second set of eyes was crucial to my success in the sport. I asked around for recommendations and everything led me to my current coach, Chris Villa. I reached out to Chris and we set a plan into action. Chris developed a meal plan for me, wrote up my workouts, decided my cardio routine, and guided me as to which supplements and vitamins to take. I checked in with Chris every week and we made changes accordingly. A competition diet is very different than a typical “diet”. Meals are weighed out very specifically, water intake is recorded, and meals are eaten on a specific timed schedule. I couldn’t be late on a meal, I couldn’t have “just a bite” of someone else’s food, and I definitely couldn’t skip a workout.

My competition prep began in June 2015, right after I returned from a study abroad program in Italy. I decided on a show date and knew I had 18 weeks to get stage ready. For 18 weeks, I spent between 2 to 3 hours in the gym every day. I ate six pre-made meals every three hours of my day. I was in the process of transferring colleges, working 20+ hours a week, and maintaining a social life at the age of 19.

The rest of my journey will continue in the March 2016 Juniper Berry.