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The Final Week of Contest Preparation: Make Your List and Check it Twice!

Contest time is drawing near.  Whether you are competing in a figure, fitness, or bodybuilding competition, you have spent several months training and dieting, practicing your posing and preparing for the upcoming competition.  It has been a marathon – every day you have worked hard for this, thinking about the competition from the time you wake up until the time you sleep, and focusing on achieving the best result you can at the end of the race.  After all of the preparation and hard work, you can see the finish line just ahead.  Once the week of the competition arrives, the vast majority of your hard work is completed.  It is getting to be time to relax, reflect on your labors, prepare yourself for the final day, and enjoy the ride as the competition draws closer.  You’ve earned it!

There are, however, plenty of things to be done during the final week before a competition, and sometimes we are so focused on our training and diet that we forget to take care of the preparation details – the little things that can make the difference between showing up and looking good on stage and owning the stage and standing out like a seasoned competitor.  It will help you to begin your final preparations early; start by making lists so that all of the details can be addressed relatively easily as the competition approaches.  This will help to reduce your stress and make sure that you bring the best package forward for the judges on competition day.  After all of the hard work you put in to making it to the stage for the competition, you should not let any of the little things upset you or compromise the end result for you.  Make your list ahead of time, and check it twice!

During the final week of contest preparation, certainly your training and diet remain a primary focus.  For the most part, however, the hard training should be finished, and you should be at your competition weight/conditioning so that you don’t have to struggle with losing more weight/body fat during the final week.  There are plenty of other important things to focus on during the final week!  Heavy training is usually completed about one week prior to the competition so that your body has some time to recover prior to the competition and any extra blood/water in your muscles and/or inflammation from training can be reduced.  For bodybuilders, this is essential to maximize hardness and muscle definition on contest day.  Light training and cardio are sometimes continued during the final week of contest preparation, but for the most part, you should try to give yourself at least two days prior to the competition to rest and recover your body from everything.  This will allow you to feel fresh on contest day – nothing should feel sore or overly-tired.

You or your coach/trainer should clearly outline your meal plan for the final week of the competition in advance, including your carbohydrate, water, and sodium manipulation if these are elements of your final contest preparation.  This way, you go into your final week knowing exactly what you are going to eat/drink every day.  You should not have to think or worry about this at all.  If you are travelling for the competition, what you need to be sure to do is prepare all of your food in advance for travelling and make sure that you have everything you are going to need for the final days before the show and for the time you spend backstage prior to the competition.

Grill/cook your proteins in advance and freeze them for travel.  Make sure you prepare plenty of meals for the days prior, and consider making some extra meals to take with you.  You can cook steak or chicken breasts a few days in advance, seal them in Ziploc bags, and freeze them until the day you travel.  The frozen meals make perfect “ice packs” for your cooler since ice is prohibited for airplane travel; by the time you arrive at your destination, the meat will be thawed or thawing and will remain cold for the rest of the day.  If you are travelling and staying in a hotel, make sure to request a refrigerator for your room when you book your hotel room so that you can transfer everything to the fridge and keep things fresh for the remainder of the week.  Be sure to pack things you may need in the hotel, like paper plates/cups/silverware, and cooking supplies like a rice cooker, portable burner, and/or small grill (like a George Foreman grill) if you plan on cooking meals in your hotel room.  Also don’t forget to pack yourself some goodies and treats for after the competition!

Be sure to make all of your arrangements for tanning/color and makeup application ahead of time!  It is absolutely critical that you plan your color application ahead of time and begin to put together a schedule for your final days of preparation.  Check with the competition venue about whether or not spray tanning services are being offered for competitors, and be sure to plan your color application ahead of time.  Shave and exfoliate your skin during the several days prior to the competition so that you can absorb the color evenly.

If you are going to apply your contest color yourself, be sure to buy all of the supplies you need and plan to start your color application 2-3 days prior to the competition.  You may also want to plan to have someone help you with applying color to your back.  Be sure to pack all of the supplies you will need to apply your color if you are travelling for a competition and staying in a hotel room, including extra color, towels, sponges, and latex gloves.  If you are staying in a hotel, it is very important to remember to bring a set of sheets and some towels with you.  The first thing you should do when you check into your hotel room is change the sheets on the bed and replace all of the hotel linens with your own so that you are not charged for staining anything with competition color.

During the week prior to the competition, you should make sure that your nails (hands and feet) are freshly polished, your hair is freshly cut/colored, and your skin is primed for color application.  It is sometimes nice to treat yourself during the final week of contest preparation to a manicure, pedicure, facial, exfoliation, and/or other spa treatments.  All of these things will help you look and feel better on the day of your competition.  You need to plan ahead in order to bring your best total package to the stage – and the total package includes everything from your head down to your toes.  It is the best way to show off all of the hard work you have put into the competition, and ultimately it is the total package that will win the competition!

Do not forget to consider your makeup application for the day of the competition and decide whether or not you want to hire someone at the show to apply your stage makeup.  If you are going to apply your own makeup for the competition, don’t forget that your skin color may be much darker than your normal color, so you may need to purchase some matching foundation/powders.  It is also important to remember that you will be under very bright stage lights, so very heavy makeup application is necessary to prevent you from looking “washed out.”  Applying false eyelashes helps to bring your eyes out on stage, so you may want to purchase a few sets of eyelashes to pack in your competition bag.

You will have to plan on packing essential competition supplies in a bag for you to take backstage the day of the show.  If you are travelling for the competition, it is a good practice to make a list of everything that you will need for the competition and pack it separately in a bag that can be easily packed to carry backstage with you.  The most essential elements of your competition bag include:
•    Posing Suits/Shoes – perhaps the most critical items to bring with you to the competition!  Bodybuilders should pack a plain posing suit for prejudging and perhaps a stoned posing suit for the Finals.  All suits for figure competitors are stoned, and fitness competitors also need to bring an outfit for their routine and perhaps some props.  Figure and fitness competitors also need posing shoes (clear high heels).  If you are travelling by plane to a competition, it is a VERY good idea to pack your suits/shoes in a carry-on bag versus in your checked luggage.  If you carry these items with you, you will at least be more able to compete if your checked luggage is lost or delayed.
•    Jewelry – Figure/fitness competitors can wear jewelry during the competition, and bodybuilders can wear jewelry during the Finals.  Jewelry that is selected by competitors for competition should be somewhat subtle and should not be distracting for the judges, but jewelry can certainly add a little extra flair to an outfit and bring a nicer overall package to the stage for judging, especially for figure and fitness competitors.

•    Music and Pump-Up Supplies– Bodybuilders and fitness competitors should pack a CD containing their routine music in their competition bag.  I would recommend making multiple copies of the music and bringing one with you in your carry-on bag if you are traveling by airplane.  Also be sure to make an extra copy for you to keep and practice with if you are required to submit your music prior to the competition.  Bodybuilders especially should pack some resistance bands and/or weights with them to bring backstage, in case supplies are not provided for pumping up.  Fitness and figure competitors may want to pack a resistance band as well.
•    Coloring Products, Hair and Makeup Accessories, Bikini Bite, and Toiletries – Pack all of your beauty essentials to bring backstage with you!  Ideally, you will want to have your hair and makeup completed prior to going backstage to get ready for prejudging, but you will want to have additional coloring products with you for touching up (including any oil or top coat that you may apply immediately prior to the competition), makeup for touching up (especially powder and lipstick), a hair brush and hair spray, Bikini Bite or some spray glue to hold your posing suit in place, and any other toiletries and accessories you may need while you are backstage.
•    Hand Wipes, Towels, and Cleaning Supplies – Once you are backstage and dressed for the competition, with color and makeup applied, it is sometimes not possible to wash your hands or clean yourself up if things get dirty, smeared, or stained.  It is a good idea to have some “Wet Ones,” handy-wipes, and/or towels in your bag that you can use to clean your hands or wipe anything down. 
•    Change of Clothes – It is always nice to have a fresh change of clothes backstage with you when prejudging is over and you are ready to get out of your posing suit and relax!
•    Fun Stuff – I always pack a disposable camera in my competition bag so that I can take pictures backstage with other competitors.  You should also consider packing a CD player, your IPod, or other music player so that you can sit down, relax, and listen to your favorite music if you are left backstage waiting for a long period of time.  And of course, most important – don’t forget your bag of goodies to enjoy when the competition is over!  You have certainly earned it!

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