I started my ‘bikini’ journey just over two and a half years after I went to watch my first bodybuilding show, the UKBFF North West Qualifiers. I admit now, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the prospect of spending all day on a Sunday going to watch this competition. To my surprise though, after I got over my initial giggles at the mahogany tan and the little pants the men wore, I actually really enjoyed watching it.
It was seeing the girls in the bikini category though that I began to feel inspired. Previously I thought ‘bikini fitness’ competitors were almost like strippers! They must be so attention seeking to want to be parading around in a minuscule sparkling bikini I thought. But at the show, I wasn't only in awe of the ladies killer bodies, but also recognised how much hard work it had taken to get in that condition.
On the way home I said: ‘I’m going to compete in that show next year’.
"On the way home I said: ‘I’m going to compete in that show next year’". Sophie Aris
The day after, sometime in mid-May, I started my prep for the North East Qualifiers in September. At the time I had very limited muscle mass as I had not been training long at all. To my amazement, I placed second in my category and got an invite to the British Finals in October.
The next year I competed at the North West Qualifiers that I had watched the year before as a spectator. I went on to win my category .... and the next year I won the show again too.
Now that short story sounds like it’s all been incredible, and yes, I have had amazing highs along the way too. Since I have been literally inundated by girls messaging me recently hoping to start competing, I wanted to take the time to highlight some things you may or may not be aware of.
The simple fact is that competing is not for everyone and it's definitely not all glamour, roses and fairy tales like some are led to believe. It’s very tough both mentally and physically at times and difficult for those around you to understand. I’m not trying to put anyone off competing if it’s what they truly want to do, but I do want to talk honestly about the truth behind prepping for a show….
Say buh-bye to your social life….
The girls you see on social media who have killer abs/ are really lean and close to a show do not go out partying or for dinner every weekend. Or they do and are posting old pictures.
This is a very real condition in competition prep…. Well maybe not an ACTUAL condition but mood swings, over dieting and over training are all extremely common. Body dysmorphic disorder and developing an unhealthy relationship with food is obviously more serious but also quite common amongst competitors. At the end of the day, it’s our body that is being judged so naturally we become more aware of every little imperfection.
Isolating family and friends…
There’s absolutely no getting away from the fact that competing is a very selfish sport. Going back to my first point, it’s highly frustrating for others not being able to do ‘normal’ things with you. Remember the majority of competitors do this as a hobby along with a full time job. So if you’re not working, you’re either at the gym, going to the gym, meal prepping, eating out of a box or sleeping.
This is quite a taboo subject but the reality is if your body fat drops too low, your periods will stop. This did happen to me at a point last year when I over dieted and took my training to extremes. This was also one of the reasons why I took a break from counting macros in October till January. I wanted to give both my mind and body a break for a while.
There is absolutely no money in competing. Many people are ‘sponsored athletes’, but that sadly often involves just receiving a tub of protein powder monthly. With the cost of a prep coach, stage bikini, shoes, tan, posing practice, competition entry, hair, nails, makeup… It all adds up.
Post competition blues…
Regardless of placing, feeling down after a competition is very normal. It’s such a big build up and takes so much time and energy; it absolutely consumes your life for months. When it’s over, I’m not exaggerating to say you can feel like a part of you is missing. This is why having a backup plan and not losing touch with friends is so important.
Post competition binge…
Anyone who’s competed has been there at some point. After my first show I developed a love of donuts and biscuits. Never in my life did I have a sweet tooth until then! Its well-known we all want what we can’t have. Somehow, not being about to have ‘bad’ food makes it more desirable. But obviously someone bingeing on processed foods does not embody the ‘healthy athlete’ we are often led to believe they are.
"Be more than just a bikini girl." Sophie Aris
So why on earth are YOU competing again…?
Call me crazy but I love the challenge of transforming my body and documenting my journey. After competing in a fair few shows now I know some of the warning signs to look out for in prep, and how my body responds best to certain changes in my diet and training. This year I’ve also taken on the task of being my own coach which I’m really excited about!
Competing is so subjective and completely based on the way a person looks. Before prepping for a show I would always advise to go into it for the right reasons. Have good people around you who care and remember not to sacrifice everything for the sake of a show. I would also suggest to not to be a clone of anyone else. Don’t do something because it’s all the rage at the moment. If you’re want to do it just to develop in the health and fitness industry there are lots of other ways of getting ‘recognised’ too.
I wrote this not to dissuade anyone from competing but just to make them reflect on their reasons for doing it. I’ve learnt a number of things through my own highs and lows in the past few years… My advice...? Be more than just a ‘bikini girl’.
Good luck with your fitness journey.