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Yesterday was exactly 2 years ago since I competed in my very first Bikini Fitness competition.
I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to share my experience and thoughts about competing -hoping it will help others that may consider competing or pursue a career in the fitness industry.

First a little background of my competition history for those who don't know:

I competed within the Bodybuilding federation called UKBFF and won my first show in August 2014. Winning this regional competition entitled me to compete at the British finals where I placed 10th. I then competed in the National Championships in April 2015 and place 4th.
So I did well and lots of people have since asked me ‘When is your next competition?’ but the answer is there will not be any more competitions!
I have friends that still compete and respect them for the effort they put in, however for me personally theres a number of reasons why I choose the distance myself from the bodybuilding industry and put my effort elsewhere:

I've met a lot of people aspiring to compete or wanting to look like competitors or fitness models - whether its because its a trend, they want to challenge themselves or because they think it equals success, health and happiness, Im not sure. For me it was purely to challenge myself to see what I could achieve if I put 100% effort into my training and diet. But was I healthy? NO!
Successful, yes I suppose but happy -definitely not!
With that being said, I’m proud of my achievements and glad I pushed through when it was tough.

From a health perspective, theres a few key aspect that I believe is really important to consider:
In order to get “stage-lean” you have to maintain a strict diet for at least 8-12 weeks (longer if you’re doing multiple shows or shoots)
Your training will be very intense too to force your body into a low body fat percentage that isn’t healthy. A lot of girls lose their period and other side effects can be fainting, dizziness, dry skin, headaches and insomnia (thinking about food).

You’ll have to cut out certain food groups and can easily be deficient in vital vitamins
Remember the good old saying “an apple a day, keeps the doctor away” -well, fruit would be considered a treat if you're on a competition diet.

You have to weigh and measure EVERYTHING you eat so prepping meals can be time consuming and its difficult to go out for food.

When dieting your metabolism will slow down as well so you’re more likely to gain extra weight once you start eating normally again.
From a physical point of view you’ll deprive your body and many people start craving bad food they wouldn't normally eat, which in some cases lead to big post-comp binges.
I was certainly guilty of that and hated how I completely lost my will-power!

Your social life will suffer, not only because its difficult to eat out but you're often too tired to engage in activities that doesn't involved training, food prep or eating.
Because your calories are restricted your mood is very easily effected so unless you’ve just eaten you’ll probably be grumpy or just thinking about your next meal.
I’m generally a happy and positive person but for a whole year I was moody 90% of the time, I struggled to engage in conversation other than with my clients in the gym and if I did I’d snap at people.
Seeing my friends and family became an effort so a lot of time was spent on my own, either in the gym, food shopping or alone in my flat. It left me really depressed and isolated.
It’s important for me to stress it doesn't have to be like this but I think many other competitors can relate.

This is a big one! When you get to that crazy lean and shredded stage you're so proud and feel good about yourself but as soon as you up the calories and eating normally, it’ll change.
You'll constantly chase that ‘perfect’ shape and look at yourself feeling fat and “out of shape” when in reality you look better than most other people that aren't competing.
This has been the hardest for me post competition, it took me a long time to get comfortable wearing normal clothes and like my non-shredded body.
I have never been overweight but the fear of having a little extra body fat on me kept me in “prep-mode” long after I’ve decided not to compete anymore.
As a personal trainer I felt a certain responsibility to keep my “best shape” however I’m slowly coming to terms with my personal best shape isn't 12% body fat - I’d much rather be a happy, healthy and honest role model to my clients.

Competition is good, but it can also be very damaging for your self-worth if all that matters is what you look like. In Bikini Fitness you’re not only judged on your physique but also stage presence, tan, bikini, hair, makeup, posing etc. The judges don't care who you are, how hard you work or what a lovely person you are - purely how you look on stage.
Personally I have a winners mindset and if theres something I set out to do, I wont stop until I get there. However, I’ve learnt to pick my battles wisely and try my best to ignore what others are doing and focusing in being the BEST version of ME.
I personally think there’s more to life than what you look like and chose now to focus on things that genuinely make me happy and worthwhile living.
Once I learnt to be grateful for everything I am and have in my life rather than focusing what I don't have, my mindset changed completely!

Theres no money in competing unless you’re a top pro international level, but still then you have a lot of personal expenses.
Bikini, posing sessions, supplements, tan, hair, makeup, travels, hotels etc etc.
I spent £800-1,000 for every competition I did.

Some competitors like myself become “sponsored athletes” and receive free supplements etc from promoting the brand on social media, some earn commission from doing so but often not enough to cover all costs of competing unless you’ve got several sponsorships.

The bottomline is, competing is an expensive sport not only financially but for your health too.
I don’t want to put a bad light on the sport as I know some people live and breathe it but Id wish anyone that consider competing to think twice WHY they want to do it and have a good plan ready before, during and after prep.

Personally I still eat and train similar to when I competed just not as extreme. I allow myself treats, and can enjoy more social events without worrying.
The majority of clients I work with are women wanting to get a fit, strong, healthy and confident and you can certainly gain all these things without an extreme approach.
I wish to advocate a healthy balanced lifestyle that you can enjoy and sustain longterm - otherwise whats the point? :)
Eat well, work hard and enjoy life!

Karina xx

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