Bodybuilding is gaining popularity. Social media are flooding us with pictures of muscled and toned bodies, perfect figures and ideal proportions. However, let’s keep in mind that Instagram isn’t always a true reflection of reality.

Hold on a second. Is this sport even for me? This is the first question you should be asking yourself. It’s not about whether you’re a perfectionist or have a body shape that’s well suited for today’s bodybuilding and bikini fitness competitions. The questions you should be asking yourself are of a different nature. So, without further ado, let’s get down to business:

1)     Are you ready you devote 100% of yourself and your time to this sport?

2)     Are you able to work hard for months at a time and still stay motivated?

3)     Is this really your passion? You don’t want trainings and dieting to be a burden.

4)     Do you have a stable financial situation, and can you afford to do this?

5)     Are you familiar with this sport and will you listen to your trainer’s advice?

6)     Do you have enough experience when it comes to training and working out?

7)     Do you have the necessary body shape basics you can build on?

8)     What is the current state of your overall health, and will you be able to go through the entire training regimen without it being detrimental to your wellbeing?

Things were meant to be so easy! The questions above are food for thought; so you know that to expect. Going down this path won’t be easy, and there are no shortcuts. Not if you want to stay healthy. It is arduous, intensive and constant work on building your physique and staying motivated. Of course, a good trainer will plan your diet, trainings and choose the right exercises for each training cycle, but they won’t do everything. It’s up to you to hit the gym after a hard day’s work and prepare all your meals for the following day. Nobody’s going to do it for you. It is your responsibility. Your choice. You must feel that you really do want to achieve your goal. And what’s the final prize? Some people will tell you that there’s nothing. After all, what is the value of a competition participation diploma, or a medal, or a cup (if you do manage to get to the podium)? There isn’t much besides that. However, there is something that calls us to the stage. Something that can’t be understood by somebody who never took on such a challenge. Your final physique is the real prize. Once you get on stage, you feel proud of all the months of hard work you put in. Proud of the fact that you put your heart into it all and that in the end, it was all worth it. Your body is changing week after week, and you’re starting to like your own reflection. Is this being vain? Maybe. We all want to feel good about ourselves. This is just one of the ways to do just that.

If you think that you’ll be ready for a bodybuilding competition after a couple of months of “hitting the gym” then I’ve got to warn you – you’re not good to go… Yet. Work from the bottom up, work hard, find a trainer who knows their job and is willing to take on the challenge with you! Only then will it all make sense. So, how long should you train before entering a bodybuilding competition? There is no right answer to this question. However, the longer the better. If you find a well-experienced trainer, this will be one of the first things they will tell you. And you know what? If it’s not, then start looking for someone else. This is a serious sport. It takes commitment, sacrifice, arduous work, self-discipline and engagement. It’s climbing a mountain, not going for a stroll in the park. So, are you afraid of heights? J

Remember, this sport isn’t cheap. Maintaining a proper diet, personal trainers, supplements, pre-competition gear such as a competition suit, shoes, jewelry, hair, nails, a tan – it all costs quite a bit of money. If you have to count every penny and worry about whether you can afford each oncoming expense, then you’ll never really train to your fullest potential.

Health. Let’s face it, this is not the healthiest sport in the world. But most have their downsides anyway. During the preparation period, you’ll have to stick to a strict diet and do everything else that’s necessary, but don’t forget that this is only a fragment of the big picture. Your body will be tired after extended periods of preparation and heavy training sessions, which is why you will need to resort to proper supplementation and support your nervous system. Be sure to take care of that. Several weeks before a competition, your bodyfat levels will start dropping significantly. This isn’t particularly healthy. Your female hormones will go haywire. You shouldn’t maintain such low levels of bodyfat as the one you’ll have on the day of the competition for longer periods of time. This can be dangerous, especially for us, women. Be smart about it.

You will face countless obstacles along the way. And you will either overcome them, or they will overcome you. Motivation is key. It has to come from the heart. You can be surrounded by people who wish you well, root for you, cheer you on and even look up to you, but remember; in the end, everything depends on you and the choices you make. Ultimately, it’s your decision to go out with your friends for a drink on Saturday night or to eat a piece of your colleague’s birthday cake. You’re the one who chooses whether you eat a cheat meal or any other foods not included in your diet plan. These small, everyday decisions will ultimately decide about your success. Remember that many people take up the challenge, but only a few see it through. Mental aptitude is just as important as genetic predispositions.

Be prepared for dreary days without motivation; when you won’t feel like doing anything at all, when you will question your decision as to why you ever decided to take part in such a competition, when eating a cookie will seem like a marvelous idea and having whatever you like for lunch won’t sound like the end of the world. But remember one thing. A body that you can show off on the beach isn’t necessarily suited for bikini fitness competitions. You will not be able to turn a blind eye and get away with the things that your friends, who are also on a diet, do and get away with. This challenge – the one you have taken up – is advanced and truly difficult.

But once you’ve reached the end of this road, the question you will be asking yourself will no longer be “Why am I doing this?” but “How did I manage that?”. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope you make the right choices. And, of course, good luck. It may come in handy.