Common Sense Advice for Novice Fitness Competitors

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fitness competitors posing in gym

These competitors are practicing their posing for their stage debut.

Having just competed in the OPA Toronto Championships last weekend, I thought it would be a great time to share some advice with newbies interested in competing in physique competitions. Although I’m strictly a novice at competing in Fitness Shows, I’ve been transforming physiques professionally as a trainer for 13 years. Much of the advice is fairly common sense, but as the saying goes, common sense is not all that common.


There are so many options with fitness competitions that it might be hard to figure out the ideal one for you. In Ontario, there are a number of associations that put on these events including the Ontario Physique Association (OPA), International Drug Free Athletics (IDFA), Fitness STAR, Ultimate Fitness Events (UFE), WBFF,  and Serious About Fitness (SAF). Investigate the associations and decide which one appeals to you.

Some associations are more athletic, and base their results more on the competitor’s physique, while others are full of pageantry and focus much more on presentation and glamour. Decide what appeals most to you and go for the organization that caters to your interest.


If you’re not a professional Trainer and Nutritionist and you want to get in shape for a competition, it’s best to hire some experienced help. That way, you’ll have someone designing an intelligent plan for your training and nutrition. Make sure to check your trainer’s credentials and experience and do some background reading to get familiar with the task ahead of you.


Although standard practices in the final week of Physique competitions involve sodium loading, water depletion, and potassium loading, if you’re a nervous Novice competitor you might find they cause you more stress than necessary. Trying to keep your head on straight for your first competition is hard, especially if you’re dehydrated and carb-depleted.

Take a look at your goals and adjust your preparation accordingly. If you just want to get up on stage in a bikini once in your life as a “bucket list” item, then don’t go to extremes in following your plan. Be conservative with your preparation the first time you compete so that you don’t endanger your health. Better to be safe than to get dizzy on stage or have massive muscle or stomach cramps.


Get to know your fellow competitors. If you’re a bit nervous (and if you’re not I’d be very surprised!), confide in another athlete who seems friendly. Chances are, they’re nervous too, and will feel better to commiserate with someone else. If you’re unsure of anything, ask one of the friendly volunteers for assistance. Most of the event volunteers are competitors themselves and they’ll be happy to make your experience at the show more pleasant.


You may be working hard at your PBs for squats and chin-ups while training for your competition, but those results don’t really matter when you get up on stage. No one really knows how many deadlifts you needed to do to get your glutes looking that muscular and tight…they’ll only see the result. What you’re entering basically amounts to a beauty pageant for athletic people, so don’t get upset if the result isn’t what you were hoping for. The judges may have been looking for something different from what you presented on the day. If you’re happy with the physique you presented and the stage presentation that you did, then give yourself a pat on the back and move on to the next stage of your training.

Enjoy the process…and have fun!

Ivana Chapman 

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 8-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training and chocolate, not always in that order of preference.
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