A bodybuilder’s first time competing in front of an audience can be daunting. There’s a lot that goes into preparing before and during a show. Six-time Figure Olympia champion Cydney Gillon shared her notes on her YouTube channel on May 12, 2023, to help amateur bodybuilders best prepare for their first competition. Watch it below:
[Related: 2023 New York Pro Bodybuilding Show Results — Tonio Burton Wins Men’s Open]
Cydney Gillon’s Tips for First-Time Bodybuilding Competitors
Here’s a list of things to consider, followed by how Cydney Gillon covered each topic to help best prepare a new bodybuilding competitor for a show:
- Schedule Everything
- Tanning, Makeup, Jewelry, and Suits
- Attend a Bodybuilding Show
- Promoter Website FAQs & Music Guidelines
- Practice Posing & Show Expectations
- Backstage Prep
- Lotion & Exfoliate
- How to Use Pee Cups
- Show Day Tickets and Live Stream
- What to Do On Show Day
Anything and everything that needs to be scheduled should be a priority, according to Gillon. Whether that’s booking a hotel or Air BnB, the first step every new competitor should take as soon as possible is their preparation.
Gillon added that the venue a competitor stays in should be near the competition site to avoid delays caused by traffic or other transit. It is imperative for new athletes to avoid stressors that could spike cortisol before or on show day.
The six-time Figure Olympia champ recommends bodybuilding competitors know beforehand which professional artists on-site they plan to use for their hair, makeup, and tanning. Of course, athletes can handle all those aspects themselves, but if they are hiring others for their services, know who and where they are at the competition site ahead of time.
Different contests have different guidelines for each aspect of makeup, hair, and tanning, so research tanning and makeup before the show to know which tones to apply. According to Gillon, using deodorant or moisturizing after showering is a big no-no — it’s part of the tanning protocol. Learn to be comfortable with the tanning smell.
Suit and jewelry designs should be planned well before the show. However, it’s okay to wait to get fitted for the suit closer to the competition date since cutting can impact the measurements.
Having a robe or tan pullover to put over the clothes is vital to protect the new bodybuilding competitor’s clothes. Hand sanitizer is essential for competitors who are eating (to put on their fingertips) since they won’t be able to wash their hands after the tan is applied.
Buying tanning sheets and towels early prevents putting one’s tan body on white hotel sheets, which the hotels will charge for. Instead, lay black, brown, or dark sheets over the bedding the athlete plans to sleep on.
For first-time competitors, Gillon recommends spectating a bodybuilding show to learn which category is most appealing to compete in. When it’s finally time to register for a bodybuilding contest, be prepared for the registration fees, including late fees. Promoters implement fee guidelines differently. Set reminders for the prices, which can be upwards of 100 to 200 dollars.
Checking the promoter’s websites to see their guidelines is a valuable resource for answering questions and gathering information for the designated show. Makeup and tanning professionals’ info, as well as music guidelines, are typically listed on the promoters’ sites.
For example, some bodybuilding categories will only allow 45-second songs with no cursing. If the music isn’t turned in by its due date, the competitor will likely only be allowed to use house music, which could negatively impact their posing routines.
Knowing how poses look and practicing them beforehand is essential for scoring well on the judges’ scorecards. Gillon recommends hiring a posing coach if affordable. Gillon suggests new bodybuilders start posing practice a year out from their target show and perform at least one posing session per month.
New competitors should remain mindful to temper their expectations in their first show. “You don’t need to look like Mr. Olympia or Ms. Olympia on stage at your first show.” Gillon continued, “The first show is to get your feet wet, have a great experience, recognize if this is the right category for you, [and figure out if] you really like doing this at all.”
If a new competitor brings their coach to their first competition, they should account for the backstage pass, which could cost upwards of 150 dollars. If the coach can’t be there, Gillon recommends setting up a tripod backstage or in the bathroom to do check-in progress photos with the coach.
Gillon packs as much of her stuff as possible a few weeks before leaving for the show to ensure she doesn’t forget anything. Having an extra pair of shoes and super glue is essential to be prepared for anything that could happen to the competitor’s shoes on the day of the show. Cones, flat irons, hair spray, and anything needed for hair should also be packed. Having backstage food packed is something to consider as well.
Gillion believes it critical to know one’s skin protocol before getting a tan in the final weeks before a show. Gillon exfoliates and lotions two weeks out to keep her skin moisturized.
“Make sure the skin is nice and supple, conditioned and healthy the entire prep because sometimes the skin can get a little dry because you’re taking out fats and macronutrients [that are needed to keep the skin moisturized and hydrated].”
Gillon says a pee cup is used after the tanning, so be wary when using one to protect the tan. An athlete can buy a pee cup or use a regular disposable cup from the bathroom.
To avoid mishaps, “Sit at the end of the toilet, separate the cheeks, and then let the stream pee down that way. Then take the tissue and pat [to prevent the pee from splattering]. Hold it there, get another tissue, pat it, and drop it into the toilet.”
Gillon suggests using headphones that don’t sit on the head and hair and only go into the ears to protect the athlete’s hair. Pillows can help some competitors relax as they sit down and wait for their time to go on stage.
The day before the show, the bodybuilder should check the schedule for the athlete check-in to ensure they’re eligible for competition. Athletes not checked in for the show will be cut from the roster.
Prices to compete usually go up on competition day. If there is a live stream of the contest, that info is typically available the day of or the day before the show — useful for any family members or friends to watch the show if unable to attend in person.
On show day, the athlete should:
- Wear loose, dark clothes (robe or tanning suit)
- Wear dark shoes (ones to easily slide on and off that don’t interfere with the tan on the feet)
- Have your stage number packed and memorized
- Have meals packed
- Don’t walk around; sit to rest the legs
- Know the show schedule; when each division competes
- Arrive backstage early (at least 30-45 minutes before the show)
- Breathe; deep breath before walking onstage, shake out the nerves.
- Maintain good sportsmanship regardless of placing
Last but not least, Gillon stated, “It’s not a golf tournament. Tell your family they can yell as loud as they want…when you get on that stage, take your time and have fun.”
Featured Image: @vytamin_c on Instagram