There are many things that might surprise you when it comes to competing; mostly behind the scenes stuff that even I didn’t know until I started my prep. If you’ve been thinking about hitting the stage or even just watched a show or two yourself then this might shed some light of what it really means to be a competitive bodybuilder.
Before we go any further allow me to clarify that this may be TMI for some people…so, you know just FYI.
Most of these little known tidbits have to do with the spraytan, it really takes a lot to get it just right and even then it’s never 100% full proof and perfect. The spraytan is dark, REALLY dark and you are super brown, it’s more of a mahogany shade to be honest and it has this unique chemical smell that you can’t do anything to alleviate. Before we get to the actual application, there is a whole process of skin prep that goes on weeks in advance. Two weeks before the tan goes on you have to start exfoliating your entire body every day with a gentle but thorough scrub and moisturize twice daily with an unscented body lotion. Any fragrances will impact the color and evenness of the tan. Another equally important factor is that all competitors have to be completely hairless, as in no body hair whatsoever. If there is even a little bit of peach fuzz or stubble, it will show once your tan goes on and you will actually look really hairy. If you decide to shave you have to do it 8 hours before the tan goes on, but if you happen to regularly shave your legs, for example, you’ll be able to see when the hair starts growing back in the next day. So shaving usually isn’t the best option for areas that you shave regularly. Hair removal creams are a good option, but they can only be done the day before the spraytan and thus you run the risk of having a skin reaction to the cream, which will in turn mess up the tan altogether and hitting the stage might not even be possible. If you do go this way, try the cream on your entire body several months in advance just to be on the safe side. Then there’s waxing, the dreaded pain of having hot wax poured on your body in order to rip the hair right off. This was the option that I chose. It worked very well, but it was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt in my life, and this is coming from someone who had salmonella, and fractured their skull last year and also had a lumbar puncture done a few years back after an epileptic seizure (to check for meningitis). Those were nothing compared waxing. Yup, I did it all: Brazilian, legs, arms and underarms. It hurt so bad, there are no words. With each strip that was ripped came a whole slew of expletives running through my mind as I held on to the table for dear life. At one point I broke out into a sweat and saw stars. The worst part was when the hairs were too fine or short, the aesthetician would use a pair of sharp tweezers to get the hair out, one by one. This could seriously be used as a torture tactic that would guarantee everybody singing like a bunch of canaries. That being said, if you choose this torturous option, it needs to be done one week in advance of the tan to allow your skin to heal.
The tan will typically be sprayed on the day before you hit the stage and so that morning you need to exfoliate one last time, but with a concoction of dish washing soap and baking soda, but forgo the post shower moisturizer. Another fun fact to keep in mind is that 3 days before the tan goes on, you have to stop wearing deodorant. Yup, that’s right. Why? because the ingredients in deodorant will turn your armpits green with the spraytan, so unless you want moldy looking armpits, you’ll just have to deal with the fact that you’re gonna have a wee bit of BO for a few days. The only thing you can do is wash thoroughly and wipe down your pits throughout the day.
Then comes the actual spraying on of the tan. Here’s what goes down. The provider for the show will usually have a space closed off for the actual spraying and for good reason. The men and ladies will have completely separate areas where they will be sprayed. The entire room will be covered in plastic and there are small makeshift “huts” for each athlete to stand in; this provides zero privacy and it is completely open in the front where the aesthetician will stand to spray you. And yes, you will be sprayed completely in the buff along with ten other competitors standing adjacent to you. So yeah, pretty any modesty or attempt to cover yourself up will not work, it’s really just a bunch of very fit naked people standing around being sprayed. The actual device used kind of looks like that paint gun thing used when you want to paint your house and the spray is SUPER cold. You will be told to stand in slightly awkward positions so that the tan goes on even and you will be sprayed EVERYWHERE, except the face. Once the first coat goes on you stand in front of a fan to dry you off and then you get sprayed a second time, followed by the fan again. After that, you have to wear light and breathable clothing (usually sweatpants and a zip up hoodie are good) and you can’t where any underwear or bras, that’s right, everybody goes commando. On top of that, you have to be very careful not to touch much of anything because the tan will come off and smudge, leaving you looking splotchy. What does that entail? You can’t sit down on the toilet (this is what I was talking about earlier when I said TMI). You absolutely have to pee through a cup and do it very slowly so it doesn’t spray everywhere and leave weird dots on your body, thus messing up your tan.
On show day, backstage the spraytan company has a set up for retouches. It’s the same idea except you get additional coats done while wearing your posing suit, then a glaze goes on (up close you look shiny, but from the judges and audience, you’re good), then you’re suite has to be glued onto your body. It’s not as bad as it sounds; it’s really just a roll on light glue that prevents the suite from moving as you go from one pose to the next. And you can peel the suite right off and no it does not hurt.
In terms of hair and makeup, well let’s just say that the makeup is super thick, heavy and dark (to match the tan) and the hair is big. Again, up close you kind of resemble a drag queen, but from the audience you look amazing.
Backstage is mayhem as there are athletes everywhere along with their coaches and bags of stuff including meals, weights or bands to get a pump before going onstage. It’s crowded, people are anxious and nervous and usually trying to do some last minute posing practice before go-time. But I must say that it’s awesome and exhilarating at the same time.
By the end of the competition I was sticky from the FIVE coats of tan plus TWO coats of glaze, feeling pretty thirsty from the water manipulation and really tired. Show day for me was 12 hours of intensity not to mention the day before which was also long from the registration, spraytan and athletes meeting, but all in all it was so fun and great. I can honestly say that it’s a really fun and interesting environment and culture to be a part of and I’m so glad to have fully immersed myself in it and look forward to do that again in just 10 weeks.
There’s a lot that goes into competitive bodybuilding, in fact it may seem to a lot of people that it’s not worth it or there’s really no point. I feel that above all else, it teaches you how to work hard, stay focused and love yourself. You really have to put yourself first; your health, your rest and your mindset. A coach told me not to look at the other athletes when I’m onstage and that the judges take care of the comparison so that we don’t have. “Make it about you”, she said. Wise words. So that’s what I did; I focused on presenting my best and giving my all while onstage and it was awesome. The entire experience was so positive because of that and since then I’ve gained a far more healthy outlook on fitness and nutrition than I have ever had before.
Start It, Finish It