Miami pro european championships
On July 7th 2013, I competed in my first ever bikini fitness competition, entering the Miami Pro European Championships in London. The below is an outline of my preparation and experience:
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It is important to note that my training and diet is NOT a lifestyle but rather a short-term commitment to get ready for a competition.
Deciding to compete
Entering a competition is something that I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do. I didn’t just want to be in shape; I wanted to push myself to the limit, both mentally and physically, and achieve my full fitness potential. Unfortunately, these types of competitions don’t exist in Beirut - or indeed in the Middle East - otherwise I believe I would have competed a lot sooner. Although many fitness professionals compete for a living or to boost their careers, I wanted to do it for the enjoyment and the experience.
I wanted to prove to myself that I can achieve my goals and that I’m capable of getting into the best shape of my life.
Miami Pro organizes the largest fitness modeling events in Europe. They offer different divisions, such as bikini, fitness model, bodybuilding, figure, muscle model etc, and some of the most seasoned competitors and biggest celebrity fitness models in the industry participate in their events.
A competitor’s lifestyle
Training for a competition is a very different process than regular dieting and training. You’re dieting down to get super lean, and will most likely have to train twice a day, five to six times a week. Only a tiny percentage of people compete because not many are able to go through the preparation, sacrifice and discipline it takes to be stage ready.
Initially I found myself an online coach, to help me design a diet and training program. Unfortunately she turned out to be a complete amateur and a scammer, who I could write a whole separate article about. After threatening to sue her if she didn’t return my money, I decided to prep myself, using the tips I’ve learnt from Tom Venuto’s Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle program. I’ve transformed my body twice since I started training and have done it by following Tom Venuto’s advice, thanks to what may be the greatest fat loss system on the planet. My training lasted for a total of three months.
I started out by eating 1500 calories a day, following a diet that consisted of 30% carbs, 45% protein and 25% fat. The first week was incredibly difficult, as my body didn’t respond well. I was ravenous - literally plagued by hunger. It wasn’t like being hungry for lunch and then feeling full once you eat. It was a feeling of hunger unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Eventually I bumped up my calories to 1800 to 2000 a day, with the same macros, and incorporated a high carb reefed day once a week. I divided my meals and ate five times a day - every three hours. This worked wonders for me - I was able to progress with my training and saw the fat melting off on a weekly basis. I felt like a sculptor creating my body, and every week I would wonder which new muscles would pop out.
I also went a total of two months without eating any sugar or junk food and four months with no alcohol. This decision was largely about the psychological gratification of knowing that I have the inner strength and discipline to live without these substances.
The food I ate consisted of veggies, chicken, fish, egg whites, brown rice, oatmeal, original Shredded Wheat cereal, avocados and protein shakes. I only ate fruit during my reefed day once a week.
The liquids I drank were water and green tea (I hate coffee!) and occasionally diet soda.
I suppressed my appetite by chewing sugar free gum, ensuring that I always carried packets around with me. Most people thought that I like chewing, but the reality is that it kept me from getting hungry or craving sweets.
I don’t think I’ve ever trained as hard in my life as I did during those three months. The first month I would wake up early and before eating breakfast I would do 30-40 minutes of the Insanity workout DVD, which is one of the hardest workout DVDs on the market. After work I’d hit the gym and do an hour of weight training four times a week.
During the last two months I started including an extra 30-40 minute cardio session in my routine, exercising each day during my lunch break. I would wake up early to do Insanity before work, do an extra cardio session during my lunch break and then go back to the gym after work for my weight training.
Saturday morning I would wake up early and do an hour of cardio first thing, and I allowed myself a day of rest on Sunday.
This routine had me training up to three times a day at times and working out for a total of six days a week, separating my cardio and weight training sessions.
Although this might seem extreme, training this hard is recommended for short periods of time when you want to peak and get as lean as possible for a competition. This is not something anyone should do year round.
I balanced a full time job from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, with training and dieting for my competition. I woke up an hour earlier than usual to exercise and dedicated all my free time towards going to the gym. I live in an extremely social city and before I started training I used to dine out at least once a day (often twice a day!). I cut all that out. It was challenging, but eating out was simply not an option when I needed to follow my diet to the letter and manipulate it if it needed to be adjusted. I would still go out, but I would simply eat beforehand and drink green tea in restaurants, and I’d drink water and diet sodas when I went to bars or clubs.
Going out during the week wasn’t an option. I needed to work out at 7am, so I would never go to sleep later than 11pm. My life literally consisted of work, going to the gym and eating healthily.
I was working for a magazine that would receive free junk food on a weekly basis. Given that I worked in a shared office, I would have to watch my colleagues eat burgers, doughnuts, pizza and more, as I ate broccoli and chicken at my desk. I would also watch those around me eating dessert and would never participate. At times I did feel like a grinch, but with all respect to people who eat poorly, I have learnt never to envy anyone who doesn’t take care of themselves. Nothing is more satisfying than being happy, proud and confident, and having the willpower to achieve your goals, no matter how demanding they are.
I also went on a trip to Disneyland Paris during this training period. It was really tough to stick to my diet during the trip, as there are no healthy restaurants in Disneyland! I coped by doing my research with the hotel concierge before dining out and arranged for portions of grilled protein and veggies to be served.
Some of my critics said that I was not “living my life”. However, the truth is that I NEVER felt more alive than when achieving my goals and walking on stage to show off my hard work. Committing for three months is a small period of sacrifice, which was necessary to transform my body. Now that the competition is over I can enjoy going out, including all the (healthy) lunches, dinners and occasional nights of drinking I want, and enjoy being a size zero!
I was lucky to have a supportive network of family and friends and an amazing boyfriend. Although my boyfriend didn’t compete, he would wake up early with me, train with me and eat the same food I ate. Many guys might object to their significant other stepping up on stage in a bikini, but my boyfriend was my biggest supporter all the way. My best friend is wonderful, and would come over and help me practice my posing. My mom, sisters and family would encourage me all the time. How lucky am I?!
As these competitions don’t exist in Beirut, I had to figure out everything on my own, and at times I felt like I was in the dark. I found a great trainer in the UK to help me with my stage presentation and posing practice and literally learnt the steps five days before the competition. I do believe my stage presentation wasn’t the best, as it was hard to master prancing around in five inch plastic heels!
The day itself was a lot of fun and was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. There were so many fit and friendly people in one place at the same time. I was expecting there to be a bit of tension or competitiveness, but I didn’t sense anything like that at all. Everyone was so nice and helpful, especially the girls competing in the bikini division. I met so many different people with diverse backgrounds, from all over the world. Several of the competitors were busy with children and full-time jobs and still managed to train for the competition. It was inspirational!
I wasn’t too nervous before stepping on stage – in fact I was really looking forward to it. I had my amazing boyfriend, friends and family cheering me on, and there were cameras flashing from all corners! I didn’t end up placing and I wasn’t as lean or as muscular as the girl who won, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that I tried very hard and that I achieved my goals. The judges were looking for a leaner, harder body, whereas I have a softer, curvier look and more of a beach bikini body than a fitness bikini body. I didn’t feel discouraged, as I was competing against some of the best fitness models in Europe and I know that it’s common for people not to place in their first show. I can’t wait to start working on improving my physique even more.
No matter what happens, I will never become too lean or too muscular. I don’t believe that look would suit me and that is definitely not my goal.
1- I truly experienced what it means to set yourself challenging goals and accomplish them. I’ve never trained as hard, or dieted as strictly, and now I believe that I’m capable of accomplishing anything to which I set my mind.
2- I also believe that I mastered the basics of fat loss. In as little as two months I dropped down two sizes and became a size zero. I achieved this by designing my own diet and tweaking it whenever necessary. I’m now confident that I can lose fat no matter where I am in the world and that I can help anyone else who is struggling to lose weight.
3- I feel like I know so much more about fitness, health and nutrition since competing. I networked with some of the best fitness models, bodybuilders, trainers and professionals in the industry and have learnt so much from them. I also spent the week before my competition training with an IFBB Pro bikini competitor, who shared many of her experiences.
4- My confidence has skyrocketed! It takes a lot of courage and guts to walk on stage in front of a crowd of people and judges in a bikini.
5- I learnt that I am not afraid to try and I’m not afraid to lose either. I really believe there is no such thing as failure. What matters is that you try your hardest, accomplish your goals and keep on improving.
6- Finally, I have the pride and satisfaction that come from having competed. It was an amazing experience and I met so many inspirational people who share my passion. There’s nothing better than a group of people who share the same passion coming together.
I’m definitely going to compete again. If all goes to plan I’d love to compete for the World Beauty Fitness and Fashion (WBFF) federation next year in one of their international competitions. I definitely need at least six months off to recuperate and focus on making improvements. I also need to enjoy normal life again, and experience going out without having to worry about protein, fasted cardio or not being able to miss a gym session. If I win this time, I could gain international recognition in the fitness industry. If I don’t win, I will still have had an amazing experience, networked with some fantastic people and will be in even better shape than I am today.
Watch this space ;)