Thursday, October 29, 2015

Your Journey to the Stage, Why It Doesn't Matter

by Kris Pitcher

Can I tell you something that might be difficult for you to hear? That's the line I use when I need to deliver difficult information. It's really effective. It gives the person a choice first of all, and also lets them know something is coming. Then we sit down. Let's sit down...

Everyone faces adversity in life. Sure, it's relative. Your difficulties may be "more" difficult than the next guy. Persevere! Good for you! Life is hard.

But no one cares about your journey to the stage in a physique competition. This might sound cold-hearted, But here's what I mean. This is a sport of subjective judgement. We stand in a line, next to other competitors, to be judged.

All the judges see is what is in front of them. They see us relative to the people on stage next to us. They score us based on standardized criteria. We are taken through mandatory poses and compared to one another. We are then ranked in order.

They know us by our number, not our name, or our "story". They don't know what adversities we've overcome, or how hard our life has been. It doesn't matter. All that matters is how we compare.

Your journey is irrelevant. How hard you worked, how it was more difficult for you than anyone else, how much weight you lost (this is not a biggest loser), how many jobs you hold, credits you take, or kids you have...sorry. None of it matters on judgement day.

I share this because there may not even be an opportunity to share your story. That bio you filled out may not be heard by the crowd. They just see you walk across the stage, hit your poses and hear your name. That's. It.

While you've fulfilled a life's dream, bucket list, end to your big one else makes the connection. It's lost. It's often misunderstood. As judges, we do understand people have stories, adversities, and have overcome huge hurdles.

But it's lost in the moment of judgement for certain. And often in the presentation during finals, when that story isn't relayed to the audience.

The silver lining? Your story is important to YOU. It should motivate and encourage you. It should provide you with direction, inspiration and energy to keep moving forward. It should help you overcome life's difficulties you will no doubt encounter in your future.

Hard things are hard. Competing in a physique competition is no exception. It's hard for everyone. Thanks for the chat, I hope that wasn't too difficult for you to hear.

Monday, October 26, 2015

What Not to Do Back Stage at a Contest, Lessons From a Coach

by Kris Pitcher

Competitors wonder what it will be like back stage. For first time competitors, it's a visual sea of wonder. There's so much going on, so many people, so much activity, and at the local and regional level often a buzz of anxiety and tension.

Organized chaos describes how expediters round up competitors getting them lined up to go on stage. The preparation prior to that can be anything from amusing to dangerous and all things in between. It's the ultimate people watching opportunity.

Gloved up and having fun back stage with Edie, Tawnya, & Ashley.
As the Coach's right hand woman, I spring into action back stage to handle all of the competitors on our team. I make sure their experience is stress free, they are ready to step on stage, in line and every detail is taken care of. I keep track of when they need to do their pump up protocol, eat, drink...all of that.

I am a National level competitor and have spent lots of time back stage, I've helped hundreds of clients back stage, as such I am qualified to share some things you should never do back stage.

  1. Don't put your bag on top of other people's bags. While there is LIMITED space, when you come and put your bag on top of mine I am going to have a really hard time accessing my supplies. I may find myself rummaging through your things which you may not appreciate. Find an empty corner. 
  2. Don't sit at my feet if you're not mine. I'm going to be doing "Twister" over the top of you if you come and sit at my feet and you are not my competitor. Think "safety circle" - please don't enter a coach's safety circle. My deodorant quit working 4 hours ago, and my butt is going to be right in your face when I get my supplies or help people get things from their bags. Safety. Circle.
  3. Don't eat candy off the floor. The floor back stage is not sanitary. This should not be news to you. I realize the candy is critical for you, you've been on a diet for some time now. But if I'm brutally honest, you look like you've been eating candy through your entire prep. It feeds your brain, not your muscles, and no one wants a "vascular" bikini competitor anyway. Learn about sugars. 
  4. Don't miss your division. This happens every contest. A competitor will be dropping "F" bombs because they were up in their room and missed their class. It is your responsibility to be an informed athlete. Never let this be you. Be back stage.
  5. Don't SNEAK back stage. Most promoters offer passes for trainers and coaches to access the back stage area to take care of their clients. Sneaking in diminishes you as a professional and is disrespectful to the sport, the promoter, and all the professionals who take their job seriously enough to follow protocol. It's bad business. If you are an actual coach write this expense off your taxes. 
  6. Don't hog the mirrors to pump up. When mirrors are provided you don't HAVE to stand in front of them to pump up. You've been working out a while, and posing a while and you probably know where you are in space. This is a great perk provided but it's silly when you can't pump up without it. 
  7. Don't leave all of your garbage behind. It's understandable when we forget things, but the big garbage cans are provided for your trash. Shows are put on by real people who recruit volunteers to help them. After a 20 hour day, it would be nice if there was less garbage back stage. Do your part to be a good competitor, take what you bring.
  8. Don't ask me for my stuff. I don't bring enough supplies for all the athletes in the entire show. I bring enough for our athletes. Where is your "coach"? Why aren't they taking care of you back stage? 
  9. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Do what you are supposed to do. You will see a lot of interesting behavior. A. Lot. If you've had some guidance, do that. If you haven't, don't worry about what you see, keep it simple. 
  10. Don't be a loner. Meet other people. This sport is fun. And if you are by yourself at a contest meet other people who will help you. People are nice. We WANT people to have a good experience and when I can help another athlete, I will. I can't help it. 
There are some back stage "don'ts" for you. Like it or lump it there is a flow or etiquette back stage. Your back stage experience begins with your personal preparation. We are really lucky in the Northwest, our promoters provide a great experience for us back stage.

Do your homework, be prepared, get some guidance. If you are working with a coach find out what they will provide for you the day of your contest. Will they be there? Will they be back stage? Will they prepare you for what to expect in that experience? Or will you be on your own...sitting at my feet? 

I you find yourself in that position, I will gently suggest you may not appreciate my twister moves over and around you. Don't be offended, I'm just in my safety circle. (*smile)


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Beating Post Competition Blues

by Kris Pitcher

Post competition blues are a reality. Spending months preparing for your competition only to realize it is over in a FLASH. You're left feeling depressed, down, blue...

You are no longer the center of attention (good or bad) at your gym, or in your circle of circles. Sharpness has faded leaving you a little soft, and sad. Soft and sad. You can do one of two things.

You can get elbow deep in a giant jar of peanut butter and eat yourself into your own self-fulfilling prophecy. OR you can get back on the wagon of structure. You need structure.

One critical thing going into your contest is your attitude about "what" this is. Is it the end of something? Does it represent all your work finally being OVER? Can you hardly wait to eat the entire buffet?

Or is it just the beginning of the next phase of your training. Are you already thinking about what you want to improve on? Are you wondering what a strong off season could do for you? Are you excited to work toward your next goal?

Two very different mindsets. You also need an exit plan. You absolutely need to relax your eating for a day or two, but then you need to get right on a structured eating plan. An exit plan. If by Tuesday following your show your cooler is not packed for the're in for the rebound of your life. Sad and blue.

Don't let the post show blues hit you. Have a plan. Your contest is one stop on your cycle of prep. Your body is primed to suck up all the nutrients you put in it following your show. Why not give it solid clean fuel to GROW. It's grow time! Give your body what it needs to make some progress.

Get back to the gym. People talk about taking weeks off from the gym to recover. Sure get some sleep and recover a few days, Then get back to the gym. Structure. Good fuel and structured workouts are going to keep the blues away, along with some goals.

Preparing yourself and planning ahead will keep you away from the post competition blues, just like planning got you to the stage. Be ready! Have your exit plan, and be prepared to maintain structure. This isn't the end of anything. It might just be your beginning!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Qualified For Nationals, Now What?

by Kris Pitcher

I'll preface this conversation by saying I grew up in a time when kids earned an allowance, read encyclopedias to get information, and observed curfews. I have an innate respect for mother nature, and by profession practice being a good steward.

With that, I have a healthy respect for the sport of bodybuilding, it's governing leagues, and the athletes who have earned their way to its highest rankings. I carry that sense of respect with me to the stage each time I compete. And when I took the leap to the national stage...I did not take that decision lightly.

I've been competing for nine years. I have done every division, starting with bodybuilding. A tiny 112 pound 5'4" lightweight bodybuilder. In my first competition, I won! And guess what - it was a national qualifier! I was "qualified for nationals"! If I remember right there were three women in my class.

Tiny little bodybuilder, winning Overall
Being qualified to compete at the national level didn't mean I SHOULD compete at the national level. There is a difference. Then I moved to the figure division and won that, in a national qualifier. Was I ready at that time to "go to nationals" Certainly not.

"Nationally Qualified" is thrown out as a personal descriptive left, and right. And that's great, be proud of your win. Just know there are plenty of nationally qualified athletes who have no business showing up on the national stage.

That statement is based on expectations of experience first, and dilution of process second. First, going to compete at that level is very expensive. $300 entry fee, airfare, lodging, rental car, food, upgraded suit (you can't wear that $300 number), a week off of's a $5,000 trip.

There will be 30 women in your figure class, 50 in your bikini, or men's physique class. It's HUGE. Ten girls will get looked at, the rest will be herded and dismissed. It happens really fast. And then it's over. You go home with 16th place...last call out. Classes are so big because many of the athletes just shouldn't be there.

Sure, you're the best in your gym. You even won your local show. You might have even won overall. But do some research and look at the caliber of the athletes placing top 5 on the national level. Appreciate the fact they have shown up for the past 2-4 years. The judges are getting to know the top contenders.

The two granddaddies are the USA's, in July, and the Nationals in November. These are the two largest national level shows. You have the Jr USA's, and the Jr Nationals. Team Universe, North Americans, Teen Collegiate Masters Nationals (did I miss any?).

There are a lot of "national" options. If you want to dip your toe in the water, pick a Jr USA/Jr National show to begin with. Plan ahead, do your research, and look at who's placing top 5. How do you truly compare? What are your weaknesses? What do you need to work on? Get some feedback from your regional NPC Chair, or head judge.

And please don't say you're "Going to nationals!" in June when you're really going to Jr. Nationals. Have enough respect for the process to know what show you're going to. I don't know why this bugs me? You are competing nationally, but you are not going to Nationals - that is in November, in Miami.

This is big business, and promoters want athletes in their shows. But when every "qualified" athlete shows up, there is a diluted effect on stage. People who look ready to start their prep competing on the national level shows lack of understanding of how all this works. Even though they did just win their small local national here they are.

Qualified and ready are two very different places to be. Depending on what kind of experience you want to have, what money you want to spend, and where you truly think you are you could end up really unhappy.

So give some thought to where you think that 112 pound bodybuilder belonged. She certainly wouldn't have belonged on stage at Nationals.

And eight years later, placing 4th at Master's Nationals, I'm just catching my stride at being "ready" to compete at this level. Hopefully in 2016, I'll be more ready.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Partial Rep Prep Coach

by Kris Pitcher

All of a sudden, everyone is a contest prep coach? Now, I'll make things real clear - I'm not a prep coach. My husband is a prep coach. He's a really good one. And I help him with his business. But I have a very full time job. Very.

I spent a lot of years working full time in the health and fitness industry but no longer do. My background is exercise science, and psychology...a nice mix for working with competitors. I am myself a national level competitor. I know a thing or two.

It's interesting, people will come to work with my husband to learn posing. Their "prep coach" sends them? Wait? I thought you had a coach? But your coach doesn't teach posing. Hmm, I see.

Others will come for nutrition. Their "prep coach" will send them? Again, confused here...I thought you had a prep coach. Oh, but your coach doesn't do nutrition. I get it. Then it turns out their coach doesn't know the first thing about bringing someone in for a show, much less the details of competing.

So, really? Aren't they a personal trainer? There's nothing wrong with being a great personal trainer. But all of a sudden, every one's a prep coach. Too bad really, because there's a lot of competitors out there getting bad advice, or no advice.

They go to a show, completely lost. No clue about what to expect, what they should have, how they should be prepared, where to get a tan even! For me, I want people to have a great experience and love the sport.

That takes knowledge and education. There's nothing wrong with working with a team to get you ready, but why wouldn't you work with one person who can guide your workouts, your nutrition, teach you to pose (no matter which division you are in), and give you every bit of information from suit selection to how to pee with competition color on.

Why wouldn't you want an expert to guide you in this process? I feel like we've had this conversation before...but then I go to a show and a competitor who's done maybe one show is now running a team. Honestly, it's a situation of the blind leading the blind here.

Then the aftermath of complaints about judging comes. Well, you get a bunch of competitors on stage led by "prep coaches" who have no idea what they are doing and you get what you get up there. A bunch of people who look ready to start their prep. Try to judge that mess.

Seriously, I don't cut my own hair, or clean my own teeth. I don't massage myself, or do my own taxes. I even walk by the self-check line at the grocery store - that won't save me any time. I need a professional. And so do people who want to compete.

If you're a great personal trainer, stick within your scope of practice. If you've done one show and you're all excited - great! Go recruit other fit people to work with your prep coach, but be realistic about the skill set required to take on this role.

Ask your potential prep coach lots of questions, ask around town, check with promoters, and do your research. You don't want to hire someone who's only capable of doing partial reps on this one.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Do You Have the Guts to Compete?

by Kris Pitcher

"No one preps like you do." My husband and coach said. It surprised me when he said it and I think there are plenty of people who push with the same of more effort. That in itself motivates me. The competitor in me wants to be better, better than myself...and better than you.

While everyone is pumpkin spicing, I've pulled the 2016 calendar and mapped out my plans for next year. Seeing the blocks of weeks motivates me. Looking at the date I'll "start" my diet sets the stage, literally.

Counting out the months of off season isn't to determine how many weeks of "free" eating I have left. It's to make sure I don't let one workout go by without the intensity necessary to get me where I want to be. It's to make sure I don't miss a meal that is going to make me grow. It's to ensure I don't waste one day of time.

And here are some things you should know about me if you think you can prep as good, or better, than me. I can gut a fish. That's right, I'm not afraid to get my hands right in there and pull out the guts to clean out what I need.

I can go to the bathroom in the woods. I am not afraid of the elements. I can "rough it", which means I am not adverse to...adversity. You have to make do (good one), with your surroundings. Prep is like survival.

I am a really good spitter. Some women just cannot spit. I could win a distance contest. Spitting is about commitment. You have to put some force behind it and not care what other people think. You have to be sure of yourself, and commit.

If you can't get what you need, overcome adversity, and commit you will struggle with your prep. For me, focus on simplicity allows me to prep like no one else (in the words of my coach). But I'm not better than anyone else, I'm just very clear on my goals and commitment.

My humility keeps me connected with the fact that lots of women are just as focused, and commited. This drives me to stay focused, to rip into that fish, do what I need to do in the woods, and to spit as far as I can.

Now, let's go outside and see just how far you can spit!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Contest Peak Week

by Kris Pitcher

Welcome to your "Peak Week"! A lot has gone into getting you to this point. Months of preparation have come down to the week before your contest where all the final details come into play. Unless you panic, everything will be fine.

Here's what you need to know about peak week - everything you read probably doesn't apply to you. The truth is, or the science of the matter is, it's different for each of us. It's different for me every time I compete.

What I did last time may not apply this time. I'm different, my body is different, my conditioning is different...see? So, if you're reading everything you can about what someone else does, thinking it's going to be magical for you - it may not be.

There are some similarities especially amongst divisions, during peak week. But trying to apply what bodybuilders do to a bikini athlete is just...mean.

If you are not working with a coach my advice is, if you are in shape and look good - coast in. Don't change things. And next time, work with a coach.

For those of us who do work with a coach, know your protocol is different from their other clients'. What you should expect is to taper off your workouts. Peak week is almost a "rest" week. This makes some people nut balls.

I love it. You can also expect to be busy with appointments getting all beautiful. Hair, nails, waxing, all of that. Or just spending time shaving the last bits of hair from everywhere. You can expect to be busy packing your bag for contest day. You may need to pack for an overnight as well.

There's plenty to keep you busy. You can expect some changes in your nutrition, in your water intake, in your micro nutrients (salt). And you can expect to be told to REST. That's right, feet up and rest. Do it.

The goal is to reduce all the inflammation, for some we want to deplete then load carbs as glycogen in the muscles, we want to manipulate hydration. Those are the main goals of peak week.

When you hear about drastic tactics during peak week, people are grasping for time. They aren't ready. And I can tell you, you can't "drop" fat during peak week. If you're fat, you're fat. Period.

Making weight for a bodybuilder is one thing, but when I hear about a bikini competitor in a sauna suit on the hackles go up. Dangerous. When I hear about a woman who is 118 pounds drinking 4 gallons of water...also dangerous. Again, applying methods used for male bodybuilders to women is ill informed, and liable.

The key is don't stress. You have done all the work. You aren't going to lose all of your muscle because you stop lifting the Wednesday before your show. I promise. RELAX. The more chill you are, the better. Peak week should be called, chill week.

Don't expect drastic things. I've done national level figure competitions with a very moderate natural water drop. If I insisted on doing a diuretic because "everyone else does it" I would look like an empty bag. That would be bad. Everyone doesn't do it. Stop reading all the bro science.

Your manipulations are based on actual science, everything will come together, and you will get up there on stage and present your best self ever. Your job during peak week is to relax, and get to your appointments.

Having the right set of expectations should help you relax about this mystery week. And now you know about your contest peak week.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fatigue, Why am I so Tired During Prep?

by Kris Pitcher

I see a lot of competitors perplexed about the level of fatigue they feel during prep. People want to know what they can take for "energy". I thought we should have a heart to heart about the expectations of your energy level while you are prepping for your show.

I will apologize on behalf of the industry for no one telling you you would be TIRED. It's true. Fatigue is part of this. You are operating in a deficit. You're taking things to a whole new level.

Taking in fewer calories, restricting certain nutrients, keeping up with your workouts all add up to one tired bunny. Oh, and don't forget that job you have, and family, kids, etc. And those "energy" pills, they exacerbate your fatigue in the long run.

Some of you are so over stimulated you're kind of cracked out. You're taking your pre workout at 6:00 pm and wonder why you can't sleep at night. It's taxing to your systems and you are left in a heap on the couch.

Here's what you should know about managing your energy. Stop doing a bunch of extra recreational activity. You will only have enough energy to work, and do your workouts, and find some clean clothes to put on.

Going to parties, to the movies, wake boarding, hiking, and all the other fun things I see competitors doing in prep, will affect your outcome. You only have so much to give. "Balance" is relative.

It's important to manage your expectations about your energy level. You may not be jumping off the walls, or out of bed...or anywhere. Thinking you'll have enormous amounts of energy is silly. It's just in the pages of magazines.

Take every advantage to REST. When you have an extra half hour in your day, rest. If a client cancels, rest. If you have an office with a door, close it and rest. Friday night, Netfix and chill (see, I'm hip).

If you have to be at wrestling matches, or soccer tournaments all day (I'm sorry) - take your folding chair, your fuzzy blanket, and settle in. Rest. Get off your feet. You can put your feet up on your cooler.

If you are finding you are lacking energy, that is NORMAL. Everyone feels fatigued during prep. Manage your expectations, your stimulants, and your activities. Save yourself for what matters, and limit your social calendar.

I am a big proponent of naps, going to bed early, and protecting my schedule. Getting through the fatigue of prep is a real thing. Think about it, it's no wonder you're tired!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stage Etiquette, Wave and Nod

by Kris Pitcher

A lot of people wonder about the "wave" competitors do on stage. So, today we'll cover the wave and nod...stage etiquette.

This spring my husband bought me a motorcycle after having purchased one for himself. More than 20 years ago (a life time for some of you) I rode, but hung that up with lots of other things. There was however something I always loved about the culture. The wave.

As I reaquainted myself with riding I was thrilled with the wave. It took some time for me to loosen my death grip and be able to release my left hand, casually drop it down toward an oncoming rider...and flash a few fingers in the formation of the "peace" sign. The wave.

Once I got the hang of it I wanted to wave at everyone! I accidentally waved at a scooter once...I even wanted to wave at a baby who waved at me! Sometimes when I'm in my car, I forget and find myself wanting to wave at motorcyclists.

See, waving brings people together. It signifies, "I see you," "We're alike," and "We share a culture."

It's similar on stage. The wave, during prejudging, is an indication you heard the head judge call your number. It also signifies, when you are being moved on stage, to the other competitor where they will be going. Holding up your hand says, "I heard you, here I am, where are you."

Once your class has been judged, the wave - now to the judging panel says, "Thank you for judging me." and "I have an appreciation and respect for what just happened on stage, thank you." Then you exit the stage.

It's proper etiquette. The wave signifies respect and understanding. Now, you don't want to be waving at babies up you're trying to get your friend's attention in a crowded train station. It's a poised wave.

It is accompanied by a courtsey. A SMALL courtsey. We're not dropping it like a squat here. We're not picking anything up off the floor or doing lunges. A tiny bend in the knee is all that's needed. For the guys, it's a little cooler.

But it's the same principle. The hand up signifies, I heard you, I'm here, where am I being asked to move to. No courtsey necessary, or advised, for the guys. And now you know about the culture of the wave. Ride on!