I am competing in the INBA (International Natural Bodybuilding Association) women’s figure masters, novice, open, and classic (requires a one piece suit).

Upon getting information about tanning, I immediately contacted Janine, who was doing the tanning to book my appointment early.  Emily cautioned that if you do not book early you may get an undesirable time slot.   In talking with Janine, I found out that she lives about 20 minutes from where I do and she offered to do a pre-pre tan on Thursday night – two days before the show so that I’d have a base going into tanning.   I am glad that I had the benefit of the first show so that I knew the detailed prep needed for optimal tanning.

Below is  the meal plan which reflects what I ate before the first show.

WAKE UP:  Drink 16 oz of water and take your regular vitamins

MEAL ONE:   Eat 2/3 cup of oats with a Tbsp of flax seed oil added to them
with 4 oz of chicken with glutamine

MEAL TWO:  Eat 6 oz of tilapia, 10 thin cucumber slices

SNACK: 4 Grapefruit wedges

MEAL THREE:  Eat 3 oz of tuna rinsed with 1/2 cup of diced avocado and 2/3
cup of brown rice with glutamine

MEAL FOUR:  Eat 4 oz of buffalo or flank steak and 10 asparagus spears

MEAL FIVE:  Eat 4 oz of tilapia with lemon atop 1 cup of chopped Kale with
10 almonds and balsamic vinegar

MEAL SIX:  Eat 3 oz of tuna with 1/2 cup of diced avocado and 1/4 cup of
roasted red pepper


The day of the show, I arrived at East Leyden High school in Franklin Park, IL.  at 9am- the doors had not even opened yet.  I was the first competitor there!  Seeing Janine was comforting as we both could navigate the day and set up together.  Once the doors opened, I grabbed my bags and entered the theater.  Following Janine backstage, I poked around and found stairs leading to a basement area which was where competitors would set up.  I set my things up carving out a space for myself in front of the mirror.

Prior to the competition, all the competitors gathered in the auditorium to hear from the show organizers who touted their drug free testing. They said that they will test (urine, blood) if the judges flag the competitor.  Additionally, the promoters discussed show format for pre-judging and judging.  After the  meeting, competitors went back stage to wait for the show to begin.

I competed in as many categories-Masters Open, Novice, and Classic- as I could to get stage experience.  Classic is a division in which the competitor wears a one piece suit.

I am pleased with my performance and learned a lot from this show, the INBA organization, and myself.  At this point, I do not have any more shows on my radar.


The week between shows started a little rocky.   My stomach was a mess, and I didn’t have much of an appetite.  I did my best to eat on plan, but really eating made my stomach hurt .

I am back to my pre-show week meal plan and workouts listed below.   I got to the gym although I didn’t start the week with the same intensity that I finished the week.  In addition to not feeling well, this week was also challenging due to lots of extracurricular activities Monday night, Wednesday morning, and Thursday night.  Luckily, I was able to work from home as opposed to taking the train downtown, getting home late and still having to get to the gym.

While I was able to carve out time for the gym,  the time I spent there during the week was limited.  Instead of doing cardio and weights each time I was in the gym as I normally would, I dedicated Monday and Thursday for cardio and Tuesday and Wednesday for weights with a focus on lifting heavier and pushing myself to the point of failure.

Friday and Saturday not only was I feeling much better, but I had time to spend on both cardio and weights.

I competed in two divisions, Women’s Figure Masters and Open.  Just prior to going on stage, show tanners sprayed competitors with Pam for a light sheen to accentuate muscle appearance.

A show volunteer in the staging area lined competitors up by division and number.  My number was 12 so I actually was right in the middle for my divisions.

After walking upstairs, I lined up with other competitors in my division, behind the stage curtain, waiting for the judges to call our division, Figure Masters first followed by Figure Novice.  I was told by the back stage coordinator that since I was competing in Masters and Novice that I would stay upstairs and get lined back up since Novice followed Masters.

Walking on stage, I lined up with the other competitors, some of who were already on stage.  Once on stage and in line, competitors immediately strike and hold the front pose until all remaining competitors are on stage.  One holds the front pose until the head judge says, “1/4 turn to the right.”   Then competitors pivot one the right foot to a side pose and strike that pose until the judge cues “1/4 turn to the right,  cueing back pose and again waiting for the cue to ¼ turn again for side pose.

Competitors continue to ¼ turn until they are facing front again and hold the front pose until cued by the head judge. Any moves competitors make will be driven by the head judge.

The head judge calls out competitor numbers to switch positions so that those people switch positions giving the head chance an opportunity to view competitors from a different angle.   At this time, all other competitors continue to hold their position. In Masters, my number was called I raised my hand cueing my position to the competitor with whom I was switching positions and I walked in front so that the judges would see me until I got to my new position.  In working with Emily, she advised not to move until I knew where I was going and to walk in front forcing the other competitor to walk in back. This was the strategy because you want the judges to always see you and you don’t want to move until you know where you are going.

After I competed, I went back downstairs and waited for the women figure open (all ages and divisions) and men’s divisions to compete before intermission.   Since there was a small gap in the show,  I joined John and my parents in the crowd.

Following intermission,  T-walk routines began. T-walks, which were optional in this show, allow competitors to perform a routine.  During the T-walk, competitors go on stage, strike their favorite pose, walk out to the judges and continue their posing walking to the right followed by walking to the left.  So you’re literally forming a T.   Competitors wait back stage for their number to be called.  I walked onto the stage a little early- my number was called and I walked on stage, but I should have waited for the music to start.  My first pose was a double bicep curl followed by my front pose.  Then I walked to the right for a side pose and to the left for a side pose.


After T-walks, came awards.   The back stage volunteer called out divisions and finalists by number.   For Masters,  my number was called and all competitors walked onto the stage.  When my number was called I went on stage and to receive my trophy placing 4th.

John and my parents were there to congratulate me which was such a great feeling.

Now, I get to enjoy a cheat meal.   Since I have another show on April 22, this is not a true cheat meal as most competitors were going out for pizza and beer, but it is a cheat compared to what I ate this week.      We went to Kiku’s in Naperville for Hibachi.

Today is the day I have been working toward for the last year, my first figure competition.  My mom reminded me that I announced my decision to get on stage one year ago almost to the day.   It was a decision that I made and a journey that neither John or me knew anything about but we were on this journey together.  We learned a lot along the way.

I believe that my journey started six months ago when I began working with Emily as my coach.   Six months of dedication, hard work, a great support system, John, my family, and friends, got me to the stage.

I am excited.  I wouldn’t say nervous but maybe anxious. I don’t know what to expect as I have nothing to compare this to.

This journey has been all about preparation and support and today is no different.  I have my meals packed, my suit, heels, jewelry, and tools in case my suit breaks.

Schedule for the day:

Wake up:  4:30am

I made myself a cup of coffee to sip on since I would not be able to function without it, and off I go.

5:oo I left the house for the Holiday Inn Express in Sycamore IL, the host hotel for the OCB show.

6:00 I arrived and had meal one—2 oz flank steak and ½ cup oatmeal.

6:20  the makeup artists arrived and we began work.   I was glad to have two of them as it took quite some time- a good 40 minutes.

7:00 left hotel for the Egyptian Theater in Dekalb, IL

7:20 arrived at the Egyptian Theater

7:30 Tanning

8:00 Getting ready/waiting for the competitor meeting   (I was supposed to have meal 2 now, but I forgot to eat)

10:00 Competitor Meeting

11:00 Show starts

2:00pm T-Walk Routines (optional for this show)

3:30pm  Awards


Arriving at the theater, I didn’t know where to go.  There were no signs to direct competitors.  I did see someone who directed me to go downstairs backstage.    Once downstairs, off to the immediate left was what the show designated as the oil room (where competitors get sprayed with Pam prior to going on stage).   Just beyond that was a dressing area with ample outlets and cubby holes/shelving to store personal belongings.  There were other dressing areas further back and the male competitors seemed to be all the way in the back.

After getting a lay of the land downstairs, I took my bag and went back upstairs and got in line for spray tanning.   In line in front of me was Jen, a woman I met the night before at registration.  There was a comfort level in knowing someone, and I’m glad that I found Jen.

As a figure competitor, I received two light coats of spray tan.  Once dry, I went downstairs and set myself up in the front dressing area where Jen and a few other women were set up.   I used this time before the competitor meeting to prep. I touched up my hair and used my band to pump up my muscles.

Just before the competitor meeting, I had my next meal only to realize that I forgot to eat at 8:00.  I was not that hungry so it wasn’t on my radar plus I was caught up in the excitement and preparation for the show.

At the competitor meeting, the promoter provided show timing starting at 11 and running straight through ending at 4:00pm.   Most shows have a 3-4 hour break between pre-judging and awards.  The OCB had considered running the show straight through for ten years and this was the first show in which they are testing the format.  During the meeting, the promoter provided information regarding overall winners in open and novice divisions.  Competitors in those divisions who place first would receive their Pro card and be subjected to urine testing.  If the winning competitors did not get tested within 3 hours of the show they would lose their Pro card.  Since this is a natural show drug testing is critical.

After the meeting, all competitors went back downstairs to get ready.   I learned from Jen, who had competed in a prior show,  that now is the time to put your suit on and use glue to hold it in place.  I bought 3M Adhesive spray and Elmer’s adhesive spray.  I used the 3M because Emily mentioned that this is the one that she uses to ensure that her suit does not move.   There is really no science to applying the glue.  You basically spray the glue in the areas where you want the suit to stick.  I sprayed all over to ensure my suit would not move.

Now was the waiting period to go on stage and the time to pump up muscles.  I brought a band to pump but noticed that a few competitors used 10lb dumbbells.

Competitors lined up by class (Bikini, Figure, Men’s Physique, and Men’s Body Building), division  Masters 40+, Novice, and Open, and number.

Monday, April 3 marks six days before my first Figure competition and the first day of lean out plan.   I am still taking in six small  meals a day.  Some of the biggest differences are that when I’m hungry I am not allowed to drink protein powder, if I need a caffeine fix I can only sip black coffee, and I have to drink a lot of water.    The purpose of leaning out is to flush the body and to deplete it of excess water making the body appear lean and the muscles more cut.

Below is the meal plan that Emily crafted for me.   There is a science behind the meal plan and I am not recommending this or suggesting this for anyone as a weight loss plan.  This meal plan is restrictive eating and if not done with proper supervision of an expert, in my case Emily, and without the proper supplements, it can be harmful to one’s body .

Upon waking up, drink 160z of water and take regular vitamins.  I take a multivitamin, milk thistle, and a thermogenic (fat loss).

Meal One:  2/3 cup oats and 1 Tablsespoon flax seed oil with 4oz chicken and glutamine.

Meal Two:  60z tilapia and 1o thin cucumber slices

Snack:  4 grapefruit wedges

Meal Three:  3oz tuna rinsed with 1/2 cup diced avocado and 2/3 cup brown and glutamine.   The reason for rinsing the tuna is to eliminate or reduce the amount of salt in the tuna through the canning process.

Meal Four:  4oz flank steak with 10 asparagus spears

Meal Five:  4oz tilapia with 1 cup chopped kale and 10 almonds with balsamic vinegar

Meal Six:  3oz tuna with 1/2 cup diced avocado and 1/4 cup roasted red pepper

Water intake is also critical to the show week meal plan.   The strategy is to maximize water intake early in the week and minimize water as it gets closer to the show depleting water, bloat, and leaning out the physique.

Monday & Tuesday:  Drink 1.5 gallons or 192 ounces of water.  As a point of reference for how much additional water this is, on a regular day I consume 120 oz of water.  It doesn’t seem like a big difference, but I literally had two 30 ounce water bottles filled ready for consumption.

Preparing for the show is intense.  There’s a lot to remember and know.  Having a coach and pro like Emily helps me, as a novice competitor, navigate these uncharted waters.

Hair– It was recommended that I straighten my curly hair because curly hair looks frizzy under the lights.  While I have a flat iron and can straighten my hair myself, I plan on going to a blow dry salon to get my hair professionally straightened.  I will touch up on Saturday morning before the show.

Nails– While I usually wear neutral colors on my nails, Emily directed me to get a french manicure on both my fingers and my toes.  Lately, I have been trying no chip manicures.  While I have experimented with no chip before with less than impressive results, I thought it would be different this time.  I find that it just doesn’t have the staying power.   I decided to try gel nails for my french manicure.  It’s such a clean look and the gel is supposed to last 2-3 weeks before it needs a fill.  I will get a french pedicure on Thursday in advance of tanning (which is Friday).

Makeup–  I have been coached to have my makeup done professionally.  Some shows will have a makeup artist associated with the show.  Since the OCB show on April 8th did not have a makeup artist associated with the show, I went onto Thumbtack, a site that has a network of service providers for any type of service you can imagine.  I used Thumbtack in the past to find a chef for John’s retirement out of P&G party and through Thumbtack we found Chef, Tammy, who we have used several times since.   Once again I had success with Thumbtack and found a makeup artist who was willing to do my makeup for the show.

Waxing–  Again, Emily cautioned getting waxed less than 5 days in advance of spray tanning to avoid two tone look.  In lieu of waxing, I will be shaving.

Tanning– Shows offer spray tanning services at an additional charge although there are competition tanning products that you can apply yourself including Jantana, Protan, and Dreamtan.  As I am a first time competitor, I felt more comfortable with using the tanning service the show offers.   To get the most optimal color and quality tan, it’s all about skin preparation.

Tanning Prep– Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate.  It is recommended to use exfoliating gloves and an exfoliating scrub every time you shower for five days leading up to your spray tanning day paying special attention to the sides of the torso, elbows, armpit, knees, ankle and back.  The day of your tanning appointment which is the day before the show, this will be the last shower and it was suggested to use Dial soap.  The most important thing to getting the optimal tan color is to have dry skin.  The drier your skin, the more absorbent the color.

Shaving– Five days before you tanning appointment you will shave your whole body with a fresh razor and shave gel.   Using shave gel as opposed to shaving cream so that you can see the hairs.  After shaving, you will shave your whole body again to insure all hairs have been removed.  After shaving, moisturize. The night before spray tanning you will shave your entire body twice again.   I shaved three times the night before to really insure that I got all hairs and moisturized after.

One can use a depilatory such as Nair, Neet or Sally Hansen.  However, it is strongly recommended to only use these types of hair removal if you already use them.   One is not advised to use these products for the first time before tanning because they can cause skin irritation and show uneven color with tanning.