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Finding the Right Competition Category for You: Bikini/Model vs. Figure

By Emily Saunders

Happy Fall to all my Jillfit Peeps!!  I hope everyone is enjoying beautiful weather and activities and spending lots of time outdoors!  Last time I wrote I was busy traveling for weddings and preparing for my final competition of the year and it is here!  In two weeks I will be competing with the Jillfit crew in the NPC Elite Bikini division.  We have an awesome group of Jillfit clients that will be joining me in that competition including fellow trainer Jillian, my husband and 3 great friends who are first time competitors.  I am prouder than ever to be a Jillfit girl and trainer because these girls are working SO hard and looking fantastic!

As for me…my plan for this Fall was to attend the FMI Conference in Los Angeles and then come home and compete in the NPC Elite.  Well, as it often happens, life got in the way.  I was recently promoted into a new role at my “real” job and with the new responsibilities and hiring of several new direct reports, there was no way I could leave for almost a full week,  fulfill my work obligations AND have my head in the game at FMI.  Like many of our readers, I have to consciously give myself permission to say “no” to a good thing rather than overwhelming myself to the point that I end up in “survival mode” unable to truly enjoy the experience.  I had to make a decision and I chose to stay home and push my FMI Conference out to the Spring.  I now know I made the best decision as I have been able to concentrate on work and preparing myself and my clients for the upcoming competition.

As I have mentioned before, I eat pretty much the same way year round so I don’t change my diet significantly when preparing for a contest.  The past few weeks I have made sure to watch my sodium content a little closer and to limit my non-cheat meals to once per week.  Additionally, I have been keeping my weekly cheat meal in control usually eating a bunless burger wrapped in lettuce or a lean cut of steak, a salad with ranch dressing, and a small side of fries.  This is really satisfying to me and I don’t feel bloated the next day.  My diet will change significantly for the final week to mostly lean meats and lots of green veggies to get the excess water off of my body and then “carbing up” to fill out my muscles for the stage.

Recently, I have had several people approach me and ask me when I am going to switch over to the Figure category of competition.   The answer is… probably never.  There is a common misconception out there that the “bikini” or “model” divisions are “stepping stones” into the Fitness or Figure world.  This is very true for some competitors who aspire to gain more muscle and progress into Figure or even Bodybuilding.   However, not all competitors share this goal and I would argue that many are very happy to continue competing in Bikini or Model categories.  Unfortunately there are some people that view the bikini division as a tier below the other divisions which is probably the root of this misconception.  Yes, bikini competitors do not have to be as lean and do not have as much muscle mass as Figure competitors, but that by no means makes prepping for it easy.

Many competitors now switch back and forth between divisions and may compete in Figure for one show and then compete in Bikini two months later or visa versa.  At the 2010 Fitness America competition, one of my role models, Lori Harder, won BOTH the Figure and Bikini divisions by changing her diet and presentation in less than 24 hours.  My point is, it’s not necessarily an assumed goal for every Model or Bikini competitor to move into the world of Figure and it’s not uncommon for competitors to dabble in multiple categories.  Every single lady that hits that stage has worked extremely hard to accomplish her physique and deserves a big round of applause for her efforts regardless of the category.

Personally, I am comfortable competing in Bikini and Model and I also know the limits of my physique.  I have worked very hard to put on the muscle mass I have and would have to follow an intense hypertrophy diet in the off season to put size on my body to even think about successfully competing in the Figure category.  I have enjoyed a slow and steady change in my physique and plan to continue this method. Additionally, my “stage personality” is much better suited for the Fitness Model and Bikini categories which allow a lot more presentation freedom.  I truly admire Figure competitors, especially my fellow Jillfit trainers and I know how hard they work and diet to rock those awesome physiques. Not to mention, the posing for Figure, being more rigid, can certainly be much more difficult to nail.  The bottom line is that there are so many options out there for aspiring competitors and I encourage each person to figure out the best fit for her individual goals, physique and personality.

In closing, I am very excited to share the stage one more time with my wonderful husband as he tries his hand in the Men’s Physique Category.  After this competition I plan to hang up my crystal heels for a while and explore other areas of the fitness world.  We have a lot of changes coming in the next year as my husband finishes his residency and will begin working in private practice. We also hope to start a family in the next year or so which will be an entirely new adventure in fitness. [An aside from Jill–“the first little JillFit baby?!” :)] Until next time.. Go Jillfit!!!!

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