by Shelly Pinkerton
really, does contest preparation start? For some, it’s the first day
of the first week of their competitive season, after they've taken that
down-time we competitors call the “off season”. For others, contest
prep starts closer to their actual show, and for every competitor the
timing can be different. In my case, I begin what I consider my “in-season”
training and diet program a good 16 weeks out from my first show. This
includes clean diet and supplementation, consistent cardio and very
focused training sessions.
In the early stages, I typically take in 6 meals per day, high in both
protein and carbs, made up of egg whites, oatmeal, lean chicken, turkey,
fish and beef, brown basmati rice, yams, and green veggies. My trainer,
Tony Dodd of Tailor Made Physiques, is the mastermind behind my diet
and training regiment. With 20+ years of training and working with figure,
fitness and pageant competitors, he continues to help me learn and understand
the nutritional needs of my body as it develops with each season. We
try different things at different times; for example, we put into play
a “tiered” diet plan early on in preparation for the 2005 Cal State,
which cycled a High/Med/Low carb diet plan. As the show drew closer
(5 – 2 weeks out), I dropped to 5 meals per day and began lowering my
carb intake. During the last week, I stayed at 5 meals; carbs dropped
to their lowest levels for the first part of the week and then increased
quite significantly towards the end.
It is important to note at this point that I incorporate
a cheat day into my diet right up to show day, for two important reasons.
Firstly, having very mature muscularity and an extremely high level
of natural vascularity, my physique can handle food that normally falls
outside the category of what we competitors consider diet food. In fact,
in order to keep from going “flat”, my body requires a massive dose
of carbs and feel-good food to maintain nice full muscle bellies and
help smooth out rippling veins. I know this may be hard to believe,
but having one day a week where I eat things like pancakes, bacon, cheese,
yogurt, fruits, steak, pork, mashed or baked potatoes with all the fixings,
bread, creamy dressings, desserts and even a glass of wine helps me
stay in peak condition. Even moments before I step on stage, a blast
of rich dairy and sugar gives my physique an edge; I’ll never forget
the looks on my fellow competitors’ faces when I made short work of
a slice of Claim Jumper Chocolate Cheese Pie 15 minutes before taking
my place in line for the mandatories at the Cal – I don't think they
could believe what they were seeing!
The second important reason for having a cheat day
or meal once a week is to give myself an emotional and psychological
reward for all my hard work and focus throughout the week. It’s human
nature; if we have something to look forward to, even though it may
be in small doses, it makes sticking to the program that much easier,
and when you're looking at 8 to 10 continuous months of strict dieting
and hard training, we need all the help we can get.
for a show in the early stages means 5 days per week of serious focus
on the areas of my physique that need development and refinement. Tony
has designed my program based on how my physique changes with each season.
We do a 3-day split of chest/shoulders/triceps, back/biceps, and legs,
repeating that cycle over 7 days with rest days on Thursdays and Sundays.
Cardio is usually one session per day of 45 minutes on the step mill,
elliptical or treadmill, for 6 days, with rest on Sunday. We add in
plyometric training for legs as needed for leanness and conditioning,
and since I love to be outdoors, I run at least once a week until about
6 weeks out from a show.
Since my physique dials in to competition shape fairly quickly, the
last 3 to 4 weeks before a show are usually maintenance weeks, in which
I must do training sessions of a more conditioning/maintaining nature.
As show time draws closer, my cardio increases, depending on how my
body responds. My biggest challenge is not to peak in time for the show,
but rather to hold my development until show day.
Although diet and training are the most important factors in preparing
for a competition, don't ignore the small but critical details. Skin,
hair, and nails are all a part of the presentation package, so give
them some attention.
Skin, of course, is the biggie. Personally, being in the tanning beds
frequently is extremely hard on my skin, so I am trying some different
methods to get a good, deep base tan before the ProTan applications.
(Stay tuned for future articles; I hope to have some alternatives to
share with you on this topic!) Perhaps the most important thing for
your skin, off-season and on, is to keep up your hydration by drinking
tons of water, at least a gallon a day. Also, moisturizing as often
as you can, and certainly with every shower, is a must. Another skin
boost is to get regular facials, say once a month. With all the sweating,
makeup and showering I do, my face seems to take the brunt of it. A
good peel or cleansing facial helps my face stay fresh and healthy,
on stage and off. Also, I never tan my face in the tanning bed and I
always wear a moisturizer with an SPF of 15 or higher. The damage the
UV does to delicate facial skin is irreversible, and there are plenty
of different shades of great makeup out there that I can apply to match
my face to my Pro Tanned body.
is probably the next most important feature to focus on for the show.
Since hair, like skin, can take a beating during the weeks of constant
sweating, showering and dieting, be sure you take care of it throughout
the whole season. I keep mine hydrated with plenty of deep conditioning
and minimal electric appliance usage. Also, unless you have very fine
hair that gets oily quickly, try to keep from shampooing your hair every
day and do it every other day instead; I rinse my hair with tepid water
after a sweaty workout and then apply a conditioning styling balm and
let it air dry. This not only preserves moisture in your hair, but allows
it to style easier, too. For competition, make sure your color is fresh
and bright (if you color), the ends are trimmed for optimal health,
and you choose a style that compliments the shape of your face and natural
Be sure you pay attention to your toes and fingernails, too; a nice
French pedicure and manicure are the icing on the cake for a feminine
presentation. Remember, natural-looking is best, so don't get carried
away with a lot of color and flash – you want to showcase your physique,
not overwhelm it.
It seems like a lot goes into preparing for a show,
and there's no doubt that attention to details can make the difference
in a winning package on stage. Don't let yourself get carried away,
however – keep things simple and basic to let your own personality and
unique look shine through. If you look at this preparation as lifestyle
maintenance, and incorporate good habits into your daily routine, it
will become second nature in no time. Besides, there is no excuse for
not taking care of yourself – so indulge!
About the Author...
Shelly Pinkerton CPFT & National-level Figure
I grew up in rural northern California
where extracurricular activities were few and far between - I
can remember my mom driving two to three hours a day to get me
to gymnastics and ballet lessons. Naturally athletic and blessed
with good genetics, I involved myself in all school sports and
cheerleading, and when I started college at CSU, Chico, I found
myself joining my first gym and learning about weight training
– I was hooked!
After my son was born in 1992 I
became certified to teach group fitness and shortly after attained
my personal training certification. I have been working with people
to improve their lifestyles ever since. In 2004, after a difficult
move to Southern California, I accepted a new challenge – figure
competing – and found renewed personal satisfaction and success.
I plan to continue to share my passion for fitness with others
by helping them develop their own happy, healthy lifestyle through
my personal training business, BodyWise Total Fitness, and through
my experiences in figure competing.