Written By Nicole Lewis, Attorney, Certified Personal Trainer, Head Coach OrangeTheory Fitness (Emeryville, CA)

PART TWO in a six-part series following Fitness Expert Nikki Lewis through the process of competition prep.

My 2023 competitions were in the Wellness category, and I truly enjoyed competing in Wellness. In fact, the reason I started out in Wellness is because this category focuses on quads and glutes. I naturally have large quads, and therefore through lower body strength training with my amazing trainer Gaby, my legs—especially my quads—became even more shapely and defined. It was a “no brainer” to start out here.

Figuring It Out 

Throughout training, I have always been open to “seeing where my body takes me,” though. I not only sport impressive quads, but my shoulders, back, arms, and abs tend to garner a lot of attention as well (which I like to attribute to great genetics!)

When I first started training with Gaby, we did not train my upper body together—we only trained legs and glutes. She did, however, provide me with a training program for my upper body that I would perform on my own. Since I, too, am a certified fitness professional, I understood the nuances of working the various muscle groups, and between my genes (thanks mom and dad) and Gaby’s guidance, my upper body fit the criteria for Figure competitors. As a natural bodybuilder, I am more muscular than many of the women in the Wellness category, whereas with Figure, my muscularity and conditioning seems to be more suitable.

For the shows that I participated in last year, I was required to choose one category—I could not compete as both a Wellness athlete and a Figure athlete in the same show. So, I knew that after my December competition I would reassess and make a decision about whether I wanted to continue only doing Wellness or participate in a competition as a Figure athlete.

I decided to go with what I’ve got. I chose to train and compete in Figure for my first competition in 2024—which will be in April. I know I made the right decision because I am both scared and elated.

“Fitness is like a relationship; you cannot cheat on it and expect it to work.”

Breaking Down Bodybuilding

As a result of sharing my journey, many people are now reaching out to me and inquiring about competitive bodybuilding and what it entails. It is obvious to most that a bodybuilder has to spend time in the gym working out and eating healthy meals… But that is pretty much where the knowledge ends for people not exposed to the sport.

There are a number of things that are required when preparing for a competition. My program involves the following:

  • Getting 7-8 hours of sleep;
  • Waking up early in the morning to train;
  • Eating at specific times, and also having the appropriate meal plan during various points/stages of the process;
  • Drinking 1 gallon of water every day; and
  • Posing practice.

Although I am required to do these things if I want to be prepared to compete, these tools are also useful for anyone who desires to reach their fitness goals. All facets of my program involve (1) Resting your body; (2) Establishing and sticking to a training plan; (3) Establishing and sticking with a nutrition plan; and (4) Staying hydrated. Not everyone will necessarily need posing practice. However, sometimes it is necessary to strike a “Superhero Pose” in order to pump yourself up when you are faced with something challenging. (Seriously!)

Deciding to Be Disciplined

In order to achieve your fitness goals, you also need discipline. Let’s face it, you will not always be motivated to work out, eat healthy meals, etc., so you must learn to be disciplined. I love the saying, “You can’t expect to succeed if you only put in the work on the days you feel like it.” We are all human, and so it is normal to not feel like doing certain things. However, when it comes to fitness, there are no shortcuts. “Fitness is like a relationship; you cannot cheat on it and expect it to work.” Therefore, if you want to see results, you must put in the work that is required to attain the desired results. Trust me, when the work is being done, and the results are seen, sticking with the process can become addictive (in a good way).

Prioritizing Purpose

Last year, I discovered that preparing for competition and taking the stage made me really light up. In order for fitness to work for you, you need to know what your desired result is and find out what is the most enjoyable way for you to get there. And once you achieve a goal, set a new one. Fitness is not easy, so finding what you enjoy about it is necessary for you to stick with your program. When you are on a fitness related “mission” your workout has much more meaning. Therefore, your desire to complete your mission overrides the feeling you may experience with wanting to skip the workout—establish a purpose. Maybe the stage is for you, too?

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