Are you competing in Figure, momma?”
Yesterday morning at a local gym…
Hey, were you at my contest on Saturday?” ~NPC Judge
Yeah, with my wife…Sarah Battaglia.” ~Husband
Remembering my name from his score sheets, the judge nods and asks:
Has your wife ever competed in Figure?”
No, always Bikini. But, looking at the other women, I think she could’ve won that division, too.”
Yes, there was a discussion about that…”
It’s not a confusion that would happen at a national-level show, but, at a local show where novice competitors are prevalent, a muscular Bikini competitor can easily appear to “out-muscle” the competitors in the more muscular division of Figure. No matter the show, you have to understand and appreciate that the judges are tasked to judge what’s in front of them — not what they saw at last month’s show or what they expect to see in their heads. So, the majority of the competitors set the standard for that particular show.
In situations like this, the question comes up…from my coach, my husband, the judges, and elsewhere:
Why not Figure, Sarah?”
Let me get to that in a moment…
When someone enters my studio for the first time, I like to ask questions, too. With the studio mantra of “Dream Big, Desire More”, it’s natural for me to lead with a related question:
What do you want?”
More often than not, this question elicits a pound or health answer. Namely, how many pounds someone thinks they want to lose or the “I want to be healthy” blanket statement. Both of these tend to be bogus answers because the truth is less quantifiable; it’s more visual. Like walking into a model home, you know good design and upgrades when you see them, but you don’t know necessarily how to construct them in your own “house”.
So, you hire a good builder or designer…or, in the case of your body, a coach well-versed in body design to deliver your dream house – or dream body, as the case may be.
The problem most women face in fitness is they are training to their stated goals.
In other words, if I’m interested in simply losing weight or to “be healthy”, there need not be any methodology to the fitness madness. Just calorie burning and some indiscriminate muscle building will do the trick. Spin class, tire flipping, it’ll work…but, despite achieving the stated goals, there is a disconnect between what I say I want and what I’m seeing in the mirror.
In the world of bodybuilding, there’s an unspoken respect for the more muscular divisions. So, being propositioned for Figure is a compliment. It means you show signs of being able to achieve the level of muscular development required for a more muscular division. From a bodybuilding standpoint, if you can, why wouldn’t you? It’s a no-brainer. However, to move beyond flattery to decision, one must come back to the real world and assess the question from the following angles:
Body of my dreams.
What does the body of my dreams look like…particularly, in the off season?
Personally, I prefer the “it’s all about the booty” aesthetic emphasis of Bikini to deliver a tight ‘n toned curvy physique. I think the bikini bod is feminine and fit looking, and also plenty muscular… especially at the higher levels of competition.
Am I OK with a physique considerably bigger than the one I currently have?
No. In contrast, Figure emphasizes size in the upper body and legs, which winds up with more bulk in places I would rather not have size…and in places many of my clients are terrified of getting it!
Back in the real world is also where I operate a fitness studio. Most of my clients are not aspiring competitors and, rightly or wrongly, all clients judge the competency and effectiveness of a fitness format by the physique of the person teaching it. So, if I show up to BodyPump with massive quads, it is guaranteed that many women in my class will lighten their bars far below mine out of “fear”…
Do I want to be successful locally or nationally?
Nationally. If the goal is to make progress, then competing at the highest level is the answer.
Many people confuse ‘opponent’ with ‘enemy’, but in my experience, that is extremely unproductive. My opponents are not my enemies. My opponents are the people who offer me the opportunity to succeed. The tougher my opponents, the more they present me with an opportunity to live up to my full potential and play my best.” ~Pete Carroll
Do I want to stay “natty” (natural)?
Yes! That’s not to say there aren’t any Bikini competitors that don’t do drugs; there are, but it’s certainly possible not to. In my opinion, Bikini competitors who do anabolics lack patience, genetics, a good coach, or some combination thereof. With Figure, it’s simply not possible to be the size necessary to be successful beyond the local level without anabolics. And, doing anabolic steroids is a show-stopper for me. There is no prize worth messing with my hormones — at this age or any age. Speaking of which…
How does my age help or hinder?
A more muscular physique works better in Masters Bikini (age 35+, 40+) than Open / Unlimited (all ages). At younger ages, a top-notch bikini competitor can get away with less muscular development and still have a nice booty from sheer genetics and youth. I think about my three year old’s booty when I see some of these younger competitors! Yet, beyond the age of 35, muscular development is the only way to get the backside looking good. Or, in the words of my coach:
The backside can be a huge problem for the Masters competitor because as you lean out, you can easily lose your ass and exacerbate saggy skin and cellulite issues. In the world of fitness fashion, this is the conundrum that led to Lululemon’s success. Without legitimate lifting and nutrition to support muscular development, the booty will not “lift” on its own…outside of Lulu pants!
From this series of questions, I politely shake my head to Figure and reaffirm my commitment to Bikini. For my next show in November, we will be tweaking my training to sculpt a tighter Bikini look. This doesn’t mean I will back off from lifting; I will train just as hard and frequently, but with supersets and rep ranges that will help me get smaller and tighter upstairs, while leaning out further in my legs and torso. At ten weeks out from my next show, I am considerably leaner than I was at this juncture for my last show. So, my starting point and conditioning will assist, too.
Until I return to dieting and cardio next week, a few more orders of sushi, glasses of wine, and chill mornings with legs up… Dream Big. Desire More.
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