by Kate Richlin-Zack
I’ve been operating under the false pretense that the hardest part about competition prep would be sticking to a strict diet or working out on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy turning down cupcakes but it’s a lot easier than I expected… and apparently I love lifting things up and putting them down so I don’t mind hitting the gym in lieu of prime time television. But it wasn’t until I stood in a room with four other competitors during a posing class (yes, a posing class, but I’ll get to that in a minute) wearing nothing but a teeny bikini and Lucite heels that it hit me: I actually have to get on stage.
And that’s when panic set in.
The problem is, skilled athletes and trained professionals make it look easy. You look at pictures of people who are bodybuilding pros and they look so happy. So polished. So confident. And so you sign up with a personal trainer, follow a diet, enter a competition and assume, “if I follow the plan, I’ll look just like the impossibly fit women in the pictures.” And that’s true. When I’m parading around in my underwear admiring my physique from the comfort of my own home, it’s really easy to say, “I did it! Look at me! I could crack walnuts with my ass cheeks!” But when you have to stand amongst a group of other people who have worked just as hard for walnut cracking capabilities, you realize just how difficult it is to get up on stage and attempt to make it look easy.
And that’s why you need coaches to help you prepare to be on stage. The diet and exercise is vital. But presentation is key and your stage presence (or lack thereof) can decide your fate.
You probably didn’t realize it – I sure didn’t – but posing is a skill.
You have to flex every muscle in your body in order to show the judges you have definition and symmetry. And while you’re flexing, you have to smile and make it look like it’s a breeze even though you’re hardly breathing in an effort to keep your waist looking as small and chiseled as possible. You have to make it look like this is something you do everyday.
The front facing pose is the hardest. The goal is to make yourself look at much like an “X” as possible so let’s start by spreading your lats (the muscles just below your shoulder blades that wrap from underneath your armpits around to your spine) as much as possible. The tricky part is broadening your shoulders without shrugging them. You don’t want to look like someone just asked you a question and you don’t know the answer. This pose feels incredibly awkward which means I look incredibly awkward and that’s not going to earn points.
In addition to spreading your lats, you have to exhale as much as possible to make your waist look tiny. You should also tilt your hips back just enough to create a nice curvature in your lower back but not so much that you look pot bellied. Between the shoulder spread and the pelvic tilt, I’m attempting to undo 20+ years of formal ballet training which emphasized the complete opposite i.e. narrow shoulders and pelvis that is firmly tucked under. I can actually hear every dance teacher I’ve ever had shrieking with horror.
The best part is, we’re only halfway there. We haven’t even gotten to your lower body yet! If you have the brain space after the shoulders, abs, and ass bit, remember that you have legs which also need to be showcased and to do that, you have to bend your knees ever so slightly and think of pressing into the floor. But don’t bend your knees too much, otherwise it will look like you have to go to the bathroom. And then there’s your feet. Oh yes, feet! We have feet too. Depending on your anatomy, you might need to point your toes outward at a 45 degree angle. Or you might need to turn them more inward. It really depends on how you’re built. If you’re bigger on the bottom than on the top, you want to stand with your legs as close together as possible to balance your “X” shape. If you’re bigger on top than you are on the bottom, you’ll have to widen your stance a bit. If you’re knock kneed or bow legged, you’ll have to figure out how to compensate for that.
Ok, so broad shoulders, flex everything, tilt my pelvis, balance out my top and bottom, look hot… and stand there for two minutes without moving, breathing, or looking like I’m uncomfortable.
Even when I thought I got it, I looked like Quasimoto.
That’s just the front facing pose. We’re not even close to being done. In fact, you have three more poses!
Now quarter turn to your right. Keep your hips facing perpendicular to the judges. Pop your butt out to the front to emphasize the definition in your glutes (those are you butt cheeks). Turn your upper body to face the judges but keep your face looking in the same direction as your hips. Don’t make eye contact with the judges but keep smiling and make sure you’re not breathing heavily because then your tummy is going to stick out. And keep flexing. By this point you’re sweating and wishing you had done more yoga to help with your flexibility.
Another quarter turn to your right so now your back is to the judges. Do the same pose as when you were facing the front only now make sure you remember to brush your hair to the side so the judges can see your back. Remember those lats we were trying so desperately to spread in the front facing pose? Well now those are on display.
Quarter turn to your right again so now you’re doing the same contortionistic side-facing pose where you see how many different directions your body can face at one time. Avoid eye contact. Smile. That looks more like a grimace. Try again.
Please tell me this is almost over. I just want to relax.
Quarter turn to the right so you’re facing the judges again. You can make eye contact now but keep flexing and smiling and make sure it doesn’t look like you’re constipated and hold that until they send you away.
Speaking of sending you away…
I forgot to mention how you got on stage in the first place. You walked. And walking is not just walking, but that’s probably not a surprise.
When I said you can’t just stand there, you really can’t just stand there. You have to WALK too.
Oh god, so there’s posing which is hard enough, but now I have to walk too?
Yes. And you have to walk in heels. Not too difficult for those of us who wear heels all the time, but these are not shoes I’m used to wearing. I have never in my life worn Lucite shoes or what many of you probably refer to as “stripper heels” which have become the the go-to shoe for young ladies just trying to pay their tuition as well and respectable bikini and figure athletes alike. Why? Because it’s “not distracting” from your physique. Ok. I’ll give it to you that much like a nude peep-toe pump that will elongate your leg without detracting from your outfit, Lucite is clear so the focus will be on your body. But honestly, the only thing covering my lady bits is a piece of fabric the size of an eye patch. I could probably wear clown shoes without distracting anyone from my physique or the impending doom of a wardrobe malfunction. But I digress…
The clear plastic is great for blending without detracting; however, it’s not so great if you have sweaty feet, which I have pretty much all the time. So not only am I concerned about exceeding the tensile strength of my suit fabric and taking someone’s eye out in the fourth row, now I’m worried that I’m going to slip out of my shoes and fall on my face. Splat.
I’m considering gluing maxi pads onto the insoles of my shoes but with my luck, they’d come loose and I have a whole ‘nother set of malfunctions happening that will garner sympathy rather than points.
In addition to posing and walking, there’s also standing. This is the only time where you actually have to stand there and look pretty but even just standing involves work. Why? Because you’re on stage and even though the judges are supposed to be focusing on whoever is parading around in front of them, you still have to look good because they can still see you. Standing is not just standing. If you look like you’re waiting for a bus, you’re going to lose no matter how amazing your kneecaps look. It’s just a fact. So while you’re standing on stage and watching your competition sashay shantay like they’ve got their own soundtrack, you’re actually posing. Only you have to make it look like you stand like that all the time. Really you’re just posing again, which you already mastered two paragraphs ago so I’m sure you’ve got this down pat. Right?
I know I’ll get there. It’s just a new skill that I have to learn and it will take practice. Lots of practice. I still have three weeks and two more classes so I’m fairly certain I will get the hang of this walking/standing/posing thing. And if not, I apologize to whoever loses an eye when my sling shot of a bathing suit snaps off my dowagers hump and flies into row four. You’ve been warned.
“The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Health and Fitness” is written by the irrepressible Kate Richlin-Zack and runs every other Tues at 10:30AM on Kate-book.com. She is a former plus-sized model turned fitness enthusiast who lost about 50lbs in the process. She loves food and views exercise as a necessary evil in her quest for looking good and feeling confident in hot pants. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.