How to Find the Right Competition Coach
I get this question SO frequently that I thought I'd do a blog post about it! And the exciting part is... this is actually an excerpt from my new EBOOK which will be called the Bikini Competition Bible. It's going to be your everything guide on bikini competitions, and I can't wait to share it with you! In the meantime, because I know many of you need help, I'm going to post this section of the book here! <3
Finding the Right Coach
I know for many novice competitors, it can be very difficult to know what to look for in a good coach, and even where to find one. I completely understand this as I was once in the same position and have had my fair share of both good coaches, and bad coaches. In my opinion, choosing a coach is a little bit like dating or choosing a boyfriend. You're probably not going to find the one you want to marry on the first try (sorry ladies!) But, there are certainly things you can look out for and do to ensure you're not dating a total loser (I mean, working with a bad coach.)
I make the comparison to dating/find a boyfriend because in a way, you have a very similar relationship. You are going to be spending a LOT of your time with that person, talking to that person, looking for that person's approval and feedback. You want to make sure they are knowledgeable about the subject matter at hand, have good experience and referrals, are good at communicating with you, and are above all looking out for your best interests, which includes your HEALTH before, during, and after your show. You want to make sure that you get along with that person, and they bring positive energy and motivation into your life. If you don't have these things with your coach, your prep experience will not be a good one, and you may break up, or even end up breaking up with the sport itself if you have that poor of an experience. For that reason, this is probably the most important chapter of this book and I urge you to take this very seriously.
In this chapter we're going to talk about what the different types of coaches are and why you need (or don't need) them, and we're going to spend a lot of time helping you understand what characteristics to look for in a coach, and which characteristics to be wary of. I'm also going to help you by providing a list of interview questions that you should ask when speaking with potential coaches. This will be essential in making sure you find someone who is the right fit for you.
Training and Nutrition Prep Coaches
Typically, you'll find that most competition prep coaches do both training and diet. This is generally most efficient as your coach will be able to design your training and cardio regimen to complement your diet (for example, you wouldn't want a different coach to give you cardio recommendations without knowing your diet plan, because your weekly caloric deficit will depend on both diet and cardio. This caloric deficit is what is going to get you to lean out for your show in a consistent and timely manner, so it is important that you have one person controlling this.
With that said, I have also seen scenarios where a competitor has a nutrition coach only, who also gives cardio recommendations, and leaves training up to the competitor or another trainer. In my mind this just gets confusing, and it's easier to have one person doing it all. If you are considering doing your own training, the next chapter will be dedicated training during prep and will provide you with guidelines on how to create your own program if you'd like (see Part 2, Training and Nutrition).
What to Look for in a Good Coach
A good coach will possess the following characteristics:
- Communicates well. They will take the time to listen to your goals, your background, your struggles, and is upfront about the level of support and communication you two will be having each week leading up until the show. The level of communication varies for each coach depending on their client load, but at minimum a coach should be in email communication at least once a week for check-ins, with as-needed phone support particularly as it grows closer to the show. A check-in is an opportunity not only to make sure the client is progressing, but for the client to address any questions or concerns they have throughout the week. The coach should put effort into answering these to the best of their ability, particularly if there is no text or phone communication in that particular week.
- Positively reinforces and encourages you. It is true that some athletes need someone to just kick them in the ass to motivate them, but there is a positive and a negative way to go about this. There is a difference between saying, "Christie, I need you to work harder this week, you aren't progressing as quickly as you should be and it's up to you to up your intensity level" vs. "Christie, you're looking fat this week. Did you cheat on your diet? What the hell is wrong with you?" And yes, this is something a real coach has said to me before. See the difference? You know when you first meet someone if there is a negative or positive vibe there, let your gut guide you and talk with other clients to figure out his coaching style.
- Has experience and knowledge training bikini competitors. This seems like an obvious statement, but you’d be surprised how many times I see novice competitors hiring a coach with either 1. No coaching experience or 2. No experience coaching bikini competitors. Let’s say that they primarily coach male bodybuilders - while yes that coach may have strong knowledge of training and nutrition, the female body works much differently, and responds differently. It also goes without saying that you want a coach that has a fundamental knowledge of female hormonal and reproductive health, as this is one of the first health issues that competitors run into.
- Is professional. If you are hiring a coach and paying him or her money, they should always be conducting themselves in a professional manner towards you and the rest of their clients. Some warning signs to look out for: they gossip or speak negatively about other competitors or even clients, they have sexual relationships with their clients, they are not reliable or timely with either in person sessions or check-ins, or there is a lot of drama among their client base. A good coach will not allow any external factors to impede the progress and comfort of their clients, and will also have a timely and professional business process in which they accept payments, provide terms and conditions, and receipts.
- Puts your health first. At the end of the day, it’s just a bikini competition. A good coach should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS prioritize your overall well-being and health (both mental and physical) over getting you onstage. This means that they need to be very in tune with your body, your health and any related issues, and how these issues will worsen or affect you long term if you continue to prep for the stage. A good coach knows when to press pause, build you back up, and continue your prep at the appropriate time. They will communicate with you to make a mutual decision weighing all the pros and cons. This is very important.
Ultimately, the above characteristics are the key traits to look for in a coach, and it will take some getting to know them in order to find out if they match these qualities.
Local vs. Online Coaching
Many beginning bikini competitors prefer to have a local coach to support them in person for their first show. This can be a huge benefit, however keep in mind that just because a coach is local doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right coach for you. Keep the good coach characteristics mentioned above in mind as you explore working with local coaches.
Other competitors like to hire online coaches. With online coaches you have more options to choose from, but you lack the in person factor. However, if the coach is good at communicating, has experience with coaching remotely and is the right fit for you then by all means it can be a very positive experience!
Ultimately, this one boils down to the level of attention you as an individual need through this experience. If you need more hand holding through the process (not a bad thing), go with a local coach if you can find the right one. If you’re more independent, an online coach can work great as well.
Competition Prep Teams: Pros and Cons
You probably have seen competition teams popping up all over social media. Essentially what they are is a group of clients led by a coach, or team of coaches - who run their coaching company like a brand. Some teams are only training and nutrition, while some encompass other services such as posing and presentation coaching, bikini making, tanning, etc.
These teams can be great as you already have a built in support system of other women doing the same thing you are (and trust me, prep can get lonely when your friends just don’t ‘get it’), but they also run the risk of being so big that the coaches aren’t able to give you the attention you need. In bad cases, this is where the infamous ’cookie cutter diet’ can come into play - the coaches just don’t have time to create a custom plan for everyone.
Doing Your Homework
No matter which type of coach you choose, make sure you take the time to do your research before committing to any one person. Just because the girl you look up to on Instagram has a certain coach, does not mean that that is the right coach for you. Be smart ladies.
With that said, I’m going to provide a list of good questions to ask your potential coach when interviewing/talking with them for the first time so that you can be prepared!
1. What is your preferred method for competition prep dieting and why?
There are several different styles of competition prep dieting that we will fully review in Part 2: Nutrition, however reach out and ask what their method is as it can vary from coach to coach. If you aren’t sure about their answer, reach out to a more experienced competitor and ask for their opinion on the diet. For instance, I once had an amateur first time competitor ask me to look at her diet as she had the intuition something wasn’t right. The coach was barely feeding her anything and had no experience prepping bikini clients. Please avoid that situation.
2. What are your preferred training methods and cardio protocol?
Again, this varies from coach to coach but what you want to ensure is that the coach is going to customize the program to work on the body parts/muscle groups you need to bring up for the stage, as well as provide the right conditioning and cardio. Your training regimen should be strategically created to bring the best physique and package to the stage, so look to see if he/she is putting thought into that.
3. What would your supplement regimen look like for me during this prep?
Understand what and why they would like you to take specific supplements. This also factors into your budgeting process - if you have to pay for several supplements monthly that they require you to take that can add up quickly.
4. What is your stance on physique enhancing drugs (steroids) for competitors?
Whether or not you use them, it’s good to know where your coach stands on this issue. You want to be comfortable with your coach and their stance on this before moving forward with an entire prep together.
5. What kind of training and nutrition certifications do you have?
Make sure this coach has the fundamental knowledge and background to get you through prep safely and in a healthy way.
6. Do you have any client references I can speak with?
Asking for references will be an important way for you to discover this coach’s style and understand his/her reputation. Another avenue would be looking on social media to find some of their clients / prior clients, and direct messaging them to ask for their thoughts. Look at their photos to see how they looked onstage - this often will give you a pretty good indicator on how a coach brings a client in for a show.
What Happens After I Choose My Coach?
Your coach will likely sit down with you and determine the best federation, show, and show date for you and your specific goals. From there, you'll work with your coach to develop the right game plan!
Okay ladies there it is! Hope this was helpful and informative, let me know what you think in the comments below.
If you're looking for an online coach, I do offer bikini competition prep coaching! The best way to get in contact with me is via email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck on your journey! It's going to be an amazing one.