I still remember my prep for my first figure show back in 2001, dang that’s a long time ago! I did it all by myself, reading about training and cardio programs on bodybuilding.com, and asking other “gym rats” for advice. I was definitely in decent shape going into the prep, and I had been working out with weights for about 3 years. I feel my prep went pretty smoothly, cardio in the AM before my first meal (just because this is what everyone else was doing!), 5-6 small meals, lots of water, and weight training splits 4-5x/week. I lost about 10 pounds in 8 weeks and placed 2nd out of 14, not bad for my first go at it! After that, without getting any feedback from the judges, I KNEW I was ready for the national stage!....boy, was I wrong! I wanted to be a pro so bad, I couldn’t wait to try my hand at it! It was pretty embarrassing and quite the learning experience being on that national stage! Not that I didn’t look good, I just wasn’t ready for everything that went into it. My tan sucked (however, this has remained an issue for me!) I attempted to do a carb deplete/load that a bodybuilder had suggested, but was so scared of carbs that it ended up just being a carb deplete! I was so flat and white! Plus, not using this as an excuse, but they measured me wrong...I am 5’4.5” and they measured me at 5’5.5”, so I was in the tallest class, weighing in at 118lbs! I was standing next to girls weighing 135-140lbs! This experience left me feeling sad and discouraged. I do not regret it, but would not do it again if I had a second chance. After that, I did 4 more local shows before I got on the national stage again! I am sharing this story because many first time figurers want to have it all their first go around! Not saying that it can’t be done, I have seen some win an overall title their first time out, then go on to get their pro card at their first national show. But for most, it is quite the opposite! Plus, many first timers want to start right out comparing their physique and their progress to the pros and top amateurs! Please, do not do this! You will only get let down, to be perfectly blunt! When I first started out, I was either “prepping” or “slacking” as I like to say now. Of course, I still trained and was in the gym 5x/wk, but really didn’t have an off-season plan of any kind. I never went above 15 pounds of contest weight, but also never made any significant changes to my physique in the off-season that would increase my placing at my next show. I would just go into the gym, fiddle around, get a decent workout in, chit-chat, and then eat whatever I wanted post-workout. I never had a structured off-season diet as well. Believe me, the pros work hard and smart all year long! (or should be!) They ask for feedback at each show and train accordingly. So, how do you know what you need to work on, if you haven’t been on stage yet? Right? Do not compare yourself to the pros! My other piece of advice is...do your best at your first show, train hard, ask for advice from people you trust, hire a coach if you can, research on your own, practice everything necessary for stage posing and presentation, have fun, ask for feedback, and THEN plan out a smart, structured off-season program to improve for your next show! The off-season IS the on-season! People at my gym constantly ask me if I am training for a show, and my continuous response is “always!” I did not learn this, or maybe I knew it but didn’t want to commit the time and effort to it, until the past 2 years. I have been weight training for about 10 years now, but only got super serious about competing two years ago. You may think you are serious, but that mind-set may change when you realize how much actually goes into it! You will know if figure is right for you eventually. It may take some time and it may take many shows before you know how much work it takes and if it is right for you! I learn something new during each prep! And I hope this never stops! I love learning and I love making changes. And I love helping others realize their potential and realize what it takes to reach that potential! YOU GO first time figurers...present yourself the best you can and learn from this experience! If you are not learning, you are not living!