Is bodybuilding about selfies, steroids, magazines, and muscles? How do I become a successful bb or fitness competitor? Where do I even start if I am new? How do I gain a competitive edge and place higher? How do I gain confidence and stand out on stage…if I’ve never really been on stage? And the biggest question of all, What are the judges looking for anyways??
Hi! *friendly wave!* My name is Michele Welcome. This is my new show, and I’m so excited about it! You may know me as a posing teacher, a bodybuilding competition judge, or maybe as an athlete, but in this show, I’m going to talk about all the secrets to pre and post competition success. Competing in bodybuilding and fitness is so much more than a nutrition or an exercise plan. Nutrition and training are important, don’t get me wrong, but what federation you compete, who you choose to work with, the advice you listen to, and your mental and physical health are all equally as important.
But first, before we get into all this juicy stuff, in this first episode, I’ll tell you a little bit about how I started out 20 years ago, and what I learned from my early years of competing and how it all changed for me.
I’ll then go on to share some key points about the sport as a whole and share some takeaways that are important to consider before you even think about competing.
So buckle up, and let’s dive in!
1. Download the 5 Secrets Every Bodybuilder and Fitness Competitor Needs To Know Before Preparing For A Show at www.eeinbb.com
2. Want to know what is missing in your show prep? Free tutorial with 3 secrets to winning a show that you won't learn at a contest prep workshop or posing class at www.posingwinsshows.com
Hey, Welcome to the first episode of the "Everything Else" in Bodybuilding. I created this show specifically for two reasons. To cut through all the misinformation and bias in the bodybuilding and fitness industry , you know, like about the pink elegant in the room everyone pretends they don’t see… and to have a platform to teach strategies on how you can gain a competitive edge no matter where you compete, because let’s face it… your entire experience, good or bad, will depend on the federation you choose. This subject is near and dear to me because of my personal experiences early in my career when I did not understand these concepts or the industry as a whole plus the many eye openers I’ve had over the years as an industry veteran wearing different hats, like judging competitions or when doing complete posing and presentation makeovers on men an women competitors. I understand how much competing means to every athlete no matter what division or federation. And if you are a fitness fan and not a competitor I know how much you respect and love being a part of this sport and learning all about it too.
So in this show I am your host Michele Welcome and I am going to be here the whole time with you. It will largely be just me sharing strategies and answering burning industry questions over the course of the podcast itself. But prior to understanding this stuff I started bodybuilding at a very young age and experienced many ups and downs and hard lessons. I got my start …. It was really at 20 years old when I was fresh out of college after graduating a year early and I was conned by a local startup modeling agency into competing for a fitness modeling contract. So I want to tell you about the purpose of this show and what it’s about. It was from this first fitness transformation at a very young age and then spending about 8 years or so continuously dusting myself off and getting back up after many crash and burns competing in bodybuilding competitions. That’s a lot of years of hard lessons! 8 or even 10 years of them. I am going to reference contest prep a lot. If you have never heard of contest prep it’s literally the process of transforming your physique to a level of leanness and preparedness required for the show and division you are competing in since every division has a different level of muscle and leanness. So I want to share all these strategies and shed light on secrets in the fitness and bodybuilding industry and what actually changed it all for me.
Because ever since about the 10 year mark everything changed for me, it was a pivotal time, when i started judging shows, owned a gym, I was hosting competition prep workshops and I was teaching 1 on 1 sessions to competitors on how to break out of their comfort zone and slay the stage…way before it became the thing to do like it is today. It took me a while to streamline all my strategies and teaching style, since the fitness industry does not come with a manual so I had to compile all the different patterns over many years, notate what worked, what didn’t work, and now after 20 years in the industry I have built my own blueprints and protocols that work. it’s been more rewarding for me to mentor others, give the honest feedback that a competitor needs to hear not necessarily what he or she wants to hear, and teach strategies that expedite their progress so an entire prep isn’t wasted on avoidable mistakes that cost higher placements or their sanity post show, lol. I think back to when I started and how I wish I knew then what I know and teach others now so I could’ve been better quicker. But then I guess it’s because of 20 years of learning myself and educating others that I am sitting here to talk about it all. And you are probably sitting here and saying to yourself, should I be listening to this show? Frankly if you are a new or seasoned bodybuilder, physique competitor, figure, fitness model, wellness or bikini competitor, if you are having success as a competitor and want to get better, if you are completely lost as someone new to the industry and want an unbiased resource with the most diverse qualifications to educate you on all divisions and federations, or if you love the fitness and bodybuilding industry and want to learn more about it from an insider’s perspective, then this show is for you.
Like I said I really did get started right after college which was quite a long time ago and learned some hard lessons right away and pretty much throughout my first ten years in the industry. There were some successes here and there too which kept me motivated. Not at first though. When I did my first contest prep I didn’t even know it was called contest prep. This so called prep came before I even found bodybuilding, and as I said before, it was for a contest where I tried to win a fitness modeling contract.
I had done some promotional modeling while in college and at 5’7” I was an inch or two too short for any commercial or mainstream modeling. I had graduated a year early with an accounting degree and was hired by a large accounting firm even before I received my diploma. Get this, I went to school to be a doctor and came out of school 3 years later as an accountant. Life is funny sometimes, isn’t it? Probably not a shocker, but I was bored with accounting within the first year. I certainly didn’t fit in. I remember one time sitting in a boardroom for my an annual performance review with management and instead of hearing about my performance, the anonymous feedback from someone in management was about my clothes. It said something like “club clothes don’t belong in the work place.” I remember responding to management and saying that it would’ve been nice if someone pulled me aside to let me know they didn’t like my outfit earlier instead of embarrassing me in my annual review. Corporate America and me never did jive.
Anyways, having been a 3 sport athlete since I could hold a ball, I loved fitness. Even in high school I intuitively grabbed the meal replacement shakes at the grocery store, I think it was Ensure or something like that, to have for breakfast before school. This was way before protein shakes were a thing and there were better options. So now that I was a college grad, bored as an accountant, not playing sports, going to school after work for my masters, and living on my own, every free moment I had I was reading about nutrition and exercise with my only goal being to stay in shape and healthy.
And then I got a phone call that changed it all for me.
The call was from the company, which was a start up modeling agency, that had hired me to do promotional modeling while in college. They had new business partners who were going to host a contest where the winner would get a fitness modeling contract. I had just enough trust to overlook all of the red flags, believe me, I see them now loud and clear, because as I said I had done some promotional modeling for them in college . Instead I latched onto the idea that this could truly be my big break into fitness and my way out of accounting. I had no idea that the entire contest was a scam. Looking back now the whole scenario was just BAD. From the screening call that was done by the organizers to see if you even qualified to compete. It was brilliant. The urgency and the exclusivity tactic making you feel like this was your only chance in life was brilliant. I fell for it hook line and sinker. And sink is the perfect word because this opportunity to compete required me to pay THEM $2–3,000. I didn’t want to be an accountant for the rest of my life so I truly believed this was an opportunity I could not miss out on….aaand gave it my all.
I was all in.
I hired a trainer that I learned about from a friend at the gym to help me get into my best shape possible. Over an 8 or 10 week period I ate the same thing at 5 meals. Literally the same thing you guys. Want to know what it was? 1 cup of cottage cheese. 8 almonds. And 1 slice of pumpernickel bread. I knew nothing about macros, just that I was instructed by my trainer to eat a certain ratio of foods. I played it safe and just ate the same every day so I wouldn’t mess anything up. Still to this day I won’t eat cottage cheese.
I was up at 4am every day to be to the gym for 5am cardio before work. You can probably relate to this. I worked an entire day at the accounting office, and then after work on some days I went back to school at night for my masters degree classes, and on other days went back to the gym to meet with my trainer for my workout. I never missed a workout, cardio session, a class, or a meal.
After 8 weeks, I saw changes in my body I had never seen before. My abs were showing for the first time in my life. I was even more motivated and excited for the contest. Since the contest required us to wear a swimsuit and walk on a modeling runway elevated above the judges, I hired a local seamstress to make me a custom made turquoise blue two piece bathing suit. I also found 5 inch silver heels with rhinestones and a stiletto heel to wear. I left no stone unturned preparing for this contest.
After my 8–10 weeks of prep, it was go time. I hopped on a plane by myself with my pumpernickel bread, almonds, and cottage cheese and flew to Miami to get on a cruise ship by myself to the Bahamas. I can still remember the line to get on the ship. This so called exclusive opportunity didn’t seem so exclusive with a line 4 hours long with others who were sold the same opportunity as I was. At first I thought the people waiting in line were audience members and didn’t realize they were contestants since there weren’t a lot of people who fit the criteria of I was told they were looking for when I applied. Plus it also seemed odd that there was a photo shoot going on before the contest was supposed to take place. I didn’t think much about until I found out after the contest that the girl in the photoshoot prior to the contest was the winner and the whole thing was predetermined. Of course I didn’t know this when I got there so I waited the 4 hours and boarded the ship anyways. From there it kept getting worse. The ship was extremely dirty, old, and we were sandwiched like sardines in the rooms with complete strangers for roommates. The contest itself was a hot mess too. I was crushed and wanted to crawl under a rock. I had put in a lot of effort, time, and money for my big chance and it was a fraud. The disappointment and embarrassment I felt on that plane ride home was unlike anything I had felt before. The contest, my transformation, the possibilities, all of it, meant a lot to me. And I know there were a lot of people watching my progress so I dreaded telling people how much of a fail the contest was. I share all of this to say that I know what it’s like to prepare for a contest for the first time, whatever your motives to compete are. How you give it your all, how much it means to you, and how thrilling it is to see your body change in ways you never thought possible. How laser focused you are. how your entire relationship with food will never be the same, And how lost you can feel after the show if you aren’t prepared for it.
I also know that once you do a show you will never be the same either.
In this podcast I want you to know, and thanks again for listening, that I speak to you not to preach, (no one likes that annoying know-it-all) but to share, and relate to you too, in what you are going through. And I don’t care what federation you come from either. I am happy to have you here! a competitor preparing for a show gives his or her all no matter where the show is.. I haven’t met a competitor yet that has followed his or her diet and training protocols less because the show they prepared for was in a smaller federation like OCB or a large federation like NPC. Everyone works hard. Everyone matters.
After that fitness model fail I went to my first bodybuilding show to cheer on my friend Shelley Cassky who at the time was 47 years old doing her first competition. By the way, at that time there were only the bodybuilding and fitness divisions to choose from. Figure, bikini, fitness model, and now the wellness categories didn’t even exit. I never in my wildest dreams saw myself as a bodybuilder. All I knew about bodybuilding was what I saw on ESPN growing up with very large muscular people with very tan skin. I was so inspired seeing my friend Shelley on a bodybuilding stage and have never been the same since. I wanted to do it too. After experiencing my body change and build muscle while preparing for that fitness model contest, I believed that maybe I COULD and I wanted to see what I could accomplish.
So I hired Shelley’s trainer, John Yobst, to help me prepare for a bodybuilding show. I’m about 22 or 23 and everyone around me thinks I’m nuts except Shelley, John, and my new friend Ann Walsh who was a personal trainer at John’s facility and a former competitor. I remember Ann’s first words to me were, “nice hamstrings.” I didn’t even know one could have nice hamstrings. Everyone else was less than supportive. Co-workers at my work place thought nothing about constantly critiquing the pre-made food I brought into the office in my cooler. They often waved sweets in front of my face and would try to entice me to have just one. My boyfriend at the time kept telling me not to get too big and told me my muscles were unattractive. My family didn’t know what to think of what I was doing. And I remember someone telling me I was too young to be any good. The lack of support was hurtful, but after the crash and burn from the fitness model contest, the burning desire to be competitive in bodybuilding was more important to me. It was at least a real contest.
That first bodybuilding show prep was very intense. My trainer had my nutrition and training covered and showed me what the poses I needed to do looked like, but I was every day stressing about getting on stage to actually do them. Plus there was a 60 second posing routine you had to do to music which gave me even more anxiety. This was all new to me and I didn’t want to look like a fool. Most people don’t know this about my story. A lot of you are coming from my posing clients, maybe I competed with you, maybe I judged you at some of your shows. Welcome, thanks so much for coming, but did you know, i struggled with stage freight? I literally dreaded my individual posing routine. Oddly enough it also irritated me that I had this anxiety in the first place. I was determined to conquer it. To this day, this determination to conquer the stage evolved into a passion of mine to help others conquer their fear, anxiety, and lack of confidence as an educator on posing techniques and stage choreography. But at the time of my first shows there was no such thing as a posing teacher. No one really put much emphasis on the posing really, so I figured I must be the only one petrified of being on stage. I was lucky that my friend Ann took me under her wing and helped me make up a posing routine to a 60 second clip of the Madonna song, Vogue. Having something prepared helped me tremendously. When I placed second at my first show and received the best poser award I was floored and couldn’t wait to tell Ann. She was my first phone call because of how much her help meant to me. I was hooked and wanted to keep going.
So I did a few more shows, actually won an overall title, and then completely crashed. The dieting, the training, the cardio, all caught up to me. Post show I didn’t want to get out of bed from fatigue. I struggled with a positive relationship with my physique and having a healthy balance with food and training. I had no confidence. I thought that I had to do a show to feel motivated enough to get into shape where I felt good about myself. Using shows to get in shape and then falling off afterwards is like an unhealthy binge and a purge of sorts. I thought all of these feelings, emotions, and struggles were just me. No one else ever talked about them. So I suffered in silence like I’m sure many of you do, until now, because I will be talking about these things openly.
About a year or two after my last bodybuilding show, this new division called Figure surfaced. It was supposed to be a division that rewarded the look of a fitness competitor but did not require the fitness routine. In my mind figure seemed easier than bodybuilding because I didn’t have this posing routine to worry about and at the time I didn’t think I needed to diet as hard as I did for bodybuilding. I wanted to learn more and maybe give it a try. I heard about a fitness camp being hosted by Cathy Savage in Boston so I bought a ticket and went to the event. Little did I know that at the fitness event Cathy would tell me to get on stage in 3 weeks for my first figure show. Cathy has a no nonsense attitude so I figured what the hell, why not. I still had my silver stiletto heels from the fitness modeling competition years before so I pulled them out of storage and Cathy found me a 2 piece figure suit to borrow for the show. I totally winged it and didn’t prepare for the stage component. I figured I had been on stage before so I would figure it out that day when I was under pressure. I didn’t realize how nervous I would get to walk around on stage and pose. I was so afraid I would forget what direction I was supposed to walk in. In fact, on show day I couldn’t stop my left leg from shaking on stage I was so nervous. I had not conquered my stage freight. I was so upset with myself for letting that happen too especially since I had won best poser awards in bodybuilding. There was something very different about walking in high heels on stage and making my posing look sassy that was out of my comfort zone. I vowed to never let that happen again. And today I help others do the same.
I also mistakenly thought show prep for a figure show would be less difficult. I learned quickly that it required just as much effort, it was just different,. I competed in more shows and continued to struggle with the post show nutrition and training motivation without another show as motivation. I struggled with confidence on stage and dreaded the stage walk every time. At the time Cathy Savage was the only person who called herself a team and she had relationships with all the federations. Unlike today where teams are a thing now and most teams require you to compete in their designated federation, at the time, there wasn’t that divisiveness. So I competed everywhere over the years. And I’m glad I did because I learned first hand how different each federation is and even earned pro cards in 3 dramatically different federations.
At the 10 year mark I was pretty seasoned. I had many years of trial and error, ups and downs, and had built a physique that was competitive. I had started judging competitions and seeing competitors make the same mistakes that I had made. I also empathized with what they felt on stage knowing exactly how nervous, excited, determined they were. It was from judging shows that I realized it wasn’t just me that felt these things when competing. When competitors would come to me after the show for judges feedback I could see and feel how much the feedback meant to them. Not everyone took the feedback well, but I knew that being honest is what they needed, not necessarily what they wanted. I remember this one time a competitor who just did her first show came up to me to find out why she placed third. I remembered her immediately because she stood out on stage….in a bad way. Her posing and stage presence was so bad that there was no way the judging panel could justify giving her first place and getting a pro card. A pro should look like a pro from head to toe, not just in their physique, but how he or she carries themselves. She was not ready to be a pro until she embodied what a pro is. And I was the honest one that told her that. Needless to say she stormed away angrily because she felt that her body was the only thing that should matter. Unfortunately on our judging sheets there is an entire column for stage presence that made up 1/3 of the score. Knowing the judging criteria of the division you are competing in was something that I learned that day needed to be emphasized to competitors so you don’t come in third when you could’ve come in first place.
And then in 2013 I got a phone call. With another opportunity.
I can remember being in my hotel room in between the prejudging and finals at a show I was competing at in Las Vegas. This call wasn’t a scam like the earlier one, but it was equally as life changing. On this call the owner of the gym I went to asked me if I wanted to buy the gym. I didn’t know how, but I knew with every ounce of my being that I needed to buy that gym. I knew I could help my community by being a mentor in nutrition and training…..annnnnd I was even more motivated to have a place to host workshops for competitors to learn about posing and everything that goes into preparing for a contest. Posing classes are a dime a dozen today with everyone who does a show hosting them and calling themself a coach. But back then the concept of competition workshops was new, with really Cathy being the only one I knew hosting them, and I felt I had something special to offer. Having competed in 6 federations with an original background in the division of bodybuilding, having to learn about stage presence as a figure competitor, and then having a different perspective as a judge for every division in bodybuilding competitions, I knew I could help competitors with the one piece that petrified me the most when I started….posing and presentation.
I had no idea how many people struggled with this. IT WASN'T JUST ME!! ALL THOSE YEARS I FELT ALONE…..
and wanted the help until I started offering it. I was mind blown!
I had people traveling all over New England, up to 4 hours of travel each way, to come learn how to pose, walk in high heels, open their lats in their back poses, and help with creating unique personas, building confidence, and the list goes on. I couldn’t believe how much demand there was! Parents would bring their kids to me to learn to pose for their first show, men, women, all walks of life showed up at my door.
I knew I had something special to offer when competitors would come back after their shows to work with me again for one of two reasons. One reason, to keep improving because they wanted more practice to turn pro. Another reason, which was unique to my abilities, was to learn a new division or a new federation’s posing and stage requirements. I could quickly switch hats among all of them.
What started as group classes, quickly became exclusively private lessons. I learned how people learned, what made people tick. Not everyone learns the same and what motivates one person isn’t the same as another. I couldn’t believe how many people struggled with walking in high heels. How many people struggled with creating the shapes required for the mandatory poses too. And how many would come to me because competing in their first show was something they were doing later in life and wanted to feel good about themselves. I was their confidant pre, during, and post show. I was with them for the ride to the stage as a friend and a mentor who knows what they are going through. I was there for them after the show to help give perspective and honest feedback… and more importantly, knowing what they didn’t know about post show struggles, I was there for them after the show too.
Basically what I learned over the years from clients from all division and federations coming for help, it occurred to me, that the nutrition and training protocols for contest prep, although they need to be 100% on point, should only really account for 50% of your focus. Whooaaaa
Think about it…. you prepare for weeks, even months for a competition, show up with the best body on stage but then get second or third place because you couldn’t pose. Or place in the middle or even last because you didn’t fit the criteria the judges were looking for? Or maybe even struggle with self love post show? There is so much more to competing than just diet and exercise.
And this is what I’ve become obsessed with is, Just like the show into says, the ee in bb is all of the rest of the stuff that goes into before, during, and after contest prep that should make up the remaining 50% of your focus. What are all the things you need to know, what are the strategies that will give you a competitive edge, and what are the red flags in front of you that you might not see that you should know about and be warned about. I am going to teach and share on all of these topics. If you apply all of this to your contest prep, and THEN also have a bomb physique, the sky is the limit for you. Having a great physique is only going to get you so far. When the stakes get higher, when the shows get bigger, take it from me, a contest judge, the reasons the judges mark you down become smaller and smaller.
And your mental and physical health are equally as important. You SHOULD question nutrition protocols. You SHOULD be educated on why you are being told to take certain supplements. You SHOULD look at all options in the industry. And you should never feel like you have no idea where to start to find information about other divisions, or other different federations. Because at the end of they day, this sport is and will always be for 99% of people who compete, a HOBBY. You can either burn out in the first year or make it a fun hobby you can do off and on for decades. Like golf, bodybuilding is an ageless sport that if you are smart about it you can compete into your 50s, 60s, and maybe even beyond. I still have competitors who come back to me for guidance 7 years after coming to me for help with their first show. Sometimes it’s to try a new division, sometimes it’s a new federation.
And to this day, I am still doing my do wherever I see fit too. At the time of this show I am preparing once again for a contest where I am going after a 4th pro card 20 years after my first competition experience. I’m documenting the journey on my instagram and YouTube pages (michelewelcome, with one l) if you want to follow along. And no, I don’t eat pumpernickel bread and cottage cheese, although I could fit them into my macros if I wanted.
and I don’t want this to sound weird like I’m some celebrity or something, but the reason I believe I have had people drive 4 hours to come see me in person is because of the very processes, strategies, I’ve created over the years and the truth bombs I share with them that give an honest outside perspective from not just a coaches view, but a judge, and ultimately as someone who understands them as a competitor.
It’s been a lot of fun over the years but there are only so many people I can reach with a 1 on 1 approach so that’s the purpose of this show and why I’m doing this.
And since I started I haven’t had someone NOT become better in some way. Not to toot my own horn or anything, because no one likes people that drink their own coolaid, but truly, the people I’ve worked with not only have an outward transformation of confidence, but they become more confident and more empowered in their every day lives. Not everyone has earned a pro card, or a first place trophy, but they all transformed in some way because of the things I know to focus on and the things I know not to focus on…and that’s what I’m excited about with this whole show.
Bodybuilding is an unregulated sport and I hope to de-mystify how to even get started and how to be come successful both on and off the stage. And that is the purpose of this show.
Hey guys if you have not done so, you likely haven’t because it’s the first episode,
Go to www.eeinbb.com and there is an pdf ebook you can download where you can get an overview of 5 things any competitor, from men and women bodybuilding, physique, figure, wellness, and bikini, things you should know before competing in your next show. You can download the pdf can get a great overview of things I believe are important to know. I’m going to deep dive into the strategies on the show, and share a lot of cool stories too. What I also want to do is dedicate episodes here or there, where I deep dive on just one topic or one strategy. Or on another episode stare a case study on how I approached this one client’s transformation and why it worked so well.
I’ve worked with a lot of clients over the years and have 20 years of not just competing, coaching, and judging, but I’ve also spent many years educating myself on additional areas like 3 personal training certifications, 1 nutrition certification, becoming a RYT-200 embodyoga instructor and going to a modeling and acting school where I learned about runway modeling as well.
It’s because of the diversity of my skillsets and background that I am able to do this. And again not trying to toot my own horn, but I haven’t seen anyone with the level of diversity of my background or people to be able to educate on all of this stuff. I see a lot of people who do one or two shows and think they are qualified to coach others by applying the protocols that worked for them. There is not a lot of good info on all the other things in bodybuilding that are just as important as nutrition and training. And I’m excited to share all this with you.
Anyways, guys thanks so much. If you would be so kind, please subscribe to this if you think this will be interesting for you. Also rate it…if you can leave some feedback that would be fantastic, very very excited to hear that from you as well.
And if you would be so kind, if you share it, I will repost whatever it is that you tag me in. Guys thanks so much.
I appreciate it and I’ll see you guys in the next episode.