Catherine Hanson Farid, Director of Operations, REPs UAE and a figure competitor who represented the UAE at world competitions from 2006-2010, talks about what it takes to be part of a physique contest
What is the motivation for people to enter a physique contest?
I believe social media has played a big role, making it extremely popular. Both male and female fitness enthusiasts are following fitness influencers who compete, which has created a great desire to achieve a shredded body that is fit for the stage. Committing to enter a competition also imparts discipline that you may not otherwise have when hoping to sculpt that dream body.
They say competition is the best workout motivation, do you agree to that?
Yes, I would. Set yourselves a goal and there is a deadline too, a date by which you must be in peak condition. When you set your mind to entering a competition, you don’t want to embarrass yourself and not show up with a competition-ready body. It seems to give you the willpower to stay committed, train harder and longer, not skipping a workout and being more focused overall.
Does aiming for the stage, whether you finally do it or not, help increase fitness levels?
Not necessarily. Sure, you have to train hard in both strength training and cardiovascular training, but it’s for a 12-16-week time frame. It maybe a great learning experience for some who don’t follow a regular training routine and they may feel more fit afterwards, but I think it definitely depends on your starting point.
Getting your body stage ready means hard work and sacrifice. Is it worth the effort?
Discovering what the body can actually achieve when you put your mind to it is extremely gratifying and almost mind blowing. You must keep in mind that it is for a short time, though and there is an anti-climax right after the competition. You work so hard for 12-16 weeks for that one day on stage and then that’s it, which can be tough for some.
What’s your experience been like while competing, is it difficult to maintain the same levels after you’re done?
I competed for six years straight and believe it took a toll on my body, while also making me more self-critical. I felt it took me a good 2-3 years post competing to accept my body with a little more body fat. You have to accept that it is not possible to maintain that kind of conditioning, nor healthy to do so. Some competitors can get completely out of shape after competition, However, I have always remained in good condition year round, but competition-ready is on another level.
As a coach, what is your approach to training?
I am not coaching anyone at the moment, but when I did, it was important to ask why they wished to compete. Women, in particular ought to make sure they have a healthy attitude towards food. Any kind of eating disorder will only exacerbate the situation, and I would dissuade them from considering participating. Competitors also ought to ensure they are committed to training six days a week and twice a day, even three if they need more cardio close to the competition. Then there is the posing aspect... practising posing in front of a mirror is a must, posing sessions are as important as training. If you have an amazing physique but don’t know how to show it off, it could take away your chances of placing.