Why I Participated In a Bikini Competition At 35 {And How I Prepared}

Why I Participated In a Bikini Competition At 35 {And How I Prepared}

At the age of 35, after multiple pregnancies, delivering children {and sadly losing some pregnancies}, I competed in a bikini competition. Here’s my story.

To set the scene, it is October 2019. I am 6 months post miscarrying our sweet twins, but I finally feel somewhat healed from the trauma of losing the pregnancy. I am ready to get more serious about competing in a bikini competition. While I had been passionate about fitness for several years, I want more … I want to find myself again after becoming a mom and losing my identity to being a stay at home mom. I am about to turn 34 at the end of the year and know I will wait until turning 35 to step on stage as a “master” (age 35+) competitor. (Side note :: while bikini competitions are open to all ages, after age 35 there is a separate division that is age-based.) As a mom of two children, now ages 5 and 9, that gained 80 pounds with my first pregnancy alone, going head-to-head with 20-something year olds who have never carried a child is an intimidating thought, to say the least. Nonetheless, this is the start of my journey.

Preparing to Compete in a Bikini Competition as a Mom

While I set my mind to compete in a bikini competition in 2019, we all know what happened in 2020. I don’t have to tell you about the insanity that was raising kids amidst a pandemic. Between COVID itself, school closures and shutdowns, I needed to focus on my children and family. My desire to compete did not go away, but it was once again put on hold for most of 2020 because of circumstances out of my control.

I turned 35 in December 2020, and I was ready to get this show on the road. I hired my first prep coach in late January 2021 with the goal of competing sometime at the end of the year. At the beginning of April, I picked my show, which would happen on October 2nd. The countdown officially began; I was 25 weeks out from my first bikini competition. I meal prepped, trained 5 days a week, and stuck to the plan precisely. I attended local NPC events and posing sessions to get familiar with the required poses and network with like-minded people. By submerging myself in the competition world, I started to notice my coach wasn’t as attentive as others, and I questioned whether or not he was the right fit for me. By July, I decided to interview possible new coaches that could be a better complement to my personality and needs. I knew I needed to make a quick decision since most coaches will not accept you on their team within 8 weeks of competing. On Friday, August 6th, I reached out to a friend and local gym owner for coaching advice. He put me in touch with a local competition prep coach, James D. Jones. We chatted for most of the day via text. After speaking to a few people on his team that he coached, I knew I needed to make the switch. I hired him that day and fired my old coach. Eight weeks out!

Overcoming Covid, Hurricane Ida and More to Compete

The following day, Saturday, I woke up feeling extremely tired and a little congested with the worst headache I’ve ever felt. After being awake a few hours, I knew something was wrong and then it was confirmed via home test … I was Covid positive. I immediately reached out to my brand new coach, fearing he may tell me that this would be too much of a setback and we could no longer do the competition. But he didn’t. He encouraged me to stay hydrated, rest, and focus on eating as much protein as I could from my meal plan. Ihow hard is it to compete in a bikini competition didn’t even try to force a home workout but I did adhere 100% to the meal plan. I knew my body needed to rest and recover. After 14 days, I hit the gym like nothing ever happened and went right back in to lifting 5 days a week and averaging about 30 minutes of cardio a day. Several weeks go by, it’s 5 weeks from competition and now … Hurricane Ida comes barreling through our area. My family reluctantly evacuated to a small town right outside of Mobile, Alabama. I meal prepped and brought enough food, protein powder, and supplements for 4 days. I KNEW we would be back home by Monday. The hotel had a small gym…I would make it work. I really tried to be positive about the situation. After-all, I had just recovered from Covid without it setting me back. I’ve lived here for 15 years and could handle a hurricane.

As you probably know, Ida arrived and caused massive destruction to our area. No power, no running water, our home was damaged … we couldn’t return. My husband came back home on Monday to mitigate our roof damage, and he was able to bring back extra protein powder and supplements. But I was running out of prepped food and didn’t have access to a kitchen at our hotel. We were lucky to find a meal prep company in Mobile that was able to cater to my meal plan. Another hurdle cleared, but our house was unlivable. Later that week, the kids and I were able to get to my parents’ home in Baton Rouge until power was restored to our area. By the time I got back in my house, 3.5 weeks out from show day, the competition had been cancelled. It was the last straw and almost broke me. I regrouped with my coach, and we came up with a plan to compete at the next local show on November 6th. The countdown quickly reversed back to 8.5 weeks out, and both of mywomen weightlifting in New Orleans gyms were closed. Somewhere in the process, my prescribed cardio jumped to 45 minutes a day so I needed a gym. I found a local gym that let me temporarily join for 2 weeks until my gym reopened. It wasn’t ideal but again, I made it work.

As the competition neared, I secured a suit for the stage via a rental company, ordered hair extensions, booked hair, makeup and spray tan services, purchased my NPC card, and I officially signed up for the competition. The last 4 weeks before the show is where it got more tough. I was training for 1-1.5 hours a day lifting weights, 1 hour of cardio per day and attending posing practice for 30 minutes. I was engaging in this prep work all while being a wife, mother, small business owner, school volunteer, meal prepping, oh and eating. Most people do not realize that bodybuilders eat every 2 hours. I never left my home without 1 or 2 meals in tow. I was always eating!

The week leading up to the competition is called peak week. I’m not going to lie to you, it was hard, mentally more than physically. More cardio, less lifting; more water, less food. I grew more tired every day and was going to sleep as soon as I tucked my children in every night, sometimes even falling asleep holding my water bottle as I tried to hit my water intake goal each day. I didn’t complain. I wanted to get on the stage and this was part of the process.

What Happens at Bikini Competition Show Day

Saturday, November 6th. It was show day!

I competed in 4 classes at the event: true novice (first time on stage), novice class Awhat is a bikini competition like (height based, never placed first), open class B (height based, open class to all ages), and Masters 35 class A (height based, 35 and over). I was in first callouts for novice class A, placed 4th in open class B (this is the one with the 20-something year olds!), 1st in Masters 35 class A, and I won 2021 Southern Muscle Bikini Over 35 Overall.

Being backstage and on stage alongside so many amazing, beautiful women was the highlight of the day. Our ages ranged from 20-50+ but everyone has a story about their journey to the stage, one just as interesting as the next. We bonded and became instant friends. The amount of genuine support that I felt in that moment is indescribable and one that I’ll never forget. In a world that sets us up to “compete” against each other, I didn’t expect for an actual competition to feel so uncompetitive. I might be turning 36 soon, but my time as a bikini competitor is just getting started.

About Jessica Miller

Jessica Miller New OrleansJessica Miller is a mom and the small business owner of Embellish NOLA (an online embroidery and children’s clothing shop based in New Orleans). Originally from Baton Rouge, Jessica moved to Metairie in 2007. She has been married to her husband Jeffrey for 11 years. She is the proud mom of two sweet children, Aubyn (9) and Jett (5).


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