17 Tips for Champion Posing

What is the difference between a good competitor and a great competitor? Usually both competitors have a well-conditioned body and a great smile; but what makes one stand out over the other? The answer is the competitors stage presentation and posing. Posing is the difference between an athlete having the complete package or not. Posing allows for the competitor to show his or her body in the best possible way no matter if you are bikini, figure, or fitness. As someone that has actually competed in all 3 different categories and competed as a professional in two of those categories (figure and fitness), I feel my posing was a key factor in my success. Since then I have had the privilege to have coached over a hundred different clients from beginners entering in their first show to experienced Pros. I also have had the pleasure of judging many different competitions along the east coast of the United States. Here are some of my tips that will keep you in the minds of the judges even after you leave the stage.

Know the organization’s judging criteria

What are the judges are looking for? Are they looking for symmetry, muscularity, skin tone, or model looks? Believe it or not different organizations are looking for different things and have different expectations. Knowing these guidelines will help you focus your posing on what the judges are ultimately critiquing.

Know your body and genetics.

This may seem obvious, but the more on target you are you with this, the easier it will be to have success with posing within your category. Do you have a more muscular frame and smaller hips? Do you have boxed abdominal muscles? Do you put on muscle fairly easy? Are you able to lean out the bottom half of your body? If so, figure is probably right for you. If you have more of a curvy hour glass physique with rounder shoulders and fuller glutes, then bikini is a good choice. You can search for professionals in each category to determine which you fall best in line with.  

Practice months and months in advance.

Yes, you want it to look natural, but there are some poses and transitions you need to perfect to make it look effortless. Let's face it, when you are on stage it's easy to let nerves get the best of you.  Without it being second nature, you could rush, forget a mandatory pose or even completely go blank. I recommend starting in front of the mirror but then slowly ween away from it to make sure you don’t get dependent on it. There are no mirrors on the stage. Muscle memory is so very important to attain so that your body just “falls” into the right positions every time. It’s important to practice in a space that’s similar to the size of the stage you will be on. This will help you work on filling your space and cover enough ground for all the judges to see your attributes.

Practice your Angles.

With posing, your body looks best at certain angles and views. If you've only practiced your posing with the assumption that you are posing to the middle judge in the middle of the stage, then you will be unpleasantly surprised when you end up on the very end of the stage in a line up. You must learn how to change your positioning and body according to your position on stage. Your goal is to emphasize a small waist and developed glutes. The best way to do this is to twist at the waist (hips going in the opposite direction) and keep your chest to the judges. It is ideal to have your best angles geared to the middle judge so you must move your stance and shoulders accordingly. It's all about illusions.  

Imagine creating "photos”.

I tell my clients to imagine that at any given time there will be a picture taken of you. Whether you are walking, transitioning, or posing, your body should be creating a nice line. Lines are EVERYTHING. I ask my clients, "If I took a photo right now, would you want to keep that photo and put it up on your fridge?” Usually the answer is no. When you hit your poses, give enough time in your poses for an imaginary photo to be taken.  The reality is, if you are at a competition there probably will be photos taken if you. Bottom line don't rush. It gives the judges and audience time to take in that statuesque body position.  

Practice with other people.

Use other people to play as your competitors. You will not be the only one on stage. It is important to know how to handle yourself when you are lined up in between two people or switching positions. 

Practice holding poses for extended periods.

When I was competing as a pro figure competitor, I would set up a kitchen timer and practice holding each pose for minutes on end. Yes, you will cramp, and yes, it will hurt; but that's the muscle memory your body will call upon deep into your competition. Whether you are on stage super long or you have nerves wiggling their way into your head, your body will remain looking like the professional you are. No judge likes to see a competitor readjusting a million times. Basically, if your back doesn’t hurt after posing you are doing it wrong.

Don't copy others.

As a judge, I hated to see a different version of the same person. Have your own unique style and personality. It will look and flow so much more naturally. A good example I’ve noticed is when bikini competitors “fly” or “flap” their arms down 3-4 times before lowering their arm into the position that it is supposed land (in front position). Enough already, it looks ridiculous! Same with the bikini back pose, it looks very bad when you lean too far forward. You should be rotating the hips correctly and just have your back arched as much as possible and shoulders back without leaning forward.  If you copy others you might pick up these bad habits and think that you are doing what the judges want but in reality, it looks awkward, rehearsed, and over-done. Bottom line if you have a stellar body you shouldn’t have to do crazy poses or arm movements to get the attention of the judges.

Watch videos and then videotape yourself.

See what looks best and what looks unnatural. You can learn a lot from videos but you can also learn a lot wrong; so be careful. You may also want to go to a show to see what you like and don’t like about other stage presentations. I also recommend videoing yourself so you can get a clearer understanding on what others will see.

Picture yourself as a silhouette.

You know the thing that is the outline of your body. No face, suit, or muscles; just lines.  Especially for figure, is your silhouette symmetrical? Is that image worthy of a shirt a logo?  I’ve noticed this used to help me focus on my lines and position at all times.

Party in your head.

Make sure you look like you want to be there. SMILE. Over the years of judging, I noticed some girls that looked like they would rather be getting a root canal then up on stage. Look like you want to be there for goodness sake. I tell my clients to try to imagine yourself out dancing and having fun with your friends. It portrays a lightness and effortlessness in your body language and face. 

Show confidence over cockiness.

First impression is everything. I can usually tell a winner within the first couple steps on stage. These steps should be strong and confident. You've worked hard for 12 weeks or more on your physique and you should be proud. If you feel proud, it will show in your body language and in your walk. If you are still not as confident as you should be, then “fake it until you make it” and put on a show even if you don’t feel it. No one in the audience knows who you are so live it up it and it will help your overall presentation. It is important to make eye contact with the judges. This shows assertiveness that the judges want in a winner. Lastly, please don't have a scandalous “sexy” walk or facial expression. Fitness competitions are PG-13 events. It feels awkward for the audience and the judges to watch a competitor that is doing that. 

Keep nails neutral.

Just because your suit is purple doesn't mean you should paint your nails a beautiful lilac color. Colors on your nails distract the judges’ eyes away from your body. Remember they should be looking at your beautiful face and body rather than being distracted by your hands. 

Don't rush.

When you are nervous and in front of an audience, your natural tendency is to go faster. I tell my clients to practice slower then you normally would go because you inevitably will go faster on stage whether you realize it or not. 

Always keep your chest up.

Whether you are walking, standing off stage, or waiting as others are up, keep your chest up and shoulders back. The area in which I see a lot of competitors hinge forward is when they transition between poses. You must keep your lower back arched the whole time. It shows confidence and looks professional when done correctly. Remember you are always being judged and on display. Don’t forget you are putting on a show. Never let the judges see you relax your body.  

HANDS!

I can't stress this enough. Whether you are figure, fitness, physique or bikini, it is super important to keep your hands and fingers natural and soft. There is a way to do it, and when done correctly, it is subtle and elongates your arms from your elbows down. If your wrists are sharp and bent, you will be cutting off your lines. 

Hire a Professional.

Enlist someone that has years of experience. Hire someone that has attained a pro card AND competed in actual professional (Pro) events. The more knowledgeable the better. Preferably, hire someone that has been on the other side of the stage and has judged competitions.

In my eyes, your posing and stage presentation are as important as your nutrition and training. I hope these tips can help you have success at your next competition. I am here to answer any questions you might have. Show up the whole package. For in-person or online posing instruction contact me.

ejiannacchino@hotmail.com

@erin_iannacchino

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How to get Precious Muscle Recovering Sleep, Even while Pregnant

 

 Every athlete knows it is super important to get sleep for recovery, muscle growth, and fat loss. It is also very important when your body is making another human, and when you add in your daily work out on top of that, sleep isn’t a luxury it is a necessity.  In our hectic days of work, children, housekeeping, and training, it is hard enough to reset the body and feel fully rested in the morning.

I definitely started to feel more tired lately. Compared to the second trimester, I notice myself taking naps after clients if I have the time. I have also noticed it is harder and harder to get comfortable while trying to fall sleep. I notice some nights I get up a few times during the night to pee, or I am too over heated. The naps just show that my body definitely needs the sleep it’s not fully getting at night. I wanted to improve this so there are some steps I took in order to sleep better.

Here are some tips that I found that have helped me sleep better:

1. Exercise during the day

Whether you are pregnant or not, exercising will give your body energy during the day, but helps you fall asleep at night. If you don’t lift weights, I would suggest doing some sort of walking or cardio during the day. Pilates, swimming and yoga are all great ways to get moving pregnant or not.

2. No Electronic Devices 30 minutes before bed

This includes things like a TV, computer, or phone. This sometimes can be hard to do as our lives revolve so much around these things. If I can’t go to sleep sometimes my mind races on everything and anything. If I get like that I read articles and usually the articles put me asleep. Since my mind is usually on a million things a minute an article allows my brain to focus on what they are writing and then I usually get tired and fall asleep. Books are usually better for most people because it doesn’t have any light that messes around with your internal clock. My little tip is to adjust your lighting on your phone to automatically change to a non-blue light to a light that is low and a warm red undertone. This definitely makes me sleepy and it is automatic daily so I don’t have to think about it.  I hear that taking a bath before bed often helps the body relax and get ready for sleep. I personally don’t like going through that trouble at the end of the day.

3. Start sleeping on your left side

Before getting pregnant I would sleep on my stomach and found that it was the most comfortable way for me to get rest. I think if I put pillows around my belly it still might work but whether you are pregnant (or not) the best side to sleep on is your left. Sleeping on your right side is second best. It is recommended while you are pregnant not to sleep on your back. This is especially important after the 20-week mark. The reason for this is that you put too much pressure on the Vena Cava which cuts off nutrients and reduces blood supply to the baby.  Also the baby will have less oxygen. It can also cause low or high blood pressure, nausea, trouble breathing, dizziness, heartburn, and abdominal pain. I had heard that this doesn’t affect everyone as the uterus isn’t heavy enough and for these people they will have no problem sleeping on their backs.  This is a very hard one for me as I always wake up on my back even with a Snuggle pregnancy pillow. I would suggest trying to get in the habit of sleeping on your side while you can because it is better for digestion and blood flow. If you are a women and plan to ever get pregnant, you will be ready for that type of sleeping. Realistically, if you can’t stay in one position all night, your best bet is to alternate between the right side and the left side.  Remember, worrying about your sleeping position will worsen your sleep. I know lose-lose situation huh 

4. Pillows

I have a pregnancy “C” shaped pillow to try to help me sleep on my side. I find it comfortable, but use my skinny foam pillow on top of the head part of the pillow for extra support for my neck. I use the tail of the “C” between my legs to help my hips stay more aligned. I must say it does take up a lot of the bed and husbands often don’t like them. There are also “U” shaped pillow you can purchase. To be honest I will probably sleep with this pillow even when not pregnant since it really is comfortable and supportive. I would recommend all athletes, men and women, to try it out. Multiple regular pillows will work too, just make yourself as comfortable as possible supporting the neck, back, and stomach.

5. Eat only certain things at night

Pregnancy tends to make women more prone to heart burn. If you know what foods cause you heartburn be sure to avoid it at dinner time. The reason for this is laying down will actually make it worse. If you end up eating right before bed, make sure to sit up in bed with pillows so that you don’t get that burning sensation. Spicy foods are usually the ones that cause heartburn so be careful eating them at night. It also helps to your biggest meal at breakfast and then taper down to meals at dinner time. This will make it easier on your digestion.

6. Turn the heat down

I can completely understand the feeling now of being hot all of the time. Since becoming pregnant, I have felt either really hot or really cold with the majority of the time being really hot. It just makes everything else so uncomfortable. So before bed turn down the thermostat between 60-68 degrees. Throw a blanket on for a cozy night’s rest.

7. Drink more Water all day

When you drink water all day hydrating the body, then you’ll notice that you are not as hungry at night. Drinking water all day also prevents the body from getting leg cramps which usually happens while pregnant. Remember you should be tapering off towards the night and limiting caffeine. If you have caffeine of any sort make sure to have only in the morning.

8. Cut off water a couple hours before you go to bed

When you drink tons of water you will get the benefit of the water. Unfortunately, if you continue to drink until right bed time, you will be waking up all the time to use the bathroom. The cut off is usually a couple hours before bed time.

9. Use a sound machine with the option of White noise

I haven’t received the machine that I bought for the baby yet, but I am definitely going to try it out when It gets here for me.

10. Replace your night stand light bulb with a Red light bulb

About 2 years ago when I was working on my adrenals and my circadian rhythm, I switched my white light bulb in the lamp by my bed to a red bulb. Using this at night helps gears you down to get ready to sleep. I use it as my only light at night when getting settled in my bed before turning it off completely and sleeping.  

11. Try to empty bladder before going to bed

It’s obviously hard to sleep when you have a full bladder, but even having a partially full bladder will contribute to waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. So take a quick stop at the bathroom right before you head to bed even if you don’t have a feeling that have to go.  Remember don’t drink anything after to assure a better night’s rest

12. Change location if you need to

While pregnant, or any time, if you feel more comfortable in a guest bed or even on the couch go for it. While it’s always nice to sleep in your own, sometimes it’s just more important to get good sleep. If you are like me and have a loving husband that snores like freight train, then sometimes another room (with the sound machine to drown out the sound :) does the trick. Not only does my husband snore but so does Rocky my dog who sleeps on his own bed in our room. Some pregnant women find that sleeping on the couch is more comfortable because the pillows on the back of the couch keeps them from rolling over.

13. Keep a routine

Your body and your circadian rhythm (cortisol and melatonin are important hormones for this) likes having routine and allows your body to reset. Your circadian rhythm regulates all the processes of the body. It repairs and detoxifies its self at night and especially between 11pm-1am. It is important though to get over 6 hours of sleep every night. When we sleep, we move into an anabolic state unlike when we are awake and are in a catabolic state. In the anabolic sleeping state, energy is conserved and repair and growth take over.  Adrenaline and corticosteroids drop and the body starts to produce human growth hormone (HGH). In case you are wondering what is so important about HGH, it is that is promotes growth, maintenance and repair of bones and muscles. Every tissue in the body is renewed faster during sleep than any time when awake. You can imagine that since you are creating new bone and tissue for your baby, it is really important to pay attention to the quality of your sleep and your sleep routine.

14. Having some tea (or warm liquid) in the evening

Having something warm in the evening will help relax your body. Chamomile tea is a tea that is known to be calming. I use a small cup of unsweetened cashew, almond, or coconut milk mixed with my hot filtered water. Sometimes I add in some pure stevia to make it feel like a dessert. Just make sure you cut off your consumption an hour or so before bed and use the bathroom before go to sleep.

15. Essential oils

I know some pregnant women use essential oils like lavender for a sleep aid. It is a natural way to help fall asleep.

16. Have a little snack

A healthy snack can ward off nausea and help you sleep throughout the night without dips in your blood sugar. One example of a healthy dish is raw veggies dipped in low fat hummus.

17. Take Calcium

Leg cramps in the middle of the night are common among pregnant women. Make sure you are consuming or supplementing enough calcium which will help with preventing leg cramps.

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Postpartum Body Image

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                Ok let be real, postpartum body insecurities are rough.  Our bodies are forever changed by the miracle that just took place in them. That little miracle makes me feel so privileged and happy every day. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take away the fact that most days I feel like a stranger in my own body. I just does not feel good to look in the mirror and not recognize yourself especially when you are healthy eating and exercising. Patience is the toughest part of this whole journey second only to self-love at each stage.  

To be honest this feeling of not being where I want to be is all too familiar. Let’s bring it back a couple years ago, I was in a car accident that triggered an adrenal crash and my hormones all down regulated to a very low level. At that time, right before the car accident, my body was already exhausted from over training and dieting. It was the trigger that caused a cascade of hormonal issues causing my body to put on tons of weight. This was despite my normal dieting and working out regime. I was in complete adrenal failure and severe hypothyroidism. This was such a frustrating and horrible time for me. I had just received a month before the accident 8th place in the WBFF Pro World Championship. I even lost a 100,000 dollars (and all traveling expenses paid) a year modeling contract from Prada because of the weight that my body was putting on for no reason.  I truly was at the top of my game and it all came crashing down and there was nothing I could do about it. I’m sure some athletes out there can totally resonate with this kind of disappointment. But realistically it was a very serious problem for my health to have all hormones not working properly. It was a dark dark time for me and a long two years of recovering. I took the time to heal everything from digestive issues, to sleep issues, to adrenal dysfunction. Before getting pregnant I was almost back to looking and feeling like my old self again. I had lost most of the weight that was not budging for almost 2 years.  I was really starting to feel good again in my skin. So, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t fearful of what might happen with the changes during my pregnancy (and after) with my body and my health.  Luckily, didn’t gain tons of weight during my pregnancy but definitely had the recommended in addition to the extra still there from recovering from my adrenal and thyroid issues. Yes, I know I just had a baby 5 months ago, and I try to remember that concept daily but it is so hard especially in my line of work. I feel, its mostly frustrating to not see the efforts of consistent working out and healthy eating . Like I had mention in previous blogs it’s crazy to see how some women lose all the weight without even trying and other mothers it takes a full year or longer to lose the last bit of fat. At 5 months postpartum I definitely felt I would be further along with my personal fitness journey. With that being said I’m grateful I’m not where I was back in 2015.

It’s very common for us women to feel self-conscious after having a baby. Some women, even if they lose all of their baby weight, will have significant changes to their bodies. Loose skin, stretch marks, wider hips, and weight distributed differently are just some of the things that we might have to face. It takes extra confidence to feel sexy again with changes we’ve never had to deal with before. Personally, I’ve always had to work very hard to have the physique I wanted. I know I would almost work too hard even if I would never recommend what I was doing to myself to my clients.  At a certain point my life became unbalanced. I definitely feel that my life is more balanced (well as much as you can with a 5-month-old) and I love that new aspect of my life. Arabella has definitely been a gift from above and has drastically improved my life beyond measure. But balance is the key. The balance work, house work, relationship with your spouse, time with your little one, and time for yourself are what can help you feel better about yourself. I’ve noticed when one of these things are off then you tend to try to control other aspects of your life like your body. This pressure often works negatively against us and our fitness goals.

So how do we feel better and motivated in the meantime with our not-so-familiar body shape? Gratitude is a powerful thing. We must constantly remind ourselves every day that we are so lucky to be able to have gotten pregnant and deliver a beautiful baby. Many women can’t get pregnant and would want nothing more. Now, how many of us have healthy babies? We should be extremely grateful because unfortunately many cannot say that and take care of a baby or child that needs even more care. It’s not a guarantee to be a mom and we should always remember that we are so very lucky to have this privilege. Change that mindset and I promise each day will seem like a gift.

Secondly, know that even though a lot of women lose weight breastfeeding in the first few months after delivery there are others that take a little longer. Remember slow progress does not mean no progress.  As the saying goes… the body takes 9 months to put on the weight and you should give it 9 months to lose it. This is also pretty frustrating for moms that only put on the recommended amount and still needing months upon months to shed the last bit of everything gained. Hormones are so crucial in determining how fast some women’s bodies will take for everything to come together. Sometimes it takes 6 or so months just for hormones to regulate and longer if you are breastfeeding. Just know no matter what slow or fast you can and you will lose the extra weight with consistency and a positive mentality.

Another thing that helps is celebrating the small stuff. As much as progress pictures suck to take, it’s a sure way to see changes in your body that might not be reflected on the scale. Honestly the scale means nothing. Think about it, when you walk into a room no one knows your weight, nor do they care. Feeling confident and feeling good in your clothes is what should really matter to you and is what others will notice. Progress photos also help those moms that are trying to regain their lean muscle and body shape when the scale doesn’t accurately portray what’s going on with fat lose and muscle gain week by week.

If you are anything like me, then your stubborn as hell. To be honest I only bought one piece of maternity clothing the whole pregnancy. Those workout capris were so comfortable. I just bought things that would stretch to fit my belly and things I would most likely wear again. Which brings me to my next point, you don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe to fit your postpartum self. I would suggest though, buying some staples like cute yoga pants that accentuate your curves and stretch to your body. Plus, it’s always motivating to work out when you have new workout clothes on. As best as you can, celebrate that body of yours that created life and is capable of anything.

Lastly, keeping your mind positive. Yes, it is always easier said than done, but is crucial for your body to actually respond. Mind body connection is real. I also have to keep telling myself that it will all come together with constant effort in the gym and in the kitchen even if it takes longer then some moms. Be conscientious of what you say to yourself daily. Try to be stress-free as much as possible. We all know that our babies felt what we felt in the womb and stress and worry can negatively affect the baby. Well your baby feels your stress and unhappiness outside the womb as well. Protecting your baby from seeing and feeling you upset all the time should be a strong enough motivator to keep a positive outlook and keep chugging along. When I think about it I would never want my daughter to talk bad about herself or feel self-conscious about her body. Being a role model in that aspect is super important to me. So I vow to treat myself with patience and kindness while I work hard in the gym. How about you?