What it’s like to live, eat and train outside the USA

Candice John is an international IFBB figure competitor and faces challenges many of her fellow competitors don’t. Living outside of the USA can present a set of obstacles many people may not be aware of but Candice gives us a look at what it’s like to live, eat and trains outside of the USA.


Candice John – 2013 Fitgure International Contender

Having left my life in the sunny Caribbean island of Trinidad to stay in the USA for the next few months, it seems fitting that in this article I give Hardbody readers a bit of insight into my life as a very active figure competitor, who splits her time between the US and her home country.

I imagine that there are many women who live outside the USA who have the dream I once had i.e. to compete in the USA as a professional IFBB figure competitor. Many of them might think that their dream is unattainable, since there are so many obstacles in their way. Unlike the NPC, in my region i.e. Central-American and Caribbean, only one IFBB figure pro card is given out each year and the transition into the pro ranks can be challenging.

After winning my pro card, I must confess that it took me a couple of years to acclimatize to the new competitive environment. I was like a deer in headlights at my first show, but sharing the stage with the best in the industry helped me recalibrate my modus operandi when I returned home.

What’s it like as a competitor when I live in Trinidad?
Thinking of it, once they have a reliable data connection, international competitors aren’t really at a disadvantage when it comes to staying in contact with their coaches and others in the industry. Because we live in an age where we can access information and communicate with others with ease, I was able to research and find the best figure coach and team in the USA. Though I was thousands of miles away, I was able to get the proper guidance and support which were critical to my success as a competitor. My old diet and training were supplanted by ones that were structured for a professional. As a result,the changes to my body were immediate and I started to move up in my placings.

One thing that technology has not dealt with so far is the weather, lol! Being fortunate enough to come from a country that has warm weather for the most part of the year, having to deal with extreme cold weather is often a major adjustment. This was the case in New York a couple of weeks ago. It surely made staying looking pretty, with make-up intact, a difficult task. I was a complete mess. A pink nose from the constant blowing, watery eyes which made my mascara run. It looked like I had been bawling my eyes out. Lipstick filled the cracks of my chapped lips and to top off, the Caribbean girl in freezing weather look…ashy skin with frizzing hair. I was a sight to behold. I know you women who experience this totally understand what I mean. Luckily, my only concern when I was in Trinidad was that it was too hot outside.

What’s it like to eat my local foods whilst competing and dieting?
In Trinidad, I don’t always have access to the specific foods on my diet. For example, we do not have fresh asparagus, so I sometimes have to tweak my diet accordingly, by incorporating other types of vegetables. I have even found recently that due to the high use of pesticides on local cucumbers, I developed an allergic reaction. My lips swell and turn red, not a cute look at all, so this has resulted in me removing cucumbers from the already strict list of things that I can have. Organic produce is also scarce in our larger supermarkets. Though a couple health shops might carry organic goods, the selection is extremely limited and expensive.

Trinidad has limited distributors, so supermarkets often get their produce on a set day of the week i.e. Thursday. This is a big problem for me when I run out of the items on my meal plan, so to get around this I stock up every week, but I hate having so much food in the house, even if it is all healthy stuff. I run the risk of closing my eyes and slipping in an extra ounce here and there, lol! On the other hand, when I’m in the US, there is an ample supply and a wide variety of produce in the supermarkets. I honestly look like a tourist or country bumpkin because I could spend an entire day at Whole Foods, just cruising the aisles looking at the wide variety of colors of fruits and vegetables.

What’s it like training in Trinidad?
Training in Trinidad remains pretty much the same as I have a plan given to me by my coach in the US. In Trinidad, I am more flexible with my training times as I have a full home gym, so I can train anytime… NO EXCUSES EVER! Also, I do a great deal of outdoor training, using hills and stairs. If any one of you ever visit me, there is a very steep hill near to my home, which makes for a killer workout. When you get back to your treadmill in the gym, and raise the incline to 15%, it will be a walk in the park, lol. There is also an athletic facility nearby, to which I have 24 hr access. In the US, you need to get permission or you need to be affiliated with a college/university to gain entry to use their facilities (track, stairs, etc.). When I’m home, I do not have to worry about these things.

What’s it like living in the US as an international competitor?
Competing as an international IFBB figure competitor is definitely not for the faint of heart, as much of the time includes staying in different hotels, living out of suitcases and really not having that one space to simply call home. I enjoy the time I spend in Trinidad, however I really look forward to re-assimilating myself when I come to my second home i.e. USA. It’s my time to reconnect with my fitness life, my fitness world and it gives me the opportunity to live amongst my coaches and team mates. I really look forward to this, for it’s refreshing to be around women who live my lifestyle and who have the same level of discipline necessary to excel in the sport.

When it comes to traveling to the US, this is when the expense starts. Firstly, it’s very expensive to travel to the United States from Trinidad to compete, let alone compete in the number of shows that I do yearly. Before I land in the US, my credit card would have taken several hits, as I would have booked airfare, accommodation, transport, etc. I implore anyone who chooses to live this lifestyle that shopping around for the best deals and being highly cost-efficient is a must. Look at various hotel rates and never go with the first quote, budget in advance just to know approximately how much you may need, it may be more, or it may be less. Get every reward card possible… I have Marriott, Hilton Honors, you name it. Get club cards, airline memberships and anything else that can get you free upgrades or special services like waiving of baggage fees, upgrades to first class, room upgrades, access to lounges…you get the idea. Also, don’t be afraid to ask hotel managers for discounts, especially if you are staying for a long time. I always felt that I would sound cheap if I asked managers for a discount, but what I found was that if you could reach them on a human level, they are sometimes willing to take off an extra 10 to 15%. What the heck, you have nothing to lose!

One thing that frustrates me a bit when I live in the US is my lack of independence. In Trinidad, I drive on the left side, whereas in the US, motorists drive on the right, so I haven’t mastered the art of driving yet in the US. I am therefore heavily dependent on cabs, which can be time consuming when you have to wait on them to go anywhere. They are also quite expensive. My daily cab fare can reach as much as US $40. Renting a car might cost around the same, but when I add the cost of gas and the risk of spending time in jail for hitting a pedestrian with my rental car, I think taking a cab is my best choice. There is the option of public transport, but after an intense workout, the last thing I want to do is stand and wait at a bus stop. I guess, you have to weigh it out and see what is best for you.Though you might be geographically far away, a must have is an EXTREMELY supportive spouse and family.

My spouse of 12 years is very understanding and supportive. In my absence, he handles everything, from our home to our business. He also tries to travel to as many of my shows as he can. My family members, as well, are fantastic. They respect what I do and shower me with so much love and support. Facetime and Skype help make the days shorter and not so lonely.

In ending, I hope that by sharing some of my experiences as an international IFBB figure competitor in the US helps women from around the world, who have that dream of competing in the IFBB, realize that it can be accomplished.

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Disclaimer: Reader discretion advised, please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.