The Truth About Doing a Fitness Show

By: Susan Arruda

Having goals with a timeline is extremely effective to compel you to push harder to achieve and make progress. A goal without a deadline date can often be just a wish for many; void of enough motivation to push yourself to achieve and push harder.

Look at this way: How many times have you heard of someone all of a sudden having a snap moment as they seemingly discover without warning, “Wow, I’ll be 30 this year”and I think I am going to run a marathon!”

All of this, usually without ever having run around the block, and often carrying a few pounds too many.

We all have our reasons, our seasons.

So, how about you?

Are you considering stepping under the hot stage lights, dropping a few thousand dollars in suits, clothing, coaching, tanning, posing in dental floss, over-smiling for hours on end, spending a few hundred dollars for this year’s federation fees and adhering to all the requirements, such as “regulation height” stripper shoes (I call them that because that is where I ultimately found them – at a stripper shop, lol),… maybe paying for some walking and posing sessions?

Hey, if you said yes to the above, the professional who coached my walking and posing is someone I should connect you with because she was awesome!!!

So, if you are okay with all of those investments, the NUMBER ONE THING TO CONSIDER IS:

On stage in 2006 – I call it my freedom year; the year I left my marriage of 18 years!


Be VERY clear on why you want to do it.

If your reason is money, that’s the wrong reason!! There is no money, but you get to SPEND a lot of money to do it. You may also get bagfuls of crappy supplements AND a nifty shaker cup. I have several. Want one, lol?

MYTH – You get paid when you hit the stage, and surely you get paid when you win!

FACT – Ha! I had people actually say this to me. NOT! You usually get loads of sponsor products when you win, many of which are loaded with skeptical ingredients that I wouldn’t consume and yes, a trophy of sorts that ultimately becomes a dust collector, and yes, a commemorative ornament.

If it’s fame? Likely not happening. Depends on what you mean by fame. You may get an image in a magazine as a result of the show’s coverage, but it may be so small, that only you are aware of it!

“Gee Susan, look at you though! You are all over the internet and you even wound up in my Facebook and Instagram.”

Thanks, I appreciate many of the kind words and compliments I now receive!

Am I famous? Hmmmm…. I’m all over the internet, yes. I mean I’ve been posting my stuff for over 10 years now and somehow, I am lucky enough to even have you reading my emails.

But as far as shows making someone famous, let’s check the inventory:

With 6 titles, testimonials from A-list fitness photographers like David Ford in Status Fitness, writing to Fitness World:
“Susan Arruda presents a near perfect physique.” — Wow, on that beautiful compliment!!!

Being hand picked and pulled on stage by the likes of Tony Horton, the legendary P90X creator, or Tommy Europe, celeb TV trainer host of the last 10 Lb bootcamp and Bulging Brides, we have since become friends… —- A mega highlight and WOW moment in my fitness career!!!

Or even established fitness personas that have written:

“Susan Arruda has sculpted her body into a PERFECT fitness physique and cleans up at every show she enters. She’s also as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside’” – Lyzabeth Lopez (What beautiful words from an influential fitness personality!)

All of that attention made no covers.

People nowhere near the shape I was in then, or in many cases, even now, getting fitness covers. Okay yes, that still baffles me at times, but I also understand how this game is played now and as a result, I am even less interested in playing it. (Thankfully, these were never reasons for me training hard, day in and day out, throughout my life.)

In case you missed it, yes, that was another one of my peeves. I warned you in email after email but you’re still here reading. God bless you 🙂 Yes, the fitness industry and all of its politics has jaded me and left a bad taste in my mouth.

I initially did it for my right reason at the time: To build my confidence and spurring much needed change, and serving as a positive distraction during a tumultuous time in my life. I was in a marriage that was disastrous and completely unfulfilling at the time, and my upbringing did nothing to build my self esteem!

Susan Arruda on stage 2009
On Stage 2009 – courtesy Simon Lau


Perhaps more importantly, you need to be ready for the crash and letdown that happens after you have massacred yourself from 16 weeks out for the few seconds you will be on stage and that within hours of you coming offstage, the “transformation” will likely all go in a flash. For many, it is completely unsustainable, but for me, it was/is a lifestyle. You may not win first, second or even third place, so brace yourself for that possibility.

You need to be in a place mentally where you are completely okay with that, otherwise the downfall can be devastating (depression, withdrawal, anger and bitterness as I’ve known many to experience, and even did so myself). This is exactly why you need to do it for the right reasons; for you and not anyone else; a tool/event to help you achieve more in your fitness journey.

You will be left with a lot of beautiful memories and pictures of that “one time that I looked amazing.”

This happens if you live like there is an off-season, which there really isn’t in life if you want to look your best all the time. But yes, the gruelling training and strict eating plans most have to adhere to are very unsustainable. I’ve done my best to live like like there is no off-season; being fit and healthy knows no seasons and I believe you can too.

I will say this; when I used to compete, I always stayed within 5 Lb of contest weight, thanks to my intensity and consistency training style.

Realize that the more weight you gain, be it off-season or pregnancy, the dieting down process can result in stretch marks, not something many consider at the time. Pills and shortcuts will only get you so far and they usually come with a price to pay later on.

Let me be clear, I’m not saying don’t do it, but just be sure you are aware of the price you will pay for a few moments under the lights. Do it for the right reasons, and not for people approval!


When I won 6 fitness titles in 5 years, I went in to defend my title just one year after I had won double titles on the same stage.

There was maybe one other contender on stage without an inflated/enhanced physique…

I did not even get a second look.

Politics exist to some degree in sports and that is just the way it is. The results are often already decided before you have paid your registration fee or even started to diet, before you have racked up the bill for everything I wrote about at the beginning of this email!

Don’t expect “fair” so again, do it for your own reasons and know when you walk off stage that if you know in your heart that you looked like a contender and did your best, but they still did not call on you to raise your hand and change positions with another competitor for a better look at you, that you did not necessarily lose.

The system may have won in that case and those are two completely different things.

Know the difference and be at peace knowing that you did and you look your absolute best! Make a conscious decision to be your #1 biggest cheerleader!

That needs to be your driving force and reward, no matter what the outcome.

In strength,


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