Why I Love Attending Olympia Every Year

2014-OLYMPIA

My non-fitness friends don’t see why I get excited about attending Olympia every year. They say that it looks like the same old thing every year, and to a certain extent it is. But there is something so powerful about getting bodybuilding greats to descend upon Las Vegas that I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. The energy in the Expo Hall is incredible, and with so many of the world’s top competitors there to compete, I pick up on that buzz and enjoy it immensely. When I attend Olympia, I bump into so many friends in the industry that it serves as a regular reunion. This year in particular is a milestone because it marks FIFTY years of Olympia. This year’s Olympia will be televised, hopefully generating more interest from the mainstream and portraying bodybuilding in a favorable light.

From Olympia 2012

From Olympia 2012


I think I maintain a certain balance and guard against boredom at the Olympia by working a booth each year. I have been extremely fortunate to work with wonderful companies, representing great products, and I never run the risk of sensory overload that sometimes hits spectators who go up and down the aisles endlessly. I am happy to stay within the confines of my booth, handing out product and talking to fans, friends and attendees. One disadvantage is that I rarely get enough time to explore the Expo and have to plan out which booths I need to visit during my lunch break on each day, but the list has gotten smaller over time as a result of my more established name and a different objective for visiting the booths. I used to visit booths to get myself on the fitness map, but now I visit booths to see friends and conduct meetings, so I am much more focused.

The noise in the Expo hall can be deafening at times, but I love it because it is reflective of the energy that builds up. People in the industry are very bold about showing their excitement and passion. There is no restraint at the O! At the end of each Expo day, my feet are sore, my legs are tired, my forearms are cut up from the magazines I pass out to people, and my voice is hoarse, but I absolutely love it. You better believe I will be back at the O next year and for many years to come.

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The Mind Of A Competitor

Oh, to be a competitor in the world of bodybuilding. It is empowering, exhilarating, inspiring, stressful, challenging and at times heartbreaking. A fascinating psychology exists in this world which can best be described by listing some of the quirks competitors have.

Ripped versus “Fat”:

First of all, competitors develop a bizarre love-hate relationship with their bodies in which they marvel at their bodies when they are lean and muscular and in contest shape, but will curse their bodies when they are the slightest bit mushy or fluffy. Competitors live in a world in which the bar is set VERY high. Competitors will see themselves as fat when others see an amazing body and will say so. Competitors will always believe that the more ripped and lean they are, the better they are. While this is a necessary component of contest prep, it plays games with a person’s self-esteem because it is a constant battle to reach or remain at the pinnacle of leanness and muscularity.

2012 North American
Overtraining:

Some competitors will overtrain in an effort to get their bodies dialed in, without considering the inevitable damage they are doing to their bodies. Yes, we are warriors, and yes, it can be a great thing to push through, but with too much training, the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I completely relate to the principle of training constantly for a big contest because I have done it many times. I have endured double training and double cardio sessions which at times had me in the gym for five hours at a time. I have sustained injuries in my foot, ankle, knee, shoulder and forearm and continued my training because a big event was looming around the corner. Was it smart to train through injuries? No, but at the time I couldn’t imagine slowing down or stopping just because of a silly injury. This is the very thing I now scold clients about. No contest is worth hurting yourself!

“A judge told me I suck!”

Another thing that competitors have a habit of doing is worrying about what judges say and taking criticism hard. Competitors need to remember that bodybuilding, to a considerable degree, is a subjective sport, and if you are going to allow a judge to rip you apart and kill your spirit, then you probably shouldn’t be competing at all. The word of one judge is exactly that. Now if you speak to a bunch of judges and people in the sport who know what the ideal for the division you compete in is, and they all tell you the same thing, then you can probably assume that what they are all telling you is constructive criticism which you can then use as a reference when you make adjustments to your training program. That way, you will address certain weaknesses without throwing in the towel.

Money drain:

Bodybuilding is a VERY expensive sport. When you tally up the cost of food, supplements, coaching, competition apparel, spray tanning, accessories, hair styling and makeup application, travel expenses, and entry fees, the financial load can be immense. Competitors will often go broke, scraping up whatever money they have to make the dream of competing happen. This is not a poor man’s sport! That is why I tell competitors to establish a budget and be judicious about which events they want to do and what they can afford to do. I also advise competitors to seek out sponsors to help out with the enormous costs of competing. It is not unusual to see competitors forgo other hobbies and vacations in an effort to gather enough funds to support their competing habit.

Food Porn:

As a competitor who used to dream about food, I completely understand the fantasizing which occurs in competitors when on a contest prep meal plan. Contest prep meals are usually bland as a result of how clean they are, and some meal plans are so restrictive that one may eat only two food items throughout the day, such as chicken and asparagus. It’s only human nature to rebel against this type of meal plan after a while, because it is quite a chore to adhere to it every single day with no treats and no cheats. It is a normal occurrence for competitors to discuss what foods they plan to eat post-contest. What’s also interesting is that some competitors will become so rigid and so fearful of backlash from their coaches that they will only have a quasi-cheat meal post contest, then return to the same rigid eating plan they were on before. Other competitors may go off the deep end, eating everything in sight for days or weeks, only to deal with considerable rebound.

Conclusion:

Those of us who compete are indeed a strange breed. We are disciplined, driven and focused. I am fine with our quirks and accept them as part of the sport.

Slaying The Dragon aka Reaching IFBB Professional Status

This was from 2013 Team Universe where I finally attained IFBB Pro Status...after 14 Pro qualifers, folks!

This was from 2013 Team Universe where I finally attained IFBB Pro Status…after 14 Pro qualifers, folks!

Last weekend Gary Udit’s NPC Teen, Collegiate and Master’s Nationals took place in Pittsburgh, and many top notch national competitors graced the stage in hopes of slaying the dragon and going Pro. I cheered for my friends who have been competing at the national level for far too long, eager to get through the bottleneck and finally feel the exhilaration of becoming a Pro. I felt the pain of every seasoned competitor who walked away from the event without hitting that pinnacle. I know that feeling all too well since it took me 14 tries before I finally got my Pro Card. Anyone who thinks it’s easy to get onstage over and over again and get VERY close to winning a class without earning IFBB Professional status has no idea of how much it can rend someone’s spirit. Sure, there are always more contests, but it can be very difficult to re-ignite the fire after walking off the stage with yet another “almost”.

To those of you who have been hunting down that Pro Card, especially those of you who keep getting great placings, remember WHY you compete. Remember the drive and determination which got you to compete in the first place. Think of the family members, friends, coworkers, fans and followers who believe in you and regard you as a champion no matter what. The quote which kept me going, and which keeps me going with everything I tackle in my life, is:

“FALL DOWN SEVEN TIMES, GET UP EIGHT.”

If you are a seasoned national level NPC competitor and you get smacked down again at a Pro qualifier, you will probably feel dejected and pissed off to the point of saying, “F*&% this!”. The best thing you can do after an outcome like that is to give yourself time to calm down after the blow and dust yourself off. Believe me, I have been there before. I have hidden in my hotel room post-contest, stuffing my face with contest-busting foods, feeling sorry for myself and letting loose a barrage of cuss words. So I completely understand how it feels to miss the mark.

If you choose to get back on the horse again, do it for YOURSELF, not for the judges, family, fans or whomever. If you choose NOT to get back on the horse, make sure that decision is made when you are thinking clearly. Whatever you do, don’t walk away from the competitive life with your tail between your legs! Channel your energies into other areas of your life and know that stepping onstage takes tremendous courage. And YOU DID IT.

My First Free July 4th Weekend Since 2009!

TU Overall Winners

Pictured above are the division Overall winners from NPC Team Universe last year. That’s me in the tangerine bikini third in from the right. I took home the following placings last year from the NPC Team Universe (you can click on the image to enlarge it):

Overall Master’s 40+ Bikini
1st Place Master’s 40+ Bikini B Class
1st Place Master’s 35+ Bikini B Class
4th Place Open Bikini D Class

I just realized that for the first time since 2009, I am not slated to travel to New Jersey to compete at the NPC Team Universe! No wonder I feel a bit out of sorts. I had grown so accustomed to flying to New Jersey and missing the July 4th festivities in the Los Angeles area, lugging bags full of food and competition gear and stressing out over whether I am dialed in sufficiently to do well onstage. It truly is an odd feeling not to be wound up like that!

It’s also bizarre to regard the NPC Team Universe as an event which is dear to my heart, because prior to 2013, it had always been an event in which I never placed very well. No one wins a Pro Card by placing 14th, 11th, 12th or 8th. There was something magical about the first week of July last year, and by the time I arrived in New Jersey, I knew that I would finally attain my goal of winning my Pro Card.

The NPC Team Universe is a fantastic event, and I am so excited for every single person who is competing this weekend! Best of luck to all athletes who are competing this weekend!

The Division Chooses You

I am always amused by women who will deny their genetics simply because they are enamored with a certain division. Some women are so stubborn that they will struggle in a division that they are clearly not suited for, getting pummeled with low placings, when all they would need to do is cross over to a different division. For example, I have met women who were clearly so muscular and thick that they were made for the more muscular divisions, but who stubbornly insisted on competing in the Bikini division because they liked the posing or the suit cuts better. I have also seen ladies competing in more muscular divisions who would place higher if they competed in a less muscular division. For this reason I honestly believe that the saying “The division chooses you” is very accurate. Pay attention to the lines of your body and what your natural tendency towards muscle gain is. Though there is a certain flavor or flair in each division, the worst thing you can do is to pick a division to compete in solely on the basis of the poses which define the division.

The first thing you need to do is look at your body type to determine where you fit in best. Generally speaking, if you have a tendency to put on and maintain an appreciable amount of muscle, you should explore the more muscular divisions. Another general rule is that symmetry, balance and proportion are important in all the divisions. If you are not sure which division you are best suited for, ask someone who truly knows what the judges are looking for in the different divisions. Let’s break down the divisions a bit more to help you determine where your genetic tendencies will ensure the best success onstage.

Bodybuilding GailBODYBUILDING: This is the most muscular of the female divisions, displaying considerable mass, clear muscle separation, very low body fat and the striated, shredded and dry look which also characterizes male bodybuilders. Bodybuilders must perform routines which incorporate certain mandatory poses to display their muscle definition and size. Typically, most women just beginning to compete will work up to this division, but a few ladies already possess the size necessary to be competitive at the local level in Bodybuilding.

DanaPHYSIQUE: This division displays less muscle density than bodybuilding, but muscle bellies are full and toned, waistlines are nipped in, and there is a natural grace which defines this division. Women who are too muscular to compete in Figure but not quite muscular enough for Bodybuilding are made for this division. Physique competitors also perform choreographed routines onstage which incorporate mandatory poses, but they must keep their hands open with “pretty hands” during their routine.

Fitness LeaFITNESS: This division is perfect for women who have strong backgrounds in gymnastics and dance with fantastic flexibility and strength. You MUST have great stage presence and personality which emerges onstage, because this division relies on those elements. Judges will evaluate flexibility, strength, technique and difficulty. If you are a dynamo onstage and can carry the mood and energy of a fun theme and costume throughout an entire routine, this division is perfect for you. There is a swimsuit round as well, during which you will be compared against the other competitors. During this round, muscle tone and definition will be assessed.

Figure ErinFIGURE: Figure competitors have less muscle than the Bodybuilding or Physique divisions, but there is still a decent amount of curvy muscle, combined with a feminine appearance. There is some muscle separation but striations are a no-no. Rounded delts, defined quads, and a nice wide back coming into a nice, small waist taper are ideal for this division. Women who do not have the athleticism or the stage presence to perform acrobatic routines onstage but who have the degree of muscularity I just described would do well in this division.

Sac Pro frontBIKINI: If you have an athletic and fit body without muscle separation, you are most likely well suited for this division. Bikini competitors are never overly muscular and do not display the delt caps or quad sweeps that the other divisions do, and muscle separation is the kiss of death in this division. However, do not be fooled into thinking that you don’t need muscle to do well in this division. As this division has progressed, a greater degree of conditioning is being rewarded. The key here is to target a tight, lean, toned physique which is still very feminine.

You Need To Go To Olympia

Olympia is the granddaddy of bodybuilding events, compelling people from all over the world to descend upon Sin City for a weekend of glistening, supertanned muscles, scantily clad bodies, and enough free sports supplement samples to keep everyone amped up with bloated bellies as they walk through the Expo. The Olympia Expo is quite a sensory overload, a smorgasbord of sounds, sights, smells, and tastes! You also should watch out for flying objects since items such as t-shirts are thrown into crowds during hyped-up giveaways at the larger booths. You won’t find too many events in which such action-hero genetic freaks can easily and comfortably congregate. I feel very much at home in such company, and look forward to all the Olympia events every single year.

I love working a booth at the Expo even though it prevents me from seeing most of the competitions that take place in the main arena. I gladly suffer through the sore feet that result from standing and walking all day. Fans and followers will look for the booth I am working at in order to say hello and take a picture with me, and that always means a great deal to me, especially since I know that the crowded Expo hall can be very tricky to navigate when someone is looking for a specific booth or person. Every Olympia is also a great reunion in which I can see many of my fitness and bodybuilding friends from all over the world.

If you have any interest in fitness and bodybuilding but have never been to Olympia, make an effort to travel to Las Vegas one year in late September so that you can witness this incredible event.
olympia-expo

NPC and IFBB Women’s Bodybuilding

female-bodybuilderBoth men’s and women’s bodybuilding focus on building as much muscle as possible. Female bodybuilders go through “bulking” phases just like the men do, consuming many calories and training with very heavy weights. During the “cutting” phase, competitors drop significant amounts of body fat while making every effort to retain their hard-earned muscle.

Before you assume that one needs only to be loaded with tons of muscle, you should be aware that judges also critique competitors on their overall symmetry, balance and conditioning. Symmetry refers to the muscle bellies, with complete symmetry on both sides of the body as the desired goal. Balance refers to the proportion of muscle development throughout the body. In other words, a bodybuilder may have a very developed back but little calf development, or may have huge biceps but little shoulder development. Both examples will make a competitor look out of proportion. Conditioning refers to the degree of muscle definition in a competitor. If a bodybuilder does not dehydrate properly, he or she may hold interstitial water and end up obliterating muscle definition when onstage. Accordingly, if insufficient carbohydrates are consumed pre-contest, the muscles will be depleted of glycogen and will look flat.

One of the most potentially enjoyable aspects of watching the female bodybuilders is seeing their posing routines. Female bodybuilders perform onstage barefoot with two piece suits and make sure that their routines incorporate mandatory poses during their routines, while also showcasing their grace, athleticism and creativity.

Here are the NPC Guidelines for NPC Women’s Bodybuilding:

Women’s Bodybuilding Competitor Rules and Regulations
Check-In – Competitors will be checked in and weighed.

Posing Suits
• All suit bottoms must be V-shaped, no thongs are permitted.
• Suits worn by female competitors at the Prejudging must be two-piece and plain in color with no fringe, wording, sparkle or fluorescents.
• Suites worn by female competitors at the Finals must be two-piece but may include a printed design with fringes, lace, sparkle or fluorescents that are in good taste.
• All Prejudging suits will be checked at the morning check-in.
• Competitors are not permitted to alter the fit of the posing suit by hiking it up in the back or by pulling up the sides during Front and Rear Lat Spreads.

Female Weight Classes
2 Classes
• Lightweight,……………Up to including 125 lbs.
• Heavyweight….. …. ….Over 125 lbs.
3 Classes
• Lightweight……….. ..Up to including 125 lbs
• Middleweight………..Over 125 up to including 140 lbs.
• Heavyweight …. ……Over 140 lbs.
4 Classes
• Lightweight…………….Up to including 115 lbs.
• Middleweight………….Over 115 up to Including 125 lbs.
• Light-Heavyweight…..Over 125 up to including 140 lbs.
• Heavyweight. …….. …Over 140 lbs.
NOTE: Class Winners of the drug-free NPC Team Universe Championships go on to represent the United States in the IFBB World Championships that follow the IFBB weight limits below and for all polygraph tested events.
• Lightweight…………….Up to including 114 ½ lbs.
• Middleweight …………Over 114 ½ up to including 125½ lbs.
• Heavyweight…… …….Over 125 ½ lbs.

Prejudging Posing
Rounds for Male and Female Competitors
Judges will score competitors according to the NPC “Total Package” which is a balance of Size, Symmetry and Muscularity.
Relaxed Round
• Keep your feet flat
• Keep your heels together
• Hold your aims at your sides
• No twisting
• Your head must be facing the same direction as your feet.
Individual Round
• Begin when ready — no signal is necessary from the Head Judge.
• Maximum of 60 seconds with a warning when 10 seconds remain.
• You are not obligated to use all 60 seconds.
• Lying on the floor is not permitted.
Mandatory Round
• Front Double Bicep
• Front Lat Spread
• Side Chest
• Side Triceps
• Rear Double Bicep
• Rear Lat Spread
• Abdominal with one thigh