Competing in the Arnold Amateur
What a wild ride getting to the Arnold Amateur has been!
On Wednesday I didn’t even know if I would make it to Ohio for the Arnold Sports Festival because it was snowing, but fortunately we made it there without much ado. (Which is more than I can say for that poor plane that skidded off the runway in LaGuardia!)
The convention center is huge and everything is spread out. I did early check in on Wednesday night, which consisted of showing my NPC card, filling out a release form and getting measured. (I’m 5 feet 2 and 13/32 inches FYI).
It was really intimidating talking with people in line. Everyone I spoke with had won multiple competitions in their home state/country and if there were any bikini competitors over the age of 28 they were hiding really well from me. One girl was 26 and from Columbia. Her first show was the Arnold in Europe, which she won, and the federation paid for her plane ticket and accommodations to compete in this show. It felt like, “Hi! I’m 26 and I won this show. Hi! I’m 22 and I’m an Instagram SuperStar! Hi! I’m 14, are you my mother?”
My husband, Henri, saw that I was psyching myself out, so he talked me down. “You prepared harder for this show than any other one in the past, you look better than you did when I met you at 25, and I’m just so proud of you, so relax and have fun tomorrow.” I did have my #ShiningMoment when I stood next to the Competitors Only sign wearing the cool T-shirt my sponsor, Shine Athletica made for me.
The next morning was tanning with Jan Tana, who is actually a really cool lady. Everyone waited in line in the hallway outside a ballroom in the convention center. They brought us into the room in small groups. About ten mini tents were set up and everyone got naked (there were only women getting tanned at this time.) Talking about getting to know your competition! Each of us went into a tent and got sprayed with an airbrush. Then we had to stand in groups of ten in front of giant fans to dry. It was FREEZING. My teeth were chattering.
Then I met up with my trainer, Robin, and he gave me my food for the day, which was a packet of tuna, a bag of spinach and 2 oz. of sweet potatoes, which was the most complex carbs I had eaten all week. They tasted AWESOME!
I came back at 3 pm to discover that prejudging had started an hour earlier, the athlete’s meeting was moved up and now my hair and make-up appointments left me 15 minutes to get backstage before my class was called. I felt like I was in a scene from a movie where someone is trying to stop a wedding before a plane took off – I was literally running through the convention center in a sparkly red bikini and hair extensions dragging a suitcase behind me to make it backstage on time.
Bikini A was already on stage and my division, Bikini B was lining up. A very nice woman let me borrow her Bikini Bite (adhesive to keep your posing suit in place) and some other women let me cut ahead of them in line to get a quick oil glaze put on. Then I got my number (123) and pinned it on.
Thank God I made it on time! These people backstage were not playing. If you weren’t in line when they called your name you were automatically disqualified. One poor guy tried to make a run for the stage and they pulled him off – and he had flown in from Croatia!
I had no time to go to the Pump Room, which is an area adjacent to the stage with dumbbells and bands so you can pump up your muscles before going on, so I jumped on the ground, high heels and all, and started doing push ups.
At first I felt weird, like everyone was looking at me, but then three other women said, “Hey, that’s a good idea,” and started doing them next to me. Then we all did squats. A girl has to get her pump on, you know.
Giant screens were everywhere so you could see the athletes before you. I saw that no one was doing the crossed leg back pose, so I mentally told myself to not do that one and stick with the wide leg stance. (Side note: On a scale of 1 to “How Happy Am I That I’m Not an Accountant” do you think the camera guy was to be filming the bikini competition that day?)
At local shows you get your own 10 seconds of individual poses; not so here. There were 900 (nine hundred) bikini, figure and physique competitors vying for trophies over the course of four days, so we did not have much stage time. They brought us out in groups of six and we all posed together: Front pose, turn to the back, then front pose again. Then we had to stand in a V on stage and try to flex and smile at the same time. Henri and Robin were shouting to me, “Keep it tight! Smile, Lisa! Lift that ass! Hold your pose! Twist your waist!”
They called out the top five for comparisons and I began thinking, “Am I going to be last callout again?” as I smiled, twisted my waist and flexed my glutes. But then they called my number! I was like the second or third woman called out in group four so I was right in the middle!
Some women were crying from disappointment, but when I got off stage I was crying for joy. See, I had only ever come in last place before, and here I was at the Arnold Amateur – where there is no Masters division for bikini – so I was standing next to women in their 20’s – and I beat like 15 other competitors! And I began thinking, I was one of the first ones called in that group, so with more work I could have been 3rd callout!
What a great mental breakthrough that was – to realize that if I work harder I have the potential to eventually place one day. I sat next to Robin and Henri in the audience after and we watched the other women compete, watched my video and started strategizing about the next show – Texas Shredder – which is in about five weeks.
Robin said, “We’re going to have to kick up your leg and glutes workouts and go really hard if you want to place at the Shredder.” “We already do go really hard,” I said. “No, I mean like you’re going to cry in pain really hard.” “Cool! I’m in!” (Warning: expect lots of “I hate leg day/why am I doing this? posts in the near future.)
After Parties and Expo
After that everything just got totally fun, and by totally fun I mean that I was able to eat 😉
Midway through my real I realized that this was the first vacation I had alone with my husband in five years. It was so much fun not having to worry about anyone but myself! We went to the Expo and got a ton of freebies from the vendors.
We met a bunch of famous bodybuilders all weekend long, which was so exciting! This was Jay Cutler. I posted the picture on Instagram and he reposted it!
After my competition Thursday night, I went to a Meet and Greet with the pros. This is Oksana Grishina. She is the reason why I wanted to enter a fitness competition last year. Her fitness routines are not just strength moves mixed with gymnastics, they are art and tell a story. From start to finish, her routines captivate the audience and (no surprise here) she won at the Arnold. She was so nice and said that I should just go for it and try fitness again. (She also said she liked my bikini…hee…hee!) #GirlCrush
This is Ashley Kaltwasser, who won first place in bikini two years in a row now. (Note how my husband got in this picture…). She was friendly and real down to earth and was asking how everything went backstage.
This is Janet Layug. She always comes in top 3 in the bikini competitions. Her daughter was there and was so cute. Back at the Expo, we watched a ton of different sporting events from pole dancing to ping pong and I even met up with my cousin Kris who I hadn’t seen in about 20 years. Some of the displays were huge! Supplement companies were giving away samples of everything and I noticed that my husband was drinking everything, so I said, “Were those protein drinks or pre-workout drinks?” And he was like, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN? THERE’S A DIFFERENCE? HEY! LET’S GO HERE! ACTUALLY, LET’S RUN THERE! COME ON! COME ON! COME ON!” (I had to cut him off from the samples, otherwise he’d be awake for nine days straight.)
There were lots of bodybuilders working the booths too. This is Jerome Hollywood Ferguson at Bodybuilding.com. We decided everyone was taking really boring pictures so we went for something silly.
Saturday night was the big show, where all the pros competed, followed by a giant party at a casino, where I met Maurice who was with the media team. We had a really good conversation and he was telling me Arnold stories and what it was like during the early days of the Arnold Classic.
But the most exciting day for me (after competing, of course) was attending a talk with the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I saw Maurice there again too. He was so encouraging – “Give Arnold a copy of your book, and Jim Lorimer too, you have an interesting story.”
The room was packed and Arnold made his way to the stage. He told stories about his bodybuilding days, behind-the-scenes movie stories and his rules for success in life. He said that you had to aim for the highest spot you can. He didn’t want to be a city councilman on a committee or a mayor; he wanted to be Governor of California. He said that whatever you do, you should just go for it, even if you fail. “Everyone tries and fails, you’re only a loser if you don’t get back up.”
He was pretty much always surrounded by body guards, but I was pretty pumped up with his “Go for it!” message so I did manage to run up to the front of the stage and hand him a copy of my book, She’s Losing It! Sadly, he was whisked away before I could get a picture with him, but at least I went for it right?
You never know – I hope he reads it. Inside I wrote him a thank you letter for making this sport, bodybuilding, accessible to everyone, even a 41 year old mother of two like me. In the letter there was the picture of me standing next to him back when I was a 50 lbs. over weight woman, and a picture of me standing on stage during the competition the day before – as an athlete. I wrote that I hoped that my book would inspire other moms to get fit and give bodybuilding a try.
If you would like to learn more about what it’s really like to do your first show, check out my book, “She’s Losing It!” available at Amazon.com.
Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two. ShesLosingIt.com (c) 2015 Lisa Traugott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, video and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.