The Arnold Competition
Y’all this has been one whirlwind of a week! My husband and I braved the cold to travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Arnold Sports Festival (ASF).
The ASF has 22,000 athletes compete in 80 sports and events, including 16 Olympic events, plus The Arnold Classic and related IFBB Pro League events and the Arnold Amateur NPC Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure, Bikini & Physique Championships over one jam-packed weekend.
Athletes from all over the world travel here to compete, and let me confirm that everyone brings their “A” game. On February 28, I competed in the Arnold Amateur in the open bikini division (meaning I went against women half my age). It was nerve wracking, but exciting.
At the check-in I was given my number that had to be pinned to my bikini and I was measured, since the open divisions are divided by height. At 5’2″ my class is usually B, but I guess I stood taller that day because I was put in class C with women slightly taller than me.
The funniest part about check-in is that you have to put on your bikini bottoms and the moderators check to make sure it isn’t too risqué… Have you ever seen a posing suit? It’s pretty close to being naked, and the back pose is pretty much sticking out your booty to make it look as round as possible, so it rolls me that they wanted to remind us this was a “family show”. For all you feminists who are getting huffy right now, please note that bodybuilding is an equal opportunity sport dealing with body objectification. The men also had to wear their posing suits to make sure they weren’t too small. For your reference, the men’s posing suits are so small and tight you can tell what religion the guy is. So it’s all fair in bodybuilding land.
The competition started at noon and ran until 8 p.m. I got my spray on tan, hair and make-up done at 6 a.m., so it was a realllllllllly long day! But, boy did I have fun glamming it up. FYI – the reason we get dark spray on tans is so we have more muscle definition under the bright stage lights.
Backstage was mobbed with a ton of thirsty, carb-depleted women in high heels and sparkly bikinis. Ever wonder what bikini competitors eat? Here’s the top secret: fish, asparagus and almonds.
Backstage they have runners telling everyone which class is going up next. Thursday was all the female competitor divisions including physique, fitness, figure and bikini.
Remember the SNL sketch with bodybuilders Hanz and Franz who used to say, “We are here to pump you up?” Before it’s time to go onstage everyone moves into the pumping room, which is basically a make-shift gym with dumbbells, mirrors, resistance bands and workout benches so you can lift weights and pump up your muscles so you look as strong as possible when you walk onstage.
Right before you go on, the same people who did the spray on tan will put Bikini Bite (which is a type of glue) on your posing suit so there are no wardrobe malfunctions in the middle of the family show. 😉 They then touch up any splotchy areas where the spray on tan might have gotten wet and they will wipe you down with glaze, which is kind of like baby oil, to make your muscles shine on stage. (I mentioned that bodybuilding is a weird, niche sport, right?)
Then it’s show time! They divide the group in half and everyone stands on a line that makes a V-shape in the back of the stage. They call your number and you walk to the X center stage and do your poses: front pose, transition pose(s) into the back pose and then back to front pose again. Then you give a thank you wave to the judges and audience and stand back in line.
After your individual poses they call out competitors and do comparisons where you move through the front and back poses again. To make it to the semi-finals you needed to score top 10; sadly I did not. This bummed me out. It’s tough when you work hard and come home empty-handed. Oh well, at least I don’t have to change the name of my website, lol.
Even though I didn’t place, I still think it’s important to challenge yourself to work harder and keep making muscle gains, and throw yourself into international competitions every now and again. It’s inspiring to be around so many women who lift some serious iron and are dedicated to hardcore fitness.
Plus, I know that I trained hard. To that end, I’d like to give a shout-out to my trainer Robin Johnson and posing coach Jennifer Andrews. I’d also like to give props to my kids for not eating popcorn in front of me the final month of competition prep, all of you for sending me good vibes and, of course, my husband.
Henri was waiting for me with a kiss and a cocktail. (He’s a good man.) And then we went out for a cheat meal. Actually, it was more like a cheater’s weekend.
The next day we went to the Expo and filled an entire suitcase with samples of protein powder, BCAA, pre-workout and free T-shirts.
We also went to the night show and saw all the professional bodybuilders compete live. My favorite part of the show was when they had the Strong Man competition. They had to lift a 400 lb. rock over their shoulder as many times as possible in two minutes and this one guy lifted it five times! It was insane.
While there I also was interviewed for a local newspaper and did a photoshoot at a nearby gym, which was a lot of fun.
My weekend of glitter and glam is over and I’m now back to the gym, back to work training clients, and busy getting my son ready for the Iowa tests tomorrow. Hope you are busy working on your fitness goals. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.
P.S. – Curious about what it’s like to train for a bikini competition when you’re overweight and trying to potty-train your son? Check out my book, “She’s Losing It!” (Buy your copy here). It’s like a Rocky for moms.
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Lisa Traugott is a personal trainer, Mom’s Choice Award writer, original cast member of FOX/John Cena’s “American Grit” and has a monthly fitness column on Bowflex.com. She won Ms. Costa Rica Sports Model 2017 and her transformation story was featured in Muscle & Fitness Hers, Good Day Austin, Great Day Houston and Austin Woman Magazine. She blogs at ShesLosingIt.com and is passionate about her clients.
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