“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Arnold Classic is the world’s largest annual bodybuilding competition, named after the legendary professional bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger and from now on, Asia has been added to the list of countries involved; AC Europe, AC South America, AC Australia and the Big AC (US) . The best bodybuilders will travel from across the globe to boast the most incredible, other worldly physiques the world will ever see, in a bid to win The Arnold title. Each competitor will prepare for their most anticipated event of the year and only the strongest and most dedicated professionals will make it to the stage to battle with the cream of the crop in the industry. The 2016 IFBB Pro League categories are Classic, Classic 212, Men’s Physique, Women’s Physique, Figure International, Fitness International, Bikini International, and Pro Wheelchair.
This year, the Arnold classic is finally making its way to Asia and with Ultimate Performance gyms in both Singapore and Hong Kong, it’s an experience not to be missed. So much so, we have a competitor of our own – Alexandra, aged 37 and Operations Manager in Hong Kong, started off as a client at Ultimate Performance but has now set her sights on competing in The Arnold Classic Asia herself. We will be following Alex’s journey to show you exactly what competing in such an event entails, showing us the before, during and after of just what it takes to compete amongst some of the best athletes in the world.
Where Did It All Start?
I had been going to body-pump classes 3 times per week most weeks for a couple of years, I enjoyed hiking and was getting into working out in general. I loved cooking and knew what was good and bad for me. I was never particularly active at school, but was on a couple of teams and was always the tallest kid. I was also (so I thought) ‘big boned’, with child bearing hips and massive boobs! I ate a lot of Superfoods, and didn’t really have much of a sweet tooth, although I did drink a lot, from wine and cocktails to rainbows of sticky shots more often than I care to remember.
It was around 2011 that I decided I was getting too fat and so a friend and I joined weightwatchers; we both lost a decent amount of weight but would reward every little triumph on the scales with a big meal out.
“I’d say I tried to get ‘in shape’ before and partially succeeded, but my idea of in shape then was miles away from what it is now.”
I was also not very consistent, so I suppose I was a typical yoyo dieter. Looking back, there were a lot of things that I had learnt to live with that I now understand there was really no need to as they were completely within my own abilities to change.
I had had a lot of upheavals in a 6-month period; marriage breakdown, moving house, changing job, dealing with some personal bereavements etc – It came to the point where I needed to outsource as much as I could to be able to keep my fitness regime going, so I came to UP so they could deal with my exercise and nutrition. I still remember my consult; I simply said to Personal Trainer, Jon “I’m going to make this very easy for you. Just tell me exactly what to do and I’ll do it”. I’m sure he didn’t believe me (lots of people say that) but I just wanted someone to tell me what to do so I didn’t have to think about it.
What Was it Like Walking into the Gym for the First Time? Walking out the First Time and Walking in the Second?
When I first walked into UP, I was ready to go. I had written down the possible pitfalls (big boozy events and holidays etc) over the 12 weeks I had signed up for and I would have 6 trips away in total, but I wasn’t really intimidated because I knew I was doing something positive.
“I didn’t ever imagine I’d be one of the before & after pictures though, much less on stage in a sparkly bikini at close to 40 years old!”
As for walking in the second time, I probably hobbled. About 2 months in my trainer told me that when he’d first met me, he wasn’t sure I was going to make it, as I would inevitably end each session spread-eagled on the floor swearing.
What Are Your Insecurities and How Do You Beat Them?
As an example, I was petrified of singing in public, so I joined a band and now we play regularly around Hong Kong, most recently to almost 800 people! I realized a few years ago that it was good for me to get out of my comfort zone and so now I make a real effort to push myself to do so. My insecurities now are not very different from what they used to be – it takes the inside a lot longer to catch up with the outside than you might think.
The difference is now I really have no interest in what other people think, and I am constantly trying to be better than I was the day before, not better than someone else. That is the comforting thing about getting a little older I think; what matters to me is my own opinion and the opinion of those I care about, not of anyone else.
You’ve Competed Once Before, How Was It?
It felt great and it was so much fun, almost silly in a way but I loved every second. I came 4th in the end – whether or not it was ‘fair’…well, that’s not for me to say but I was happy with the way I looked on the day and that was my number 1 priority.
A trophy would have been the icing on the cake – but I got real cake that day so I didn’t really mind. Looking at the pictures I didn’t look out of place at all and that for me is a huge achievement in itself.
The Arnold Classic is Coming to Asia for the First Time, What Does This Mean to You?
I have never competed in this type of show before and I’ll be entering the Bikini category because I love it – it’s also my only option as I don’t have enough muscle tone for anything else at this stage. Also might enter the Masters, because I’m over 35.
I think on the bikini front, Hong Kong is going to have quite a surprise, as the local competition winners tend to look very different from girls who compete internationally. It’s brilliant for the region and although I’m not sure I’ll be in good enough shape in time, there’s no way I would miss competing in the Arnold Classic.
How Will You Prepare for The Arnold Classic Asia Show?
I only have 6 weeks to go, so I’ll be training 4 days a week with cardio sessions on top and the cardio will most likely increase as we get closer.
My upper body is in good shape but my lower body needs work. All I can do is stick to my nutrition plan and keep on top of my workouts, and hope there will be enough time. I have a knee injury so a lot of the staples are out – no squats, lunges, step ups etc. I’m having to be quite inventive with my exercises as I need to work on my glutes a lot.
Diet-wise I’m not suffering at all yet – I have carbs every day for at least 3 of my 5 meals with high protein and moderate fats. I am still getting stronger too and enjoying it – it’s miserable when you’re very close to contest day and your tank is almost empty.
How Will This Getting Ready for this Show Affect your Everyday Life?
It’s all part of the process. It’s silly to whinge about it as nobody is making me do this and I really do love it all. Yes, it means I don’t get trashed on Friday nights and if I go out with friends I have to save it for particular days when I can fit it into my macros, but again that’s the flipside of competing.
I enjoy the challenge of making my calories stretch as far as possible and making delicious food when some might just think they are doomed to weeks of white fish and asparagus. I do notice myself getting a little snappy/short tempered towards the end as sleep is minimal and stress levels are high, but I am aware of it so I’m usually able to bite my tongue before upsetting anyone!
What Challenges Do You Think Will Arise Throughout the Preparation?
My biggest challenge will be my mental strength; in case I don’t see what I want in the mirror as we progress. This is something both myself and all other competitors will deal with, it’s inevitable but as time goes on you learn how to deal with these things.
I will also have to keep an eye on my sleep, I sleep badly at the best of times so I’m not looking forward to even worse insomnia but again, I will do what I can to prepare for this.