Part 1 of 2

My first Arnold Classic was, in one word, unbelievable …

Over 17,000 athletes with over 150,000 people in attendance. The experience was overwhelming. To put that in perspective, there are 10,000 athletes at the Olympics. It is impossible to take in everything as a spectator; as a competitor, you are lucky to get through part of the Expo … never mind see any other events.

I arrived in the morning on Wednesday, anxiously waiting to meet my teammates.

Although fitness is an individual sport, I attended as part of Jen Hendershott’s Phat Girlz team. This was part of what made the experience so great. The girls on my team were just as anxious and nervous as I was and it was the first Arnold for all of us.

Even though I had travelled 18 hours on the “red-eye” to get there, I still had two hours of cardio left to fit in that day, so it was straight to the cardio room for hour one.

In case you are wondering how we travel and still stay on our diet, the answer is pack and prepare. I spent hours the day before – packing, weighing, measuring and freezing all of my food for the next four days: tilapia, asparagus, chicken breast, oats, tuna, egg whites – packing everything with freezer bags in my cooler, ready for the long trip.

Just add lots of water along the way and I was good to go.

Over the border, it was not an issue: as long as your food is cooked, it isn’t a problem. A fellow Canadian competitor had a great cooler that just plugged in, so it was like a fridge on wheels. Brilliant! I think I need to get me one of those. It was the perfect size to take as a carry-on, as well.

After cardio, it was time for our team meeting and posing session with our trainers. Posing is not easy: it is very hard on your lower back to stay in the proper alignment and has to be done in a certain position so judges can see all of your assets.

You are allowed one “signature pose”, meaning you can do whatever you want to show off your best side, but the other four poses are mandatory positions of arms, feet and legs. This allows judges to compare competitors evenly.

At our meeting, Jen gave us our game plan, gave us a pep talk about how proud she was and boosted our confidence. She is truly an amazing person, unlike any other I have met in the industry thus far. No drama; no competition; no nonsense: she tells it like it is and gives you all the support you need.

Another cardio session, then it was time to get tanned. Now, the tan we use is not like any other regular tanning product. We look absolutely ridiculous … super dark. We use a spray tanning product that dyes your skin, temporarily. Unlike normal spray tans, this washes off (mostly).

We do two or three coats of the spray tan because the lights onstage are so bright that they wash you out. The tan also shows off your shape better as it allows for shadows where the muscles are. Darker looks better.

Time for bed, and then it’s a long day on Thursday …

Normally, the shows run in the morning and evening over one day, but because this is an international show and we are working around the 17,000 other athletes, our show is run over two days: Thursday evening and Saturday morning.

Thursday is more cardio in the morning. More tanning. Professional stage-makeup session with Jen’s makeup artist, Janet. Yes, it is stage makeup, slathered on to make you look amazing under those intense lights. And then, feet up and wait.

Are you beginning to get the sense that it’s not all as it seems from the pictures? The hard work and dedication put into transforming your body is the most honest part of the whole experience. The hair, makeup, tan, eyelashes, nails and, yes, most of the boobs, are all fake – an added effect to make us look better onstage for the cameras.

Why do you think we wear those awful shoes? (to make our legs look longer). That’s the part I dislike most. I don’t like tanning and primping. But I love the hard work and the feeling of accomplishment … the challenge of it all.

The ability to perform onstage in front of thousands of people, to put on a show, that’s what I love.

Then we are off to the check-in and go to the athletes’ meeting. Backstage is crazy – over 150 women getting ready to hit the stage. We wait … and wait … and wait for three hours until we are finally called to “warm up “.

We have a small area to practise our tricks, stretch and warm up our bodies for our routines. This is when I start to feel ill, right before I have to hit the stage to perform my fitness routine.

There are five mandatory requirements in the routine: four high kicks, sidesplits, two one-arm push-ups, the straddle hold and the pike hold. You have two minutes for your routine. It has to be high-intensity and show feats of strength, flexibility, showmanship and be entertaining for the crowd.

You have one chance to impress the judges …

(Find out next issue how Lee’s “one chance to impress the judges” went.)

This column is provided by Peak Fitness. Mrs. Lee Randell is an ACE-certified personal trainer. Contact information and past articles are available at www.pkfitness.yk.ca/Clients. Anyone who wants to begin an exercise program should consult their physician first.

This column is provided by Mrs. Lee Randell, independent fitness consultant, who is an ACE certified advanced health and fitness specialist and personal trainer. You can reach her at www.mrsleerandell.com.