An overweight 17 year old boy with self-image issues, scrounging through classifieds looking for a weight lifting set as he wants to get in shape during the summer break from school. Finally, he finds a second hand 1970’s Weider set and he decides to purchase it with a little bit of money he had saved up. The bar was so rusty you needed a tetanus shot every time you bench pressed, the weights were plastic and filled with cement and the bench was about to fall apart. But this was this boy’s most valuable possession.
Fast forward 6 years later and this boy has now turned into a man, and from hundreds of workouts and hours and hours of reading and researching, this individual has made it his goal to be the absolute best competitive bodybuilder he can be. This 17 year old boy never imagined that he would be competing at the 2016 Ontario Provincial Championships fighting to be one of the best bodybuilders in Ontario.
I had the pleasure of competing under the OPA’s Ontario Provincial Championships on the weekend of June 3rd and 4th while the Toronto Pro Super show fitness expo was going on. This was one of the best weekends of my life, and I made memories there that will last a lifetime. The OPA promoters, organizers, staff and judges do an amazing job at making sure this show is run at the highest professional caliber.
Many of the fine details are different for many athletes, but my experience here is something that many individuals face every year. Even though you are on stage an average of 8 minutes in total, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes to make sure the athletes and spectators get the best experience possible.
The day began for me at 4:30 am on Friday as I drove an hour to Toronto with my girlfriend, as she is the one that helps me and fully supports me with this passion I have for bodybuilding. Once we got to the Metro Toronto Convention Center with a cooler full of food and lots of luggage, I, like many athletes who choose to go with Absolute Touch for their spray tan, got my first base tan early Friday morning. The individuals at Absolute Touch work day and night all weekend to ensure that all the athletes have the best color and look amazing on stage.
From there, the official registration and athlete weigh in occurs from 10 am until 12 pm, at least for bodybuilding classes , and here you get approval on your stage attire, purchase professional pictures from Liana Louzon, your judges critique(which is a very important tool) and do your official weigh in to see what weight class you are put in.
After the registration, there is a mandatory athlete’s meeting where head judge, Rudy Jambrosic, discusses many rules and regulations of stepping on stage. He also gives very valuable advice here on some common mistakes he sees on stage, and how they can be fixed. After these meetings that run hourly until the early afternoon, many athlete’s must go back and get their second coat of tan, this is the coat that really makes you dark and will make everything stand out when you’re on stage, or else you will wash out under the bright lights.
Between this and the first phase of the competition which is the prejudging, many athlete’s will begin to carb up and follow specific protocols to really accentuate the muscles and make them temporarily pop on stage by manipulating their nutrition.
Now, the moment has come, prejudging at 5 pm on Friday and as I walk into the venue it is a beautiful theater with a stage that has been shared by many grandiose events held in Toronto. As spectators are waiting anxiously to see the best physiques in Ontario displayed, the athletes are in the back using resistance bands and doing pushups to pump their muscles full of blood in order to look fantastic on stage. My girlfriend is backstage with me helping me with my posing and to pump up, having someone back there with me is critical as there can be a lot of waiting and sometimes our mind starts playing tricks on us. As the staff start calling out classes and having the athlete’s line up, this is where reality kicked in for me, and nerves can begin to come. In this moment I realized that every single workout, set and rep I have done in the last 6 years has all been leading up to this moment. Something I had visualized very vividly for months and years.
As our class gets called out, 18 bodybuilders step on stage side by side and the crowd is going crazy. You can see the judges discuss, write on their scorecards and do the best they can in order to judge everyone equally. As all the athlete’s get put back in the lineup, the moment of truth has come, first call outs. The first callout involves 5 athletes being called to the center and being compared, this usually means that those individuals are fighting for the top 5 spots. As I hear numbers being called out, the 3rd number called out was MINE! I could not believe it; I even had to look at my number again to make sure I wasn’t confused. It was one of the happiest moments in my life; I was up there battling it out for a spot in the top 5 best bodybuilders in Ontario for my weight class. It really was an amazing experience.
Once prejudging is over, the athlete’s must still maintain their condition overnight, as the finals do not begin until 9 am the next day. This can be challenging as many of the athletes are running on low fuel and are very stressed. I did not sleep much this night with a million things running through my head wondering how I placed. The next day, another early 4:30 am wake up happens as you must get a 3rd coat of tan, every minute feels like a decade as all you want to do is get back on that stage. As 9 am rolls around, the same pump up process begins, and the judges allow all the athletes in the class to come out and do a 30 second freestyle posing session against each other. From here, only the top 5 are called to do their routine, and I have the honor to say, I was able to do my routine! It was such a wonderful experience to be able to do that in front of hundreds of people with all my friends and family cheering me on.
After routines are performed, they bring out the top 5 athlete’s and they hand out the awards. I ended up in 5th place and gained some of the best experiences in life that I will never forget. Once finals are over, the athletes can go up to the expo for free and check out all the cool vendors and events occurring this weekend. This truly was an amazing weekend and the OPA does such an amazing job at running it, I encourage all the athletes who compete at the regional level to really get their physique to a provincial level and be part of this amazing experience.
That night I entered a restaurant and had a gentleman call me over, when I found out he was one of the judges, it was such a wonderful experience knowing that this man was giving me such valuable advice. He was extremely nice, same thing with another judge I met the next day at the expo, he gave me some great advice on my posing, and we even set up a video chat later in the week where he helped me tremendously with my presentation skills. I have nothing but amazing things to say about this weekend and I want to thank all the judges, staff, volunteers and Ron Hache for putting on such an unforgettable event!
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.