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
At first glance, this won’t seem like a travel post, but I promise it is all about my incredible road trip weekend to Columbus, Ohio. It just needs to some back story and why it was so meaningful to me. It will probably come as a surprise, but I’m currently prepping for my first ever bodybuilding bikini competition.
Two years ago I was the unhappiest with my body that I had been for a while. I’d lost some of the 40 pounds I gained in college with becoming a group fitness instructor and I was in fairly good shape. I was killing myself with cardio, not prioritizing weights, and I had a horrible relationship with food. Then I was introduced to my current coach and my life did a complete 180.
I’ve been on meal plans and training plans for 2 years and the difference is more than just physical. Yes, I’m down about 15% body fat, 20 pounds, and have improved every aspect of my health as a result of working with Kiki. I’m finally happy and decided I wanted to truly challenge myself this year. My coach is an IFBB Pro bikini competitor and she’s just an all-around fantastic person. I told her I wanted to compete in 2022 and we’ve been gradually working towards that. My first show is May 7th and I knew I needed to see what shows are like in person. Luckily, she invited me to come to Columbus with a few of the other girls on the team for a weekend of nothing but good people and all things bikini competition.
What does this have to do with Columbus? It was the weekend of the Arnold Classic aka a pinnacle show in bodybuilding and a fitness expo like no other. Clearly this road trip needed to happen and as an added bonus it gave me an excuse to explore a new city. Double win!
Thursday morning I packed up my car and drove the 6 hours to Columbus, Ohio. My first stop? The Book Loft which houses 32 rooms of discounted books. Each room has a theme and there are books in every space that could possible hold a book. They really should change the name to Book Heaven because that’s what it was. Luckily, I had some self control and only purchased two books (Gallant by V.E. Schwab and Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz). All of the books are discounted despite being brand new. It was so much fun to explore this unique bookstore and I highly recommend it to anyone going to Columbus.
Since I still had more time to kill before I could meet up with my trainer and teammates I explored the German Village where the bookstore was located. This part of Columbus was built and inhabited by German immigrants beginning in the 19th century and as a result there is ridiculously cute German architecture and lots of coffee, fudge, food, and beer. Since I’m on prep I could just appreciate the smells and sights, but even then it was a really great place to walk around and explore.
I had just enough time to explore a few smaller attractions, so I chose to visit the Topiary Park and North Market. The Topiary Park is a super small park in the Discovery District. Its main attraction are the (you guessed it) topiaries they were designed to mimic the Georges Seurat painting called A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. It was definitely neat to see, but I did visit during the time of year when plants are not exactly showing off. Try to visit this park during the summer to get a more impressive experience.
North Market was amazing. I couldn’t spend long in there because I wanted to sample food from every single stand. There were so many different types of cuisine, savory and sweet dishes, and an adorable coffee shop that smelled amazing. Can’t wait to try a little something from each stand the next time I’m back in town.
3AM wake up call for a 4AM workout. When your trainer says let’s go workout, you go workout. The Old School Gym is more of a gym for powerlifters and bodybuilders and it was a VIBE. It made getting up before dawn, sweating, and getting home before dawn worth it. Plus, I can never say no to a workout.
Helloooooooo Arnold Classic Sports Festival. If you think this is just about bodybuilding, you’d be wrong. There were over 75 booths where you could sample everything from pre workout drinks to protein coffee to steaks to energy drinks and you could even try on bikinis. It was a lot of fun exploring each booth and seeing what everyone had to offer. Pull up contests, grip strength tests, and other fitness contests to win prizes were super popular and it was awesome seeing the creativity behind it all.
The star of the exhibition was obviously the bodybuilding, powerlifting, and even the Medieval events. After several hours of exploring, sampling, and just having a great time, I decided to explore the main street with all of the shops and restaurants. Yes, I found another bookstore! Prologue Bookshop was tiny, but full of personality and a great selection of books.
I thought Friday was filled with bodybuilding and exploring, but Saturday took both to the next level. We started the morning by walking to the expo again. We explored more, but the convention center had triple the amount of people, so I beelined it to certain stands to get the items I really wanted before the hordes of people got worse. Along the way I stopped to watch the Ninja warrior booth, a skateboarding dog, and a few powerlifting events.
That morning was also the pre judging for the bikini competition which I really wanted to see. It was so cool to see women who are considered the best of the best on stage. It was a motivational boost I needed to get me in the right headspace for competing. Plus, seeing my coach and teammates get so excited was an all-around great thing to see since they’ve all competed so many times.
Around lunch I walked back to the Airbnb to grab some food and then rest before our super busy evening. I took a walk around the town because I’d noticed all of the fun murals on the main street and wanted to take a better look. Columbus’s art scene did not disappoint.
At 5PM we did a team dinner at Cap City Diner. When I hear the word diner I don’t think of anything remotely fancy, but this restaurant was so cozy and had a ton of food options. The interior was rustic and even had a fireplace burning to make it seem like we weren’t in the middle of a city. Highly recommend it because the food was as great as the atmosphere!
Our main focus for the night was the bikini finals. All of the bodybuilding finals began at 7PM so we knew we were in for one hell of a show. I also had no idea there would be a mini concert before the bodybuilding show started, but it opened with a few songs by Dee Snider (from Twisted Sister) and then the man himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, came on stage to talk.
Bodybuilding went on first, then men’s physique, and finally women’s bikini and wellness. You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘extra’ until you see a bodybuilding competition, especially where the men are concerned. Please YouTube it. It’s nuts. Clearly I did not bring my camera and these are phone pictures. Regardless, I hope you enjoy them.
Sunday I spent driving back home to see my boyfriend and furry loves. The weekend was a whirlwind of non-stop movement, all things fitness, and meeting some amazing people. I’m so grateful I got to experience this. While it’s not exactly what everyone would do on their first visit to Columbus, Ohio it was definitely memorable and I wouldn’t change a thing.