I Competed at the Arnold 2014 Leslie March 31, 2014 3158 And I’ll Be Back… I compete in what may be the only sport where you meet your fellow competitors while totally naked in a spray-tanning room. I’m a bikini competitor, and last month I got a chance to participate in our sport’s most prestigious amateur event: The Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger got his start in the United States in bodybuilding, and lore has it that when he won an important contest early in his career in Columbus, Ohio, he promised the promoter, “I’ll be back.” He was good to his word. Twenty-six years later, 45 sports host important contests at The Arnold 2014. Each year over 18,000 athletes converge to compete in everything from pole dancing to Strong Man and cheerleading. And my sport: the bikini competition. Who knew that stripper heels and Swarovski crystal bikinis, spray tans, hair and makeup could be part of a sport? This is not the bikini contests of spring break bars and college towns. No, we consider ourselves athletes, and training is year-round. I actually tried to make it onstage last year, but I couldn’t do it in a healthy way. But that just made making the cut this year so much sweeter. Getting there, however, wasn’t easy. Being willing to get on stage practically naked requires a significant amount of physical and mental preparation. Strength training, cardio sessions, 5-6 weighed and measured clean meals prepped and consumed daily, gallons of water, posing practice, and quality rest are all requirements for getting to the Arnold. . I love the challenge that competing in bikini provides. I love feeling in control of my physique. I love the other athletes I meet backstage. I love the feeling of stepping out under the lights, knowing that I have worked my hardest and done my best. Getting on stage is the icing on the cake! I recently read a post on Facebook from World Beauty Fitness and Fashion Inc. (which puts on bikini competitions) about these contests: Dead last Is better than Didn’t finish Which is miles ahead of Didn’t start. I ranked 16 out of 33 listed competitors, and I’m very proud of that. Before hitting the stage at The Arnold! While getting spray tanned, I met the national winner from New Zealand. Getting onstage with her, and feeling like a contender? There’s nothing quite like it. Just like there’s nothing quite like meeting other competitors while butt-naked in the plastic-covered official spray-tan room. Bending halfway over with a fan aimed at our fannies so that we don’t get crease lines is standard procedure—but it’s an odd way to meet your competition! Honestly, you get over some kinds of modesty pretty quickly in this sport! The other women I’ve met while doing bikini competitions are humble, kind, and gorgeous. And you can really see the beautiful physiques when we’re all waiting around for the paint to dry, with only our shower caps on. It’s a special moment, the spray tan. I compete with Team Blessed Bodies, and several of my coaches and teammates came to Columbus to watch me. It ended up being a wonderful girls’ weekend. The day after my show, we all went to the expo and saw new products, met other fitness stars, connected with old and new friends in the industry. One of my favorites from my Arnold photo shoot! And of course, we celebrated my achievement with a big dinner out, and dancing. Between that and three photo shoots with amazing photographers to document my Arnold body, the whole event was one to cross off the bucket list. And yet, now that they’ve announced the dates for next year, I can’t help but think about working towards a return trip. March 5-8, 2015, see you in Columbus? Celebrating with friends after the show!