Get Your Flex On

The Fit Expo women's comp

The neck of the person to my right is bigger than my thigh. Her boyfriend’s biceps obviously contain watermelons, and drunk guys in bars would single him out for a fight to test their manliness.

I’m attending The Fit Expo at the L.A. Convention Center, where there’s a protein shake sample for everyone and a pullup contest in the next booth. Whiten teeth for $99, then hop on stage to flex spray-tanned muscles in front of judges. Don’t forget your tank tops or spandex, the de facto attire. It’s a different world just blocks away from rows of tents housing LA’s downtown homeless population.

The guys compete in a swimsuit physique contest.

The guys compete in a swimsuit physique contest.

I’m here to cheer on a friend. She’s competing in her “first and last” bodybuilding comp, the natural-fit competition. This means contestants aren’t jacked up on steroids and lack the veins-might-pop look seen on magazine covers.

It crosses my mind that this competition is many people’s worst nightmare. Strut across a spotlit stage in a bikini, flex your abs, and then turn around to point your butt at a camera-toting crowd. Finally, get a verdict about your fitness and body from judges. Talk about a vulnerability hangover.

I would never have a situp contest with any of these women.

I would never have a situp contest with any of these women.

Along with 11 friends, we holler our support as Roxanne nails her poses onstage. Another competitor is a professional from Norway. Her perfect orchestration of turns, flexes, and hair flips wins events, but another woman inexplicably wins the overall competition. (I have no idea what the guidelines are, of course.)

One guy in the masters division, an impossibly fit 56 year-old, stomps the competition. He goes up against a 67 year-old who could pass for 40, his chest and arms the origin of the phrase “barrel-chested.” Having read about Ned Overend winning mountain biking races at 60, I’m reminded that a lot of our physical degeneration as we age stems from lack of effort and dedication to our bodies.

Forty pound hammers with a best time of 45 seconds. I just pulled my shoulder writing that.

Forty pound hammers with a best hold time of 45 seconds. I just pulled my shoulder writing that.

Between flexing events, I wander over to watch behemoth strongmen compete in the strength decathlon. Appliance-size men flip over tractor tires, do one-arm overhead presses with weights heavier than me, and hold giant steel Thor hammers in an iron cross pose. Around the corner, a bearded guy as wide as he is tall power squats so much weight that four guys have to spot him. That much weight could mash me into a tiny human sandwich.

Even though this entire scene seems as odd as walking into a Star Wars cantina, I bet most of the crowd and competitors think the same at a cycling or running expo. The hours I spend jumping rocks on my bike or pounding up trails probably seem crazy compared to a good, clean lifting session. No muscles to show for it and cyclists wear those dorky helmets.

Weight lifter The Fit Expo
A few key observations from the Expo:

  • Never use the gold-hued tanning spray unless you want to look like King Midas’s favorite bodybuilder.
  • Everyone has different abs. Some get shredded, while others pop out 2” in a neatly arrayed grid.
  • During the weight loss (“cutting”) phase, a bodybuilder’s diet is so restricted that running out of your favorite hot sauce (low calorie condiment) is a big deal. One panel had a guy who talked about it for minutes.
  • Heavy metal is the winning tune for any power lifter.
  • Thousands of weightlifters in one giant convention center is more testosterone than I can handle.
  • I will never pick a fight with a guy who can press me overhead with one arm.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Interesting life experience, check.

"Turn around and face the curtain," the judge said. WTF is this pose?!

“Turn around and face the curtain,” the judge said. WTF is this pose?!

This is the friend you want with you when your car goes into a ditch.

This is the friend you want with you when your car goes into a ditch.

My favorite competition was the bar calisthenics. (Picture gymnastics with break dancing flair.)

My favorite competition was the bar calisthenics. (Picture gymnastics with break dancing flair.)

The biggest poster in the expo. It just sums it up so nicely.

The biggest poster in the expo. It just sums it up so nicely.

Future champs Jen and Jesse demonstrate ideal form.

Future champs Jen and Jesse demonstrate ideal form.

3 replies
  1. Johnny B
    Johnny B says:

    First, I swear my fluorescent orange MTB helmet is cool.
    Next, you meant that the testosterone levels were too high, and that was in the women’s competition.
    Finally, add wrestlers to the never fight list. Other than in the movies, most fights hit the deck and if the fight isn’t over before then, the wrastler will make it so.

    Cool event to check out. A step out of the daily routine for sure! (As if you have such a thing;-)

    Reply
    • Dakota
      Dakota says:

      My daily routine will now involve flexing my butt at judges and applying spray tans. I may have to start wearing a bright orange helmet to fight off the hordes of women who will flock to my sexiness. Or maybe not. Life’s an adventure, so we shall see!

      Reply
  2. Wayne W Walls
    Wayne W Walls says:

    I am so impressed with the accomplishments of body builders. The amount of time spent picking up heavy stuff is incredible. And the dedication to calorie restriction during the cutting phase would be so difficult!
    The looks are worth it though!

    Thanks,

    Wayne Walls
    Wayne W Walls recently posted…Aesop Rock ReviewMy Profile

    Reply

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