OILDALE, Calif. - Central California is working to crown its first set of winners during the bodybuilding championships this weekend. It's an event organizers plan to make an annual competition in Kern County.
Bodybuilding shows attract big crowds as people interested in fitness get inspired by what they see on stage, but for many young athletes its more than just a competition.
It takes a lot to stand on stage, under the bright lights, in front of a huge crowd and a panel of judges watching your every move. What you don't know is some of that hard work actually happens months in advance at the gym where change happens almost every day.
“I think about results and what I plan to look like and I try to use that for motivation,” said Aaron Altamirano, who is competing in his first bodybuilding competition.
When these young athletes fall, they turn to each other for encouragement in order to get back up.
"Being a member of this gym, everyone is really helpful and they motivate you a lot. Everyone pushes you and helps each other and that's been the key to my mental state," said Altamirano.
Art Hollenbaugh has trained athletes all over the world and at Oildale Fitness he's helping young people achieve their goals.
"I rather have kids go to the gym. It creates a discipline. Going to the gym, creating a body creates a discipline for them. It's better than having them go out in the street doing drugs, alcohol. I rather have them going to the gym. They start seeing a change in their body, but it's not just the body. It's mental," he said.
Bodybuilding is a discipline where men and women of all ages sacrifice a host of things in order to reach the finish line, from food to drinking, even socializing with friends.
"These kids have real lives. They all go to work. Some of them are already married. They have girlfriends. They do have a home where they have to come to so with a workout and everything it is a hard job," said Hollenbaugh.
Although everyone's results are different, the fitness journey for many of these bodybuilders is the same.
“I just got tired of the way I looked. I didn't like being overweight my whole life. I always was real strong but was always over weight so I just wanted to change it and do something about it," said Derek Karns, who is participating in his first bodybuilding competition.
Since first stepping into the gym two years ago, Karns has lost up to fifty pounds.
“I've always liked the lifting part of it and I always thought it would be cool to do bodybuilding. I just never thought I ever could," said Karns.
After seeing their transformation, going to the gym has become some-what of an addiction to these athletes who find themselves checking in twice, even three days a day.
Many bodybuilders spend between two and three hours a day perfecting their physique with lifting weights and doing cardio, but trainers say the hard work actually happens outside the gym.
Diet plays a key role in any bodybuilding competition, but athletes say so does money.
"You don't think about it, but you got to buy protein. You got to buy supplements. You got to buy vitamins and that's just the start of it," said Altamirano.
People interested in a world of health and fitness visit supplement stores where they spend anywhere between a hundred and three hundred dollars a month.
"Everybody starts out with a certain idea in their head and a lot of people when they start to see those changes, they kind of want to take it to the next level. It's like with anything else you do, whether it’s in your job or anything you do in general, you kind of want to perfect what you do and get the most out of it so you're not wasting your time," said Jarred O’Kane, certified sports nutrition specialist for Max Muscle.
Prior to competing, bodybuilders stock up on chicken, meat, fish and eggs setting their timers and eating every hour to build up their metabolism.
"You're standing up there and you're thinking okay, this is what six months of dieting, six months of hardcore training and six months of preparing is for," said Skyler Seminario who is competing in his second bodybuilding competition.
These young athletes not only learn about the science behind bodybuilding, but also develop the skills needed to impress the judges on stage.
"When you're going up there and your throw up a front double bicep, you're standing there, then all of a sudden you get really shaky because you're holding on it so long. Well, the judges have to look at each person and they think ‘Oh this person is not prepared, they are shaking.’ They are going to over look you," said Seminario.
But no matter the outcome, these young bodybuilders know health and fitness isn't just a hobby, but a way of life.
"I think it just makes you feel so good. I mean, I feel so healthy, the healthiest I ever felt. Everything throughout the day at work, I'm more mentally focused. Everything just seems easier and I think that helps and I think that drives people to do better and want to grow," said Altamirano.
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