The Arnold Classic and Sports Festival, named in honor of Arnold Schwarzenegger, is an expo and physical competition held in the most exotic locales on Earth: Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Asia, Europe and, of course, Columbus, Ohio.
For the American event (held in March 2016), we asked our All-American boy, Andrew Holztrager, to give us his impressions. Andrew, who originally hails from Marquette, Michigan, is a college student at the University of Tennessee. He’s earning a bachelors in supply chain management with a collateral in International Business. He enjoys training, competing, and traveling, all of which he was able to do at The Arnold.
Was this your first time there? If so, what were your first impressions?
Ron, it was actually my first time there! I had a great time and it was a great event. The first impressions I had were probably skewed by the fact that I have been to the Mr. Olympia competition and expo in Las Vegas. It was a much smaller convention center than where the Mr. Olympia is held and the first thing I noticed was how extremely crowded it was! We all walked away with tons of positive experiences but definitely agreed that they need to move it to a larger city and location- preferably somewhere warm for the first week of March!
Are you a competitive bodybuilder? Did you compete?
Yes, I am a competitor but I compete in Men’s Physique and not bodybuilding. It’s just a different class of competition and is based on a muscular athletic look and judged in board shorts whereas bodybuilding is judged primarily on overall muscularity. The Physique guys are, in some cases, stepping on stage around the same weight as the bodybuilders, but the primary difference is genetic structure and posing. That’s a lot to tell people so when I get asked I usually just say I compete in bodybuilding! Its been about a year and a half since I was on stage, due to competition plans getting pushed back several times as shoots and paid work have been taking priority for me, but I hope to get back on stage in the fall and probably compete at Nationals or Jr Nationals in 2017!
How did this event enrich you as a bodybuilder?
This event is the second-largest in the country of its kind next to the Mr. Olympia. Being in the environment was absolutely fantastic around fitness enthusiasts, other competitors, some of the best names in the business, and, of course, my CR2 Talent teammates! Definitely a great experience to be around like-minded people and it definitely added some motivation for me as well as the other guys!
In your experience, how do you find the general nature of bodybuilders? I imagine that ambition and discipline are common traits, and there are different degrees of intensity. Is there a mix of friendly competitors and fiercer, more serious, no-nonsense competitors? How do you relate to other bodybuilders?
That’s a good question. Most people realize that bodybuilding is a sport that involves a much more accepted level of drug use than other sports. This usually causes people to assume things about bodybuilders like anger issues, roid rage, and being self-absorbed. However, while there are always a few exceptions, in my experience, bodybuilders are some of the nicest, genuine, and down-to-earth guys (and girls) you will meet. The discipline the sport takes is so much more than most others because it involves 24/7 dedication to nutrition as well as training. Because of this, the people who compete in bodybuilding generally really, really love what they do and are just content and more than happy to have their routine, friends that can share their passion, and do what they love!
There is also definitely a difference in intensities and personalities, as with anything. While most that I know or have met are really great and easy going, training in the weight room is where you will often see the anger-like aggression taken out in the form of intensely focused training. Kai Green, currently the second-ranked bodybuilder in the world, has spoken about the enormous pent-up rage that he thinks the best bodybuilders have buried deep in their personalities, which is what allows them to push their bodies to such physical limits when training. I, like most people, realize that that aggression needs to stay in the weight room, however, so people are not yelling ‘roid rage’ at every frustration a bigger guy may have!
You’re currently a college student. How do you combine your workout regimen – which must demand a lot of your time — with your classes and studying?
This is a good question as well! To be honest, many times I do not know how I am able to do everything that I do. I have worked anywhere between one and three jobs throughout college, taken a full course load every semester, have been involved in community service or a leader of collegiate clubs, and still manage to cook and eat six meals a day on top of training!
I have said this before but time management is something that I would say was one of my biggest weaknesses going into college. Now, coming out of college, I have to say it is probably one of my biggest strengths. I was lucky enough to get burned out on partying early and realize that I found the most fulfillment in going to bed every night knowing that I did everything I could that day to better myself and the people around me. This led to developing some exceptional time management in order to allow myself to do everything that I love to do!
So, now, I have general routines down pretty well. Luckily, I have never needed to study much for school and can still pull A’s and B’s with minimal effort; the ability to prioritize based on how much effort it takes me to get a certain grade has helped tremendously. Besides that, getting in routines for certain things and finding time-efficient ways to get the weekly tasks done has been key as well. Cooking is probably a good example, as I used to spend hours and hours a week cooking all my meals. Now, I can cook all my needed food for the week in under two hours, which gives me 42 meals and ensures I am always fueled to keep going at 110%.
Lastly, I will say it isn’t easy, and no great achievement is. I will be the first to say that I have a long way to go but part of creating a reality for yourself is knowing what you need to do and working your ass off to get there no matter what it takes!
You must be tempted all the time by junk food or the lure of just lounging around and chilling out. How do you combat this temptation, or how do you work it into your life? How do you spend your down time?
Ah, yes, delicious junk food. Many competitors/models won’t talk about the negatives of food but I will tell you it is a HUGE struggle for most people. Eating disorders are a very common discussion in closed circles because the lifestyle and pressures of coming in condition for a shoot or show can be huge. The large majority of the time, it isn’t an issue for most people. However, when shoot or competition time come around, and after dieting for 10-20 weeks, very low body fat levels can have a profound effect on a person’s mind. There is the occasional competitor that handles it very well due to genetics, but it can be a rough ride for even seasoned competitors.
To give a small idea, because many people have never been at this point; I, along with many friends, will get to the point within a few weeks of shoots or comps where sleeping becomes almost impossible because of how drastic the hunger becomes. This is a reality of the sport and obviously requires an incredible mental resolve. This aspect of the sport has been enormously valuable in teaching me things about myself in the hardest parts of prep and also showing me that I can push myself past physical and mental limits that I was 100% sure would break me.
So, to answer your question, food was much more of a struggle the last two years or so. Fully understanding nutrition, and your body, takes a lot of time and learning and it has been a specific point of mine to tackle the challenges of food. I can now say that this past year has been a huge success for me in learning how to better manage my eating and, now, very, very rarely eat junk food/fast food. I usually allow myself one to two meals per week of whatever I want to eat because balance is key to longevity, but other than that I enjoy my other 40-42 meals of chicken, beef, rice, potatoes, and a few other usual things! That is what fuels my body and also what makes me feel and perform my best.
Do you think people react differently to you because of the way you look? This would be at first sight, not after they get to know you as a person.
Ah, yes. I find it funny because, compared to many guys I know, I am really not a massive guy. However, people very often make comments to me and I usually get at least half a dozen or so every day when I am at work, but commonly get them in public as well no matter what I might be doing. They range from “what steroids do you take” to “how much do you bench” to “what do I have to do to look like you” or “how many days a week do you workout.” At first I thought it was funny and often times still do. It can definitely be annoying at times, though. However, I understand that it is part of it and always make an effort to be friendly and sociable about it with people.
As a bodybuilder, what are your major challenges when training?
My biggest challenges with training used to be not reading my body well enough. I often times, and still do sometimes, tend to overwork myself and not want to take days off from training. While time in the weight room is obviously necessary, so are rest days. This often times led to injuries due to overworking and a decreased ability to recover. Now, with several years under my belt, I have learned to pay much closer attention to my body and signals. That may be a need for rest, more food, or even as detailed as more fats, carbs, or protein. Most people think it is crazy but, as any competitor will tell you, when you get very in tune with your body and your nutrition, you can easily distinguish what types of nutrients you are hungry for (carbs, fat, or protein) as opposed to just knowing you are hungry because each one will give you a different feeling of hunger.
Aside from listening to my body, the biggest challenge for me when training is not falling into a routine or losing motivation to push myself to a 110% every time I train. Routines are great for some things but, when it comes to training, it is easy to stagnate in a routine which causes progress to slow. Everyone can also relate to bad days, long days at work, long days at class, or days where you just don’t want to get out of bed. Those days are the ones where it is important to be able to mentally bring yourself to a place where you can not only get yourself to the gym but also give it 100%.
What does Arnold mean to you personally?
Arnold is quite the icon in the bodybuilding and celebrity world and he encompasses a few very specific things for me. He came to America with almost no knowledge of English, no resources, and no friends. He had a goal and a vision, and within a few short years, had become the top-ranked bodybuilder in the world. He then moved on to become just as successful in real estate, acting, and politics, eventually becoming governor of one of the largest states in the nation. This, to me, is the embodiment of being able to develop a vision for yourself and, with an enormous amount of work, passion, and perseverance, become anything you envision no matter how unrealistic it may seem to other people. That is what he stands for to me and it is something that can be applied in the everyday life of every single person.
What do you think non-bodybuilders could learn from the event?
There were lots of non-bodybuilders at The Arnold and we took pictures with lots of them! I think The Arnold, at the heart of the event, is about much more than bodybuilding; it is about a common passion for fitness and a lifestyle that people can share and enjoy with others. So, be it kids, teens, adults, or families, I think everyone can learn about and share a lifestyle that they enjoy. The expo has hundreds of vendor booths with fun and engaging activities for everyone to participate in!
What was your major takeaway from the experience?
I had a fantastic time with fellow CR2 members from all over the country and enjoyed the bonding time that we got together. A big takeaway is a reminder that memories, experiences, and friends are what matter and it’s even better if you can share something you love with those people!
In general, what words of wisdom inspire you?
I think some good words to live by are ‘work hard, stay humble, and never give up” and I always believe in surrounding yourself with incredible people that will push and lift you up as you do for them.
Two quotes I really like are:
“Every champion was once a contender that refused to give up.” – I’ve seen this quoted by many people
“If I have to die tonight, if this weight is going to kill me tonight, so be it! I am dying where I wanna be.” –Kai Green
Both of those quotes encompass the heart that it takes to make a dream a reality and shows just how powerful it is to be able to do something you truly love. Loving something so much that you can let it kill you is something that not many people in life get to experience and that idea is also related to one of the tattoos on my arm!
Photographs courtesy of Jeff Horner.
Find out more about The Arnold Classic and Sports Festival.