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“We’ll be back…”

7 March, 2015

Tom is pumped for today’s blog…

“Since long before the tour, I had envisaged that our day in Columbus, Ohio, would be my personal highlight for one very specific reason: the Arnold Sports Festival.

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Synonymous for bodybuilding fans the world over with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s passion for the pursuit of muscle since he inaugurated the festival in the late 1980s, it is the American bodybuilding and fitness industry’s best-known annual event, each year drawing visitors from all over the world numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Originally a pure bodybuilding competition, there are now athletes competing in over 50 sports during the festival, ranging widely from powerlifting to skip-rope jumping to martial arts to chess, in addition to over 800 fitness industry exhibitors marketing their supplements and training gear. As a long-time fan of the sport of bodybuilding, for me it was the sweetest of coincidences that we were scheduled to be in town the day the festival opened. Sadly, no other member of the group (quite understandably) shares my enthusiasm so it was destined to be a day spent alone in my element.

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To say it almost lived up to my wildest dreams is an understatement. As soon as I entered the building, I felt alive (this was partially due to the fact that within minutes, I was handed a free bottle of caffeinated water and numerous shots of pre-workout stimulants); it truly seemed at that moment that I could conquer the world, up there with my idol, Arnold. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be; the man himself wasn’t in the building today due to other official festival commitments, but I didn’t come away empty-handed. In addition to the faint smell of posing tan lingering in my nostrils, I picked up from the Gold’s Gym booth a yellow training tank top that was almost identical to the one Arnold wore frequently during his competing days in the 1970s.

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The bulk of the high profile competitions are occurring during the Saturday and Sunday of the festival but I was lucky enough to catch the Women’s Physique, Men’s Physique (think fitness magazine cover model) and, the drawcard for me, the prejudging for the Men’s Pro 212 for professional bodybuilders weighing under 212lbs (just under 97kg).

Never having made it to a pro competition in person, it was a shock to the system seeing just how much muscle these guys carry in real life; the Greek gods of antiquity we’re so familiar with had nothing on these people who devote themselves to the size and proportion of their muscles. It’s largely like looking at an anatomy chart of the muscular system with a magnifying glass over each part simultaneously. Bodybuilding may be seen by many as a vain sport, and in myriad ways it is – the entire focus is on appearance after all – but I’ve never been able to see it for anything other than art; as sculpture of the living, breathing, human physical form. Balance is everything in the way the muscles fit together, particularly as far the judges see it, and the aesthetic as a whole trumps sheer size in any one muscle group. And today, for the first time in my life, I got to see the total concept first hand in the flesh, at its peak, all because of a fluke of timing in our tour schedule!

While I write this, we’re taking a moment of downtime before we embark on our final concert of a pretty amazing tour. We’re very lucky to be treated to one of the most attractive venues of the last fortnight in the First Congregational Church, so it’ll no doubt be a lofty finish, and I think a well-earned one! Of course, what follows tonight’s concert is our time-honoured tradition of the ‘fines party’ at which various transgressions throughout the tour, both minor and somewhat more major, are acknowledged with a small but tasty (or otherwise) beverage of the group’s choice for the guilty party, or a forfeit in lieu. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blogger’s thinly-veiled reference to achy heads and delicate stomachs.”