It was a typical day during my 2021 Olympia prep. I woke up, did my normal a.m. routine, and hopped on the Stairmaster for my prescribed 25 minutes of fasted cardio. The last few weeks had been tough both mentally and physically. It seemed like I had to push myself harder to elicit a response and, if I’m being honest, most days I had a hard time remembering why I wanted to do this. On this particular day, I was sitting at less than five weeks out from the Olympia. Tired, sweaty, hungry, and cardio complete, I jumped off of the Stairmaster and remembered a journal I started back in 2013 during prep for an amateur figure competition. I was compelled to pull out this journal. The first page I flipped to had these exact words written:
“Watched the Olympia this weekend and it was so inspiring! The bodies on those competitors show so much drive and determination. It’s a status I would one day love to be at. My show is less than 5 weeks away, I like to refer to it as “My Olympia.” I’ve worked hard, and I want my body to reflect that.”
It was surreal to read those words and realize that I wrote them at less than five weeks away from an amateur show that I referred to as “My Olympia” and now there I was less than five weeks away from stepping on stage at THE Olympia. Sometimes life brings you full circle to a place you have been before just to show you how much you have grown.
Becoming an Olympian
I arrived in Orlando four days before I would grace the stage as one of the first Wellness Olympians. The reality of this hadn’t set in yet and I had mixed feelings. I knew that I had worked tirelessly over the previous weeks to get my physique to where it was. The pressure that I placed on myself for my two earlier shows—Chicago Pro where I placed 3rd and Tampa Pro where I placed 1st,—was not present this time around. I had no expectations for myself as far as placings went. All I knew was I wanted to present myself on stage to the best of my ability. I was proud of how far I’d come because I knew the struggle that it was to get there.
Going to the athlete check-ins and meeting my fellow Wellness athletes was a highlight of the week. Some of these women were huge inspirations for me even before I decided to compete in Wellness. To meet them in person and know that I would be sharing the same stage with them was extraordinary. It was while I was sitting in the check-in conference room surrounded by these women and the promoters of Olympia weekend while receiving my official athlete badge and the coveted Nebbia tracksuit that the reality started to sink in. I was officially an Olympian.
One of my favorite events of the weekend was attending “Meet the Olympians.” Not only did I get to wear my Olympian tracksuit, which was pretty dang cool, but I had the opportunity to meet people from literally all over the world, including people who have followed and been inspired by my journey. I’ve told my story of overcoming personal hardships—sharing my losses and triumphs—for that story to ignite even the smallest inspiration in someone? That’s huge. Every person who stopped by to see me made my weekend truly memorable.
A Mark Missed
Typically, anxious jitters start to kick in on the morning of show day. The act of stepping on stage is still very much outside my comfort zone. My heart and passion lie within training and the entire process leading up to show day, but not in the actual show. My anxiety can send me into a tailspin at times. But Renee, if you don’t love the stage why compete? My goal in life is to constantly reach outside my comfort zone because I truly believe that’s when you have the most potential for growth. Truth be told, I’ve grown so much from competing, and I’m not only talking about physical growth. I’m talking about mental and spiritual growth as well. The kind of growth that allows you to constantly evolve and become a better version of yourself.
Each one of my peak weeks this season presented its own set of unique challenges. There hasn’t been a show since my amateur debut where everything went smoothly with no hiccups. My Olympia peak week was no different. As much as we try to plan and control every scenario to have the best outcome for stage, no matter if you’re competing as an amateur or an Olympian, some things are simply out of our control. This was precisely what happened to me and, quite honestly, I’m still trying to make peace with it.
I was proud and satisfied with my look the day before the show. But from one day to the next, it wasn’t quite the same physique. I appeared much softer on show day than the day prior and my lower abdomen felt distended. This was the result of my stress response to travel and my anxiety surrounding show day. Long story short—I stepped on stage and presented the best I could, but this was, in my opinion, my worst look I’ve brought to stage. Getting off stage after prejudging, my disappointment was heavy, and my initial thought was “Well all that work was for nothing.” Even more so because of how much of a struggle it was over the last weeks. Months of hard work all leading up to the sole purpose of stepping foot on the most prestigious stage in bodybuilding then missing the mark is a bag I’m still trying to unpack.
Another Chapter to My Story
Although I didn’t have the best outcome or present my intended physique, I’ve made it a lot further than I ever could have dreamed. That girl writing in her journal in 2013 would have her mind blown that I actually did this. I also realize this experience is only part of my journey. My story is still being written. As with every experience in my life, good or bad, I take away the lessons that I learned. I’ve learned to be grateful even when I’m disappointed; to think positively when I’m blinded by the negatives; to hold fast to my dreams even when I fall down; to realize the value of triumphs but also the value in the struggle. Who knows, maybe three years from now I will be compelled to pull up this article after winning the Olympia. In this moment that seems to be a far-fetched dream, but then again, I’ve already proved that dreams do come true.