The trip to Cologne, Germany was the first time I had ever been out of the United States. Although leading up to the trip I was anxious to get to my hotel as smoothly as possible, I was mostly concerned, as any bodybuilder would be, about food. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to eat my proper meals while flying to multiple airports with layovers and a 10 hour flight across the Atlantic. Thankfully I prepared my meals ahead of time and brought them on my flight—I always make sure to pack enough for two days. Little did I know how memorable the food would be on this trip.
The best way to keep your meals from going bad is to prepare and freeze them ahead of time. Have a few meals that you plan to eat on the plane or within the next 10-12 hours already thawed but kept cold. You may have to eat your meals cold on the plane, but at least you’re sticking to the plan. And as crazy as it sounds, I occasionally like to eat cold chicken. It’s a nice change. Since you have three or four meals ready to eat, you won’t have to worry about going off the plan or trying to find the best of a bad option in the airport. The rest of your meals should be kept as cold or frozen as possible. They will continue to thaw even if you keep them in a cooler bag, but you should be able to get them back into a fridge or freezer by the time you get to your hotel. The meals should stay good to eat if they are still cold and not exposed to much air. Keeping your meals frozen in sealed freezer bags will keep them edible longer. By the time you get to your hotel, or at least away from the airport, you should be able to find a microwave to heat up your meals. I regularly stop at gas stations to use their microwaves to heat up my meals.
I was also nervous about the language barrier. How would I know where to go once I landed or how to even get there? I trusted that my instincts would allow me to communicate with the locals to get me to where I needed to go. And this was exactly how I did it—for the train from Dusseldorf to Cologne, I asked a local gentleman to help me figure out the right train ticket, which train to take, and at what station I should get off. The local German men and women were very nice and helpful to me. I was surprised that many of them knew English, which was a huge help to me. I took a couple years of German in college, but I can’t speak it well. It was only helpful in a couple of situations at dinner throughout the week when I managed a few sentences.
Instead of going to the hotel first, I went straight to the expo because I wanted to see the setup we had at the Animal booth. It was nothing short of awesome. The Animal team is such a family that I spent the entire weekend hanging out with them. Right away we went to the Cathedral. I have never seen anything built with such intricate detail inside and out. It’s spectacular from a distance, and as you get closer you see every detail in the art shaped into the walls of the building. Inside is just as impressive as the exterior. I went back a second day to see it again. When I was with the Animal team, we walked up and down the restaurant-lined streets near the Cathedral. We agreed to eat at an authentic German restaurant a few blocks away, and each of us ordered the same exact meal—a schnitzel. We also agreed this was one of the best meals we had ever tried outside of our normal food.
As the week progressed, we tried other local restaurants that did not disappoint. Every meal I ate was some of the best food I have ever eaten. I had more schnitzel, burgers, and Greek food; even my hotel had delicious meals. I ate at the hotel several times as they provided a healthier option since FIBO was going on that week right across the street. My go-to meal was turkey (chicken was called “turkey” on the menus), broccoli, and potatoes. The hotel breakfast buffet was the best hotel breakfast buffet I’ve ever seen. I took the bodybuilder’s choice: 20 hardboiled egg whites with a few whole poached eggs. And, of course, since there was a personal chef cooking omelets, I chose a veggie omelet as well. It was tough deciding which was my favorite meal because nothing disappointed me. Each meal had its unique presentation and taste. It was great experiencing my first international trip with the Animal family, and best of all, I had no reason to worry about food.
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First and foremost, I’m a lifelong fan of lifting weights, so I’ve had an interest in every endeavor that is intrinsically tied to that. Olympic weightlifting, strongman, powerlifting, arm-wrestling, bodybuilding, etc. My competitive career has been predominantly in powerlifting, but I have also done two strongman competitions (in 2014) and have always wanted to try my hand at bodybuilding. After I was injured in November 2021 while preparing for a powerlifting competition, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any heavy squatting for a while, so I figured going the bodybuilding route would be a way to feed my competitive drive and take on a new challenge that involved a different style of training and dieting. Just to be clear, I am not done powerlifting.
I think we all have a pair of jeans hanging in our closets that we don’t wear but can’t part with. Maybe it’s because you’ve gained some unwanted weight and dream of fitting back into them. Maybe you’ve lost some weight and keep them as a reminder that you never want to fit into them again. Maybe you’ve been naturally thin all your life but have dreamed of having more curves and fitting into a larger size of jeans. Whatever the reason, the common goal is to work towards our goal physique in a healthy and sustainable way.