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From Fan to Fam

How IFBB Pro Shawn Smith Got Into Bodybuilding

I’m that guy in the gym with laser focus who keeps to himself. I’m that guy who weighs out his food portions to the exact gram….in the off-season. I’m the guy who logs his weights, dreams of PRs, and strategizes his next training session. It’s fair to say I’m obsessive, but I just look at it as being dedicated. I’m IFBB Pro Shawn Smith, I’m one of Animal’s newest athletes, and this is my story of how I got into bodybuilding.

Getting Started

I was born and lived all of my life in Lexington, Kentucky and grew up with divorced parents. My mother and grandmother raised me so with no male role models, I had to learn what it meant to be a man through tv and movies. In retrospect, that probably had a lot to do with the reason I started bodybuilding in the first place. I was a quiet, skinny kid and not very confident, which led to a lot of bullying throughout my childhood. While I was in high school I picked up my first bodybuilding magazine. Flipping through the pages, I was in awe of just how muscular the bodybuilders were. Inspired, I decided that I wanted to look strong—I wanted to look like the guys in the bodybuilding magazine.

My mind was made up that I was going to do whatever it took to reach that goal. From then on, I watched bodybuilding videos, researched diet and training extensively, and joined a local old-school bodybuilding gym. My mindset was a militant mindset from the start. There were no miss meals, and I would pack smelly Tupperware containers of tuna and chicken to school and sip protein shakes during class. I remember almost vomiting every day from the sheer volume of food that I wasn’t quite used to yet, but forced down anyway. I watched training clips of Ronnie and Dorian, and emulated their training intensity and techniques. My body responded extremely well, and I quickly went from a skinny nobody to the biggest kid in high school. I was transformed and was hooked.

This taught me the power of nutrition, and I wanted to be able to help others through nutrition therapies. In college I studied nutrition in and took several personal training courses so I could work on the side. I ended up earning both my bachelor and master’s degrees in dietetics at the University of Kentucky and also acquired a handful of personal training certifications. My clientele grew so much throughout my college days that I decided to personal train as my primary occupation. I’ve spent a total of 15 years as a personal trainer and find it very rewarding and liberating. When I’m not training or working, I spend most of the time with my wife and 8 month old son.

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Becoming an IFBB Pro

I wasn’t always interested in competing and never thought I would ever be an IFBB Pro. When I first started bodybuilding, I simply just wanted to get bigger and stronger. There was no desire to get on stage. I just loved living the bodybuilding lifestyle.

I only started competing 5 years ago when a local pro offered to coach me for a local bodybuilding show. Following exactly what he told me to do, I ended up winning the overall. Even though I won my first bodybuilding show, I still lacked the confidence that I could compete at a high level. I decided to give my first national show a run the following year, but coached myself this time. I took 2nd place and barely missed my pro qualification at my 2nd show ever. After coming so close, I knew I had to continue competing. Three years after I made the decision to compete, I earned my pro card. From then on, I have obsessed over a new goal: to win a pro show and compete in the Olympia.

Currently, I'm in contest prep for the Chicago Pro. Nine weeks out, I am confident I’ll beat my last showing at the Tampa Pro in 2019. Since I was told I needed to come in tighter, so I’m mainly focused on my conditioning and making sure I can display plenty of detail and separation in my muscle. Diet is impeccable, cardio is plentiful, and there will be plenty of posing in between now and the show. If I can bring in a more conditioned package, I’m confident I’ll be fighting for the top spot.

Joining the Animal Family

The opportunity to become an Animal means more to me than most will ever know. Seventeen years ago, a skinny teenager picked up a copy of a bodybuilding magazine, flipped through the pages, and admired the bodybuilder in a gritty, hardcore, black and white Animal Pak ad. That quiet, skinny kid was inspired by Animal to become a bigger, better, stronger version of himself, and would transform into exactly what was printed in that magazine. Now I can proudly say I've come from being a fan to part of the Animal family. I hope I can, in turn, help and inspire others. I have always represented nothing but dedication and hard work—and now I look forward to representing Animal.