I spent this weekend just passed (13-15th March) in Melbourne for the Arnold Classic Australia, the first one of many to come, judging from the size of the expo and the amount of people who visited it.
During this weekend my boyfriend Keegan and I celebrated our two year anniversary and it was really nice to have a weekend away doing something in an area we are both passionate about (health and fitness).
If you’ve ever wondered what these expos are like or would like to know about my experience, read on…
I flew from Sydney to Melbourne on a 6.30am flight on Friday morning, which meant I had to be up by 4ish (I live outside the city). So I started the trip a little tired and didn’t have time to sleep on the airplane as I had to finish listening to a law lecture – as much as I didn’t want to do it, I knew if I finished it I could relax a little more during my time away.
When Keegan and I arrived in Melbourne, we took the Skybus to the hotel, left our bags there and headed straight to the expo. We had both bought V.I.P tickets which allowed us early entry into the expo: one of a few perks which included a special program, a show bag, VIP seating for the bodybuilding shows and no entry line. The tickets cost $350.00 each but I’m so glad that we forked out the additional money because it made the whole weekend much easier.
We got into the show at 9.45am, just before the general entry doors opened at 10. Keegan absolutely adores the Hodge Twins (Kevin and Keith) who were on the Gymshark stand so we headed over there first. There were only about 3 people in the line waiting to talk to the twins so we waited, and while we were waiting, Christian Guzman walked past so Keegan got to meet him too!
The Hodge twins were so friendly and funny but I do have to say, it was such a strange feeling to meet people face-to-face when I have only ever seen them in videos. And can you believe that they are in their forties?
After seeing the Hodge Twins, we walked around the expo and went to some of the stands, sampled products, bought a few things and saw some more big-name fitness celebrities. One lady that I really wanted to meet was Nikki Blackketter but by the time she arrived, the line to meet her went all the way around her stand. It was the same for many of the special guests – the lines to meet Jay Cutler and Steve Cook wrapped around multiple stands and people had been lining up for hours.
The Dana Linn Bailey seminar, which was held in the “Super Gym” (adjacent to the exhibition) was held at midday. It was really interesting, set out as a Q&A with Dana and Rob Bailey and we learnt some interesting things about them both. Dana is a woman who I have always drawn motivation from because she is so real, so humble and is so confident in herself and it was great to see how she became like that and to hear the stories that helped to shape her into the inspiration she is today.
After the seminar we went to lunch with my friend Claudia and her boyfriend Shane. Claudia, a food connoisseur, took us to “Café 51”, a burger restaurant down past Southbank that sells both regular burgers and some crazy recipes that they are renowned for. I decided to try a burger consisting of a meat patty, Nutella, cheese and popping candy. The burger was definitely interesting: the flavours took some getting used to and it became a little sickly towards the end but overall I enjoyed it. I probably wouldn’t re-create the recipe at home though.
After lunch, we went back to the hotel, checked-in and had a rest before going to dinner at an Indian restaurant with Claudia and Shane. I had never eaten at an Indian restaurant before and was definitely impressed. We followed with some gelato and ice cream at the Crown Casino.
After breakfast at the hotel, we headed to the expo to get in early and hopefully meet some more people. Keegan wanted to chat to the Hodge Twins again but they weren’t scheduled to be on the Gymshark stand until later on in the day so we just walked around and visited a bunch of different exhibitors instead. Keegan also lined up to meet Steve Cook but Steve was running late and Keegan has a bad back (combination of a lifting injury and being so tall) so he left the line after about 30 minutes.
Some of Saturday’s highlights included:
- The Nutrition Warehouse spinning wheel where you could win a bunch of prizes including protein, shakers, towels, shirts etc.
- The Gymshark stand which had some awesome people on it: Keith & Kevin (Hodgetwins), Nikki Blackketter and Christian Guzman, Emily Skye and more!
- The Flush Fitness product stands where I was able to catch up with some old friends and sample new products (including Xtend flavours that I had never tried before)
- The BSN stand where we met Flex Lewis
- Meeting Steve Cook….
- While Keegan was chatting to Flex, I was speaking to his manager/the lady taking care of his stand. We were just having a normal conversation and then she asked how my day was and also asked if Keegan and I had met Steve Cook yet (his stand was adjacent to the BSN one). I made an off-hand comment about having waited in line but then Keegan’s back started to act up and he couldn’t stand comfortably anymore so we left the line but were hoping to get in early tomorrow to meet him. She then told me that she would see what she could do… and somehow she managed to get Keegan and I to the front of the line and we had the chance to meet Steve and talk to him. I don’t know why she was kind enough to do that (she doesn’t know that I have a blog or anything) and I definitely did not tell her about Keegan’s back in order to try and get something out of it but I am so grateful that she was able to help us out. (Steve is one of Keegan’s biggest inspirations). I guess it shows that it helps to be friendly and talk honestly and openly with people.
- The StrongLiftWear booth, which was full of their sponsored athletes and had some great clothes for sale. I bought some leggings and they are such great quality. You’ll probably see them pop up on my Instagram feed many times in the near future!
We left the exhibition at midday and headed to Anytime Fitness Melbourne CBD for a quick training session. I was really impressed by this gym – it was spacious, tidy, clean, full of great equipment and there were no weights lying around. How refreshing!
How beautiful are my FunkitaFit workout clothes?!
After training and our post-workout meal, we went back to the exhibition and watched the IFBB Pro prejudging during which I got to see some of my biggest inspirations rock the stage. It was so surreal to watch people who I’ve followed for a long time, like Ashley Kaltwasser, Janet Layug and Summer Bernard.
We had some time to kill between the prejudging and the finals so we went to the DFO next door to the exhibition centre, where I found a pair of Adidas high tops that I’ve been wanting for a while at a sale price – yay! Then it was back to the hotel to get changed for the night show.
The night-time show was like no other bodybuilding show I’ve been to. It was held in a huge auditorium with thousands of spectators and it included a routine by Oksana Grishina, fireworks, great music, a strongman event, a speech by Arnold and lots more.
Check out who got into Arnold’s selfie!
After the show, Keegan and I went to Cervo in Crown Casino for dinner and it was hands down the best restaurant meal I have had in a long time, if not the best restaurant meal I have ever had. The garlic bread was super buttery and garlic-y (the best way to have it), my gnocchi were individually pan fried and delicious and our dessert Nutella and banana pizza was the icing on the cake. Melbourne has some great food!
The last day of the trip started fantastically. I ran into Jessica Arevalo (IFBB Bikini pro and one of my first “fitspirations” back from when I first got into fitness) in our hotel breakfast café. She was quite jetlagged but I’m grateful that she took the time to chat with me briefly. She was supposed to compete in the pro show but explained that she had been travelling too much lately and was exhausted. I think she also had a few issues with her flights on the way over here.
At the expo, we weren’t actually able to get in early which was disappointing as we were hoping to visit the Hodge Twins and Nikki Blackketter before the crowds got too crazy. Arnold was hosting a seminar in the Super Gym so they couldn’t allow early access for security reasons.
So at 10 am we went to Arnold’s seminar, to which the VIP pass holders had special seating down the front, with the general admission being seated in the stands behind. As we were in the 4th or 5th row of the seats at the front, I couldn’t actually see anything once Arnold sat down in his seat on the stage because of all the tall people in front of me. That was a bit disappointing too but at least I could still hear everything and I could put my camera in the air to snap a few pictures.
After the seminar, we walked around the expo some more, collecting some more samples and trialling more products. Thanks to Steve, the director of Nutrition Systems, we were able to meet Jay Cutler, which I was extremely grateful for. The line to meet Jay was probably the second longest of the whole weekend (DLB’s line was at least 4 hours long).
It’s a little blurry but the only photo that we got.
I also met Ashley Kaltwasser at the Gaspari Nutrition stand and was able to talk to her for a few minutes. It’s so nice to experience how friendly and down-to-earth high profile fitness competitors are and Ashley was no exception.
Travis Browne (an MMA fighter) was super cool to chat to and he had to, much to Keegan’s embarrassment, explain to me what the difference between the UFC and MMA is. For those who also don’t know the difference, let me explain it in the way that Travis did. In basketball in the US, you have the NBA which is the organisation of basketball. The players in the NBA play basketball. Similarly, he competes in MMA which is organised by the UFC organisation.
(I think) Travis is married to one of my favourite fitness models Jenna Renee. Jenna was the initial reason that I started my fitness journey: it was a photo of her that inspired me to find out how she achieved her physique. From articles about her and interview with her I learned about lifting and so on. Jenna was supposed to be at the MuscleTech stand on Saturday but she unfortunately fell ill and I missed seeing her. So I asked Travis to pass on a big “hello” from me.
We also met some other really nice people like Calum von Moger, Matt Ogus and Ron Partlow.
Ron really impressed me because he (twice) took the time to speak with Keegan and it wasn’t just a quick “hi/photo/bye” thing but a proper conversation and he genuinely seemed happy to talk about his life and share his experiences.
Throughout the weekend, I was able to catch up with a few friends and meet a few of my followers and blog readers which was one of the best parts of the whole exhibition. It’s such a great feeling to be part of this whole fitness movement and to be surrounded by so many like-minded people.
Keegan and I finished the Sunday off with a bicycle ride around Melbourne, a visit to a doughnut café and then we flew back to Sydney in the evening.
Overall, the whole weekend was a whole lot of fun, exhausting and inspirational.
Prior to the Arnold, I felt as though I was losing my motivation to train and eat well but now it is back and stronger than it has been in a long time. I’ve come down with a bit of a flu from all the running around and the crazy schedule but it was definitely worth it. And I am already looking forward to the 2016 Arnold Classic!
For the time being, I am hoping that I can attend FILEX next month (it’s also held in Melbourne) and do the whole exhibition thing all over again!