Seriously competitive bodybuilders, however, are few and far between.
In Woodinville, for example, there are perhaps just a handful of individuals who opt to put their hard work and efforts to the true test.
They seek the limelight for the opportunity to be judged and evaluated, assessed by others who will examine their bodies’ symmetry, shape, size and overall aesthetic appearance.
Competitive bodybuilding is not a pursuit for the fainthearted.
It takes immense commitment, discipline and focus, as well as the ability to make difficult sacrifices.
“You have to be extremely perseverant,” says Julie Michaelson, “and you have to be very strong-willed.”
The local woman should know.
She’s competed in 12 shows over the past several years.
Recently, at the Washington State Fitness and Figure Bodybuilding competition in Auburn, Michaelson won her class, “Open Figure Tall,” and came in fifth overall.
She also entered the Women’s Bikini Masters competition and took fourth out of 13 participants.
“I’ve placed in the top five, all but a few times,” adds Michaelson, “in shows like the Washington Ironman, Empire Classic, Emerald Cup and the Northern Classic.”
The Woodinville woman’s passion for bodybuilding began back in 2008, when as a stay at home with two-year-old twins, she started spending more time in the gym due to its affordable daycare rates.
“I basically fell in love with the sport,” she says, “but it was more about the journey than the actual competition. For me, it’s all about personal growth and self-improvement through the dedication and the drive. I am competitive, but when I compete, I compete against myself. It gives me a great outlet and satisfies this need.”
Michaelson owns Julie Michaelson Training in Woodinville, where she specializes in small group training, boot camp classes and nutritional coaching.
“I see myself more as a coach than a trainer,” she comments. “My goal is to get inside my client’s head and motivate them beyond simply counting reps. I take a holistic approach to helping others change their lives that takes into account not only the physical, but the mental and emotional aspects of the process.”
Michaelson emphasizes that nutrition and ideas about food are at the core of her program.
She adds, “Nutrition is 80 percent responsible for getting the results you want. I get people to eat right and to get away from the concept of dieting — to view food as fuel. And it gives me great satisfaction to see my clients have that ‘aha’ moment.”
When training for a competition, the local woman follows a strict regimen for the 16 weeks leading up to the show.
Her day starts at 4 a.m. when she gets up to do her first round of cardio.
After getting her four kids ready for school, she heads to work to train her clients.
In the evening, she lifts weights and does more cardio.
“The challenge in doing this is time management and finding the right life balance,” comments Michaelson. “I’m a single mom and a business owner. I don’t have a social life. The gym is my haven. The gym is for me. It makes me feel good.”
By the end of this year, Michaelson will have done seven shows.
She is currently qualified at the national level and her goal for 2013 is to compete in a national event.
“All I want to do each time I compete is to get on that stage knowing that I have prepared well,” she says. “If I have done that, then I have already won.”
Dominic Semenza is another Woodinville resident who takes bodybuilding very seriously.
To date, he has competed in five shows.
At the recent Washington State Fitness and Figure Bodybuilding competition in Auburn, he, like Michaelson, took first in his class (“Light Heavy”) and was runner-up for the overall award.
In 2008, he won as a middle weight and qualified for nationals for the first time.
Semenza entered the national competition in Fort Lauderdale in 2010 and placed 16th out of a field of 34 participants.
He took some time off in the interim, but with his recent win, he is back in business.
“I’m going to nationals in Atlanta in November,” he says, “and my goal is to try and get my pro card. That’s what I’m after.”
Semenza has been a personal trainer since 2002, but has spent most of his life involved in fitness and sports.
He finds great satisfaction in applying hard work and the principles of proper nutrition to his body.
“I have a visualization of the physique I want,” he explains, “and I plan how I will progress towards that ideal.”
The local man notes he competes to win, but that continual improvement is the driving force.
The sport of competitive bodybuilding encompasses qualities he esteems, including discipline and determination.
“You have to have a strong mindset,” he adds. “You need to push yourself, physically and mentally, if you want to experience success. It’s a battle against yourself. And staying focused is so important because there are so many ways to get distracted and it’s so easy to self-sabotage.”
Semenza views his recent win as impetus to continue competing.
He says the award justifies all of his effort and sacrifice and he is very proud of his accomplishment. Likewise, when he sees his clients make significant changes, he is equally proud.
“It’s very rewarding for me to help my clients achieve their own personal goals and change the way they view their bodies,” he adds. “To see that mindset change makes it all worthwhile.”