Not everyone has the desire or the drive to be a world-class bodybuilder, but college students and other community members may find it rewarding.
Sam Schrader, a multi-title bodybuilding champion and University of New Mexico medical student, said he has experienced both mental and physical gains from the sport.
“I absolutely think that keeping a consistent training schedule has been unbelievably important to my resilience in the face of an increasingly demanding academic schedule," he said. "I think that it’s become as important to my emotional wellness as it is to my physical fitness.”
Schrader said he has participated in over a dozen bodybuilding shows since 2008, picking up several titles along the way — which included earning the Men’s Novice Overall in the 2013 National Physique Committee California State Championships and the Heavy Weight and Men’s Overall titles at the 2016 NPC New Mexico State Championships and 2016 NPC Mid-USA Championships.
He said his average competition weight checks in at about 210 lbs, but according to a Tumblr page, Schrader’s off-season weight can reach an enormous 283 lbs.
Schrader said he finds he splits half of his time training between Anytime Fitness on Coal Avenue and Defined Fitness. But even with Schrader’s demanding schedule, he said he doesn’t have to fight the crowds, find parking or work around a gym’s hours of operation.
“Anytime (Fitness) has been great because it’s close to campus and I don’t have to navigate the schedule of Johnson Gym…and that has been incredibly important with my busy schedule,” Schrader said.
Mike Shields, owner of Omni Strength and an American Council on Exercise trainer, is also an accomplished bodybuilder — having won multiple awards and titles as a light-heavy amateur bodybuilder/NPC competitor.
Shields said his bodybuilding titles include top honors in the Musclemania Novice, third place in the Europa and an Arizona title. Shields stated he competed as an amateur bodybuilder for nearly seven years but is now dedicated to training bodybuilders for competition.
He said he has seen several UNM students enroll at his gym and sometimes enroll as a group.
Shields said it is not uncommon for individuals — regardless of whether they are business executives or college students — to have similar challenges in life.
“Everyone runs into the same problems with timing — what to do, how much to do and getting the ball rolling," he said. "Even UNM students struggle with scheduling and how to be healthy on a busy schedule.”
Barry Ore, an Omni Strength ACE certified personal trainer at Roadrunner Fitness, echoed the importance of exercise — which he said is "like a guide to life" in terms of how much it can help an individual. He said working out can be a life-altering experience and allows a person to create and control a schedule and set goals to achieve success.
"When I started exercising, I found faith and strength that I never knew I had and it helped me to overcome tremendous obstacles and challenges," Ore said. "When I came back to UNM as a student, I was actually much more efficient. I was more adept I'm my school work, study habits and taking care of myself with purpose. Exercise was actually a huge facilitator of me finding that drive and focus."
Shields said sometimes with all the studying, books and everything else that can get in the way, students may not even realize that the mind needs a break and craves some kind of physical action to help release endorphins.
"Work or school, whatever it is, people come in here to release their stress afterwards," Shields said. "They feel so much better after every workout...We help them stay structured.”
Duane Yardman-Frank, a former Central New Mexico Community College student, is one of Shields' success stories — he has won several titles under Shields' tutelage after training with the Omni Strength owner for nearly three years.
Since 2014, Yardman-Frank said he took first place in Bantam Weight at the Phoenix Europa, won the 2015 Bantam Open at the Mid-USA in Albuquerque, and now Shields is preparing him for another competition in June.
Yardman-Frank said Shields put him on a nutrition plan, requiring him to eat seven times a day. Training under Shields, according to Yardman-Frank, requires a certain level of dedication.
“You have to follow the plan, otherwise it’s hit or miss," Yardman-Frank said. "Take responsibility for your own plan…nutrition…dieting…training at the gym, it’s on you. He can show you the path, but he can’t make you do it.”
While Yardman-Frank was attending CNM, he said his training with Shields gave him approach that he can conquer anything, from competitions to schoolwork.
“It does set the tone for the remainder of the day…in regards to getting things motivated and moving," Yardman-Frank said. "The attitude in the gym of accomplishing a task, whatever the challenge is in front of us, we know we can knock it out. That attitude can carry over into academics for sure…whether it is homework, projects, or presentations, it does have a permeating effect. I feel like I have accomplished something pretty awesome.”
Valerie Johnson, a bikini, stage presentation, posing and nutrition coach for women training for competition, said she has been competing in the Bikini Division of bodybuilding since 2010.
She won 2011 Open Bikini, obtained an International Fitness & Physique Association Bikini Pro Card, is a two-time national qualifying NPC Bikini Competitor and became the 2012 Fitness New Mexico Bikini Champion, she said.
According to Johnson, she trained a handful of CNM students and is currently preparing CNM student Esther Padilla for an upcoming Organization of Competition Bodies Show on March 11 in Albuquerque. Johnson said a lot of her female clients actually look to develop their personal strength, not only their physical beauty.
"One of the biggest things they want is to come out of their shell and to develop their self-esteem and inner strength," Johnson said. "It’s one of the coolest parts of my job — to see them blossom and become more confident in themselves as their bodies change."
She said sometimes it can be an emotional roller coaster for the women who commit to developing their bodies, as a lot of people will openly criticize them.
"They see these women that are losing weight and feel the need to tell them, ‘You are looking too thin or you’re not eating enough,’ when indeed they are eating six meals a day and working out and being really healthy.”
Johnson added that unless people are training or involved in a physical fitness program themselves, many do not understand how the nutrition and physical training work together to achieve their fitness level through a healthy program.
According to Schrader, having school, a training schedule and meals planned in advance is key to reaching goals.
For those interested in this lifestyle, Schrader said to enjoy working out and getting into a healthy regimen first.
He said his workouts were consistent, which made it easier to transition into training.
"Learn to love the lifestyle of fitness before you worry too much about competing. It’s hard to find time, but as an undergraduate it was such a part of my daily routine that when I would switch into contest prep mode, it was always pretty seamless," Schrader said.
Sherri Barth is a volunteer sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She covers track and field and contributes content for basketball, football, rugby and other sports. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SherriJBarth23.