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Natural bodybuilding requires supreme dedication

7/3/2024

Kali Spaulding placed second at the 30th annual NANBF competition that was held on May 4.

Those who consider themselves gym rats might want to rethink that self-imposed title. Bodybuilding is not for the faint of heart. The time and dedication to strict diets and workout schedules have broken many wills, but not Kali Spaulding’s. 

“I’ve had friends that competed for a while, and I said I was going to compete but never pulled the trigger. Then I found this show, and I found a coach,” Spaulding said. 

The show was the 30th anniversary North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation event. The coach was Ryan Irwin from Natural Iowa Muscle. He helped Spaulding train and prepare for the NANBF competition that was held on May 4. Spaulding was in two classes, Bikini and Wellness, at the event, where she placed second. 

“I didn’t go into it expecting places, just for the experience to say, hey, I did it. I held myself accountable. I had the mental discipline it took to do this,” Spaulding said.

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To get into shape for the competition, Spaulding had to commit to a strict diet and exercise plan. 

“It was four months of strict dieting. So there’s no added sugars. I was eating around 1,400 or so calories a day. I had to weigh and track everything. I would have low-carb days and high-carb days,” Spaulding said. “My lowest carb day was usually eight grams of carbs, which is low. I was dragging on those days. I would work out for five days a week with two days off. It just varied depending on my work schedule.”

The poses that the athletes are required to hit are important. Spaulding says she learned some of the poses on YouTube, but Irwin and an opposing coach, Carrie, helped her grasp that side of the competition. She says this aspect was the most difficult part of this experience. 

“You eat your meals, you work out, go to work and you come home and be super exhausted and then you’ve got to spend 30 minutes a day just posing. And it’s a lot. You would think, you just go up there and pose. No, everything has to flow. You have to have a whole transition,” Spaulding said.

For her diet, since Spaulding was tracking and sticking to a set eating schedule, it was like taking care of a baby according to her. She would have her meals planned three days in advance. Followers of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may have seen his legendary “cheat meals,” but that was not the case for Spaulding. 

“There are some coaches that are different, but Ryan is a very modest coach, which is great. He kind of sets you up for success that way. You’re allowed to do anything you want as long as it fits into your macros for the day,” Spaulding said. “I guess my treat was rice cakes. Rice cakes got me through prep.” 

After the competition, Spaulding had Crumble Cookies for the first time. And, the next morning, she treated herself to a stack of pancakes.  

The mental aspect is just as important as the physical side when it comes to natural bodybuilding. By pursuing high standards in order to reach the best results possible, competitors learn a lot about themselves during the process.

“You definitely learn how to be very disciplined. I thought I was a disciplined person before that. I wasn’t necessarily as strict as I was before. And I’ve always tried to just kind of monitor what I eat. You learn so much mental discipline, and you learn how to push yourself. Because there were days where I was like ‘Ryan, if you cut my carbs anymore, I’m done. I’m pulling out of this competition,’ ” Spaulding said.

As for her favorite part of the four-month-long journey?

“I think the whole process. There are parts of it where you’re just like, oh my gosh, I’m so ready to quit. But, honestly, the whole process and what it teaches you about yourself, discipline and confidence, I think that’s the best part about it. I think anyone that can go up on stage, in front of a crowd, basically naked, because you’re in a bikini, in front of all these strangers, you just have to have a lot of fun with it. If you can do that, then I feel like you can do anything,” Spaulding said. 

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Summer Stir - July 2024