David Dodd 1:48 a.m., May 18
I met Erik Mara and Shirley Moran at the gym.
I had wandered in on a Sunday evening after a sunset run at Torrey Pines Reserve. My plan was to do a few back exercises, use the foam roller, hit the steam room and go home.
While performing a few lackluster "lat pull-downs", I noticed two people who, judging from their physiques, may have been members of The Avengers Initiative. That is to say they looked like superheroes.
I don't often talk to folks at the gym, especially the uber-fit, but I found myself asking Erik why they were taking a video and what the story was.
I had pre-judged Erik based on his muscles and tattoos and was expecting him to answer me with something containing "yo" or "bro".
Instead, he answered me with an articulate, engaging voice that was sincere and earnest.
"Oh ya, I was a men's physique competitor," he said with a tenor-toned voice. "Now I do some men's judging. This is my girlfriend Shirley, she competes as well."
Erik and Shirley were making the video for their YouTube channel. Erik explained, "I've always got people at the hospital asking me about diet and our friends always want to know what we're doing so we decided to put up videos."
The hospital? Erik clarified that he is a respiratory therapist. Shirley is a product rep for supplement giant BSN and also trains competitors on the finer points of presenting themselves in a competition setting.
In fact, the next time I saw them, Shirley was working with a bikini client. Erik and I talked about the changing culture of fitness and bodybuilding competitions.
I learned that women’s bodybuilding competitions in which muscular size is an issue are pretty much gone. There are now three main categories for women. The categories are fitness, figure, and bikini.
The fitness category has an athletic routine as part of the competition . The figure and bikini categories are about symmetry and presentation with figure competitors being slightly more muscular.
The men are in two categories: bodybuilding and physique. Bodybuilding is the traditional competition while physique is only two years old.
Men’s physique is not about extreme size and zero body fat. If a competitor is deemed to be too lean then they will not be allowed to compete in the physique category.
After Shirley’s client was done, we sat down on fitness balls and talked about diet, mentality, and supplements for about an hour and a half.
We’ll get into that conversation in the next post.