Getting fit might just be a healthy hobby for some, but others see it as a way to take home the gold.
Stephan Mondesir, a junior business marketing major studying at Valencia this semester, will be competing in his first men's physique competition, the Southeastern USA Body Building NPC National Qualifier, this coming Saturday at 10 a.m. at The Venue behind the CFE Arena. Pre-judging will begin at 10 a.m., when the contestants will be scored by the judges. The public is welcomed to the evening show at 6 p.m., when contestants will showcase themselves before the announcement of awards. There is a $26.50 entrance fee.
Different from bodybuilding, men's physique competitions focus more on a balance of muscle throughout the body, rather than the large muscles that are a staple in bodybuilding competitions.
"It's about how good you look, not how much you can lift," Mondesir said of the competitions.
Although Mondesir is new to these competitions, he isn't new to fitness and has been lifting weights since 2006, when he was 17 years old. However, he wanted to take it to the next level.
Getting — and staying — in competition shape is its own unique challenge, Mondesir said.
"My experience is [that it takes] a lot of discipline," he said. "Every little thing you do counts. Weighing your food, eating on time [and] time management."
To stay in shape, Mondesir said he cooks for himself a lot and has to eat every two to three hours.
Mondesir also has to lift five to six times per week for an hour and a half to two hours. During each workout, he focuses on two body parts, such as chest and arms or back and shoulders. He also does three abdominal exercises and exercises for his calves.
Cardio lasts for about 30 minutes, thanks to his lean size, and that's six days a week.
But for him, lifting is the easiest part.
"It's 80 percent diet and 20 percent working out," he said.
To reach his goals of participating in these competitions, Mondesir reached out to Ty Pope, owner and trainer at Total U Fitness, about two months ago through his wife, Jo Pope.
Mondesir originally met Jo Pope through a men's physique seminar and after talking to her, she directed him to Ty.
From then on, Mondesir got on a contest preparation routine.
"It's been pretty simple because he's very driven," Pope said of the process to get Mondesir contest-ready. "He listens. I've been at this for 18 years, [and he's] much easier than other clients."
While these competitions may be about fitness, they also represent opportunity to Mondesir, and he hopes to take that opportunity as far as he can.
"It can open doors if you're into fitness, which I am, [such as] clothing, clients [and] sponsorships," he said. "I'm the type of person [that thinks] 'What if?' You never know what's going to come out of it."
Pope sees potential for those doors to open, if Mondesir keeps his head in the game.
"He has the foundation, and that's most important part," Pope said. "He stuck with it and continues to grow. He could go into the professional ring."
For the competition coming up at The Venue, judges are holding beginners, such as Mondesir, to the same standard they hold professionals.
"[We look for the] same thing we look for in anyone else: athletic build, good conditioning, body's in shape but not too muscular," said event promoter Chris Eaddy.
While this event may only take one day, Mondesir has had to make some sacrifices since he started really training.
"It's all about balance," Mondesir said. "Time management has been tricky. Work, school, train — that's pretty much my life."