Riding dirty in the grocery store with my mom in tow, picking out what myself, my sister and younger brother loved to eat, which were sweets of course. Anything from Doritos, Jamoca Almond Fudge Meadow Gold Ice Cream, Hawaiian Sun drinks, Hot Pockets and some snacks. I peered through the magazine ads, seeing which games I could beg our mom for. I was always into video games at such a young age and spent many hours and weekends in front of the TV trying to get to the next level or to beat an opponent. At some point in my High School days, I glanced over and noticed the Flex magazine sticking out beyond the others. I remember that Jay Cutler was on the cover of my very first bodybuilding magazine.
What I saw in my reflection during 2001, I was not very estatic about. I noticed that each school year, I weighed an extra 10lbs heavier since the 7th grade. Of course I loved to play basketball and bowling, but I wanted to change. Having a diet full of chips, (diet) soda, ice cream, plate lunches (I was born and raised in Hawai`i), and the massive portion sizes Hawai`i is known for, the only kids who had abs showing, were the genetically gifted ones or those who busted their butts in their respective sports (Judo, Wrestling, Soccer, Baseball, etc). I prefer to keep my back story short here, as I will be working on a video documentary about how and why I started to compete in bodybuilding shows.
Over time, I kept reading the Flex, Muscular Development, Muscle & Fitness magazines, buying textbooks, going to the library to read on amino acids, vitamins and minerals all on my own time. I researched various ways to train and diet. I had such a passion to live a healthier lifestyle and knew who were the top bodybuilders during that time. It literally took me ten years to step foot on a bodybuilding stage, after picking up my very first magazine. I’m not saying that it should take anyone ten years, but I definitely respected the sport as a fan long before wanting to compete.
I got into bodybuilding for general health and well-being. When I did my very first competition, I didn’t know what to expect. I felt like a "deer in the headlights.” I trusted my coach at the time, Troy Johnson, with my nutrition. I trained on my own and he checked in on me every so often to make necessary changes. I believe I dieted a long time, being my first time and I still ended up having to try to play a little catch up because I did a typical dirty bulk, which many do.
As I did more and more shows over the years, one thing that I realized, and that I ask the people I work with, is WHY DO YOU WANT TO COMPETE? I’ve seen many people step on a bodybuilding stage because their friends have done one. You remember the old saying “monkey see, monkey do?” To me, personally, there should be very good reasons why you’re planning on dieting down to low levels of body fat, having to make sacrifices that you may not be used to, basically having another job to maintain by going to the gym, doing your cardio, meal prepping and sleeping when you can. On top of these reasons, competing will become an expensive hobby.
Remember, no one has a gun to your head, telling you to compete. This is YOUR choice to do this. Before I take anyone on, I always ask them that question, which I have gone over in my Nuts and Bolts Seminar last year.
First Reason: NUMERO UNO
Compete for you, no one else. This is in no way to be selfish, but this has to be something you’re passionate about otherwise having to do cardio 7 days a week and dieting will seem like a chore and eventually, you’ll burn yourself out real quickly. If you compete to dedicate it to a loved one, then that's fine and all. I can respect that. But if you do it to impress someone else, or to try to get someone to like you, you’ll find that when you step on stage, you probably won’t be in prime condition or your performance in the gym will falter, because you're doing it for the wrong reason.
If you want to compete a 2nd time, make sure you’re realistic with yourself. What’s the point of competing if you really haven’t had a productive “off-season” to improve? Are you becoming a trophy hunter? Don’t be that person, who enters show after show, when it’s obvious that your physique hasn’t changed from year to year. Be realistic with yourself. Only you and your coach will know whether or not you've made the necessary improvements to step on stage again.
Second Reason: STILL YOU
The second reason you should compete is still about you. At the end of the day, whether you place or not, it should still be about being in the best shape of your life. Sure there will be learning curves from show to show; I went through them at every competition myself. What you should expect, is to learn something valuable to take with you to your next competition. What it shouldn’t be about is feeling the need to be entitled to something just because you competed.
If you win a trophy, congratulations! That is a great accomplishment and should be honored because it’s something that you earned through your hard work. But that in no way, should make you feel entitled to sponsorships. If you believe that winning a trophy gets you sponsored, you are far, far away from receiving a sponsorship from any company.
I could definitely make a Guide to Becoming a Sponsored Athlete, but that will take some time and it’s up to you on whether to take my advice or not. Everything is earned, nothing is given.
If you want to earn some extra income, then invest your time wisely. After your competition, remain in shape and do as many photoshoots and/or modeling gigs as possible. There are some agencies that pay very well for fitness models. But most competitors that I know will binge eat for a week or two and lose their definition and start at square one. Again, if you want to make this your living, then you have to be willing to put in the extra effort, well past your typical working hours. Also, binge eating is extremely unhealthy, so just don’t.
Third Reason: HOW’S YOUR WALLET?
My mom will vouch for me on this one. When I was dorming at UNLV, I used to spend most of my paychecks on supplements. I mean, it was hard to save up when I worked part-time on $9, especially since I had no car my first year. The very first Olympia Expo I went to, I went HAM. I walked out of there with several huge bags and walking there was a big mistake. I had to take a taxi back because I didn’t feel like walking almost 4 miles with 60lbs of supplements on my arms.
As a competitor, the one main thing you have to ask yourself is if you’re financially stable to compete. What would this entail? Your gym membership, grocery bills, supplement bills, on top of your necessities (phone, rent, car, etc.). Are you able to afford all of these things while prepping for a competition? Really, really be honest with yourself. Make sure you can take care of what really matters first, then if you’re able to afford the rest, go and pick a competition.
Nothing irritates me more than seeing someone beg for money to compete when they're posting all over social media, the foolish things that won't aid in competing or the gym. I see things like people "popping bottles" buying alcohol, getting tattoos, buying a new car, eating out, taking trips, etc. before investing in themselves to compete. I used to live off of protein powder, rice and tilapia, all while using my microwave in the dorm! Remember, this is YOUR CHOICE to compete.
Fourth Reason: HELPING OTHERS
Nothing is more satisfying than to help out others. It brought tears to my eyes, when I’ve had friends tell me that I’ve helped changed their lives around, either by helping them in the gym or through what I post online. One close friend told me at his wedding, that he was grateful I was able to make an impact on his life. I’ve even had strangers and people, whom I haven’t heard from in over 13 years, tell me the same thing.
To me, in my honest opinion, hearing testimonies like that have greater value than any trophy ever will! Inspiring and motivating people has became one of my greatest passions. Even when I’m struggling with my own demons or daily struggles, I still have people tell me how they’re doing and the positive impact I have made on their lives and THAT helps motivate me to pursue my passions and to get through my own struggles.
I realized and saw that many people compete or go to the gym for vanity reasons, and that’s on them. For me, it’s all about inspiring and motivating others. I could careless if I earn a trophy, because I know that I’m realistic with myself and I know what I need to improve on before I step on stage. I take the time to research and put in the work to get there. It also helps that I am able to use my Nubreed Nutrition products in the most efficient ways possible.
Fifth Reason: ENJOY THE RIDE
“Enjoy the Ride,” was a slogan that a Hawaiian Bike Shop used, and essentially during the process of competing, you should do just that. Enjoy the process of transforming your life into something remarkable. No one in my entire family ever thought I’d become a bodybuilder. I’ve always been that husky kid all my life. It’s such a blessing to be able to have the knowledge of being able to transform my life and body in a way never thought possible.
For the 4 months that you’ll be dieting and the 8 other months to improve and maintain a healthy life, enjoy the ride. Enjoy every aspect of it. Otherwise, just do it to maintain your health at bare minimum. At the end of the day, just have fun doing it. Not everyone has the opportunities to go to the gym twice a day, prepare healthy meals and have a gym membership all to be able to stand on stage showing off your body. This is your choice to compete, remember?
So before you decide to compete, make sure that you compete for yourself, don’t expect money/sponsorships to be thrown at you, that you are financially stable, inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle and most of all, have fun!
Jasen "Nubreed Freak" Ono
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