BODYBUILDING: A LIFESTYLE SPORT
Bodybuilding is a performance sport that sees competitors use progressive resistance training to increase and develop their muscles to a point that they are aesthetically sizable and to show off the work that was put into the training.
The resistance training involves different tools and methods, from classic weightlifting techniques and exercises (squats, bench press, deadlifts), to a strict diet regiment to achieve the bodies that appear on stage. There are professional bodybuilders that make money and a living through competition, but it is common for many bodybuilders to be amateurs for the course of their career.
The first bodybuilder was Friedrich Müller, who is known as Eugene Sandow (born in 1867), and he became a prominent figure in the development of bodybuilding leading into the 1900’s.
The most known bodybuilding organization is the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB), and it was started in 1946 by Canadian Ben Weilder. His brother, Joe Weilder, founded the Mr. Olympia contest, which was rivaled by another contest, Mr. Universe. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the Mr. Olympia seven times.
Since that time, the popularity of bodybuilding has flipped and turned due to the social stigma associated with the sport, the drug use that has plagued the professional shows throughout the world, the deaths of athletes at young ages, and the marketing of the sport in the fitness industry.
Tobias Schuler is a fitness professional that has walked away from the title of personal trainer, preferring to be referred to as a coach, and he is a professional bodybuilder through the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF).
Schuler has been natural bodybuilding for five years, and he has grown from a man that pursued exercise our of insecurity, to one that thrives in the challenge, determination, and pursuit that comes from bodybuilding.
Schuler was born in a small town outside Zurich, Switzerland in 1992, and his family moved to Canada when he was four years old to pursue their own farming. In Switzerland, farming is dependent on the needs of the country and the people, and a farmer doesn’t get to choose what they want to harvest. Schuler’s father wanted to pursue his own farming.
Exercise became a task for Schuler due to insecurities he felt about himself while in high school; however, he found himself enjoying exercise, with Schuler saying in an interview, “I had a split love for it, where it was half insecurity, half love for it, so I was still insecure about my body, but loved working out. And then it transitioned into loving it so much to make it my job.” Schuler pursued personal training in 2010 through the Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association (AFLCA).
Tobias Schuler works out inside Kings Fitness in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Schuler is a professional bodybuilder, and he competes in a federations called the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF). The athletes are all natural, and they are tested for drug-use, and they receive polygraph testing. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/SAIT)
While initially against the idea of bodybuilding, Schuler started bodybuilding in 2016 as a business decision. A friend of his suggested bodybuilding since the imagery from the stage could help draw clients in.
Schuler competed in 2017, and he worked with a coach that specialized in professional bodybuilding, which sees many athletes use illegal substances to enhance their muscles. Schuler finished third at his first show, and as a natural bodybuilder. Schuler had a challenging time with the training since his coach wasn’t suited for him, but for bodybuilders that aren’t natural; however, the experience of being on stage and engaging with the competitors are why he kept going.
“I love the energy, the community, and being backstage with all these guys who all went through the same kind of struggles of prep. Being backstage is a really cool experience,” said Schuler.
Schuler never played any team sports, and the experience he has had is akin to them, saying, “When I got off stage, we were all high-fiving each other and everyone did so good. We’re all very, very team oriented – camaraderie based, even though it was everyone against each other.” The passion for bodybuilding also comes from a drive for self-improvement.
Jacquelyn Czaja, born May 27, 1990, is a fitness professional and entrepreneur, and she is a natural bikini competitor in the realm of bodybuilding, and has been for five years. Czaja competed in her first show on her birthday in 2017, and it was during that time that she started dating Tobias Schuler, and the two have been together ever since. The two plan to be wed in 2022.
Czaja wanted to try bodybuilding when she was in her early twenties, and she shared her goal with a gym enthusiast after being asked about her work out regime; however, the response wasn’t what she was expecting. “He looked at me, and he said, ‘You don’t have the body to do bikini competition,’ and that stuck with me, and 10 years later it still has, because I remember it, I can hear it,” said Czaja in an interview.
This event sparked a closer connection with that goal, and when she got a job at Lululemon later that year, she shared her dream to compete with all the employees at the location by having a polaroid taken with the goal written underneath; however, it wasn’t until she had been working with Schuler at a local gym in 2016 where he became interested in competing in a show, and Czaja decided to join him.
(In order) Jacquelyn Czaja poses for a photo after a show.
Tobias Schuler, right, and Jacquelyn Czaja pose for a photo after a show.
Jacquelyn Czaja, left, poses with Tobias Schuler after Schuler wins his pro-card.
Czaja and Schuler have known each other for seven years, and have been together since 2017, which was also the same year they started competing as bodybuilders. (Photos by Ron Sombilon. Supplied by Tobias Schuler and Jacquelyn Czaja).
Czaja competed for a federation called the International Natural Bodybuilding Federation (INBF), which is called IBF Canada now, and is an affiliate of the WNBF. The WNBF requires a polygraph test of all their athletes to ensure that it remains a natural competition, with the term natural meaning that an athlete doesn’t use anything synthetic to improve their performance. Other bodybuilding shows don’t require a polygraph before a show.
When describing the feeling of being on stage the first time, Czaja said, “I was so nervous to step on stage, like when I say that this was out of my comfort zone, stepping on stage in a bikini with four layers of spray tan with my hair and makeup done in five-inch heels, to do that was like so out of my comfort zone. And I loved it, it was so much fun. And getting to showcase your hard work was so cool. And I’ve never done anything like it in my life.”
Schuler and Czaja both emphasize mental health over the other two parts to what they describe as the pillar of fitness.
The first would be exercise and a physical presence, which Schuler sees as the least important, saying, “There’s nothing too magical about [workout programs]. If anything, people usually prescribe too much, and it’s actually a big process of re-learning that you need way less than you need.”
Schuler continued and described the next pillar they focus on, which is nutrition.
“Nutrition is really the main driver of progress, whether it be fat loss or gain. It’s also the more challenging one because it’s easy to get up and go for a workout, but for the other 23 hours a day, food is available.”
And finally, the third pillar is helping people with their mental health. The two focus on helping people realign their goals away from the short fix, which has been sparked from insecurity, or a longing for a time now lost. “Mental health is so interconnected to someone’s body and with body image, which is, essentially, what drives our industry,” said Schuler.
Czaja has a psychology degree from the University of Victoria, and she and Schuler place emphasis on a client’s mental health when coaching them, though she has a disclaimer for all her clients, saying, “I’m not a psychologist, this is not therapy. I encourage all my clients, in a very nice way, to find forms of therapy that feels good for them, whether that’s speaking to a psychologist or whether that’s listening to music or talking to somebody.”
“What I’ve been doing is trying to teach women to exercise more kindness and love and patience towards themselves now and focus on either being where they’re at and dealing with what they need to do or starting to move forward rather than constantly looking back,” said Czaja.
The experience the two have helps them explain that the lifestyle that goes with their body image goals are largely unsustainable as the prep required of a bodybuilder is rigorous.
A bodybuilder has to start their prep six months before the show, and they can’t be dieting or restricting themselves in any way, because the process has the potential to lead competitors to body dysmorphia and other restrictive mindsets, but also because a bodybuilder has to build muscle, which requires a sizable amount of calories. “You can’t start a prep at 2000 calories, because you have to have to cut your calories,” said Czaja.
A unit for measuring a quantity of heat; the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a gram of water by one degree Celsius
-Oxford Dictionary definition of a calorie.
Prep can include:
Peak week is when a bodybuilder is a week away from the show, and their nutrition, water intake, salt intake, and amount of sleep they have comes down to a specific formula for success, which is based on their prep.
Bodybuilding has had a negative affect on people that have competed, particularly being a part of the deaths of many professional bodybuilders. Rich Piana, John Meadows, and most recently, Shawn Rhoden, all died between the ages of 45-56. Heart complications and drug use are said to have contributed to their deaths.
The heart must work a lot harder to pump blood to an additional hundred pounds of muscle, which is why heart attacks are common for professional bodybuilders. “Your heart, which is rated for, let’s say, a natural physique of 200 lbs., and these guys are 300 lbs., so, the heart is working harder to supply blood to unnatural muscle. So, it’s going to wear out faster,” said Schuler, with him adding, “They’re dying at 50 or 60 years old from heart attacks, and that’s unnatural.”
Schuler notes an element of deception with personal trainers that compete, but also acknowledgES that there are trainers, like Czaja, that will be open and transparent on what a bodybuilder has to go through, saying, “A lot of women will message her and say, ‘I want to look like you,’ and she’s ‘No, you don’t.’ Then it’s like a reality check. But there are a lot of people that are the exact opposite, and they’re almost deceptive in nature, because they take their show lean pictures, post them all over Instagram with the caption, ‘Do you want to get shredded like me?’”
“That’s a huge problem. That’s probably the number one problem with the industry is deception like that,” said Schuler.
Leo King operates his own gym, King’s Fitness, and he is also a natural bodybuilder. King got involved with the WNBF because of the values that the organization has and got involved with helping them to the point of taking over the Canadian affiliate, WNBF Canada. He notes the many problems that bodybuilding has faced, but he keeps it simple with his mindset, while also acknowledging the importance of relating the risks to people, and ensuring people in a vulnerable seek help. “I always try and put my family, business and other opportunities first. Bodybuilding is just a hobby, and it’s fun. I do like to push myself and do be my best, but as long as it’s not taking away from everything else that’s going on in my life,” said King.
I don't think it's ever going to be the case where like, oh, Natural Bodybuilding will overtake the unnatural and make it disappear kind of thing. Like, I think there'll always be the two sides. Because at the end of the day, people think that it's the same thing, but it's actually like, they're almost two different sports. – Tobias Schuler
King describes the WNBF as a force for bodybuilders, and one that can help build community around an athlete. “We’re a niche of a niche industry, and you do really have to love like the sport and the passion and just pushing yourself to your limits to actually get on stage and compete, because it’s quite a big endeavor, both mentally and physically.” “We try and be as transparent as possible. This is an extreme sport, and it is physically and mentally more so taxing, so we try and put things in place to help out the athletes, whether it’s education, or whether it’s workshops, or just being available to talk to athletes, and to be able to help them along their way in their journey,” said King.
Tobias Schuler and Leo King enjoy a workout inside King’s Fitness in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. King and the WNBF were a large part for why Schuler and Jacquelyn Czaja continue to bodybuild. The community and support he and the organization provides set them apart from other experiences they have had in their lives. (Photos by Alejandro Melgar/SAIT).
Czaja and Schuler both saw inspiration from King, and he and the WNBF community they have been a part of are a large reason they continue to bodybuild to this day.
“We try and be as transparent as possible. This is an extreme sport, and it is physically and mentally more so taxing, so we try and put things in place to help out the athletes, whether it’s education, or whether it’s workshops, or just being available to talk to athletes, and to be able to help them along their way in their journey,” said King.
Czaja is transparent with her social media whenever potential clients reach out to her, and she wants to educate everyone about the affects of bodybuilding, to ensure that people understand the risks, and to seek an approach that is less adverse than the more traditional bodybuilding route. She also wishes to spread the word on the WNBF.
“I want it to be seen that the community is incredible. That’s what keeps attracting people in, and I think that’s why we keep getting these amazing athletes that come in, because we put out a certain vibe with how amazing the community is,” said Czaja.
Schuler wants to add his voice to those considering bodybuilding, saying, “If I can be a force in the natural community, spreading good information and trying to put it out there that you know the risks, and I can help someone make a healthier choice or avoid a heart attack at a younger age, then I’ll do my part in spreading that information.”
Layer Slider photos: Tobias Schuler and Leo King enjoy a workout inside King’s Fitness in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. King and the WNBF were a large part for why Schuler and Jacquelyn Czaja continue to bodybuild. The community and support he and the organization provides set them apart from other experiences they have had in their lives. (Photos by Alejandro Melgar/SAIT).
Jaquelyn Czaja poses on stage for a bikini competition in Vancouver. (Photo by Ron Sombilon. Supplied by Jacquelyn Czaja).
Feature Photo: Tobias Schuler relaxes after a set inside King’s Fitness in Calgary on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. Schuler is a natural bodybuilder, and he was fresh from a professional bodybuilding show in Vegas. (Photo by Alejandro Melgar/The Press)