Mister Natural and friends
The world’s largest natural bodybuilding competition comes to Reno
The Natural Olympia International Multi Sports & Expo will be held at the Grand Sierra Resort on Nov. 12 through Nov. 14. We sat down for a roundtable conversation with three local athletes participating in the event: Vic Oueilhe, 51, a personal trainer at Sports West Athletic Club; Rick Farris, 43; and Cheyanne LaRue-Frank, 38, an aerobics instructor and personal trainer.
How did you get into bodybuilding?
LaRue-Frank: I’ve only been competing for a year. I started group fitness instructing about 16 years ago and loved watching the competitive bodybuilding on television, and over the last few years, they’ve really focused on the fitness part of it with the routines and such, and I thought, “Oh, I could do that.” I used to be a cheerleader, and I’ve been doing fitness for so long, and I kept thinking, “Could I really?” So last year, I thought, “You know what, I’m going to go for it.” So I flew to Las Vegas and competed there for the first time ever against 300 women. It was amazing, the most amazing experience.
How’d you do?
LaRue-Frank: You know what? I got top 10 in both the categories I entered in—one of them, I got seventh, which was really good since it was my first time out. I keep hearing that was really good, but of course I want to do better [laughs].
What about you, Vic?
Oueilhe: I started competing back in 1991. I’d always kind of thought about it. I’d been working out since I was 15, but they didn’t have natural bodybuilding shows before that. It just started happening back then in the early ’90s, so that’s when I started competing. I did my first show, which wasn’t a drug-tested show, and I ended up taking second to a guy who was using a lot of steroids. So the next show I did was actually with this organization, the INBA [International Natural Bodybuilding Association]. At the time it was called the ABA [Amateur Bodybuilding Association]. Back then, it was just one year drug-free, so it wasn’t natural, but it was closer to being natural.
What does “natural” mean?
Oueilhe: Natural means there’s no athletic performance-enhancing drugs allowed, and they drug test us. … Any kind of steroids, any kind of stimulant … no diuretics, prescription diuretics or anything like that, just natural things like dandelion, things like that are OK.
Rick, how’d you get into it?
Farris: Basically, in high school, I did wrestling, and it’s like, “I need to get heavier weights, and I need to bulk up, really bulk up.” And then two years ago …
Oueilhe: He competed for the first time about two years ago.
What prompted you to do it two years ago?
Farris: Fear. And mostly I did not like it.
LaRue-Frank: Conquering your fears?
Farris: Fears—I got to do that. Just like stand-up. … Stand-up comedy, I did that. That’s really hard.
Which is harder, stand-up comedy or bodybuilding?
Farris: They’re about the same! [Laughs.]
LaRue-Frank: Because you’re just about naked in one of them. [Laughs.]
Oueilhe: It’s like people always ask you, “How do you stay on your diet?” And you say, “Well, if you had to get up onstage in little more than a g-string, you’ll stay on your diet, too.”
Tell me about your diet.
Oueilhe: It’s pretty clean. It’s mostly lean protein and fibrous carbohydrates with a little bit of complex carbohydrates thrown in, and a couple of meal replacements. I use a meal replacement called Myo Lean. That’s pretty much my diet when I’m getting ready for show. I usually diet anywhere from four to six months before a show.
LaRue-Frank: One of the things I was going to mention … what started me on actually lifting weights is that I had a knee injury from preteen that wasn’t healing, so I had started, in high school, reading up on muscle strength, so I put myself on a program. I started lifting weights when I was probably—I think I was in 10th grade, and I kept going all the way through, and rehabbed my knee. I dislocated it seven times, had surgery, and rehabbed it myself through weight-training.
Rick, you mentioned earlier that one of the categories you’re competing in is “handicap.” What does that mean?
Farris: Basically, [my] right side originally was dead, neurologically. What happened was that I was a Navy diver, and over and over again, the decompression ruptured a vessel—just, out to lunch, basically. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t do anything. But my mind is there. It’s like just walking, and then jogging, and then so on.
So you had an injury to work through, and you just kept going after the recovery?
Walk me through a typical workout.
Oueilhe: It would depend on what we’re doing. Let’s just say we’re going to do legs that day. We’d come in, and probably start on the leg press machine, and start real light with two plates, which is two 45s on each side, and go all the way up, filling it up with 45s, and then put 100s on the outside at the end, and then, at the last set, sit him [gestures toward Farris] on top of it [laughs]. … So it ends up being about 1,400 pounds.
How many reps of that do you do?
Oueilhe: About 10 or 12. That would be the first part of the leg workout. Then we’d go to the exercises that are not quite as heavy, more kind of a giant set or drop set kind of thing. We do leg extensions. We do a heavy set, 12 reps, and then drop it down to about half of that, 12 more reps, and then drop that down to half of that weight, and then do 12 reps on each leg. That’s like a giant set for the quads.
That’s just one part of the regimen?
Oueilhe: That’s just two exercises of the leg workout. It just keeps going from there. We do these things called sissy squats. They’re named for Sisyphus, the guy that had to carry the ball up the mountain. You’re bent backwards, and your feet are forward. But really, the reason they’re called sissy squats is because they kind of make a sissy out of anyone who does them. They’re real intense. Then we’ll go over and work hamstrings. We’ll do stiff-legged deadlifts. … We use dumbbells for those, one in each hand. From there, we’ll go to ball squats against the wall. It’s a combination of a regular squat and a stiff-legged deadlift, for hamstrings and gluts. And then we’ll finish the workout—and we’ll add in different exercises depending on where we are in preparation—but we’ll usually finish the workout with calves. … We’ll go over to the Nautilus multipurpose machine. It has a belt that goes around your waist and it hooks onto the machine and you can use the whole stack, so we’ll use the whole stack and then one of us will stand on it [laughs]. And that’s a leg workout.
Is it addictive or does it require discipline?
Oueilhe: It’s definitely addictive, because you definitely get endorphins from it. I’ve run a lot, and I’ve never gotten a runner’s high, but when I train with weights, I get what they call a runner’s high.
LaRue-Frank: The discipline, I think, is more with food, at least for me. The food thing is a little bit harder. The exercise is so easy—I need it every day. I can’t live without it. It’s part of who I am. But the food thing is the hard part because you’re inundated with parties, other people, or getting together. There’s always something out there. For me, it’s mochas [laughs]. I drive by Starbucks every block, and it takes willpower not to pull in! That’s where the discipline comes in.
How do the competitions work?
Oueilhe: OK, you come in, in the morning, and you’ll check in. They check everybody in, and whatever class you’re doing they line up everybody in that class, and they make height classes, depending on how many people there are. … The testing is usually done after check-in. We have three forms of testing. Originally, when the federation first started, all they did was polygraph. Now, they do polygraph, and they do urine, and at this show, they’ll do urine testing and they’ll test everybody. They use the same testing as the boxing commission does here, Quest [Diagnostics]. But they’ll also—if they look at somebody and they think that there’s something funny about them, they’ll do what’s called WADA testing, World Anti-Doping Agency testing, the same test they do in the Olympics. I know that because I’ve been WADA tested.
What’s their criteria forwho gets WADA tested?
Oueilhe: The judges will look at you, and if they think you can’t be that big naturally, they’ll test you. I got tested one time down in California. … They picked out three of us among the men at that show, and out of the three of us, one guy flunked. He was the biggest guy there, and he was obviously on drugs. And if you go to that website, naturalbodybuilding.com, they have a page on there called the hall of shame. People who say they’re natural and then they nail, they put their picture on there. … And when you WADA test, they have the representatives from the World Anti-Doping Agency there, and they take you, and there’s no modesty at all. You’re wearing posing trunks anyway, so there’s no cheating.
LaRue-Frank: Yeah, they watch you pee!
Walk me more through the competition.
Oueilhe: What they have in the morning is prejudging, which is actually the competition. In the classes, what they do is they look at you. For bodybuilding, they have a symmetry round, and you come out and you’ll do quarter turns. You’ll come out and face the judges, and you’ll stand there. What they called “relaxed pose” is not relaxed at all. Your whole body is totally tense, and you’re standing there, and you’re holding it. And they’re down there, working on their papers, and you’re standing there for maybe two minutes holding that pose.
LaRue-Frank: Trying to breathe!
Oueilhe: Yeah, trying to breath. And then they turn you, and as they turn you, they’ll hold you in that pose. So by the time you get done posing, by the time you even get done doing the symmetry round, which is just being turned quarter turns all the way back around and forward, you’re tired. … Then they do comparisons, and they have mandatory poses, so they’ll ask for poses in the front, poses on the side, poses in the back, poses on the other side. … It’s way more tense than the night show. In the night show, everybody already knows—unless you won your class, and you’re going to be in the overall—in the night show, it’s pretty loose. It’s more about showing off and posing and showing what you can do. The day show is more intense. Basically, they just compare muscles.
LaRue-Frank: These guys come off the stage—the first show I did with the guys, I remember one of them walking off and just [exhales heavily with feigned exhaustion]. It was just like all the air out of a balloon. They’re just so on onstage, and the second they walk off it’s like they couldn’t hold it for one more second. I think the women’s is a little bit easier in that way, because we don’t have to flex like they do. We do the quarter turns, but we’re not to the degree of tension that these gentlemen are. … We have to be very feminine, show personality, do little things. They want to see who you are more onstage.
You said something about trying to breathe?
LaRue-Frank: You have to hold tight, but then also not take too shallow of breaths. You have to breathe normally. Plus, sometimes, you get that shaking, if you can control your breathing, you can control that shake. And you always wonder, “Are they seeing me shake? Are they seeing my butt shake?” … When I first started competing, I went to one of the judges and said, “What needs to change?” He said, “You’ve got to broaden your shoulders.” I had to work every single day on broadening that part of my body. It’s not something that happens really quickly. It’s not something that you could learn right away. It’s something that takes time and discipline and lots of energy.
So the sport is in the building, not the posing?
Oueilhe: Oh no. No, the posing, too. You could have the best physique up there, but if you can’t show it, you’re not going to win. I’ve seen guys walking around and thought, “That guy’s going to do really well,” and they get up there, and they’re shaking, and they don’t win. … We quit working out three days ago, and we just started posing every day. As we pose, and get closer to the show, the muscles will get more defined. The separation will come in more. Last night we posed, and I was dying. It’s harder than working out.
LaRue-Frank: I think the sorest I’ve ever been was after my first competition. That next day, I felt like I could barely move. It was the first time I’d ever done that, so I did not know what to expect, so the soreness was beyond anything, in the years that I’ve been training, that I’ve ever experienced
Is there a vanity aspect to it?
LaRue-Frank: For me, it motivates me. I’m a 38-year-old mother of two. I’ve birthed two children out of this body, and I am damn well going to show it off! [Laughs.]
Oueilhe: The thing about this, too, is that you take it with you everywhere. People notice. Like you can be in a T-shirt, and somebody will say, “Hey, do you work out? How much do you bench?” You take it with you everywhere. And I don’t bench, and I always have to explain that.
Why don’t you bench?
Oueilhe: It’s real hard on your shoulders. I gave up benching about 15 years ago. It’s the ego lift of the gym. Everybody asks, “How much do you bench?” So I quit benching 15 years ago.
LaRue-Frank: If you talk to anybody who works out, they’re motivated by the health aspect—you know, “I want to feel better”—or they’re motivated by the look aspect, which is, “I want to look better.” And usually those two things come into play. And as you begin to look better, you automatically start feeling better on the inside too, because you feel better about who you are, and that makes you feel stronger. It makes you mentally feel like you can handle a lot of things that maybe you thought you couldn’t, because physically you’re doing things you never thought you could. So it really translates in both directions.
Anything else about this competition?
Oueilhe: This competition right here—this is basically the world championships. There are 30 countries invited, and this is the largest natural show in the world. And it’s in Reno! I’ve done this show before, but I did it in New Zealand. I took third in it in New Zealand. And I want to do better than that this year.
Well, good luck, you’re representing the home town!
LaRue-Frank: Anybody can start somewhere and work their way up, and I think that’s the hardest thing, because they look at this and think, “Oh my gosh, I could never do that!” But you don’t get like that overnight. It takes time and dedication and practice. And trying to get that word out, that you can do it, you just have to work at it, is the hardest thing. Because they think we get up there and we look like that automatically.
You’re holding the poses. Is there also tanning?
LaRue-Frank: Oh yeah, and spray tan.
And you lube up your body. What do you use?
Like cooking PAM?
LaRue-Frank: And then layers of spray tan.
So it’s just like meat. You put it in cooking oil!
LaRue-Frank: [Laughs.] A nice healthy slab of low-fat beef.