The Arnold Sports Festival - Columbus

6.) The Arnold Sports Festival – Columbus – March 5, 2011

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I know there are some of you who read about my festival adventures and think, “After all the food this guy eats at these festivals, how is he staying fit? Why isn’t he bustin’ at the buckle?”

And to that question, I answer, “Exercise. A lot of exercise.”

With three weight days and 2-4 cardio days, I try to get in as much exercise as I can. Currently, I’m even training for a 10k in May and I’m excited about that.

Exercise is fun, exciting, and it makes me feel good.

But even after being fairly involved with my workouts for a number of years, I haven’t delved too deeply into the fitness world and everything it has to offer…until I went to the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio…

…where it offered a lot.

Starting in 1989 as The Arnold Classic, the one-day men’s bodybuilding competition evolved into an unbelievable multi-sport festival weekend with 18,000 athletic participants, over 170,000 festival goers and 700 vendor booths.

Events take place over several buildings and there are free shuttles that can transport you to the various locations.

But even after being at the festival for 6.5 hours, I never left the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

There was just too much to see…

…the balance beam…

…gymnastics…

…small kids beating each other up…

…and even some impressive board breaking.

But in the main Expo room…

…I was mesmerized by what occurred on the main stage…

…winners were being selected in the Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Finals.

I stood in awe as women from all over the world came out in bikinis, muscle-accentuating dark tans, and clear high-heeled shoes. They flexed and posed and stiffened their bodies as muscles popped out of other muscles.
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They were a site to behold.

Later on, the men came out and it was impossible to get close enough to the stage for a decent shot…
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…so I took advantage of the big screens with many others in the audience…

…and here I realized that my exercising was limited.

Very limited.

I, like many other attendants, was nowhere near the musclebound level of these athletes. We were the average ones who aspired to be like them to some degree, even if it only meant shaving off some belly fat.

And that’s where the Expo came into play.

The Expo had various items and products you would expect at this type of event…

…exercise equipment and gadgetry…

…protein bar products…

…even western wear.

And they even carried things a little more unexpected…

…like girls being spray-painted on…

…a match-making service for athletes…

…and energy awareness through bike riding.

The Expo was, in a way, the main attraction to the event. Of course, the Arnold Sports Festival had plenty of great competitions and events throughout the weekend. There was even a film festival this year. But when you have over 170,000 attendants squeezing through tight aisles filled with 700 booths, they need to do something a little extra.

They have to lure you.

And they lured you in one of four ways:

1.) Interaction: aka “The Showoff”
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A few booths had athletic “tests” you could participate in, sometimes for prizes (ie water bottle). This was perfect if you had your girlfriend/boyfriend with you or you just wanted to show off to the crowd.

Tests included absurd things…

…like the 200+ dumbbell…

…to your basic pull-up bars.

I contemplated them, but my beloved wasn’t with me, so I just watched. In a way, this was a great entertaining aspect about the festival.
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2.) Free Stuff
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Before going to the event, my trainer gave me some information so that I could talk to her company’s vendor and get a special VIP pass…

…as seen here.

Not only did it give me…

…free food to eat (as opposed to the $8 cheeseburgers sold in the Convention Center)…

…but a bag filled of fitness-loving goodies.

As the day progressed, I realized that the super long lines moving through the Expo were people waiting to get free stuff.

Booths gave away energy drinks, powders, shirts, merchandise, etc. – sometimes in huge bags…

…like this one.

This tactic, although loved by yours truly, was a huge slow-down on covering the event. It was also a big reason that I was here for 6.5 hours.

It’s just hard to give up on free stuff, but I eventually did after waiting in a few lines (see the end).

3.) The Role Model
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There were plenty of celebrities at the Arnold Sports Festival (Arnold, himself, showed up on Friday).

Some celebrities…

…like Tosca Reno…

…had her own product to sell.

But most booths used celebrities to promote company merchandise. If you were familiar with famous athletes, you were in seventh heaven as familiar faces went by in every direction.

Even I, who isn’t all that familiar with anyone…

…recognized Lou Ferrigno from The Incredible Hulk

…and this bodybuilding star, although his name escapes me.

And what made this festival so cool was that it was so easy to get your picture with anyone. You could just walk up to someone…

…and get a shot with him…

…or her.

It was completely free access…
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…so I even did it myself.

4.) The Bait

When you have over a hundred booths with the same product…



…like energy/protein drinks, for example……it can be hard to distinguish the products from booth to booth.

More importantly, with all the celebrities and free stuff going on, it may be hard to pull someone to your booth at all.

That’s why they hired women.

Young, athletic, sexy women.

Women you could pose with…

…and let you realize your potential if you just took their product.

The Arnold Sports Festival was that subtle reminder of why many us get involved with fitness at all…to attract those who we are attracted to.

And although I’m engaged to be married, I can’t help but think that all the free stuff I got at the festival…

…will help me get her to like me even more.

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