My First Bodybuilding Competition

JP on-stage at in Classic Physique Division at 2019 Stingrey Classic

When I was a kid I use to dream about having muscles like the guys you see in the fitness magazines. My brother and I would get dropped off at the gym and do the workout I found for us to do in the magazines. I remember thinking how funny it was to race to the parking lot after smashing our legs in the gym.


Fast forward a few years and working out is all about performance and function. Every workout was about how is this going to make me a better athlete? I want to sprint faster, be bigger, jump higher, be more agile. This served me well and allowed me to play sports at a high level.


For me, CrossFit was my strength and conditioning for rugby. There was a time in my late 20s where I was in the best rugby shape I had ever been in. That was when I was playing Rugby 7s and doing CrossFit at least 3-4 times a week.

Olympic Weightlifting

Then came weightlifting. Through CrossFit I was introduced to Coach Mike Burgener, who was just inducted in the USA weightlifting hall of fame this year. I learned everything I know about weightlifting from him. I fell in love with the sport and the challenge of lifting as much weight as possible. This made my legs and body strong and I believe extended the life of me being able to play sports competitively .

College Football

Which then took me back to playing football. With my new legs I had speed and explosiveness that I felt like I had been missing. So at 32 years old I decided to go to school and play football. Long story short I played one year of Junior College ball and two years at the University of San Diego.

Back to CrossFit and Weightlifting

Since that time I had continued to do weightlifting and CrossFit. I even started to get a little more serious about competing in CrossFit now that it had become a sport. I followed competition type programming and got into decent CrossFit shape.


In 2018 I had some slight setbacks with smaller injuries here and there and lots of tendonitis. As I would learn later, I believe much of this had to do with under eating and improper rest. I decided to reel it back and just focus on feeling good and moving.

Bodybuilding Keeps Coming Up In Conversation

Over the years I have had my wife’s uncle who is a bodybuilder that said, I should give it a try. I kept telling him my muscles aren’t here for just “show and no go.” Then I started working at a new real estate development here on Kauai. I work with a guy, Chad, who was a competitive bodybuilder back in the day and has also helped coach bodybuilders here on island. He would show me pictures of his son-in-law and his progress as a bodybuilder.

Then there was one picture I remember him showing me. His son-in-law is all ripped to shreds and looks awesome!!! Plus, he only weighs somewhere in the 150s in the picture. I think to myself. That seems possible… and I can still remain functional. My wheels start turning.

Enter Bodybuilding

In December of 2018 I talk to Chad and inquire a little more about the sport. I’m thinking maybe it’s time to give this a try and give myself a little change. Plus, who doesn’t want to have nice muscles and be shredded?

You can tell that he isn’t super interested in talking about coaching me unless I commit. I can tell we are going to hit it off right away. As a coach, I know what it’s like for people to talk to you about goals and things they want to do, but then fall off as soon as they are confronted with a challenge of completing them.

I knew if I told him I wanted to do this that I would need to commit. So I did. I committed and told him I would train and eat whatever he told me. I signed up for my first bodybuilding competition that would take place on April 19th, 2019.

Workouts and Diet

On January 1, 2019 I weighed 186 pounds. I started eating the diet Chad gave me and adding in bodybuilding movements to my workouts. I did 6 days of small bodybuilding workouts with one or two CrossFit workouts and two to three 20-30 minute conditioning workouts.

Little by little the fat started coming off. I prepped my meals, weighed myself everyday and logged everything I ate and drank. It really wasn’t that hard once I had my system down. I even had a beer here and there. Or even a whiskey or tequila. Shh… don’t tell coach!

My abs started to come in and the veins on my body started to pop out. By the time April 19th rolled around I was at around 4-5% body fat and ripped. Everybody I knew, had something to say about my physique. I loved it!

JP's body transformation from January 1st to April 12th.

Surprise Benefits of Bodybuilding

The thing that surprised me the most was that I felt great. My body wasn’t sore and all the aches and pains I had started to go away. The tendonitis in my elbow and in the back of my knee vanished. I felt strong and light. I want to attribute this to my nutrition and the slow and controlled movements I was doing with bodybuilding that I wasn’t doing at prior.

My nutrition prior to me starting this prep was terrible. I was ender-eating and not getting in enough protein. I believe that was definitely a contributor to the tendonitis and small injuries that I had.

2019 CrossFit Open

Then the 2019 CrossFit Open comes around. With me being 15-20 pounds lighter all the gymnastic movements became much easier. This year was one of my best performances in the open. If it hadn’t been for the first workout I would have smashed any open I had done the previous years. Who would have thought that focusing on bodybuilding and losing weight would create such a drastic improvement in my CrossFit? I thought for sure my fitness and functionality would deteriorate. I was wrong.

If you would have told me that I had 27 pounds to lose in January, I would have told you, you were crazy! I knew I wasn’t ripped but I also didn’t’ think I was carrying 27 extra pounds!

Stingrey Classic Is My First Competition

On April 19, 2019 I compete in my first bodybuilding competition, The 2019 Stingrey Classic, and enter two divisions. The Novice Classic Physique Division and the Novice Bodybuilding division.

The difference between these divisions is the trunks that are worn and each division has the criteria that the are looking for. Basically, Classic Physique has been brought on as a new division, within the last three years, because a lot of people have been turned off by how big some of the bodybuilders have gotten over the years. The Classic Physique division is a throw back to old school bodybuilders and those “classic” physiques that they rocked.

There is a lot of appeal for the Classic Physique division right now and something that I’m drawn to because it reminds me of the guys I use to look at in the magazines.

In the competition I take 3rd in the Novice Bodybuilding and 4th in the Novice Classic Physique division. Not bad for a first timer!

JP on stage in the novice bodybuilding division

I Learned A Lot About Myself

This whole experience has taught me a lot about my body, my nutrition, my workouts, and everything that goes into exercising and shedding fat. I don’t think my workouts will ever be the same, for the rest of my life. The rest of my life I will be combining CrossFit with Bodybuilding along with traditional sports strength and conditioning. I love the feeling of having hard bulging muscles while being ripped and still being athletic.

My goal is to stay as athletic as possible for as long as possible and have the classic physique of an old school bodybuilder.

Author: jpbolwahnn

JP is a Former Navy SEAL coaching professionals to their highest quality of life through health and mental performance.

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