Earlier this week, I got the chance to hear a little behind the scenes from Savanna Woodall, SWAKE's very own Content Manager, on her experience as a competitive body builder! It was so fun getting to hear Savanna share the ins and outs of her journey, and I loved gaining more knowledge in the world of bodybuilding. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!
1. How did you get into competitive body building?
"I actually came across the idea of competing on my own, but I had a little inspiration from one specific person along the way, my mom. My mom competed in bodybuilding in college when she was around my age back before they had different divisions. So, she was 22, ABSOLUTELY shredded on stage performing a fitness routine and hitting a back double bi (closest to today’s ‘Fitness’ division). She rarely talked to me about her experience though since it’s such an intense sport, and she wanted me to find my health/fitness outlets on my own. So, I grew up playing sports and living a healthy lifestyle since I was obviously raised by a bodybuilder. Once I got to college at UGA, I was a “retired student-athlete”, I completely lost touch with competitive spirit, and I honestly felt like I lost touch with myself too. I then started working for and working out at a local gym and trained under a powerlifter. I learned the mechanics of weightlifting and how to properly execute the basic compound lifts. While I enjoyed it, I fell in love and saw the most results with hypertrophy training; which is how bodybuilders train. I started doing TONS of research on this and then I became more aware about bodybuilding and the Bikini division! I came to realize that I would be able to combine my favorite style of training and reignite my competitive spirit."
2. Did you always want to be a bodybuilder?
"If I were to go back in time and tell high school or even early college Savanna that she was going to be an NPC Bikini competitor and also succeed in the sport by her senior year in college, she would have told you “There’s no way in hell.” I distinctly remember being a kid and stumbling across my mom’s stage photos and finding her 3 foot tall Overall Champion trophy and telling myself that I would never look like that let alone BE ABLE to go through what she went through. My mom never forced me or influenced my decision to begin competing too, but when I told her I wanted to do Bikini in May of 2022, I think she was shocked but also thrilled. She literally asked me, “Are you sure you want to do this?”
"Also, my coach, Gavin Ellis, who was once just a fellow friend in the fitness industry was one of the first people to notice my true potential. He was able to see my base muscular structure during my heavy bulking period, and that really stood out to me. I recall him saying that I needed to compete and I would truly impact the NPC if I did. From that moment on, I knew I was ready to pull the trigger and have him as my coach."
3. Is it a hardcore atmosphere?
"For me, I thrive in this part of the fitness realm and I love the intensity and structure of it all. Some people might consider it “hardcore” if they just live a normal healthy lifestyle or use fitness/the gym as an everyday outlet. But in reality, most “scary-looking” or “intimidating” bodybuilders are just a bunch of teddy bears chasing our dreams.
I will say, for me, the most hardcore thing during my first season was the diet during prep and those 50 minute fasted cardio sessions on the stairmaster… The sport definitely isn’t for everyone and it takes a special person to compete, and that’s totally okay!"
4. What's been your favorite thing through this journey?
"If I could say everything, I would. But, if I had to choose ONE thing, it would be the results; both physical and mental. For the physical aspect, it’s absolutely insane to see how much your body can change through the most minor manipulations in your training or diet regimen. When it comes to the mental side of things, bodybuilding has made me realize that I am much stronger than I originally thought I was. I know it sounds so cliche and everyone on earth has heard this, but you really can accomplish anything if you put your mind to it. Having to follow a strict program and perfect every single detail not just during a 16 week prep, but EVERY day, will make you feel unstoppable."
5. What would you say to someone thinking about getting into body building?
"Ever since I had started prep and recently competed, I have had several people reach out for advice on my topic so I am more than happy to share my insight!
Firstly, you can get into bodybuilding without having to compete. Competitive bodybuilding is just taking it to the next level. If you DO want to compete, make sure that you:
- Are financially stable. - This sport is NOT cheap by any means. Expenses include groceries, supplements, prep coach, posing coach, gym membership(s), NPC membership card, show registration, posing suit, competition suit, show tan, heels, jewelry, makeup (if you’re a female), and much more.
- Are in a good mental headspace. - This is so, SO important. Prep affects your hormones drastically, and with that comes changes in your emotions and mental health.
- Have a good relationship with food. - This is a big one. If you already or have previously struggled with this, bodybuilding and specifically competitive bodybuilding may not be the best outlet for you, which leads me into my last and most important point.
- PRIORITIZE YOUR HEALTH! - Health is the single most important thing at the end of the day. We only have one body in this life, so you have to do everything in your power to take care of it. Whether it’s consistently getting blood work to fueling your body with appropriate food and supplement resources, you have to take care of your physical health. "
6. Lastly, what has been the best thing you have gotten out of body building?
"I guess this really goes for anyone who’s passionate about something, but do what you love and RUN with it. In fact, take off full sprint and don’t look back. Don’t let the opinions of others affect you or stop you from achieving your goals because at the end of the day, it’s your life and you’re the one living it."
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