As I headed out to Madrid, Spain, I was looking forward to it very much because of my previous experiences there. This time I was going for work. I’ve competed at Arnold Classic in Ohio, so I was curious to see how Arnold Classic International shows are in comparison to the U.S. show.
I managed to pack 6 meals with me in my food bag. The rest of the meals for my stay in Madrid were supposed to be set up by a food prep company out of the UK, which decided to fuck up my eating pattern by bailing on me last minute. Because they canceled, due to unknown reasons, so late and without any notice in advance I couldn’t set up any other food service to have my meals ready by the time I got to Madrid. Already this started out as a frustrating situation, since I was well aware of the food in Spain and it wasn’t anything I could eat.
On a long enough flight, I managed to scarf down four meals. Getting to the hotel I was planning to store the rest and make them last for at least the duration of the day. That didn’t work out too well for me, because the fridge in my room was broken, and the replacement one they brought in after I asked tried to put in effort by making a lot of noise once plugged in, but barely kept anything cold. Unfortunately for me, both of the meals I had left were fish and as expected had started smelling foul while hotel employees were trying to figure out the fridge situation.
Scavenger hunt for food started and I walked out of my hotel to try to find something plain and simple. After attempting to explain what I was looking for in several restaurants, I left each place in frustration because of the combination of language barrier and hunger. Eventually, I used a weird form of sign language to explain that all I wanted was egg whites. The process of explanation resembled that of trying to explain economics to a toddler as they looked at you smiling and waving their hands around in joy. After my butchered attempt at a round of charades with the waiter, he brought out greasy eggs covered in oil and salt, with a satisfied grin on his face expecting a prize or something for fucking up my simple order.
Spain is a beautiful country, lots to see and do, art on every corner, but as far as food goes, even if I wasn’t on prep for a show I would not have enjoyed it. After setting up camp in my room, kicking the shoes off and relaxing for a bit, I wanted to take a few hours to walk around the area I was staying at and check out the surroundings. Finding a gym that was close by, but now having enough time to workout before they closed, I bought a three day pass and tried to stay dedicated to my two-a-day sessions.
The next day I managed to get myself out of bed for some light arm training. I guess the jet lag, from all the traveling the last few weeks hasn’t fully settled in yet, so I didn’t have an issue waking up. The gym was fairly empty when I got there, but halfway into my training session it started filling up. Few of the people gave me the “what the fuck?” surprised look as I walked by to get equipment or use a station next to them. After taking my headphones off after my last set, few of the people came up to me, and the rude look I thought they were giving me, wasn’t rude at all. They said they’ve recognized me and they didn’t want to bother me during my workout. They said they waited for me to finish and nervously asked me in broken english for a photo.
Getting a semi-decent pump at the gym, I grabbed eight hard boiled eggs at a restaurant next door and headed for the expo. As far as all expos go, when you first walk in they are a bit overwhelming, crowds of people gather at every booth to get the newest product samples or merchandise, to meet athletes, ambassadors and spokespeople. Usually, fitness expos are a separate living breathing planet, it’s habitants all take supplements, they all workout to be in great shape and they all wear very revealing clothing to make sure everyone else knows it. It helps that most expos usually hold competitions as well, whether it’s bodybuilding, cross-fit, or other challenges on a stage set up somewhere within the area. Walking through the expo, a familiar smell of tanning solution filled up the room, letting me know that I was getting pretty close to the bodybuilding stage. Several people stopped me to take photos, if I wait too long then a line starts forming so I make my greetings very brief until I get to the booth I’m suppose to be working for. My sponsor (Nutrex Research), who has flown me out to Spain to work the booth and meet the fans, had set up the booth not far from the stage. It was decent size, and as always my job was to simply shake hands and sign photos alongside my teammate Yarishna, a pro bikini competitor from Puerto Rico. As advertised on flyers, we were scheduled to get to the booth at noon, but as always we got there a bit later, where a crowd of people was already waiting for me and Yarishna. I set up my table of photos and t-shirts and got to work.
Between handshakes and flashes, I kept myself occupied by glancing over at the stage and watching the show. I didn’t know who was competing or what round it was, but I appreciated the dedication of bodies on stage at any given moment. Some people brought their own things to sign, most wanted a keepsake from me, a t-shirt or a personalized photo. Waves of people came and with them, took most of the merchandise I brought with me, and I still had two more days of expo left. Any time I do appearances at expos, I feel overwhelmed with positive emotions, it’s the most positive experience. People who look up to you, get to meet you and tell you their stories, their struggles and how much of an impact you had on them. Time flew by and before I knew it I had to go back to the hotel.
Once I got to my room, the rest of the night I spent sitting on the edge of my bed, procrastinating. I call it “adjusting,” but really I was just tired and/or lazy, so I sat there doing nothing. I could not bring myself to go train again, and I felt like I did right by myself, by already going earlier that morning. I browsed through some emails, read a few articles and called it a day.
Next morning is when the jet lag was really starting to sink in. I set a few alarms that went off every fifteen minutes and for three hours I kept hitting the snooze button. Eventually I had no choice but to get up because I had to go back to the expo, having felt terrible for missing my morning training session, I got my zombie self out of bed, had some greasy eggs and went to work. Halfway into my appearance I ran out of photos to sign, so all I had for people were smiles. Men’s physique amateur finals was going on that day, so after the competitors walked off the stage, most of them were wandering around covered in competition tan with their trophies sharing their experience with everyone. Some of the guys who are aware of my achievements in Men’s Physique came up, they showed me their stage photos and asked how I thought they looked and what I thought they needed to improve on. I took on the role of a judge for a few minutes and gave them my honest opinion, which always ended with “…don’t chase placings, chase progress”. After doing rounds at different booths on the floor where all the supplement companies were, the competitors usually went downstairs to the first floor where all the fitness brands were showcasing their latest exercise equipment and machines. The athletes used that area to workout, since the combination of all the sample equipment equaled to a pretty full and complete gym. I would have done the same, but I haven’t eaten anything all day and usually without food, my training suffers because of the lack of strength and energy. I decided to go back to my hotel for some food, then go to the gym after.
When I go to my room, I got a call from my friend who lives in Spain. She heard I was in Madrid and wanted to catch up, during our conversation I mentioned that I like getting tattoos in countries I visit, but it’s always hard scheduling last minute appointments with artists I like. She said that she knows someone who will be able to do one, but he was closing up shop in half hour and if we were to make it there before he closes he could probably tattoo me if I like his style. I figured I can go to the gym anywhere anytime, but I never get to visit Spain, so with that, I met up with my friend and we went to a tattoo parlor, where I sat in the chair for four and a half hours getting my hand inked.
On my last day of working the expo I was in a bit more awake state. It went by as quick and the previous two days. I was starting to get used to Spain and speaking through sign language. Putting effort into making it to the gym on my last day in Spain, I decided to head there straight from the expo. With my luck, it was closing and I had about thirty minutes to train. After my mediocre workout, all I wanted to do was get some food and go to sleep, I had an early flight in the morning taking me back to New York. Sitting down at a restaurant, I didn’t have a chance to place my order, before I was ambushed by a kindness of strangers. A group of people from the expo came up to me asking me to join them at their table. We chatted about the industry, old school bodybuilding, life and ideas, it was a breath of fresh air to relax and unwind with some good people. We agreed that when I visit Germany, we will have to all get together again. What was supposed to be a quick meal, turned into a three hour feast, I ended up ordering twice because we were sitting there for so long I got hungry again.
My travel experience is always adventurous, if I have some free time I try to go off the beaten path and explore the cities, without a map or a plan, equipped only with a sense of adventure and an open mind. I love the fact that I don’t speak the language, it makes the experience that much more interesting, unless I’m starving, then I just want to bite people’s arms off. Even though I was stressing about food for the first few days, I decided to make the best of it. The people, the attitude and the beautiful surroundings made the experience that much better. Stay in positive and high spirits and regardless of the situation, you’ll get to take some great memories out of your trips.
Until next time, Spain. I love you.