Beyond The Prep Podcast

How to Prep for the Pro Qualifier with Cyril Gascon

July 03, 2023 Sherrie Kapach Episode 7
Beyond The Prep Podcast
How to Prep for the Pro Qualifier with Cyril Gascon
Show Notes Transcript

 “Even though we're on that stage competing against each other, we know we went through virtually the same thing. No matter what the outcome is, we know that we did our best.” —Cyril Gascon

If you've been dreaming of turning your passion for bodybuilding into a profession, the Body Building Pro Qualifiers are your stepping stone to success. Designed to identify the cream of the crop, these qualifiers serve as a pathway to the highly coveted professional bodybuilding circuit. With the right mindset and preparation, you can propel yourself towards standing on stage amongst the best of the best with the chance to earn recognition, sponsorship, and a career in bodybuilding.

This week, we are joined by IFBB Pro Cyril Gascon. Throughout Cyril's childhood, his passion for athletics led him to immerse himself in various competitive sports such as swimming and track while actively participating in varsity teams. Unfortunately, his path took an unexpected turn when he suffered an ACL injury while playing soccer at the age of 18. However, his perseverance and determination led him to embark on a journey of physical fitness, resuming his competitive endeavors in 2011. It was during his time in nursing school that Cyril discovered his affinity for competitive bodybuilding, achieving remarkable results. Cyril has recently obtained his highly coveted professional card, a testament to his unwavering dedication and unwavering commitment.

Tune in to Sherrie and Cyril's juicy chat as they share about what Classic Physique contenders should brace themselves for. They also reveal their ultimate secrets on how to stay laser-focused even when life throws a curveball and how a simple mindset tweak can propel you closer to your dreams of conquering the Pro Qualifiers. Plus, Cyril shares some killer advice to help you slay the big game like a true champion. 

Connect with Sherrie: 





Episode Highlights:

01:48 Loving the Competition

05:31 The Classic Physique Category

09:17 Facing Setbacks

15:45 The Road to the Pro Qualifier

18:11 Hire a Coach

23:14 Know What You’re Getting Into 

29:05 Love the Community

Sherrie Kapach: Welcome to Beyond The Prep. I'm your host, Sherrie Kapach. And my guest with me today is Cyril Gascon. He's a classic physique competitor, and just recently, last year won his pro card. 

So welcome, and congratulations.

Cyril Gascon: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Sherrie Kapach: So let's get started with that. How long have you been in bodybuilding?

Cyril Gascon: For a while. I started competitively in 2014. I started beast training in 2011, at least.

Sherrie Kapach: Okay. And were you into it?

Cyril Gascon: Like working out? Or the body competitiveness?

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah, the competitiveness.

Cyril Gascon: As I got into the workout aspect of my life, being an athlete growing up, I did swim, I did track quite a bit. I got into the varsity teams for those growing up in soccer. A lot of just really competitive sports growing up. Unfortunately, I was about 18 when I tore my ACL playing soccer. So that path didn't quite move forward for me, so to speak. So I moved here to Canada in 2009, and didn't really know what to do. But eventually got into working out, being able to have that competitiveness again within me, at least. That was before competing in 2011 and getting into it. It's a whole nother story. But I got into that competitive bodybuilding after nursing school. Because after that, I had to focus on nursing, obviously. But after that, I got pretty good results. Or after a couple years and I figured that might as well try competing, I got into the ABBA. I registered for it as soon as I graduated, I decided I'm going to compete. Going into it. I didn't have a coach at the time, I had to do a lot of research, getting into it, knowing the diet. The training was obviously there. But the diet was a little bit different. And then that comes the show day and all the other aspects that come into it like lodging, tanning and the posing part, obviously. But yeah, that was the boat. I think that was 2014 when I did men's physique. That classic physique came out. 

And yeah, after that, I did that for a year. Didn't have a coach then took a break for a couple years. I didn't know if I was going to do it again. After a couple years, classic physique came out. So that was the category for me. Okay, because growing up, I had pretty good legs with all the track that I did. And when I started competing when they started the men's physique, I figured, alright, I thought that with all of my legs here, I'm like, well, I'm not really showing them off. But I don't know if I can really do the bodybuilding category. Because I was like, this is really big. I don't know if I can get into that point. But the classic physique came out and it sounds like this is perfect. Read all the rules and they go up a certain weight for your height. So that's all about the proportions and whatnot. So it's not getting to that super big bodybuilding type. It's getting to that classic look back in the day. That's what I've always wanted to go for anyway. But when I came up with something like this, it was perfect. 2017, hopped on it again. That's when I found Ryan, my Coach, my current coach, and did that to him, which was great. He was super knowledgeable about it. So that was a totally different experience for me, and it's still going great. We're still together. We as a coach and an athlete, but yeah.

Sherrie Kapach: So just a little bit more explanation for those that are considering competing, the classic physique, what do they look for in that category?

Cyril Gascon: Few things. Very similar to, I guess it would be in between men's physique and bodybuilding where they're still looking for size, but they're more looking for shape. You're looking a lot, or proportions. You're not wanting overly big proportions. You got your good legs, you got your back. Obviously everything. It's really hard to explain because it's very different. In bodybuilding, they want to see the size picture. The classic physique, me obviously, you can't get as big, depending on what your height is. So they're really looking for that shape. And obviously for all categories, so they always look for that conditioning. But keep in mind, for somebody that's going into competing, starting to compete, there's always a rule where you can only go up a certain weight. Okay, so that being said, you have to keep in mind how your proportions are. If you're having a really big back or really big upper body but no legs, then I think Men's Physique would suit you better.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah. Okay, so winning your pro card last year, how was that? Tell me more about that. It was your goal, or that's when you started out? Or that was your goal for last year? I'm not sure. Tell me more.

Cyril Gascon: That has been the goal since I got back into competing. The initial year when I started to hop on stage to be competitive was to get that experience. For me, that was before the classic. When the classic physique came out, the goal after that was, okay, maybe even the first year that I got back into competing again prior or after that two years, I didn't even think about going into that role level. Because I really wanted to experience the classic physique category when that came out. But after a year being with Ryan, I don't know what sparked something in me. I had lots of fun during that year that I came back on stage. And I told Ryan Yeah, let's go for it. 2018 came, and did another show. I think that's when the EPA came out. They changed the whole system where it previously had to go to regional, then a provincial, then a national show in Canada. Now, it follows just CPA where you can do a regional show virtually anywhere in Canada and you can compete in any pro qualifier. And there's a few there. I think there's four during the year. But yeah, after that, for that year, let's go for it or train even harder. Every year since then, I've tried every year to achieve that pro card. 2018, 2019, try it again. Got 2nd place in my class. I lost to John, John Lee, he is great. 2020 came, obviously that's when the pandemic hit. Tried to do it again. That's a whole nother story. I tried to do it in Toronto in 2020 because Vancouver was already canceled at the time. So Ryan and I decided, well, we'll do Toronto. Then all the lockdowns that were happening at the time, so they can't move in venues. I was really stoked. I was really hoping that I can compete that year and get my pro card in 2020. But yeah, I was flying to Toronto and we found out that the show was canceled. We had a couple apps, a few athletes on the flight too and it was canceled. We were devastated. We were devastated for sure. Yeah, just hanging out. Got a few other athletes during that time.

Sherrie Kapach: When you landed is that when you found out that it was--

Cyril Gascon: No, that was mid flight. Mid flight, one of the athletes was keeping track of all the updates and he gave us the news that it was canceled. But when 2021 came, it wasn't 100% what was gonna happen because the pandemic was still there. But I didn't really want to push myself into competing again considering what I had to experience the year before. We took a year off in 2021 and tried last year. Again, I will go back to it. Because now, I was quite sure that by 2022 that pandemic was slowing down. Things were slowing down so I knew that the show was 100% going to happen. And obviously, since I didn't compete in 2021, actually, all the shows happened in 2021. When I found that out, whatever, that's okay. I have to re qualify for the pro qualifier which is fine. I'd always consider, even just a regional, I would just look at it as a pro qualifier. Okay, though, I would get myself ready for the regional, I got myself ready for the Alberta open up in 2022. That's the regional here in Calgary with a mindset of, I want to get ready for the pro qualifier. So when I was thinking of prepping for the Alberta open, that's all my mindset was. Does that make sense? I'll get ready for this regional thinking that it is a pro qualifier. So when I get myself into the protocol for, I'm already there, and I think we're treating it like a bigger shoe than it actually is. But that's when I know that I'm ready.

Sherrie Kapach: And how was that with having the year off? Were you just building that year and following everything to go into the next year? Or did you take any time off, or you just worked harder?

Cyril Gascon: I would say 2021 was a very good year. For me, it was a year to rest, but also a year to build, to relax, to reset, to focus on other things that I need to focus on. I get myself pretty much because I knew that in 2021 that I'm not competing this year, but I know I'm going to compete next year. So even if I'm taking a year off, I'm still building into that next year. I'm still training, I still have the mindset of knowing what to eat. I mean, obviously, I wasn't on a very strict diet compared to when you're on prep. I'm still following that plan within myself that I'm going to compete next year, so I'm going to build for 2022. I'm so relaxed, I'm still liberal in terms of my food, but still having that mindset that I will build into that year that I'm knowing that I'm gonna compete.

Sherrie Kapach: So do you find that helpful taking that year off? Was it beneficial for you to just reset?

Cyril Gascon: Yeah, I think it was very helpful for me. I mean, considering what had happened in 2020, those were canceled and whatnot, so I just wanted to reset, relax. Didn't want to have to think about that. Really. It didn't hit me hard when it happened. Having to process all that and having to research a long time, I think prep from February till November, that was more than half the year. So that was a lot of work for nothing. You think about that in 2021, just relax, reset my body, spend time with family as much as they can. All the stuff that I'd missed. Enjoy life as much as they can. As you get into prep, it takes over a lot of your life. Your social life kind of takes it back. You lose time with family. You even lose time for yourself. Even if you go into the gym and you consider that your me time, when you're in prep and when you're in that regimented lifestyle, it does not feel like it's a mealtime. It feels like that's my second job. Basically, that's the second job. And then you spent a good two, three hours in the gym. 

So having that year off was super helpful for me, I think. And that's what I'm doing now to go from amateur to pro. It's a little bit different. I stepped on stage when I got my pro cards the very next day in Vancouver of last year and realized that it was so much to do, so much different. So much more different than when you're stepping on stage from a regional to pro qualifier. Okay, yeah. A lot of times when athletes are first starting to be competitive and they step on stage and regional, and they go into pro qualifier, they step on stage with people that have been doing this for years, they have more muscle maturity, you have more muscle density, they're lot bigger, and their experience is much, much, much wider than, you know. This novice that's coming in. You come into the regional, you do great. And then you go into the pro qualifier, you may come in last, virtually eating. There's a lot of athletes that come into the regional show and they do really great. And then coming to the pro qualifier, they did really great. But those are two different levels because you have people that have been trying to get their pro cards for years and years and a pro qualifier. So you get into that stage and athletes are so much bigger than you are, so much denser,and their posing, and so much more fluid than you are. So it's kind of like that when you're going from the amateur level to the pro level. You go into the pro level, you have these athletes competing in the pro level for years trying to qualify for Mr. Olympia and they're so much denser, so much more muscle maturity. It's a completely different ballgame, virtually. So I think having a year off would be beneficial. Again, you get into the competitive level as much as they can in that pro stage.

Sherrie Kapach: Give you time again to adjust and build back up to a whole new level.

Cyril Gascon: Yeah, yeah. I'm still enjoying it. Enjoy my life spending time with my family, and that's something different now too. But that is the plan for me, to build up again, or the pro stage next year so I can be as competitive as I can.

Sherrie Kapach: So what do you wish you knew back then that you know now. Like when you're first starting out, and like you said, you competed for the first time, you didn't have a coach? Did the first on your own. So knowing what you know now, what do you wish you would have known then when you were like, I'm gonna try this.

Cyril Gascon: I was thinking about that question, too. What is the mindset? It is a completely different ballgame. When it comes to dieting regularly in your day to day life compared to when you're in prep, I knew I had an idea coming into it the first time that there's a lot of regimented food, training that comes into play when you're on prep. It's a lot more than what people expect. At least for me, it was a lot more than I expected. The transition for me at least was smoother than I thought that I at least expected because I was able to research beforehand what I needed to eat and whatnot. That was already ingrained in me. But that goes to the second thing for me is having a coach when you first start competing. I wish I knew that a coach would be as essential as I would think about it now. As good as it is, for other athletes if they can compete on stage without a coach, good for them. 99% of people going up on stage, they do recommend having that coach, having that person that's going to keep you accountable, having that third or other perspective. Having a different perspective of your physique because they're the ones that are going to critique. They're the ones we're going to see those little details that you need to work on. When you do your check ins, if you need to up your diet, ramp up your diet, at least, if you need to change your training, they're the ones who knows what to do, basically, in terms of what you need to be changing

Sherrie Kapach: By looking at you, they know what needs to be done through their years of experience of training.

Cyril Gascon: Yeah, exactly. That's what my experience was. I'm still experiencing it with Ryan. What the years that he had, he knows just by looking at you if you screwed up on your diet, if you had that one piece of protein bar, or that, or that. He's gonna know that pizza or that burger. He's gonna keep you accountable, for sure. Which is great. You truly need that other person. Reality is key first. The other thing for me is wishing, I already knew that getting into my first show that, okay, I might need a coach for it. At the time, I couldn't afford it. I didn't know how much it was. And I didn't really know a lot of people so I just researched my ass off. For the first for my virtual and actually did relatively well compared to, if I was able to go back in time, I would have hired a coach, then it would have been so much easier.

Sherrie Kapach: Setting out your workouts and sending you the food plan. And even that part is easier on you than trying to figure things out and whatnot. But like I said, it was a good experience, and you were able to do it.

Cyril Gascon: You literally don't have to think about it. They will tell you, this is the plan. This is what you need to do. And with me and Ryan, it gives me a plan. I do the planning. I do my check-ins, and that's good. Yeah, I don't even have to think about my diet. He gives me that diet plan, I follow it. We do our check ins every week, and it's perfect.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah, yeah. Especially when you're getting in prep as well and you get that mind fog, things like that. You're tired.

Cyril Gascon: Yeah. You can't even get into it. You get into a zombie state, that's for sure.

Sherrie Kapach: It just saves a lot. It's tough to think.

Cyril Gascon: Exactly. Yeah, for sure. He's there, he's my brain.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah. That's right. So your advice to someone who's thinking of competing, what advice would that be?

Cyril Gascon: My advice? Well, I already talked about hiring a coach, that's one. Another one would be, virtually knowing what you're getting yourself into. It's very different when you're just dieting, lifestyle diet compared to prep diet. There's a lot of very fine details that you're going to have to be accountable for. A lot of times, you're gonna have to be accountable to yourself for being able to prep your food weekly, or weekly. Whatever you need to be able to do check-ins every week with your coach. It gets very regimented, for sure. So know what you're getting yourself into and talk to other athletes. Find out what it's like to be on stage, find out what it's like to be on prep because it can get very difficult. You need that mental capacity. And that's another thing too. When you're in the middle of it, being able to have a good mindset and a good mental capacity to that takes quite a toll on you. When you're on prep, just the mental strain, it has on you. Going to the gym, getting very regimented and not having a cheat meal. Not having had a cheat meal for like weeks, and weeks, and weeks, it screws up with your head. That's for sure. You get into weeks when you have such low carbs where at least your mood stability just goes out the window and it just goes up and down, up and down. So it takes a lot of mental capacity to be able to handle all that. I think another one would be falling under that, knowing what you're getting yourself into is financial. Just the finance of it.

Sherrie Kapach: That's not a cheap sport.

Cyril Gascon: Certainly not. There's supplements that you need to think about, there's food that you need to think about. Getting into that competitive stage, you need to think about lodging if the show is out of town. You need to think about tanning. You need to think about your suit. Oh, Lord. I cannot imagine. Especially for the ladies, those jewelry. Oh, my god.

Sherrie Kapach: I don't know about the guys. I don't know what it costs for those trunks that you wear.

Cyril Gascon: The trunks are like, as much as $120 if you really want a really decent one. Okay, I can't imagine for the ladies because that takes a whole chunk of dollars.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah, yeah. It does vary a lot. I mean, if you can get one used for 350, you're doing great. But there are well over $1,000 if you want. I mean, my last one was 750. It does fluctuate depending on what you want. But yeah, and like you say, even the shows, each category that you want to enter. Now, is it quite higher in each category when you hit pro level?

Cyril Gascon: For the pro level, you cannot cross over to a different category in one show. You can do a different category in another show. A good example of it would be Shaun Clarida. He won 212 recently. However, he did open bodybuilding. Forget what show he did last year. So he technically qualified for 212 and open bodybuilding for Mr. Olympia. So as long as it's a different show, you can do different categories as long as they're different shows. Otherwise, I am not 100% sure because I haven't fully gotten into the mainstream. So there's different tiers, different pros that qualify you to Mr. Olympia. There used to be the point system where you can qualify for it through points, but not having to win the show. But in terms of the cost for each show, I'm not 100% sure. I think it might, it probably would vary quite a bit depending on the tier of the show. And I guess it also depends on where it is too. I would guess the New York pro would be more expensive. I haven't been fully into the pro stream yet, so I can't really say a lot about that.

Sherrie Kapach: Okay. Fair enough. So what do you love about this sport?

Cyril Gascon: A lot of it. Where do I start? I love the training aspect of it. Initially, I got into working out because I wanted to eat. So number two is food. Yeah, the whole point of me working out anyway so I could eat a lot. Oh, yeah. It worked out for me.

Sherrie Kapach: At registration I've seen the juice jugs full of rice, and I just sit there with envy watching the guys shovel it in.

Cyril Gascon: Oh, man. The food is great. That's the second thing. The third thing, but a level with the sport is the community around it. I didn't fully experience that. So I got back from my break from that two year break, I did that initial show just by myself. AI virtually didn't know anybody. Backstage, I was just by myself. Didn't know anyone. I got into that community when I got back. I got to know a lot of people. I got to know a lot of Ryan's athletes too, which was great. They're very welcoming, a lot of very encouraging people. They understand that even though we're on that stage, we're on that stage competing against each other, we know we went through virtually the same thing. We worked hard on that stage, and no matter what the outcome is, we know that we did our best no matter what. That's what people see. At least that's what I see. So every show that I go to, I really get to know a lot of the athletes backstage. Talk to other athletes backstage and virtually have fun and get to know other people.

Sherrie Kapach: The community, for sure. Yeah. So outside of work, and that even at work, I don't know, if you experience people dropping off treats or doughnuts coming in, or this coming in, and people are like, oh, why don't you just have one? I'm like, I just don't understand. I just can't right now.

Cyril Gascon: I would say that it's a very niche community bodybuilding. People have, I guess, a stereotype around it when they see bodybuilding. When they look at it from an outside perspective, they don't know what it means to be on prep and what it means to train your butt off. So it's a very completely different community than my work. And especially my work too, because we do get quite a bit of treats. They pick up all these doughnuts and like, yeah, I can't. I love the community. We know that we're on the same boat. So no matter what, we always encourage each other.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I feel that way as well. So well, on that note, I want to thank you for joining me. This was fun. And lots of good advice there for anyone new that has any questions, which is great. So I'm going to move on, and good luck going into your pro. I wish you all the best. And hopefully, we can hop on again after you've done a pro show and you can tell us all about that.

Cyril Gascon: Yeah, absolutely.

Sherrie Kapach: Awesome. All right. You have a great day and thanks.

Cyril Gascon: Thanks. Yeah, you too.

Sherrie Kapach: Bye bye.