Beyond The Prep Podcast

Understanding the Competitive Nature of Bodybuilding with Ryan Cardinal

July 31, 2023 Sherrie Kapach Episode 11
Beyond The Prep Podcast
Understanding the Competitive Nature of Bodybuilding with Ryan Cardinal
Show Notes Transcript

“The competitive nature of the game was actually as fun as it was until you get to really experience it.” —Ryan Cardinal

In the world of fitness, bodybuilding stands as a giant. And in this high-stakes arena, every decision counts; a minor slip can mean drastic failure. But the grind in the gym forms only half the battle, the mind is an equally important battlefield. After all, the body and mind shape each other. Those who are capable of enduring the strain and getting up after a setback emerge victorious. 

This week, Sherrie interviews Ryan Cardinal. Ryan's life has consistently revolved around competitive sports, which sparked within him a determination to advance and perfect his abilities. Eventually, Ryan made the decision to approach physical training more systematically, focusing on gym workouts. A few years post this transition, the notion of trying his hand at bodybuilding surfaced. Unfortunately, a period of mingling with undesirable influences led to experimentation with drugs and alcohol, which impacted his journey in bodybuilding and compelled him to withdraw from it. Yet, his time in recovery saw the re-emergence of a resilient Ryan. 

Hear more of Ryan’s journey to competitive building and the lessons he learned about the importance of being professional, competing for the first time, understanding the competitive nature of bodybuilding, getting into the serious side of bodybuilding, dealing with the stresses of the bodybuilding journey, the importance of having a support system, and the power of knowing your why

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Episode Highlights:

01:26 Saved by Competitive Sports 

06:51 Getting Into Bodybuilding and Having to Leave It

11:43 Getting Back Up After a Setback

14:38 The Importance of Being Professional

19:38 The Competitive Nature of Bodybuilding

25:59 The Hardest Part of Bodybuilding

29:05 The Importance of Having a Support System

32:07 Know Your Why

Sherrie Kapach: Welcome to Beyond The Prep. I'm your host, Sherrie Kapach. I'd like to welcome Ryan Cardinal. Welcome. Thank you for joining me. I know you've been on stage and guest view a lot now, so that's exciting. So we're gonna talk, chat and eat at the same time.

Ryan Cardinal: Yeah. I feel good.

Sherrie Kapach: Perfect. So tell me, what got you into bodybuilding?

Ryan Cardinal: Yeah. I've always done competitive sports my whole life. It's just how it is always with me. I just do activities without taking them probably farther than a person always should. It's somewhat of an unhealthy habit. But it also keeps you interested enough that I always justify it like this anyway because it keeps me out of other things that I probably couldn't be doing that are completely unproductive, like drinking drugs, hanging out with people, like, getting involved in crime or gang activity. So firstly, it was hockey as a young person. And that probably also hasn't been factored in is that when you play hockey for your entire youth life and use it as a career, it's just competitive. Maybe you're your own voice all the time. And boys always want to be better than the boys. You always just keep pushing and pushing. Unfortunately, I wasn't that good at hockey. I don't know why. But maybe living with my grandmother most of my life, I didn't really have the proper support system for somebody to tell you the things you need to do in order to be a good hockey player. Nobody really told me what that was, and there's always coaches and there's always outside influence. We lived on the reserve, we kind of just went to and from hockey. There wasn't a whole lot of outside influence. You need a father, male or somebody to be like, hey, man, you're not gonna get any better unless you do X, Y, Z. But nonetheless, it instilled a sense of like, eventually, you do progress. You gotta go to work, you got to practice. There are skills you have to hone in and work on. And so I started with hockey. 

And then my other team, I started playing competitive paintball. I did that for probably about six or seven years. And that's where I really like to blossom into my own. I was pretty good. Anybody cares anything about competitive people, but I played a lot of competitive paintball over the years. And I was really quite good. I got lined up, eventually, with the team here. I guess technically, we only did one American event, but it was the World Cup in Florida. We were Division Two in the annex. So that would have been one division. You probably know. We held our own quite well against these American teams and these teams compared to us here in Canada. They're not just teams down for their organisations. They have a full pit of 20 plus people. We showed up with six guys. So we did that. We only got blown up, I think one team. It was kind of a bad game, penalties or whatever. So we did well, we were good. We never really continued on after that. Because I lived in Peace River, it just got really hard for me playing paintball because you got to practice with your team. 

And some of these guys that I've met, they weren't even really coming to the practices even though they're from Edmonton. I was making a lot of these trips showing up to play with one or two guys. I gravitated towards just doing gym. It's just me and my brother Justin, we used to just work out, and we had no idea of bodybuilding at all. We just worked out really hard, and we just ate. Because when you watch these videos on YouTube or whatever on social media, all you see is guys time, and you gotta eat big to get big, and you got to work until failure. I was even talking to Tyler, it was so much fun. That was the funnest part about it. The whole thing was you would just work out, and you would just eat. And no chicken. Once in a while, you would do that just to make yourself feel good. But no, it was like, go crush two footlongs, soup, cookies, pop, and then plan out dinner for sushi. Two hours later, ice cream, sushi, like a whole platter sushi rolls. And then I was like, okay, I'll go home. I'll eat a couple chicken breasts. Oh, stuff my face. Yeah. That was like late at night. You'd go get pizza, and then start the cycle all over again. But it was so much fun that it kept you in the gym as you went and made you work harder because you're like, I gotta go pull myself.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah.

Ryan Cardinal: So that was fun. Then I'm trying to think of a point where it turned into actual bodybuilding. I think it was maybe two or three years. My brother Justine, we're starting to follow a little closer what needs to be done. Look closer, what needs to be done. And then eventually, I got lined up with a guy, his name was Josh, and asked him to coach me because he has coached competitive athletes. And he did.

Sherrie Kapach: Did you meet him in the gym? Or did you just hear about him, message him?

Ryan Cardinal: There were a couple of bodybuilders at the gym, and they did one show. I think they did quite well. I can't remember that. I remember guys talking about them. It was kind of a funny story. I went into supplementing in Edmonton in the brewery district, and Josh was working there. I said, well, you coach, so and so. That's when he coached me. And he says, yeah, we worked out the details. He wrote on my diet, and I started officially bodybuilding. So I started following that, and I knew I could do it. I always knew I could do it. So we officially did that. I finally got around doing my first cycle with Josh. I did everything, but I didn't know back then this happens with a lot of people. I can find out what you think that you're invincible. So when you think you're invincible, he'll do whatever you do out of impulse. And at the time, I was taking all this gear and eating all this food. 

But I remember, I think my body was having a festival. (inaudible) but at the festival someone drops recreational drugs. Then I think I was drinking, which is already a bad thing to be doing. Too much beer. And then eventually studying drugs. So you're there and then I ended up doing myself a lot of damage there in that short amount of time. Lord only knows what I did. I don't even remember, like it was so sick. I was just crazy. There was just too much going around. And anyways, I think a couple days went by, I started to feel really bad. My eyes turned yellow and people started telling me about my eyes. When your eyes turn yellow, that's a sign. And that happened to me. And that was when I had to quit bodybuilding because I knew that I had to go to the hospital. You got to be like, hey, this is really wrong. And I went through about three months. It was worse. When you start to turn yellow, it's because your red blood cells are breaking down in your body. They don't get to leave so they build up in the blood. But that's not even the worst part. Looking bad is not an issue. 

When that happens, it stays in your skin, and it makes you itchy to the point where you will scratch your skin off of your skin. It's like a billion mosquito bites all at once that you can actually scratch, you will never get to the bottom of it. It'll never be relieved. It just goes away on its own, and it could take five minutes, it could take 30 seconds. And that wasn't even really the worst part about it. And not only do you feel just lethargic and complete, you never know where, I don't know what happened either. I never ever really got an answer. So at the end of this conversation, it was never a solution. That was like, one day I woke up and I was 50% better the next day. After that, I was 100% better, and I never looked back. So it was three months. I remember it being about three months almost to the day of this, I would call it torture. Absolute torture. Meth head scratching your skin. And then once the itching went away, if you want to call it that, it never really went away. Instead, it was burning. There was a term for it. I knew it off my heart, obviously, but I don't know. My skin starts burning, and it's so much worse than the itching because it's constantly constant. So if you can't lay on your side because your skin is burning, then you lay on your back and the skin on your back is burning. Sometimes, you would go take a bath and it would subside for many minutes. You can't sleep because your skin is burning. You couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep and wanted to. You didn't really eat because your liver plays a big role. Your gallbladders, digestion. Didn't really eat, it was probably greasing and shitting because you feel so bad. Just an awful time. 

And once this had all gone away, I didn't do any bodybuilding or training for about a month. I always want a whole time. I always wanted to get back in the gym. I tried to, but I just couldn't use any energy. I just said, you need to rest. So eventually, I did. It was almost overnight, 50%. Two days, 100% better. Completely. Eyes, white skin, everything. And then obviously, you're excited, and you see the doctor. And all my blood levels didn't quite come back perfectly, but they were enough to not be yellow anymore. And you don't feel like shit. That's plenty for me. During that time, I got back into training. I remember that I didn't do a sterilizer or anything like that in a year. But I do remember missing going viral. 

So Josh kind of quit coaching at the time, he opened up (inaudible). And then I talked to another guy in the middle of the community where the coaching it's kind of local. Eventually, I wanna give (inaudible) a shout on Instagram. I've been recommended to you. But ultimately, that must be a good sign. And also, he scheduled a call with me. We had gotten started, I think (inaudible), we agreed. It was very professional. I don't think there could have been much more. I wouldn't call it love at first sight. We didn't clash. Yeah, definitely. And it was a very professional, accountable relationship between the two of us. Like I said, we weren't calling each other bro. I filled out the application. I went to the press, I didn't want to come off as the guys, hey, my buddy put me on to you. I'm gonna treat them to a buddy. I wanted to go through the process so that he knew that I was serious about bodybuilding. And it wasn't about me looking for justification, my gear use or my gym. I was opening a gym at the time. I did everything just as easy for him as it would have been for me. I did it all. All I did for a long time was great and gave me a list of things to do. We weren't particularly friendly. Really, you know what I mean? It wasn't a relationship like that. I just did what he said. I just finished, I can do it. I took a lot of pride in that. And the more that I didn't focus on being a role, the more we became bro's.

Sherrie Kapach: Right.

Ryan Cardinal: Okay. The more success that you achieved by being professional, created much more of a line between duels.

Sherrie Kapach: So how long, when did you start--

Ryan Cardinal: This summer. Particularly in May, it would have been about two years. Pretty close to my birthday, I guess. So we're gonna say May 15, or something like two years. At that time, I had a lot of ideas of competing and when it might be a good time. I was a little bit patient. I thought maybe I was ahead of the game. Again, professional. I just said, no, I think you should just wait another year. Just wait another year. Keep working hard like you do. When he says then, either put yourself on the edge or you can be not only a competitor. So thinking back on it now and even when I started prep, I said, thank God, I did that. Because a year ago, I would have just been some shit ass with the pack of bodybuilders, and they would not have been as fun. This is the key. Even if you can't see it, sometimes you just don't trust that. Someone else can. And that's not just the bodybuilding coach relationship. That's a life process. That can be your partner, your wife, your husband, that can be a business partner, a family member. Sometimes, people just don't. Sometimes, you get here. But recognising those times and those opportunities, and taking a step back out of your own body to be like, yeah, you're right. Sometimes, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard. If I were to compare myself to a professional, to compare myself to an IFBB pro, and the answer back then would have been, it would make no sense. So thinking back, I'm like, I sat there, trusted him and said, I'm not going to compete. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, and put in a lot of work, and maximize it. Now, it's really all worth it. Especially today, prep for this show. I got an overall and classic.

Sherrie Kapach: Congratulations. First time competing?

Ryan Cardinal: First time show ever, no. Although I didn't reach my goal in bodybuilding, once again, I really had a little bit more time. I can't really be upset because the person who beat me has a lot of experience, a lot of time competing stage time, a lot of muscle, a lot of hard work put into their physique that I can't discount just because I put in a little bit of my own work. But like I said, the way that it worked out where I lost bodybuilding, it just couldn't be a more perfect day for me. Actually, I've been excited for about two weeks leading up to this show. I was dieting, but it didn't feel like dieting.

Sherrie Kapach: That's fabulous when it doesn't feel like, you know?

Ryan Cardinal: A lot of people have these nerves, and they keep talking about the nerves and they're like, oh, well, I got my own hand to make this box of cookies, or to get in your head. People would say these things and I'm like, I really just don't feel that way. I'm actually just so excited to get on stage. Don't let anything ruin it. So my last, probably two or three weeks of prep. I hate to call them easy, but they were easier than weeks like 10 to 4. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's a reasonable amount of time. 21 days, it's really not that long as long as you're just nailing your checklist every now, and that's how it worked out. That being said, I was also in shape quite early. We're able to pull back on their stressors early and then maintain food without any muscle, so that worked out well. It left me really fresh and excited for the show. The more I talk about it, the more I realize that it probably could not have gone any better. And then even the experience today, there were a couple of things that stressed me out like, oh, you gotta go get tan. And then they got to make sure you don't wreck your tan, change your chunks. And now it's this class, and now it's this class.

Sherrie Kapach: It's a busy day. It's a long day.

Ryan Cardinal: It was early, and I guess it's only what? 6:30 or something like that.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah, you have all the things.

Ryan Cardinal: Exactly. It feels pretty good. Like I said, I didn't think standing on stage was actually going to be like posing with people. The competitive nature of the game was actually as fun as it was until you got to really experience it. When you're playing up a back double and you guys are touching elbows, and I got to actually fight my way. I'll push you over. That was fun. That was a lot of fun. And a big part of that too, I think I was talking to Justine earlier. I was like, I haven't done any competitive events in so long because it's been nothing but off-season to actually come and do the competition because I used to do it at the moment. I mean, there's always a hockey gender game, a paintball tournament, and we're long days too. They were a lot more frequent. But this one was like, okay, it's not like we're bodybuilding today. We are, in a sense, but there's no training today. It's completely different from being in the gym and eating bodybuilding food every day. This is like the competitive side. All the things are a lot of fun. And a lot of fun came from it too, as my buddy Sam is also competing in the same show. We worked out together, we came to my gym, and we just had a blast. And then we ended up being in the overall for class on stage together. I guess he took second. So we were like closing down on stage and stuff, and he just texted me. He's like, man, I love you, dude. It's such a fun time. I was like, I do like this because we confided in each other. Yeah, the whole prep. We both had things happen in our personal life that just made it difficult.

Sherrie Kapach: There's a story.

Ryan Cardinal: The biggest one here. We broke up, and couldn't handle it. So there's always something, and that's what kind of made me realize when he told me when his dad died. I was like, I grew up, I didn't take that. It was a personal life with me. But then I thought of it, I was like, well, it's good. My dad didn't die. Yeah, that's bad. How would you feel when some of my family members died? It could be months, it could be years. Some people just don't recover. Most people are like three months. And an old relationship is usually water under the bridge. I feel like we can all probably agree on that for the most part, aside from marriage. Certain things like that. But it's usually a lot less. Anyways, when I talked to him, it was like, I'm glad that (inaudible).

Sherrie Kapach: That extra pain, for sure. Go through that in the stature already because you're in a little bit of a fragile state. I mean, it's tough. And it's horrible. I can't even imagine how he powered through that.

Ryan Cardinal: The thing was like, I had a breakup, I went quite numb. For the most part, I actually didn't do a whole lot of anything. I remember one day it all hit me a lot once. But yeah, he was put in motion. It was a hard four day stretch, but I didn't really have any communication, you're just kind of business.

Sherrie Kapach: Let's move on.

Ryan Cardinal: Yeah, pretty much.

Sherrie Kapach: So being your first competition, you've been working out before, just eating what you wanted to eat, just building on your own, and then getting into the more serious side of it, how did you find that? Because it isn't that you go out and just speed, speed, speed, speed thing, it's different.

Ryan Cardinal: The first thing I realize is how difficult it is. So when you watch these, like YouTube videos, and as bodybuilders, we all think we all do. I think you'd be lying if you watch motivational videos or some old DVD, or you follow your favorite color and they sit there, you sit on the couch and I play a lot of sports. Don't get me wrong, I guess I was like, there's some hard ass sports out there.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah.

Ryan Cardinal: But the interesting thing is, I remember hearing, it's 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. And then I started realizing like, even just my girlfriend, and some of the trips that we've taken, and how much I've kind of ruined a trip because Ryan has a big container of cooked beef. He has this big container of rice, he ran out halfway, Edmonton. So now he has to delay any sort of tripping, any activity you've done for 45 minutes because he's going to be at the hotel room trying to cook. And you start to realize that it's not you that's upset about cooking the food, but it is just so when someone is upsetting you, it's not just your girlfriend. It's like, it's your parents when they come with you. When you pull up to your uncle's place for a barbecue and they're like, yeah, I gotta make some. If you're a serious bodybuilder and you're like, well, I gotta make some rice. Because if I don't make it here, I made time to come visit you guys for barbecue. But if I don't start making the rice here, then I won't have time to open it because I have to train. And then they just look and they're like, well, why don't you just stop training? And you're like, well, no, you can't. You're like, no, you can't. It's hard because you're guilty. Yeah, I think it's the easiest way to break it down.

Sherrie Kapach: If you're not in the sport, you just don't understand. And it doesn't even matter how you explain it. It's like, this is what I do now. In the simplest form, it is huge.

Ryan Cardinal: I hate to put it in its simplest form because it sounds so cliche, because it's all you ever hear. What you just don't understand, just wouldn't understand. I don't want to think of any other way in English there. You know what I need to just say? It's true, because how would you like it. I could name a billion things. But in someone else's brain, they would just be like, well, then just don't make their Iceman go by summer. You could do it, I guess. But me driving 20 minutes down the road to go buy rice from your--

Sherrie Kapach: It's gonna be plain rice. You don't want a bunch of this. It's a science.

Ryan Cardinal: And science is so stressful. It is a stressful lifestyle.

Sherrie Kapach: When they say that it's the hardest sport and you're saying no. So when you've gotten into it, you understand.

Ryan Cardinal: You realize that it is actually the hardest work 24 hours because it not only strains you as a person and makes you build that stress that strains everybody else around you that may already be a part of your life, and then it also puts you in a bubble for anybody else that may want to be a part of your life. So you get into this cycle of selfishness which you get to use for bodybuilding. I would call it a (inaudible) because it's great for bodybuilding. It's absolutely great if you have nobody to care. But if you do, bodybuilding is going, unfortunately, this is the harsh reality of it is going to take away. Yes, if you are serious about it, it's going to take away from the life of your children a little bit. I'm not saying you can't make time for your kids, your wife is going to suffer losing some time with you. No, she's not understanding or supportive like you said. I mean, not having the support in this relationship, like everybody else has to pay. If you choose to have those people in your life, you have to kind of pay for your lifestyle, it's like paying taxes. And if that person doesn't like, understand the concept of how to give and take, that's a relationship.

Sherrie Kapach: I recall my first competition. I'll be competing July 22, in Toronto. But I was struggling, it was my first one. I was struggling. I said to my husband, I don't even know how you can stand me right now because I can't even stand myself. I was in such a state. I'm like, the greatest support system, and my girls, and they all just tolerated, and they knew.

Ryan Cardinal: Yeah, it's funny.

Sherrie Kapach: A lot better. I've gone through, I use hypnosis as a hypnotherapist for just handling everything. Gamechanger. Cool.

Ryan Cardinal: That's actually interesting because I never thought about that. My ex girlfriend was, I told her, listen, I need this 22 weeks, and I'm not going to come over and visit as much as I normally do. I'm going to be angry, because I know how angry I am when I get hungry. I said, I'm going to be taking things that are going to make my hormones flop, which means a lot of things that people don't understand. Your libido and your sex drive are not going to be what they normally would be, whether they're on the high end or low end resistant. I don't know, nobody knows, really. So you get into those depths, you're gonna be hungry. And when you're hungry, you're miserable. You're just mean. I told her, don't take anything I say, particularly personally. You're better off. I know that it's not that easy. But I said, just try not to take anything I do personally. I said, there's going to be times where I just want to sit at home. I'm gonna be tired. I'm just gonna go train. And unfortunately, prioritize the training over a little bit of time with you, but it is temporary. I just need the support. And most of the time they're like, yeah, it's all good. But then wanted me to break up a circle. It's been like three months of this. Believe me, I know how hard it is. They don't understand. They do at first, it only gets harder. Now that I've done it, and not that I've played every single show, but it is gotta be because you need too.

Sherrie Kapach: Your mindset, that's huge. And the commitment, the dedication and the motivation. The supports, it sounds, so yeah.

Ryan Cardinal: When you play hockey, you play your game. And yeah, it's hard when you're on third hockey too. And it's toxic. But you don't have any of that. Most of the time, if you're very serious, you get up and go back to the maniac or whatever. But it's just for an hour or two, and then you go home. And I guess if you're a really, really serious hockey player, you go on a diet, but I guarantee you that their diet doesn't consist of depriving them. For one, it's all about recovery. There's so many things that are just like, you could name them and you're like, okay, now and then, try and find yourself something you like to do. Yeah, even though it's bodybuilding. Maybe for a better example, try and find something that your girlfriend likes to do and schedule an hour out of your day to do it. And tell me how that fucks up all day, every day. Let me know how it goes for you and how stressed it is because you didn't realize how much time it actually takes up. It's unreal, actually to get the insight firsthand.

Sherrie Kapach: Yeah, yes. You gotta know your why.

Ryan Cardinal: How much fun I had today? Yeah. The ultimate point of it all was after the feeling of today and how much I had today with everybody is why I wanted, and it feels great. I'm not upset. I was a little bit, yeah, I should not have gotten that way because that's been a force sport, and all in the learning game, and it came out and I won the overall classic. Great about myself. And now, I feel great.

Sherrie Kapach: So on that note, I want to say congratulations, and enjoy your evening feast. Thank you for joining me.