Arrive an Amateur, but Leave a Pro

I told you I wasn’t done. As though a little mix up could hold me back, pft, not a damn chance. After Zack and I discussed my future as a bodybuilder, I came home and immediately registered for an INBF pro qualifier show in Sacramento. I booked my flights, and before the end of the night, I was back on contest prep. I was goddamn going to get the pro card that I was told was well within my grasp three weeks prior.  I had 5 weeks in which to improve my physique, to dial in to absolute perfection, and I had never wanted anything more. “Pro card or GTFO, Miss P.”

Now that it’s 100% official- my urinalysis has come back clean, and my physical pro CARD has arrived, I’m ready to finish celebrating and talk about it!


What really happened after that second show was I went to EDC, danced my face off for an entire weekend, and despite hitting the Vegas hotel buffets pretty hard, in an attempt to match my FitBit’s estimated calorie burn,I ended up losing four pounds before the Sacramento show on accident, despite increasing my calories almost 300 each day. I was starting to feel bad, and starting to look pretty skinny. My body was NOT HAPPY with this. Consider: this was solidly four pounds LIGHTER than when I had been DEXA scanned at 9.6% body fat. This was a level of bad that I had not ever felt before. I warned Zack that post-show was going to be a hell of a struggle this time around, despite my best efforts. I accepted this, and tried to soften it as much as I could going into the show, but there’s only so much a person can do.


I prepped a weekend worth of meals and I flew up to Sacramento, secretly this time, having told only a handful of people, and an amazing stranger picked me up at the airport- with flowers! Through Facebook group connections, I was spared a lonely and expensive hotel stay when Jessica and her kitties asked me to stay with them!  She grocery shopped for show day carbs with me, marveled at my insane ice cream vascularity the night before, and wasn’t mad when I left the key to her house in an Uber, ending up ringing the doorbell at 1am after the show- worst house guest ever. Never host me, seriously.

Saga and I became best friends almost immediately


Show day

I woke up to this amazing text from Zack:

Did I ever mention he’s the most amazing? He was working night shift, so he wouldn’t be awake until after prejudging was done.

        Competitor number… birth year…

I got up SUPER EARLY to get my hair and makeup done, and Ubered to the venue almost 30 minutes early. I was not taking that chance again. This made the day very looooonnngggggg. So much goddamn waiting. I arrived for the athlete meeting at 8am and didt leave the venue until after 9pm








WNBF figure pros Left: Hayley Hirshland (placed 2nd) Right: Lee Ann Thompson (1st)


Eat enough, but not too much. Entertain the new competitors with my dancing and smiling shenanigans. Make friends with the gorgeous figure pros you’ve been stalking on social media for weeks.

Serenade people who are too damn serious. Fuck up your spray tan (at one point I lost an entire buttcheek worth of tan, thanks to sitting on my silk robe and sweating it off on a chair) and get it fixed a hundred times. Take selfies. Share Oreos with the vegan pro-bodybuilders as they come off stage because you already know they’re safe.


       WNBF pro bodybuilder Patrick Reiser




And of course, Edna was there, making her pro debut! She placed third!












One moment that does stand out to me, though, was as I was waiting for the morning show: I recognized one of the 3DMJ coaches, Brad Loomis, who I follow via social media. When I say follow, I mean I obsessively read and listen to everything that any of the 3DMJ coaches puts out. They are like 70% of the reason I can coach myself- they are so forthcoming with evidence based contest prep, nutrition, and lifting information that I am more than willing to soak up and turn into my own practice. Needless to say, I fangirled a bit, pointed him out to my friend, and continued to try not to eat everything yet. Then. THEN. He pointed at me. “You’re Stephanie!”


He came over and introduced himself (unnecessarily) and told me he really enjoyed following me on social media, marveling at how quickly I get contest ready, and congratulating me on my competition so far. Nothing could have set me on a course for a more positive outlook on my day, man, that really got me smiling!
Confident that I hadn’t fucked everything up, finally, I announced after check-ins that I was competing on my social media. An explosion of love came forward- I should have anticipated that, but damn if it doesn’t take me by surprise every time.

Helen made me tear up with this one ❤
        Jessica and the kitties made signs!







Jessica- my gracious host- came for the morning show to cheer for me, and she brought me doughnuts from Baker’s, too!



I walked onto the stage for the morning show absolutely glowing- so confident! But I walked off unsure. I was placed splitting center with another girl with a really fantastic physique. Looking through the photos as I exited the stage, I noted that my back was the clear winner, but her lower body was ahhhhh-freaking-mazing. Those quads! Those glutes! I knew I had lost a bit of fullness in the weeks between this show and my last, and for the first time, I started to worry that I had lost IT. I truly had no idea whether I would walk away the winner, and I sweated it all day. And by that I mean I had a lot of fun and walked around and made friends and danced and sang and knew I brought a pretty decent package, and there was nothing to be done about it now.



Fast forward to the night show: the figure lineup walks on stage. Splitting the center again, I’ve never been more nervous on stage. I hit every pose, but also knew that I was starting to spill over- a few too many Sour Patch Kids and cookies on the break while I impatiently waited. Suck it in. Oh god. 

They announced the fifth place… then fourth… third…

Oh fuck…fuck…


Second place… and it wasn’t me.


Second place and it wasn’t me.


I felt a nervous and excited little butterfly of a giggle emerging up from my stomach, but mostly contained it.

“And the winner of the Open Figure Short division is Stephanie Pio!”

Photo Credit: Nick Colvill of Better Aesthetics


I graciously waved and posed for the photographer, before collecting my trophy and walking off stage. Just as I hit the curtain, I was told not to go far, as I was back on for overall in a few minutes. Nervously, I paced and pumped up as best I could- I was losing it- no amount of carbs would help. My body was done, fading fast- exhausted.

My friend Gretchen, who I had met 7 weeks prior, competing in Rancho Cucamonga, ended up winning the Figure Tall division. I hugged her and apologized for wanting her to lose. We laughed, but I’m not honestly sure what the actual emotions were in that moment. Anxiety, excitement, and some conflict. I wanted this so, so badly…

The wait was longer than anticipated as all three divisions of men’s bodybuilding, plus physique went up. My body rebelled more and more, and a kind woman backstage- a judge, though not today, and show promoter from Seattle- ordered me to stop, and gave me a hug. “You’ll only ruin yourself at this point, dear,” she said, “Just calm down, you’ve got this. I knew the moment I set eyes on you this morning this show was yours.”


Brad Loomis thought so too, because when I checked my phone… 


And they were right. I stepped onto that stage a novice competitor, and moments later, my name was announced as the newest WNBF figure pro. I was whisked off stage by that same kind woman and into a bathroom- time to pee on command. One bottle of water later, a few signatures, and I was let loose to celebrate.




My doughnuts were stale from having waited all day to eat them, which was sad, but Jeff Nippard stopped by as I was packing up to congratulate me and compliment my physique- his friend had also turned pro that day, in men’s physique, and that was pretty rad. I also made an appearance on Jeff’s Snap Chat that day, so, uh, you could say I’m kind of a big deal. (PS if you don’t follow Jeff or Patrick on Snap Chat, get on it- they’re awesome!)

Jeff Nippard is a WNBF pro, and the host of a really useful podcast called Ice Cream 4 PRs– highly recommended!
Seconds later, I realized you can’t keep a donut fresh for 13 hours, it turns out.













I made a short appearance in a video he posted after the show, after I’ve finished my drug test (12:45) and you can see how Patrick’s day went, too! Also I do recommend watching all the way through the video- he’s got a good discussion on natural bodybuilding and just how natty it really is, as well as talking through the WNBF drug testing standards.


All I really wanted, though, after 15 weeks of prep, three shows, and a pro card… was a goddamn drink.

13 thoughts on “Arrive an Amateur, but Leave a Pro

    1. Thanks so much! I made the trip for a reason, and was not disappointed. Totally worth the extra 5 weeks on prep that I hadn’t planned for. Definitely enjoying NOT being on a diet, now, though! I can’t wait to make my pro debut next year- hopefully in my next, upgraded body!


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