The White Plains Examiner

Competing in the Empire States Natural Championships

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Hust and Mangold competed in the Empire States Natural Championships, July 7, at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.
Hust and Mangold competed in the Empire States Natural Championships, July 7, at the White Plains Performing Arts Center.

For two days before the Empire States Natural Championships, Caitlin Mangold found herself in a staring contest with a cupcake. But the structure that flourished from her training helped her resist its sugary lure.

On Saturday, July 7, Mangold was one of approximately 80 competitors in the Empire States Natural Championships. The competition, held at the White Plains Performing Arts Center, focused on natural strength and bodybuilding.

A few years ago, Mangold was in a rut. Even as a personal trainer, her life was missing a certain pep that she wanted.

“Lifestyle rut, eating rut, exercise rut – it was the same thing every day,” said the Philadelphia-based competitor. “I was working out and teaching fitness classes, but I was bored. Almost miserable.”

Last year, after running into a bodybuilding friend from high school, Mangold was inspired to challenge herself, refocusing her training and nutrition. She competed in her first show last September.

“It just became a lifestyle, a goal,” Mangold said. “I don’t compete to win a trophy, I compete because it had me straight and structured and focused on the way to accomplishing a goal. It gives me a purpose and it helps me get through everyday life.”

Oren Silvers, the championship promoter, understands that there is a bodybuilding stigma. People often associate it with steroid-use and bloated muscles. However, Silvers organizes the championships to showcase the competitors’ natural physical prowess, achieved by proper training and diet.

“This is about athleticism,” he said. “It’s about showcasing their hard work and dedication. It takes a lot to live a healthy lifestyle like that.”

As competitors entered the air-conditioned Performing Arts Center totting their luggage, several signed up for the beginner’s category. Silvers added the category to encourage newer athletes. He explained that some competitors might feel discouraged standing next to a veteran, but he wanted them to feel comfortable, not self-conscious, as they stepped onstage under the lights.

Nichole Hust, who munched on chicken strips as she waited to register, said that her first show was “not as terrifying” as she thought it would be. She started bodybuilding in Norwich, Conn., because, even though she was always athletic, she wanted to test her body’s strength.

“While doing my first competition, it was great to be around like-minded women, and have the support of my sisters,” Hust said of the Savage Sisters, a fitness group created by former fitness competitor Cathy Savage. “I want to see what I can do with my body. My goal is to continue to see what my body can do and to continue competing hard for every show.”

In past years, Silvers has run the Empire States Natural Championships in Rockland County, but found that he receives a better reception from audiences in White Plains where the attendance is between 350 to 400 people.

“It’s not like a movie where you sit there mindlessly,” Silvers said. “It’s something a little different, something out of the ordinary. It’s a whole other kind of outing.”

By Natalia Baage-Lord

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