Double Life Winning Formula For Zelinka

Double Life Winning Formula For Zelinka
by Jeffrey Reed
Photo: Arthur Kwiatkowski

When fitness competitor Melissa Hala of Esteven, Saskatchewan recently spoke out about post-competition depression, the 23-year-old bodybuilder brought much attention to the widespread issue of how all athletes deal with life away from the spotlight.

Hala, who has competed for five years, said post-competition depression is common among bodybuilders, many of whom find it difficult adjusting to normal weight gain. Preparing for an event sees their diets radically changed. And when the crowds stop applauding, a return to regular eating habits and less rigorous training can open up a myriad of mental and physical struggles.

“It’s not healthy to maintain a stage physique year round,” said Hala. “Your body needs that break. I thought I was just going to rock the six pack all year round, but nobody wants to eat tilapia and broccoli every day for the rest of their life.”

Although London bodybuilder Emily Zelinka hasn’t battled post-competition depression following figure competitions, she has in the past fought other demons. As a teenager, she suffered from Bulimia. Zelinka said, “I had always thought I was overweight and fat. Now looking back, I was fit and athletic, but I did not see that in the mirror at the time.”

emily11Zelinka, 32, competes worldwide as an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) Pro Figure athlete. Shen entered the sport in 2007, and just six years later placed first overall at the Canadian Bodybuilding Federation (CBBF) national championship.

“In all honesty, I have never had post-competition depression,” said Zelinka. “Competition is just that one day. Then you have to set new goals for yourself – what is a healthy weight, what is a healthy body fat percentage for the off-season. I will never sacrifice my health.”

With sponsorship from Magnum Nutraceuticals sports nutrition supplements, and Titika Active Couture apparel, Zelinka is one of the lucky ones who has found balance between life on and off the stage. She’s a full-time operations superintendent with Middlesex-London EMS, mother of daughter Brooke, 2, and husband to Brad Fowler. A retired world champion kickboxer, Brad has also found happiness outside of competition and now works as a personal fitness trainer at Movati Athletic.

According to Zelinka, post-competition depression is a real problem – one she has seen much too often. “What you’re asking me right now might get me in trouble if I answer,” said Zelinka of post-competition struggles. “I have personally seen it. They lose their identity. They ask themselves, ‘Who am I, if I’m not a professional baseball player, or an IFBB pro?’

“People ask me, ‘When are you going to stop competing?’ And I say, when I’m not enjoying it anymore – when it sacrifices aspects of my personal life.”
Zelinka said the mass media can provide fodder for unrealistic expectations. For example, she said athletes posing in bikinis for magazine covers are dehydrated and have dieted for weeks. An editor’s Photoshop skills add to the illusion.

“To get to the point where you put on a small bikini and get on stage, then gain body fat after that – I know a lot of girls who would feel shy, humiliated and not comfortable with themselves when they get to that point,” Zelinka said.

Any athlete – from weekend warriors to world-class competitors – must find happiness in other challenges and successes when it’s time to put away the gear and game face. Unfortunately, finding that balance can be as difficult as rushing for 200 yards during Super Bowl Sunday.

According to Zelinka, “You need to set new goals and focus on family. It’s like leading two lives. I’m Emily Zelinka on stage. I’m Emily Fowler at home.”

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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and

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