Exposed! Lakewood’s 8-Year Secret

The beans are spilled, or should we say the protein powder? For eight years running, Lakewood has hosted a very significant event in the bodybuilding world. This April 5 at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium the 'Vyotech Nutritionals NPC Natural Ohio Drug Tested Bodybuilding and Figure Championships' will take place. The expo is a place for the public to get familiar with nutritional supplements, publications, fitness apparel and get autographs from bodybuilding or figure celebrities, among other things.

What does this mean for Lakewood? This big-time competition has been hosted at the Lakewood Civic Auditorium since 2000 and has iron-pumping men, women and teenagers from all over Ohio and as many as 15 other states contending. In fact, over 100 people are pumping iron, dieting and preparing for a win in the bodybuilding or figure contests. It draws family and friends of the competitors from all over the region. These including the children who come to cheer on their parents competing, who make up approximately five percent of the audience. Just as this might inspire the kids, so too does it draw other spectators who come as fans of the sport or as potential competitors.

Bodybuilding and figure championships are the two types of competitions that will take place. When we think bodybuilding, naturally Arnold Schwarzenegger or perhaps even Rachel McLish come to mind, and both men and women will compete separately in the Lakewood show. Figure competition is a relatively new type of competition in which only women compete. Rather than bulking up like a bodybuilder, they are judged on athletic looks and definition and pose in swimsuits. All contestants work intensely two to three months prior to the show and usually keep up a disciplined off season.

When asked what the draw is for her, first-time figure contender Nikki Christides of Seven Hills had a goal of competing since graduate school. She remarked, “as I started getting back into my workout routines (after neck surgery), I realized that it was now a possibility. I attended Jen Hendershott's ‘Phat Camp’ in June and my mind was made up! I was going for it!”

Another first-time figure competitor, Shane Carrigan Connor of Rocky River, said she was inspired when, “I went to watch the show in Lakewood and was very impressed with the time and dedication that it takes to get into the physical shape needed to compete in these shows. It was then I decided that maybe I could do that.” Previous to the April 5th show, Connor never competed in sports, although she was an avid exerciser.

Past shows have pulled over 1,000 attendees to the health and fitness expo, which this year is taking place in the LHS East Cafeteria. As an example to the popularity of the event, the Courtyard Marriott in Westlake, the host hotel, was sold at capacity last year. According to co-promoter, Dave Liberman of Mentor, the Lakewood show is one of the top Midwest NPC (National Physique Committee) events.

Formed in 1982, the NPC is an amateur bodybuilding group recognized by the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) that brothers Joe and Ben Weider (two pioneers in bodybuilding) founded in 1946. Competitors in NPC events try to qualify for IFBB professional events, where they can earn prize money and flex their muscles with top athletes worldwide.

The Ohio Naturals this April 5th and October 10th are both qualifiers for the IFBB pro title. Although the winners receive no cash for the Lakewood event, they do get a lot of press in such magazines as Flex, Muscular Development and Ironman.

Body building has always had its icons, and at least two will be attending the Ohio Naturals event this year. Jay Cutler, the 2006 and 2007 Mr. Olympia (awarded to the world’s best bodybuilder), will appear at the show April 5th, and Ronnie Coleman, an eight-time Mr. Olympia title holder, who will be at the October 10th show. We’ll host two Mr. Olympia’s in Lakewood this year!

All proceeds benefit charity – typically the American Cancer Society, a charity near to the hearts of the show’s promoters. Both Liberman and co-promoter Todd Pember of Amherst have had family members succumb to cancer. Generally, the show has been able to raise around $2000 for the ACS. In the past, the proceeds have also been earmarked for national disasters.

Liberman and Pember have happily settled on the Lakewood Civic Auditorium as the perfect venue. Liberman comments that the stage at the Civic is “great and the lighting and sound are excellent. Lakewood is underrated, and we’re happy to have it there.” He is also pleased with the ease of working with the city.

Liberman invites those interested to visit his website For direct ticket sales contact Titan’s Gym of Mentor for tickets at 440-953-9753. Tickets are also available at the door for $15 for the 10:00 a.m. prejudging (doors open at 9:30 a.m.) and for $30 for the 6:00 finals p.m. (doors open at 5:00 pm).

Liz Guscott is a proud Lakewood resident and personal trainer. She welcomes comments to be sent to




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Volume 4, Issue 6, Posted 10:31 PM, 03.07.2008