On-The-Grind Athlete
Ari Schuh

What made you want to compete for the first time?
I use to be the type of person who’s day revolved around food, so if I had a bad day at work it was an excuse to gorge myself on food high in fats but even if I had a great day it was reason to celebrate and eat my favorite treats. This relationship caused my health to suffer and I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder due to the lifestyle I CHOSE. Let that sink in for a moment, at 23 my diet was so bad that one of my organs was shutting down completely! I remember a week before my emergency surgery crying because I was in so much pain from the gallbladder attacks but not being able to eat due to my overactive gallbladder. I lost 15 pounds and boy did I feel terrible. After healing from my surgery I thought I could eat whatever I wanted because I no longer had the gallbladder “holding me back.” This mentality caused me to gain all 15 pounds back then an additional 30 pounds in a year! In October 2014 I finally decided ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I started lifting weights and eating healthy and over the course of 1.5 years was down to 130 pounds, 5 pounds away from my goal weight. In March of 2016 as I got closer and closer to reaching my goal I realized I had found my passion in lifting weights and since I am so goal oriented, wanted to give myself a new goal, to compete. From March 2016 I never looked back and started training with a purpose and with passion.

What has been your greatest challenge?
Working with my dietary restrictions and learning that due to my lack of gallbladder there are certain diets that do not work for my body and realizing how to recognize those signs early. Also going along with that, comparing my weight loss to others, having a difficult time understanding why certain people seem to drop weight so quickly yet I can do the same thing and not experience similar results. Learning what diet works with my body has been my biggest struggle.

What did you wish that you knew before you had started this journey?
That it’s not about competing AGAINST others because ultimately you can’t control who shows up, only what YOU bring to the show. Some of my favorite memories from my shows were watching people on my team “beat me” and sharing in their happiness, genuinely excited for them.

What have you learned from your experience with competing?
If you’re going to be serious about competing then you must have both passion and discipline to be successful. There were so many days I didn’t want to wake up at 4:30 in the morning, at the moment I did not have passion for the sport, but because I was disciplined I got up and grinded! The biggest lesson though has been to believe in myself and what  I’m capable of. At my most recent show (2017 KY Derby Classic) I truly did not think I would place in open due to medical issues I was having causing me to not get as lean as what I wanted to be going into the show. As I listened to people get awards and the countdown to first, I was so genuinely caught off guard and overjoyed when I heard my name called for second place that I almost burst into tears. As I got off stage I had a text from Autumn saying “Never doubt yourself again” and it was a moment and a feeling I will never forget.
What advice would give to someone who is considering competing?
Trust the process, trust your coach, and GET OFF INSTAGRAM. As great as Instagram is leading up to a show to meet other athletes it can get in your head and cause you to think you don’t look as lean or as good as someone else who is competing in your show. We forget that most people only post their good sides and great moments.

Tell about your support system!
Although technically speaking this is a very lone wolf style sport, it is much more difficult to be successful if you do not have everyone around you supporting your decision. You really find out who the important people in your life are and cut people out who do not support you. If your support system doesn’t understand your diet and that you can’t just have “one bite” or “just one drink” then you must explain to them how important this is so that they truly understand your goals and how strict competing is. I am so lucky to have great friends who are so supportive and most of them are in the sport as well, therefor they relate to how I’m feeling when I’m eating at a deficit or giving me pep talks when I’m having a rough day. This extends to my On-The-Grind family that I’ve grown with. All of the competition team and posing clients are so supportive of each other’s journey; they were there for me when I’ve been sick and checked in with me every day until I felt better. Even on show day, everyone is there for each other and it truly has grown into a team experience.  

What is your next goal?
Currently, I am settling into off season but my first priority is reverse dieting effectively and getting my metabolism to be extremely efficient. From there, the goal is to compete in the Kentucky State show the second week of August, health permitting. No matter if I stay in growing season or do decide on competing in August I will definitely be competing in the KY Muscle show at the end of October! Expect a much leaner, capped shoulder, more pronounced hamstring tie in Ari, this is not my final form!

Continue to follow Ari’s fitness journey on Instagram @ari_lizbeth13