To say I’m proud of my good friend IFBB Pro Maribeth Ewing would be the understatement of the century. The proud owner and operator of Fenix Fit Bars has been a staple of the bodybuilding world for years and has worked steadfastly to reach all of her fitness goals. She’s competed in Women’s Bodybuilding, Women’s Physique, and ultimately turned pro in the ultra-competitive Figure Division. She’s a wonderful mom, a loving grandmother, and one of the hardest working women I know. To Beth it’s all about doing what you love and putting forth maximum effort. Her life isn’t one without challenges but it’s when life throws you curveballs that you see what you’re really made of. She’s a fighter and will do whatever it takes to reach her goals. While others whine, she works. And try telling someone like her that she can’t do it. She makes believers out of skeptics!
Earning an IFBB Pro is a lot harder said than done. While I’ve heard all the rhetoric from the critics about how there’s too many divisions and how pro cards are handed out like hotcakes I can assure that that’s categorically untrue. I’m sure an argument can be made for some watered down federations but when it comes to the NPC and the IFBB Pro League no one just goes pro. A card won’t just miraculously fall into lap and that’s especially true for the more muscular men and women.
This is not to say getting a card in Bikini or Men’s Physique is easy but it is easier than in the more muscular divisions. With the less muscular divisions there’s a great deal of difficulty based on the sheer number of people competing. They do have more cards but they also have way more people competing. When it comes to the more muscular divisions, however, I feel like the judges have more ground to cover and the athletes are scrutinized on a much more substantial basis. Remember, the more muscular divisions have more mandatory poses and as a result they have a lot more stage time. More poses means more factors, such as more comparisons and less chances of hiding weaknesses.
For many athletes the quest for the card is what it’s all about. There comes a point in time when that goal may have to be set aside. One big red flag is health. For many individuals no matter how much heart they have they just can’t figure what approach actually works. And continued attempts at figuring this out can have a very taxing effect on competitors, especially those whose health wasn’t great to begin with. Others may not be able to train quite like everyone else if they have preexisting conditions or succumb to fresh injuries. These are just facts of life.
Then of course there’s the body being the body. No matter how learned a contest prep coach is and/or how driven a competitor may be, if the body won’t respond no amount of food, training, or supplements will do it. I know that we want to believe that anything in life can be accomplished, but that’s only partly true. Not everyone can be an NBA player and not everyone can be an IFBB Pro. Not everyone can get their body to respond.
For others genetics might be the culprit.
And of course it goes without saying that age is another factor to consider. As we get older our bodies start acting differently than before. Perhaps we digest macros differently, perhaps we require more or less training, and more or less recovery times. Everything changes with age, but not necessarily for the worse. The idea that it does is a huge misconception. Nonetheless, there is change and getting in front of that change and truly understanding it can be a daunting task for someone who feels like time is running out to turn pro.
I’ve always admired Maribeth for truly appreciating the bigger picture. Going isn’t a race. Maybe it is in other sports but not bodybuilding. Bodybuilding isn’t about overnight success – this a patient person’s discipline. You have to be ready to hurry up and wait. Are there people who turn pro after two shows? Sure, but the vast majority have to cut their teeth. They may have to try their hand in 1, 2, or 3 divisions. The physique-based sports are subjective. One panel of judges in one city might say you’re Top 3 while another panel in another city might have you as the Overall Winner. Other times you might have done everything correctly but had a slip-up the final 48. You could go from looking like the clear winner to not placing the day of the contest. Very few athletes in other sports could process that reality but in bodybuilding it happens all the time. For as much as we know about science, the body can still respond spontaeneously all on its own – with or without reason. If you’re not resilient – you won’t make it. To give your all and your all not being good enough is bitter pill to swallow. Very few people have the mettle and mental fortitude to not only come back, but come back better. THAT’S what separates the seasoned competitors from the wannabes. Maribeth Ewing kept coming back, better and better.
In addition to being a Pro athlete, Beth is also a successful businesswoman in a highly-competitive market. When Frank Sinatra sang “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” about The Big Apple, I think that sentiment’s echoed in the fitness industry.
As I often say, don’t be misled by the huge bodybuilding expos around the world. The sector isn’t as big as those events make it out to be. It’s actually much smaller in reality and when it comes to who eats and who doesn’t, the giant corporations tend to corner whatever actual market there is. I’m talking about the companies that can afford to be wasteful, that have armies of sponsored athletes, who get into bidding wars with each over shelf-positioning at GNC, and who have high-powered attorneys just sitting around making millions on retainer. There aren’t many of these giants and that’s the point.
For a small business to survive all the stars have to align. A small business owner in the fitness industry has to work against the odds! No one’s going to help them. There’s no grants or bailouts here! And let’s not ignore the 10,000lb elephant in the room. Whether we’re talking about small businesses or giant conglomerates in the fitness industry – they’re all male dominated!! A female small business owner truly has her work cut for her, but much like Beth’s resolve to turning pro, she’s made it in business too. You either sink or swim. Life’s not fair and things should change but until they do, those who want to succeed, will. No matter how much work it takes, failure is not an option.
To say I’m proud of my good friend IFBB Pro Maribeth Ewing would be the understatement of the century. I love ya Beth and I can’t wait to see what you bring to the stage in the coming future. While I no longer do contest coverage I’ll be there with you in spirit. Maybe we’ll get together again post-show like we did when you earned your card.
In this industry you’ll come across all sorts, but if you’re lucky like I’ve been, you’ll make a few real friends along the way. A guy couldn’t ask for a better friend than Maribeth Ewing.