Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

3 years after entering her first bodybuilding competition, Blakelee Ortega is going pro

“Surprisingly, once I got on stage, I felt natural up there,” Ortega said. “I felt like I was where I was supposed to be,” said Ortega.

“Just knowing I started truly bodybuilding in 2013, not knowing a single thing, to be a pro now is still crazy to me,” Ortega said.

Once Ortega started getting bigger, people started asking when she was going to enter competitions. “I would immediately say, ‘Never, I’m not going to compete,’” she said.

    

Cullman’s Blakelee Ortega did not originally plan on becoming a professional bodybuilder, and entered her first competition just three years ago, but that hasn’t stopped her from racking up wins on the way to earning the chance to compete at the pro level.

Over the past few years, Ortega placed first in her class for Women’s Physique at three competitions in Tennessee and won the best overall award at two of those contests, and earlier this year, received her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro card after finishing first in her class at the National Physique Committee North American Championships.

Those victories would not have been possible, however, if it wasn’t for the years of hard work she put in — both inside the gym and outside — and the encouragement of her husband.

Ortega said she first started going to the gym regularly when the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center opened in 2009, but said she did not go in with the goal to be a bodybuilder.

“I had no clue what I was doing,” she said.

A few years later, she met her husband, Daniel, at the same gym. Daniel, who is also a bodybuilder, was the one who encouraged her to get more serious about building up her muscles.

“When we got together, I started working out with him and really just fell in love with it,” she said.

Once she started getting bigger, it didn’t take long for people to start asking her when she was going to start entering competitions, but Ortega said she still had no intention of ever doing so.

“I would immediately say, ‘Never, I’m not going to compete,’” she said.

With her husband’s encouragement for a cleaner diet, she started seeing bigger results in the gym, and decided that if she was going to spend so much time and effort on her body, she should enter a competition to see how it went.

Ortega’s first competition was the 2018 Knox Classic in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she finished first in her class for Women’s Physique and found that she enjoyed the experience of being on the stage despite the nervousness that she first felt.

“Surprisingly, once I got on stage, I felt natural up there,” she said. “I felt like I was where I was supposed to be.”

In 2019, Ortega was named the overall winner in the Women’s Physique competition at the Flex Lewis Classic in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and she decided to take the next year off to train and work on getting bigger for 2021’s competition.

In August, she returned to Knoxville to enter into the Knox Classic once again, but this time she had her eyes on a bigger prize after winning her class but not winning the overall prize in 2018.

“When I went back to Knoxville, that was kind of like my redemption because I didn’t win the whole show in my first competition,” she said.

The second time proved to be the charm for Ortega, and earning the overall win in her second trip to Knoxville allowed her to enter into the NPC North American Championships in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The North American Championships took place just six week’s after Knoxville’s competition, so Ortega said she allowed herself one night of celebrating and eating whatever she wanted before getting straight into preparations for Pittsburgh.

At that competition, she finished first in her class and earned her International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro card, which will enable her to compete in professional competitions and earn more money and sponsorships.

“When you start competing, that’s the ultimate goal is to become a pro in this sport,” she said.

Ortega said she plans to take 2022 off from competing to focus on preparing for the higher level of competition she will be facing at the pro level, and plans to make her professional debut in 2023.

“At the pro level, everyone looks good, so you’ve got to really be on top of your game,” she said.

Ortega said competing as a bodybuilder is a huge commitment for anyone wanting to do so, as the preparation takes a lot more than just a regular gym routine.

Each competition takes several months of preparation before the actual day of the event, and that preparation includes a change in diet and cardio exercise to prepare for the stage, Ortega said.

“It’s not just going to the gym and doing your workout. It’s preparing your meals, measuring every single thing out, doing your cardio as soon as you wake up, going to train later that day and then doing more cardio,” she said. “It’s an all-day thing, every single day, for weeks.”

That routine starts out hard and only gets harder as it gets closer to the day of the contest, Ortega said.

“It gets tougher the closer you get because you have to be so lean when you’re on the stage, so that last couple of weeks get really, really tough,” she said.

While the going gets tougher and tougher as the competition approaches, competitors still have to walk out on stage and put on a happy face, Ortega said.

Once the day of the contest arrives, they are similar to beauty pageants, as they both require plenty of preparation for her hair, makeup, outfit and routine — with the addition of a few coats of spray tan for the bodybuilders to really make their muscles stand out, she said.

Ortega said it still feels surreal when thinking about where she started.

“Just knowing I started truly bodybuilding in 2013, not knowing a single thing, to be a pro now is still crazy to me,” she said.

Article Source: https://www.cullmantimes.com/news/crushing-it/article_18f2b692-ab03-11ec-9d60-437ccb793fd2.html

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