For Merritt local Briar Charney, entering the Arnold Classic was an opportunity to showcase her hard work. Unfortunately, she did it at a time when the world was shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This coming March, she will have another go at the prestigious competition and will get the full experience of having an audience to showcase her hard earned physique. 

Bodybuilding is both a sport and and artform. Athletes dedicate countless hours to weight lifting, dieting, and proper rest, all for the opportunity to showcase their work at bodybuilding competitions, including one of the most prestigious one, the Arnold Classic. 

“It’s a very big deal,” said Charney. “This is probably one of the top two or three competitions in bikini there is in the world. It’s a very large scale and highly sought after competition because of all the athletes competing from all over the world.” 

Charney was involved in figure skating and hockey, growing up in Ontario. At that time bodybuilding was an idea that hadn’t even crossed her mind.

 “I kind of started this lifestyle just to get myself in shape and become active,” she explained. “I absolutely did not want to go on stage because going on stage in bikini and heels was definitely out of my comfort zone.”

She started going to the gym in 2014, and by 2019, she hired her trainer Jodii Fox, who opened her eyes to new possibilities.

“My coach suggested that I go and do the Arnold with her in 2020,” she said. “We ended up having a team of six girls to compete in the event. That’s what made me decide that it would be a fun process, and I would at least see what the show was about.”

Charney explained that this was her first Arnold Classic, and her first competition overall. 

“We went big or went home by joining that first Arnold,” she explained. “It was a little bit crazy but I was quite excited to do it. I worked so hard, so I wanted the full experience of going through a big show and being a spectator, watching the other sports.”

Unfortunately for Charney, her hopes to get the full experience of a big competition wouldn’t be realized as March of 2020 was the period when most of the world had locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It was the first week of March and COVID hadn’t really hit us yet,” she recalled. “We flew to Columbus, and we were at a gym there two nights before the stage day. All of a sudden we were hearing rumors about the competition getting postponed, even canceled, which made us all confused.” 

After all the speculation, Charney and the rest of her group eventually competed on stage, albeit in a much more closed off circumstance as there were no audience during the event.

Briar Charney in her first competition, the 2020 Arnold Classic. Photo/Briar Charney

“It was a very strange experience, but I didn’t really have anything to compare it to,” she described. “You’re in this gigantic auditorium that seats 2,000 people and the only ones there was a panel of six judges and the contestants on stage. ” 

Though finishing sixth in the masters division and 15th in the open division, Charney’s results were overshadowed by the unexpected impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was disappointing, to say the least,” said Charney. “My husband had come all the way to Columbus with me. He’d watch me prep for 16 weeks and sacrificed all the things needed to get me ready.” 

Throughout her competition prep, Charney was living a very regimented lifestyle, going to the gym consistently, changing her diet, and making sure she had enough sleep. Supporting her through this journey was Jason, her husband. 

“For him to not even be able to see the final package, see me on stage, and experience that with me was very disappointing.” 

Though there were glaring down sides in her first competition, Charney, realized she had liked competing enough to continue with her journey. 

“I fell in love with it,” she said. “Even with being on stage with no spectators, the excitement of being on stage was still palpable. I enjoyed the process of getting dressed up for the day, and showing off your hard work. It’s one of those things where you find your confidence in.” 

In July of 2021, she competed again, this time at the Vancouver Island Amateur Showdown in Victoria B.C. Here she would place ninth in the open category and third in the masters category. 

“That was another show impacted by COVID,” Charney recalled. “It was a different experience from my first one. There was some excitement and build up there because there were at least some spectators allowed.”

 In December of the same year, Charney finished third in both of her categories at the Vancouver Pro/Am & Expo, her first competition that was fully unrestricted by COVID-19 safety protocols. 

“It was the full experience that I was looking for, finally,” Charney described. “After almost two years of competing with restrictions, things were finally open and returning back to normal.” 

This year was all about training for Charney. She did not enter in any competitions and used this time to build up as much muscle as she can before entering her prep for the 2023 Arnold Classic. 

“Ultimately the goal is to win a competition,” she said. “It is a very subjective sport and I just want to continue doing well.” 

The competition requires Charney to go on stage in her bikini to do her posing routine.

“Basically what the judges are looking for is symmetry, muscle mass, and overall presentation,” she explained. “It’s kind of like a beauty pageant with the fitness aspect incorporated, judging your musculature and stature.” 

Contestants, on average, allot 16-20 weeks to prep for a competition, to get their bodies in peak condition. 

“Most females in my category compete between nine to 15 percent body fat,” she said. “They work so hard to get their physique to only be on stage for maybe five minutes. In bigger competition, you go and do your routine ten seconds or less, then they bring out the group to do a comparison round.”

The Arnold Classic will be on March 2-5, 2023, in Columbus, OH. Charney’s amateur bikini competition will take place on March 3. To follow her journey you can find her @gutsoverfearfitness on Instagram.