Erika Relova Shares Her Passion for Bodybuilding with Seniors
HIGHLAND PARK, NJ – April 14, 2022 – Parker’s elders are quick to notice when Erika Relova drops a few pounds. Out of an almost parental concern, they will ask if she feels well, or if she has been eating right.
That is when the fitness instructor talks about being a professional bodybuilder who is – as they say in the language of the sport – getting “stage lean.”
“The elders are always so thoughtful to check on me,” Relova said. “As a bodybuilder, you prepare for competition by getting leaner. I will show them some photos, and when they see me on stage with all of my muscles, they are pretty shocked. They say, ‘That’s you? That’s not you. You’re so tiny!’”
As a fitness instructor at the Health & Wellness Center on Parker’s Highland Park campus, Relova guides elders and community members around the gym, offering them expert advice and plenty of encouragement.
She also leads popular aerobic workouts via Zoom or Webex.
“Working at Parker is fun and exciting because it incorporates everything I love – serving elders and my passion for fitness and being active,” she said. “Being physically fit and sharing my love for fitness are some of the many reasons why I enjoy my job.”
She says the ultra-competitive world of bodybuilding requires superhuman discipline and grueling gym regimens done in the wee hours of the morning, far away from the bright lights of the competition stage or her day-to-day responsibilities at Parker.
There’s a long trail of blood, sweat, and powder drinks on the journey to developing bulging biceps and awesome abs.
But for Relova and the thousands of other men and women, professionals and amateurs alike, who have heeded the call to sculpt their bodies and master the subtle nuances of posing, the thrill of impressing the judges and leaving the arena with a first-place trophy makes every last minute on the Stairmaster worth it.
“You do it because in the end, you can actually see the product of your hard work,” she said. “Just knowing this is something that you created and being so proud of what you’ve done for yourself, it’s really an amazing feeling.”
But it’s not easy; among the many sacrifices required to be successful is time.
When Relova is preparing for competition, her workouts comprise 45 minutes of cardio work, an hour of strength training, then another 30 minutes of cardio, each and every day.
Because careful nutrition is such a vital component of getting and maintaining a chiseled physique, Relova must set aside plenty of time to prep all her meals, usually the day before.
“I’ll do that day after day when I’m gearing up for a competition,” she said. “Sometimes, you just can’t make get-togethers with your friends and family.”
Relova’s fitness journey mirrors her time at Parker, beginning in 2013. She began to eat a little healthier and do some at-home workouts. She then joined a gym. Her life changed when she saw a video of bodybuilders on Instagram.
“I said to myself, ‘Wow, I want to do that’,” Relova recalls.
She ramped up her workouts, got the coaches she would need, and received some encouragement from her then-boyfriend, who told her on their first date, “You should definitely compete because you would be great.”
Relova placed first in her two categories in her first competition in August 2015, then duplicated the feat two weeks later. Only two years later in July 2017, she attained pro status, enabling her to step up to a higher class of competition.
Only two things have slowed her ascension to perfection — the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down many competitive sports, and planning for her upcoming wedding in October.
While she’s still getting comfortable after recently buying a new home in South Plainfield and planning for her big day, her work at Parker is as busy and fulfilling as ever.
“It is an exhausting lifestyle, but I am enjoying every minute of it,” Relova said. “I couldn’t be luckier!”