Our favorite globetrotting fitness guru, Ryall Graber, is back with more amazing photos and inspirational messages post-Arnold 2016 in South Africa. Catch up with her previous Arnold experiences, which began in Columbus, then took her to Australia, Brazil, and now Johannesburg, South Africa!
2016 marks the first time the Arnold Classic has taken place on the African continent. While there have been pro bodybuilding events in the past, none generate quite the amount of buzz as a full-blown Arnold event, with over 40 sports and activities demonstrated and performed throughout the weekend. The spectators and promoters were nearly as active with excitement as the athletes and performers themselves!
One of Ryall's favorite parts of competing is the ability to connect with the fans; that occurred tenfold in South Africa. "The people came out. They sold out the final slow, it was incredible," Ryall stated. A two-hour meet and greet event was held the night before the competition, in a small area rather than an open hall. This creates more of a mix and mingle atmosphere, which is especially exciting for the fans. Ryall pointed out how amazing it is to meet these people, and then see them in the audience, right in the front section, at the next show.
The Arnold circuit simply allows for much more connection with the fans than many other pro shows; that alone reveals the scope of connection that the Arnold committee has worked so hard to achieve. Ryall has participated in the meet and greet events all across the globe, but one thing stood out more than ever this time: "You realize when you speak to the fans that no matter where you are in the world, we're not all that different, and it's just awesome to be able to connect with people. I truly had a blast."
The Arnold event as a whole gives the athletes more flexibility; it's not a rigid schedule with intense structure like a typical competition. The performance aspect was stressed again, so they opened the show with another fun routine as they did in Brazil. Then at the end, the bodybuilders and fitness athletes just jumped into the crowd.
Yet another unique component to her South Africa Arnold experience was that for the first time ever, Ryall competed with one of her clients, Caroly Botha. What could have been a stressful experience was saved by Caroly's calm and collected personality, which made it really fun and enjoyable. Not only would Ryall have to keep herself in check, but every morning she would get up and check on Caroly as well. A lot of moving parts were involved, but it was such a rewarding experience for Ryall. "When I saw her on stage, I was quite emotional," Ryall added. They only had 8 weeks together, but it was an incredible experience – and Caroly crushed it!
Dreamchasing is truly the name of the game for Ryall. It has been a challenging year, but the ability to be doing exactly what she wants to be doing – not to mention the exposure and all the experiences along the way – are worth far more to her.
What's next for Ryall? Since writing this piece, she's also gotten the opportunity to travel to Serbia as a coach in the IFBB World Children Fitness Championships, but our next Arnold adventure won't be until August, when the event goes all the way to Hong Kong!
In the meantime, we know you want more Ryall, so check her out online for everything from news about her clothing line to badass fitness inspiration: Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and her website!
Another aspect that stood to Ryall this time around is how much she started to feel like she was part of the Arnold family. When you participate in the Arnold multiple times in a year, you can't help but get to know all the amazing people behind the scenes.
"Everybody started taking selfies and the crowd went wild. We had never done anything like that before!"
She also points to the women, specifically – everyone gets along so well, and it's been amazing for her to be able to share that experience with the same women across the world. They've built up a unique camaraderie because the Arnold has never been so global before. Several years ago, there was only one event. Then it slowly started spreading into Europe and Brazil – now it's virtually everywhere!
"The more I get to know the people, it makes the quality of the experience that much richer for me."
The moments right before she stepped on stage – to land a proud 6th place finish – were, unbeknownst to her, captured by photographer David Parel. He sent them to her via Facebook message after the show, and the pure passion contained within simply blew her away. The dramatic black-and-white images truly made her reflect on the fact that all the training, everything you do, goes into that one moment.
"I've never felt more alive. We're making history. Arnold is creating a legacy and this will all be here long after he's gone."
From a food standpoint, Ryall was able to stay on track by restocking her portable nutrition – hummus, nuts, whatever she could find that would work – every time she got the opportunity. In South Africa, she relied on a grocery store called Woolworths. To stay focused, she approached nutrition with the mentality to eat to your macros, all while trying the local food. One item she particularly enjoyed was an incredibly fresh-tasting beef jerky with very little sodium that was local to the area.
"If the images were in color, it wouldn't have been the same. If I would have seen David, it wouldn't have been the same. It was nice to sit there, look at the pictures, and actually reflect on the whole experience captured in that one moment. You get up on stage and see Arnold sitting in the front row, and you just find yourself wondering, 'How is this even real?'"
In fact, a friend that she was traveling with learned so much just from watching Ryall's approach to nutrition. Ryall stated that her friend really understood the need for 6 Pack Bags; she realized just how much you have to think about food, which also made her realize the true usefulness of a meal management bag.
"A week of not eating right when you're trying to stay focused can really derail you, so it's important. You have to make it a priority. It can be done, you just have to put it into your schedule like brushing your teeth and packing your suitcase."
And what happens once you start taking those steps? The whole world opens up for you! For Ryall, this included the opportunity to check out other parts of Africa post-Arnold; specifically the deserts of Namibia. We were lucky enough to have her share some videos of that part of her trip, as well. Check those out below!
"If you have a dream, and you really wanna go after it, you have to make sacrifices. It's not easy, but it's so rewarding. Hate your job? Get out of it! Be bold. Take that step. Think about what you want and design a life you love."