After months of staying committed to a strict workout regimen and diet, senior Nicole Himpele took to the stage and won the title of Ms. SRU in her first bodybuilding show.
Himpele, a health and physical education major minoring in sport management and leadership, learned discipline through her involvement in wrestling.
“My dad was a wrestler when he attended Slippery Rock and my older brother was involved in the sport too,” Himpele said. “I grew up going to matches and tournaments and fell in love with the commitment, passion and dedication the wrestlers and their families had for the sport.”
Himpele spent her high school career as a manager and scorekeeper for the Burnt Hills – Ballston Lake High School in Burnt Hills, NY.
Being physically fit has always been important to Himpele and after volunteering at the Mr. and Ms. SRU Show for the past two years, she decided to take a shot at the title.
“Seeing the competitors on stage really lit something up inside me that made me think ‘Hey, I could do this too”, Himpele said. “I’m such a competitive person and once I set my mind to something, that’s it. I knew I had to compete in the show.”
When she first began training, Himpele was focused on becoming “worthy” enough to be on stage. As training continued and her figure began to adjust to the lifting and dieting, Himpele realized she had a real chance to place and do well.
“As I grew and my training progressed, so did my expectations and mentality,” Himpele said. “By the last two months of training, my thoughts were on winning. I didn’t want anything less because I knew I could do it.”
Training for a bodybuilding show puts stress not only on the body, but on the mind.
Himpele admitted that there were many ups and downs throughout the course of her training.
“One minute I would feel like I was on top of the world and the next I was whining about how I hated the gym and never wanted to lift another weight in my life,” Himpele said. “I loved the healthy food and was mentally strong about eating right, but the gym was something I had to talk myself into doing every day.”
Although she enjoyed the healthy food, Himpele admitted that it was hard to turn down certain foods when she’d go out to restaurants with family or friends.
“I just had to keep my eye on the prize and remember why I was doing it,” Himpele said. “I never thought about stopping or giving up but there were those days where it took all I had to turn down the cake and cookies.”
Himpele looked to her father, who is currently in Australia, as a mentor throughout her training process.
“My dad competed in this same show in 1983 and won his weight class and his friend trained alongside him and knows all the ropes about muscles, nutrition and lifting,” Himpele said. “With those two by my side, they gave me all the advice and guidance I needed as I progressed through all the stages of training.”
The strangest part of her experience was sending her progress pictures to her dad and his friends, Himpele said.
“There I was, just taking selfies in barely any clothes and sending them to my dad and other people,” Himpele said. “It was also a little strange going in for tans or waxing, but you get over that pretty fast.”
Looking back on the experience, Himpele will always remember her first show.
“There’s nothing like being on stage,” Himpele said. “One minute I was nervous, the next I was calm and confident, then I was excited and antsy and then back to nervous again. Everyone who had competed before told me I’d be hooked after competing once and they were exactly right.”
Himpele had the support of many family and friends at the show. Her roommates came with signs and her family even managed to Skype the show so her father could see.
“It was hard that he wasn’t able to be there in person,” Himpele said. “He had to stay awake for two days straight because of the time difference.”
When she received the title of Ms. SRU , Himpele looked out into the crowd and saw her brother holding up the Skype screen with her dad waving and yelling on it.
“There’s nothing like being out on stage and hearing people yell your name and cheer for you,” Himpele said. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”
After the show was over, Himpele and her family went to Primanti’s and got a roast beef and cheese sandwich, buffalo chicken wings and chili.
She also was reunited with her favorite weakness, cookies, when she got home.
“I haven’t stopped eating since the show,” Himpele said.
Himpele plans on competing in the show next Spring as well and is excited to work towards new goals.