Whitehorse’s Ben Wondga approached his very first bodybuilding contest with fairly modest goals.
He didn’t want to finish last and he didn’t want to take a spill on stage.
“My personal routine ended up going really great, but my goal going in was to just not fall down,” said Wondga.
“My goal going down was to not come in last place … And to do as well as I did, and to do it knowing I did it all by myself, was just so gratifying.”
Wondga placed third out of five contestants in the light heavyweight division at the Knight of Champions bodybuilding in Surrey, B.C., on Sept. 5.
With his finish he qualified for the B.C. championships next summer.
He pulled off the feat despite being a newcomer to the sport – especially compared to his competitors. Wondga only started bodybuilding eight months ago.
“Some of the other guys have 20-plus years experience. All of them seem to have at least 10 years in the gym,” said Wondga.
“Those guys all have their own personal coaches, their own trainers, their own nutritionists, they’re all part of bodybuilding teams and big bodybuilding gyms. In the Yukon there’s a very limited amount of people who are into that culture.
“To be honest, I did it all myself. I didn’t have any coaches, any advice, any trainer. I just did all my own research.”
He didn’t have a coach or trainer, but he wasn’t exactly starting from scratch. Wondga is a certified personal trainer and has his own business, Bodies by Ben.
“I don’t work very much with anybody with bodybuilding, per se, I work a lot with people trying to lose weight, get their nutrition on track,” said Wondga.
About three years ago Wondga was more into the bar scene than barbells. He gave up the party life and started to get in shape. Soon friends were asking him for tips.
“I had two young daughters and I wanted to be a better example for them,” said Wondga.
“As I continued to get into it, I guess I was inspiring some people to do better in the health department, stop partying and stuff like that. People were coming to me for all this advice and I felt like if I was going to be giving people advice on exercise, nutrition or anything like that, I should have some sort of credentials. So I went out and got my personal trainer certificate. I’ve been working with people ever since.”
In the past eight months Wondga has put about 10 kilograms of muscle on his frame, going from 80 to 90 in weight.
The 37-year-old, who is a fourth grade teacher at Jack Hulland Elementary, works out for two to three hours, six days a week. He also does a high-intensity cardio workout for 40 minutes a day.
As grueling as that sounds, what was most challenging was the “peak week” leading up to this month’s competition.
“Every piece of food is measured, every ounce of water in measured, every grain of salt is measured,” said Wondga. “You’re essentially shocking your body into doing things it’s not supposed to be doing. At that point I got all the way down to 4.3 per cent body fat, which is really low.
“To get down to 4.3 per cent body fat was insanely torturous.”
In the week heading into the competition, Wondga lost about eight kilos of weight. By the end of the day following the competition, he had almost gained it all back.
“I went out and I had so much steak and pasta and junk food,” said Wondga.
“I had absolutely no idea what to expect,” he added of the competition. “I was really nervous going down … I didn’t really understand how the show would work. But having said that, it was amazing. Everybody down there was so supportive of me and were really nice to me.
“I was going down there thinking there was going to be a lot of egos and the camaraderie was amazing. Everyone was so encouraging. Backstage everybody is bumping knuckles and congratulating each other.”
However, to say Wondga made it to where he is all on his own wouldn’t be completely accurate. Erin and Cliff Schultz, the owners of Peak Fitness in Riverdale, provided Wondga with his first gym membership, free of charge. They did the same thing for three other Whitehorse bodybuilders – Graeme Peters, Jody Peters and Ian March – who competed in their first competition in May.
“They contacted me out of nowhere having heard I had aspirations of doing a bodybuilding contest, and they wanted to support me and sponsor me,” said Wondga. “I can’t say enough about them. I’m really blown away by their support. To be honest, I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Contact Tom Patrick at