By Elizabeth Davies
ROCKFORD REGISTER STAR
The couple that benches together, stays together.
Might not have quite the same ring to it, but the sentiment certainly holds true for Robert and Joanne Wilhelmi. This Loves Park couple said training together for bodybuilding competitions is part of what keeps their relationship strong.
My husband and I share a common love for health and fitness, Joanne said. We go to the gym together, eat healthy and are able to support one another. While competing, he and I are going through the same feelings. We really can identify with what the other is feeling and try to help.
The couple met in college, when Robert was an injured football player and Joanne was an athletic trainer. Unable to continue playing ball, Robert was determined to keep himself in shape another way. He kept up his visits to the gym and made a point to maintain his weight-training regimen.
Joanne, meanwhile, found that she loved the changes she saw in her body once she started lifting weights. The couple married and made gym visits part of their regular routine.
We continually learned new exercises and tricks to make the most out of a workout, as well as dieting, Joanne said.
A former softball player, Joanne realized that she missed being in a competitive environment after college, so in 2005, she signed up for her first bodybuilding competition. She loved watching her body change even more, and found satisfaction in achieving her goals.
I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, she said. If I want something bad enough, Ill do what it takes to get it.
Robert also decided to try out competitive bodybuilding, and the pair signed up for two local competitions this spring.
It is just one of the ways that I could continue to challenge myself, Robert said. I figured I had worked this hard over the years, I might as well try something new and do something that shows my efforts.
Having Joanne training for the same events kept him focused and committed. To do it right, after all, has meant keeping up a strict diet of fewer than 2,400 calories while hitting the gym for up to two hours a day.
Even beyond his competitive ambitions, however, Robert knows that bodybuilding has changed his life immeasurably.
It has enabled me to constantly challenge myself and work hard for improvements, he said. It has also improved my focus and motivation. These changes have then spilled over into the rest of my life and career in general.
Q&A with the Wilhelmis
QUESTION: What is a common misconception people have about competitive bodybuilding?
Joanne: When I tell people that I am competing in a bodybuilding competition, they think that I will get bulky and basically look like a man. I am proof that a woman can have muscle and still look like a woman.
Q: What is the most challenging part of body building?
Robert: Resisting the temptations of poor dieting practices and incorporating enough flexibility to break up the monotony of daily workouts and meals.
Q: How do you see bodybuilding fitting into your life 10 or 20 years from now?
Joanne: I plan to continue visiting the gym on a regular basis for the rest of my life. I have made a commitment to this lifestyle, and hopefully it will continue to keep me healthy and active.
Q: What lessons have you learned from bodybuilding that you can apply to the rest of your life?
Robert: One will always be faced with unforeseen setbacks, but those who use setbacks as motivation to overcome them and become better will succeed.
About Joanne Wilhelmi
Day job: Athletic trainer at Belvidere High School
Height: 5 feet, 6 inches
Weight: 135 normally; 125 at competition
Training schedule: Up to 30 minutes of cardio and an hour of weight lifting per day.
About Robert Wilhelmi
Day job: Environmental scientist at Fehr-Graham and Associates
Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
Weight: 185 normally; 176 at competition
Training schedule: Up to 30 minutes of cardio and 90 minutes of weight lifting per day.