From Equestrian towards an IFBB Pro: My Journey to Becoming an Olympian Athlete
Veronika Lehner

What’s up everyone! Hope you are all having a blessed 2023 so far!

This is my first blog ever, and I’m really excited to get the ball rolling!! My plan is to talk about various topics, not just restricted to bodybuilding, but include life topics as well. 

To kick it off, I’m going to start with how my bodybuilding journey began.

Growing up in California, I was surrounded by fitness. Both of my parents were athletes in their younger years, and continued to live active lifestyles while raising my sister and I. 

By the age of 5 years old, I was enrolled in karate, hip hop dancing, ballet tap, and on occasion would pick up the 2 pound weights in the gym and actually curl them. I stuck with those diverse disciplines for a couple of years and then was enrolled into an equestrian school to learn how to ride horses. 

Even before the age of 5, I always had a love for horses. I had a collection of 50+ toy horses and had a name for each and every one of them. The moment I was waiting for came to me at 7 years old. I ended up dropping the other disciplines, and putting all of my focus on riding horses. From there, I started to compete in various events, primarily focusing on show jumping and dressage.

This lead into me wanting to be an even better rider, a stronger rider. I began to get back into the gym, and started to really focus on my physical health and fitness. I started to get stronger in the gym and riding. The results physically started to show. It became addicting and fun.

At this time, I was also getting into modeling, and modeled for a yoga company in Northern California. My own mental battles at this point started to win me over though. I developed an eating disorder and started to only allow myself 600 calories daily. I was working out for 4-6 hours a day, mainly doing cardio and still riding horses at this time too. I dropped significant weight. At 5’8”, a healthy weight for me at the time was 145lbs. I dropped all the way down to 128lbs and looked bony. 

I kept this up for 2 years. I felt like crap everyday, but kept telling myself that I still wasn’t good enough. Then one morning, I woke up and looked in the mirror and had an epiphany. This was the day that I realized I was literally killing myself slowly. What I was doing wasn’t sustainable, and I was pushing those I loved most away.

I began researching about nutrition, trying to find answers and to learn how to support and take care of my body. The internet unfortunately has a lot of false information. It became frustrating with how conflicting studies were from one source to another. During this time, I met a couple of really nice men who later on, and to this day are friends of mine. They were both really into bodybuilding and taking care of themselves. One of them invited me to come to the 2014 San Jose Fit Expo with them and I was all for it!

I met some of the most incredible people! They were all so dedicated and outstanding athletes. I met and took pictures with both Jay Cutler and Phil Heath, a couple of the best bodybuilders in history. This is when my interest and love for bodybuilding started. 

Why not me? 

The following year I hired coach and started to put in the work. I started to see huge changes in not only my physique, but also my relationship with food. Everything started to really click. At the time, my biggest inspiration was Dana Lynn Bailey. I wanted to look like her so badly. I wanted to make history and be an incredible athlete like her. Following her journey kept me motivated. I wanted to one day be an IFBB pro athlete and from there work my way up to the Olympia.

Bodybuilding is my passion. It has saved me so many times from myself, and has helped me learn so much more about who I am, and what I’m capable of doing. The discipline it takes, the challenges you face: truly this sport is amazing. I’ve met so many incredible people, and continue to. Bodybuilding is essentially how I met Shawn.

Here I am, 9 years later. Aspiring to be an IFBB Pro, which is in my near future. I’ve got the best support system, the best coach, and still my fiery passion.  Soon enough, I will be an Olympian athlete.

Something to take away from this… Whatever you choose to be, whoever you choose to be, don’t hold back. Take the risks, and do the work. You will not regret it. And it’s never too late to start your journey.

Why not YOU?

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