One of the most popular topics of conversation within bodybuilding circles has been the new Wellness division. That talk became even more profound when the growing division would be added to the 2021 Olympia. It would make sense that a pro athlete competing in the division should add to the discussion. That is why Fit Rock Star Podcast host Isabelle Turell had Renee Harshey, the first woman to earn Wellness Pro status, on as her guest on this week’s episode. In the opening moments of the show, she shared how it felt to compete on a professional stage in the new division.
“When we did the Tampa Pro, that was during when Covid happened and we were waiting for shows to start. So I had been envisioning that moment and waiting because shows had kept being pushed back. Once I got there, I was ready and like ‘let’s do this.’ It was a great feeling to be able to get onstage and compete with other Wellness pros.”
While the division has received much fanfare, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what Wellness specifically is, so Turell asked Harshey for her definition.
“Wellness is a more athletic look than Bikini,” Harshey says. Of course, I would say everyone that does this sport regardless of the division are athletes, but there’s more density in the lower half, more muscle in the legs, specifically the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, of course, she explained. She also put to bed a myth about Wellness. “The conditioning is on par with Bikini. That’s a common misconception that it may be a softer look than Bikini with more body fat, and it’s not. The conditioning still needs to be there.”
Harshey is now established in Wellness, but she originally started competing as a Bikini competitor, and she shared how difficult it was for her to compete under that division’s criteria.
“It took me four years to get my pro card, and the feedback was always ‘you have too much muscle in your legs and glutes.’ So year after year I was trying to break down that muscle by doing more cardio. At one point I was running a lot, just trying to run the muscle down. I couldn’t get my calories up really high in my offseason because I would, you know, put on muscle too easily.”
Harshey is currently sitting atop the Olympia points’ standings. If she either wins a show this year or maintains that position on the leaderboard, she will make more history as a part of the first Wellness Olympia in Orlando, Florida this fall. She and Turell talk about other aspects of Wellness such as the type of suits the competitors wear, how she gets into the “zone” backstage before competitions, the strategy she and her coach had to use in order to earn her pro card, and more. See the show in its entirety on the Muscle & Fitness YouTube channel. Episodes air every Saturday at 12 noon eastern time.