An interview with natural wheelchair bodybuilder Roger Espina by The Freak on Wheels Rich Knapp.
Freak on Wheels: Roger can you give us a short background on what your life was like growing up?
Roger Espina: Well for me growing up was pretty tough. I was pretty much in and out of hospitals all the time and surgeries every year or every other year. I couldn’t really do what normal kids do while growing up because of all the surgeries and then the recovery. When I did recover it was back to school and tried to enjoy as much as I can and did the usual normal things kids did.
I was never really into much sports or anything. I liked them and watched them, played a couple, but because I couldn’t play as much as others, I didn’t pursue them. So that’s how I found bodybuilding. Also due to much of the things I’ve been thru and seen its made me mature faster than others so I was always more mature and didn’t see much eye to eye with many younger kids. At the time I was pretty much always doing my own thing.
FoW: Can you tell us how you came to be in a chair and a bodybuilder?
Roger: Well I was born with Spina Bifida and I have had several surgeries growing up – 11 to be exact. And how I became a bodybuilder was I started lifting weights with my dad when I was 14, just to get into shape and lose some weight. And so after that as time passed I started enjoying working out more and more. So one day I decided you know what I want to be a bodybuilder. As it is I train hard all the time, I love it, so why not? Shortly after I decided I wanted to start competing and become a pro some day.
FoW: As a wheelchair bodybvuilder what’s the biggest hurdle you had to overcome on the stage?
Roger: The biggest hurdle I’ve had to overcome on the stage is just being nervous! Especially with so many people looking at you. I think something might go wrong or I might not hit a pose right. I usually get pretty nervous around lots of people but once I get out there and do what I got to do I start feeling way better. It’s just a matter of getting use to it and going along with the flow and being positive.
FoW: What has been the biggest challenge you had to over come as a wheelchair bodybuilder?
Roger: Myself, because I’m very very hard on myself. I’m never satisfied with a workout and that’s what keeps me working harder and harder every time. Also, if I’m ever on my own I can’t really carry heavy wights around so I need help from someone.
FoW: I know you have done shows before. How many did you do all together and how did you place?
Roger: Yes, I’ve only actually done one show which was the nationals in West Palm Beach,FL. I’m still pretty new to competing but do plan on competing in way more shows in the upcoming years. But in that show I placed 1st in the novice class and 2nd in the middleweight class.
FoW: What is your training like?
Roger: My training is pretty much the same as any normal bodybuilder. I usually like to switch things up from time to time. I train one muscle each week like for example… chest one day, back the next, shoulders the next and then arms if I’m feeling good enough. I might train one of the same body parts in the same week on the 5th day. I usually do train 4-5 times a week and I try to go as heavy as possible throughout the off season up until contest prep.
FoW: What is your biggest influence/motivation for your training?
Roger: My biggest influence/motivation would have to be my parents and loved ones – that I don’t ever want to let down. Besides them I also look up to other wheelchair bodybuilders and other bodybuilders in general.
FoW: How do you approach your cutting for shows?
Roger: Like any bodybuilder I usually start cutting 3 or 4 months before a show. I usually start lowering my calorie intake little by little once I start, so I won’t drastically lose too much weight too fast. And I do the normal 6 meals a day and I also start doing cardio.
FoW: You have a impressive physique, how long you been working on it?
Roger: Well so far its been 8 years since I started at 14. Actually my father got me into lifting weights and exercising to simply lose weight. I was pretty chubby back then but little by little I started noticing changes in my body and since then I have been hooked. After a while I decided to get into bodybuilding and then competing.
FoW: What do you think is your best and worst body part?
Roger: My best body part… I would have to say my arms. And worst body part… shoulders, because it takes more time to bring them up then every other muscle for me.
FoW: How has wheelchair bodybuilding changed or impacted your life?
Roger: It has changed my life and definitely impacted it in many ways. If I didn’t bodybuild I have no idea what else I would be doing in life. But I know for a fact I wouldn’t be happy. Bodybuilding has made me who I am and I love it. I would never stop doing it its made me have discipline be strong minded and be comfortable with who I am.
FoW: Do you think being a wheelchair bodybuilder inspires others in your community to train?
Roger: Oh yeah, of course. I’ve been told many times by many people I inspire them to train and diet and just be healthy in general.
FoW: What are your future plans as a wheelchair bodybuilder?
Roger: My future plans are to become a pro and keep competing in as many shows as I can, and I also want to become a personal trainer and nutritionist and just be in the fitness and health industry in general.
Thank you so much Roger for taking the time for this interview. I hope the best for you in the future. Keep pushing. Freak on Wheels.