For many college freshmen, meals in the residence halls consist of Top Ramen, pizza and microwaveable Hot Pockets. However, most college freshmen are not nutrition science freshman Summer Trenkle.
Trenkle has spent the past year training to compete in bodybuilding competitions. Though she is considered a “newbie” to the sport, she is far from behind. Trenkle took home first place at the National Physique Committee (NPC) MuscleContest Challenge at the Los Angeles Fit Expo — a dramatic feat for a rookie.
Trenkle, a former soccer player, initially channeled her focus and competitive energy for the game into a consistent gym routine. Upon coming to Cal Poly, however, she realized she wanted to take her training one step further.
“I started lifting weights and realized that’s where my passion truly was,” Trenkle said.
Trenkle’s success did not come without obstacles and struggles in the beginning. Along with adjusting to college life, Trenkle’s former coach restricted her caloric intake extensively. She said her friends and family were not supportive of her new passion.
“I had so many thoughts of quitting,” Trenkle said. “I was questioning whether this was even for me or something I even wanted to do.”
However, Trenkle found support through social media. With more than 23,000 followers on Instagram, Trenkle uses her social media presence as a platform to inspire others through fitness inspiration photos and detailed captions to share her thoughts and opinions.
“[Social media] did help, because it kind of kept me accountable,” Trenkle said. “I told my followers I was competing, and a lot of people were following me through my whole prep and encouraging me. Seeing that I helped other people stay motivated helped me keep going. I felt like I had an obligation to them to make them proud too.”
Things started to look up for Trenkle in December 2018 after she found a new coach, Ruben Sandoval, who added more calories to her diet and aided Trenkle with meal and workout plans. Although they connected online, Sandoval is extremely hands-on with his coaching approach. Along with scheduling her meal prep plans, he helps choreograph the trademark bodybuilder poses Trenkle performs when onstage.
“Having a support system and having a really good coach that’s honest with you and supportive is helpful,” Trenkle said. “If you don’t do it the right way, it can definitely cause disorders, body image issues — it’s really mentally challenging the whole way through.”
“If you don’t do it the right way, it can definitely cause disorders, body image issues”
Trenkle said she trained extensively for 15 weeks. She went to the gym five to six days a week and dedicated herself to carefully crafted workouts and clean eating.
“I train two body parts a day, and then what I eat is based around what I’m training that day,” Trenkle said. “If I’m training like a big muscle group or a smaller muscle group, if I’m training legs or shoulders, I’ll be eating a lot more food to fuel those workouts, but if it’s like arms or core I’ll eat fewer carbs or more protein.”
Trenkle will occasionally go home to Santa Maria on weekends to meal prep healthy options for the week ahead. As a freshman, Trenkle has learned to adapt and find food on campus that works with her meal plan. She either gets grilled chicken and vegetables at 805 Kitchen or purchases sweet potatoes at Campus Market to microwave.
“It’s all about finding ways to [make do], and if you look at it, there’s not a lot of options on campus to be healthy,” Trenkle said. “But if you look you can find ways to [eat clean].”
Eating food can be a social experience for many college students, which can be a struggle for Trenkle, who follows a strict diet. However, she said she has found ways to continue growing her friendships without detracting from her goals.
“Being a freshman and meeting new people and having to tell them ‘I can’t have that food’ or ‘I can’t go out’ — a lot of people couldn’t understand at first,” Trenkle said. “But as I got farther into prep and the changes, and they were seeing how dedicated I was, they understood more. They would make sure we could go somewhere that I could eat, or if not I would just bring my own food.”
“Being a freshman and meeting new people and having to tell them ‘I can’t have that food’ or ‘I can’t go out’ — a lot of people couldn’t understand at first”
As for long-term goals, Trenkle is still a full-time student working toward her degree. She will attend National Physique Committee (NPC) Nationals in July, which she qualified for after her previous first place finish.
Though it can be difficult to balance bodybuilding and school all at once, Trenkle said she has learned the discipline and motivation from both the gym and the classroom. She said she understands that hard work and consistency lead to results.
“It’s definitely something I want to continue to do, because I love it so much,” Trenkle said. “I didn’t think I was going to love it this much, but being on stage and seeing all your hard work pay off was so satisfying.”