In ancient Greek mythology the story of the Phoenix is a tale of rebirth. It’s said that Phoenix dies by fire before being reborn and rising from the ashes of its predecessor. In the case of Arizona native and new IFBB Pro Martae Ruelas, his incredible story of rising from the ashes of a childhood littered with feelings of desperation and hopelessness to one of the bright up and coming stars in the pro bodybuilding is truly a tale of rebirth. I had a chance to speak with Martae recently and talk to him about the unimaginable obstacles that he overcame on his journey to the pro ranks.
Q.) I’d like to start by taking a step back and looking at life before bodybuilding? Your childhood was very tumultuous to say the least. Growing up you were forced to live in shelters, group homes, and were even homeless at times. Could you tell us a bit about that time of your life?
A.) Growing up I lived in a home where I was beaten daily by a drunk step dad, who had made numerous attempts at molesting me (I always fought back best I could), and I left and ran away during his last attempt. I lived on the streets as a kid and shortly after this I had to steal food from stores and shopping centers. You had to learn to grab and get, and at that time I wanted not to be noticed or bringing any attention to myself so I learned how to be a really good food thief. After that I ended up in a juvenile detention and was released to a shelter and fought so much that I was later moved to a group home where I lived in all through my high school years.
Q.) Those early years play such a critical role in shaping who we ultimately become. Were there ever times where you felt that there wasn’t any hope for your future?
A.) I feel like my past was my past, it only shaped what I allowed it to. It was in the decisions I chose to take that helped me see past that. I was locked up in juvenile detention once for attempted murder. I was playing with a child, as a kid myself, with the tassel of a pillow and a caseworker later reported me as trying to smother the child. My lock up during this period of time was an absolute feeling of hopelessness. I felt that no matter what I could do I was destined to struggle or always fight some sort of oppression in my circumstance. I was released after a long time and no charges were placed permanently on my record. Which would have ruined the rest of my life.
Q.) What moment about that period of your life stands out more than any other? How did that moment shape the person you’ve become today?
A.) I really had no one particular moment in my life where anything much stood out, it was all one blur of me trying to not get into fights or locked up. I can say I had staff at the group home that were great mentors one guy Doug Shouse, a national long jump record setter who worked at the group home, introduced me to sports. I played every sport I could with my 110 pound frame just to stay out of the group home and not fight or deal with kids in the home trying to get high.
Q.) At what point did you discover bodybuilding?
A.) In the year 2004 I was in the gym working out when a rather large muscular woman told me she thought I had a good structure to compete. I brushed it off and told her it was not for me. She bothered me every day I was in there until I agreed to compete.
Q.) The bodybuilding lifestyle is one that requires a tremendous amount of consistency and stability in order to be successful. Given how hectic life was outside the gym, did you find comfort in the stabilizing atmosphere that the gym provided?
A.) Hell, at that time I was used to mandatory individual group home and shelter counseling sessions, however I had a lot of pent up anxiety, anger, depression, and frustration that I still had. The gym saved me. I found quiet, the sounds of metal clanging and the pain soothed me and helped me vent in a new way as an outlet. It was the complete opposite, the structure of what the gym and lifestyle required helped me to stabilize my personal life outside of the gym.
Q.) What made you decide that you wanted to begin competing?
A.) A really big woman with a deep voice who wouldn’t leave me alone in the gym. I told her if I did a show would she stop bothering me. She said yes. After I competed I never saw her again.
Q.)When did you set your sights on earning your IFBB Pro Card?
A.) In March of 2013. I was out of the sport for three years and was not serious at all, although I had won numerous shows before. I never took it seriously until when the owner of Metroflex, Josh Barnett, advised me that I had a lot of potential I was wasting. I took him on as my coach and turned pro in less than six months of competing again in my first year on the national level.
Q.) Let’s jump forward to 2013 NPC Nationals. Take us back to the moment where you’re standing onstage, you hear your name called, and realize that you’ve just become an IFBB Pro. Describe that moment and what emotions you felt at that time.
A.) I thought wow, is this really happening? I can eat hot wings again…
Q.) Now that you’ve earned your pro card you plan to use your status as a platform to share your story and help those who are less fortunate. Could you tell us a bit about your efforts and why it’s so important to you personally?
A.) Yes definitely, I plan to go to a couple of group homes after contacting Douglas Shouse again and speak to some of the kids that were in my position or placement. That would definitely be a start, I am still in the process of doing so at this moment.
Q.) Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you reach this point?
A.) I would like to thank my coach and owner of Metroflex Gym Phoenix for dialing me in right and having me look outstanding on game day and leading up to that day. I would also like to thank in order of sponsors Larry Greenfield of Big Back Lifting Grips for taking care of food expenses, fees and other monies as well as our amazing Grips. I would also like to thank Jonathan Cote CEO of Octane Labs for assisting me with whatever I needed in my quest to turn pro and beyond. I would also like to thank Jeff Davenport (My off season strength and powerlifting coach) CEO of Pain Train 52 Clothing for financial backing and support as well as a universally amazing clothing line. And Lana of Lana’s Egg Whites for her great tubs. I have been happy to receive them. They’re keeping my diet on track.
Q.) If someone would like to contact you, or find out more information about Martae Ruelas, what’s can they go to find out that information?
A.) I am on several social media sites like my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As well as OctaneLabsLLc.com, BigBackGrips.com, and also you can also contact me through the Facebook page of Pain Train 52.
Sometimes, in our darkest moments, it’s easy to lose faith and succumb to the feelings of hopelessness. And at that moment we have a choice. We can either accept our fate, and allow our fire to die out. Or, like the Phoenix, we can rise from the ashes of hopelessness and be reborn as newer, stronger versions of our old selves. Martae chose the latter; he chose to rise, he chose to fight, he chose to have faith in himself even when the world did not. And now he’s ready to rise once again – through the ranks of the IFBB – on his way to proving his doubters wrong once again.
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