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Long-time Arnold volunteers and competitors Mike Davies and Julie Palmer. (Credit: Megan Leigh Barnard)

Arnold 25: Mike Davies & Julie Palmer

The family that trains together ...

By Ryan Haye

Published February 1, 2013

With the exception of Red, White and Boom and ComFest, no other Columbus event elicits the type of opinions that the Arnold Fitness Expo does. Opinions about the Arnold are as varied as the thousands and thousands of sightseers and athletes that descend on Columbus every March.

What’s often lost in the parade of freakish, tanned muscles and celebrity sightings is that this premier event in bodybuilding features more athletes from around the world than the Olympics (19,000) and has remained essentially a local event run by five people and 300 local volunteers.

And nobody is as passionate or invested in the Arnold Fitness Expo as local fitness guru Mike Davies and his wife, fitness competitor Julie Palmer.

Davies has trained over 200 female athletes that have gone pro, including his wife, and he’s the guy who’s made sure the event runs smoothly for the past 25 years.

“I started out as the grunt who ran weights from place to place, and now I run the domestic portion of the Amateur Competition that now has approximately 600 competitors – but I am also still the guy that runs the weights around,” he said with a smile.

Palmer, who at the time of this interview was weeks away from her second child – was, at one time, one of the elite competitors in her sport.

“My best year was in 2009. I won in Phoenix, finished 2nd in the Arnold and placed 4th in the (Ms.) Olympia.” Julie said.

Mike and Julie have made competing in the Arnold a family affair – which, after spending up to 14 hours a day in the gym training, is not an easy thing to do.

“You really have to make time for each other. We make sure we take a family vacation each year, we go on ‘date nights’ with the family, and we shop together.” Julie said.

Despite his passion, Mike is also a realist and he is aware of the “freak show” stigma that is associated with bodybuilding.

“Listen, times are changing, PEDs [performance enhancing drugs] are all over the media, but the Arnold is more than the bodybuilding competition: it’s the fitness festival, it’s the dancing competition. It’s evolved over the years and I give Jim [Lorimer] a lot of credit for that. As far as the bodybuilding goes, well, no one is going to pay big bucks to see someone that they can see in the gym. They want to see to the cartoon character. It’s just the way it is.”

Davies and Palmer train at and co-own Metro Fitness in Worthington, 1245 Worthington Woods Blvd, 43085. To contact Mike or Julie visit www.mikedavies.com.

New to the Arnold in 2013

K-1 (February 28th, Battelle Grand at the Convention Center)

You know those badasses you see on SpikeTV, the dudes who seem as comfortable kneeing their opponents in the head as they do throwing a right cross? Well, those guys are the K-1 guys and they are tough, real tough.

In fact, the K-1 brand of kickboxing simplified its rules to allow for more knockouts, and because getting drilled in the head by a hand or a foot wasn’t enough, K-1 also permits kneeing. Like we said, tough dudes.

This brand of kickboxing is gaining in popularity and since 1993 it’s been featured in over 38 countries and this year – the first year at the Arnold Sports Festival – promises to be the largest kickboxing promotion in the history of the sport.

5K Survival Race

(March 2nd, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., Lou Berliner Park)

The Sports Festival can’t be all elite athletes pounding, throwing, and otherwise flexing their way into the stratosphere, which is where the 5k Survival Race comes into play. This event is geared to “introduce healthier and more active lifestyles” into as many households as it can.

Apparently, the way to do this is to put average Joes through an harrowing course filled with mud, obstacles, and more mud, all in the name of good old fashioned fun.

Honestly, this sounds like the perfect time to get your friends together in order to settle all those bar room “who’s in best shape” bets you’ve been pushing since your college years.

Party with the Pros

(March 2nd, 9 p.m. – 2 a.m., Hollywood Casino)

This is your chance to get personal with some of your favorite personalities in the fitness industry and if these guys and gals party like they train, then you’ll be in for one hell of a night.

Scottish Highland Games

(March 3rd, TBA, Columbus Commons)

This event is a bunch of men – really big men – in kilts, throwing heavy – really heavy – stuff. For instance, there’s the Weight Over Bar event where the competitors throw a 56-pound ball attached to a handle over a 17-foot high crossbar. There is also the Caber Toss, where a 150-pound 20-foot pole is tossed end over end in an effort to make it land in the 12 o’clock position.

And this event is also a celebration of Scottish Culture, with four local pipe and drum bands, a Highland dance competition, and the “clan” village where you can learn about Scottish traditions.

There will be a shuttle transporting people from the Arnold Classic to the stargazing afterparty and the event will even feature a visit from the former Governor of California himself.

This is obviously an adult-only event, so if you’re not at least 21-years-old, then don’t even think of attending. You’ve seen Commando, right? Imagine the security detail at this thing. Tickets are $25.

Champions and Legends Sunday Morning Showcase

(March 3rd, 9 a.m. – noon, Convention Center)

The Sunday morning showcase occurs the morning of the last day of the Arnold weekend and features the man himself (Arnold) giving advice on bodybuilding, training, and diet. It also features a Q&A with the fitness icon and movie star for those in attendance.

The Showcase will also be a chance for you to get close to this year’s champs, as the 2013 winners of the “Ms.” categories of the competitions will be attendance along with the Strongman Classic champion.

The Legends portion of the event will feature past winners and bodybuilding icons like four-time champion Flex Wheeler, two-time champ Kevin Levron, and one-time champ Shawn Ray.

**XPC (Extreme Powerlifting Coalition) **

(March 3rd, 11 a.m., Franklin County Veterans Memorial)

This event is really two separate events spread out over two days: first, there is the Full Power Lifting competition, which features the strongest guys you will ever meet in your life lifting more weights than you could ever imagine, in deadlift, squat and bench press competitions.

Secondly, there is the Arnold Bench Press Madness competition, which is similar to the Powerlifting event, but only focuses on the classic bench. Presumably, this event will feature many of the guys from the Full Power Lifting competition with the addition of bench press specialists. If you’ve never been to a powerlifting meet, we suggest attending – if for no other reason than to take a look at just how much weight the human body can push around.


Alea @ 02/16/2013 01:35 pm

Great article guys! I have much respect for you two. As hubby & I coach competitors, it isn't easy but important to keep your head about it. Congratulations on your baby! Julie, you are an adorable pregnant Mama!;-)