"You don't win on the day of competition," says Dany Garcia in the opening sequence of the Instagram TV series that chronicles her personal journey to the physique stage. "It takes months and months and months of preparation. You have to win in the gym first."
For Garcia, that "win in the gym first" mentality applies equally to her life and career. She is the founder, CEO, and chairwoman of The Garcia Companies and TGC Management, as well as the co-founder, along with Dwayne Johnson, of Seven Bucks Productions. Bodybuilding fans may recognize Seven Bucks for the documentary it produced on the 2018 Olympia Weekend. Along with bringing a cinematic grandeur to that storied event, Seven Bucks is also responsible for NBC's hit show The Titan Games, not to mention numerous other high-profile film and TV projects, most recently the action blockbuster "Hobbs & Shaw."
Garcia and Johnson recently made waves in the bodybuilding space by announcing the creation of a new Olympia/Arnold-style fitness weekend, dubbed Athleticon, set to debut in Atlanta on October 9-11, 2020.
Underpinning it all, Garcia says, is her training, usually under the watchful eye of her husband, Dave Rienzi of Rienzi Strength and Conditioning in Sunrise, Florida. The IGTV series may be on a smaller scale than the blockbuster films and hit television shows she's produced, but when I recently talked with Garcia, it was clear that it was a very personal labor of love for her.
Here's what drives this unstoppable achiever in the gym, and how her training helps her "pretty much kill it" in the rest of her life, too.
When did your interest in lifting and bodybuilding begin?
I was 13 years old the first time I opened an issue of Muscle & Fitness magazine and saw female bodybuilders. I'd never seen an image like that, and it struck me in my soul. At the time, I had short hair, big glasses, and was all legs with a small torso. Very, very skinny. But I started following these incredible women athletes and their sport.
My only access to anything resembling a weight room came from being an athlete in high school, where I ran indoor and outdoor track and did the long jump. I did anything that could get me into the weight room. I did a ridiculous amount of leg extensions whenever I could. It continued even in college, when I was on the crew team at the University of Miami. I was a little beast inside that training facility at "The U," training with football and baseball players and doing everything I could. I also did a lot of rowing on the crew team.
Since then, has your training ebbed and flowed, or have you been consistent?
I've been very consistent in trying to get to the gym. Even these last few years when I didn't compete, I have always trained consistently.
I was told that at some point, you began training "as a competitive bodybuilder." Did that just reflect a desire to take it to the next level?
In hindsight, I was just waiting for someone to mention it to me. I was training with my husband, Dave Rienzi, who at the time was my boyfriend. He said, "You know, there's a division in women's bodybuilding. It's called Physique." I wasn't quite attracted to the size of the women's open. They had been my motivation my entire life, but I just saw that as a very far step from where I was at. He was like, "You should try that." I went, "OK." Literally, that was the entire conversation.
We were actually looking for a bodybuilding coach specifically for Dwayne [Johnson]. We were going to play around with fine-tuning his diet and training. And we had been introduced to [former bodybuilder and contest-prep coach] George Farah. So, George was helping Dwayne, Dave was competing as an amateur, and then this Physique opportunity came along and, boom: I said, "yes," and it was time. I wish I would've competed earlier in life. It was just a matter of having the right people at the right time to help me have access and execute on it.
Then you took it one step further and decided to produce an Instagram TV series around your desire to compete. What was the impetus for doing that as well?
It was for a few reasons. More than half of all [physique] competitors are now women, and they come from all walks of life and have different motivations. For me, it was really about fulfilling a dream: my dream of bodybuilding and my dream of competing.
I felt that I could give a point of view into the sport through my own personal experience that would open the sport to eyes that maybe haven't looked at it, and allow me to share something that is absolutely the most challenging experience I've ever had. I have an incredible group of individuals who are kind enough to follow me and see what my journey is. It allowed me to connect with them as I'm going through this. And to show that this can be very accessible.
Watching the episodes, I was struck by how supportive Dave was. What's it like to have your husband putting you through such grueling training and dieting?
He is phenomenal. First of all, I see my husband and I adore him. But he is truly so steady and such a source of support for me. I've known Dave now for nine years. I've gone to the "University of Dave." He's a master trainer, so I'm able to gather and learn all this information from him. And for this prep in particular, I wanted to lead it. I wanted to choose my exercises. I wanted to do my diet. I wanted to treat it no differently than I treat the rest of the businesses that I run or the brands that I manage. Which is to say, I'm in the lead position, and then I have support to come and help me execute. The result is that I have a physique I've never had before. I'm going to present something onstage that makes me so very happy.
Can you tell me about what weight training brings to your whole life?
I think every individual person has their space. But when they go back to that well, they're anchored, re-invigorated, inspired. And for me, weight training has been that ultimate experience. The ability to change your body. When it comes to weight training and bodybuilding, there are chapters and chapters that have yet to be written on how to do things and what you can look like. The tempo and the pace and the shaping and the different exercises and the angles. So it's just as much time as you spend in the sport looking to enhance it, it's how much you can get out of it.
And so, I enjoy that. I enjoy the music, I enjoy my playlists, I enjoy the time between myself and the weights and the very quiet conversation I'm having with the exercises and what do I do next? How does it feel? I don't really go into the weight room to grind and then kill it and be like, "Yeeaaah!" Because I pretty much kill it outside of the weight room. I'm blessed to do very well in other areas.
So when I go in to train, it's a sacred moment for me. I'm appreciating the physique that I live in, and I'm looking to be supportive and enhance it. And give this expression that when I look in the mirror, which I do now, I go, "There you are, Dany Garcia. I haven't seen you in so long." So that really is something very special for me.
What would you say to people who watch that IGTV series and say, "Well that's amazing, but I could never do that?"
First of all, I'm never like, "Oh, you can do it." Because that's not what the series is about. People do come up to me and say, "I want to do this, I want to do that." Many people don't actually want to do exactly what I'm doing. But what they're saying is, "I want to head in that direction. I want to have that conversation. How can I go into health, how can I do this a little bit more?" And I always say, "Look at your life now and just add 20-30 minutes of exercise."
So, it does allow me to have open access to a conversation and say, "This is how it could look for you." Because I am a staunch believer that, while you may have a fantastic, amazing mind, if you have a healthy body, that mind is even better. I'm really about synchronicity and healthy bodies, healthy mind and the power of what that is. So I enjoy that.
For other people who are like, "I could never do that," we do and we should acknowledge that competitive bodybuilding is extremely demanding. It is one of the hardest things you can do. There is nothing else quite like this sport. But it's not about being a bodybuilder; it's about, are you following your dream, whatever that is? And so the series has many, many touch points and various points of conversation, and that's really what it was intended to do. Not just become and be a competitive bodybuilder. I know that it's a very, very difficult career.
You strike me as a worthy role model for young women in particular. Is that something you embrace?
It's not part of how I operate intentionally, but what I do carry in the front of my mind is a responsibility to share my journey and my experiences. Whether it's with women or men, young people or older people, I'm always very excited to say, "This is my story; glean from it what you will."
I don't like to be put in a position of a mentorship because everyone should pull what they need from you. But I do love sharing and I love giving people the experience. And being open and honest to what the challenges are and the victories and the lens and "this is what I've learned."
I'm curious how you would characterize the role you've played in Dwayne Johnson's meteoric career rise.
That's a funny question. I think you would have to ask DJ. That question is always better answered by the people who are around the enterprise and who work with me. Who knows? But they do call me "the boss lady." I'll just say that.
The documentary Seven Bucks Productions made chronicling the Olympia weekend feels like a real labor of love as you watch it. Is that just you wanting other people to experience what it's like from a competitor's perspective?
Oh, yes, it is a labor love. We specifically shot it from the backstage looking out so you can see what the competitors are feeling and seeing. We had so much fun. And it was so wonderful to get to know all the competitors and to give them that moment. I am very passionate about not only being in the industry and competing in the industry, but opening the industry up and helping it to evolve.