When Abimbola Aina came to Regina from a small town in Ogun State, Nigeria, he had little more than a body and a dream.
“My goal was to be a great bodybuilder, but it wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t in a great country like Canada,” Aina said.
“Coming to Canada changed my life.”
He was already a fitness enthusiast in Nigeria, but full-fledged bodybuilding was out of reach.
“I come from training in the back of the gym in Nigeria,” he said. “I couldn’t afford to support my dream in Nigeria because it’s expensive.”
Aina found a supportive environment in Regina’s bodybuilding community.
With their help, the Nigerian and Canadian won his IFBB Pro Card last year, officially becoming a professional bodybuilder.
Aina’s first major win in the sport came in 2016 when he was named Mr. Saskatchewan.
“It was more than happy for me,” he recalls. “I know how lucky I am to live in Canada and do great things.”
In 2021 he traveled to Vancouver for a pro qualifying show. His undeniable physique earned him the Open Heavyweight class. He went on to win the overall title, which earned him his pro card.
“To win you need everything you have, total acceptance of being uncomfortable at times knowing that great things can happen. Being in an uncomfortable position may be difficult, but that’s the price to pay,” he said.
Aina said he finds motivation in a healthy lifestyle.
“I believe that taking care of your body is a duty and my parents always told me that health is wealth. Bodybuilding makes me understand how important the body is to maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” he said.
“When you do what you love, you will do it with passion and your dedication to it will be undeniable.”
Jaime Otitoju, a certified personal trainer and professional WNBF bodybuilding coach. Achieving success in this area requires two things: consistent commitment to exercise and proper nutrition.
“It requires a lot of rest, less stress and also perseverance even when things are challenging,” said Otitoju.
Food plays a key role in building mass.
“They eat at least six times a day. A combination of different food classes. The food you eat during the season is different than the food you eat in the off-season,” Otitoju said.
Abimbola is no exception.
“I make sure I exercise five to six times a week and eat clean food. I try not to skip a meal,” he said.
Abimbola says earning his pro card is just the beginning of the journey for him as he now plans to take his career to the world stage.
“My next step as a new IFBB pro is to keep working hard. I’m planning my pro debut in 2023 and by then I’ll be ready to compete against the best in the world.”
He said his story is proof to other immigrants that a better future is possible.
“Some people have been allowed to come to this wonderful country and have never understood what their dreams are,” he said.
“I have found my way and I succeed.”
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians—from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community—see Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians should be proud of. You can read more stories here.