The Calm Before the Storm: Christopher “The Thrilla from Manila” San Juan


“I take every competition differently. Anybody can always step on stage better than you. So, you still gotta train harder, even though I have that momentum. I can’t take it easy. Team U is a whole different story. I still can’t relax have been waiting for this moment for the last five years.”

Christopher San Juan via his highlight video on at Quads Gym in Chicago, Il.

I listened to Chris San Juan utter these words as his voice narrated a video clip of him and fellow competitors training a little over a week before Team Universe, a professional qualifier. Do not let Christopher San Juan’s quiet demeanor fool you. This family man and fierce competitor is focused, driven and strives to make his presence known in the fitness industry.

Find out how Christopher manages his family, job, and the meticulous demands and structure of working towards bodybuilding’s professional ranks. Also, discover what he did to overcome and recover from a disappointing finish. With over five class wins and several top tier finishes, Christopher is making a statement on the National Physique Committee (NPC) stage. We are watching.


Kassandre: Who is Chris San Juan?

Christopher: I was born in Manila, in the Philippines. I came [to the states] when I was 10 years old. So, I grew up in Chicago and lived her all my life. I finished college. I just turned 32. My kids are 16, 12, 8 and 11 months. The 16 year old is a girl and the rest are boys.

Kassandre: You have a lovely family. How do you balance the demands of being a successful nationally-ranked bodybuilder with your family life? Have your children shown some interest in bodybuilding?

Christopher: I am not sure what they are into, now. The boys are into skateboarding. My daughter likes modeling, but not really bodybuilding. But, it’s pretty close. My boys are more into other sports.

They have attended the local shows but not the national ones. They are so expensive. They came to the first national show I won. Traveling can be hard with the baby. My daughter helps with the baby, too. The shows are long. Usually, my sponsors pick one show a year for me to do. When they [the kids] get bored they could go to the room.

I am not bringing them to Team U [Team Universe]. Shows can run to midnight. It was worth having them there, but it’s tiring. The men’s bodybuilding is last. For figure, they are in the middle so they can leave and rest.

Kassandre: As a bodybuilder, you are in a delicate state and trying to hold onto your conditioning. How do you do that knowing that you will be the last on stage?

Christopher: I don’t start eating junk. I eat some rice cake and jelly every 30 minutes or so–but, nothing crazy. Plus, as you gain more experience you know exactly how long you are going to wait and how to time everything. For an hour or two I relax and just find a corner. Then, they [the expediters] give you an idea of when to go. I don’t eat anything heavy throughout the ‘carbing up’ period. Then, it’s done. When waiting three hours you shouldn’t eat anything heavy.

Kassandre: Do you work with anyone?

Christopher: The first three years of training and competing were on my own. When moved up a weight class I took 6th for the first time I said, “This is enough!” I was always hard on myself! But, I think I took it easy on myself, that time. I needed help. I train hard. I diet hard. But, sometimes you can screw up in the last week. I needed help and I was serious about winning my class. My expectations are high. When I didn’t place, I felt like I wasn’t being hard enough on myself.

After winning first, you tend to take it easy, but you don’t realize it. It was a wakeup call. I was happy, but not content. I could do better. I was going to come back and do two show. I did Jr. Nationals and I am doing Team U. I am hoping for two and two.

Kassandre: How did you start working with OAMG?

Christopher: I met Maria and Janice (friends of OAMG) a while back and she helped me get my information to Tony and Will.

Janice has been a friend of mine since I competed and I met Maria this year. Janice kept saying “Come in for photo shoot.” I don’t want to ask people to take a photo of me. (Christopher laughed, humbly.) I am not that type of person. I am quiet and do my business.

Kassandre: When you saw OAMG’s work, what was your first impression? How do you think OAMG’s images will help you accomplish your goals?

Christopher: For the first few weeks I felt like I was on Cloud 9. I have been waiting for this moment. It was like I was dreaming. I love modeling and I am inspired to modeling hoping that one day that OAMG’s work can get me discovered into the fitness industry. OAMG comes up with the most unique and creative ideas and the after results are phenomenal.

Kassandre: What do you aspire to contribute to the fitness industry?

Christopher: I would like to contribute my knowledge. There will be people with different questions. I want to motivate them and help them stay motivated. Sometimes people are motivated for a few months. I want them to keep it going. Fitness is a lifestyle, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. I want to encourage people. I have been through a lot. I want to help people understand the sport, nutrition, training, how to stay fit in their lives, really. That is pretty much it.

Kassandre: That is a lot! Are there any bodybuilders that inspire you?

Christopher: John Hansen has because he’s natural and local. The first time I met was at the Rockford show. He’s a pretty good guy. He has a lot of fans. But he takes time with them. I also like Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler. Liberatore is here in Chicago. He has given me a lot of pointers. Shawn and Flex are amazing. When you meet them, they take their time to talk to you. This is I want to do! I want to help others and it doesn’t have to be just bodybuilding. Not everyone is into this bodybuilding stuff. They just want a typical healthy lifestyle. I am not a personal trainer. But whatever I can do to help, I will do.

Kassandre: Why do you compete?

Christopher: I compete naturally. People say you can’t achieve at the nationally level, naturally. I think when people [natural athletes] win it, they are making a statement. I train all year and to push myself. I work really, really hard. It was a special moment especially in my home town. The crowd has your back and it’s a great feeling.

Kassandre: What is the most challenging part of competing? What is the most rewarding?

Christopher: It’s not the diet or the weight lifting, that’s the easy part. It’s getting up so early doing cardio having not much energy. Balancing time with work, training, and family can be challenging. The rewarding part is winning.

Kassandre: Balancing a competition regime can be really difficult. What are some strategies that you use to balance your family life and work with your intense training?

Christopher: I plan a year ahead what show to do. I diet for 19 weeks, the last 8 weeks is my difficult time. I spend less time playing with m kids because I get fatigued easily. Off-season I spend a lot of time with the family and we go on vacations.

They understand. I made sure I don’t have anything planned, off-season. We just go on vacation. My lifestyle is balanced. I don’t have a 9-5, Monday-Friday job. I manage my time. I can fit in my family and my workouts. While they are in school, I try to work out and go to work. The days I don’t work much, I spend time with them.

Kassandre: What is your personal philosophy around health and fitness?

Christopher: What the mind believes, the body will achieve. If you think you can’t, then you won’t. Self-motivation is the key to success in reaching your goals at any level of fitness. I truly believe that fitness is a lifestyle and should you should treat it as it is. You have to make it a lifestyle no matter what your goal is. You just have to keep it going!

Kassandre: What would you advise someone to do who is looking to improve their overall health?

Christopher: Change your eating habits and exercise regularly. Don’t call it a diet. A diet is what you break. Call it a healthy eating lifestyle.

Kassandre: OAMG is ______________________.

Christopher: …unique and creative. OAMG (Tony and Will) are easy to work with, their team work and ideas are outstanding.

Kassandre: Are there any projects that you are currently working on?

Christopher: No projects. I want OAMG to help me get into the fitness magazine industry. And I want to get into Iron Pinoy Magazine.

Kassandre: Why do you aspire to be in IronPinoy Magazine?

Christopher: I want to be in IronPinoy and also other magazines like Muscle and Fitness. But, I was born in the Philippines. IronPinoy is the biggest magazine there! It is such a poor country. They can’t get Muscle and Fitness, there. For them to just get that magazine [IronPinoy] and see me is something they can be proud of, “This is my cousin! My grankid!” I want to be in every fitness magazine and share my story. I want to make my family proud.

Article first published in Ironpinoy Magazine (print) December 2010

All Photos by Tony and Will
OAMG Models

Full Name: Christopher San Juan

Nickname(s): Thrilla from Manila

Age: 31

Date of Birth: July 17, 1978

City of Birth: Manila

Favorite Quote: It’s not about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit how much you can take and keep moving forward.

Favorite Book: None – I read a lot of fitness magazines

Occupation: Field Service Engineer

Years Modeling: 2

Height: 5’6

Contest History:

2006 NPC Natural Grand Prix – 1st Place Novice and Open – Bantamweight

2006 NPC Illinois State – 1st Place Open – Bantam Weight

2007 NPC Natural Grand Prix – 1st Place Novice and Open – Lightweight

2007 NPC Illinois State – 1st Place Novice – Lightweight

2007 NPC Illinois State – 1st Place Open – Bantamweight

2007 NPC Jr. Nationals – 2nd Place – Bantamweight

2008 NPC Jr. Nationals – 6th Place – Lightweight

2009 NPC Jr. Nationals – 3rd Place – Lightweight

2010 NPC Jr. Nationals – 1st Place – Lightweight