By: KDKA Producer Matt Carlins

COLUMBUS, Ohio (KDKA) — For Alexa Bliss, a lifetime commitment to health and fitness began at an early age.

“I’ve been here participating in The Arnold since I was 5 years old.”

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The native of Columbus, Ohio got her first taste of competition at the Arnold Sports Festival nearly 20 years ago. Back then, she was competing in gymnastics.

“There was a lot of sports here, but not as many as there is now.”

The Arnold Sports Festival began in 1989 as the Arnold Classic, a one-day professional men’s bodybuilding competition. This year, it featured 55 sports and events, 18,000 athletes and attracts about 185,000 fans crowding into the Greater Columbus Convention Center and other venues.

Bliss grew alongside The Arnold over the years. She moved from gymnastics into IFBB pro bikini competitions. Today, she’s one of the rising stars in WWE’s NXT brand, which has had a growing presence at The Arnold over recent years.

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“The expo has grown exponentially. I remember it was just a few lanes and now it’s all the way down the building. It’s amazing to see what is here and how the fitness industry has blossomed and grown.”

The event’s namesake is the star of the show. Standing in the ring alongside WWE World Heavyweight Champion Triple H and NXT commentator/Pittsburgh native Corey Graves, Arnold Schwarzenegger inspires those gathered to work toward living fitter and healthier lives.

“Everyone has to participate in exercise every day. I don’t care what you do, but do something every day.”

Moments later, a discussion of “cheat meals” draws more cheers from the fitness faithful, none louder than when Triple H professes one of his favorites – French toast.

“All the powerlifters just got hungry all at once.”

For the men and women in WWE, fitness is more than a lifestyle choice. It’s a job requirement, but Triple H encouraged fans at The Arnold to embrace the grind.

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“Health and fitness should also be fun. It’s not a task…It should be enjoyable.”