In this follow up on the UCI Esports Fitness Program series, we had the opportunity to sit down with both Brenden “tildae” Alvarez (pictured, right) and Lyubomir “Bloodwater” Spasov (pictured, left).
Brenden is currently a fourth year at UCI who plays Flex Tank on the Overwatch scholarship team. While Brenden played soccer prior to graduating high school, he did not have a solid workout plan coming to UCI. While on the Overwatch team, he was offered a place in the fitness program and was more than excited to get into it.
Lyubomir is a fifth year at UCI who plays Support on the League of Legends scholarship team. As a player who has always been passionate about fitness, he strongly advocates for its wide range of benefits.
Both players have come to embrace fitness in their lives, both within and outside the fitness program. Here’s what they’ve got to say!
Q: What was your initial reaction to being offered a place in the fitness program?
BA: I was very excited. I actually wanted to start getting into fitness and going to the gym, when I started college, but I could never find time for it because I was always very nervous. It’s a whole different culture. I was never a part of it. I was scared! But then having the trainer show me the ropes and tell me what to do and help me work on form and all that- it was very helpful. I’m very happy with the program.
LA: I’m a big advocate for [fitness]. I’m a big supporter. I’ve been a runner most of my life. I’ve done a lot of biking throughout my life. My brother and I would wake up at like 4:00 in the morning in high school, and we would go biking for thirty miles, and it would take us about a total of two hours. We would go from one city to another via the city trail. It was really fun because I would just listen to music, and be really in the zone and pumped up. I loved it. And when I would get home, I would feel so invigorated, so energized. And then I would go to class and be like, “Hell yeah, I’m ready to learn!” [laughs] “Hit me with the knowledge!” But yeah, definitely, I really am. If I could choose a drug in the world, it would be adrenaline. So that’s also why I transitioned to calisthenics and I enjoy doing calisthenics because you’re forcing your muscles to work under fatigue, and you’re doing that at a very constant rate, so you’re not resting too much, and you’re doing exercises back-to-back-to-back, and your body’s just like, “Aw, man, you’re killing me!” And you just gotta keep pushing, and you get that high, endorphins start kicking in, adrenaline starts coming up, and it just feels amazing. I love it. I could talk about it all day probably!
Q: What part of the fitness program do you think is most beneficial to you personally? What do you like to take out of it?
BA: “The part of the program that’s the most beneficial to me, I would say, is the program that he gives us. So, when I first started, I still [didn’t] know what to do, right? He can tell me what to do, but aside from that one time a week, what do I do? Obviously you can’t just work out one time a week. So he gave us a personal program tailored to our goals. [For me] it was to lose body fat and to look more toned. It was helpful because he taught me how to do it, like the first day that I had with him, and then I was confident enough to do it on my own the times I went by myself.”
Honestly, it’s like, one of my favorite parts of the program. It pretty much got me into fitness, and [my current roommates] also got into fitness, so now we pretty much do our own thing. But I still do the program with Haylesh [Patel] as well. So it was kind of a good gateway into fitness!
LS: For me, the fitness program- it means a lot to me. For me it helps me prove to myself that I can get through certain mental roadblocks in my head, whether it is physically or mentally, and it’s very motivating when it comes to playing League of Legends as well, as well as other mental challenges in the real world, because it basically… uhm, from the physical exercises, it teaches me that I can actually get through those challenges as long as I push hard enough, and remain persistent, and keep giving it as much effort as I can.
Q: Do you think that this is something that should definitely be implemented along all professional teams?
BA: “I definitely think it should be implemented on all teams. It’s really good, and the stereotype that esports gamers have is definitely bad- I’m not gonna deny it! It’s definitely there! I think it’s very fun; it’s healthy. There’s definitely a lot of benefits when you start working out in the gaming aspect. So I think it’s a lot of fun and everyone should do it.”
LS: I definitely think so. Staying physically fit has increased my performance mentally, psychologically. To me it proved to me that I can get past those mental roadblocks. If I’m struggling in the game, with something, like my laning phase, or something that I’m not doing that well, and it’s a consistent problem, I’m able to remind myself, “Hey, it’s just a roadblock, I can get through it, I just need to work towards it, and soon I’ll get through it.” So this is the lesson that challenging myself while working out has taught me, and I’m very thankful for challenging myself while working out. Because it does teach you a lot at the end of the day, it’s not just a confidence booster, it’s not just to look good, it’s also about psychological health, which is really really important nowadays.
Q: Have you ever been personally subjected to stereotypes? Like when you tell people, “yeah, I play for the scholarship team here for Overwatch.” Do you ever get weird looks from anyone?
BA: Not really, to be honest. [pauses] Okay, well, I surround myself with gamers, so that’s kind of the thing. And even my friends who aren’t gamers have been friends with me for a very long time, so when I told them I was a part of this esports program, they were very surprised. “Oh, that’s very cool, I didn’t know they had that.” Some of them were like “I wish I could do that, but I’m not much of a gamer.” And when I tell Uber or Lyft drivers about it they’re usually just surprised and curious about it, and they ask questions. I haven’t really gotten that negative stereotype. I understand that, locally, I’m surrounded by a really open community, and I’m very lucky to have that.
LS: I have a feeling this is involved with a certain stereotype of gamers? [laughs] It’s totally a valid question. I have gotten a few comments that, “Hey, that’s really cool that you’re on the UCI Esports team,” and interests. I don’t think that it’s very unique but I am thankful to be in the position that I am.