I’ve Never Felt So Alone

For those of you who don’t know I’m competing in my first bodybuilding show in November. While I’ve been surprised by all the support I’ve received, I’ve never felt so alone in my life.

Bodybuilding is a singular activity. No matter if you’re an amateur competing on the local level or a professional with a team around you at the end of the day no one can eat for you, train for you or sleep for you. It seems odd and even comical to a great part of society that I’m training and following a strict diet regimen not for a sport or to be healthier but to be onstage in barely any clothing and be judged by others while executing poses. No matter how much I explain it the most common response I get is basically “I don’t understand why you’d do that” While many have admiration for your journey most do not understand what you’re doing and at times it feels like your life operates in a vacuum. The majority of society does not find itself training on a regular basis. Even less adopt the lifestyle of a bodybuilder. The group of bodybuilders that take the initiative to add the discipline needed to compete is an even smaller group.

That’s what makes what I’m doing so hard to explain to others. While my family who I see the most are never stingy with the support I see
the looks of concern when I can no longer hide the hard days and they ask if I’m ok. They don’t completely understand why I would go to these lengths for a hobby and I have no easy way to explain it to them. Then I have to deal with work that no matter what I do outside expect a certain level of performance when I’m there. I can’t very well use the excuse that I’m on low carbs or maybe I had a crazy training day. For the most part I don’t think they’d understand or truthfully if they care.

In the end though I love training and I’m happy for the chance to compete against others. I’ve learned more about myself in the last 6 months than I have in my entire lifetime. But no matter what happens I CHOSE this journey and I have to deal with the consequences of it even the road alone

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Arnold Classic Inspiration

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     This past weekend I went to the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus Ohio. This wasn’t the first bodybuilding show I’ve been at but by far the biggest. The anticipation that led up to this trip was unlike any I’ve ever felt before. As someone who loves the sport of bodybuilding, this is one of the MUST ATTEND events through out the year. When I arrived to the Expo on Friday I was immediately immersed in the world if fitness, athletics, and bodybuilding. To be honest it was a bit overwhelming. You see outside of things like this I am quite alone in my life in regards to people that care about any type of physical activity, so this event was almost like a comfort zone as I was surrounded by others who shared my lifestyle. 

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There’s a million things I could talk about but what happens whenever I go to any bodybuilding show is I can’t help but compare myself to the other physiques walking around. Up until now at the smaller shows I have attended at 275lbs more often than not I was in the higher percentile of guys walking around size wise. The Arnold I figured would be a whole different story. I assumed that with a lot of the elite physiques walking around my ego in regards to being big would be deflated. Something funny happened though. As I walked around during the weekend I realized that sure there were bigger guys than me but unless my perspective was skewed, there weren’t that many. Now I know size isn’t the end all be all in bodybuilding but it got me to thinking. If I was able to get my body to the level it’s at with nothing at stake what happens if I truly put some pressure on myself and put it to use?

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That being said I think it’s time for me to put my money where my mouth is and step onstage. I don’t want to turn around one day and say “You know what? I could have done something.” I’m not making this t a someday kind of thing. There are 2 shows that I want to decide between THIS YEAR. One is a mid level local show and one is actually a national qualifier. I’m actually aiming for the qualifier to see if perhaps I can make it onto the national stage. The nationals are a week after and if I perform like I plan on doing why not give a run at a pro card? I’ve already contacted a local IFBB pro who does contest prep and she’s more than willing to help. Now it’s up to me. I’ve seen all the posts of competitors all over social media but now I want to GET SOME!

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Training Log: Week 1, Day 2

So today was the second day of my new training program. I woke up feeling like a train hit me from yesterday’s training. I’ve found though that getting out and getting the blood flowing a lot of times helps work out the soreness. Looking over the session it looks like a mostly upper body focus as yesterday was mostly lower body. That being said both days have been really a total body training session.

Started with abs again 30 seconds of flutter kicks and 30 seconds of bicycle crunches. Too easy 

Then it was onto box jumps. Bit of an issue as we don’t have the normal equipment used for box jumps like in this video No worries though I improvised. We have these steps near the basketball court that are only about 24in high but what I did was while clearing the height I tried to jump as far forward as possible so I train explosiveness in 2 different planes. I knocked out 3 sets of 5

The goal is to reach the wall. Impossible? Maybe, but so was landing on the moon at one time!

After that it was actually time to start lifting. Benching up first. 4 sets of 10 with 135, 225, 275, and 315lbs. Not gonna lie didn’t think I was going to make the 315. About rep number 7 I reached that “either put it down or have it get stuck on your chest” My ego lifted the last 3 reps!

Then it was DB incline presses. Three sets of 8 but with a technique called stop and stab. What that is, is in the bottom part of the rep pause for a second and then push up with as much force as possible. It mimics the technique that lineman and linebackers use to get opposing players of of them. 

Next up 3 sets of 8 with dips. Nothing special, pretty straightforward.

Up next 3 sets of 8 with hammer curls again really straightforward. I’m pretty strong on this movement. I used 70, 90, and 100lb dumbbells

Finally last up was a 1 minute bar hang which is basically grabbing a pullup apparatus and hanging on for dear life. I wasn’t really expecting to make the minute. I have forearm strength, but not forearm endurance. I’m actually glad I made it 35 seconds at the end of a workout. I waited about 15 seconds and was able to make the other 25 seconds. 

So by now one of the biggest things I’ve realized about this training is rest and recovery is paramount. With traditional bodybuilding i could have gotten away with a little less sleep when I trained smaller parts individually but now with doing basically a whole body workout I’ve been wrecked after each session.

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New Training=I Feel Like a Gym Noob

Since I graduated college in 2002 my fitness goals have been the same. No longer needing to train to play football I needed another avenue for training as I have it in the blood and couldn’t just give it up. So I turned to bodybuilding. Since then I’ve taken myself from a 225lb football player to a 285lb bodybuilder. But like they say the more things change the more they stay the same.

For those who don’t know I work in the armed security industry and recently took another position as an officer at a nuclear facility in Florida. Needless to say the transition from a gated community to a nuclear facility called for an increase in mental and physical intensity. As I learned the position I found out that instead of my normal 9mm and a gun belt I’d have a rig that looked like this minus the helmet

All together another 40lbs was added to my body weight which puts me at the 325 mark. At 5’8″ that of course over time would cause issues for my knees and back. I had to address this but how? I realized that I would need to change training styles as constantly looking to get bigger would not serve me well anymore.

I figured before I was a bodybuilder I was a football player and they are some of the most finely conditioned athletes on the planet. This would be my new but at the same time old method of training. I found a book called “A Chance to Win: A Complete Guide to Physical Training for Football” It’s the detailed training program of the Virginia Tech Hokies, one of the most physically prepared college football teams in the nation.

So today was the first day and this is how the training went. First of all there were some mental adjustments I had to make. I approached bodybuilding with a calm scientific approach as I was solely looking for optimum muscle contraction. Numbers made no difference to me. I let my body dictate what happened. This on the other hand was different. Unlike isolation exercises in my bodybuilding training. I had all compound movements and I had to bring out an anger and fury I haven’t used since football. It actually was a little strange at first!

Abs were first 2 sets of 20 of hanging leg raises which was easy but there were these Hokie stack crunches which were 20 regular crunches, 20 to each side and 20 to include all three variations! That was one set by itself…and I had 2 of those!

Next I moved to the push press which is the jerk part of the clean and jerk.

I had one warmup set of 5 and 3 working sets. I managed to do 135, 185, 205 and 225lbs. I can tell this is a movement I’ll excel in already!

Next were lateral squats. Only 2 sets of 6 with 65lb but that’s because it’s new to me and felt very awkward doing it for the first time! 

Onto squats. Normally I do 4 sets of 15 so when I looked at the program calling for one warmup set of 10 and 2 of 20 reps. I said “Too easy” while wondering why they called them “Man Makers” I found out at about rep 16 of the first set while fighting the urge to pass out! I guess anything is hard with the right combo of exercises!

Then came Kazmaier Shrugs named for legendary strongman Bill Kazmaier. I did these with 10 reps at each grip with 135lbs. Shrugs are easy for me but by this point the gas tank was runing low! 

Next was pullups and by this point I was like WTF. I’m TERRIBLE with pullups to begin with but by now it was going to be a different kind of hell. I managed to do the 3 sets of 5 I was supposed to anyways through sheer will and not wanting to fail.

I ended with Romanian Deadlifts. I do pretty well with these also but by now I was running on more will power than actual energy. I use dumbbells for these as they feel more natural motion wise for me. I did 3 sets of 6 with 75, 95 and 105 dumbbells. 

And that was it besides the 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill doing random elevations. There are plyometric drills they prescribe in the book but I’m waiting till I come down in size a little to go hopping around. By then I’m also hoping to get a prowler to help with the plyo section of training. That’s day damn 1! I’ll keep updating with more workouts as they change as well as changes in the phases of training as it is a periodization program.

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For the Love of the Game

For those who may not know the two worst things to happen to your car is to have your engine blow or have the transmission go and over this past weekend I suffered the latter. The cost to fix it runs about $2,000 which in this economy isn’t something most people have especially this guy! Normally I wouldn’t let this bother me. It’s only a car and an old one at that. If I woke up tomorrow and it was gone it wouldn’t bother me one bit. The only thing that really bothers me is that it comes at the worst possible time, right at the beginning of my contest prep.

I’m actually lucky in that my gym is a 10 minute walk from my job,which is nice because it doubles as a warm up for the gym. What I could do without is having to climb an overpass with a gallon of water, my gym bag and 288lbs of Christian. I could easily say I’ll wait the 2 months to save up to fix the car and then go back to my regular gym schedule but I’m sure right now someone who has all the ability to hit the gym on their own schedule and will be on the stage with me is not missing training sessions. So I strap up my stuff and dodge cars on the way to the gym. I’m lucky in that I have a family that is supporting me for this show with rides and such but no matter how much their generosity goes I hate to have them go out of their way. Times like this I wish  had a gym partner that wouldn’t mind taking me the 10 minute drive home, but I’ve spent so long focusing on myself at the gym I honestly don’t know anyone to do that!

But no matter what happens I always take solace in the fact that although I may be down right now. It’s a matter of time before I’m back and when I make it BIG things like this will make the journey 1000 times sweeter. So until then I’ll drag my gym bag along and if you see me on the overpass honk at me because I will still be doing everything in my power to make every training session possible. Till later…

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The Most Important 20 Minutes Ever

So I’m about 5 months away from my first contest and this Saturday I start doing 20 minutes of cardio four times a week. While it seems like that’s a benign statement it kicks off the pre-contest phase for my show. While to me at first it didn’t seem like a big deal because the diet portion doesn’t kick in for another couple of weeks, it hit me that at some point all the greats in the sport of bodybuilding, whether it be Arnold, Dorian, Ronnie, Jay, or Sergio did what I’m doing right now: getting prepared to step on a stage for the first time.

I then began to think of what that encompasses. For the next 5 months EVERYTHING I do will be done with the intention of being on a stage for about 30 to 45 minutes. Every single thing I eat will be with a specific purpose. Every activity will have to be evaluated whether it can benefit me or not. Every minute I can get of sleep becomes magnified in importance. There’s also the real world element of what I’m doing. I still have to maintain responsibilities that don’t disappear simply because I want to compete. I don’t live in a bubble so despite the fact I’m hungry or cranky or tired, that doesn’t matter to people around me, I still gotta do what I gotta do.

But all in all I’m extremely excited for the next few months. I’ve always pursued bodybuilding with the purpose of “staying in shape” but now there’s a deeper meaning to it. I want to win plain and simple and I’m sure there’s other competitors that will be on the stage with me that are right now thinking the same thing. What I have to do is to make sure that I make the most of my genetics, training and diet to make sure I stand at the center of the stage holding a trophy. Till later…

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The Journey of 1000 Miles…

The initial idea behind this blog is I’ve never really seen anyone document their journey to the bodybuilding stage for their first show in detail. If there is I probably was too lazy to find it!

I’m not exactly sure of what sparked the interest to compete but I remember what solidified it. I became Facebook friends with Gale Elie the girlfriend of former Mr. Olympia Dexter Jackson. I noticed that the background of one of her pictures looked EXACTLY like my old high school. When I asked her about it lo and behold it was my old high school. I also found out that within a month or so there would be a local bodybuilding show. I’ve seen plenty online but this would be my first in person. I fully intended to walk in amongst the competitors and go from the biggest guy in my gym to just another big guy. Funny thing is as I walked around I noticed I still was one of the bigger guys in the building. As I saw more and more athletes I thought “I can do this, I can hang with these guys. I want to be onstage where they are and I want to win!

About this time I was becoming friends with someone who is proving to be integral in this journey, Teresa L’Heureux. We both being fans decided to meet up at the 2010 Dexter Jackson Classic. This was a jump up from the last show I saw as there would be actual pro bodybuilders in the building. I was fully expected to be awed and put in my place standing next to the monsters I viewed in the magazines. But again as I walked around amongst the pros. I felt like “Wait these guys aren’t any bigger than I am and as a matter of fact I’m getting some second glances myself!” From that point on every time I’ve stepped in the gym it’s been working towards becoming a professional bodybuilder.

Some people look at bodybuilding and bodybuilders in general as an odd bunch, and admittedly we are. I could try and explain why we do what we do and why it’s worthwhile but I’ve noticed that unless you have it in you it will never truly make sense. All I know is it makes me happy I have fun doing it. Make no mistake though. This is not just something I’m doing I fully intend on being Mr. Olympia one day and I am 1000% serious about that. For those who don’t know Mr. Olympia is recognized as the best bodybuilder on the planet and that’s why I do what I do. Till later…

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