So I was dropping some bodyweight and 240 was there in front of me. The funny thing is, I think , ok, 240, that's good, that's a good bodyweight, and then, I start thinking, no its not, you are 5 foot 9 and 240 is fat. Unless you are Karwoski in '94, you are probably holding some body fat at that weight. And I was for sure. Strong, yes, I pulled 700 pretty easily in July at that body weight, but it still didn't feel quite right. It just felt like I was on a roll and that I could get my body weight where I wanted it to be for the first time in a long time.
Now it was October. October 1 to be exact. I was still eating a few small meals, late in the day. I remember this real clearly. Cristi Bartlett, my assistant and I were having a few beers, and I just decided, screw this, I am gonna train for a bodybuilding show. I am going to erase the memory of when I didn't see the it though last time. I am going to get rid of this fat and have a goal at the same time.
Knowing myself real well, I couldn't pick a show that was too far away, it would have to be sometime in December. I always operate better when I have a sense of urgency, when the time is closing fast. I went on the NPC website and found a show in Florida on December, 7th and 8th, The South Beach Classic, held in conjunction with the IFBB Master's Olympia contest. I read that it was a national qualifier but I didn't care at all. The goal was to get on stage. Bodybuilding is up to the judges when you are on stage, whatever they think. It isn't an athletic event at all. There is no definitive winner and loser based on touchdowns or goals. Its a judge's criteria, totally subject to what they believe. I knew this and could care less about it. I wanted to get my body in shape, the best shape that it could be. I wanted to test myself. Hell, I wanted to see if , at age 45, I still had the balls, the dedication to do something like this, to see it to fruition.
Now I had some hard earned fat, years of it, loose skin around the waist and chest from being 312 pounds and from losing and gaining so many times. I would have to deal with it. I'd have to have a good plan, and I knew that I would have to suffer to get to the show. I had suffered before, but I had never suffered when I had so much responsibility in my life. Before, I basically worried about myself. Now , I had kids, a job, bills, and I was going way down in calories and up in activity all the while still doing what I needed to do in life. Nobody gives a damn if you are training for a bodybuilding show. Not your kids, or your work. Get your job done. You training for something is your choice. I knew this going in.
Bodybuilding is a strange , strange activity. It has that narcissistic aspect to it for sure. In the end, you stand on stage in a speedo and pose your muscles sprayed in Pam with a fake tan on. Its weird, its odd to most. But I didn't care about that at all, I cared about the getting there, the challenge of it. I chose to ignore that stuff, to focus on the training and diet and standing on the stage as the finish.
I went to a bodybuilding show a few years back and it was crazy and weird and I even stopped flexing in the mirror for awhile for my sons after that because the whole thing, the painted on tans, the guys with ELS(Exaggerated Lat Syndrome) sort of made me cringe. I had even said that I would never go to another show after that and said it was stupid and why would anyone do that stuff anyway?
Now I was preparing for a show. Oh well, I change my mind about stuff all of the time.
I went on my friend Rich Salke's recommended diet. I started October 2nd eating 2 pounds of ground beef a day and 3 sweet potatoes with as many veggies as I wanted to eat. I also added in one 75 gram protein shake a day. I drank that before I went to bed. I started riding the exercise bike, twice a day for a half hour at a time. October 2nd, I also cut out beer entirely.
Training? It stayed the same. I will not, can not ever do the machine, shape the muscle , go against anatomy bullcrap that pervades the bodybuilding world.
I did leg presses for like 3-4 workouts after I squatted and then I dropped them. They suck, they really do . I feel trapped in there and I would just rather squat, man. So I just added in more sets of squats. No leg extensions, no leg curls. I did some RDL's for a while, but dropped them in favor of more squats. I don't even know how to use a Smith Machine. We don't even have one. I am not against lunges, or front squats, I just don't like them. I have done them before and they are ok, but squats and deadlifts are what I like the best and that is that. For other body parts? Free weights, multiple sets, 6-12 reps.
Certain exercises I can not perform, like nose breakers or barbell curls. My elbows and flexor muscles are so screwed up from surgeries and football that I have to be smart with exercise selection. So that meant for triceps it was dips, two arm standing triceps extensions and I think I did pushdowns twice. For Biceps, I did ez curls and dumbell stuff. My shoulder has something going on with it, so I did dumbell work for chest. Back is great, lots of rows and deadlifts and more rows. Chinups are fine, but rowing 315 for reps feels better so I didn't do chins. I dislike one arm rows, so I force myself to do them almost every back workout. I started looking forward to them after awhile. Shoulders? Presses and laterals and shrugs. Whole body is covered.
I did start paying attention to lowering the bar slowly after talking to Marty Gallagher, as eccentric loading contributes to more muscle growth. I added Dorian deadlifts in, where you lower the weight slowly until it almost touches the ground and then you fire it back up again. Now those build your back up.
But then some days I would walk in, grab Cristi and Tracy to do back and we would just do set after set of bent over rows until I felt like I had that magic feeling of being done. Sometimes it was 10 sets before we moved on to something else, sometimes we did 15 sets in a row, 6-12 reps. We would just keep going. we don't talk much when we are training, we probably say 10 words to each other the whole time, I would just say, that's it, and we would be done or move on.
The worst part about the whole bodybuilding thing is the diet for sure. You are hungry all of the time, you are weak all of the time. Basically, your body wants to shut down and your are forcing it to work and work. Your body just wants to eat and sit on the couch, it wants to conserve that energy until it gets some food. The whole diet thing affects your mood in a major way. Your patience level diminishes fast. Maybe that is why Cristi and Tracy don't talk when we train. because if they said or did something I didn't like , I would yell at them. And I better get a good spot! Don't just stand there! You guys are the worst!
As the weeks went on, I got nuts about the whole thing, I started doing cardio 2 hours a day, everyday, and even dropped the ground beef in favor of chicken and fish. In addition, I dropped the sweet potatoes for a week. Now I transformed into a snarling Grizzly Bear, but I dropped weight fast. Well, I wasn't sure about my weight, because I refused to weigh myself. I really don't know why, I just got nuts. Maybe I thought that if I wasn't losing fast enough, I would get pissed off and eat a bucket of Acme Fried Chicken made fresh daily at their deli by that lady with the hair net and bifocal glasses.
The 2 hours of cardio was a mistake, because deep down inside, I knew that doing intervals would be better, but damn, I just had to kill, it, ya know? I didn't follow my own advice about stuff in that regard.
That's what wears you down, that godforsaken bike. Live and learn.
Throughout the whole thing, you realize that being hungry is this amazing state that only people that have been through it really understand. You then have no patience for anyone who doesn't have the dedication to lose weight. When someone tells you that they just cant lose weight and you would , at that very moment, kill for one spoonful of peanut butter, your sympathy for them goes right out the window. Really? You can't lose weight? Put down the Pringles, that would be a good start. Wake up at 5am and get on the bike while listening to Exodus for an hour and pool some sweat on the floor. Oh you can't do that? Then enjoy the crunchiness, because until you get in that mindset, it ain't gonna happen for you.
I took weekly pictures and sent them to my buddy Rich and he would say, keep going, you can do it. I'd be like, really? Rich did give me 3 cheat meals in the whole 9 weeks. This means that I could eat whatever I wanted to for an hour. I would have pizza and doughnuts. Vanilla cream from Mcmillan's Bakery. I'd tell the lady behind the counter, don't wrap them, just hand them to me in a box. My 6 year old son and I would eat them in the parking lot, covered in powdered sugar when we were done. Then I would get pissed off because I would get full so fast that I wold have to stop eating before I threw up. Those days save you mentally, and the next day you wake up energized and your muscles are full as hell.
That last cheat meal was with 5 weeks out. No more cheat meals after that. Now, how did someone who doesn't cook at all get by with all of the food preparation? Once I went to chicken and fish, I started going to BJ's and buying huge bags of already made frozen chicken breasts and then I would just microwave them 4x a day. that took like 6 minutes. Once I added in some sweet potatoes again, I just made like 6 at a time each night and ate them for the next few days, I would put them in the fridge and eat them cold, that was a treat. In addition, I added in red cabbage. Raw red cabbage with Splenda and cinnamon on it. Awesome. I needed that crunch and broccoli didn't do it. Cabbage did the trick. My wife would make Talapia for me for my last meal.
I started counting the days down. I was miserable, but I knew that hell or high water, I was going to Florida. Rich would text me encouraging messages. The one that I remember most was him texting, "You are tougher than the process." that spurred me on even more. I mean, no matter how hungry or tired you are, you just do it, man. You stop at Dunkin' Dounuts at night and get a triple espresso and then you eat some fish and then start pedaling that damn bike. You aren't living in a garbage dump in India with your whole family wondering if you will ever eat again. You chose to do this stupid thing, so just do it. And you do, you start pedaling and pretty soon that hour is done and then the shower is done and the next morning comes and you are pedaling again. You just eat the food and grab the bar and start lifting. and the energy returns, fueled by caffeine and this strange will to succeed that you didn't have any idea that you had in you.
With less than 14 days out, I got smart with the cardio. I began doing 2, 30 minute sessions of hard intervals a day, and added in MORE cabbage. I was eating 2 heads a day of that stuff. And guess what happened? I actually lost weight. How do I know this? because with 14 days out, I actually got weighed. I was 220. At 7 days out, I was 215 , and at the show, I weighed in at 211. So looking back, I should have been doing the intervals and more veggies.
I carb depleted and carb loaded and decreased water as the show got closer, all according to plan.
My wife and I arrived in Florida and I did the spray tan thing which was quite an experience. In fact I did that 4 total times. You are buck assed naked and nobody cares. they offer you a sock to wear. I chose not to wear the sock. I felt stupid enough as it was.
All of the big body builders were at the hotel where we were staying. I thanked Dorian Yates for the inspiration. But I really didn't care if I talked to any of the others. I rode the elevator with Phil Heath, saw Coleman, Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler all of them. Now if it was Dick Butkus or Randy White standing there, I would have been excited.
The show was actually cool. This was a real show, a qualifier for the Nationals. Prejudging was on Friday. We came and did comparisons and they moved me around some , and I flexed as hard as I could. I was grunting and my hamstrings actually got sore then next day from the posing. On Saturday, we all had a 60 second posing routine. Everybody else used some rhythm and blues crap , but I posed to "Walk" by Pantera. I hit some Mentzer/Arnold poses and then they called us out and presented trophies. I finished 5th. The other guys were better conditioned, I think. They were more ripped, so to speak. But damn! it was fun as hell, all of it. The dieting was awful, awful. I guess that I was on 1500 calories a day for weeks at a time, but it was worth it in the end.
I didn't go to the Masters Olympia, even though I had a free pass. Instead, I went out to eat with my wife. I ate and drank so much that I actually got physically sick. Fun. It had been so long, that I just had to do it. Would I do it again? I don't think so. It was a one time thing. But I do like being in better shape and plan to stay close to 220. Thats where I feel the best. Here is how I ended up-