My Journey: From the Couch to the Stage of a Bodybuilding Competition

Many of you know that I recently competed in a bodybuilding competition. What you didn’t know is why I did it, how I did it, why it was so odd for me to be on the stage in the end, how I did in the competition, how I am doing today, and will I compete again?

This is my story…I am sharing it to help encourage health and fitness. I understand that some of the things I decided to put my body through might not be the best idea for a firefighter, but utilizing some of what I did can be very beneficial.

First of all, you have to understand where I was and where I have made it to. I have been on my department for 14 years. I got hired right after turning 22. I was young, lean, and could eat anything without worrying about fattening up. That lasted for a couple of years and then things started to change. I didn’t work out, I continued to eat what I wanted and began gaining weight especially around the “mid-section”. It wasn’t real bad; it bothered me, but still did nothing. A couple of years ago, I began eating better and working out. However, I wanted to start over. I am 5’7″ tall and weighed 170 when I started this. I had no idea I would soon be down to 135. Realizing that 135 is not a sustainable weight for me, I am finding my new norm now.

On July 20th, I took the stage at the American Natural Bodybuilding Federation (ANBF) Competition at the Virginia Natural Pro/AM Championship at the Blue Ridge Fitness Festival in Roanoke, VA. I competed in two Bodybuilding classes, the Novice and Lightweight Open divisions.

My wife competed in two Figure classes, the Novice and Open Tall divisions.

If you would like to see the full set of images, they are on my personal Facebook page here.

A note about my “tan” at the competition. Yes, I know it is dark…but that’s the way these shows go and it showed off my definition better than my pasty white skin. 

You can add me to the long list of firefighters who have begun or continued to stay in shape, lose those extra pounds and live healthier. Maybe in the long run we can decrease the amount of cardiovascular deaths of firefighters if we continue to get more and more Brothers and Sisters living healthier lives.

Why I competed:

My wife and I at the ANBF Competition

My wife Becky began working out with our trainer (Robbie Royston) several years ago. She eventually got my butt off the couch to join her at the gym. We began eating healthier and I began cooking healthier at the firehouse. We were enjoying life. After a while, Becky decided she wanted to train for and compete in a Figure competition. I was all for it and backed her 100%.

Last year, she was all set to compete but  due to a health issue within the last few weeks of training, she had to pull out. It was not easy for her to walk away after all of the hard work, training, and dieting she had put into it.

This January, she was ready to make a run for it again. At this point, I was training with her and our trainer twice a week and working out on my own or with her other days of the week. I decided I would compete as well.

For years I had been unhappy with the “gut” I was adding to each day. I hadn’t seen my abs in years and I wanted a fresh start. I figured there was no better way than to train and diet for this competition. I knew that in the end, I would look at least as good as I did when I was 18…boy was I wrong (I looked even better!).

So there we were in January of this year planning on competing in two shows in April and May. Eventually, we changed our minds on those shows and decided to compete locally on July 20th. That was a great decision. However, that meant dieting even longer.

How I did it:

During my routine

Once we started I was all in. I followed the diet plan prescribed by our trainer. I followed the workout regimen, and I did the cardio.

That meant I was eating more frequently (smaller portions), working out 5-7 days a week, and in the end doing cardio twice a day.

Many have asked about my diet. Basically, I got 6 meals a day that changed depending on how I looked and how far out from the competition we were. Proteins included: fish, chicken, turkey, beef, eggs, protein powder. Veggies: broccoli, asparagus, spinach, and cucumbers. Carbs: sweet potatoes and oats. There were fruits in the beginning, but not much.

I started at 170 lbs., lost 35 pounds and got down to 135 lbs.

My waist went from a 35″ to a 29″.

My supplements included protein powders, BCAA’s (branch chain amino acids), vitamins, and minerals. Early on I still used pre-workouts and creatine.

Mostly, this entire process couldn’t have been done alone. I owe it all to my wife and trainer. My wife kept me on the right path and was very motivational. Even through both of us being moody as hell at times for not having any carbs in our diet, we made it through.

Why was it so odd for me to compete:

Did I mention that I am NOT a bodybuilder?

Bodybuilders typically start young. They workout a lot from a young age and enjoy it. I only started working out regularly several years ago and have grown to enjoy it, but I wasn’t bodybuilding.

Here I was, 36 years old, competing in a bodybuilding competition for the first time in my life and standing next to some really big dudes. I was out of place…but I was probably the most calm person there. All of the other guys were nervous as hell, but I knew I didn’t have anything to lose.

Remember, I was in the process to lose weight. I had already won. My goal was already accomplished. Getting on stage was simply completing the goal I had signed up for that would help me get there. The other guys had a lot more riding at the competition, they wanted to win.

How I did in the competition:

Middleweight, Lightweight, and Heavyweight Winners compete in the Overall. The Heavyweight won.

I got first place in the lightweight division!

Ok, to be completely fair…I got first place, but I was the only lightweight competing.

I did not place in Novice (against 5 others).

Then the strangest thing happened. Because I won the lightweight division, I got to go back on stage and pose in the overall against the winners of the middleweight and heavyweight classes.

There I was, competing for a Pro Card for the ANBF against 2 others. I knew there was no chance of winning, but it didn’t matter. I was having a blast. They only gave away 1st place (Patrick Mabe won as a Heavyweight), so I don’t know how I fared against the middleweight. From what others have said, they think I had him beat. That is enough for me.

How I am doing today:

Life after the competition had me extremely anxious. Would I be able to use what I had learned to eat healthier? Would I go back to old habits and pack on that 35 lbs. I had lost?

It is two weeks since the competition and I have put on 10 lbs. Most of that is water weight due to sodium being back in my diet. This is something I need as a firefighter or I could become dehydrated quicker.

I still eat clean. I actually eat more like a bodybuilder (the bulking part). I am following a diet and paying close attention to my macro-nutrients. Currently, my breakdown is 50% protein, 30% healthy fats, 20% carbs. My caloric intake is approximately 2500 calories each day depending on what I eat.

I am working out at least 5 days a week and I continue to keep cardio in my life. My wife and I rode 23.4 miles on our bikes yesterday.

Will I compete again?:

Throughout this entire process, I kept telling myself I would only do this once. After competing, I think I have changed my mind. I have loosely set a goal of competing again in 2 years. This will give me time to put on some muscle for the next competition. The main reason for competing again is to set another goal and remain on track to a healthier life.

I might have a couple of the guys at the firehouse competing with me. I imagine my wife will be ready to compete again then as well. We will see what happens.