Bodybuilding is often seen as an activity (dare the author call it a sport?) driven by vanity, ego, and insecuriries. An activity filled with steriods, 'roid range, men with disquising small egos, and small...you know...
The media, TV, and even "former bodybuilders who have seen the light" further propogate sterotypes that are more the exception than the rule. The article is about how I got through one of the lowest periods of my life. A period where one bad thing after another kept occurring. A period where I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.
The events affected me so much; that I had stopped doing EVERYTHING I loved. That included lifting, eating and sleeping. The situation was so grave that I lost the desire to even eat causing a 43 pound weight loss (25% of my body) in 3 short weeks. This simple account of a 3 month period in my life, and how I used an old friend (bodybuilding) to help me through a particularly dark time I hope is seen as inspirational.
To put it all in perspective and to make sense, I will attempt to briefly set the story up by sharing a little bit about myself, my beliefs, what transpired in my life. I will be somewhat general on some details to protect the living and the not so innocent.
A Little Bit About Me
I am currently 38, will be 39 in a couple of weeks.
I started lifting at age 13, to try to put on weight to play freshman football. Being less than 5'6" and be used as a tackling dummy for the varsity team, lifting to gain strength (and respect) was the only option.
To make a long story short, I ended up gaining a few pounds from about 105 to 135, and eventually was able to bench double my weight, and gain strength in all areas. By the time I graduated high school I weighed a whopping 150 pounds and bench-pressed about 330 pounds.
College (Rutgers University) quickly followed where I pledged a fraternity and tried to gain a degree, both, which took a lot of time causing me to drop about 20 pounds because I had stopped lifting.
Shameless plug for my Alma mater: Rutgers is one of only 63 institutions from over 4000 American Universities to meet the Association of American Universities (AAU) standards.
Peer AAU institutions include universities such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Rutgers ranked 4th nationally among AAU public universities and 7th overall among major universities in terms of environment, student population and adversity, faculty, student organizations, and student retention. Additionally, Rutgers is the eighth oldest institution of higher education in the nation, founded in 1766!
It is the academic standards that really got me into the gym. How do you say? After the pledging was over and after I had changed my major from communication to Premed. At Rutgers Premed was very competitive and required endless amounts of studying for someone who had not taken math or science since my junior year in high school.
I quickly found myself taking many classes without credit to get me up to speed. I used lifting as a way to break up the huge amount of hours I needed to ensure good grades in the competitive Premed environment. This was not to be the last time I used lifting to help me in other areas of my life (this is the prelude to the story).
Lifting prevented me from falling asleep with the book in my face, made me more alert, and gave me more energyâ€¦ my first taste in the added benefits of lifting weights that many critical people tend to overlook. Its not just a sport for looks anymore (dry humor attempting to poke fun at a 1980-ish Stella Dora bread stick commercial, and a subsequent Anita Bryant orange juice commercial).
Anywayâ€¦ back to my story. Even though I was lifting to basically stay awake, so I could pound the books, other noticed something that I at first did notâ€¦ that my body was changing VERY quickly.
I soon became fairly known at this huge University of approximately 36,000 students. I became recognizable as the short fraternity guy always eating and eating and eating in the back of each class.
In 1986 I met Chris Confessore (Chris went on to record the heaviest triple bodyweight bench press of all time at 741 pounds and also broke legendary Super Heavyweight Anthony Clark's 738 pound bench press record, amazing since Chris was only 5'4" and 236 pounds. Chris has held world records in five different weight classes. In addition to holding the greatest pound for pound bench press title of all time, Chris also has possession of the second greatest pound for pound heaviest bench press, when in 1993 he bench pressed 662 pounds at a 217 pound bodyweight.).
Anyway, it was during this period when we both started training very heavy. Chris for strength, me for size. Chris saw my potential and convinced me to enter the Mr. Rutgers Bodybuilding show. I was so naive I was going to get up on stage in underwear. I did not know there was actually "posing suits" to be bought! Yes, naive I know. The show, judged by NPC judges, was very popular.
I won my weight class (lightweight) and was spotted by Mr. Ron Capadanno (an icon in NJ bodybuilding, who owned one of the first NJ Golds Gyms, a former NPC competitor and judge). The following year I beat the middleweight who had bested me for the overall. I became one of Capadanno's regulars and Golds in Milltown NJ, eventually becoming a training partner with the legendary Rich Gapari (former Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia runner up, Iron Classic, Night of Champions winner).
|| Rich Gaspari Interview
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I also became more interested in the sport, becoming a NJ NPC judge working with IFBB judge and NJ NPC Chairman John Kemper (A former Mr. New Jersey 1974, NPC Junior USA winner in 1983 and NPC Masters Nationals winner in 1987). I became the Men's Athlete rep.
The following year I placed entered IFBB and NJ NPC Chairman's John Kemper's NPC Surburban Bodybuilding Championships, placing in front of National Competitor Vince Galante and taking home my first NPC trophy. I then took second place in the open middleweight Division at the the NPC New Jersey Bodybuilding Championships (a National Qualifier).
The following year (1989) I entered the NPC Empire States as a light Heavyweight, and placed while starting my dieting down process to complete as a middleweight in the NPC USA Championships in Ralaigh/Durham North Carolina. That was the last time I competed. I moved to California in 1991, bought another home and settled in the "infamous" San Fernando Valley (10 miles north of LA).
While away from the stage I completed two master's degrees and MBA. This short recap brings as up to present day (winter 2003) where the events I am about to describe started to unfold.
Fast Forward - Winter 2003
After a series of personal tragedies I lost 43 pounds in a month, basically not eating or sleeping for over a week, then eating no more than a shake and protein bar, not because I was hungry, but scared that my heart would shut down. When I could not get my mind (or body for that matter back together) I turned to an old friend that I had given up: bodybuilding.
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I did this because I needed to eat. I needed to tire so I could sleep. I needed order. I need strength, and flexibility. I needed to rebuild self-esteem, and start to try to think positive. I needed to get the serotonin levels in my brian higher again, so I could rise above this serious clinical state that I had fallen into. This was serious.
I had never been in this place before, and I was worried. I was always a strong person, a driven person; successful at everything I set my mind too (common among successful bodybuilders and other Type A personalities). Would this challenge break me?
Stay tuned for Part 2. You will not want to miss the rest of the story (with pictures) and the details.
- Picture 1 - Author at 143 pounds after the weight loss stablized. The author would step on stage for the first time a mere 5 weeks later, 9 pounds heavier and ripped (see pictures 2-6).
- Picture 2 - 1 week before the Dec. 6 Excalibur. See what a little tan can do
- Picture 3 - December 6. First Runner up Lightweight Open Class at the Excalibur BodyBuilding Championship - a National Qualifier.
- Picture 4 - December 6. First Runner up Lightweight Open Class at the Excalibur BodyBuilding Championship - a National Qualifier.
- Picture 5 - December 6. First Runner up Lightweight Open Class at the Excalibur BodyBuilding Championship - a National Qualifier. Photo credit Bill Comstock (http://www.graphicmuscle.com)
- Picture 6 - December 6. First Runner up Lightweight Open Class at the Excalibur Bodybuilding Championship - a National Qualifier. Photo credit Bill Comstock
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