The benefits I have received through bodybuilding have been instrumental in the success of all areas of my life.
Developing personality traits such as being organized, hard working, efficient, with the ability to set clear goals and work like a mad man to achieve them are all down to what I learned through weight training.
I used these attributes to my advantage during my studying, with my job and with my relationship with my wife, not to mention the rewarding sense of happiness that I gain after every workout and when I notice improvements in my physique.
The Early Years
I was 15 when I started bodybuilding weighing a lean 165 pounds. I knew immediately that this was for me. Before I had played in all different sports Football, Rugby & Tennis, and enjoyed playing them. But I never felt the sense of intensity or passion for those sports the way I instantly did with bodybuilding. When I started training many of my friends passed off my new found love as a short term phase and that I would never stick to it.
However, regardless of what anyone said I knew deep down that I was in this for the long haul. Fueled with desire and excitement of my new adventure I would wake up every morning thinking about bodybuilding and what body part was to be trained that day. I would spend all of my spare time reading Flex, Muscle Mag and Arnold's books, soaking up the information like a sponge.
Over the next 4 years I "bulked" up to 215 pounds, using the good old high calorie diet. With little knowledge of nutrition and no true understanding of food nutrients, I kept on telling myself that under my ever expanding stomach was a great six pack.
During my early training years it was when Dorian Yates had just won his first Mr. Olympia title and changed the current style of training for many bodybuilders. I feel fortunate that by reading his book "Blood & Guts" early on I was put on the most sensible and productive path possible to maximize my gains, without wasting frustrated years on high volume training, which I believe as a natural wouldn't have worked for me.
I have always followed a routine of high intensity, taking set to failure no matter how many reps that might be. I mentally and physically strive to reach a new level of strength every workout.
Then allowing myself maximum recuperation for growth. Being from the UK I was able to meet Dorian on a few occasions and see him in seminars, competition and guest posing. I have been to three pro IFBB shows, but have never seen another bodybuilder cause a crowd to gather so fast as it did when Dorian sat down to give autographs at the EFBB British Championships in 1993.
It looked like a thousand people swarmed around to see him. His size in person 'blew me away'. I was almost speechless when it was my turn to get a signed picture.
My First Contest
When I was 19 I decided to shed the excess pounds and enter my first bodybuilding competition the ANB (UK's natural federation) UK Championship. I dieted for four long months, training my absolute hardest combined with a strict aerobic schedule and arrived on stage at a ripped 170 pounds. I was really excited and confident and eventually was awarded 2nd place in the Junior under 21 division.
Looking back I over dieted and probably lost quite a few pounds of muscle over the months prior to the contest. Without a break I immediately choose another competition to enter in one month's time, so back again to eating just chicken and potatoes and endless aerobic sessions.
Unfortunately, during this period cracks started to appear in my motivation and my once positive outlook became increasingly negative. I persevered knowing I had come too far to stop now, but at the competition my heart wasn't in it and I didn't place in the top three. The five months of constant dieting and sacrifices had led me to become burned out. I was mentally so put off by this that the thought of competing again the following year was unbearable.
This led to my desire for bodybuilding unfortunately decreasing. Due to this I actually did a dissertation for my Sports Science degree into 'The Affects of Burnout on Competitive Bodybuilders', and discovered ways in which to avoid and overcome this psychological problem. For this I surveyed the UK's top natural bodybuilders and found some very interesting results. I will pass this information on to Bodybuilding.com's readers and hopefully it will be of great benefit if they are competing or planning to compete.
I carried on training throughout the next five years with occasional spurts of progress when I knuckled down to proper training. However, with changes of jobs the progress I made over this period up to 2001 was negligible and my weight started to increase reaching an all time high of 227 pounds and looking terrible.
I had carried on reading the bodybuilding magazine and attending shows throughout these years, but I was becoming a couch bodybuilder. I was building up a lot of knowledge and a good understanding of nutrition and supplementation, but never putting it into practice. It was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to achieve the dreams that I set myself when I was fifteen and get into great shape and compete at a high standard.
A Healthy Turn In My Life
Finally, after many wasted years I have got myself back on track. In late 2001, I moved to Atlanta with my wife and started training at Lee Haney's gym. Well, you can't ask for a better place to get your motivation up and have maximum intensity each and every workout. I have already shed over 20 pounds in fat whilst gaining new muscle.
I have got the fire inside of me to compete again in the future, and plan on losing another 20 pounds of fat to get in great lean muscular shape. I will then assess how much more muscle I need to be competitive and will hit the stage in 2003.
I hope that by sharing some of my training experiences with others will help them avoid my mistakes and keep them on the right track of progression.