Layne Norton's Pursuit To Become A Natural Pro Journal - Part 2!
Here are the results and commentary for my quest to become a natural pro bodybuilder. I will not spoil the outcome here but let you know it has all been worth it. Read on as I describe my experiences at two pro qualifiers...
|Part 1 | Part 2|
Show: OCB Spirit Of America:
Pro Qualifier for the IFPA
Location: Cape Cod, MA
Initial Impressions From Pre-Judging:
This show was huge. There were over 100 competitors I believe and 8 in my class. There were so many competitors that even though the show started at 11 am, my class (heavyweight open men) did not reach the stage until 3 pm!
I felt like I was going to end up in second place behind Chris Motil even though several people told me I was a better poser and was in similar condition. I felt like I had the size and conditioning to hang with Chris, but he had better muscle maturity (being he was 9 years older than me) and he also had better symmetry as his waist was smaller. I also felt like the lighting hurt my chances as this show used floor lights rather than overhead lights and the floor lights made my color look very dull. In fact, guys with less color tended to look better with the lighting at this show.
I placed second in the heavyweights while Chris placed first, just as I had thought. Chris went on to win the overall and his IFPA pro card while I watched from the audience.
I had fun at the show though I was very disappointed. I had worked so hard and to not achieve my goal of turning pro was tough for me to stomach even though I was beaten by a very seasoned veteran who went on to win the overall. Fortunately I still had two pro qualifiers left and two more chances to realize my dream.
View More Pics From The OCB Spirit Of America Here.
The 2006 OCB Spirit Of America Routine:
Show: OCB Great Lakes States Championship:
Pro Qualifier for the IFPA
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Initial Impressions From Pre-Judging:
This show was much smaller than the previous week which was somewhat refreshing as I didn't have to wait around backstage for 4 hours before getting onstage. I felt fairly confident that I would win the tall class of 5 competitors.
I had my eye on Brad Steere; a competitor who I felt would easily take the short class and then give me a lot of trouble for the overall. Brad and I had corresponded via email earlier in the year and actually met at the Arnold Classic. We hung out backstage during pre-judging and had a great time, but all the while we were having fun hanging out, we both knew at some point we would probably be facing off against one another.
I won the tall class and Brad won the short class. As I expected, we would be facing off against each other for the overall with an IFPA pro card on the line. I felt like I was in slightly better condition than Brad as my glutes were deeply striated & my legs had vascularity everywhere... even on the sides of my legs.
I was much tighter this week than the previous week at the Spirit of America... I had nailed my peak for sure! I felt Brad had better symmetry with a small waist and bigger calves. The final posedown was a dogfight to be sure, but Brad and I had fun with it and even put a little gamesmanship fun into the posedown as the video shows.
After the posedown we all filed offstage and waited the announcement of the overall winner. My heart was in my throat and my knees were shaking. The announcement took forever and I seemed to take it all in slow motion "Your 2006 Great Lakes overall men's open champion and new IFPA pro is... " I kept thinking "Brad Steere, Brad Steere, they are going to say Brad Steere. "LAYNE NORTON!" I fell to my knees backstage and banged my fists on the ground.
All the years of hard work I had put in. All my sacrifice. All the people who said I'd never amount to anything, who said I didn't have the genetics or would not be able to improve my weak points. All of it... it was all worth it and it all came together. It was beautiful.
I picked myself up and went onstage to accept my overall trophy. I could see my girlfriend Isabel sprinting out of the isle to get backstage to meet up with me. After the photographer snapped some photos I ran offstage and Isabel threw her arms around me and screamed "you did it." I said "no, we did it." As cliché as that statement was, it was the absolute truth. Isabel was amazingly supportive ever since the day we first met and I would not be half the person I am today without her.
But it wasn't over. I still had one more pro qualifier to go, and it would be my biggest challenge yet.
View More Pics From The OCB Great Lakes Championship Here.
Show: NGA Heart of America Natural Classic:
Pro Qualifier for the IFPA
Location: Peoria, IL
Initial Pre-Judging Impressions:
I was probably the most excited about this show out of all the other shows. Not only were a bunch of my friends from Gold's Gym Champaign coming to watch me, but my entire family, including my grandmother was coming to the show. It had been 2 years since they had seen me onstage and my grandmother had never seen me so I was very nervous as I wanted to the opportunity to win a pro card with them in attendance.
I also had won in front Isabel and in front of my family in separate shows previously, but I had never won a show with my family and Isabel in attendance and I wanted so desperately for it to happen. Pre-judging began at 8:30 in the morning so I figured I would be onstage around 11 or 12 in the heavyweight class, the final class to go out. How wrong I was.
I did not get onstage until 3:30 pm! The show went so slowly due to the competitiveness of each class and the size of the show as the Natural Classic is one of the biggest natural shows in the Midwest. The middleweight men were onstage for over 45 minutes and when my class finally went out we were onstage for over half an hour!
I began to really worry about flattening out due to trying to hold my peak for those extra hours before going onstage. On the plus side, I got to hang out backstage with Brian Ahlstrom.
Brian is a client of mine who I helped prepare for his shows this past year where he had won two untested shows in the last month as a lifetime natural bodybuilder! Brian is also a member of the Bodybuilding.com forums so we had a lot to talk about. He was a great guy and we both talked about how much of an honor it would be to go up against each other for the overall if we got the chance.
I also got the chance to chat with Josh Biros (former Bodybuilding.com transformation of the week winner) who was another client of mine in attendance to watch the show and cheer Brian and myself on. I had previously met Josh at the Arnold Classic but didn't get much of a chance to talk with him then so it was nice to get in a good long chat with him. Josh has a ton of potential and will go very far in natural bodybuilding as he progresses.
Finally Brian stepped onstage with 10 other gentlemen in the middleweight class and I knew as soon as he stepped onstage that he would most likely be the winner. Brian had the most complete & symmetrical physique by far! He has huge arms, a tiny waist, wide shoulders, and great hamstrings.
I would have been very worried about Brian during pre-judging if my hands hadn't been so full with my own class. The heavyweight class had a total of 7 competitors and none of these guys were slouches. I was the most conditioned & complete physique onstage and I liked my chances, but there were two other bodybuilders that outsized me with good condition and I was worried that I might not take my class if they were placing on size alone.
I had the pleasure of watching Brian win the middleweight class from the backstage area as I pumped up & prepared to go onstage with my class. When Brian came backstage I congratulated him and we both expressed how much we hoped we'd get the chance to against each other for the overall. We would get that chance.
I won the heavyweight class edging out a victory over the huge runner up competitor who must've outweighed me by about 20-30 lbs (albeit he was taller than me) and was 23 years my senior. After accepting my trophy my mind quickly shifted gears from jubilation to refocusing on winning the overall. Winning my class was just that... only a class win.
In order to earn an NGA pro card I would have to win the overall. I went backstage to quickly pump up and prepare for the overall pose down. Brian congratulated me and I thanked him and told him "Brian you're my friend, but for the next 20 minutes I'm going to do everything I can to beat you." Brian extended me the same courtesy.
The posedown was a battle to be sure. There were 4 competitors vying for the overall title and a pro card: myself, Brian, the lightweight winner, and the light heavyweight winner. The judges put us through our quarter turns and then immediately moved Brian and I to the middle and from that moment on it was clear it would be between myself and Brian for the overall title.
I was so nervous during the entire posedown as they put us through pose after pose and it all seemed to go on forever. There was no way I would get tired though, not when I could hear Isabel yelling at me to "Stay tight, this is for the WHOLE THING" and when I could hear my family going nuts and all my friends.
I kept thinking to myself, "Hit this with everything you've got" on every pose the judges called out. After what seemed like an eternity the judges were finally ready to announce their decision and called for the posedown music. Brian and I immediately moved to the front of the stage and started hitting our signature poses, each of us attempting to one up the other, but it was all in good fun and both of us tried to get the audience into it and make it as much fun as possible.
I stood onstage with Brian and awaited the announcement; my heart was beating so hard. I desperately wanted to win the overall in front of my family, Isabel, and all of my friends and the suspense was agonizing. The MC finally began to speak "The Heart of America Natural Classic overall winner is... Layne Norton!"
I couldn't believe it. Two in a row! I had won the overall at one of the biggest amateur natural shows in the country to turn pro in the NGA in front of so many of the people I care about! I collapsed to my knees and yelled "YES!" When I stood back up Brian was the first person to congratulate me and gave me a brotherly hug and said, "You deserve this."
Brian was such a great sport and there is no doubt in my mind he will turn pro next year when he steps back onto the competitive stage. As for me, I got to relish in the moment with my friends and family going nuts. It was an awesome feeling that I don't think I will ever be fully able to describe.
After the show we hung out at the official after party for awhile but Brian and I decided that we were craving some IHOP as a reward. We went to IHOP & treated ourselves to a midnight breakfast fit for kings... a couple of really FAT KINGS!
When I got back to the hotel it was 3 am but I simply could not sleep, I was too excited by everything. I couldn't even fully fathom what I had just done... turned pro in two different natural bodybuilding organizations in two consecutive weeks, I laid awake in bed for hours with a mile wide smile on my face.
View More Pics From The NGA Heart Of America Classic Here.
Layne Norton's Terminator Routine:
Announcement Of The Overall Winner:
The results of the past three weeks still really haven't sunk in with me yet. I still see myself as that no name amateur struggling day in and day out to ensure that I don't get embarrassed onstage. The idea that I am a professional in two different organizations is just beyond comprehension to me.
To be considered to be among the best at whatever your passion may be is an extreme honor. To turn pro at age 24 makes it all the sweeter. Reflecting back on my bodybuilding career thus far I really am pleased with what I have done. At every step of my development I've faced numerous obstacles and in each case I've been able to go through them.
For the longest time I was told I didn't have the frame to hold 200 lbs. Then people said I'd never win a show. After that a doctor told me that my injured neck (rugby incident) might never allow me to fully regain my strength. Then I was told that I just didn't have the genetics that would allow me to turn pro. My legs were too small and I'd never be able to improve them, my back was too narrow, and my waist was too wide. Well keep those obstacles coming; I'll keep smashing them down.
|WALLPAPER OF THE WEEK|
I have one more show left, the NANBF Mr. Minnesota bodybuilding championship on June 10th. It is not a pro qualifier but I am doing the show for fun as my best friend, Carl DuCharme will be competing in the show and we have never competed together.
Carl was my roommate my freshman year in undergraduate school and we both were bitten by the bodybuilding bug at the same time. After we graduated from undergraduate school we both went separate ways but we are still good friends so when the opportunity to compete alongside one another presented itself we both jumped at it!
After this final show I plan to take 2 years off to add more size and further improve so that I will be competitive in the professional ranks. I also plan to focus on my PhD research and writing articles for several muscle magazines as well as continuing to write for Bodybuilding.com.
Stay tuned... the best is yet to come.
A Special Thanks!
I would like to say thanks to the following people who have aided me in my journey, I cannot tell you all how much your help really means to me. If I leave anyone out I truly apologize. I may be short on memory, but I am not short on gratitude!
- Isabel Lago, baby we did it!
- My family who have been supportive from day one.
- My grandparents
- Marc Lobliner and everyone at SciVation.
- Dr. Joe Klemczewski... when it comes to contest prep, no one can touch this guy.
- Bodybuilding.com (especially Ryan & Will)
- Avant Labs
- Carl DuCharme
- Carly Smith
- Mike Angermeier
- Andrea Hargrove
- Jay "Big Red" Cholewa
- Matt Shepley
- Andy Stephens, Nick Katrichis and the rest of the Gold's Gym Champaign crew.
- Ted Fletcher
- James "Skip" Albury
- All my clients!
- Everyone from the message boards and those who sent me supportive emails throughout the years.
- Everyone who ever had something negative to say because those words made me push even harder.
|Part 1 | Part 2|