My first foray into fitness was in 2005. I was in the Navy and wanted to become a Seal. I did basic body weight training with obstacle course work, swimming, and timed running. My training paid off and I was lucky enough to be selected for Basic Underwater Demolition School (BUD/S) in early 2008. The training went well until I encountered the requirement that one be comfortable passing out under water. I was not, and that was effectively the end of my Seal aspirations.
At the time I left the program I was in the best shape of my life and I wanted to find something that would maintain, or even improve it. CrossFit was the answer.
After my stint in the Navy I was able to land a job as a government contractor. It was 2009 and I began work as a deployer with a job as an unmanned aircraft operator. I spent a total of two years overseas. With my basic equipment (a 53 lbs kettlebell, a pair of gymnastic rings, a basketball I turned into a 20 lbs medicine ball, and a jump-rope) I was able to perform CrossFit workouts that got me into better shape than ever even when in the most remote of locations.
Fast forward to 2011 and I had finished my contractor deploying. Upon my return to the states I joined CrossFit New England. I soon found myself enjoying the strength training aspect of CrossFit more than the boot camp style WODs. I began to learn all I could about powerlifting. When I discovered CrossFit offered a powerlifting certification at Louie Simmons’ world famous Westside Barbell (www.westside-barbell.com) I immediately signed-up for it.
In March of 2011 I traveled to Columbus, Ohio and Westside Barbell. I can still vividly remember when I first approached the gym. As I walked up to the door I could hear DMX blaring on the speakers. Upon entering the smell and sounds of Westside hit me. The smell was of pure testosterone and the sounds were cranked up hip-hop, the crashing of metal, and the shouts of lifters and they spurred each other to incredible feats of strength. It was an electric atmosphere. From that day forward I switched my training to Louie Simmons’ Westside conjugate method.
In the fall of 2011 I moved to Tampa, FL. I immediately searched for a hardcore powerlifting gym. I found it in Tommy Fannons’ Tampa Barbell. Tommy’s gym is not a normal commercial gym; you can only train there if the crew approves it. I was lucky enough to be permitted to train under probation while they decided if I was someone they wanted to let join.
One of the Tampa Barbell’s rules is that every lifter must compete. I promptly signed up for my first powerlifting meet, the SPF Outlaws in December of 2011. When the day of the meet arrived I weighed-in at 218 lbs (putting me in the 220 lbs weight class). I did not cut for the meet and frankly the idea never even entered my mind. I competed raw and squatted 525 lbs, benched 355 lbs, and deadlifted 615 lbs for a 1,495 lbs total. While the total was below my goal, I had a great feeling of accomplishment!
Competing was an amazing experience. It is totally different than lifting in the gym. The feel of people watching and cheering for you is highly inspirational. With the extra motivation from the crowd you push your body to new heights, and the next day you know you did… You feel like you stepped in front of a freight train.
After the meet I went back to the drawing board and devised a plan to increase my total to 1,700 lbs. I set my sights on another SPF meet which would take place in April of 2012. My new plan was suggested to me by someone at Tampa Barbell and it involved a progressive overload scheme. The plan was brutal and would push me as never before, but I felt like all of my military and CrossFit training had prepared me. I had the mental toughness to block out the pain and achieve my goals.
My plan for my second meet was to once again compete in the 220 lbs weight class. The difference was as the meet neared I had gained size and was now weighing 232 lbs. The week before the meet I devised a cutting plan to get me to 220 lbs or less. It worked, but I don’t recommend it. In a nutshell I drank two gallons of distilled water per day starting five days out. Two days from the meet I ate and drank essentially nothing. The weigh in was 24 hours before the meet. The idea was to dehydrate myself to make weight. If I didn’t make it I would hit the laxatives. I was 5 lbs away and drank half a bottle of Milk of Magnesia (again, please note I DO NOT recommend others do this). I’ll leave it to your imagination what happened next. It was brutal, but it worked and I weighed in at exactly 220 lbs! Immediately after weighing in I began to aggressively rehydrate and consumed as much food as possible to get back the weight I had lost and to be as strong as possible for the meet.
I knew leading up to the meet the 1,700 lbs total was going to be a stretch. The meet ended up being a mixed bag of highs and lows. I opened with my old squat PR of 525 lbs and easily did it. I then got my next attempt of 565 lbs. For my final attempt I selected 600 lbs. They called my name as next up and my buddy wrapped my knees. Unfortunately, the loaders screwed up and it took them about three minutes to get the barbell loaded correctly. When it was finally ready my feet were beginning to go numb. I let caution go to the wind and stood up with the weight. I squatted to depth and on the ascent my back started to round and I stopped dead. The spotters grabbed me immediately which upset me because I felt like I could have made the lift. I wanted to maintain a positive attitude so I shook it off and moved on to the bench press. I was able to SMOKE my previous best and pressed 410 lbs. The deadlift, my favorite lift, was last. My first two attempts flew up. I chose 650 lbs for my last attempt. It felt as if my life was in slow motion as soon as my hands touched the bar. I was able to get the bar past my knees and then it became a fight to the death! Defeat was NOT an option and I was able to complete the lift. I totaled a PR 1,625 lbs and received the “best lifter” award for the 220 lbs weight class.
After the meet I did some reflecting. During the previous training cycle I had enjoyed the high volume training and liked how it added mass to my frame. Around the same time I met one of my girlfriend's friends who is a competitive NPC bodybuilder. I began to realize I just may have been a closet bodybuilder the whole time. My body was trashed from all of the heavy lifting and I decided to give bodybuilding a try. I quickly immersed myself in the bodybuilding world. I went to competitions, watched training videos, and read articles and books. I set a goal of training for a year and competing in a show in the summer of 2013.
I picked a trainer in the early fall of 2012. We reviewed my weaknesses and what needed to be done to provide me the look of a bodybuilder (shape, symmetry and so on). Very recently I decided my first show will be the Dexter Jackson Classic on August 3 of this year. My relatively short term bodybuilding goal is to qualify for Nationals and see where things go from there.
As you can see, I have covered the gamut in my relatively short time in the fitness game. I think my experience provides me a unique and well-rounded perspective I can use to help others towards their goals. I am very happy to be the newest moderator on Wannbebig.com and I will do my best to help members with any and all fitness