Growing up, my mindset was not always the same as it is today. I’ve matured, grown up, learned and through the years tried to apply some of the wisdom I picked up from other people I’ve met, to my own life.
When I was younger, with a much slimmer build, although it was always athletic, my goal had always been to get bigger. First time I thought about maybe possibly playing around with some performance enhancing drugs was just before joining a gym. I was eighteen. Mind you, that even before joining the gym I did my workouts at home or in parks and had an athletic build before picking up dumbbells. I started doing crunches and pulls up at an early age, and by ten years old I had abs, by the time I turned eighteen they were already so pronounced I was able to insert a nickel between my abs and it would stay in there. At this point already people thought I was taking drugs, because I was so lean. When performance enhancing drugs peaked my interest I browsed forums, websites and read magazine articles in hopes of learning about how steroids worked. The side effects I read about seemed to prevent me from looking into it further, I was alone and had nobody to ask advice of, since none of my friends were gym junkies like me. Nervous, hesitant and with a lack of supervision, I decided that taking drugs to reach my physical goals would probably backfire on me and it would be something I would regret for the rest of my life.
The second time I considered it was when I started partying a little bit more, going out to clubs and wasting my nights drinking and smoking. In New York, you’d go out to nightclubs, especially in the summer and if there was house music, you’d see jacked, shirtless guys congregating in the middle of the club that had all the girls attention. They didn’t have to put any effort to meet girls, all they had to do was – A) show up B) take their shirts off. At that time I was a nightclub promoter, so I’ve met a lot of people, including guys that constantly peacocked around shirtless. I always had girls at my table, so even the guys flocked to where my table was. Eventually getting to know some of these people, I came to find out they were all on some kind of drug and kept saying that without it, they wouldn’t look like they did. I started looking into PED’s again, but just like last time, it was a short-lived idea. I talked myself out of it, because I loved to party and I loved tequila. I figured the amount of booze I drank per night alone was enough to sink my liver, and with introduction of drugs to my system I’d probably end up needing a liver transplant for making it work overtime or wind up dead. Back then I didn’t see myself without nightlife and thought that going out sober was a night wasted. I didn’t have a problem getting noticed by girls, didn’t have a lot of money, so the idea of taking drugs was dropped once again. Even though I was out almost every night drinking, I’d still religiously go to the gym the next morning, hungover, dehydrated and smelling like cigarettes. Looking back at these years I spent partying, I never would have thought that my mind and body would evolve into what it has today. During all this time, besides being a nightlife promoter, I worked in fashion and print doing various modeling jobs.
My way of thinking changed when I left fashion and signed with a fitness agency. I was around twenty six by then, thinking about where the last six years of my life went. I started booking fitness magazine jobs – Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, you name it, I probably at one point or another worked with them.
I started chasing the idea of growing again, but because I’ve resisted drugs for so long and after all this time thinking about it, I figured why kick a dead dog, and tried to grow the old fashioned way – by eating everything in sight.
At that time I had just gone through a breakup and moved back in with my family, it was perfect timing too, because my mother would cook every day, so food was always right there in front of me and I had no excuse not to eat it. First few weeks of my strategy plan sucked because I loathed eating, I went from eating twice a day to eating almost every hour. If something was left on the kitchen table, and something would always be there, I’d eat it. In the middle of the night I would wake up and see something on the table, I would eat it, no matter what it was. Both of my parents have a sweet tooth, so at night they would leave out cakes, pastries, cookies, and out would come this hungry beast, eat everything that was left out and go to bed, forgetting I even ate anything. I called it a see-food diet, where I ate everything I saw.
One night I came home drunk after a night of partying and during one of my nightly raids, opened the fridge and passed out on the floor. I guess seeing too many options put me in a confused food coma. My mom found me with my body on the floor and half of my hand inside the fridge, snoring on the kitchen floor. This is how dedicated I was to eating.
While consuming all that food, I was reading up on articles, forum posts and testimonials of all these other natural hardgainers and what they did to achieve their goals of going from pencil-necks to superhero status. One of the advices was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever read, but it didn’t involve drugs so I figured why not try it. There was a post about gaining weight through milk. I loved milk, so I thought it was perfect. Milk is great and in a way contains everything you need to grow, so the suggestion in the post was to drink a gallon and a half of milk every day for a few weeks. The next day, about a gallon deep, my stomach felt like it was going to explode. I was working as a bartender and during my shift the manager kept asking me if I’m all right because I kept going to the bathroom so much. I told him that I’m trying to catch gains through milk and the whole concept of drinking a gallon in a half every day for two weeks. He sent me home immediately. I’m glad he did, because the rest of the night I couldn’t get off the toilet.
Eating like I did, especially not caring about what I eat, my abs softened up and my face puffed up. I felt more tired and when I decided to check my weight I didn’t realize that I have gotten to two hundred and five pounds on the scale. To this day, it was the heaviest I’ve been. Even though my weight crept up on me, and it was what I was after, I felt sluggish and uncomfortable.
Setting a new goal, I started doing more cardio, played beach volleyball on the weekends, quit smoking and cut down on my drinking. I got down to a hundred and ninety pounds and to my surprise, looked bigger than I did at two hundred. My jawline as well as my abs came back. I felt like it was the right weight for me, I was able to do all the things I wanted physically without gassing out quickly. My energy levels were up, and even though I wasn’t entirely happy with the amount of muscle I had, I felt comfortable at that weight and decided that if I were to gain anymore weight, it would be lean muscle, and I wouldn’t sacrifice my conditioning.
I was able to do all of that without the drugs by simply believing in my efforts and wondering why I had thought about possibly implementing them in the first place. After working in the fitness industry for a while, my agent had told me about Men’s Physique division. He knew I always had a passion for bodybuilding, and said that it’d be a great opportunity to step on stage with the physique I already had. He explained that it was guys my size, in board shorts, who had a marketable look, athletic, great builds, symmetrical, just not blown out to bodybuilder status. Considering it for about a year, I decided to enter my first show.
During that time I had a great plan about how to get the most out of my life, because after wasting years of being drunk and not remembering much, I didn’t want to live in a blur anymore. I set twelve realistic resolutions, one for each month of the year. One was to read a book by a new author, another was to visit a new country, basically try new things and explore what life has to offer. One of the resolutions was to step on stage and compete. I didn’t know how to get ready for a competition, how to pose, how to properly diet, how to manipulate water, none of the stuff everyone else in the bodybuilding world already knew how to do. I got fourth place.
Seeing how much I’ve improvement once I cut back on my drinking and quitting smoking, I thought about how much more I can improve for my next competition if I were to stop drinking completely and start seriously considering competing. I quit drinking, picked up a bunch of books, mainly biographies about golden age bodybuilders and soaked up all the information like a sponge, incorporating various training techniques, diets, nutritional tweaks, whatever I can to improve. The next three shows in a row that I entered I had won my class and the overall titles. Everything I’ve been reading about, learning and applying has been trial and error, and it has been paying off. During my competitive seasons I kept hearing guys backstage talk about diuretics and drugs they were on, that only added momentum to my drive, knowing that I was able to create a physique that rivals those who actually used drugs, not to mention placing ahead of them. Early on in my amateur career, I was told that I won’t be able to get to national stage without politics or drugs, let alone get any further than that. I didn’t listen.
The organization I was competing in wasn’t tested, but had a very small amount of show per year in which you had to pass a polygraph test. I competed in one, which I won.
Now, I’m a professional athlete with twenty seven shows on my resume, four pro wins and three Olympia qualifications. People often ask why I compete in an organization that doesn’t test their athletes. Why am I not competing in a natural organization. Well, when I entered my first show, I honestly didn’t even think about that, or the fact that I’ll be competing full time. All I wanted was to enter one show, because it would be a new experience for me. After competing for a while, I saw that natural organizations didn’t have as many competitions a year, and also, the bodybuilding legends that I’ve read about in book all competed in the IFBB. Turning professional seemed realistic in the division that I was competing, the later Arnold Classic and Olympia were announcing that they are going to add Men’s Physique to their lineup. That solidified my standing on where I should be competing. You can’t get to Arnold Classic and Olympia trough any other organization. So I stayed.
The best part of all, is that I never stopped believing in my own efforts, every day I thought about getting better. Every day was a new opportunity to improve. I didn’t care about what other people were taking, using or how they got ready. I started creating my own exercises, feeling the movements, noticing muscles developing where I hadn’t before. Now at thirty two, I still make slow, but consistent progress every day. I am content with the way my physique is developing, and my workouts are getting better with age. I don’t know how long my body will be cooperating with my training, but I’m just enjoying the journey. These days I don’t think about taking drugs, I don’t need to. I feel like it would only undo the last fourteen years that I’ve been developing it naturally, especially since I am only getting better. I’ve developed better eating habits, discovered super foods, I make sure that my body is as healthy internally as looks on the outside. I’ve learned discipline and patience through natural bodybuilding.
Staying natural and drug-free does not make me better than any of the other competitors, I only want to share the experience and mindset of being one and show that it is possible to stay natural and be competitive in the Men’s Physique division. I think with the right mindset and strong willpower anything is possible. Drugs have their place in the sport, and if used correctly, smart and under supervision of professionals, it could be a great thing if that’s what some people are after. For me, it has been a fantasy that was forgotten about long ago.