Why do it? I have been asked this a few times since I stepped foot on stage this past weekend. I always answer ‘why not’. So, why did I really do it?
A few years ago I went through one of the most challenging times of life. I went through a divorce after 12 years of marriage and 3 children. I was going to gym as I have done since high school, yet my mind was elsewhere and my motivation was less than productive. I needed something more, something to reignite my inner drive. I needed to do something or I was going to crawl into a bottle and not recover. I did have my kids every other weekend, but it was the weekends I didn’t have them that worried me. What was I going to do to? Was I going to start over? Was I was going to destroy my life and body?
I decided I needed to go back to the basics and finding my inner drive again. I had workout and pushed my body for years. For college athletics I trained to be bigger and better than the other, and for injury prevention. When I was in law enforcement, I trained to be the biggest and the hardest person to kill. Now at age 37, I needed something to train for… I needed a goal.
I contacted a friend of mine, Ryan Schrink of Schrink Personal Training to see if I had what it took to compete in a bodybuilding competition. He said I had the frame and size. At that moment I decided do go for it!
From that moment, I now had a goal. I had a new mission to take my mind off my mistakes and my short comings in life. I had a lot people to prove wrong and my biggest enemy at this time was me! The gym was my therapy, my therapy I controlled. The ball was in my hands, and it was my turn to make the move.
I made up my mind, prepared for it and started this journey in January of 2016. Training for a competition, is a lot different than pushing and pulling heavy weights. It’s a process you have to trust. It is still lifting heavy but it’s more like a sculptor and you’re the art. I had to readjust my mind to different training. Doing more high sets and lower weights, and focusing on hitting specific parts of muscle groups. This training was very different than what I was used to in the past.
I started at 18.5% body fat at 236lbs. The goal was to get to 240 and 8% body fat by July 2017. My diet and training were flipped upside down. I was training harder than I have ever trained before and the mental game of eating so much food and lowering body fat was something I had to mentally overcome. I was eating 6 to 8 times a day and at about 5000 calories. I was strict and stayed on task the whole time. As the months went on I was dropping weight and but my size was going through the roof! With the diet dialed in and the right supplements from Ranger Nutrition I was locked on.
I played college football and you had to be mentally tough and fight through a lot of pain and have a short memory to be ready for the next play. This was different. This was mentally taxing from the disciple to not eat foods the kids wanted to eat, and eat before I went out with friends and drink water. My friends supported me through my journey and understood I was on a mission. As time when on come July of 2017 was at my original starting weight of 236 but now I was at 8% body fat.
From July to show time was the most mentally challenging period. Food portion was cut down workouts were changing and I was pushing myself mentally and physically like I have never done before. I was breaking my body down to be ready for the stage by October. At first, watching your body start to shrink to where t shirts that made your arms look big now aren’t. Going back to trusting the process eventually as my weight was going down the leaner I got the bigger I was looking and those shirts began to fill out again but with a leaner more vascular arm. Abs were starting to pop and I had veins that were showing I never knew veins would show.
Ryan tweaked my diet during “peak week” which I thought the weeks before were Hell, this was Hell’s penthouse. I was eating sautéed spinach with flaxseed oil and 4 oz of tilapia everyday every meal. The lack of carbs and a workout that would make a most puke, mentally and physically I was taxed. There was a few times during peak week I didn’t know where or what I was driving to because my brain was starving for carbs. It paid off I stepped on stage at 3.85% body fat and at 210lbs. I was literally in the best shape of my life. I had pushed myself further than I could have ever expected and the results paid off with a 3rd place finish in my first show.
During this journey a learned a lot. I learned the human body is capable of achieving amazing things. If you trust the process and mentally prepare for what is thrown at you. My kids got to see their “super hero” transform into a something they have never seen up close before. It’s pretty cool when your son tells you ‘you look like the rock dad’! And for the added bonus, I met an amazing woman who also competes and we did the same show. We have gotten to close through this process and have built an amazing relationship. With the food prepping and the workouts with her and how we push each other daily in the gym and in life, things have really been amazing!
So, why do it? Because I can… did… and will do it again!
Written by: Eric Stewart