I had a wonderful experience recently, one that I would like to share with you. This is a once upon a time escapade…so brace yourself. I of was in the gym working out when a number of bodybuilders started “ragging” me about being an “over the hill” powerlifter. I don’t know if you are aware of it but there is a good- natured rivalry between powerlifters and body builders. Well it’s more like they have an aversion for each other. It’s probably because they don’t really appreciate and/or comprehend each other’s idiosyncrasy. For instance, powerlifter’s don’t understand why every time a pretty girl walks by a bodybuilder, he immediately goes into a posing routine, or why bodybuilders walk like they are trying to carry an ear of corn without using their hands. Conversely, bodybuilders don’t understand why the only thing powerlifters can talk about is steroids, more steroids, and themselves. Like I said good-natured rivalry.
In any event, they were saying that although I was a fairly good powerlifter there was no way in the world I could ever bodybuild. To which I responded, “Anyone can bodybuild…Gumby could bodybuild. Heck, you guys are bodybuilders, so it couldn’t be that hard.” And then they said “OK, then you do it”. And I said, “OK, I will”. Of course, I really didn’t have any intention of doing it. I’m mean lets be real, I was 52 years old at the time and at best I had the body of an eleven- year old stamp collector. A relatively plump stamp collector at that. I hate to admit this but I looked like I had been training at the International House of Pancakes rather than at the local gym. I was probably more a candidate for the pudding belly Olympics than a physique contest. Consequently, my chance of competing in bodybuilding was about as good as Mr. Ed competing in the Kentucky derby. In other words, I was just running my mouth…that’s all. I had absolutely no intention of entering any contest. Everyone in the gym knew I was just bluffing, but they weren’t going to let me get away with it. The next day they presented me with an application to “THE GEORGA” the biggest bodybuilding championship in the state.
That’s when the “trash talk” really started. “You won’t go,” they said. “You don’t have the guts to compete in a real sport…You’re an old man ... I’ve seen better legs on a high chair…You do have arms like Schwarzennegger, Maria’s not Arnold’s”… and on… and on… and on. Naturally, I talked my share of trash too, but I still wasn’t about to back up anything I was saying. Like I said I was just talking trash.
Then when I was getting ready to leave Chuck Mansfield, the very best bodybuilder in our gym, came over to me and said “ Judd, go for it, you can do it. I’ll help you.” He was serious. I thought this guy is crazy. I’ll get killed. But then he started with all this positive thinking stuff. About how I was a world class athlete, and that I knew what it took to be great. And that if I totally committed myself like I did in my powerlifting career that there was nothing I couldn’t do...including being a bodybuilder. He even made reference to a number of quotes that I had in my books. It was one of the best motivational speeches I’ve ever heard. Believe me, he really packed my head. By the time he got done talking to me, he had me convinced that I was the “second coming” of Lee Haney. He had me so pumped up that I filled out the application and sent it in that very day.
And so we began training.- harder then I have ever trained before. A fifty-two-year- old over the hill powerlifter and a twenty-six year- old champion bodybuiler--studying, learning, working—really getting into one another and the sport of body sculpting. It was incredible. For close to three months I drive my mind and body unmercifully. I lost forty pounds and dropped my body fat from 16 percent to 3.8 percent. At THE GEORGIA I stood among the best bodybuilders in the state and guess what? I won. I became the oldest man to ever win the State Bodybuilding Championships. I had literally gone through a metamorphosis-from a pudgy old man to a champion bodybuilder. It was one of my greatest moments as an athlete. It reaffirmed what I always believed to be the truth- that we have the power to do anything or be anything that we want to be. That there is nothing in any aspect of life which is beyond the scope of man. Nothing is hopeless, nothing is impossible, and that there is no boundaries for man.
Well, that was just the beginning. When I returned home Chuck insisted that I start training for the Regional Bodybuilding Championships. “You can do it,” he said. “I’ll help you.” I thought this guy is a lunatic, but somehow he talked me into it. So we started again. For two more months I trained like a madman. Pushing iron from one end of the gym to the other. The training, pain and sacrifice was brutal. I literally pushed my body and soul to the very edge. It was absolutely murder. When it came time I stood among the best bodybuilders in the south and guess what? I won. I became the oldest man too ever win the Southern United States Bodybuilding Championship. In all candor I surprised myself. Once again though it validate in me what could be accomplished if you have a goal and you are committed to achieving that goal.
After the Regional Championships Chuck got this really insane idea. He wanted me to train for the NPC National Championships. Now let me explain something to you right now. The NPC National Bodybuilding Championships is the biggest and most competitive amateur bodybuilding contest in the world, bar none. The athletes that compete at this level are basically professionals. They have their own trainers, nutritionist, and choreographers. Most of them don’t even have real jobs. They train three to five hours a day and they typically use gargantuan amounts of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Believe me these guys place a higher priority on their sport than they do on work, family, interpersonal relationships, and even their own health. In fact, they seem quite willing to sacrifice the very essence of life just to achieve greatness. Nothing matters to them-just their sport. In short, their whole world is bodybuilding. Everything else savors of anticlimax.
I knew that’s what I would be up against if I decided to compete at the Nationals. I was also aware that there was a good chance that I would be defeated and that just to be competitive at that level would require tremendous sacrifice, suffering, and determination. To be perfectly honest though, I really wanted to go to Nationals. I wanted to see how I would measure up against the very best athletes in the sport. I’ve always felt that to be the best you have to compete against the best. I would much rather come in dead last at the Nationals then first place in the All-Backyard or All-Neighborhood Championships. I mean that. I see no significance in winning a title that is basically bogus. Even Aristotle made the distinction between titles and merit when he wrote, “Dignity does not consist in possessing honors but in deserving them. Besides, in sports and in life you have to risk. You have to take chances if you want to be somebody. You have to reach out, put yourself on the line, if you’re going to be a part of life. If your not willing to risk, you can’t grow, you can’t experience all the wonders of life. I firmly believe that in order to reach the top, an athlete has to know how to live on the edge. He has to enjoy the element of risk and danger -- at least to a reasonable degree. Consequently, with that in mind I decided to go to the NPC Nationals. It was an easy decision.
As a result we started again. This time I was determined to squeeze out the maximum of what I had left. As far as I was concerned there was no tomorrow. As before I drove myself unmerciful. I pushed steel, heavy steel, for three hours a day, six days a week. Each training day, I would push myself to the limit, both mentally and physically. Some days I worked my legs so hard that I could barely walk out of the gym I also gave my back, chest, arms, and abdominal muscles similar attention. I did sit-ups until my “abs” screamed in pain. I showed myself no mercy. I never worked as hard in my entire life-never. My intensity and drive easily transcended anything that I experienced during my entire powerlifting career. Some days my entire body actually racked in pain.
When my training was complete I was literally ripped to the bone. My body fat was 2.7 percent and my muscles were thick and dense. Remarkable, after less then 10 months of training I was ready to compete against the best of the best. Think about that for a second. Here I was a 52 year-old drug free over the hill powerlifter primed to compete at the biggest and best bodybuilding Championship in the world. Like I said nothing is impossible, nothing is beyond the scope of man..
Now here is something else you need to know. I'm just an ordinary guy, just like you. I have no special gifts that God gave me. I'm not a Michael Jordan or an Albert Einstein; I'm just an everyday guy. Anything I can do you can do; and many of you can probably do it better. I promise you that. All it takes is commitment, sacrifice and hard work.
Anyway, when it was time I stood among some of the worlds greatest bodybuilders-the very best that America had to offer-on stage at the World Congress Center in Atlanta Georgia. Here I was Mr. Ed at the Kentucky Derby. I had gone beyond the boundaries of what most people believed was possible for a man my age and abilities. In fact, I had gone beyond what I thought was my breaking point and I succeeded. For an athlete, there is no moment more precious in life. It is the “white” moment. The moment in time that an athlete trains a life time just to experience. There is no amount of money, no amount of power, or status, and no position in life that can equal the experience. It is totally awesome.
Guess what happened? I was extremely competitive, but I got beat. It was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had as an athlete. The feeling was unadulterated ecstasy. A feeling as good as squatting 603 pounds at a bodyweight of 130 pounds, as good as any record I ever broke, and as good as winning any gold medal I ever won.
Now I know exactly what you are thinking “Biasiotto, what are you talking about, you got beat”. You are perfectly right, I did get beat, but I didn’t lose. I was the very, very best that I could be. That is the essence of sports and that is the essence of life. To be your very best at what ever you do. It’s the ultimate achievement. Besides that I learned a lot. I learned that I could be anything I wanted to be, provided I had the courage to suffer a little, struggle a little, and work a little. I also learned that happiness comes only when we push our hearts and minds to the furthermost reaches of our capabilities. Most importantly I learned that if you really believe in yourself you can go against the odds and WIN!
Yours in Strength,