Plants and hard work (the final chapter)
This blog will be my final summary about achieving my goal of stepping on stage as a physique competitor. If you haven’t already, be sure to read Plants and hard work (part 1), Plants and hard work (part 2), Plants and hard work (part 3), Plants and hard work (part 4), and Plants and hard work (part 5)
On August 12th of last year, I posted Plants and hard work (part 1) and established a clear goal.
I have promised everyone that I am committed to constant improvement, so I have decided to step on stage as a physique competitor within the next year.
I did it. Not once, but twice and with two months to spare. On May 28th I competed in the NGA Abraham Fitness Championships in Coral Gables, Florida and received 5th place in the first timers division and 3rd place in the novice division. The very next week, on June 4th, I competed in the OCB Sunshine State Natural in Jacksonville, Florida and received 4th place in the novice division.
Those placings don’t matter
Going into these competitions I wanted to win. All I wanted to do was get first place to prove to everyone the effectiveness of the vegan lifestyle. I am a competitor and have always been of the Ricky Bobby mentality where “if you ain’t first, you’re last” so initially, I was upset that I didn’t win. I felt like I let everyone down and disappointed myself and all the people who believed in me.
Shortly after the competitions, I realized how bad my attitude was and that I was wrong for ever thinking that way. It has been said that you can never lose, you either win or you learn, and I learned a tremendous amount from this experience. The biggest lesson I learned is that the only competition that matters is with the man in the mirror. It doesn’t matter how the judges think I look, all that matters is how I feel. At 31 years old I looked and felt better than I ever have. I am proud of my body that I forged with plants and hard work and I realized that competing is great, but there are so many things that are more important than the results on stage. Those are the things I want to talk about.
My wife. My wife and I have been married for a year, so for almost our entire marriage I have been
preparing for those physique shows. This whole experience made me realize how lucky I am to have her and made me appreciate her even more. For the entire duration of our marriage, I have selfishly spent hours in the gym almost every day and she never once questioned it or complained. One particular session stands out in my mind where I was coming home from a two-month deployment and flew to Puerto Rico to meet her for a wedding we were attending. Having not seen me for over sixty days, she still took me from the airport to the gym so that I could workout because she knew how much it meant to me. She helped me with every detail of my diet and during the entire prep phase she cooked me every single meal ensuring I hit my macros exactly. She dealt with me being hangry, emotional, cranky, tired and sore and she always did it with a smile. During the competitions, she took care of everything backstage from making sure I ate at the right times to applying oil. My second show happened to be on our wedding anniversary and I asked Al Acevedo, who put on the show, if I could present my wife with flowers during the show. He was happy to help. After my individual posing routine, they called Natalie up on stage and I was lucky enough to give her flowers to thank her for everything. Those flowers were just a small token of my appreciation for everything she has done for me. She believed in me long before I believed in myself and I couldn’t have done this without her. After both shows, she told me how proud she was of me for getting up on stage, and that is far more important to me than any trophy. That feeling of making my wife proud is something I will carry my entire life.
My troop. Bodybuilding takes a tremendous amount of individual discipline, but it is not something you can do alone. At first, my troop was small, just my wife and I and then I realized I needed a trainer and Korin Sutton joined us. What started as him simply sending me a diet and training plan quickly developed into an amazing friendship. Bi-weekly phone calls to check on my progress turned into hour long conversations that were filled with encouragement and motivation. Eventually, he came and stayed at my house and we trained together and became great friends. He was also there for my first show checking on me every day and coming over first thing in the morning to make sure I was ready. He was able to change my body, but he did so much more than that. He inspired me and countless other people through his contagious enthusiasm and made me feel like I could accomplish anything with him by my side. The connection and friendship we built mean a tremendous amount to me.
My family was also extremely supportive during this whole experience. When they would visit or come for holidays, I would constantly be sneaking away to workout instead of spending time with my mom, nieces, or sister. They all understood how important this goal was to me and supported me. They believed in me and are proud of me for what I accomplished. My mom has also been inspired by my wife and I and has transitioned to veganism. She was also able to come and watch my show in Jacksonville, and looking into the crowd and seeing my vegan mother smile at me while I competed meant the world to me.
I am also lucky enough to have some of the most amazing friends imaginable. For my second show, some of my best friends Ryan, Allison, Jack and Nydia were able to attend and support me. Having them there meant so much to me and sharing that experience with them is something I will never forget.
From the beginning, Geoff Palmer has also been a part of the troop. He was actually one of the first people to join my mailing list for AveganMan.com and a few months later I became part of Clean Machine. Clean Machine is more than a just a supplement company. Supplement companies are unregulated and often selling garbage just to make a few dollars. Geoff Palmer is passionate about creating quality supplements that help people while saving animals and the environment. Working with him has been so encouraging and he has continually inspired me with his passion for supporting vegan athletes. I was fortunate enough to meet Geoff at my first show, and he is such an amazing person. After the show, Geoff, Korin, my wife and I all went out and had pizza and it was such a tremendous experience. All of us vegan fitness enthusiasts passionate about changing the world seemed to have an immediate connection and I left feeling so inspired. I can’t wait to see how Clean Machine continues to grow, and I know they will be extremely successful with Geoff leading the company.
Throughout the course of my training so many people have joined the troop and I have received encouragement from countless people, some people I know and talk to every day, some people just send good wishes through social media, but I truly cherish all of those connections and people who have believed in me. Thank you.
Promoting veganism. The main reason that I wanted to compete is to promote veganism by showing how possible it is to be healthy and build muscle on a vegan diet. I am amazed at how many people come up to me and start a conversation about exercise, or physique goals. This has provided me with so many opportunities to discuss the benefits of veganism. Some people have been inspired and transitioned to veganism, many are just curious, but either way it makes a difference. The pain I felt in the gym is nothing compared to the pain we put animals through on a daily basis. Even if just one animal is saved by my actions, this was all worth it. Saving animals is far more important and rewarding than collecting trophies.
Accomplishing goals. I set a goal, I accomplished it, and I am extremely proud of that. I am so proud of how far I have come not just in the last year, but over many years of training and hard work. Below you can see my transformation from 2005 to 2016. Making changes takes time and sustained dedication and now when I look at myself in the mirror, I am proud of what I have done and the physique I have built. I know I have worked so hard and put so many hours into my training and diet. It doesn’t matter how the judges see me, right now I am the best version of myself, and I don’t need to win to prove anything….but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to win.
I am going to take some time to pack on as much muscle as I can before I compete again. I want to focus on building at least 10 pounds of good quality muscle and plan on competing again this time next year. Currently, I am changing things up a little bit with my training and doing a lot of heavy, low rep strength training focusing on compound lifts. I want to see how my body reacts to that and I know the strength benefits will help with gaining muscle.
I also want to spend more time focusing on other people accomplishing their goals through personal training. Making changes in my body has been amazing, but Korin has really inspired me to help other people attain their dream physiques.
Now that I have competed, I know what to expect and being on stage has lit a fire that has motivated me to train even harder and accomplish even more. I have learned how to change my body and I want to continue to show people what is possible with plants and hard work.