Filtering by Tag: NPC

POSITIVE SARCASM PRESENTS: NO EXCUSES: CHASING DANTE (PART ONE OF TWO)

“A few weeks later I was once again across the street from the same venue attending a show and was on my way to the after party to see my buddy and fellow competitor Kevin, when I received a text…one that changed everything.”

-No Excuses - November 27th, 2014


 

We'll get to that in a minute, please understand that most of the experiences I've had in this sport and during this time period were less than glamorous and that whatever I write in this article is with the up most honesty that I can provide, without too many needless side stories to mess up the flow of the article. This is not an opinion piece, this takes place between November 2014 – January 2016...


 

Mid November 2014:


 

“In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself within a dark woods where the straight way was lost.”
Dante Alighieri,Inferno


 

Shows are over, no more stage lights, no more boarding shorts, no more posing classes or weekly updates. I'm still basically homeless, crashing on couches whenever I can, with very little money, very little direction and I was about to publish my final article, because from all the stimulants I took while training, my sleep patterns were fucked and I wasn't able to concentrate properly, I was waking up almost every night from these nightmares of a past life, images of family life would trigger my adrenaline to race and I would wake up to my calves cramping so hard, I was brought to tears. It was 4am again and I knew my sleeping for the night was done.


 

I had met some interesting people along the way, as Bruno and I made our way down to our first WBFF show as spectators, Aly Webster was favoriting some of my crap on Twitter, so I figured, let's see what this chick's league is all about...holy shit, we were in for an interesting night in Providence.

Pretzel carts, cheering banners, thumping club music and an awful lot of red wine. As far as the stage performances, evening gowns, suits, bathing suits, unrehearsed non-standard pose-downs and pageant wear. Every woman hit the stage like a Peacock on acid, amazing and well crafted costumes, with a interesting standout from one Ashley Packard who I think came out with a whip...a whip.

Bruno and I had become rather close as he knew pretty much all about me at this point and after everything was done and checks stopped coming, Bruno was still there...Jimmy, my diet coach, on the other hand was MIA and with how my current psyche was forming, it would prove to become an issue down the road.

A week later I was chatting with Zack Frawley, someone I almost got into a fist fight with at the gym, just cus he looked at me wrong and now we were goofing off together like two male seals slapping fins on some iceberg in Antarctica, we had the oddest friendship and still do till this day. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I talked about my current situation with him and he offered to get me out of the cold and under a more spacious roof. He moved into this giant house with his girlfriend at the time, but...well...yeah, she's gone. It wouldn't be for another month anyway so I continued couching it until all the formalities were taken care of.

In the meantime, back down to Boston I went, this time for another show, the WNBF was hosting a massive event at the very theater I was just competing at two weeks before, I met a few friends, including Zack's future girlfriend, Lyndsay. This loudmouthed Jew from Dorchester/Hyde Park would grow to become one of my most trusted friends. I'd punch planets for this chick, but Zack has bigger arms, so it make sense for him to step in just in case Jupiter decided to pick a fight with us. Seriously, fuck Jupiter. Your ugly and you have a huge wart.

So before leaving the show, I took a few pictures of the competitors and I knew that my Boss, M, was having relationship problems, cus her ex took off with some 22 year old bimbo, so to give her a laugh I sent her a photo of some of the physique guys, “I know your looking for Mr Right, so here's 3 of them.” I said hi to Kevin at his booth and said that I would meet him at the after party in Waltham, Mass...I arrived late.

No longer on strict food prep and dying for a burger, I knew that Back Bay Harry's was just down the street from the hotel I used for the show and as I strolled in through the front door, I noticed something about the place that night that was rather...gay.

I rolled up to the bar in my finest threads and ordered some food...the eyes were on me. Chris and his friends throwing heavy slurs back and forth with the bartender that night and as I sat down and took off my coat, I was immediately targeted. I played nice and introduced myself, shared a few laughs, told em what I was doing down there, and before I could finish my story, one of them uttered, “how do you look with just the scarf?” Luckily my phone vibrated across the bar surface towards my Tequila, it was M.

She laughed about the photo and thanked me for sending it. I was glad she responded and got a laugh out of it, but I left it at that and continued having my awkward conversation with “Gary and Ace”.


 


 

Five minutes later, my phone vibrated again...FUCK.


 

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck,fuck, fuck.....FUUUUUUCK!


 

“I'm just sitting here having a glass of wine and relaxing, what are you doing?'

My phone slides out of my hands and gently lands on the bar surface.

As Chris's friend is trying to rub my back, I said out loud, “oh noooo, I think my boss is hitting on me.”

Kris responds, “ Your getting a raise, dude.”

Despite everything that was transpiring, I somehow got Chris's number and would chat with him soon about some possible photo shoot stuff. I don't know, something to do with mesh underwear or something, anyways...


 

I'm heading towards this party in Waltham, but still getting texts from M. What took place next was the most unprofessional phone call an employee could ever make to his supervisor. I remember some of it, but what I remember most was as I was chatting with her on the phone, I wasn't paying attention to the concrete parking structure on the right side of my car. Eh, it'll buff out (no it didn't).

The conversation ended with me getting lost in Waltham and never attending the hotel party. However, I did have a Gym date the next day. What the hell is a gym date anyways? Is that like a movie date? That never works.

Moving ahead to Sunday night, the idiots are at it again, this time Zack and I are running down the street with a stolen Sombrero, screaming about chicken wings and Chimmichangas...y'know, adult shit.

Obviously, the subject of women came up and since I was celibate the entire 5 months I was competing, thanks to my cheating whore ex-girlfriend, Andrea. Seriously, Tae Kwon Do guy? Fuck you, cunt.

I told Zack about my current situation with M and we got all overly romantic about it in some chicken wing fueled banter that ultimately led me to where she lives and kissing her under the November stars...don't judge me. Not yet, anyway.


 

As my sugar filled ass finally returned to the gym, I started becoming friends with some of the people I had met backstage. NPC Heavyweight Josh Brown was in New Haven when I wiped his sweaty ass down just after he melted the stage to take first overall in the East Coast Cup. Strong Physique, Adorable dogs and a dark-haired angel for a wife. True fucking winner in my book.

The other one backstage whom I actually wouldn't meet in person for another six months was the itty-bitty Kristina C. Well itty-bitty in terms of height, she's like 4'11 and Italian. We chatted a little bit on the phone about the last show, what our current back stories were and how I came to be.

In the past two years, two women have seen me cry, Kristina was one of them, more on that later...

Now besides the sleeping issues and the headaches I was having when I was alone, December was one of the greatest months of my life. Christmas, New Years, all spent with M. While in the gym, I was hitting maxes I had never seen before while training with Zack, how was it possible for a little guy like me to be benching almost 300 lbs? It was alien to me, but Zack was like, “ don't worry about the weight, just lift it.” So up it went, I felt like a little monster, fueled by discount thanksgiving turkeys and every carbohydrate on earth and maybe outer space. Let the gains begin...


 

...January 2015.

“Love, which pardons no beloved from loving, took me so strongly with delight in that, as you see, it still abandons me not...”

-Dante Alighieri, Inferno


 

An interesting time in my life, the house was stocked, I was killing it in the kitchen and with the final articles already finished, It gave me a lot of time to experiment in the kitchen with baking and blending. It's hard being a foodie and a fitness competitor at the same time, but after some coaxing from Kristina , who I later named my “brain coach” I had no choice as I had set a date for my final show in Boston around mid-May, I felt that this show would be the proper ending of my crazy ass journey through competitive fitness and would make my personal life a bit easier to deal with. I also spent a lot of time in the basement in the food lab working on prototypes for a potential peanut butter company down the road, I was pretty broke then as well, but I figured just some simple essentials would at least get the ball rolling. Holy shit. The amount that I sold in the first month paid for my NPC registration and my show, about 250 dollars worth. So that was on track at least, as for the idea of morning cardio approaching fast, my anxiety started to rise and it was starting to show at work, at home and in my situation with M. For the record, I despise going to the gym at 5 am to do High Intensity Cardio, right as the first speed burst would kick in, I will go into a full blown anxiety attack, so after 15 minutes of this, I would go in the cycling room and shake and cry and try to finish my drills. My head was covered, so noone could see my face, but it was hell on high speed. The music in my ear-buds would send shock waves of bad memories through my head like a 4th of July gone wrong. I was still running fat burners and Pre-workout in the morning too, so my heart rate was all over the map. One week down... 19 more to go. To take my mind off the upcoming show, with the permission of Zack, began hosting these large Sunday dinners for anywhere between 8 and 12 people, I did all the prep, all the cooking and if I didn't like something, it would be in the trash before anyone arrived. I don't remember hearing any complaints, as I couldn't really touch any of the food as I was in prep. It didn't matter tho, I truly enjoyed watching everything being devoured with pure delight, M managed to make a couple of the earlier dinners, so it was awesome to see her taking it all in. It showed a true family environment and a great cast of characters, everyone showed up well dressed for some reason, so I played along with the idea, my wardrobe was limited at the time, so I couldn't compete with Eric Miltner's cashmere high neck sweaters, but it was nice to see people taking my dinners so seriously to the point of dressing up. I mean, we were beautiful people with beautiful clothes, eating beautiful food.

As for the food I was eating, I didn't have a nutrition coach anymore, cus Jimmy took off after the New Englands without even a goodbye and getting dieting tips from my fellow competitor Tom was like trying to drag race through a fucking labyrinth. I couldn't keep up with his math and all his fitness apps, so I made an attempt to do my own, but with the intense cardio, low servings of proteins, smaller distribution of carbs, awful sleeping patterns and growing headaches, this proved to be a decision where I would later learn my most valuable lesson.

Handling M sometimes was no easy task either, as she was trying to recover from a bad past as well, but fireball was clearly not her friend as she kicked the shit out of my bathroom scale in a drunken tirade about her ex, one I handled quite well as I knew the pain all too well, but we all don't recover the same...some of us don't recover at all.


 

As the snow began to melt and the dinners currently being in full swing, I managed to have Lyndsay up so she could join in on the fun and meet everyone, Elizabeth and Cali had bubbly personalities, so she wouldn't feel out of place. She handled herself quite well as Nick tried unsuccessfully to run a little game on her, not hard to turn down as his game skills were more Checkers than Chess. After the meal was over, Zack approached me with the look of a Cocker Spaniel that gets confused by the sound of his own farts.

“Who is that?!?!” he asked heavily.

“Who Lyndsay? Dude...you will not find a cooler chick than her, you just won't.”

...and just like that, the Cocker Spaniel was off and running.


 

...March 2015

“As little flowers, which the chill of night has bent and huddled, when the white sun strikes, grow straight and open fully on their stems, so did I, too, with my exhausted force.”

-Dante Alighieri, Inferno


 

Admitting that you have a problem is the first step and I felt it appropriate to tell M that the only time I had a good nights sleep was when she was there, I felt like I would have my energy back the very next day and I promised that after the Jay Cutler Classic in May, that I would be done with the sport so that we could focus on living a normal life and I could focus on possibly finding a new job so that there would be less anxiety on her already narrow and weathered shoulders. I didn't get the reassurance that I was hoping for at this time as I always give people as much space as they need and not suffocate them, but whenever I had free time, I always offered it up to her, because I cared that much. It was tough handling this uncertainty as I watched the relationship between Zack and Lyndsay grow stronger everyday, but while I was happy that Lyndsay had met someone that had her happiness as priority one, I knew very well that with the addition of her to the house...my time there would be coming to a close.


 

The diet was killing me, my caloric intake was that of a bikini girl, my sleeping problems were getting worse, my cardio sessions felt like heart attacks, my fat burner pills were increased to “Superburn”

and this stuff made me hate life, especially on such a low calorie diet, but on top of all of it, Bruno said I needed to do a warm up show in Vermont to shake off the rust before the May finale. I didn't tell anyone on the team I was doing it either, just M, Lyndsay and Zack knew, cus I was around them the most.

I figured before hitting the stage in Mid April, M and I would attend a WBFF show at Mohegan Sun, one of her favorite places, she must've dropped like 50 bucks in this one machine and she wouldn't shut up about the free range chicken at Michael Jordans Restaurant inside the casino. As we approached the front door of the show, I noticed a thoroughly angry Aly Webster and her boyfriend Austin with his head down.

“Austin forgot his stupid ticket!” She said rather loudly, see you have to be careful with bikini competitors cus when they near the end of the dieting, they let you and everyone on instagram know about it. Talk about Angels and Demons, but I give Aly a pass, she works her ass off to get on that stage. She did have a small stumble during one of her transitions, but besides that, you knew at the end of the show, she would be standing near the middle. Although most of my elation came when they awarded Ashley Packard her pro card for her bad ass Catwomen costume. Married, two kids, early thirties, yet hyper as fuck.


 

Well they did their job...my turn.

I showed up in Burlington, Vermont in a full suit as a “supporter” of Ryann and the other teammates, but when I showed up the next morning covered in Pro-Tan, I just winked at the ladies and placed my stuff against the wall. I also brought some of my Cashew butter along as a post show treat, Kat Cousins wasn't being shy and gave me cash right there for one of the jars, not sure how many times she climaxed over it as I was too busy getting my pump on for the stage. I stood on my tip toes a bit to get into class D; which was a smart strategy I must say. During pre-judging, the judges will move people around to determine where your going to be placed and then for side by side comparisons. I thought I was dead last at the end of this process, so I was a little bummed at that moment. Thankfully lunchtime had arrived so we all went down to the lake all tanned up and took a bunch of photos together, at the time, Ryann was clearly the flagship of our team as finding a new vein on her quad was like Christmas time for her. So I found it important to play second fiddle during this whole process and let her get some of the best shots, but I had a few that I played up for the camera before returning back to the show for finals.

Since the New Englands in 2014, the size of the competitors in Men's Physique had increased dramatically, Max Santos, who went on to win the show was carved with a knife and there I stood at about 167 pounds and retaining way too much water and my body fat was far too high, but this was a warmup show, so I went out and accepted my pending fate...3rd place.

HOLY SHIT!

I looked down at my number to make sure it was me they called and I was overjoyed to be standing where I was, I had a lot work to do, but for the moment, I was just fine.

I had a long night of traveling and stuffing my face, so I called M to give her the good news, it was just so damn good to hear her voice, it was the right way to end the night, and I was in total road warrior mode. I dropped Bruno off in Manchester, NH then blasted up to Meredith, NH where my mother had just arrived about a week prior. Then after telling her the whole story in better detail that led me up to this point, I hopped back in the car around noon, headed back to Manchester and nailed down an awesome Sunday dinner for the gang all in four hours.

All the usual suspects were there, including Elizabeth who brought her date up for the first time, he was about as stereotypical Massachusetts as you could get, but he enjoyed the food nonetheless. Everything was going fine until near the end of the meal when we were lounging and after M had taken off to pick up her kids, A few of the others had left abruptly. The one thing I never wanted in these meals was to have drama, I wanted everyone to be like family, if only for a moment, but when family starts to drink a little too much and things come to light, drama always will unfold, I decided with the last show just over a month away, that I would cancel the Sunday dinners for the time being, maybe let the drama die down a bit. Turns out it only got worse as we all went to the same drama filled gym and as for the anxiety with M...that was about to hit a serious roadblock.


 

I'm not sure what was going on, all I knew was she was scared of losing her job, rightfully so, but I wasn't helping as my diet was causing me to lose a lot of lean body mass. My mind was warping out of control and my energy levels had plummeted. This is what's commonly known as crash dieting...and I took it to a whole new level. My cardio and supplement intake hadn't changed but I had pulled the majority of healthy fats from my diet and was running on mostly proteins, around 160 grams a day. This was bad, we're talking under 1000 calories a day. I was doing stupid cross-fit drills along with my workouts to keep under 170 lbs, but I was dropping weight way too quickly, but my mindset was in a bad way with everything going on, plus I was running out of money after paying for all the accommodations.

About a week out from the show, M and I agreed to meet at the park along the Merrimack River, a place where we've had a lot of great memories, sadly this day was not one of them, she said she couldn't risk her job anymore and had to call it quits, I said...well to be honest I don't remember what I said, I only remember the time we had in Boston, along the Seacoast, but it didn't matter now. I just let her go on her way, hoping that someday, she would come back.

That Sunday I took a good look in the mirror. I didn't look good. Truth be told..I looked like shit.


 

...Weekend of May 23rd, 2015.


 

“On march the banners of the King of Hell.”

-Dante Alighieri, Inferno


 

Work was headphones on, head down and talk to noone. As soon as it was 5pm, my chair was empty and I was out that door before anyone noticed, it was my last few days at Gold's Drama Gym, I couldn't last more than 45 minutes before calling it quits and heading home. I didn't want to hear words or sounds from anyone, not even Bruno. He saw me going for a walk across the bridge and chatted me up for about 20 minutes, he mentioned something about a wedding from a life I no longer recall as being real, so it phased me very little. Since I had a hotel and noone to help me with my tan, I made an offer to little Cali Hebert, a luxury hotel, access to the entire city of Boston, free gym access, free Latte's from downstairs and all she had to do was help me with my back tan. She was like a dog with her head out the window the whole way down that morning as we pulled up to the lovely Loews Hotel right across the street from the event center. My body mass was so small I didn't even look good in my suit and that is very hard for me to achieve. I never just sit in the hotel tho, I have to move around, so we took about a 45 minute walk to the north end where we dropped a few dollars for some pastries and some other stupid stuff. After grabbing a burger and finishing my tan up. I braced myself for a long night of all the thoughts running through my mind...


 

4am Saturday Morning...

As usual, my calves locked up, my head is killing me and my heart is pounding. I was already dehydrated and well below a healthy weight for my size. My abrupt awakening made Cali stir a bit, so I scratched her head for a few minutes until she fell back asleep and then I lied there for another two hours.

I stood there pacing at the front entrance of the hotel around 8am waiting for Kristina to show up and escort me to the show, I was already in my pre-show pissy mood, so I walked in myself with my hoodie up and my head down, I usually am in good spirits after I get my final coat of tan, but to be honest, I hate that dream tan shit, its brown Vaseline and it destroys whatever clothes it touches. There had to be something better than this garbage. Word to any competitor at any level. NEVER. USE. DREAMTAN. It is shit, absolute shit. Trust me. I remember Jimmy and Alison globbing that stuff on me in my first few shows like I was Arnold hiding from the Predator. It was warm in Boston that day, but I was freezing, I was 160 pounds of dust, if you blew on me, I would have disappeared. As Kristina finally arrived, she would periodically check in with me throughout the show as she too knows what it's like on game day, if you were ever to meet a person like K, she's a person that's impossible to hate. I needed that type of personality around cus today's level of competitors were at a level I had never seen before. These cycloptic, Gigantour looking mutha-fuckas who should have been in the heavyweight class...were putting on boarding shorts and stepping into my division. How's this allowed? It was bad enough I was walking out there at a Holocaust-like 160 pounds, but I was standing next to a 200 something pound bodybuilders and the class sizes had tripled in just six months. What made it worse the show was being run like a national level show, so everyone was being rushed and they had very little patience for a tiny bitch boy like me. As I was chatting with some familiar faces like Joey Klamka, Diego and newcomer Josh Ziegra, my headache had returned just as I was a few feet from the stage border, then when that moment happened and the stage lights hit my eyes, they were so dry, I started onto the stage, but I couldn't completely see where I was going, My posing was already questionable, but I had to look down at the judges which caused my posture to bow and I ended up looking like the leaning tower of Pieceashit. I was completely and properly embarrassed at what I did to myself that day. I was to get one last trophy and ride off into the sunset and put the pieces of my life back together, but when they called top five during finals and I was dead last in my class, I was met just off the stage by Kristina and I couldn't bring myself to even pick my head up and look at her. She said it was the best I ever looked, but I know she was just being kind, I knew that I had just embarrassed myself and my team. I shouldn't have been up there. I broke down right there only able to mumble out a few words to her.

“Joey, the stage will always be there for you.” She said.

Fuck that...I was done. Retired.

I was nothing more than a throwaway who slept on a futon mattress upstairs with zero possessions of any value. No trophy. No money. No Sunday dinners. No M. No clue of what was to come.

PART TWO ARRIVES OCTOBER 2ND...

 

Positive Sarcasm Presents: No Excuses.

Trying to summarize this entire experience from the snap of the first progress photo to my final moments on stage is like trying to fit an elephant into a shoebox and mail it across Africa…yep, that’s my opening line.

 

            I remember ripping my shirt off, exposing what I thought was a pale-ass frame for the first time as my prep coach pokes at my body fat while several six-packs were doing bodybuilding poses directly behind me at the gym. All my doubts and nervousness were quickly swept aside as he quietly muttered, “I’m really excited to see how you’re body is going to progress.” After a brief emotional side discussion, I buckled down, fueled up the angry part of my brain and started what would be around 18 weeks of soreness, late nights, early mornings, emotional breakdowns, panic attacks and a war with myself that only now has subsided thanks to the love and support of my friends, teammates, coaches, family. Someone said this was supposed to a fun experience…I don’t remember that part.

 

Oh crap, lemme back up…after meeting a fellow gym rat and agreeing to train with him for five straight weeks, I stumble upon a charming white smiled bodybuilder, let’s call him “TJ”. That’s actually what everyone calls him. I asked for his help and he stared like a laser all the way across the gym at a local legend, a man who exudes more confidence than George Clooney in a dorm full of virgins. Bruno was his name…his last name. At this point, I had no idea who I was speaking with, all I knew was that TJ trusted him, so I went with that.

 

At this point, I had already decided what division I would be competing in and what League offered me the biggest challenge. Since the inception of Men’s Physique and Women’s Bikini, popularity for the National Physique Committee has risen insanely over the past few years and other leagues have quickly followed suit. Your physical appearance still matters greatly, but personality also plays a part in determining who places where and if you place at all. Essentially it boils down to conditioning, symmetry and stage presence. So during this process, I’ll be learning how to portion and prep my food on a day to day basis, pose as a bodybuilder in order to harden my muscles, all while resisting the temptations of everyday distractions or excuses…yes, all of them.

 

My first trip with Bruno was down to Newburyport for a local OCB show, a league he wanted me to warm up in before diving into the NPC and all the baggage that comes with it. First off, why the hell are these boarding short guys posing like bodybuilders? Why were they doing full routines? Why am I asking you? This show caused me many late nights in the gym trying to perfect a routine that I never actually performed on stage. One huge takeaway from this show was meeting Tom and Kim, a couple with more muscle than the Russian Mafia. Tom’s back required a topography map just to navigate across it and Kim’s abs coupled with her Dorchester accent could make any punk Irish kid under 5’8 run for his life. A couple steaks and black coffee’s later, Tom is videoing Kim and I half naked in a busy café street posing off in front of ….an oncoming Toyota Four-Runner. Quick, hit the oblique pose and get the F&#k off the road!

 

Oh…she won the pose off, by the way.

 

Anyone ever used a stair-climber machine? Looks like normal cardio equipment as you stroll thru the gym, but at 5am…it’s a death machine of pure evil. With nothing but a handful of vitamins in your nauseous gut, you ascend up this mountain of never-ending steps. Your head leans against screen in pure exhaustion, and you only keep your eyes open just enough to peel through all the food porn on Instagram. This, of course, is only your cardio, your workout still awaits you at the end of the day, along with a psycho gym rat, whose chest only reads “FEAR GOD.” Welcome to my summer of 2014.

 

In order to properly prepare for what would become 4 shows over 34 days, I had to lighten my mental load. Three weeks into training, I went to my storage locker; which contained what was left of my 30 years of existence. Without any hesitation or cognitive thought, the first trash dumpster I saw within a mile was where I left all of it. Armed with with a laptop, a smartphone and a small arsenal of gym clothes, I ambushed social media like it was 1968. Knowing that a large community of fitness fanatics eagerly were awaiting another Gym freak, what they got was me, a man with no “home”, no attachments, no identity…and no excuses.

 

By week 6, I was attacking the gym, social media, and after being screamed at by my nutritionist, I was also attacking the salt. By week 8, what once was a 180 pound soft shelled podcaster was now a 170 pound overly aggressive ball of veins. I had a chest, I had abs, I had wings, I had promise. 

 

My posing still sucked, but hey…baby steps.

 

Now after 3 months of posing, lifting, dieting, and video journals; which looking back I can barely understand what the hell I was talking about, the team was one week out from the first show. After a fun photo shoot with my Niece, I headed for posing practice feeling a little tired, but I thought it was from just working so damn hard to prep for my first show. Two days later, my temperature was 102 and the physique I had worked so hard for was shedding like a dog in the summer time. My first show was only days away and I was barely able to stand. By Wednesday I was full of drugs and covered in Pro-tan by Alison who was the only woman I even allowed to touch me during this process. Nice girl, just don’t piss her off. Regardless of how awful my first show was going to be, I was getting up on that goddamn stage no matter how sick or stupid I looked.

 

Somehow I manage to Dayquil my way up to Maine and register for the show, keeping in contact with Jimmy, my council, I sat in my hotel room and rested as I listened to the couple upstairs screw each other stupid…how goddamn romantic. It is now September 27th.

I don’t remember much of the morning, other than doing pushups in the parking lot before the show. I can honestly say nothing during that show went right for me, I had lost so much weight, my trunks didn’t fit, I was sweating thru my dream-tan, turning my skin a solid gold color, and before announcing my name for 3rd place, I puked up a phlegm ball so big, my lung was still attached to it, I went out onto the stage, became light headed and nearly buckled to the ground. Welcome to Men’s Physique.

 

There was no time to really review what happened during that show, because the next day, I was back at the gym, lifting and posing with the rest of the guys. Patrick’s season was over after one show, but his physique consists of very little flaws. Watching him and Tom battle head to head on stage was a show in itself. I’m glad everyone walked away from that show with hardware, but what I wanted was still 30 days away.

 

Next up was Cape Cod, tearing back into the weights with a body running at maybe eighty percent capacity, that’s more than enough for me and apparently it was plenty for my friends on social media, as I was surprised at the amount of support I was getting heading into the next show. I stuck with the same plan, reloaded on supplements and went shopping for new boarding shorts. It’s critical what colors a person picks, because dream-tan is unforgiving on lighter clothes. I’ve been told this before, but ignored the warning as I picked out a streaky white bathing suit for my show on October 11th. This time Jimmy accompanied me down to the Hotel where various topics including how great my hair looked were fired back and forth. Imagine a 168-pound Physique competitor and a 230-pound bodybuilder with very little patience for scratchers like me riding in a Saab for 2 hours down to the Cape, only to sleep in the same bed and watch him consume an entire seafood platter while I sip an unsweetened Iced Tea. Mmmmm delicious.

 

If you’ve ever been backstage at a fitness event, the heavenly scent of tanning products and body odor welcomes you as competitors scramble to find their buttons before running on stage. My dilemma lied not with my button, but with my shorts. Dream-Tan doesn’t really dry, so when I sat down for about an hour…yes I was wearing white shorts.

Thankfully I had a backup pair, which are now the most recognizable in my collection. Before hitting the stage at a carb-heavy 173 pounds, Bruno, Jimmy and myself briefly went over something I now call the “Victory Pose”. The photographer nailed it at the perfect moment, as I gaze at my closing hand and although my competitors were far better conditioned, this photo defines my entire experience thru this transformation, a tiny smile, a little redemption and a growing love for the stage. Tom, Kim, Shaina, and I all took home OCB hardware that day. However their season was over…mine was just getting started.

 

In a last second addition, we added NPC New Haven to the schedule, so just one week later I was back in the mix against much larger competitors. I found that since starting fat burners, my body wasn’t holding food like normal; which was expected, but my appetite was dropping rapidly. That I didn’t expect. So when I woke up Saturday morning in New Haven at 162 pounds, I had a feeling it was going to be an interesting day.

This was Rick’s, Hung’s and my first NPC show, so it was good we had a warm up show before the November 1st beast called The New England Regional Championships.

Lemme back up again, cus this article reads a lot like a Quentin Tarantino screenplay (see Pulp Fiction). Rick is big, calm demeanor, very approachable, but for some reason I can imagine him knocking out Big Bird without any hesitation. Hung…is a little ball of lean muscle. He lifts big and learns fast. He’s a little shy, but can own any stage, regardless of his height. Looking at my competition, Kevin Richards weighs in at 190 pounds…shredded. So after I see what I’m up against, I start pounding this sweet potato protein pudding I created the night before in order to look a little bigger against these monsters, but after eating a little too much (the whole Tupperware), I spilled out over my abs and chest. Day over. No callouts. No trophy. Lesson learned. Yet I wasn’t that upset, I saw it as a learning opportunity to see where my bodies’ limits were. It was a very well run show and I made a lot of friends at this one, some whom I will see again very soon. Michael Morin didn’t leave empty handed in Men’s Physique and Josh Brown happily returned my towel after crushing in Men’s Bodybuilding. I was happy to have cracked the top ten, so I had something to look forward to, as I was to begin prep for the final and largest show on my schedule.

 

So here we all are, all hands and teammates on deck. Big Rob with quads that only Jupiter could orbit, Bantamweight Andrew Lafond, who in my honest opinion has really nice hair and he really likes to be complimented on it. With the addition of Mike and Derek, we’re all sausaged up in the posing room. I’m not sure where Bruno found Hung, but I’m blown away at his ability to find the more promising Bikini girls in the region. Enter Jen Polk. She’s blond, bubbly, and some other nice word that begins with B that I can’t think of at the moment. This pink bikinied assassin isn’t far away from winning a big show thanks to the support of her fitness freak of a mother, Francis.

 

Okay enough compliments, back to business here…

 

At this point, after all the training and lack of sleep, my body is gassed. I took all the pre-workout I had left (six scoops) and flat-lined in the gym after about 20 minutes. I was 10 days out from the biggest show in New England, was way lighter than most of my competition and I still didn’t like the way I looked. I asked Jimmy if I could rest for a couple days, he agreed for the fact that I over-trained constantly. I was doing fasted cardio everyday and lifting every night. From the moment I woke up to the second I passed out, I was running, lifting, prepping, posing, my only quiet moment was tanning, and since that was the only true moment of peace I had, that’s when my emotions would at times get the best of me. When you train for something like this, there are moments in every competitors training when the brain and body fight back and it’s not always pretty. So just because I trained harder than everyone else, that doesn’t mean I trained smarter. So now if I was to avoid leaving my last show empty handed, I had to show up smaller. Size matters, but speed kills. Enter carb/water depletion.

 

Before leaving for Boston, I said goodbye to my niece, Nicole, who despite all our recent arguments, I hope will one day grace the stage with her cosmic presence.

 

Friday Morning…

 

I was in Boston before any of my teammates were even awake. Covered in Pro-tan and running only on the energy that the city was putting out, my last bit of water was a 2pm black coffee from the North End, about a mile from my hotel, I wanted to exhaust every bit of energy so that my sleep cycle that night would be uninterrupted. Applying Pro-tan yourself is fun, for me…it usually turns into a dance party, but I had to be careful while roaming around the hotel, cus the bill for a hotel in Mid-town Boston is already high enough. To ensure I depleted all my water the night before the show, I popped six more water pills before wrapping myself up at about 11:30pm. I had a feeling it was going to be a rough morning, but my shorts were ready, my food was portioned and my Calvin Klein Suit was hanging in the closet.

 

No Distractions. No Regrets. No Excuses. It was 6am on November 1st.

 

The only water I had was so I could down two multi-vitamins, two fat burners and six water pills. My hands were shaking, making it hard to shave. I put my headphones on, my all black hoodie and walked across the street to the event, by the time I was in line, I started to fall apart. The combo platter of AQX, Super HD and zero water had given my body all it could handle. Bruno saw me in line and tried to calm me down, cus I was in rough shape and would remain that way until they opened up the backstage. I was happy to see all my teammates and was very glad to also see Josh and Mike from New Haven. Since Alison didn’t have a backstage pass, she applied my Dream-Tan right in the upstairs lobby in full view. However, I waited to put on my shorts until we started lining up. The white shorts that were all messed up from Cape Cod were all clean and ready for the stage, but I decided to save them for the night show and brought back a pair of shorts I’ve owned since high school. The shakes were gone and my veins were popping, but competition was even bigger and I was the first one onstage to introduce my class. So I crushed a couple rice cakes, and a little bit of water. At this point, it wasn’t up to me. I was there and that’s all that mattered. 18 weeks and I was standing in the batters box about to pose in front 1500 spectators and 300 competitors.

 

Introducing Number 104…

 

What an adrenaline rush. Your there in front of everyone, lights blasting you in the face and you can only hit your pose and smile. Even thinking about it now, I shake my head in amazement that I did this many shows under very tough conditions in that amount of time. Lucky for me, Jimmy was right behind the judges giving me instructions with his hands, I heard Alison scream, “Corso, your abs!” I squeeze down and Jimmy’s final instruction was a closed fist, meaning, “Lock it up and look right at the judges.”

 

Before leaving the stage, I made a switch with 108 leaving me standing right next to center stage. I knew very well what this meant in prejudging…

 

Break time was rather rewarding, as a burger and fries can warm the hearts of almost any hostile nation. A few laughs later, we were backstage once again for the finals. It was almost over and everyone was doing well. Before heading onstage for the last time, I received some important information. My whole purpose of taking the stage was to become a better person…turns out I already was…by a landslide.

 

I went behind a door and made a rather heavy call to South Carolina, where my parents currently reside. I grabbed my menthol spray and white shorts with a renewed sense of purpose and proceeded down the narrow backstage. It was loud in the theater but at that moment when they called my name, everything in my head became calm. I felt relief, freedom, redemption. I hit the pose, waived to the crowd, took my first NPC trophy and the first two faces I saw were Bruno and Jen, I gave Bruno a hug and Jen a big compliment.

 

And just like that…it was all over.

 

I haven’t stopped thanking people, gaining fans and making friends. I’ve already set the date for my return to the stage in 2015. I’m very excited for my teammates I now know that will be part of my life for a very long time.

 

A few weeks later I was once again across the street from the same venue attending a show and was on my way to the after party to see my buddy and fellow competitor Kevin, when I received a text…one that changed everything.

 

Thank you to all my teammates, prep coaches, friends and fans. I’m at your service.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph M Corso (Positive Sarcasm)

Building a Better Man: Week 7

Let’s get the digestive stuff out of the way.  It’s totally understandable that some people get a uncomfortable about their dietary discomfort when it comes to eating clean and at certain times…hiding from family and friends, just because your body doesn’t respond well to either brown rice or maybe broccoli. Heavy changes in your diet, especially for competition purposes can have you hiding in corners or curled up in a ball; which can kill any good mood, unless the local symphony is missing a horn section. DO NOT FEAR! There ways to combat these issues. As far as your food, discuss with your nutritionist about what settles in your body better when it comes to broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, etc. Also your nutritionist will normally recommend brown rice as a daily carbohydrate. Your body may have an unfriendly reaction to this as well. White rice never fails as a healthy and very simple carb whether you’re a competitor or a healthy dieter. But do discuss all these substitutes with your nutritionist before making the switch. Another daily need for most hard working folk is coffee or tea. If you’re competing, you may have to compromise your flavored creams or half & half for coconut milk, almond milk or just straight black. I’m a big fan of coffee, so I tend have a medium blend with some sugar free vanilla flavoring with no milks or creams. Coffee is not an enemy of competitors as it can support metabolism, but the second you add sugar, it will hinder your process, so consider Stevia ONLY. When it comes to tea, normally black or green teas are a high recommendation and aid in healthy digestion and are packed with anti-oxidants. Don’t overspend on your green tea, but consider Stomach Ease tea from the brand Yogi. This can aid you in preventing any unwanted experiences. For the ladies, a simple pro-biotic may be in demand. Whether it’s a pill or a chewable, it’s worth spending a little extra for the right supplement.

          It’s going to take a little while for your body to balance out after the diet change, but it’s all part of a much larger spectrum when building a healthier, happier, better you. 

Building a Better Man: Week 4

Now we’re getting somewhere! Without a doubt, week 3, in my opinion, is when most competitors quit. For those who stick it out and put every ounce of energy into each rep and listen to exactly what their trainers are saying, the results are more noticeable than a giraffe driving a Mini Cooper. Week 4 has been nothing short of a revelation for me. I’m starting to truly understand the time, the effort, and the cost of getting on stage. For instance, over a span of 16 weeks, your food bill alone is around 2000 dollars. Your supplements will easily cost you around 150 dollars a month, and unless you have a sponsor or a trainer you know well, expect to drop another 500 to 1000 dollars for a nutritionist, a posing instructor, and short term trainer.     

 

Still want to compete? You may not and I understand if it’s not for you, but my goal is to reach a level of greatness in myself that I once thought to be impossible, but it’s only been 4 weeks, so I have so much more to learn and that’s what I look forward to the most. It takes a lot of energy to talk a big game, where that energy could be better spent elsewhere.

            One may find when taking on a task as great as this, that time may become an issue, but that’s merely an illusion. You can get up at 5am and do cardio, you can abstain from temptation where it’s all a big distraction, you can do one more rep, you can prep all your food in a timely manner, you can ignore all the negative people that may slow your training down, you can do all this and still have a large role in the community, excel at your job, or be there for your family. In closing, week 4 was the most important so far as it has taught me some very valuable lessons in commitment. After attending an additional event this past weekend, I’m completely confident when my first 3 shows in the fall are finally upon me…I will be ready for every single one.

            No excuses, it’s all you.

Building a Better Man: Week 3

Finally, after three weeks of non-stop training, lifting, cardio, my trainers ordered me to take a day off. It wasn’t an easy thing to accept, but I stayed away from the gym for a whole day…only to blast through the doors early the next morning and hit the heavy bag like it owed me reparations from World War II. Sleep is still an issue for me as my muscles desperately need the rest in order to recover and calf cramps are becoming more of an issue.

        On the plus side, I shaved my body for the first time ever and it’s crazy the amount of definition that was hiding under a little bit of peach fuzz. After only three weeks, the visual difference is nothing short of impressive and as long as my body can hold out, week 5 and 6 will begin to introduce someone that was built for a competition like this. Following the meal plan has become much easier and abstaining from booze, bread and women has become less of a choice and more instinctive. As long as I keep my eye on the events and allow myself to be absorbed by it, I will have a moment of clarity that has escaped me for a long time. The mission is simple; in order to become a better man…you have to destroy the old one. Let’s get to work.

Building a Better Man: Week 2

Officially twelve weeks out from my first event in Maine, the first couple weeks have taught me a lot about the financial, physical, mental and emotional cost of taking the stage in front of hundreds, if not thousands of people. Although a fear of the unknown is a common fear for most people, it’s the fear of certain failure that I would choose to avoid. In the last few weeks, I have yet to miss a cardio day or a lifting day. Today till will be my first “cheat” meal in three weeks. However, it’s not exactly a cheat, it’s just a way to pump up your muscles so that your able to make more gains in the gym. I’ve learned the three P’s to get ready for these events. Prep your food ahead of time so that you have you time for other facets of life. Portion your food according to your nutritionists specs is extremely important. Don’t question, just do it. Posing is what helps you beat stronger competition. Someone could have the best physique on stage, but if they can’t pose, they won’t place…don’t let that be you. I have yet to learn what it means to “over-train”, but I’m assuming I will very quickly, but hopefully not too painfully.

          Oh yeah, one more “P”…peanut butter. Trust me.

Building a Better Man: The Ascent

The decision to compete is easy. Then what? What food do I eat? What vitamins do I take? When do I workout? How do I workout? Suddenly you’re thinking if the decision was a good idea. Unless your great at research, I strongly recommend getting a trainer. Someone who can meet you at least once a week to get you started and has successfully prepared other people for shows. Club trainers are mediocre at best normally, because they’re used to fat slobs rolling in every week to eat free pizza and whine about their kids. This week, I’ve met two trainers, a nutritionist, a spray tan lady, and a posing instructor. The schedule is exhausting, I’m up at 5 every morning and I’m on the treadmill by 5:30…It’s…. I started nodding off there.

     I walked into the posing practice to be met by a kid with four percent body fat and middleweight with the intensity of a charging rhino infused with Mark Wahlberg. I’m standing there, feeling suddenly inferior and my trainer comes over to me after some opening comments and goals, he started pinching every part of my body to get an idea of my figure. “I’m very excited to see how you’ll turn out.”, He said. I felt a little more comfortable at this point. We talked about the transformation and how I’ll be a completely different person before standing on stage in front of 1500 people. My main concern, at this point, isn’t the money or my commitment; it’s my body. Can it withstand the beating of putting on 5-10 pounds of muscle in six months while reducing body fat significantly and getting less maybe six hours of sleep a night.

     I guess in order to be the better man… you have to beat the old one.