You made an impressive return to the natural bodybuilding stage. I was inspired by your comeback. What made you return to competition after so many years from the sport?
. . . Taylor Hicks
A: Hi Taylor,
I'm glad to hear you felt inspired by my "comeback," as unlikely as it was. When I retired from professional bodybuilding in 1999, I had absolutely no intention of returning to the competitive stage.
I was thrilled to have won the CBBF Canadian Championships overall title and an IFBB pro card in 1998, but after competing in my first and only IFBB pro competition a few months later, I had no interest in continuing in the pro ranks. That same day, I made the decision to walk away from bodybuilding and I had nothing to do with it for a decade afterwards.
That one IFBB professional show was a huge eye-opener. I was about 225 pounds for the contest, larger than I'd ever been onstage, and was standing next to guys who were the same height as me but easily outweighed me by anywhere from 30-70 pounds!
I knew that I'd need at least another 25 pounds of muscle to be competitive on the IFBB pro stage and was simply unwilling to continue with the unhealthy practices that accompany professional bodybuilding: namely, the drugs, the extra weight gain, and the progressive inability of the body to perform efficiently. (Watch an off-season professional bodybuilder move around or go up a flight of stairs and you'll know what I mean.) No disrespect intended to any of these individuals, but mainstream professional bodybuilding has nothing to do with health, and I was done with the unhealthy physical and emotional practices that accompany the sport.
I definitely did not feel healthy and decided a total self-reassessment was necessary. And that is what I did. I began a lower-calorie, balanced dietary regimen, added functional resistance training and cardiovascular conditioning including cycling, walking, running, etc., and "cleaned out" my body and mind. Within a couple of years, I was feeling healthier than ever and I continue to do so to this very day.
In the ten years I was away, every now and again someone would ask if I planned on returning to competitive bodybuilding. I never seriously considered it until about a year ago, when I saw the increasing momentum in natural bodybuilding and the quality of competition that now exists on the natural stage. While preparing a figure client for the IDFA Novice Classic in 2009, the first show I'd attended in years, I made the decision to compete later that summer in the 2009 IDFA Montreal Classic.
The competition on the natural stage was impressive and I knew that I'd have my work cut out for me to be ready for the show. Early in 2009, I began training with purpose for the Montreal show, which was being held in June. I had lost a lot of muscle over the previous decade from marathon and triathlon training, but I knew it could be rebuilt.
I wanted to prove to myself that through natural training, intelligent exercise and dietary principles, my body would respond. I also wanted to inspire my family, friends, clients and the fitness community by demonstrating that achieving a goal, as difficult as it may seem, is always possible with commitment. I planned to compete in just that one show, but once I stepped back onstage, it felt like I was home again!
Natural bodybuilding is a great introduction for any athlete looking for a new and challenging experience. It has many different aspects that may be appealing: structured exercise and cardiovascular programs, clean and healthy eating, stage preparation and performance, and the achievement of a peaked physical condition, all while inspiring others around you to challenge themselves in achieving their own personal goals, whatever they may be.
There are some great things happening in natural bodybuilding. Attend a show as a spectator or, better yet, challenge yourself – choose an upcoming show and prepare to step onstage. I guarantee you'll love it.
See you on the stage, Taylor!
. . . Erik Alstrup, IDFA Pro