Mezza writes for the Beef mag - The Great British Magazine - Article 4

1998 was a very memorable year for me: I turned 22 years of age. I entered my 1st Natural Bodybuilding show and took my place in history as a Overall Champion. I met Dorian Yates by chance, a week before the ANB finals. I was going to see John Hodgeson at Chemical Warfare - he was checking my progress - and little did I know that when I got to the place a few famous names would also be there: Ernie Taylor, Dorian, Scott and lots of other people. John said ‘Let’s have a look at you then.” I hit my poses and flexed. Ernie said “Have you seen his legs?” Dorian asked me what class I was doing, and I said the Novice Class. He chuckled to himself and then said “He is dry.” John asked Kerry if I could have a Chemical Warfare tracksuit to wear, and he said yes. I was very grateful. The show day came and I turned up in my new tracksuit, very proud! Then to my Horror as I walked past the judges to go backstage, I noticed they all had t ee-shirts on, with Maximuscle printed across the back. I thought - nice one. My mum came backstage to speak with me, and said it might be a good idea that you keep your tracksuit top off for the day. I said “Mum I came with it on and I will leave with on.” And so I did, and took the British ANB Novice title with me.

As I said in the last months column of the Beef there is a whole lot more to competitive Bodybuilding than you think, if you have never done it before.

Gosh - were do I start? No 1 - your diet. In order to stand on stage ripped, we have to remove as much body-fat as possible so that the muscle we have built over the years of hard training is a visible. This is done though dieting and cardio, when competitive bodybuilders are in their dieting phase, when we are on the road to the on stage appearance. This ripped, cut, shredded, dry look doesn't happen overnight or indeed in a few weeks, unless you’re very lean to start with. It can take anywhere from 8 to 20 weeks, and for me generally anywhere from 8 weeks to 16 weeks, depending on how fat my rear end is. When dieting for a show I don't look at typically lean areas eg: abs and shoulders. They will generally be fine come show day. You have to be looking at your bum! eg: The Glutes, and Lower back. This is how I judge my progress, from week to week. Remember there is nowhere to hide on stage.

My opinion when dieting for a show, is not to get too scientific. I know many of you are very knowledgable when it comes to nutrition but please don't forget the basic approach. This works for me and will work for you. eg: hard training, a constant clean diet, and lots of cardio. Slack off on just one of these and you’re leaving the door wide open, as some of your competitors may have tunnel vision, the eye of a tiger, like I had. I remember many years ago I had a very physical job, moving huge barrels of oil up and down a factory. I didn't have the energy to do this 2 weeks out, and couldn't cope any longer. It was either drop my diet and the show, or leave the job. Boody hated the job as well. I decided to leave so I could give it my all for the show. I won the show then I was unemployed. his wasn't the best approach at all, but what I am trying to say is there are many out there who will do whatever it takes, so don't slack off on a diet or training or cardio. . .

You have to stay motivated. I carved this in my soul at a very young age, around 14 years old and it stayed with me. Many times when my mind, body and soul were caving in, pushing my body to the limits. Looking back at one show in particular, the 2006 NPA Yorkshire.

If my good friend Big John Halladay had not started getting in shape early, I quite possibly might not have competed at all that year. Anyway I started to eat clean and do a few more sessions of cardio, never giving it thought that it would that year win another show, a world title and get to see many of my childhood dreams come true. eg: Going to California, Venice Beach Gold's gym, and Hollywood, but that another story. As my body was getting in good shape way before I even decided to compete that year, I started to think mmm, shall I do another show?

I had only connected to the internet that year, and I discovered there was so much talk on forums, UK-muscle was one in particular it was very good site actually, but I felt so pressured reading all the comments from so many on the natural forum, and lots of people saying who they think will win and who is better than who, etc For me reading this is was chaos. It didn't help my prep one bit. Every day I found my self reading new comments and criticism. I mean come on, there's banter and that's fine, but I feel many people push it, with what they have to say, behind a screen and many of those who haven't even stood on stage. I felt like I was training for the heavyweight championship of the world - that's what I had in mind and it was only the Yorkshire championships. I had to find a new place in my mind, a place that even I had never been before. I took my body to a new level of conditioning that I had not had before. Many times I wanted to join in on the thread but - you have guessed it - mother suggested I didn't, until one person somehow cracked me open, and I did reply. . . Funny thing was there wasn't anybody on the thread saying Merrifield win will, or can win. The standard of competitors was high, some great physiques inclduing Neil Ashley, Gus Fisher who had beaten me before, Kevin Napier and Mike Bell. According to many on the forum I was going to get my ass kicked. . .

Due to all the hype about who was competing in this show, the attendance I knew was going to be a sell-out and there would be so many of the Natural bodybuilding scene there, eg: Dean Garratt, who was the first to come back stage and say I had nothing to worry about that day. Who else weas there - Fivos who again came back stage where we met for the 1st time, Peter Chown, Jason Rickaby, Tony Montalbano, John Harris, Andy Palmer and so many more. . . I had given it my all for this show, but a few things you may find funny and interesting - Two days before I drank 18 litres of Evian water. That’s 9 two litre bottles. I got up around 6am and drank 3 bottles before I went to my store, and yes and I was going to the loo to pee almost every 5 or ten mins. I don't recommend anybody to drink that amount of water. I am surprised my body didn't pack in. I pushed it, not giving a thought about my health. Anyway this was a big factor I feel in the condition I displayed two days after at the show.

I hear many people when dieting for shows say “Oh I’m just carrying a bit of water, or I was just holding a bit of water. Yeah, right - and one day you will be Mr Olympia! Most times I don't comment, but if I did I would tell them it’s fat, not water. But as many of us can get ratty and bad tempered - to say the least - a few weeks out, so I don't want to be the one to ruin his day Have you ever had this said to you? “HAVE YOU LOST A BIT OF SIZE?” or “ARE YOU NOT TRAINING ANY MORE?” This is what folk say sometimes when I am dieting for a show. ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR! It won’t matter how much water or vit C you take the week before a show, if you still have fat on ya ass it won’t make up for not dieting your ass off am sorry to say.

The day before the show I thought to myself: right this time instead of me competing, then going to the supermarket looking like a total freak wierdo and buying all sorts of cakes and goodies; this time I will buy them the day before. So I did just that - two huge bags of pick-an-mix sweets, one of which I was going to eat backstage for the sugars, and yes PUMP UP THE JAM PUMP IT UP. And I got two pieces of apricot tart. Now that evening my mother came home with some steak and wine, but oh boy it was not the steak I asked for. I lost it and we had a huge argument. I thought sod it. I started to drink the wine, then, oh no, I had my eye on the huge bag of sweets. I was kinda fresh by now and thought - arr it will be okay, l’ll just have a few and might as well get the sugars in early. Oh man I ate the whole bag had more wine. Opened the other bag of sweets started to eat them then went to the fridge where I had put my apricot tart. I must have been out of my mind I ate both pieces. . .

I got a grip of myself but it was too late. It was done. I got well upset, and there was only one thing I could think of by this time. It was past midnight, I got changed into my gym stuff and thought right I will go and do my circuit and burn it off. So I set off, and I remember getting almost halfway round , so that's about 30 mins away from where I live, and my body started to shut down. When I set off I didn't realise how drunk I was. I didn't have my phone on me, my legs were giving up, as my mind had too. My mother once said to me: “Don't worry about the competition, just hold it together, as you’re your own worst enemy. I dragged myself home - took me ages.

That morning when I woke up I looked at my body and for sure I had smoothed out. I got on the phone I told Raz that I wasn't going to the show, I told him what had happened. He flew round. He didn't believe me until I showed him the packaging in the bin and the empty sweet bag and half empty bag. In fact I have the footage on tape as we had the camera set up for the show. I remember telling Dean Garret that I was in even better condition 2 days before. Funny thing was that as I started to pump up I did harden up a lot. One thing I do know is that I can get my body even harder than the photo above but there again is there any point?

I did what many thought I couldn't do: I won the whole show, proving that people’s predictions on the forums were way off, Do yourself a favour when dieting for a show and don't get into reading too much on show threads. You could save yourself a lot of stress. I would have done.

That was just the start for me that year. I have more stories to come; there are many things that can go wrong in preparation and even on show day; like your music not playing on your routine. I have had so many things that lead to more stress when competing I will tell you as I go on.

Don't run before you can walk: I am sure you have heard this many times, please do take this approach in your quest to your ultimate body. Without it you will be missing the bigger picture. I will put it like this - if you were going backpacking around the world what would be your first step? Planning your route would be a good start, also listing the essentials that you will need on your journey: map, money, passport, etc. You get where I’m coming from. I know many who would just set off with the clothes on their back and some cash, that’s it. . .

Supplements are great and with the correct approach will help your training recovery and help you reach your nutrition goals each day. If you had the basics in place you would see more results from your chosen supplements.

So what are the basics in Bodybuilding?

Just to be different, I will start will the basic mistakes in bodybuilding in no particular order.

Training each body part more than once a week and training a body part too long in a session. Doing too many exercises and spending two long in the gym.

Not feeding your body enough Protein, Carbs and fats every day, spaced over 5 or 6 meals.

Eating too much tuna fish. I feed my puddy cat Pepsi tuna fish - you should see the size of her.

Not drinking enough water every day.

Training on a empty tummy. I don't mean have a big cooked meal, but do take advantage of the many great supplements that are available to use before, during and after your workout. eg: BCCAs`s. Glutamine, Creatine. Some of the basic supplements that you an use for this window in your training with plenty water as I do.

Doing cardio after your weight training bodybuilding session. If you want to catabolise your muscle tissue, then this would be a way of doing this. Your body eating your muscles for energy, in other words.

Not preparing any food and supplements before you leave home. On the odd occasion this has happened to me. If you’re a dedicated bodybuilder who hasn't got any food or whey protein with you and it’s time to eat, your eyes may start to turn Green. Especially if you’re out shopping with someone.

Many times I have almost lost it, yea, just because I’m due a meal. Thank the lord some for holland & Barrett as there I can fill up on a few flapjacks. Or even worse - I have been dieting for a show and been out again for the afternoon and I have eaten all my food. It’s no big deal to the person you’re with, eg: your Girlfriend, but to you it’s almost like life or death. I could feel my body shutting down, my blood sugar dropping, my legs getting heavy and my head dropping - ohhh man. So always take more than what you think you’re going to need, if you ever do decided to go out for the day. This is the thing with competitive bodybuilding - it’s so demanding in so many ways, and if you’re in a relationship it’s bloody hard to try and keep sane. Little problems can become big problems. I remember telling Karina: “Karina I’m driving. So please don't smoke now while I am driving.” She said “Oh it’s ok I’m opening the window.” I said it’s my car and I’m asking please don’t smoke, I’m preparing for a bodybuilding show, and I don't wanna be breathing in your smoke. Anyway she carried on, so yes yes my eyes you guessed it turned Green. I tried to grab her hand with the cigarette in. I pulled into the side of the road, grabbed her almost full packet of cigarettes, got out of the car put them under the wheel. She was screaming at me. I said nothing, got back in the car and set off, squashing them all, and that was that. The day was ruined.

Remember Rocky 3 and Mr T as Clubber Lang saying I live alone, I train alone, I win the title alone. . . . I can see where he is coming from in many ways. But on the other side of the fence, you can't just become a mole in your hole. Because of Bodybuilding, you have to somehow make it fit into the rest of life. Some can do this better than others.

I will put it this way to start with: Ok so you have got yourself a bicycle, it has a solid frame, wheels tyres, brakes, all the trimmings, stickers on it. . . . and it has a chain - if there is a link missing on the chain and it’s not attached to the bike, it won’t matter how much money you have spent on the bike, as it won’t go anywhere apart from downhill.

If you don't have the basics in place in your training the same will happen as above. ie: not much. You can be training your rear end off but if your’e not feeding your body all day every day then you have a missing link.

Or perhaps your Nutrition is great, and your training too much. You’re overtraining. Then again you have the missing link, or perhaps you just not training hard enough.

Or you’re a creature of habit, or the creature from the black lagoon - and do the same thing over and over again, and you’re not getting the results you’re after. . . if you were climbing a mountain and you could only get so far up as you got to a sticking point, what would you do? Climb back down, and think about a new approach, a new route to climb up the mountain? Or would you climb back up the same route as before? I know many who would do the same route as before and get stuck again and again. . . . If you do the same thing, then more than likely the same will keep happening. . . Don't become the Creature from the black lagoon.

So plenty of protein, carbs, fats, water. . . . . and train each body part once a week as below

Monday - calves and back
Tuesday - hams and shoulders
Wednesday - biceps, forearms and abs
Thursday - quads
Friday - chest and triceps

This works for me, but do chop and change and see what works for you.

Don't be in the gym any more than 1 hour max, and even that's pushing it unless you work there. Your muscles must recover before you train them again, so plenty of rest and sleep and always have a good amount of simple carbs after you train for recovery. I have a bag of skittles or a couple of wham bars, and have a good amount of top quality protein powder. I use Growth-matrix - it has a good amount of simple sugars, protein, glutamine and creatine in there two.

The old saying goes: the strongest house is built on the strongest foundation.

It’s the summer of 2006 and I have won a couple of shows: NABBA Mr Yorkshire for the 3rd time NPA Yorkshire for the 4th time. I was training very hard, obviously too hard when WAM I was doing front squats, not heavy and in good form, my body was still very lean, I paid the price of training to the max while having very low body-fat. I put the bar on the rack and thought oh no what was that? I heard a thud and there was a jolt in my lower back. I left the gym as fast as possible, I could feel my back getting tighter. I drove home. It was bearable but it was weird nevertheless. Anyway later that night I woke up skreeeming in pain. I felt like I had a knife stuck in my back and it didn’t stop. To cut a long story short I tore my lower back, and I coudn't move, or stand, or walk. I had to scream in pain as I rolled out of bed, panting for air. I would pray the pain would not come back every time I moved, it was like a spasm and would lock like cramp. I would crawl across the floor, then I had to have be lifted up to stand. My lower back was twisted to one side - it was freaky to look at. I remember the hospital saying they could pick me up and take me there, but they couldn't bring me back. So it was out of the question as I couldn't sit in a car, and there's me in contest condition, oh boy what a carry on. It took weeks before I could walk, even then it hurt like hell, and my back was still twisted. . . . I had ultrasound on it - that helped a little. . . . .

In time I was on my feet again and entered another show the BNBF Central. There I performed my World of Demons posing routine complete with the demon mask. I won the best posing routine, best legs, my class and overall. It was my first time with the BNBF and I have to say that it was a very well run show, with a great venue including the stage, lights, sound system, plenty of room back stage. So another win, although I was on my rear end before this show to be honest. Due to me dieting so hard for the NPA Yorkshire, I didn't have much left in the tank and knew I needed a break from dieting, but oh what did I read in the mag? Musclemania was coming to the UK and the prize was to compete in Hollywood California, I thought can this be real?

The Overall winner would get an all-expenses-paid trip to compete in the World championships. My mind was made up as soon as I read it, all systems go again. I felt like Captain Cardio, my mind was strong but my body wasn't, which meant sometimes during the dieting I felt like I was going to keel over. And yes a few of those times on a Sunday with Karina, yep you guessed it shopping, and all my food has been eaten... Do yourself a favour - don't go out shopping with your partner so close to a show, if you can help it, or your eyes might start to turn. If you’re waiting and hanging round all day, and wanting to pee every 25 mins, even now when am out, first thing is I gotta pee, so I gotta find a loo. . . and again and again it’s life!! Anyway I was dieting hard, my body was hardening, then WAM nooooooooooooooo not again I thought no no not now. I was in the gym and my back went again, 2 weeks out from the Musclemania UK. The same thing happened, another muscle tear, same place, my lower back. I thought to myself, it’s over, and the only chance I have ever had to go California the place of my childhood dreams. And it hurt, it hurt like hell. Different to my lower back pain that made me scream in pain, this was like a broken heart kind of pain, well it felt like it. I couldn't see how I would make the show.

Four days passed and I was on my feet and in my mums car, she was taking me to see Mr Roger Jackson again. I was was saying mum please drive slowly over the bumps / He did all he could do and I went many times. It was a few days away from the show, I was on my feet, I hadn't practised any posing, I had drunk no extra water. I still had my diet food but not as much, so the last 2 weeks I did no prep whatsoever. The last week I had lots of ultrasound which cost me a fortune. I was praying my back would be fit enough to make the show. I was thinking all sorts, like even if I did make the show my body won’t even be 90%, but if I could pose I was going to go and give it my best shot.

The morning of the show came, I was up around 6. Raz, my mum and Karina were waiting for my call. A few hours later we were there at the show. Unbelievably I made it, not at my best but I was there around 75% of my best. My mind was strong even though my body was not. I took my class, I knew that to stand a chance of winning I had to pose my heart out in the overall, as I could not out muscle the one Man who was my competition. So I had to dominate the stage through my posing ability, stage presence and my hunger for the title. I had to shine and sell myself to the judges, so come posedown I went into my world and made sure that for every pose my competition made, I struck a pose that could better them but was not neccessarily the same pose. Sometimes you have to be smart, as when it’s so close it can come down the little things - especially in this show as we were also judged on posing.

Never lose your concentration on stage. I posed that hard I was out of breath/ I gave it my all. What a moment it was, standing there waiting for the anouncement and my heart was pounding. This was it - would the compere call my name? Well he did. I took the Overall. I got 3 votes out of the 5 judges. . . . I couldn't believe that I was going to California and to compete in Universal Studios in Hollywood. My determination to make the show paid off, and almost out of the blue some of my childhood dreams were about to come true. But we had to get there first - and that's another story. . . . . . . . . . . . .

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