Part 3 ~ Starting work and preparing for my first bodybuilding competition
When I left school I worked for a company that had great sports facilities. It’s sports ground spread over quite a few acres of land. The central part of the complex had 6 football/rugby pitches on it. Around the outside of the grounds were 6 hard and 4 grass tennis courts; netball courts and even a rifle range! Pretty good for 1963. There was a clubhouse, a hall for badminton, dances and a bar area. Plus lots of changing rooms and showers. But what about the gym you’re asking? Well, listed along with all the sports offered at the club was a ‘Weight Lifting’ section.
On my first training night, I couldn’t find the gym, it just didn't seem to exist. I eventually asked the barman where the gym was. He looked puzzled, ‘what gym ?’ he asked.
‘The one where they do the weight lifting.’ I prompted.
His puzzled look gave way to a wry smile, ‘Let me see your membership card then.’ I gave it to him and he produced a key with a large wooden tag pronouncing it as the key to heaven: The Weights Room. ‘It’s at the end of the first corridor of changing rooms, the last room no7.’
I belted down the corridor bursting with excitement, flung the door open and walked into..... another slightly larger changing room with an enormous old wooden ammunition box along one wall. Painted on the box, where the words, Weight Lifting Section. I sat down on the long changing bench that ran along two of the other walls. Is this it then? The Gym? Disappointed did not begin to describe my feelings. I got changed and unlocked the huge box. Blimey, there were enough weights, bars, squat stands, iron shoes, collars and stuff I had never seen before, to sink a battleship.
‘Right then, its up to me now. If I work hard I'll make it. It’s no use complaining it’s not a proper gym, like the one I had imagined. I have to get on with it.’
I'd been training about half an hour when this big bloke walks in, he looked quite old to me, he was only about thirty five, but that's old to a sixteen year old. His name was Dave and he ran the Weight Lifting club.
Dave must have seen that I was mad keen to progress so over the next few months he helped me a lot. There were a few other blokes used the weights, but they were nearly all rugby players and all were in their twenties or thirties. At first I got a lot of stick from them, being so young and mad keen. But I progressed rapidly and pretty soon I could match the weights they used on some of the exercises. Most were very encouraging but one or two found it hard to have a kid match what they were doing, and gave me a bit of a hard time. This only drove me on to really smash past their maximum poundage's and shut them up.
About eight months after training there and growing all the time, Dave dropped a bombshell. ‘I’ve entered you in a bodybuilding contest in three weeks time, you’re in the junior section, and its at the Stratford Town Hall. You'll need to get a tan, shave your legs and practice a few poses. OK?’
He might as well have said, ‘Are you ready to go to the moon dressed as Marilyn Monroe.’ I felt sick and elated at the same time. But I knew I wanted to compete, to see what I could do against competition. I managed to get it all done in three weeks though the tan part was difficult.
How do you get brown in April?
Dave said most competitors used a fake tan called ‘Quick Tan.’ Now remember this was 1963 and Quick Tan was the entire fake tan industry then, so the day before the competition my colour was interesting to say the least. I looked like I had been in an orange paintball war. Brown I definitely wasn't! My hands were (the palms and fingers that is), so were my ankles and elbows. But the rest of me glowed a startling orange - like I'd had a mega dose of radiation! Shaving my legs had left an interesting mosaic of tiny cuts all over them. I was young and it was all new to me.