Jeffrey Cording, IFFB Pro.– Body Building Coach
Being Fit and Over Fifty
Being fit and over fifty, people always ask me what’s my secret? Most people think it a magical answer, but if it was only that easy. Let’s take my story back about 15 years ago when I was forties. I have been lifting weights for about 20 years for at least 3 to 4 days a week. Always thought I was in good shape and not overweight. My dream was to compete competitively but always seem to find an excuse to put it off. As I got older and into my early 40, I started to develop high blood pressure and diabetes. Still not enough to make me take my health seriously.
Here is where my story gets interesting, it starts with my wife who also trains with me and is 14 years younger and full of energy. About 9 years ago she decided that she wants to do an NPC Women’s figure show.
Living in South Florida, she had a bunch of shows to choose from (Florida is one of the most popular states for NPC shows). She decided on the Ruby Cup in Boca Raton, FL. She continued to train hard and did a 12-week prep (I will explain more about prepping later on) and was ready for her first show.
With over 20 years of weightlifting under my belt, I have never attended a BodyBuilding Show. My first show I attended was my wife’s show. I got to go backstage and see all the athletes up close, both men and women. All different in height, shape and size but each individual impressive.
I was sold at this point and decided I wanted to compete and be on stage with these awesome athletes.
Ok, here is where the real story starts, I needed a plan. I needed to get prep coach. You can do this on your own, but I recommend hiring a professional.
I hired an IFBB Pro BodyBuilder to coach me and assist me with my plan. Just so you understand Body building has an amateur level and a professional level. NPC is the amateur athletes and IFBB is the professional athletes. Have you ever heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is an IFBB God.
After discussing with my new trainer, the best category to enter, we decided that Men’s Physique was best suited for me. Men’s Physique has open or Master which mean, open is anyone over 21 years old. Not very favorable for men over 35 years old. Then they have Master Men’s Physique. That’s based on age for example over 40 or over 45 or even over 50.
We found a show that had Masters over 40 that was about 10 months away. My trainer felt that would be the perfect time to get show ready.
My current weight was 245 pound and my body fat were not measured yet. My journey would require me to lose 50 pound in 10 months. You say that doesn’t seem that hard, it’s only 5 pounds a month. Here is the twist, you want drop body fat while maintaining your muscle mass.
This will be achieved by committing to a lifestyle change. I try never to use the word diet, as this implies it being temporary.
Now remember, everybody has different goals and levels of commitment. If you are not ready to go !00% and compete that’s ok, anything you do to improve your health and fitness level is positive
I’m a firm believer of any changes should be made gradually. It is not like a light switch that you flick a switch and all the necessary changes to be healthy will just happen.
In my opinion this is a recipe for failure. In my case I decided on my journey I would remove certain items from my lifestyle, item by item. This allowed the changes to be gradual improving my chances for success.
Let’s also understand clean eating (lifestyle) and preparing to compete for a show.
First let’s look at clean eating:
Clean eating consists of many different factors. You need to understand the balance between Protein, Carb’s and Fat’s and how the body processes it. Our body requires all three of these items for energy and muscle growth.
Even if we do not ingest these items our body will convert Protein, Carb’s or Fat depending on the bodies need at the time. Everybody has heard of the Atkins, Keto etc…, All these diets will work to some extent if you follow them correctly. My biggest takeaway from all this is:” You need to consume less calories than your body will burn daily”
As I mention there are many programs that you can follow to achieve weight loss and weight management, but what I have found is that fade diets do not have longevity, you may lose weight short term, but over time you end up putting the weight back on and even possibly gaining additional weight.
What I do is take my daily amount of proteins, Carb’s and fats for the day and divide them by 6 for each meal I’m going to eat (yes I said 6, which means I’m going to eat every 4 hour).This will allow me to ingest the proper amounts of Protein, Carb’s and Fat to reach and maintain my ideal weight. You can multiplate these factors depending on your needs and goals (muscle gain or weight loss).
After doing this you will find that you will get use to these portion sizes (eating out you will find crazy size portions). I recommend not eating out for the first 30 days to get used to proper portion size.
Another important part is understanding nutrition and reading nutrition labels. I was guilty of this myself. How many times did you see an item that said sugar free and you thought it was ok to eat? Although these items have no sugar, they are high in Carbohydrates. The body takes carb’s and convert them to sugar and it no burned off will convert to fat. This is just one example of understanding what you consume and how it can affect your health.
Back to the Story
Let’s get back to my story, Ok I met with my coach and he asked me to write everything I consumed on a daily log sheet. I did this for two weeks and then review my findings with him. By doing this it made me accountable for everything I put into my body. By doing this it helped me realize how much I was overeating and the poor choices I made for nutrition.
We discussed that I needed to consume daily 300 grams of protein, 150 grams of complex carbs and 30 grams of fat. As I mention this number will be divided by 6 since I will be eating 6 times a day., every 4 hours.
I weighed myself to have a starting reference point, but please don’t get hung up on a number. It important to realize it is how you feel and look also.
I was lucky because my spouse was prepping for a show also, so she was on a similar plan. So, we didn’t have any temptation in our house. Only healthy food that was conducive to our new lifestyle. Remember, even if you’re doing this alone or with a partner you need to do this process one meal at a time and build off it.
Many people fall off the wagon and give up. We have good days and we have bad days, and one mistake should not be a reason to give up. You will find most craving will be gone after 30 days, especially sugar (sugar is a powerful drug).
I eliminated all sugar and dairy from my diet (lifestyle). Another strategy I used was, I cooked all my food on Sunday for the upcoming week. Then each morning I measure out my meals and take them with me in a cooler.
When I must travel overnight, I use food that doesn’t require refrigeration (shakes, oatmeal). One thing I think is very important also, a support system in place (spouse, friend, family). My wife was my main support person. I was lucky in that my wife was knowledgeable in fitness and she understood about clean eating and fitness which made it a little easier for me. You should explain to your family and friends your new goals and new lifestyle. I found this to be very helpful for myself during my journey.
My training routine was a simple one. I did a “push – pull” program with a 3-day rotation and 1 day off in-between. What does that mean, exactly mean?
Let me explain:
- Push – Pull – On a push day, I would only do exercises that work pushing muscle away from my body (Chest, Triceps’, Shoulders). On a pull day, I would only do exercises that work muscles that pull towards my body (Back, Bicep’s, Shoulders).
- Ab’s and cardio after each workout
My average workout last between 45 minutes to an hour. Twenty minutes of cardio minimum to start. As I get closer to my show date, I will increase this amount to a maximum of 1 hour daily. Very few people enjoy doing cardio, myself included.
I found that the treadmill was my best option. I could do an incline of 15% and a speed of 3.5. I think you should find what you can enjoy are at least tolerate or you will never complete the cardio portion of your training.
Working out has many positive effects such as increase muscle mass, strengthen bones and joints. Lean muscle will also burn more calories during activities. Increase lean muscle will increase calories burned which with aid in our weight loss goals.
I found that going to the gym before going to work in the morning worked best for me. A benefit for going to the gym so early is it help startup my metabolism for the day, help increase my caloric burn for the day. Some of us are not morning for many reasons and that’s alright. It’s important to find the time to make it to the gym no matter what time of day it is.
Remember this, we didn’t gain weight or become unhealthy in one day, so we can’t expect results in one either.
My goals were to lose about 1 ¼ pound a week for 10 months period to reach my target weight. You must set realistic goals so they are obtainable, or you will set yourself up for failure.
Remember your diet is 80%, and training is 20% of your results. As a reference I put a before (on the left) and after (on the right) over a 10-month period.
Here is a tip that I followed, and I suggest you follow also, stay away from the scale and weighing yourself. Your body weight will vary a couple of pounds depending on different factors and what time of the day you are weighing yourself. I remember weighing myself and then the next day weighing myself again and I was 3 pounds heavier.
I knew that I didn’t gain any weight but the mental stress it adds can sabotage your program.
What I did was, I would weigh myself only once a week, on the same day and first thing in the morning. Buy me doing this I would get the most accurate results for measure my progress.
Another good tool is to measure your body fat. Men’s body fat should be between 10-15% and women’s 15-20%. I had my trainer measure my body fat this for me and I started at 23% body fat (not very impressive). It’s not where you start the race, it’s where you finish the race.
What’s important to remember is like everything else in life, your results will be based on your effort.
Understand what your goals are so you can establish a successful plan. Set short term goals and long-term goals. Taking small steps are sometimes easier than trying to take one giant step.
I had short term and long-term goals and I think it was one of the reasons for my success.
Think of this, if you were driving somewhere for the first time without direction, would you make it to your destination?? But if you had a map with directions you chance of getting there the most efficient way greatly increases
So, let’s look at my goals:
- Compete in an NPC Show
- Lose 50 pound over 10 months
- Have a defined training program
Also had longer term goals:
- Maintain healthy lifestyle
- Keep my weight between 200 -210 lbs
- Get my IFBB Pro Card
My Road Map
Over the next 10 months I followed the plan I mentioned meeting all my goals that I set for myself. Did I have any setbacks, yes? But I didn’t use that as an excuse to stop going forward. Dwelling on a setback is counterproductive and will set you up for failure. I kept a very positive attitude allowing for me to move forward in reaching my fitness goals.
So, if you thought by losing weight and going to the gym to get tone was enough for one person to do, you are wrong. The last part of this puzzle is learning how to pose when you are on stage. You can have the lowest body fat and most defined muscles, but if you don’t pose correctly you did all the hard work for nothing.
The importance of being a good poser is that a good poser can hide floors in their physique and emphasizes their better body part. I learned that position of my feet and hips can make my waist look smaller to the judges.
Now I’m finally one week away from my first show. This is called “Peak Week” and is the most important part of preparing to go on stage. Usually when mistakes are made here, they are not correctable due to time left available before going on stage.
At this point my body fat is at 5%, it’s an experience I will describe but you can’t truly appreciate it till you experience it for yourself. First thing is that you can’t think clearly (Bodybuilder call it diet brain). Your energy level is very low, and you feel cold all the time.
On the first two days of peak week you have no carbs at all. This depletes your muscles of glycogen and water. By doing this it will make your muscle look very flat. I was very nervous doing this for the first time. Seeing all the hard work I put into my diet and training and now 5 days away from competing I look smaller. My trainer stated, “just trust the process”. I also had to increase my water intake to 1.5 gallons of water per day.
Then on your third day you get to add carb’s back into your meals. My coach had me increase my carbs to 400grams on the third day, 300mg on the second day and 200mg on the last day prior to my show. Twenty-four hours before going on stage I will cut my water. This process of increasing my carbs and cutting my water will allow me to be the driest and fullest prior to stepping on stage. It is amazing to see that my weight dropped in 1 day 7 pounds just by cutting my fluids.
But when you think about it, 1 gallon of water weighs 8.34 pound, so by not drinking any fluids for 24 hours it seems plausible to drop 7 pound in a 24-hour period.
The night before the show you must check in the show and get spray tanned. The tanning is a process within itself. You first get a base coast the night before and then on the day of the show you get the finale coat. I never realized how dark you get. The reason for being so dark is twofold.
1. The bright lights from the stage washes you out.
2. The benefit of a dark tan is to help show more detail of your physique
The morning of the show we had an athlete’s meeting to discuss the flow of the show. They had expediters to keep thing moving smoothly and make sure you are were you need to be prior to going on stage.
The show is broken up into two parts, Prejudging in the morning and the Evening Show.
Prejudging is when all the decisions and placing are made by the judges. They are not revealed to anybody at this time. That what the night show is for. After competing for many years now, I have learned by the positioning on stage of where you are during prejudging you can get an idea of how you did.
I was competing in Master Men’s Physique over 40, and there were 7 competitors in the category.
In prejudging you come out on stage individually and do you mandatory posing and then you go to the side of the stage. After everyone had an opportunity to pose, the judges do call outs. What that is they start picking contestants for comparisons. This is where the judges decide the placing of contestants.
After prejudging I had about 6 six hours of down time. This is a difficult time because you still can’t drink fluids (only sip on water) or go crazy eating. Even though all the decisions have been made already, you still want to look you best for the night show.
At the night show the format was like the morning show. The main difference is after you do your individual poses, they only call out the top 5 contestants, starting with 5th place and ending with the winner.
Choosing Your Victory
At my show I wasn’t that happy with my posing, but I knew going into the show that this was my weakness. Truly my only expeditions were to complete this journey from beginning to end and completing this was my victory.
At the night show we did our routines and line up on stage. My heart was beating so fast because of the anticipation of the announcing of the winners.
I should mention that they give you numbered buttons to wear so they can identify you and when they reference you on stage, they call you by your number.
Ok, back on stage I’m awaiting the 5th place winner and they called my number, I was in shock, placing in my first show was more than I expected, and I was humbled.
Another takeaway from this experience is that as competitive as this sport is, the people (competitors) and everybody that attended also couldn’t have been nicer.
I was hooked and from this point forward, I knew that this would be my new lifestyle.
Over the next couple of years, I would compete in 4 more shows, taking 1st place in 3 of the shows and a 2nd place in one. I soon discovered that local shows were fun and convenient but If I wanted to compete against the best, I would have to start doing national shows.
The Big leagues
In order to be able to compete in a National Show you must place in a National Qualifying Show which I did do. Now it was time to decide what show to pick out. Only some national show offers an opportunity to earn Pro status. In local shows you may only see a total of 75 to 150 athletes. In a national show you can have over 500 total athletes.
After reviewing the NPC schedule, I decided on my first national show. I choose “Teen Collegiate Master Show in Pittsburgh. This is one of the bigger shows with the opportunity to earn a pro card.
I had 8 months to prepare for this show and spent the first 6 months trying to work on putting on size in the areas I felt needed improvement. I left the last 3 months (12 weeks) for diet and weight loss. After doing several shows I started to understand how my body would respond to certain things that I would do.
I also knew based on the past where I should be at different points of time prior to show day. I knew what weight I should be before I started my peak week, and what my weight should be prior to dropping my water and then hopefully what my weight would be on show day.
What I also learned is that your body doesn’t always respond the same way each time you do something. So, there is a little element of trial and error.
Also, another issue is you must travel at least a day prior to the show to check in and get a spray tan. This creates a logistical problem, since you need to bring your prep meals with you. I packed all my food that I would need for the next 2 ½ days.
Going through the airport security was very interesting. Trying to explain why I had food wrapped in plastic bags and that my ice packs were just frozen water was quite an experience.
First National Show
I finally made it to Pittsburgh and was excited to check in to the hotel. Check in for the show was the night before the show and like no other check in I experienced. There was over 1000 athletes making it larger than any of the previous years of the same show.
After checking in and getting my number we had an athletes meeting. At this meeting they would explain the rules we must follow and the order in which the athletes would go on stage. This is very important to help you prepare mentally and physically for going on stage.
I found out that I would be the last group to go on stage and pre judging would start at 9am and the night show would start at 5pm.
This show has gotten so big that I didn’t get on stage for prejudging till 7pm and the night show didn’t start till 8 pm.
I had 11 competitors competing with me in master’s over 50. I was competing with the best of the best, competitor like myself that have done very well in the local show circuit. I finished 7th and was disappointed with my results. You must realize everybody looks great and that small details differentiate from you and your competition, winning from losing.
It would be a whole other year of hard training in the gym till I would get back to Pittsburgh. After the previous year experience with the number of athletes, the show was made into a 2-day show. What that means is they just added extra day of travel and more prep food I must bring with me.
The year went quickly for me as I trained hard and put some more size on and was leaner (less body fat) any other shows in the past.
I was ready to compete and was off to Pittsburgh again. This time I knew what to expect and had a better idea of my competition. This time there were so many competitors in masters over 50 that they broke it down into Hight classes also.
They made up 3 categories:
- Up to 5’ 5”
- 5’ 6” to 6’
- Over 6’
I would compete in 5’ 6” to 6’ since I’m 5’ 10”. I had 5 men in my group and the athletes that come in first or second place would earn their pro card.
After prejudging I had no idea on how I did or place in my class. I would have to wait till the night show to see how I did.
Some athletes compete in multiple classes such as Men’s Physique and Classic Physique. This is done to help increase your chances of earning a pro card.
During the night show it was my time to go on stage, they line us up and start calling out the winners. I was given third place and was happy with my placement (but not good enough for a pro card). Then they called the first and second place winners.
The person that came in first in my class had already won his pro card earlier that night which meant the second-place person moves up one place and I also moved up one placement. Now I go from third place to second place, which means “I earned my pro card”. Boy was I in shock and it took awhile for this to sink in.
I finally made it “IFBB Pro” and a new level of competition for me to compete against.
It has been 3 years since earning my pro card and I have traveled to many different cities in the United States to compete. At 57 years old my expedition is not the same as they were when I first started my journey and I’m ok with that. I have learned it’s more about the lifestyle, meeting different people with the same interest that I have then just competing.
My goal now is to help educate and inspire others especially men over 50 obtain their fitness and lifestyle goals.