By John Heart
I believe I do Natural Bodybuilding for a purpose much greater than the simple satisfaction of my ego.
I was born and raised in NY. As a teen, my Uncle Tom took me one time to a bodybuilding seminar by a Mr America title winner, and BOOM!…I was LIT UP MAN! From that day forward I KNEW that I wanted to win Mr America.
I believe that God Himself planted the desire in my heart to become Mr America long before time began. When I attended the seminar, that desire was sparked from dormancy into a ROARING FLAME! I was 18 at the time. For 30 years I trained, competed, and kept that desire between God and myself…telling no one.
I also was a planner. For the first several months after the seminar I chose to study more about bodybuilding and how to train muscle to grow. Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training system made sense to my young mind, so that’s what I did…and it worked. For virtually all of the last 3 decades I have trained high intensity style
with the Heavy Duty principles.
I competed only once as a teen after a short time of training and placed high in a big NY show. It was exciting to be up there, like it was a form of aggressive art being performed after months and years of gym training and dieting. This was a turn-on!
Eventually I moved to L.A. and competed as a young adult several times in the open class, which resulted in a Natural Mr Universe Tall Class victory in 2001. Keep in mind that up until that time the Mr America title was owned by another organization and it was not drug-tested, nor has ever been since its inception in 1939. I was a natural bodybuilder without enough muscle mass to compete in the Mr America against “enhanced” bodybuilders, so I reckoned it was all over after the Natural Universe and called it a career.
Between 2001 and 2011 I married my wife Zalika and we had 3 children. My training business was doing very well, and I continued to train and remain lean. Then I found myself flipping through a magazine at a newsstand and came across an article which stated “The Mr. America is BACK!” Apparently, a promoter was inspired to buy the rights to the title, then decided to run it under the sanction of the best natural organization around, the WNBF. It was 7 months until the 2012 version of the show, so I prayed and asked God permission to unleash and go for it. He said yes. After 11 years off stage, at the age of 47, I flew with Zalika from L.A. to Secaucus New Jersey, and I won the Light Heavyweight class, but lost the overall by 1 vote.
Everyone around congratulated me and called me “Mr America”.
I was DEVASTATED. I was Light Heavyweight Mr America. Thats not Mr America.
So I looked to God again, and asked Him to show me how to get it right. Then I unleashed for 11 months with only one acceptable outcome…the overall win. On April 20th, 2013…30 years after I first touched a barbell…at the age of 48, the vision became manifest when they called my name as overall Mr America!
Interesting side note: The Mr America is the oldest title in existence, and apparently, I’m the oldest overall winner of that title, having beaten the previous oldest guy’s age by 11 years. Again, I thought that was a career. The WNBF however, gave me a Natural Pro Bodybuilder card and I have been led to continue as a Pro.
Early on as a teen I had no idea where the best gyms were near where I lived in Bayville, Long Island. After school I would actually take a ride with my Italian teacher to the local YMCA to train, and then hitch-hike home afterwards. I did that after every training session. How stupid and dangerous to get into strangers’ cars so many times!
Its obvious in my case…I believe I am led by God to do what I do. He never told me to take steroids or any other drugs along the way.
While winning titles and competing as a WNBF Pro is great, it’s certainly just a means to an end. I believe God gave each one of us certain “gifts & talents” which are used to inspire others into action! Ultimately, my big goal would be to have others inquire about my “source”…which is my God. I’m a Christian and I believe that operating in my “gifts & talents” within Natural Bodybuilding as a competitor, and now Promoter, has and will lead at least others to Christ…which makes it all worth it! I’m so happy doing what I do, that I almost dropped a few happy tears answering this question!
While I’m not perfect in any way, this is what I shoot for; To be an example of the Love of Christ walking in 2 feet (again, I’m not perfect here) To let others be what they want to be without me being their judge. I mean, really, if someone chooses to live a certain way…who am I to judge (lest ye be judged, my Bible says)? I’m Driven by the Holy Spirit.
With work and family…I am a trainer both in-gym and online. Zalika & I are also promoting The WNBF L.A. here in Los Angeles as well. The idea was to have a “family business” of sorts wherein we all get involved at one point or another. It was decided early in the year to get out and tour Southern California to increase awareness of Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness, and the WNBF. So far it has been fun getting out there, spending a few nights out with the family, and meeting new friends at gyms, sports nutrition shops, and studios.
As a Pro athlete who is only satisfied with giving 100% of myself to my art & sport, there is only “seasonal balance.” If a show is upcoming, my wife & kids know that I’m not as available. My wife’s an athlete, and all my kids are athletic as well, so there is an understanding that we get out of our sport exactly what we put in. There is some sacrifice involved in all of our cases if I’m competing, and I know it. Hopefully someday I’ll be hearing fun stories told from my kids to the grandkids of some of the bodybuilding adventures we all have encountered together as opposed to stories only about titles I’ve won.
Nutrition-wise I’m a calorie counter and eat mainly organic, grass-fed, and gluten free foods. The majority of calories are from carbs…simple carbs actually…with only 25% protein and 20% fats on a caloric basis.
With regards to training, I only do cardio “as necessary”…if there’s fat to lose before a show, I will do it. The weights are my thing. I currently train with weights 2 times every 8 days. This is the exact routine I did all year before competing in your 2014 WNBF Intercontinental Pro in Calgary, Canada, where I took 2nd.
Again, I am a high-intensity guy, and train very intensely using various techniques in each workout. Those workouts last no longer than 45 minutes from beginning to end. From the first warmup set to the last rep of the workout, its NEVER longer than 45 minutes, sometimes less than 30.
Know your purpose. Too many amateurs enter shows not knowing why they are doing what they do. If the drive to compete is coming from a point of insecurity or fear (we could go on for hours with this one!), they will never be satisfied.
Know your sport. I sought out Mike Mentzer when I moved to L.A. and it ends up we actually lived on the same block! He trained me in his Heavy Duty system and I soaked it all in and adjusted things to suit my Natty status. Over the years, I have used the info that made sense and threw out the nonsense, regardless of what everyone else was doing.
Natural Bodybuilding is different than drug bodybuilding. Helicopters vs. Jets. Both fly, but have different ways of going about their business. Natural Bodybuilders need to look more to the elite Naturals for wisdom rather than drug-using counterparts. It’s no different than a helicopter pilot asking a jet pilot how to fly better…that’s just plain stupid! The helicopter pilot should seek out the BEST helicopter pilot to become better!
Know your goals. AND KEEP ‘EM TO YOURSELF! Be selective with when and who you share those goals as those who don’t understand, or even worse don’t approve, will not help you achieve your best. Conversely, the correct individuals, when told of your goals, will only add to your journey and support you any way they can!
I will add that in 30 years of training and competing there have been a few highlights that jump to mind;
Favorite title won…Mr America!
Favorite contest competed in…WNBF Intercontinental Pro in Calgary, Canada!!!
***The INBF Canada team made me feel greatly appreciated…that’ll never be forgotten!
Favorite moment as a WNBF Pro…being backstage at my first Worlds in 2013 with 42 of the best naturals from around the world! It was a spectacular sight!
Fun new project…promoting the pro-qualifying WNBF L.A. on June 18, 2016 right here in Los Angeles…I’m going out of my way to make every athlete feel as special as the INBF Canada team made me feel when I competed in there show. I’m inviting all Canadian amateurs to get down here and join our party that week!!! I promise you’ll never forget it.
***AND I’m announcing it first right here…Zalika and myself are going to become the first real sponsor of our pro card winners from the 2016 WNBF L.A. by giving each one 350 US dollars towards airfare to their very first WNBF Pro show in either the continental USA or Canada…How do you like that!?!?!?!?
Find us on Facebook – The 2016 WNBF L.A.
Instagram – wnbf_LA
Twitter – @JHeartMrA
Website – www.IntenseHeart.com