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Sensational at 70-Plus (Part 1)
By: David Young
Sensational at 70-Plus An Interview With Jim Morris, Mr. America and Bodybuilding Legend by David Young My jaw must have hit the ground when I saw the pictures accompanying this interview. How could this possibly be a 71-year-old man? No friggin’ way! Could it really be? The answer is, yes. The guy puts most 40 year olds to shame. Among dozens and dozens of bodybuilding titles Jim Morris won the 1973 AAU Mr. America and has a contest history that spans from 1959 to 1996. The photo session with Michael Neveux this past January represents Jim’s 47th year of getting in top shape. That kind of longevity in the sport doesn’t come haphazardly. It comes from dedication, knowledge and focus.
What struck me immediately when I talked with Jim is that he is anxious to share his years of wisdom and his enthusiasm for bodybuilding. He’s got some very interesting views on how things are done in bodybuilding, and it may just get you to rethink your own strategy—so get out your notebooks and listen up. Professor Morris is about to start class.
DY: I saw the photos that Mike Neveux took of you in January. You look great! That condition would be good for a guy half your age. How did you get started in bodybuilding?
JM: One of my coworkers at the New York Public Library’s main branch on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street invited me to go to the gym with him. I was 19, and I had never been in any gym other than in school where they did not have weights. It was June and New York was sweltering, so everyone was in Speedo’s. St Mary’s Community Center in the South Bronx was a pretty tough neighborhood, and I was a bit nervous. I had always felt the well-built guys in school were born that way, but at that moment, looking at those well-built guys I realized they had built themselves.
DY: So what happened?
JM: Before that revelation could sink in, a couple of the guys came over and asked me what exercises I did for my chest and arms. At first I thought they were teasing me, but my coworker convinced me they were serious. I had never had that kind of attention before, and I was thrilled to be the center of attention. But it was starting out to be a murderously hot summer, so I determined to start training on Labor Day. The main branch of The New York Library had every Iron Man and Health & Strength (British) and Strength & Health ever published, and over the course of the summer I read every one of them. I preferred the information in Iron Man, as I felt it was more honest. One of the articles talked about setting goals, short term and long term. Another talked about mental attitude and focus.
DY: Did you make good progress right from the get go?
JM: I set a short-term goal of gaining 30 pounds by Thanksgiving. On Labor Day I started training and fell into a trance. On Thanksgiving Day I came out of the trance to find I had gained 35 pounds of pure muscle.
DY: Thirty-five pounds in three months is incredible. That’s a trance a lot of guys would like to be in, Jim. How did you do it?
JM: Unwittingly, by spending the entire summer immersed in magazines and any other writing I could find on exercise, nutrition, motivation and the human body. I had hypnotized myself. It was a matter of all the right circumstances coming together at exactly the same moment. My living situation was perfect. I was still living at home. My job was not physical. I had total control over my diet and lifestyle, and I was obsessed. It was like a sponge that had been waiting all its life for just this stimulation.
DY: Where did your chest and arm development come from? Had you been athletic before that?
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