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Prime-Time Bodybuilding Goals

ironmanmagazine.comFirst off, let me explain what’s been happening with me in terms of major shifts in my perspective since I announced my retirement after the ’13 NPC Masters Nationals last July. I would imagine it isn’t so different from the way many bodybuilders begin to look at things in a different light after the age of 40 or so.

About six weeks after the Masters, a show in which I achieved the best condition of my life yet got my worst placing ever (14th out of 31 in the over-40 heavyweight class—ugh), I got the crazy idea that I would come back in 2020 and make a huge run for my pro card by entering the 50-and-over divisions at the Team Universe, Masters Nationals and, if need be, the IFBB North Americans. I will turn 49 in September 2019, which will make me eligible for all of those summer 2020 over-50 pro qualifiers. I figure that will give me ample time to make the improvements I need to win, and the 50-and-over division is somewhat less competitive than the 40-and-over.

Why is turning pro so important to me? So many of my friends and the people I have known in the industry have their IFBB pro cards (including many who have been at this for a great deal less time than I have), and I would love to have that honor and distinction. It would be more of an acknowledgement and a validation than anything else. Also, having “IFBB Pro” after your name affords instant credibility in the eyes of many, particularly the newer recruits to the iron game. It doesn’t matter if I know 10 times as much about training as a given pro bodybuilder. He’s a pro, and I’m not; therefore they will listen to him and not me. (Little do they know the vast amount of ghostwriting I have done for pro bodybuilders over the years.)

Then I got to thinking again, deeply contemplating. Realistically, what would it take for me to be good enough to beat everyone else in my age group, even in the over-50 category? My structure isn’t very aesthetically pleasing—my hips are pretty wide. My arms will get a little better, but they will always be a lagging area, which is a liability when so many national-level competitors have arms ranging from very good to outstanding. My only hope would be to overwhelm my rivals with mass and condition. At the Team Universe last summer, where I reached that extreme level of conditioning, with all possible bodyfat and water gone, I was only 201 pounds at 5’8”. To be truly “freaky,” I would have to be somewhere around 220 pounds in that same condition, at least.

What would it take for me to add 20 more pounds of lean mass at this point in my life, when I have been training for 30 years and have to be damn close to my maximum genetic potential? I’m not going to spell it out, but let’s just say that I would need to do things that would severely risk my health and longevity. Just in the past couple of months, at the end of 2013, a wave of bodybuilders my age and younger have been dying of heart attacks and liver failure. The things I would need to do to gain 20 pounds of muscle could very well make me part of that unfortunate group.

I should add that when people are more genetically gifted, there is less need for them to take the same level of pharmaceutical risk as those who have more average genetics. Their shape and structure are superior, and their bodies are inclined to grow plenty of muscle without needing to be overly excessive with regard to “supplement” use. It’s mainly those who are trying to compensate for average genetics who go overboard and wind up with health problems. Not always, mind you, but much of the time that’s true.

Drugs can’t change anyone’s genetics, but they can enable a man to build his physique to a freaky level that’s good enough to win at a national show—as long as he isn’t up against any true genetic freaks or he comes in with superior conditioning to theirs. You see it more commonly in masters pro qualifiers than at the open shows, such as the USA or Nationals.

I’m 44 years old, and I have a wife and two children I adore. My father died when I was 16 and never met them or my brother’s two children. I want to see my kids grow up and know their children. I want to be that grandfather who spoils his grandchildren. A pro card would be nice, but I would never place in even the smallest pro show with the weakest lineup, as most pros are genetic superiors. Being 220 pounds ripped would not make me a better writer, a better husband or a better father—and I am very certain it would not increase my chances of living to a ripe old age.

So as I write this in the final days of 2013, this will be my final “off-season” of attempting to push for more size. My goal is to break 240 pounds for the first time. I’ve been 240 a couple of times, though the last time was almost nine years ago, and I was holding a substantial amount of bodyfat then. Currently, I am 236 to 238 pounds in the morning and most likely a bit over 240 in the evening. I will attempt to reach a morning weight of more than 240 pounds this winter, though I have given myself a deadline of the end of January simply because I don’t want to go to the next Arnold Classic as bloated as I was at the 2013 event.

From there, I will clean up my diet. After this winter I plan on getting lighter and leaner and doing more cardio for health purposes. Right now I have fairly bad sleep apnea and can’t sleep on my back without my airway closing up completely. Why not start now? Since I have decided that my competitive days are definitely behind me and I never really achieved what I had hoped to there, I have one final goal: To break 240 pounds in decent shape—abs still visible—before I can feel comfortable slimming down to around 210 to 212 pounds and putting my three-decade-long quest for mass behind me, with no feelings of unfinished business.

As for turning pro, it was never meant to be for me. Thankfully, my career as a writer has enabled me to be part of the industry and to get to know all the top stars since the early 1990s. It’s time for me to move on and focus on my career and my family. I have no regrets.

—Ron Harris


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