HEUVELTON – Daniel H. Strader always talked about becoming a body builder, but could never quite reach his goal. He would train for a few weeks and then quit.
That changed last fall, when he put down his fork, picked up his weights and went to work.
I have always been big on exercise, Mr. Strader, 27, said Friday. I was spending four or five days a week at the gym because I wanted to be there, so I figured I am going to put my efforts toward a competition to see where that could take me. I knew it was going to require a lot of dedication, I couldnt just show up when I wanted and do what I wanted.
His hard work paid off. The 2005 Heuvelton Central School graduate took home first-place honors in the Novice Division and second in Open Competition this month at the Vermont Body Building Championships, Burlington.
But training for the event was no small feat. His 20-week training period began at 5 a.m. every day with a cardio workout before an hour of exercise - all before going to his full-time job as a physical therapy assistant at Health Services of Northern New York Inc.
That started out five days a week and we ended up doing seven days a week just like that, Mr. Strader said. I was in the gym seven days a week, doing an hour worth of cardio and an hour-and-a-half of workouts.
Mr. Strader contacted Matthew Porter, a trainer and national body building competitor from Oregon, to help him beef up for the event. Using Skype, text messaging, Facebook and email, Mr. Strader kept Mr. Porter up to date on his daily diet and training regimen.
I would send him pictures to update him on my progress, and check in on Fridays with how I felt that week, energy levels, and hunger, Mr. Strader said.
But the man who loves cheeseburgers, French fries and cake said the training was not without its challenges, especially since his diet began a week before Thanksgiving 2013.
There was time I wanted pizza and cheeseburgers, he said. This time I had my mind set that it was all or nothing. I had to fight the urges. I missed Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner. It was tough. If it wasnt for my fiancÚ and family, there was no way I could have done it.
With the help of his family, he prepared all his meals for the week every Sunday and Wednesday.
It was two to three hours of prep work, which included 10 pounds of chicken, six cups of rice, some fish and potatoes, he said. Everything was preplanned, every day with six whole meals a day.
The meals started out as high in protein with moderate carbohydrates and lower fats, he said. As the diet went on, he gradually drew away from carbs and fats altogether.
I was down to about a 100 carbohydrates a day towards the end, which if you think about, is about three pieces of toast, he said. Fats were minimal. The goal is to lose as much body fat as possible but still yield as much muscle as we could.
The Vermont Body Building Championships were held at South Burlington High School on April 19. Competition categories included mens body building, mens physique, womens fitness, womens figure and womens bikini. The competition drew people from all over the Northeast, including Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
At 5-feet, 4-inches tall and 160 pounds, Mr. Strader took home first place in the Novice Division and second place in his weight division in open competition.
We didnt expect to do that well in the open, he said. I was surprised I took second to the guy who won the whole show and who had been training for many years.
Overall, the competition has changed his life, Mr. Strader said. He said he has become more conscious of his eating habits and continues to go to the gym regularly. He said he is hoping to compete again in 2015 after a year and half break.
I am mindful now of the nutritional facts, Mr. Strader said. I pay attention to how much fat is in what I am eating. If I think it is too high, I dont eat it. But now that I am done with it, if I do want a piece of pie or a cookie, I eat it.
He said his advice to anyone looking to become more active would be to remain consistent.
I am not saying you have to exercise seven days a week, he said. But you have to make time for it. People always say there is no time or there is not enough time. You can always make time. I worked full time, 40 hours; I found time. You may have to sacrifice in some areas if you really want to reach your goal. Three to four times a week just working out is very beneficial. If you set a goal, do it. You are in control. You make your own destiny.