If someone came up with a rule that people should stop reaching for the stars at a certain age, Lee Naylor would likely ask for an extension.
The 67-year-old Canadian military veteran placed fourth out of eight at a recent body building competition, in the age 55+ class — and now he’s looking to improve that result in the B.C. provincial championships in the spring of 2015.
“It’s like the fountain of youth, working out here,” said Naylor on Monday, at the new Snap Fitness facility at the corner of the Evans and Yale Road West in Chilliwack. “It’s all new equipment, that is scientifically designed to hit the muscles in a certain place — but the older equipment and free weights hit the muscles at different angles, so I like to use both.”
Naylor splits his six-days-a-week training schedule between the Snap gym and Hope’s Reflexions gym at the local rec centre.
During his 27-year career with the Canadian Armed Forces, Naylor was stationed in Europe for much of his time, where he earned a black belt in judo. He also took part in three body building competitions in Germany in the 1980s, winning his division and the men’s overall title at the Armed Forces National Competition in 1988.
“They told me to go back to Canada and compete in the seniors division,” recalled Naylor. He was in his early forties at the time but the dream lay dormant for over two decades, with Naylor having to pull himself out of a downward spiral before he could come back to the sport.
“In 1993, I had surgery on my right arm and almost lost it, due to infection.”
During the long recovery, he said, he became addicted to prescription pain medication and eventually sought help to get out of the addiction cycle.
Naylor said a six-week pain clinic helped him get off the medications and develop tools to deal with the pain, including the arthritic pain that limits his range of motion in many of his joints.
He and his wife have lived in Hope for about six years and — once his pain was under control — his renewed path to fitness started with swimming and working out at the rec centre.
“Then I started getting input from body building competitors and they said I should try it. I was going to try to compete at age 65 but I didn’t.”
Early this year, he heard of the 2014 Sandra Wickham Fall Classic, Nov. 8 at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster. Naylor was ready for the challenge.
“Six months out, I set my goals and worked toward the competition… still not committed to taking part,” said Naylor.
“I did it on my own, with my old materials from before, including the journal I had kept. All of my dieting was from back then.
“I was going to give up — but Jane (head trainer) and the gang here said ‘You have to compete! We’re going to get tickets!’
“But it was sold out,” added Naylor, grinning.
Still, the encouragement helped him get over the internal voices that were telling him to give up.
After all the work and the dieting, you’ve got to be able to show the judges what you’ve got. That’s where the tanning spray and the oil come in, as it helps accentuate the musculature, explained Naylor.
“One guy was all white and you couldn’t see his muscles,” he said. “It’s $125 for the spray and the oil but it’s well worth it. They have the spray booths outside and it was sunny but cold that day. My legs were still shaking when I got inside for the competition.”
Having prepped himself without the help of a coach, Naylor figured he lost points on his posing, choreographing and facial expressions.
“You have to make it look like you’re having a good time up there… even though you’re dying inside,” he said, laughing. “I was really dehydrated!”
In preparation for the provincials, Naylor has contacted a coach out of New York State and is now waiting on personalized videos so he can start working on his presentation.
“This guy is like a drill sergeant,” said Naylor. “He breaks down every move. I told him ‘You find me the music and send me a choreographed routine.’”
In the meantime, Naylor has embarked on a bulking program, to beef up his calf and thigh muscles.
“Three months out, I’ll go into a higher rep program and cut back the weights a bit. I’ll also do cardio for 20 minutes a day. Three or four weeks out, I’ll get even stricter on the diet, going for proteins and salads.”
A good result at the provincials would give Naylor a berth in the Canadian Nationals in Edmonton on July 11 — but even if he doesn’t make it there, he said it’s the process that motivates him.
“Anyone who gets to the stage is a real winner,” he said. “It takes so much work, dedication and discipline. The respect among competitors is immense.”