The Beginning

I was on my way to change myself into Hercules. After all, I had the Mr America magazine with Hercules on the cover and all of the exercises that the champions used described in detail inside. It surely wouldn’t take too long maybe a year or so and that would be me on the cover?!

I asked my sports master at school if we had any weights anywhere in the school that I could use. They must have been hidden away somewhere as I had never seen them. He told me I could use them after school finished any afternoon.

I have to say those first few weeks of training nearly killed me!  Every afternoon I lugged the weights out of a dusty old cupboard in the sports masters’ office and worked my way through the magazine. My workouts took about three and a half hours each and I would sometimes fall asleep on the bus going home I was so tired. My parents were used to me being keen to train for sport, but I got home sometimes too tired to eat.

I had to find out what was wrong, so I told the sports master how bad I felt, and he asked me which of the exercises in the magazine I was doing? When I told him I was doing all of the exercises and all the routines in the magazine he nearly fell over backwards and then he laughingly called me a plonker and explained that the reason I was so tired was that I was doing approximately two thousand times too much work!

With his help, we created my first properly structured workout and boy did I grow. And eat? Strewth, I was always hungry!  So the next part of a healthy lifestyle came into play: Diet. Like most healthy teenage boys I had a good appetite, as my mum used to say, ”He’s cheaper to keep for a week, than a fortnight!”  But now I had a plan. The sports master had said to me that if I intended to keep on weight training, as he put it, I would have to increase my intake of protein foods: meat, eggs, fish, chicken and milk, plus lots of vegetables, some rice & potatoes and not too much sweet things, except for fruit. Well, that sounded OK to me.

Weight training certainly seemed to make me hungrier, and before long I was eating breakfast, two or more school lunches (depending on how kind the dinner ladies felt that day), a quick pint of milk before my workout in the school gym in the afternoon and dinner at night. 

I was on my way!

I got a Saturday (and Friday evening) job for one of the big supermarket stores. Being a bodybuilder in 1962 was considered absolutely weird. Nobody understood it and me being a young teenager, I was looked upon as someone from another planet by the supermarket’s full-time staff. However, the store’s cook was a German lady, Gelda, who knew all about weightlifting and bodybuilding (as it was historically very popular in Germany).  More to the point, she knew exactly how much, and what, a hungry young bodybuilder needed to eat.  I was spoiled!  She saved me the best cuts of meat, the largest fish, the choicest breast of chicken, the lot!  When I arrived, straight from school, before I started work, I sat down to a feast in the staff canteen.

Even though I worked a 12 hour day on the Saturday at the supermarket, during the lunch hour I’d quickly run down the road to the council swimming pool which was situated just off the high street to exercise by ploughing up and down the pool for 30 mins before rushing back to eat a gigantic free lunch courtesy of Gelda and start work again. Boy did I grow.

Part 2 will be about starting work and preparing for my first bodybuilding competition

Author:  John Austin