Column: A conversation with Mr. SIU

By Gus Bode

My obsession with weightlifting began my junior year of high school. I had my first encounter with gym culture in the eighth grade, a weak 14-year-old surrounded by guys who were three or four times my size. The experience didn’t stick until I really dedicated myself to the sport and began to see dramatic changes in my physique. I put on 30 pounds of muscle in a little over three months and signed up for a membership at my local gym.

A few years and uncountable protein shakes, later I started working for GNC. To my and other employees’ chagrin, it is usually referred to as “that vitamin place in the mall.”

Yeah, that’s it.


And there’s a lot more to it than that. I will admit that I often forget how long it took me to get used to the store, but that is also why it plays a special role in my life.

That’s where my introduction to bodybuilders other than Arnold Schwarzenegger began. Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and Lee Priest became household names for me. I started reading magazines like Flex, Muscular Development and Muscle Mag looking for new training routines. When I started watching power lifting and bodybuilding competitions on ESPN, my parents began to question my sanity.

And it’s all in the name of vanity, right?

Actually it’s not. There are few sports that encompass every area of someone’s life like power lifting or bodybuilding. It is an exercise in insane discipline and there are a select few individuals at our university who have dedicated themselves to its practice in order to become Mr. or Mrs. SIUC.

To get more perspective on this event, I talked with last year’s overall winner, Nathan Woodcock. He shares my own views on bodybuilding as an often neglected and rarely appreciated sport.

Me: How many years has there been a Mr./Mrs. SIU contest?

Nathan Woodcock: This is the 17th annual Mr./Mrs. SIU.


Me: How has the typical turnout been?

NW: Last year there was a little over 300, but I’m hoping for 400 to 500. I’d like to see a dramatic increase, and everyone I’m talking to say they’re going.

Me: How far ahead is each year’s contest planned for?

NW: Since last semester, I’ve been talking to people, seeing who’s competing, and I’ve been with these competitors since about eight to 10 weeks out.

Me: What is the typical workout schedule/diet for someone participating in Mr. SIU?

NW: They’ve done cardio every morning, every day. Some guys who were a little overweight went to zero carbs to make sure they dropped the weight. The extreme part of competing is always low-carb and heavy cardio.

One guy in particular, he started real early because he had more bodyweight to lose. He started out at 240 and he’s planning to be on stage at 185. Another one weighed 260, and over the course of a year he’s gotten down to about 180.

Me: Why do you think people should come to Mr./Mrs. SIU on Saturday? What will they get out of it?

NW: The thing about bodybuilding is that it’s kind of this underground sport that no one knows about. It’s hard to say, “look at these guys, don’t you want to be like them?” Most people don’t want to look like these guys on stage, but you can still appreciate the hard work they put in and apply some of it to your own life.

The biggest problem with America is that it’s a right-now culture and we want everything easy. Diet is almost non-existent because of the fast food industry, working too much or not having the time to prepare meals. But, in all actuality, it takes a lot of discipline and not a lot of time.

Wolfe is a junior studying English education