Hi, Im Paul Baxendale and welcome to Blog post number 9; I’m grateful that you’re here to watch these videos of my old school bodybuilding experiences; thank you for joining me again this week. This week we go all the way back to my first competitive victory and the decisions I took from it, decisions that would very much alter the course of my life. But, before we start, let’s hear once again from one f the great Stoic philosphers, Marcus Aurlius and listen to what he had to say about peace of mind, “How satisfying it is to dismiss and block out any upsetting of foreign impression and immediately to have peace in all things.”
Blog Post 9
My First Major Victory, Mistakes, Goal Setting and a Decision.
After the Sidmouth show, where Dorian had been the guest poser, I had made up my mind that if I wanted to become the best bodybuilder I could possibly be, then I needed to be around the best….and the best was that beast that had just brought the house down in Sidmouth, the ‘Shadow’, Dorian Yates.
A Big Decision to Make
I had, at that point, been training for several years seriously (and as a young teenager just to help my other sporting endeavours; as well as martial arts, I was a county swimmer, school champion tennis player, runner, football and rugby player as well as a one of failure at the Wroughton and District Home-Brew Association when I was 14, after which experience, I never ever drank again!) and I had met a few of the greats in the sport as well as having had Johnny Fuller take me under his wing and trained me in his high volume, high rep training methodology. I loved my sessions with Johnny, they were brutal and intense in terms of volume but although I was making gains (and considering I had been training completely naturally for all those years), I had a feeling that the amount of time I was spending training wasn’t producing equal returns in my physique development. I had heard of Dorian’s ‘new’ high intensity, low volume training approach and I must admit that seemed too little in terms of the results he had achieved; however, I had never up to that point see him train!!!
Now being wrong about the style of training is just a learning curve, one we all must go through unless you are fortunate to fall upon your perfect method straight away, but never see being wrong as anything negative, as long as you learn by it, “If anyone can prove and show to me that I think and act in error, I will gladly change it – for I seek the truth, by which no one has ever been harmed. The one who is harmed is the one who abides in deceit and ignorance.” The words of Marcus Aurelius, a Roman Emperor who had the humility and wisdom to know when you are shown to be wrong, be glad of the opportunity to change it, to do it right.
So, My mind was made up. I continued to train with a high volume approach seeing Johnny two or three times a week and working with him on the door at a local nightclub also allowed me to spend entire nights talking about training, nutrition, the industry and listening to his stories of training in the US, competing in the Olympia and how he had adjusted his training after his pec tear. I picked out an early show in 1991 (the NABBA South Coast) as my next goal; I had just, at the back end of the prior year, done my first ever cycle of anabolics, I’m sure the size of the cycle will shock you knowing the courses advised by many of the guru’s today…..yes, it was a huge course of 200 dianabol tablets taken over a six week period, with a resulting 20lb gain of mainly solid tissue…..let’s just say it was impossible for me to say anything but the truth to anybody when they asked if I had started to take anything as the results were so extraordinary, my body literally transformed during those six weeks in all the right places! It was a truly astonishing change in a short period of time, but Let me put in a caveat here before anyone accuses me of promoting their use; my results were not normal, they were at a time when I had been training for nearly ten years seriously and the products at the time were all pharmaceutical quality grade and…….I had taken many months of research and enquiring of top amateurs and pro’s before I felt comfortable making the decision for myself; and, even then, in all honesty I wasn’t 100% comfortable in the decision, the overriding factor was simply that if I was going to compete at the highest international levels then I was going to have to cross to the ‘dark side’ but make sure I did so with the best advice, minimum amounts and had mentors that would be looking after me and a local doctor that was happy to check my bloods regularly (there is never a ‘safe’ way of taking any drug; they all have their side effects be quite sure of that! Even your paracetamol and aspirin). The bottom line was I made my decision and I took the step and as little and inconsequential it may appear to some people today with the pharmaceuticals and amounts taken today, believe me it was a massive step for me. As I have always said, I will always tell you the truth and give my story straight up; hopefully to stop people going anywhere using anabolics unless they are committed to competing and competing at a fairly high levels (no one needs to take anything to look great for the beach or for the club!) and even then to do so with full knowledge and acknowledgement of the potential consequences however small they may be, they still exist. Seriously, I won shows , no tested shows where I was competing against guys who were all on the gear and I was winning shows or coming second in them, I never placed lower than third during my entire natural career. I remember at one of my early shows, I think it was the English Riviera Championships, and everyone backstage was talking about what they had used to come into the show; now I was no fool but I had no idea what the names of these products were or did; in fact it was one of the reasons I wasn’t sure if they actually had that much of an effect as I was beating these guys! Well, after those 200 dianobol I suddenly realised that maybe I had decent genetics for the sport and so I started to investigate the subject in full research mode; and I approached it with the help of my friends Paul Borreson, who was conversing with Dan Duchaine at the time and other bodybuilders who were using, I always adopted a very humble mindset when it came to these things, as it was a serious topic, “Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows.”
My prep into the South Britain was the first show I did where I actually felt like I had some idea of what I was doing!! I had no coach, no ‘guru’, no trainer; back then, you did it all on your own and you learnt through trial and error! Looking back, I would guesstimate my diet to be around 60% carbs, 30% protein and just 10% fats and I gauged the success of the diet by the results in the mirror and the weight scales. I aimed to lose between one and two pounds of body fat each week; in reality I had no way of knowing if it was body fat I was losing except by looking in the mirror! But that’s all we had back then and it actually worked out pretty good. I ended up around 10lbs heavier than the previous year and was substantially leaner, in fact I was shredded, I always preferred to come in sliced to the bone and give up a few pounds than come in softer but fuller as my shape and symmetry gave a a natural advantage to some degree! In NABBA, they have height classes rather than weight classes so I had no weight to make just try and come in as big and ripped as possible. I knew I wasn’t going to be the biggest guy by a long way on stage, it takes years, I would estimate a good ten years to fully fill out my frame properly to where I eventually competed at 118.7kg much later in my career, so I focused on getting peeled to the bone.
There were a couple of guys who also competed in our town so I had some idea of the quality needed and what condition looked like but it was a good friend from out of town (Graham Black from Newbury) who looked at me once a week and told me if he thought I was on target or not. At eight weeks out I was not….at 3 weeks out he was calling people over to take a look at me, even though he never said anything “but keep” going to me!!! There was no blowing smoke up your backside in those days!! I remember driving up to his gym in Newbury and he would stop the gym to gather everyone around to take a look at me; it’s funny, we always trained with full sweats on and baggies and rag tops on before a show, we didn’t want anyone knowing how we were looking! Now adays, people are putting contest prep photos up constantly so there is really very little surprise when you see them at the show, back then we kept it well hidden (apart from travelling to gyms away from where you lived), to ask your trusted mentors whether they thought you were on track.
No Coach, No Guru’s, just friends.
Graham was one of my best friends back then; he really encouraged me , helped me and supported me in everything, a wonderful, gentle guy; he used to love to show my condition off to others, he, himself was a condition ffreak, so he loved it when others in were in REAL shape; we were at the British finals one year when I was competing and walking into the reception area together he saw some ladies he knew who also competed; before I knew it he had pulled by baggies down to my ankles and he was saying to them, ‘look at Paul’s legs, freaking shredded!!’ I was a little embaressed but not as much when one of them ran up to me and jumped into me with her arms and legs crossed scissor hugging me in the process…that certainly was a warm reception!
Anyway, back to the prep, As the show approached, we never did anything crazy in the last week; we had the mind-set that if you looked shredded and big the week before, why would you change anything? Those days are long gone but there was some wisdom in those words as I’ve seen more people look worse the day of the show than the week before, looking better before they had adopted major carb depletion and loading principles; yes, we did drop the carbs the first few days and increase them at the end of the week but it wasn’t anything crazy, just trying to tighten up by eliminating some subcutaneous water but basically we aimed to be ready one week out in terms of body fat and already have a grainy dryness which we simply enhanced with our last weeks protocols. Learning yourself was a great way to know your own body, 2I’m constantly amazed by how easily we love ourselves above all others, yet we put more stock in the opinions of others than in our own estimation of self…..How much credence we give to the opinions of our peers have of us and how little to our very own!”.
Show Day Arrives
The day of the show was stressful but a happy one! I went down to Portsmouth in the morning, with my rice, chicken, broccoli and rice cakes and registered; it was then that the head guy from NABBA pulled me to one side and said I shouldn’t be competing there as it was ‘out of area’……yeeks!! I had called the show’s promoter some weeks before to see if I was able to compete there as it was closer to my home than what they classed as my ‘home area’ show, he had said ‘of course’ and said it was no problem at all, he was only too happy for me to compete so this was a bit of a shock, however, they allowed me to get on stage and I had a great time, my routine went down really well and I remember thinking ‘Wow, people really enjoyed that!’, there was some big guys there but no one else was dialled in and I was given first place and an invite to the Britain which was beyond my hopes for that show but very exciting. The only downside was the attitude of the chief NABBA guy who sadly took my trophy off of me and said that although I had won, he couldn’t give the actual trophy to me as I was ‘out of area’…..I was never bothered about trophiy collecting so it didn’t bother me but I did wonder what reaction would I receive at the Britain if he was that upset with me then, ah politics, it was my first experience of it but I can’t say it ever bothered me as I had bigger things on my radar than a tin pot trophy that probably cost £5!! And the audience’s reaction more than made up for it, I was so overwhelmed by the response I got leaving the contest venue with people congratulating me on my routine and condition and aesthetics that it made me feel as though I was on the right lines and heading in the right direction. The only thing that was niggling me at the back of my mind was…..how was I going to get the size on me where I would be able to compete against the top guys; I was prepared to work, prepared to take years and prepared to do anything to learn from the best so I made myself a plan!
Politics weaker than a Dream
I had about four months until the British finals in Blackpool so I just came out a little and kept tight and clean and trained my heart and soul out, still with the high volume, high set approach I had learned from Johnny and my cardio had been 40 minutes power walking in the morning before breakfast and then another 30 minutes on the stationary bike post workout while I sipped on my thick protein shake!! (When I say sipped, I had to eat it with a spoon as the shakes back then were all calcium caseinate or egg protein and milk proteins, whey hadn’t even come onto the market at that point! My gym would blend up a shake in water for me after my workout to ‘eat’ whilst on the bike and give me a spoon with which to eat it with, two scoops of calcium caseinate in water add a high powered blender meant it was like a desert rather than a shake and did I look forward to that shake!!! It was the only sweetness I would eat all day except one banana which I had with my third (midday) meal with a jacket potato and chicken breasts. I do remember as I started dieting down for the Britain I was coming in very quickly so I allowed myself an apple after my mornings cardio on the way to work…..I can still taste the sweetness of those apples!! It’s amazing how your taste buds change with a few years of changed eating habits. Memory’s a funny thing isn’t it; just thinking about that apple pn my way to work now, I can literally see in my mind me walking along in my suit towards the office savouring every last tiny bite from that apple, I thin people used to wonder why I was so happy first thing in the morning in the office back then, little did they now it was all down to an apple!!
The Britain was a whole new ball game….this was the big boys league and I knew that I still didn’t have the muscle size to go toe to toe with them but my only hope was to come in freaky shredded again…..so sick that people couldn’t NOT look at my physique because there would be so much going on with every move of my body. It was during this time that I was good friends with the late Paul Borresson, who was still working at the recruitment business that he worked at before moving into saes and then into bodybuilding supplements, and for the first time ever I let someone else give me advice in to how to peak for a show; and it would be the last time too ,until I was with Dorian and Kerry Kayes! It was very nearly a disaster…..
A Near Disaster – On My Own From Now!
Paul was good friends and communicated with Dan Duchaine frequently over this new thing called the internet (something I never had back then) and he had all sorts of new, cutting edge advantages and protocols that he reckoned would get me so dry I would look like carved granite on stage. Paul was a great salesman (a lovely guy and had a heart of gold but unfortunately believed alot of his own ideas even though he hadn’t actually tried them himself! Although, to be fair, he did try a good few crazy things on himself too; we were all our very own lab experiments back then, if we researched an idea or a product or protocol then we would try it out on ourselves….not something I would recommend to anyone to do today!). I was ready, two days out I looked in the mirror and even freaked myself out a little, I remember I showed my mother my legs and she almost screamed in horror; I guessed I was ready then!! But then Paul came over and looked me over…….yes, he agreed I was ready, my body parts had feather and cross striations everywhere, I couldn’t sit on the bike anymore because my backside had no fat on it to cushion the seat so the last couple of weeks my cardio was restricted to power walking up the hills of my village, in rain and sun; I always remember it being sunny but I’m sure that is just selective memory!! I certainly got soaked through a few times having to shower, dry of, warm up and dress for work all before 7 in the morning but I had always been a morning person so those 4am wake ups were easy plus I never could sleep before a show, I think my metabolism was running so fast it just wouldn’t let me sleep plus I was so hungry!!! The only trouble was come 11am I would find myself falling asleep at work and where I worked right by a window, if it was a sunny day, I would be fighting (not always successfully!) the urge to close my eyes right until lunchtime when I would wake up properly.
But, it’s exactly those times that you show people your true character; they know you are tired so try even harder to be a better man or woman every minute of the day at these times, “You have many other qualities you can’t claim to have been deprived of at birth. Display then those qualities in your own power: honesty, dignity, endurance, chastity, contentment, frugality, kindness, freedom, persistence, avoiding gossip and magnanimity.”
I either trained at lunchtime or in the afternoons straight from work so from midday my mind was beginning to focus on the workout and what I was going to do that day; it was a counting game, counting down to the finals.
My routine was very basic and involved a lot of volume, reps and sets. Chins, rows, deadlifts and cable pulldowns for back; presses with a barbell, flyes with dumbbells, pec deck for chest, curls with dumbbells, barbells and preacher for biceps, pushdowns, dips, close grip bench for triceps, squats, leg press, leg exts, hamstring curls, stiff legged deadlifts, calf raises for legs and all basic movements nearly all done with free weights with a bare minimum done on machines. The machines back then were all hand made by a local bodybuilder/engineer, a gentleman called Roy Bunce who was also a bodybuilder so were still basic and not particularly smooth running and certainly not like the machines of today; although I admit I would still focus on free weight movement today if I was starting out. Still, Roy’ s machines worked though and he made a great t-bar row, in fact a whole range of gym equipment. He turned the upstairs of his workshop into his showroom/gym and he would often invite me over for a workout upstairs where no one would bother me; I know he had a few of us competitive bodybuilders popping in for sessions in his workshop, he was a great guy, very funny and had one of those enormous Reg Park type of chests, you know the huge ribbed barrel chested type that Mike Katz also had, it’s not so common today; I think it was partly genetic and partly basic heavy movements which out those slabs of meat on top of his ginormous reibcage.
Anyway, back to Paul’s advices…..suffice to say that he suggested a protocol I had never used before and one which I knew little about, well, to be hinest I knew nothing about; however I was tempted because I wanted that freaky dryness so badly (the crazy thing was I was freaky dry anyway! With hindsight….). The weakest a bodybuilder’s mind will ever be is the day or the week before a show; why do you think you see all these ‘guru’s’ approaching athletes backstage or close to a show promising that ‘if they were with them, they’d win this and that’? Because they know any bodybuilder is vulnerable at this time; I quickly learned how to stay away from everyone the last week and do my own thing as I was hesitating and umming and ahhing when Paul said ‘don’t worry about a thing, I’ll come up with you and make sure you’re o.k. and I’ll even do the protocol for you myself for you so you don’t have to do it’. Big mistake……
The day of the show I was fine, I felt as good as anyone can feel being some 3-4% body fat and dehydrated, over trained and exhausted and having spent the last 12 weeks training, cardio, dieting, posing, tanning and basically pushing my body to its limits!! I had friends, family and gym members come to watch me and I felt that I was in the best shape of my life, thus far (and looking back, I was lacking in terms of muscular development but had a nice shape, great conditioning and a good routine; however, on stripping down in the pump up area the head NABBA guy at the time came up to me and said ‘So, you’re the guy who competed out of his area show then?’; I knew then it wasn’t going to be my day!! No top 6 for me that day, Still, I got great feedback and especially from my peers and top guys which made me feel at least I belonged at that level despite a low top ten placing. I was happy but determined that never again would I be subject to the whims and politics of an insecure person or organisation (I know things have changed since those days so it’s no reflection on today’s organisation). To do so, I would have the ensure that there was no possible chance that anyone could use any excuse to mark me down; I was going to have to come in so dominant, so good that they could not ignore me and could not overlook me. And for that, I knew that I had to implement the plan I had devised to get me to the next level and beyond….I needed to be around Dorian Yates and if there was any possibility, to train with him; the question was, how to do so!! In fact it was Dorian who gave me some advise later one about how to react to a bad call or to politics by the judges; he simply said, “Be so damn good that they CANT ignore you.” Well, that was what I was going to do.
That evening, I celebrated with my girlfriend, friends and her family and then returned to a her mothers house near in Telford, near Birmingham the following day to rest and chill out and recover and I also had something else in mind…..to visit Temple Gym.
However, that night, the new protocol that Paul Borresson had helped me use really hit home…..I didn’t cramp nor feel ill but I slept for 24 hours solid! I was dehydrated, severely and was drifting in and out of consciousness during the following day and just falling back into sleep after being given some re-hydration formula to ensure even though I was sleeping, my body was slowly recovering. When I finally awoke, I couldn’t believe it was 24 hours later; never again would I take advice from anyone but someone I trusted implicitly and who I knew did things the way I wanted to do things, old school and safe!
A Plan for the Future
That day, I decided to write down my plan of action to take me to the next level; I visualised in crystal clarity exactly how I wanted my body to look like and I committed to myself that I would dedicate whatever it took to get there, the work, the sacrifice, the emotional sacrifices, the financial sacrifices, the forsaking of instant gratification for the long term goal I had made a ‘must’ to have.
It was time to leave the past behind and focus on my future; on where I knew I had to give everything I had, but also try and maintain some semblance of balance in my relationships and work but my main focus was on improvement, a big improvement.”Leave the past behind, let the grand design take care of the future, and instead only rightly guide the present to reverence and justice . Reverence so that you’ll love what you’ve been allotted, for nature brought you both to each other. Justice so that you’ll speak the truth freely and without evasion, and so that you’ll act only as the law and value of things require.’
The first step was to go along to Temple Gym and try and meet the man who had just become Mr Olympia, The Shadow…..Dorian Yates. And so I drove down to Birmingham the very next day at the time I knew he usually trained in the hope that he would be there; what I was going to do if he was there, I wasn’t sure, but going there I was! And that episode friends, you’ve already heard in a previous post.
Now before I leave you this week; I think it’s time to present the scene with regards to my personal life during this time, as I said during my extra post series on relationships, I have never been one to enter into any short-term , meaningless relationship or one night stand; and for you young guys out there and the guys on gear with four or five times the normal amount of testosterone flowing through your blood, yes, In do understand that during cycles and just naturally sometimes, your hormones can have a powerful impact on what you ‘feel’ like doing as opposed to what you know you should or should not be doing. My answer, as it was to my own experiences of feeling that way (you know where even small land mammals start looking appealing!!!! I’m only joking but truly I know how difficult it can be not to follow what everyone ese is doing , or to just go ahead because well, both of you are two consenting adults……but….NO! These are exactly the times that tells you and everyone around you exactly what type of boy or man you are. Are you at the mercy of your emotions? Or does your reason and commitment to your character instead of being pulled towards base emotions instead keep you grounded and form in your standing of being that noble, virtuous, honest man of high integrity that you know will be the difference of you achieving your purpose or fail in the deeds of countless unnameable men throughout history who never achieved their true life’s purpose because they were slaves to their emotions.
Remember the greatest of Roman Emporers Marcus Aurelius, the man who could have had any temptation his whims desired but instead chose to live a frugal life serving his fellow men and women of Rome to ensure his name echoed throughout eternity for the righteous, virtuous, honest, noble and great man that he was. The only difference is that he choose to live nobly, to choose reason over emotion and to choose greatness instead of being ordinary.
As Aurelius himself said, “Remember that your ruling reason becomes unconquerable when it rallies and relies on itself, so that it won’t do anything contrary to its own will, even if its position is irrational. Therefore, the mind freed from passions is an impenetrable fortress – a person has no more secure place of refuge for all time.”
Now, I’ve made mistakes but never with anything but kindliness within my heart, never without thinking I was trying to help someone (but as I said in the relationships video) there is no use in trying to become the white knight if it only causes your own death by the flames of your own dragons; but, do everything you can to remain virtuous and noble and people will remember you; be a man or woman of integrity and again your name will be remembered when others are mere dust and bones. Go out and pursue your purpose but never lose sight of your ruling principle; your reason. In a future post I will tell the story of how I met, got to know and then became be-trothed to my wife of over 25 years. It’s a tale of a real relationship with its highs and its lows but ultimately one of togetherness and with plenty of mistakes and a few lessons in there, lots of growing, travelling the world and of someone who was prepared to follow me no matter where I felt my purpose was taking me, it may give you hope yet! , hopefully it may help you in working out some places where not to go wrong and also some ideas where you can go right as well.
Friends, I hope that you enjoyed another tale of my bodybuilding past; until next week, stay strong, get stronger, get smarter, get better and do it all with integrity, honesty and virtue and you will find life reaps its rewards your way. Struggle and misfortune are part of life and can hit you when you have done nothing wrong, life is malevolent like that at times, it is the light and the dark but as long as you hav e those three reps up your sleeve then you will grow, you will surpass the hurdles and you will become greater….so always remember and get those three more reps that are inside of you, always. 3 more reps, lad or lass!