The New York Metropolitan Bodybuilding Championships has become of the preeminent amateur bodybuilding competitions on the circuit. Each year thousands of fans, and competitors from across the country flock en mass to the city hoping to catch a glimpse of, or possibly become, the next big thing to hit the bodybuilding scene. Last year we saw the emergence of a future superstar when Alana Shipp walked onstage and took the air out of building as she displayed her stunning combination of shape, symmetry, and muscularity on her way to claiming the overall title. With this year’s competition just a few weeks away a long list of hopefuls is making their final preparations as they work to start their own legacy by etching their name in the record books. Among those hopefuls is heavyweight competitor Mike Pence, who is entering the show as a relative unknown, but plan’s on leaving fans something to remember once he walks offstage. I recently got a chance to catch up Mike as he prepares to enter the final stages of his prep, and you can catch all of the details right here in this IronAffinity exclusive interview.
Q.) Before we talk about your current contest prep, let’s take a look back at life before bodybuilding. Prior to entering into the sport, did you have an athletic background?
A.) Yes! I was athletic my whole life and always into sports. I started out at 6 years old playing football and baseball in youth organizations and continued to play all the way into my high school teams. Football and baseball showed me a lot about discipline, dedication and preparation not only in the sport but in life also. The old saying how practice makes perfect is the truth when it comes to game day!
Q.) When were you first introduced to weight training?
A.)I was first introduced to weight training by my dad when I was in 8th grade. I was one the youngest and smallest in my grade at the time and in the sports I played, but still managed to excel. I was always telling my dad how I wished I was taller, or bigger to size up with the older kids so he bought me a Bowflex when they first came out. It was great at the time because I didn’t need him or anybody there to spot me like you need with free weights. I could just hop on the equipment and start lifting. I had a poster on the wall that came with the Bowflex and I would do the exercises on the poster. At times my dad would workout with me and show me some other things that weren’t on the poster too.
Q.) How did you first discover bodybuilding?
A.) I was a Fullback and Middle Linebacker on my high school football team and at the end of the season I tore the labrum in my left shoulder. I still played the rest of season, but just had a special wrap around my shoulder to prevent me from maneuvering it certain ways. When the season was over I had surgery and the surgeon said that it was torn severely and I may not be able to play college sports or lift heavy objects over my head again. I was pretty devastated hearing that since the last twelve years of my life I played football and baseball. But I am the type of person you can’t say “it won’t be done, or that’s impossible, or you won’t ever be able to.” After I had surgery and went through my rehabilitation, my physical therapist said to continue with the exercises he showed me and I will build my strength back slowly. With that said, I did, and got back to my Bowflex and some free weights I had, and built some strength back. After getting to a point where I was stronger and wanted to use more equipment and weights, I joined a local gym and proceeded to get stronger and build size.
Q.) What made you decide to step onstage for the first time and enter the world of competitive bodybuilding?
A.) After joining a local gym I was gaining strength and good size for the age I was. There were other gym members that I became friends with that would always encourage me to enter into a “fitness competition” because of my size and physique I gained at a young age. I would watch all the “bigger guys” at the gym and ask them questions about how to build this or that muscle bigger and stronger. I would go to the local GNC store to buy all the newest supplements, protein, and creatine that came out. I was there so much that the girl behind the counter knew me by first name…lol!
After hearing my friends and gym members tell me I should do a competition I linked up with a guy that had done some competitions and asked him for guidance to enter my first bodybuilding show. It was the 2008 NPC Lehigh Valley Bodybuilding Championships where I took 5th place in the Junior division. I was very excited because the top 5 received trophies.
Q.) Looking back, what’s the first thing that you remember feeling when you walked off stage for the first time?
A.) Looking back I remember looking out into the crowd, showing them the artwork I created on my body and thinking how hard I worked. Dieting, training, all the cardio, all the dedication and devotion towards the sport for one day. It’s a different sport than playing baseball or football where you have a game every week. In bodybuilding you train 15-20 weeks for one day. You put all your dedication, determination, and motivation into one day. Some would say that seems kind of strange for somebody to work 20 weeks for just one day, but it’s no different than the Olympics? Some athletes train for 4 years just to have their moment during one week.
Q.) The bodybuilding lifestyle is one of great reward, but also one of great sacrifice. What would you say was the most difficult aspect of the sport when you first began?
A.) The most difficult aspect when I first began was being intimated by all the bigger guys. I didn’t know what to expect entering into my first show. Looking around seeing all these huge guys made me feel so little, like I didn’t even lift bro! It showed me that there is a lot of other guys out there training just as hard or harder, not missing days or meals, or cardio time. It made me realize what I had to do and the dedication that I need for the sport to reach goals.
Q.) Away from the stage you orchestrate a delicate balancing act between family, work, and dedicating the necessary time for the gym. How do you manage to maintain the balance between life and bodybuilding?
A.) For work, I am a Forman of a Solid Surface fabrication business. I work between 9-10 hours every day and my wife and I have a 13 month old daughter. In the offseason balancing gym time is no problem because I need only 4 days a week train. I would go to the gym every other day and switch off with my wife because she works out also. With prepping for a show it gets tough because it takes seven days a week in the gym. Days that I go the same as my wife we ask a family member to watch our daughter for the hour or two that one of us needs.
Q.) You’re currently prepping for the New York Metropolitan Championships, a show that has produced a number of exceptional bodybuilders including 2012 NPC Nationals Heavyweight runner-up and current IFBB Pro Anthoneil Champagnie. What made you decide to jump into this show?
A.) I know this is a very big show and I love a challenge of high level competition. It’s been three years since I stepped on stage last and with all of the training, dedication, commitment and intensity I bring, I’d like to be that “closet freak” that nobody knows about who comes out and keeps up with the big name people. I get motivation by these big name guys and strive to have a physique like them.
Q.) What would you say is the most valuable lesson bodybuilding has taught you?
A.) The most valuable lesson that bodybuilding taught me was to NEVER give up on yourself or your goals. A person needs dedication, motivation, commitment, and devotion to any goal they have no matter what it may be. Nothing is free and nothing is handed to you. You have to work hard for anything you want in life.
Q.) Who would you like to thank for helping you reach this point?
A.) I would like to thank my coaches from the Bodies by GForce team – IFBB Pro Dan Hawtin and Glen Nowland – for the preparation regimen for this show. These guys have been in the industry a long time and have a lot of knowledge when it comes to dieting, strength training, and body transformations. I would also like to give a big thanks to my training partner Tyler Herz. He has helped push me through every workout and even came in to push me on his off days because he knew I was in there training. He always pushes me do more weight and more reps than previous workouts like a real training partner is supposed to. I want to thank Gary Benensky for fulfilling my deep tissue muscle therapy needs every two weeks. I also want thank him for our great talks about training and life since he was an ambassador of the power lifting sport in the 80’s. And of course I would like to thank my family and close friends for understanding the dedication, time and commitment I put into this sport and seeing the results I achieve from it.
Q.)if someone would like to get in contact with you, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
A.) Best way to reach me would be:Email Blast3434@aol.com Facebook Mike Pence instagram @mike_pence113
To quote New York native, business mogul, and great American philosopher Jay – “I’m far from a Harvard student, I just had the balls to do it.” Only history will tell if Mike walks away from New York with his name etched into skyline underneath the bright lights. But if he plans to make history and have his iron dreams come true by following the trail blazed by the greats that came before him he’ll need a relentless determination to tackle the controlled chaos that we call bodybuilding – he’ll have to be far from a Harvard student…