What is the Appeal of Bodybuilding?… season 1

Tom Becka: Hello welcome to another episode of TomBecka.com, where everyone is exceptional. Still battling a little bit of a cold here, so my voice is not in a hundred percent great shape. Then again, my body’s not in a hundred percent great shape, which brings me to my guest today, Matt Jackson is a body builder.

When I met Matt — nice guy — but I’m thinking, “Matt, what have I got in common with some big, old meat-head body?”

But, I thought, I might be able find out just what makes somebody go and do what he does. What is the motivation? What inspires him? And as the conversation went on, I realized he ain’t no meat-head. He’s a dedicated competitor who firmly believes in what he does. I found it very interesting, but I had to start out by finding out just how would he define himself.

Are you a bodybuilder? A weightlifter? Or what?

Matt Jackson: Natural bodybuilder.

Tom: A natural bodybuilder?

Matt: Yes.

Tom: That’s just a way of saying no steroids?

Matt: Yes, that means that every show I compete in, I am polygraphed and then I’m also drug tested. If I place within the top three, I’m immediately off-stage and take a urine test. The polygraph is almost like a deterrent. There’s been people that fail them, but the drug test, it is what it is. You can’t get by a urine test. Or hopefully you can’t. It levels the playing field.

Tom: I don’t just automatically assume that every competition was either, “Yeah, do all the steroids you want,” or, every competition would be no steroids whatsoever. There really is a distinction between natural bodybuilding and the others?

Matt: A pretty big distinction, I think. I mean, there’s natural federations. I’ve competed in the NANBF, which is one of them. It’s got a good Midwest presence. There’s also difference ones, like the NPC or the IFBB. They don’t have any drug testing, and it’s almost like it’s not right, it’s a sport. Just like Major League Baseball, NFL, but they don’t test, and that’s the difference. We do urine tests and the polygraph before the show.

Tom: Which of the two organizations has the most numbers?

Matt: I would say the IFBB. They’re the biggest one in the world…

Tom: Which is what? That’s the one with…

Matt: The Mr. Olympia contest held out in Las Vegas.

Tom: That’s one that don’t do drug test?

Matt: They do not drug test. That’s your big boy. I went out to see it two years ago and it was awesome. Great show. Those guys, they’re not drug tested. They’re not asked about it very often and I don’t think they give many interviews on it either.

Tom: Just yeah, whatever.

Matt: Completely different ball game. Still really cool.

Tom: I want to get back to that a little later on, but I want to talk a little bit about how you got into this in the first place? First of all, you can tell, looking at me, I am not a body builder. Although I know that when I go to the gym, I feel better afterwards, for some reason in my mind, I can’t even…I find any excuse I can find not to go to the gym.

What is it that brings you not only to the gym, but just you’re compulsive about it?

Matt: It goes back to when I was about 18. I realize that I enjoyed it. I had seen the magazines and looked at men, those guys. The women too are just awesome. I got into it. Then you have to love to lift weights and go to the gym in order to be a bodybuilder. That’s given.

On any given day, I don’t feel quite right if I don’t get my workout. It’s lifting weights. With Cardio, that’s a whole different thing. You’ll never see me out running on sidewalks, unless somebody is chasing me. Lifting weights is almost like a release. I get an hour, hour and 15, hour and a half to just do my thing. I plug in my headphones. I train with my wife on the weekends. Other than that, we don’t even talk when we train.

It’s a release. It’s a good hour and a half without the kids. Unfortunately, my job is what…I’m in the business, but it’s my sanctuary. Everyday, if possible, to go do that. It’s not I get this over with, I thoroughly love it.

Tom: This is something that you’ve had since a young age.

Matt: My girlfriend’s brothers, big giant dudes, back when I was 18, take me to the gym. I was a small guy, 135 pounds, soaking wet.

Tom: You were the guy that got sad and kicked in this place magazines you’re talking about.

Matt: Exactly. They took me to the gym at age 18, senior high school, and I have been lifting ever since. Those two guys, they really changed the way I looked at everything. They took me to their wing, taught me how to do it. Then I had a coach in Lincoln, got in a power lifting in the early 2000s and that’s same deal, always drug-tested.

It’s something that once I started doing it, I didn’t want to stop at all.

Tom: Were you an athlete in school? You didn’t play football?

Matt: Yeah, I play football for a couple of years. Then in college, I played rugby, a lot of rugby. I know the weight lifting helped that. It was something I did for about three years. It was taxing on the body, shoulders, hem strings. I was an athlete, played sports all my life.

Tom: There’s a certain type of weight lifting that you do if you just want to get in shape and muscle tone and things like that. As a different regimen, is there not if you want to be competing in muscle building competitions, right?

Matt: I don’t think so.

Tom: No?

Matt: You and I could go workout together and do the same workout. We’re not going to lift…

Tom: That is not going to happen.

Matt: We may not lift the same weights, but I wouldn’t tell you to do any different exercises than what I’m going to do. Our ten-set levels may be a little bit different. Our mindsets be a little bit different but we are not going to do any different exercises. We’re going to stick to the basics.

Tom: When you talked about your love of this thing and everything, how do you instill…and then again I wish I enjoyed it more. I enjoy golf. I enjoy physical activity…

Matt: I hate golf.

Tom: You hate golf?

Matt: I hate golf.

Tom: But I don’t enjoy the idea of going to a gym, whether it be lifting weights or whether it be Cardio and that, it’s just I do it sometimes because I know I have to. But I don’t do because I want to.

Matt: But you do the radio show because you love to. You do the podcasts cause you love to.

Tom: Yeah.

Matt: Same thing with me. It’s your passion. You just mean I had…

Tom: It’s just who you are.

Matt: You may not have a passion for lifting weights and exercising but you feel it’s something you need to do to hopefully extend your life. Stay off of medications, whatever. But you and I are sitting here in the evening because you love it and I get to talk about something I love too. If you love going to the gym, you probably wouldn’t be sitting here, right? So it’s what you are passionate about and this just happens to be mine.

Tom: I love talking to people through their passion, though. It don’t matter what it is about because you’re right, everybody has a passion of some sort. Every you is when you…I remember the first time I walked into a radio station, I was about 18. I was in first year of college, walked into the campus radio station and then was like, “Oh, I’m home.” And you felt the same way the first time you started working out of the gym.

Matt: Yup. I lifted at home. My dad’s exercised all his life. He had a way to put me in the basement when I first walked into the gym with those two guys. They still live here in Omaha. I remember, “This is fun.” Because I knew instantly I felt better. And I was working towards this something that I wanted to look like. I had that in my mind and I knew that’s what was going to get me there.

Tom: Was also camaraderie of just…or you guys or in the gym working out?

Matt: Yeah. That’s still to this day. Go work out. Even this afternoon, when I was training, there’s a group of people you see all the time and you get to be acquaintances and then eventually friends. Some of the best friends I have are weightlifters. They are body-builders that, should say, that don’t live in Omaha.

They live all across the country and we have this common passion and we stay in contact with each other, text on the holidays and when Spring and Fall shows come around and we see each other. It’s like a big family reunion. It’s a blast. We don’t get to see each other as much but again we share that same…we feel home. Especially when we get to a show.

Tom: The impression I get, and it’s an image I have, and it is not necessarily based on fact, but just so, an image that I have are that guys like you tend to look down on the average citizen that isn’t into body-building, that isn’t into the same way you are. Maybe some of them might workout a little bit or is not in shape, that you’ve really got a superiority complex over guys like that.

Matt: Not at all. Last night, actually for an example, friend of mine, went to high school with him, like you said normal guy, had sent me an email saying — he follows me on Facebook and we’re friends on Facebook — and he said, “The stuff that you post and what you’re doing is been an inspiration to me”. He has lost 20 pounds off some medications. That actually inspired me.

I look up to that because it may not be something he likes to do, but he knows he wants to be in better shape for whatever his passions are. So I actually, on the contrary, I think it’s great when I see the 300 pound guy that you would think has no business being in a gym, and he is on the treadmill plugging away, or he’s lifting weight, he’s doing the best he can because of something that’s going on.

That motivates me. Or there’s a competitor here that’s an amputee, she’s got one leg. She’s up on stage November and I’m judging the show. I’m like, “I got to talk to her.”

There’s something about her that’s just cool. People give reasons they can’t do something, she got one leg and she’s got a medication pump in her and she’s out there kicking butt every day and gets on the stage, doesn’t care what people say, she just does it. So I think that’s different. I actually look up to those people.

Tom: Is there a common thread between people like you? In other words, you know…

Matt: That were insane. No, I mean…

Tom: I didn’t want to say that because you could beat the crap out of me, so I didn’t want to say it but…

Matt: Yes, there is. And the common thread is that the it’s not the one…we talk about the gym quite a bit . It’s not the one to two hours we spend in the gym as body-builders. It’s the other 22 to 23 hours in the day. That dedication is the, I think, the mental part of it.

Not everybody wants to prepare six, seven, eight meals for the day, carry their food, potentially skip an outing, not eat barbecue in the summer, whatever it is. There’s a lot of dedication there, I think there’s maybe a few screws loose.

Tom: But for you to compete, I imagine you do have to make sacrifices. If friends are all getting together to watch the game, having pizza and eating doritos, you don’t.

Matt: Yeah. This is the first time in four years, right now, that I am not prepping for a show. Because my preps, my last one was 29 weeks, basically six months. Over six months of making some of those sacrifices, but I had a goal in mind and I had to do my best, because I’m not going to let myself down. So this is the first time I may actually grab a beer when I get home.

There are times I have missed out on things, but I’ve learned as I have gone through a couple of years now, that I can still be present, I can still take part in whatever they’re doing. I may not eat the same foods, but I’m still going to be able to interact, have a good time. That’s something that I had to learn. When I first got into this, I was a hermit.

That’s not the way to live a life, you have to find a balance. That’s what I think, first time, second time competitors, they may not understand. You don’t shut your whole life off, this should make you better, not worse. You should be a better father, a better husband, a better wife, whatever.

It shouldn’t be the opposite, it should make you better, because of setting a goal, showing the discipline, doing those types of things. You don’t have to shut yourself off from all society, which people think we’re dumb meat-heads. There’s a lot of different, cops, attorneys, nurses, so, smart people. Just may have a few…

Tom: So you are not dumb meat-heads?

Matt: No. Well, some of us, yeah. My nickname is meat, and that’s because one of my businesses is meat. But yeah, I think there’s dumb meat-heads out there, for the most part, the best people, and some of the most smartest people I have met, are bodybuilders. Mostly women, because women are smarter than men anyway.

Some of the most intelligent people, teachers, nurses, physicians, it’s amazing, all different walks of life. It’s not just trainers that are competing, college students, a guy — I don’t wanna name-drop, but his name’s Ryan Doris. He is going for his masters, I believe, young kid. One of the best bodybuilders out there, and he looks, the guy is amazing.

First time I saw him, I was in awe and I was on stage with him, terrified. But he is over the top intelligent. So, dumb meat-heads, there are quite a few of them, but on the other hand, I’ve met some of the most intelligent people as bodybuilders.

Tom: You are not in training for a show now.

Matt: Right.

Tom: Why? You just figured out, you have been doing it for four years, take a break, or…?

Matt: I needed to pull back from it, I just launched my new company. That was one thing. I am able to stay around the sport, because I judge quite a few shows, and I promote a show here, [indecipherable 13:13] Heartland Classics, which is in May. I was able to pull back from that, my wife and I, neither was competing this year, although she probably should. She’s the best athlete in our house, she’s the best bodybuilder in our home.

Neither of us is going to compete this year, I just wanted to pull back and not have to worry about, “What if I miss a meal?” Or, “I don’t have my meals packed for tomorrow, I’d have to go home and prep till eleven o’clock tonight.” I just don’t want the stress, so I’m going to take some time off, keep a little weight on, grow hopefully a little bit over the next year or so and maybe compete 2015.

Tom: Is there an age limit? I mean, can you do this forever?

Matt: I think so. As long as you are living, I had a thirteen-year-old compete in my show last year. Thirteen-year-old girl, did really well. I think the oldest competitor in my show last year was actually my dad, 62, so there’s quite a range.

Tom: But are there age-brackets?

Matt: For sure.

Tom: In other words, the sixty-two-year-old is not competing with the thirteen-year-old, or competing with you, or anything else?

Matt: No, the classes in our organization broken up by height, so if you and I are the same height, we’d compete against each other and then also age. So there’d be a 35-plus, 40-plus, 50-plus and a 60-plus. Then it’s all broken up by height.

Tom: Then under six-foot, over six-foot, whatever.

Matt: Right.

Tom: How many people show up at these shows? How big of a subculture is this?

Matt: Competitors, or attendees, or both?

Tom: Both.

Matt: For example, last year, at the show that I promoted in May, we hat 92 competitors and the capacity of the facility that was at, was 777, I remember that number. I sold fifteen hundred tickets that day. In the parking lot, 72th street, Lucy Park, Junior High. The parking was all the way down to the field, so it was good attendance.

It’s a smaller subculture, but it’s getting bigger. The show that we’re having in May of this year, we had to get a bigger facility, that will seat about fifteen hundred and I will all sell it out and we will have over 130 competitors.

Tom: Who watches that?

Matt: Spouses, friends, family.

Tom: If I go to watch this, and I have seen a little bit on ESPN, is it just guys like you, oiled up, posing. Is that it?

Matt: Guys and girls. There’s bikini now, so it’s even more entertaining, but yeah, there is a morning, kind of a prejudging show where the judges score you against who you are up on stage with. And there is a night show where you give out the awards and people do some, you do your routine and things.

In the morning, essentially, we are tanned, almost painted, the color, the brown of your desk. So you look better on stage. You go through mandatory poses, everybody is doing the same positioning of their body and the judges, they judge you based on how you look against everybody else.

That could take five to 10 minutes, based on the size of that class, then you go off and if that’s your only class, it’s the only time you go on. You could be in multiple classes. But then at night you get your reward.

Tom: They judge of how do you look. Is it the muscle tone or is it the way you pose, the way you smile?

Matt: Symmetry, are your legs too small for your shoulders, symmetry is the first thing you look at as a judge. You want to make sure that everything is proportioned. Then the way it looks, is your tanning spot-on, bodybuilders are like swimmers, we shave our bodies. Make sure the presentation is there, but you look for symmetry, muscularity, the overall package, and then you are judged against everybody else.

I think that’s the hardest part as people are concerned about winning and first and second and third, but in the end you really are just competing to be your best, but there are probably ten other guys up there with you.

Tom: You talked about your wife, she also competes.

Matt: Yeah. She’s a bikini athlete. Bikini would be the least muscular, it’s what you’d see on most magazines. Then there is, for women, a figure, which is more muscular, leaner, you’d start to see the veins, the six-pack. Then there’s women’s bodybuilding. She’s on the bikini side of it.

Tom: Basically, she’s not all popped up or anything, right?

Matt: Not on stage.

Tom: In other words, I’ve seen pictures of some women bodybuilders, who’ve got 32 inch biceps.

Matt: She don’t look like that. Although that would be kinda cool, but no.

Tom: It would be cool?

Matt: It would be cool. I’d love that.

Tom: Really?

Matt: Yeah.

Tom: It takes all kinds. If I had a woman that was that muscular and the big body, really, it wouldn’t do it for me.

Matt: It’s cool, in the fact that I think the dedication for women to do that. To get that big, to where a man would go, “Ooh,” is impressive. Whether you like it or not, it’s still impressive.

Tom: So the dedication is what you…?

Matt: Yeah.

Tom: For you, so much of what you’re talking about is not really physical?

Matt: No. It’s 20 percent physical. The mental part of it is the biggest thing. Some of the best people I’ve met in this sport, we have the same mindset or the same mental approach to not only this, but to life. It’s just full throttle, and you see things through to the end, and you move onto the next project or goal, whatever it is.

I think it’s the mental part is the most…When I compete, the day of the show, other than seeing a bunch of my friends and having fun on stage, isn’t the most fun I have. I have the most fun for those 29 weeks leading up to it. It’s almost like boot camp.

I never was in the military, but I think I would have actually, because I’m a little nuts, liked boot camp. How far can you push yourself without breaking down? Then when you do break down, then what do you do? Do you quit or you keep going?

Tom: You talk about projects. You’ve got a new project. Did you talk about your new business?

Matt: My nickname is “Meat”. My business stands for “Make Everyday A Transformation.” You mentioned the people that never want to compete. They’re everyday lifestyle people. I’m working with both competitors and lifestyle people that just want to get in better shape.

We work on everything from weight training, which is essential, types of different Cardio, and then nutrition, which is huge. Most people they don’t know what to eat, when to eat it. “Should I have this carb? Should I have more fat?” Because there’s so much data out there, they don’t know what’s what.

We try to tailor it to what their goals are and what their history is. I can’t give you a meal plan using my air quotes here, and it’s not going to work for you unless it’s for you. It may work for your neighbor, but it’s not going to work for you. Its got to be specific for the person.

Tom: As somebody, in various times of my life have worked hard to be in better shape and that. You talk to different people and everybody’s got different…It’s either the best food for you or this food is going kill you, and it seems that the average person doesn’t know what to do.

Matt: I was talking to my mom, my moms one of my clients, and she’s not done a lot of exercise lately. She used to be a marathon runner. She has gotten out of it a little bit. I said, “Our first step is going to get you back in the gym, because you’ve got to lift weights. The second step is let’s just take common sense approach to your nutrition. Alcohol to a minimum. One or two times a week.”

Shes retired. She wants to have a couple of cocktails, a glass of wine, but common sense approach. “No fast food. No fried food. Cut out the soda. Just those little things. Once we get that down, then we’ll move on to bigger things. Then we’ll really get more detailed.”

It’s a common sense approach. Fast food isn’t good for you. Fried food isn’t good for you. There’s so many different things you can think about, but for the most part, for everyday type of people, just use common sense and exercise an hour, an hour and a half, if you can, every day. Just move, move your body.

It depends on the person who I’m working with specific for my business. I’ve got competitors that we get really, really detailed. I’ve got other people, who work in their home and don’t do exercise at all.

I have her getting up every 20 minutes, and doing body squats, walking around her house, and then she sits back down. She says she feels better. We’re working on her common sense approach to food. No more sodas. That kind of stuff.

Tom: I find it fascinating. As somebody that has dealt with weight issues my entire life, I find it fascinating, because we talk so much about it. We know that America is getting fatter and fatter, and all that. The more we talk about it, the more we obsess on it, it seems the fatter we get.

Matt: It gets worse doesn’t it?

Tom: Yeah. I almost think sometimes if we didn’t talk about it, just by being natural, we’d end up being healthy.

Matt: Exactly. There is a science to getting to a point where you’re going to get on stage in a little next to nothing bodybuilding thing. On the other hand, like you said, if we don’t talk about it and we just use common sense, I think we’d be better off.

Almost like the hunting and gathering. Is it good for me? Do I have my vegetables? Do I have my fruits? Do I have my lean meats and my good carbohydrates? It really can be that simple. As far as you want to take it, you can make it more complicated.

Tom: Now, you’re talking about being healthy, working out, being a bodybuilder, and being healthy. Yet, as you pointed out, the bigger bodybuilders, not necessarily worrying about their health so much. They’re worrying about their muscle size, right?

What about these guys? They’re the guys that maybe aren’t doing steroids and aren’t doing other sort of enhancement drugs to get to that point. What are they like compared to what guys like you are like?

Matt: I think the mindset has got to be close to the same. There has to be that full throttle attitude. They’ve made a decision, just like I’ve made a decision to stay natural.

Whether they made a decision or not to use performance enhancing drugs, that’s on them. That’s a decision they made, and I can’t judge anybody for that. That was a decision they went to. For a lot of the guys that are at top level, they’re making a living at how they look.

In a sense, I am too, but not in that way. I’m not going to be on the cover of a magazine. Thank gawd. I’m too ugly for that.

Tom: What kind of a living can they make at something like that?

Matt: The top bodybuilders in the world, again we’re only talking maybe 20 or 30 guys here, a million dollars a year. Sponsorships, magazine stuff, supplement companies, they make tons of money.

Tom: Like that guy in the Geico ad. Ever see the bodybuilder?

Matt: Kali Muscle.

Tom: Who is that?

Matt: His name is Kali Muscle. K-A-L-I Muscle. He’s a YouTube sensation. The guy is awesome. He’s a stud. His videos on YouTube are awesome. A perfect example. He’s not one of the guys I would have said that’s in the top 30, but he has taken himself and branded himself and he is making a great living. I enjoy watching his clips. He’s a riot. He used to be in prison.

Tom: Really?

Matt: Yeah. His new book is called…I should send this podcast to him. Maybe I’ll get a little public, it’s called, “From Inmate.” No, what’s it called? I forget the name.

Tom: I’ll Google it. At the end of the podcast, I’ll give the name of the book. You mentioned the prison thing. There are probably a lot of guys in your line of work, in bodybuilding and that, that have got a criminal past, right? Because if you’re in jail, if you’re in prison, not much else going on, “Let’s go work out.”

Matt: If you have weights, yeah. That’s one of the bigger — I don’t call it a “fad”, but prison style training. I don’t even know what that means. I do know this is penitentiary style training. If they don’t have weights, they’ll use whatever is around. I’ll put you on my shoulders and I’ll squat.

So different ways to being creative of how to work out, because some prisons and jails don’t have weights anymore. So they’ll get creative on how to lift weights. The best example on how on how to explain what that is, at least that I’ve heard, is if you and I have an hour to workout, we know we’re going to have an hour tomorrow probably or maybe later on in the day if we don’t get it in.

Those guys have one hour to go do their thing, they ‘re going to bust their butt that whole hour. They’re not going to stop. They’re going to do as many sets and reps as they can. I think that is what it comes down to is that they’re just working harder. That’s why some guys come out of prison just yoked. Tuna is like a commodity in prison, because it’s a protein source. You can trade it.

I never want to be there. I’ll go to my own gym.

Tom: Yeah. I hope I never have to worry about that.

Matt: Yeah, not at all.

Tom: Guys like you, you are making a living now training people, and stuff like that. I would imagine there is probably also a decent living to be made for guys at the intermediate level too, right?

Matt: Yeah.

Tom: Just training and the personal training, that sort of thing?

Matt: Yeah. People ask me what my business model is. For the most part, I have competitors that know how to lift weights. They go to the gym, the same passion as I do. They, for the most part, understand training. We may have to tweak if for them, and I can give them recommendations and kick their butt once a week as they get closer to a show.

On the other hand, not everybody has sat down in their spare time and read about what the body…Conveniently, my wife’s got a degree in dietetics and nutrition, so I ping a lot of things off her. I sat down on Monday, had a question come up I didn’t know the answer to. I sat down on Monday, and read about it for a couple of hours, just because I wanted to learn more.

That’s kind of the next level is people…this was me four years ago. I got into it, and had no idea. I did everything wrong four years ago, everything wrong. Now, I wish I could go back and do it all over again, but I will in 2015. Just keep learning as you go.

I take people that know how to train, have done a show or two maybe, or is thinking about it, and show them how to eat properly and not starve themselves, not get rid of water. They can eat carbs still. They don’t cut sodium. None of that weird stuff that is the common misconceptions is they are going to starve themselves.

I have ladies that I’m training that eat three times the amount of food that you probably do on a daily basis, if they do it right.

Tom: Because they’re burning up the carbs and they exercise?

Matt: They’re burning up the calories, they exercise.

Tom: I remember hearing about how many calories Michael Phelps, when he’s training…

Matt: It was like 8,000. Something like that, bone lean.

Tom: If you’re working it off, it doesn’t matter. So it is diet and exercise. We have all these ways of trying losing weight or look better and all that, but it really does just boil down to the basic diet and exercise, right?

Matt: Diet, exercise, and again, going back to it, mentally. I always ask all my clients, “Tell my what your why is, because your why and my why are going to be different. It just is.” They say, “I want to do a show. It’s on my bucket list.” I say, “Give me more than that. There’s got to be more than that. If it’s to make your ex husband jealous, perfect! It’s a great why. You’re going to be motivated.”

I don’t know what that is, but everyone has their own story. It’s the diet, the exercise, and then to me, I can give all the guidance in the world, but if they don’t follow it, I have to know the reason, what their why is. So if they get off track a little, I bring them back to center and remind them of their why, and usually they’re right back on track.

Tom: How long does the average person work out with you? In other words, New Year’s resolution, “Boy, I’m going to get in shape.” You get all those phone calls saying, “Train me.” How long before they say, “Ah, yeah, I think I’m going to lay on the couch and I’ll call you later.”

Matt: I’ve been doing this full-time just for about three months, but I’ve been doing it part-time for about three years. I took on a client in 2011. She trained with me all of 2011, all of 2012, and then competed in 2013, in May. She just had a baby.

This is a long story, but she just had a baby and whenever she’s able to go back to work and be able to work out, she starts with me again. That will be three going on four years.

Since I’ve been full-time, I’ve not had anybody quit, because I don’t want them to quit. If they quit on me, that’s fine. I don’t want them to quit on themselves. Again, figuring out the why.

If it’s not a good fit, that’s fine. I want them to find somebody else that will help them get to where they want to be, not to fall back in the rut. A lot of times it’s a self esteem issue or they don’t feel good about themselves, because I don’t want anybody to go through life like that.

I’ve been there at 135 pounds, soaking wet, and potentially getting my butt kicked wherever I went. That was my motivation. That was my why. Hopefully, I have a bunch of long-term clients. I know that’s not going to be everybody, but I try to do my best.

Tom: Would you turn down somebody if you didn’t feel their why was legit?

Matt: I turned somebody down today.

Tom: Really?

Matt: Yeah.

Tom: Why?

Matt: It wasn’t a right fit, I think, personality wise. I know that there is no way that I know everything, period. I still go to a prep coach when I go through my competitions. I still have a prep coach. He taught me a lot.

He’s like my mentor and one of my best friends, Brian Ahlstrom is his name. I still go to him, because I need help. I know that, mentally, when I get closer to a show, I can’t do it on my own. I still go to him. There’s no way I can learn everything.

This person today, I knew, no matter what I said, even if I knew deep down her darkest secrets, she wasn’t going to listen. She was almost a know-it-all a little bit.

Even as a start-up business and wanting to take as many as I could, I had to say, “No,” because I just didn’t feel right.

Tom: I want to go back to the shows a little bit, because I asked you a little bit. We didn’t quite get into it too much. I understand guys like you that want to work out, that want to go on and compete and everything, fine. I understand having myself a big urge to compete. I love competition. I understand that.

Who watches these events? In other words, is it just family members that are going to support you? Are there people that just love the physiques? Are they lonely guys looking to see some hot babe in a bikini? Who goes to these events to actually watch them?

Matt: The first show I did I think I had 30 family…I have a huge family. I’ve got like 30 family members up in Des Moines. I didn’t place. I competed terribly, but I had the biggest crowd presence, which was awesome! It made it fun at least for me.

I think you have family, friends, training partners that don’t compete, people you know from the gym. People that are interested in lifting weights and maybe are interesting in competing, but just don’t know a whole lot about it. Family friends, people that are competing in maybe other organizations, or competing later in the year.

You get kind of that maybe guys want to meet women, but no. It’s mostly friends, family, acquaintances, and people that are kind of on the edge about what it’s all about. I say, “Come to the show. Check it out.” If you think you’re going to like it, either you’re going to fall in love with it or you’re going to hate it. There’s really no in-between.

Tom: If I were to go to one of these events and just going to see what it was like, what would I be seeing?

Matt: At the morning type show, you would see competitors going through their own mandatory poses. When they face the judges, they turn to the side. They’d face the rear, and they face the other side. The judge is looking at each competitor, each class, and how they look. You’d see a bunch of people wearing fake tan.

Tom: This sounds like a stupid question. Can they have tattoos?

Matt: Yeah. I’ve got a lot of tattoos.

Tom: I wasn’t sure if they got disqualified for that?

Matt: No, not at all. Depending on the placement, if something is on my shoulder, it maybe effects the way the muscle can look. You can score up and down a little bit. A lot of people now, everybody’s got tattoos. Yeah, you can have them.

Then at the evening part of the show, what you would see is for the most part those same competitors going through some type of presentation, because it’s kind of a show. That’s where most people come and watch.

Bodybuilders do a routine, 30 to 60 seconds of their choice. It’s kind of a free-for-all, whatever they want to do within reason. A lot of people that can dance, they’ll go out and do some entertaining stuff. Women come on and do what’s called a “T Walk.” It’s in the shape of a “T.” They’re able to show their own flavor on what they put together over the last 15, 16, 17 weeks that they dieted.

That’s kind of more the show part of it. There’s an MC that tells when the competitor comes out, announces to the crowd who it is, what they do, if they want to thank anybody. That’s more of a show part, and then they get awards. Usually, first through fifth get a placing or a trophy.

Tom: Have you ever won at one of these shows?

Matt: I have never won a show. That was part of the reason I took this year off too. I know I need to go back and make some improvements on some of my different body parts. I need to work on my legs a little bit. My wife has been kicking my butt in the gym.

No, I’ve never won. The best I did was up in Des Moines last June. June 1st, I got second, but I got second to a guy that is phenomenal. A great competitor. He out posed me. He looked better. Completely happy with losing to him. He’s a great guy too. I got second, and that’s the best I placed.

My wife on the other hand has done…she did a show up in North Fork, won that one. Then three days later, kind of found out she was pregnant. I don’t know if she was pregnant on stage or what happened, but we both competed at that show.

She got pregnant, took awhile off, had the baby. In 12 and a half months, after the baby, came back and won a show down in Liberty, Missouri last year. That’s what I say, she’s better than I am. She just goes to win.

Tom: Did you meet her through bodybuilding schools?

Matt: I met her at a gym in Lincoln. We were in high school, or in college, I’m sorry. We met working out. I was kind of dating a friend, and I realized…

Tom: You dated a friend?

Matt: I did the switch.

Tom: You did a switch?

Matt: I’m the master.

Tom: My gawd! Nobody makes a switch!

Matt: I was dating her friend. She is going to kill me if we put this on the air. I was dating her friend, and I realized, my wife’s name is April, “I like April better than her friend.” I ended up kind of hitching on with her friend.

We trained. We worked out together a lot, and we still do. It’s kind of something that brought us together. I competed two years before she realized, “I think I can do this.” They watch it in their head going, “I look better than that person.” It’s kind of what she did.

She’s like, “I think I want to do this.” She did, and ended up…she works with a different coach. I can’t do her. She has another coach that she works with. Brought her in, and she won her show back in April. We didn’t meet competing. We met lifting weights, but again that was the common bond. We still train together every weekend, Saturday and Sunday.

Tom: What kind of stigma is there on women who are doing this? In other words, it’s socially acceptable I think more so for a guy to be doing this.

Matt: I think it’s becoming more, again, in that subculture maybe, and trying to get out into…That was one of the things I had written down actually is it’s becoming more acceptable I think. Somebody put something on Facebook about, “I wish women would stop saying I don’t want to get big. I don’t want to lift weights, because I’m not going to get big.” It doesn’t happen.

I’m taking a whole year off just to try and improve one of my body parts. I’m a man with higher testosterone than any woman hopefully ever has. You’re not going to get big. I think that’s the biggest thing is women now are realizing, “Hey, I can lift weights, and won’t get big. I’ll actually look a lot better,” if that’s the look you’re going for. I was going to pull up a picture and show you.

You can lift weights, as a woman, and you’re not going to get big. I promise.

Tom: It all depends on what you weigh. How much you’re lifting, repetition, all of that stuff goes into it, right?

Matt: A lot of variables. I can tell you that every Saturday, my wife and I, we go and train chests together. Every Sunday we go and lift legs together. Yes, we’re using different weights just because our strength is a lot different. She, from a percentage of body weight standpoint, is lifting probably pound for pound more than I am.

What’s hard for me is just as hard for her. Yeah, the weights are different, but she is working just as hard with those weights that are hard for her body. She is lifting heavier percentage wise than I am.

A lot of variables, but women can lift as heavy as they can, and generally speaking, will not be the muscular, “unattractive” female that you see in a massive magazine, or the stereotype, right? They won’t be the stereo typical huge female body builder that’s icky.

Tom: As a couple, when you socialize, do you socialize with other bodybuilders primarily? Do you have just friends from all walks of life, or do you tend to hangout with other people that workout at the gym all the time?

Matt: A little bit of both. I’m also a motorcycle, or a Harley fanatic. It’s weird. We’re either with bodybuilding friends or with my motorcycle friends. It’s a little bit of both.

We’ve got some great friendships within this bodybuilding community. The godparents of my youngest two-year old, we met them through the gym. They’re both pro competitive athletes in a different organization here in Omaha, and they’re our best friends.

Yeah. I think, for the most part, we hangout together a lot. When we do have a lot of people around us, yeah, it is. If it’s not our family, which they’re very understanding of this crazy sport that we do, we are with somebody that usually has a life behind it.

Tom: You mentioned your dad is also competing in that. Are other members of your family, are they also into this, or just your dad, and you, and your wife?

Matt: Growing up, my family was active. Both my parents ran marathons when I was younger. I think I learned that just a healthy active way of life from them. My dad has competed I think now three or four times, is going to compete in my show in May, the Heartland. My mom, like I said, she is one of my clients. We’re starting to work on her again.

My brother, he is what I call a “Weightlifter”. He’ll never want to go and diet. He’ll leave the gym. He’s going to kill me. He’s going to go through chipotle. He wants to eat. He’s a big dude.

Tom: He lifts for weight.

Matt: Just for fun.

Tom: To see how much he can press, and all that.

Matt: Yeah, and I do to. At the end of the day, at one time or another, I’m going to diet for a show. He probably never will. He just enjoys going to the gym and lifting weights. The same thing that got me started. I’d like to get him in that spot whenever he’d done being kind of a chubby guy. He’s a big guy. He’s a strong guy. He’s stronger than I am. I’d like to see him do it.

My sister is probably of my siblings, I’ve got a younger brother and a younger sister, my sister is probably the best athlete of all of us. A great track athlete. She used to train with my wife in the mornings, at like 5:00 in the morning, genetically, gifted strong.

I wish I had her genetics. She’s just ridiculous strong. I don’t know where she gets it? I don’t know why I didn’t get any of it? I think we became active or just realized this is the way we need to live, I got that from my parents. Hopefully, I’m passing that down to my kids now.

Tom: Are your kids working out of a gym yet? How old are your kids?

Matt: I’ve got a soon to be nine-year old daughter, and a two-year old. We take our kids to the gym with us, and they go to the cool playroom.

I can’t wait, and I don’t know when it’s going to be when I’ll take my nine-year old to go lift weights with me. She’ll do push-ups and sit-ups. We’ve got a little gym at the house. She’ll jump on the trampoline, and then drop down and do some squats. I think she’s getting it, but, “Hell yeah. I’ll take her to the gym.”

Tom: Does she think it’s cool, mom and dad competing in this sort of thing?

Matt: Yeah. When we’ll go, she’ll come watch us. She knows we’re going to the bodybuilding show. Every time I go to judge one, she’s like, “Are you competing or are you judging? If you’re judging, I’m not going to go. I want to go watch dad.” So, yeah, she gets it. She’s got her favorites that aren’t…

One of my buddy’s in Des Moines, Scott Michaels is his name, he is my daughter’s favorite competitor. “Is Scott Michaels competing?” “What about me? What am I, chopped liver?”

He’s beaten me every time he’s competed against me. She understands. She knows my poses. She loves going through, and she knows the mandatory poses that bodybuilders do. Yeah, I think she gets it, and she likes it.

Tom: Last question here. It’s not really a question, it’s more about giving you an opportunity now to give your best sales pitch to anybody that doesn’t understand the bodybuilding mentality, or doesn’t understand the love of what you do the way that you do.

Your best sales pitch, to try to explain to them the idea of why you would put yourself through all that pressure and deprive yourself of all that stuff just to put on a Speedo and pose for awhile.

Matt: It’s actually smaller than a Speedo, but I think the biggest…I teed that one up for you.

Tom: Yeah, you did.

Matt: I’d answer two things. First if you have any inclination of learning what it’s about, come check out the Harlem Classic, May 17th out at Miller West High School, and also our Facebook page.

What kind of motivates me to go through…29 weeks is essentially a long time to not have pizza, to not go out and do this “normal” activities of society just to see, can I set a goal and reach it?

I think that’s all it comes down to. If I give up on that, I’ve given up on myself, and I can’t do that. I have to be able to follow through with whatever I’ve said. If I said I’m going to do something, my buddy Michael here in Omaha, when I told him I was going to compete after I watched his wife compete back in 2010. “You’ll never do that.”

I was doing it, because he said, “You’re never going to do that. You can’t diet,” because I was like my brother, a big guy. I realized if I’m going to say something, I’m going to follow through and do it.

What would possess me to go through that process and do it is just proving to myself that I can, something I’ve always wanted to do, but never thought I could. I think that was the biggest thing.

I don’t know what it is for other people, that’s just what it was for me. I enjoyed the strategy behind it. I enjoyed the people I met along the way. Social media is huge like we had just talked about earlier before the show. You get to meet all these cool people. They’re going through the same stuff. You get to kind of lean on them as they go through it.

It’s really the mental part, “Can I be strong enough to do this when I have all these outside pressures telling me I can’t, or that one piece of chocolate isn’t going to kill you?” But it may.

Tom: Again, what amazed me is I didn’t expect this from the conversation is, how this is so much more mental than it is physical?

Matt: Yeah. I don’t want to get up. When I’m eight weeks out of a show, really that’s the point where it’s either do or die. I know I have to work my butt off from that point on. I don’t want to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and do Cardio. I just don’t.

But I don’t know what gets me out of bed, you find your why to get out of bed. Then you have to train again later in the day. For the most part, you’re usually doing two a day.

It’s 100 percent mental. Are you going to pack your meals? Are you going to wing it the next day, and potentially go off of your diet plan? It becomes extremely mental, and organization is key. You have to have everything in line.

I think in the end, it makes for like I said a better spouse. It better, because if you do it right, you’re going to be a better spouse, a better parent, a better friend. In the long-run you will, because of the characteristics you’ve gained by going through something like that with yourself, because mentally it’s huge.

The physical part is if you enjoy training and going through that, that’s a set aside. You’re going to continue to do that regardless, but it’s the mental part that’s huge.

Tom: There you have Matt Jackson. His company is called “Make Everyday a Transformation.”

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