Getting a body with every muscle defined is not an overnight accomplishment. One doesn't simply go to sleep one night and wake up with a chiseled body fit to win a national competition.
Mark Bacon, facility director at Craig Fitness Center, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, has worked for decades on making his body a work of art. He reached the pinnacle of his competitive career by earning his professional status around 2015.
Bacon came to Fort Riley following his retirement from 20 years on the Kansas Highway Patrol, which he described as his dream job. Now, he is in his dream retirement job, he said.
Retirement hasn't slowed his passion for bodybuilding. He admits that at age 55 he is at the upper range of most competitors and makes no secret that being a competitive bodybuilder is not a part-time hobby.
"It is very hard," he said. "And it takes tolls on other areas of your life. I won't deny that. Because it is so regimented there are things that you just can't do, especially during the competitive season. Everybody wants to go out to eat, I can't do that. You can, but how many people want to sit around and watch you not eat."
Even when he was a trooper, he brought his meals with him. Sometimes after missions ,he would join his coworkers, but always had to have permission to bring his own meals into a restaurant.
It has gotten easier since he took his current position because he has a more set routine. When he was with KHP he was a member of the SWAT and Tactical Team. There would be times he would be called away on a case for a couple days, which interfered with his routine.
His start in weight lifting came from his seventh-grade wrestling coach. He lifted throughout high school and college and in 1993 started taking it seriously.
"I worked out with a bunch of guys that always talked about competing and never did," he said. "I told myself I'm going to do it one time, just to check that off the list. I competed one time and I was really successful. So, I thought, 'hey, I might have something here.'"
In his first show, he won his weight class, overall, most muscular and the best quad awards.
With a rousing success under his belt, he hit the gym again and kept learning and kept competing.
He recalled going into that first competition feeling like he wasn't going to rank up against some of the other bodybuilders who were there.
"Even today, I still -- I feel like I'm underclass, I always feel that way," he said. "I try and be confident but it's hard. Even the year I won nationals, I won my weight class and there were probably almost 40 in that class. And then I won the overall, which included all winners of all weight classes. I probably beat out 130 people for the overall. But you look around and think 'there's no way.'"
When the winners were announced that day, they called the runner up's name first and it was a heavyweight. Bacon was competing in light heavyweight and was sure the competitor in the super heavyweight class had it.
Even with so many successes tucked away, he said mentality is always on the less-confident side. Part of the reason for that could be that the bodybuilding doesn't come easy for him.
"I've always been really competitive, but I am not gifted in that realm whatsoever," he said. "There's some guys that are just gifted that don't have to work as hard. I like to prove that even someone like me can be successful in that realm."
RETURNING TO THE ROUTINE
Bacon is eyeing a couple of competitions toward the end of this year and will return to his routine and training about 16 weeks out. Even when he is not in competition mode, he sticks to a strict regimen but allows himself a little more flexibility.
His normal routine starts with waking up at 4:30 a.m. and doing cardio before work.
"I like to walk mostly," he said. "But I do it in a fasted state with no food in my stomach, because I feel like that's more effective. There's no calories in your body to draw from. I feel like your body converts over to drawing stored fuel faster time. There's scientific fact on both sides saying yes, it's effective. No, it's not effective. But my body just responds better that way. So, basically what I do is fasting cardio."
By working in a gym when Bacon takes his breaks, he can use the equipment and work out. He averages a one-hour work out a day.
"I feel like you can either work out long or you can work out hard," he said. "You can't do both. So, I'm under the theory of I'm going to go in there and I'm going to work hard and get done."
He also eats six or seven times a day -- every two to 2 1/2 hours. A typical breakfast is usually egg whites, protein powder, oatmeal and something like blueberries.
The other meals will consist of things like nine ounces of chicken and a cup of rice, nine ounces of white fish and sweet potato or steak and vegetables.
During competition time, he stays to the routine. The rest of the year he'll ease up a bit.
"Every Saturday, I eat a meal of whatever I want," he said. "I like tacos, the wife makes really good meat loaf."
When competition season rolls around, the biggest change he makes is increasing the cardio routines to two or three times a day to help release body fat.
RETIRING FROM COMPETITION
He knows he'll retire from competition before too long, but he still has at least one more good season in him.
When he does retire, he said he'll be turning his attention to his wife, Amanda's, bodybuilding aspirations.
"I've been fortunate," he said. "I have a wife who really supports me and encourages what I do. She's actually my training partner."
Although she hasn't started competing yet, she trains in the style of a competitor and when the focus is off of his competitive career, they'll start concentrating on hers.
ADVISING NEW BODYBUILDERS
It's not uncommon for the ego to compete with the muscles.
"Don't worry about what people think -- do within your wheelhouse," he said. "Work the muscle effectively, you're going to get much better results."
He preaches to Soldiers and others interested that they have to train smart and know the difference between training for bodybuilding versus power lifting. And, to remember bodybuilding is multifaceted.
"You have to be on point on your diet," he said. "You have to do cardio just to get to the lean the level that is required at that level. And then good proper training." #FitFirst