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Bodybuilding a way of life for Stemen PDF Print E-mail
Friday, January 11, 2013 1:48 PM

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DELPHOS — Getting in shape is probably the most common goal among adults, not only for New Year’s resolutions but throughout the year as well. Unfortunately, it’s also the goal that most commonly goes unachieved because despite good intentions, motivation to exercise often wanes and dietary sabotage abounds. It is a very rare person who can look at a donut or a bag of chips and say “no” time and time again.
Delphos native Don Stemen, 25, has become one of these rare people. Since breaking into the world of bodybuilding, fitness has become more than just a goal or a hobby to him. It defines how he lives his life.
“I hadn’t thought seriously about bodybuilding until my friend Cody Jones put a bug in my ear about it,” Stemen said. “I was already putting in the gym time at Peak Wellness but I didn’t really start training until about 8-10 months ago after I found a show I wanted to train for. That was when I started to adopt the lifestyle.”

Part of the lifestyle is changing what you eat. Stemen says eating right is a choice he has to make to be successful in bodybuilding.
“Food intake has to be regulated, specifically to include high protein and low carbs,” he said. “The carbs you do eat have to be from fibrous sources, like brown rice. I eat every 3-4 hours and everything is portioned out.

“Sure, it would be nice to have a slice of pizza occasionally but cutting that stuff out is worth the progress,” he went on. “Anywhere you go, there’s bad food and alcohol but that can’t be an excuse to slip. I’ve cut all of that out and to be honest, I don’t miss it.”

The mental picture most commonly associated with bodybuilding is that of an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type grimacing as he hefts huge amounts of weight piled on either end of a skinny bar. Stemen says there’s more to it than just showing how much you can lift.

“Bodybuilding shows aren’t about heavy weight lifting, it’s about focusing on a muscle group and developing that. Your goal is to be bigger and more defined than everyone else,” he said. “You do a posing routine where you hold flex poses. Every pose has to be a maximum effort to make that muscle group pop the best way. You also need to take the lighting into account and manipulate it to show the judges your absolute best.

“There is a lifting routine, too, but they’re very clear about there being no ‘ego lifting,’ which is where you go in and pick up the heaviest weight you can lift and max out your reps with bad form. You have to stick with weights that you can lift in a controlled way.”

Stemen says that bodybuilding itself can feel like a full-time job. Considering he already works a full-time job and coaches wrestling every day, he has his stressful moments.

“It can be stressful, just working so hard at it. Sleep is important but I don’t always get the 8 hours I want,” he said. “Nothing makes me want to quit but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t hard days.”

On those hard days, Stemen focuses on the progress he’s made to keep himself going.

“My main motivation is just seeing how far I’ve come and the progression in my body,” Stemen said. “I like seeing what boundaries I can push. The challenge in bodybuilding is against yourself, at the end of the day the only person you’re battling is you. It’s changed me a lot. Many other things get put on the back burner. To get where I want to be I have to be that guy, the guy that doesn’t put things off until tomorrow, who doesn’t cheat.”

A lot of Stemen’s drive stems from having spent time overseas in the Army Reserves. After being injured and then returning home, he experienced feelings of purposelessness, something many veterans face after service.

“I needed a change in my life. For a while I was just partying and drinking a lot,” Stemen said. “Having gained weight and having been unhappy, just eating what I wanted and doing what I wanted to make myself feel better, it felt really amazing when I was able to turn that around. I needed to focus on making myself happy and then weeding out those in my life who didn’t support me.”

He has a lot of support now.

“My parents are very supportive. I think my dad thought I was an idiot at first, with the bodybuilding, but then he saw the progress I was making with it,” he continued. “My girlfriend Alana is also really supportive. I have to thank her because she cooks my meals and apportions everything out and then does the dishes afterward.”

Stemen says he hopes to continue his present course and encourages others to set goals of their own.

“I want to get my pro card. Long-term, my goal is to continue setting small goals and reaching them,” he said. “I’d like to inspire others, not necessarily to get into bodybuilding but to try something new. I’m no expert, I’ve just barely cracked the edge but one thing I do know is there really is no limit to what you can do. If you want to do something, do your own research and get started. Even if your plan isn’t perfect, you just need a starting point. You can always fix it along the way.”

Stemen is set to compete in the NPC Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Physique, Figure and Bikini Championships in Lakewood on April 6.


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