TERRE HAUTE —
Clay County resident Brian Boyce figured he had seen the last of his name appearing in the Tribune-Star in February when he resigned from the newsroom staff as a reporter to focus on other endeavors.
By faring so well in amateur bodybuilding competitions in the last year, he has earned extra publicity in the sports section.
Most recently — March 9 on the Evansville Bosse High School auditorium stage — the 37-year-old Boyce placed first in the men’s open welterweight division and first in the men’s novice middleweight division in the National Physique Committee’s (NPC) Southern Indiana Bodybuilding Championships.
In 2012, Boyce made impressive debuts in the muscle-flexing sport by:
n Placing second in the men’s open middleweight division in the drug-tested NPC Natural Indiana Bodybuilding Championships at Indianapolis (April).
n Placing third in the men’s open middleweight division and fourth in the men’s novice middleweight division in the GNC Classic at Anderson (June).
n Placing fourth in the men’s open middleweight division and fourth in the men’s novice middleweight division in the NPC Indianapolis MuscleFest (also in June).
Boyce said he weighed at or near 169 pounds going into those 2012 contests.
“I think I did really well in those, considering it was my first year of competition,” he reflected. “And I learned the aspect of posing is pretty tricky. Posing was very new to me and it’s a workout in itself. … You may be on stage three, four or five times [on competition days].”
Addressing his flaw
Boyce saw potential in himself for bodybuilding last year, but he knew he must improve on one aspect of his presentation if he wanted to improve his placings in 2013.
“I would have placed higher [in 2012] had I posed better,” he admitted. “I was told that by all the judges.”
Boyce compared what he does to a horse show in 4-H.
“The judges are looking for muscle definition, muscle density and overall quality of the build,” he said. “And if you don’t present that correctly, the judges can’t see it. So you have to make sure the judges — there’s usually a panel of six or seven of them — can see you clearly.”
So Boyce dedicated himself to practice, practice, practice on posing — usually with someone else watching to critique his techniques.
“You have to practice with partners and trainers because you have to get away from the mirror,” he insisted. “If you practice in front of a mirror and you get trained to see yourself in the mirror, when you get up on stage all by yourself and you’re looking into a dark audience [instead of a mirror], you have no idea what you look like. You can’t see what you look like.”
Adjusting his habits
Boyce did allow himself to enjoy more traditional eating habits in June after his third contest, but that didn’t last long because he knew the lean, muscular look needed to return for his 2013 competitions.
“The [pre-contest] diet is very restrictive,” he mentioned. “I did gain some lean-muscle poundage afterward. I got back up to about 205 [pounds]. I started dieting again Dec. 15. On that day, I weighed 197. On March 9 [almost three months later], I came in at 165 on the nose. … I got myself down to about 4- or 5-percent body fat.”
Boyce said his customized diet for 2013 has consisted of plenty of protein — reaching 253 grams a day at times — and measured small amounts of carbohydrates. His food intake often includes chicken breasts, broccoli, kale, fish (cod and tuna) and egg whites.
“A lot of egg whites,” he emphasized. “I’ve eaten as many as 24 egg whites in a day.”
Not included in his contest diet are pizza, pork and chocolate, the latter being particularly difficult to avoid around Easter.
Boyce expects to enter the NPC Natural Indiana Bodybuilding Championships at Indianapolis again April 13, and his goal this year is not modest.
“I’d really like to win the overall [championship],” he said without hesitation. “I took first place in my weight-class divisions in this last show I did — in novice and in men’s open. … The only thing holding me back is my posing technique, so I’m driving to Indianapolis and doing some more work on it [with professional bodybuilder Jesse “The Shark” Dale supervising].
“That [posing] is the only thing holding me back. Body for body, I win. If it’s about the body, I’ll win. But if you don’t pose correctly on stage, the judge can’t see it. So I’m not complaining. I think the judges are very fair. The athlete has to do his part.”
Boyce admits that everyday-life responsibilities — family, jobs, working on his newly purchased 200-acre farm in Clay County, going to Terre Haute’s Ultimate Fitness for his weight-training and cardio workouts — make finding time to stand in front of a mirror to practice posing difficult.
“That’s just not in my personality anyway,” he added. “I’m not really a ‘look at me, look at me’ kind of guy. I do enjoy the showmanship on stage. But as far as practicing around here, it’s kind of tough. But that’s what I’m working on. I know that if I get my posing down, I can win overall. That’s my goal.”
His long-term future
When a bodybuilder places in the top five of a weight class at an NPC qualifying event, such as the Southern Indiana Championships or the Natural Indiana Championships, he or she receives an opportunity to advance to the NPC National Championships on Nov. 22-23 at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Boyce earned that opportunity March 9 in Evansville, so he’ll have a chance to achieve another goal later this year.
“I’d like to go to the NPC nationals,” he acknowledged. “I doubt I would place in the top five at nationals [any year], though, because I’m a natural athlete.”
Boyce elaborated on his reason for thinking that.
“I don’t take any ‘roids [steroids],” he offered without being asked. “And I have no disrespect toward anybody who does. I think that’s a matter of individual choice. If people want to use that kind of substance, that’s completely their choice. I don’t want to throw any mud on them. But the fact that you’re not using any of that stuff does put you at a disadvantage. And that’s OK with me. I’d rather go natural. And if I place, I place. If I don’t, I don’t. I’m OK with that.”
Regardless of how Boyce fares April 13, he plans to stay lean until November and avoid the “yo-yo” diet that some bodybuilders use.
“I like being lean,” he emphasized. “I’ve managed to keep most of my strength. I haven’t lost much strength at all, which is really strange. I’m doing regular-grip pull-ups with a 65-pound dumbbell between my feet — four or five sets of those — for eight reps. So my body strength is still good.”
Also worth noting, Boyce said he can still bench-press 225 pounds for a whopping 25 repetitions, even while weighing 165.
But there’s another reason Boyce wants to remain on his strict diet.
“I’m saving $300 to $400 a month, because I’m planning out my meals,” he pointed out. “I don’t eat out. Because I don’t eat in restaurants, I’m saving a boat load of money. It’s just a good excuse not to buy candy bars. It’s a good excuse not to buy junk food. It’s a good excuse not to waste money.
“I do drink a lot of coffee. But other than that … green beans are cheap. Black beans are cheap. You know, people who say that it’s too expensive to eat healthier are just nuts. It’s a lot cheaper to eat healthy, I find. It’s a lot cheaper to cook for yourself.”
Being single with no children, Boyce admitted that learning to cook so often was a struggle at first. “I’ve gotten passable at it,” he noted.
An avid weightlifter since he started competing in football, wrestling and track at Northview High School in the early 1990s, Boyce continued training while working toward a communication degree, which he received from Wabash College in 1997.
“[Former Northview football coach] Jerry Anderson taught me how to lift,” recalled Boyce, who said he was bench-pressing 70 pounds for reps as a youngster.
As an adult, Boyce entered the rugged Gladiator Challenge — hosted by Union Hospital’s Fitness Center — three years in a row. But in 2011, Terre Haute trainer and fitness competitor Jessica Roberts encouraged him to try bodybuilding.
Roberts still helps Boyce, who does most of his workouts at Ultimate Fitness. But he also enlisted the services of Dale, who advises him on diet, posing and training.
“I’ve loved it,” Boyce said of the experience.