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Looking back, I admit that doubt had been nagging at me most of the year. I'll be brutally honest. What follows won't be me setting up an article to read perfectly but my thoughts and feelings puked all over the screen just about as fast as I can type. I hope that my situation and my thoughts and concerns around health and longevity will make at least a few of you think and make comparisons to your own situation.

I'm very clear that if you're involved in this sport as a competitor or someone who thrives on pushing the envelope, you may see my decision as weak or say that I'm a quitter or a pussy. I accept that. I'll almost certainly be judged as being too old, not driven enough and not hardcore. I accept that as well. I'm not willing to accept that if I were to make poor decisions, they could lead to my kids not understanding why their father had a heart attack before he was 50 and their mom is now vacationing every other weekend with some Men’s Health looking guy with a full head of hair and a package that a bodybuilding posing suit would never be able to contain. I'll explain the best decision of my life. Whether you think it is or not, I honestly don’t care. You aren’t one of my kids and you aren’t my wife (sometimes I rhyme).

Bodybuilding is a huge part of my life and has been since I was 14, some 32 years ago. Think about this because it's important—many of you reading this haven’t even been alive that long, and even if you have, some of you have trained as many years as I take off between shows. I have kids that have lived longer than that, and when you still had shit on your balls, I was training. The point that I'm trying to drive home is that even though I'm not a pro and was never going to be one, my training and my progress have always been incredibly important to me. After doing something for so long and having goals for over three decades (about 80 percent of my life), when I tell people this decision was an easy one, this is only a half truth. The other half is that it truly was a bitch to pull the plug.

159 pounds 22-years old (1992) Mid-Michigan Natural

Mid-Michigan Natural: 1992

The Warning Signs

When I started into this off-season, I was very clear and honest, not only with myself but with my wife and everyone else. If I had any further issues with my blood, I wasn't going to risk my health. I would pull the plug. It took me a long time to get my blood in the healthy range in 2014, and I really did feel that I could keep my numbers either at the top end of the normal range or only slightly out of range. I felt that was a risk I was OK with. I can tell you that as much as I thought that would happen, that isn't what happened.

I had baseline numbers taken before embarking back on an off-season protocol this year and was very comfortable with my starting point. In the last five or six years, my blood pressure had started to climb but nothing major. It just slightly increased every year. My doctor started to show concern though when my blood pressure hit 155/88 and it remained relatively consistent. Obviously, blood pressure fluctuates, so some readings would be as high as 170/95 and as low as 132/78. However, it was primarily in the area of the mid to high 150s and high 80s.

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In 2013, my hematocrit/hemoglobin/RBC numbers were the ones that alarmed me and started the ball rolling with controlling my blood numbers. I had cycled for years and stayed on for long periods of time without coming off. Never had my hematocrit/hemoglobin/RBC numbers been out of range even slightly. Yes, they were at the very top of the normal range, but they were never out of range, and we are talking almost 15 years of blood work at least once a year and most of the time twice a year. The only thing that might have been out of whack back then was my HDL. It would be low while running an oral and/or a strong anti-estrogen compound (but my LDL was never high). My kidney values would be slightly out of range due to not wanting to take a day off of training before having a blood draw.

198 pounds 37-years old (2007) Rocky Mountain Championships

Rocky Mountain Championships: 2007

In 2013, my hematocrit was 58.9 and my hemoglobin was 21.3. I don't recall what my RBC number was simply because I was so alarmed at the other two numbers that I didn’t even hear the RBC number. (Note: It's important to know that there are different ranges for different areas of the country based on elevation. Where I live, top ranges for hematocrit are 54 and top ranges for hemoglobin are 18.) Obviously, I knew something wasn’t right. Even my doctor said, "This doesn’t look like your blood work." They redid the blood work, but it came out the same. At that point, I knew that I had to get it controlled, and I took the necessary steps to do just that. It took all of 2014 to get my numbers controlled. I didn’t think that I had to come off testosterone, and I was simply cutting my doses in half thinking that would bring the numbers down. I got all the way down to TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) dosing and the numbers still hadn't moved more than one point, so coming off completely was the next step.

After doing so, it only took four weeks before my numbers were in normal ranges again and my blood pressure was as low as it had been in years at 128/70. I was in pretty good shape…other than a test level of 211. The joke between my wife and I was whether I wanted to have sex or pick boogers and eat them. I was indifferent. I thought it was funny, but she didn't.

Before I started this last off-season, my baseline ranges for hematocrit and hemoglobin had dropped to 47.0 and 16.4, respectively. Within six weeks of the start of the off-season cycling, I was 56.7 and 19.1. That was my first red flag. You might think that these numbers are only out of range by one or two points, but that would be the difference between you and me. I look at it and see that my numbers are almost to the point of what they were at their worst in 2013, and these current numbers are only after six weeks of being back on cycle. Obviously, my blood pressure was climbing along with my body weight (and the cycle). My next blood work was done at 14 weeks (another eight weeks from these current numbers) and would likely be the top numbers because I was going to cycle on and off. Week fourteen was the last week of my cycle.

My blood work at 14 weeks could have been stable. The numbers could have maxed out and stayed relatively the same or the numbers could have climbed even more. I don't think it's any surprise at this point what the numbers showed. In short, my hematocrit was 59.2 and my hemoglobin was almost 21, so basically, I had the same blood numbers that I had had in 2013. However, this time it was after only 14 weeks, and even though they likely wouldn't have gone higher, I wasn't about to consider holding unhealthy numbers like this every time I cycled. I would also have had to come off completely between cycles and that wasn't going to happen. My “off” testosterone levels were right around 200 and that just isn't something I'm willing to do. Staying on low dose testosterone might be an option, but that wouldn't have allowed my blood numbers to drop, just as they hadn't dropped in 2013. In addition, my blood pressure was the highest it had ever been at 170/92 at the 14-week mark.

I didn't have the typical signs of feeling unhealthy other than the blood numbers and higher blood pressure. My head and neck weren't red all the time, and I couldn't “feel” my increased blood pressure. I wasn't breathing heavy when climbing stairs, and I didn’t have a hard time tying my shoes without my head feeling like it would blow up. Still, the bloods were a bright neon sign on the wall telling me that things weren’t good.

198 pounds 39-years old (2009) Jr USAs

Jr. USAs: 2009

The Decision

Even though doubt had been nagging at me all year in regards to whether I was going to come back to competing for “the right reasons,” I had a plan. I had a plan and I stuck to it like I always do and always have. On occasion, I hated carrying all the extra weight. I much prefer how I feel when I'm leaner, but I forged ahead. I was reminded of how it would be nice to go somewhere without having to shit or fart or not feel pregnant from all the food, but I was doing what I needed to do for the desired end result. I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes, so I went out and bought new jeans, new shirts and new shorts because there isn't anything less sexy than a guy trying to cram ten pounds of potatoes into a five-pound sack. I had new clothes, and I was feeling sexy again. I forged ahead.

One night, one of my friends asked me why I was going back to competing. I couldn’t answer right away and ended up fumbling over something like “It's for business.” I used this response several more times, but because everyone who was given the response completely accepted the response, I was bothered by it. What the hell kind of reason is “for business?” Am I taking all of these risks not for personal reasons but for business? So I thought more about it and realized over time that I was going to compete in a state show for what could be a state title, though if I'm being honest with myself, winning was a long shot and not likely to happen. I was going to place in the top three like I had for 10 years with a class win if the field was mediocre and no one had to show up to qualify again for nationals. How is that for honesty? I don’t bullshit myself like so many others do. I don't have the genetic ability to destroy people at shows and I never have. I'm just barely pretty enough to pull off a win by sheer condition and some shape if no bad asses show up with structure and a lot of muscle. And I'm taking these risks for…fucking business? It took me a while to figure it out, but the only personal thing I could come up with as motivation to do it was to show myself and everyone else that, yes, I can still do it and still get into incredible condition after all these years. Are you fucking kidding me?

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While I was thinking about how stupid and selfish and retarded and (insert any other non-politically correct insulting remark here) I was, I started thinking about my health. If something happened to me, how would it impact my kids? How many guys have been dying in their 40s from heart attacks and we all think, “It won’t happen to me”? Would my very large life insurance policy fund that trip to Bora Bora that my wife would end up going on with some bartender from a douche bar in downtown Denver? Then…something else happened. My fifteen-year-old son’s friend’s mother died from being thrown off a motorcycle. And then another well-known guy from the boards that I had worked with years ago died. He was in his 40s and allegedly sitting at his computer. This was all in the same weekend. WTF is going on?

195 pounds  42-years old  (2012)  Colorado State

Colorado State: 2012

Now, I'm not ever going to stop riding my motorcycle. You can count on that. But the rest of these risks that I was taking were weighing on me and I didn't see any real payoff. With riding my motorcycle, I love riding. With training, I love being in the gym. With competing, I don’t fucking like it. Sorry. Who the fuck enjoys covering themselves with oil, shaving, tanning and standing on stage in underwear posing to music? I love training and I love dieting and I love being in great condition and being muscular but the actual act of competing? Hell no. If you do, good for you. I don’t think it's “unmanly” or “weird” or anything like that, but I just don't like it. I didn't like it when I won, and I didn't like it when I lost. I don’t like waiting backstage, and I don’t like being covered with tan stain and oil and smelling like that smell that we all smell when we enter a bodybuilding venue. We all know the smell and you're likely smelling it right now as I talk about it.

That was the easy part of the decision. I basically came to the conclusion that the cost (read risks) aren’t worth the payoff (read money or business). I don’t “need” to compete to make money because if that were true, I was never a very good bodybuilder anyway. My appeal is that I can take below average genetics and make someone look like their genetics aren't as shitty as they really are. People can relate to that because contrary to what you see on social media, the very large majority of people aren't genetically blessed and they want to learn from someone who wasn't genetically blessed either. It's much easier to take diet advice from someone who gets fat as hell if they don’t watch what they eat versus someone who can eat Fruity Pebbles every day and tons of pancakes and stay ripped all the time.

The part of the decision that is hard is admitting that I'm done. Yeah, it wasn’t a lot of fun standing on stage, but as soon as you say that you're done doing something, all of a sudden you have this bizarre feeling of wanting to do it even if you hate it. It’s like not eating a doughnut for a year because you don’t want to, but one week into a diet, you want that doughnut so fucking bad that you would sell one of your kids for it. So the question becomes, what do I do now? What are my goals? I'm glad you asked.

Moving Forward

My business will go on as usual in that I will continue to do nutritional consulting whether it be my Transmogrify plans, contest prep or sport-specific conditioning. I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm done with contest prep or done working with competitors because I'm not.


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I've been getting many questions about the "Until I Collapse" DVD, and I can tell you that I'll still put out the DVD online for free. It will blow away the last one (the "Longevity" DVD) as far as the amount of information and the quality of the video and audio and it will cover more areas than I even planned from the start. However, it won't focus on following me through an off-season and a contest prep (as if that hasn’t been done before anyway). It will detail my transition from competing to peeling off this unsexy layer of off-season “bulk” and show in detail how to walk around contest ready all year while on TRT. It will also detail how to work through and around injuries and discuss the nutrition and supplementation details of how to grow while staying ridiculously lean, how to keep joints healthy, my stretching protocol that has kept my back injury free for over three years now and much more. It may even cover the female component as well if I can get Mrs. Skip to set her Bud Light down long enough to transition with me.

There is a huge market and interest in going this direction, and this will simply be an addition to the services that I already provide through TEAM SKIP. I want to show people that as you get into your 40s and even into your 50s, you can maintain an incredible condition year round and stay healthy without pushing the amounts of gear that we were able to get away with in our 20s and 30s. The body just can't handle what it could handle in younger years. I understand that to some, the risks are worth it, but there are many people like me who have a lot more to them than just a physique. I want to show people that you can have that physique and still be healthy and make smart decisions that won’t negatively impact your health and “Longevity” (shameless plug, I know).

I'm convinced that high blood pressure over the long term and thick blood contribute to the large number of deaths caused by heart attacks for guys in their 40s. I believe it so much that I kept my word to myself, my wife and my family—I quit. I love training and being in great shape and I will continue to do just that, but I love everything else about my life so much more than competing that it isn't even close. The truth is eventually, if you do something long enough and hard enough, it will catch up to you. "Quitters never win" is bullshit. Sometimes you do win. Just sayin'.

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