Pumping iron

Finding time to go to the gym isn’t the hard part for competitive bodybuilder Stephen Holt.

It’s the nutrition.

The 2014 Seymour High School grad scoffs at the idea of not being able to find time to work out and that his desire to improve himself makes it easy to get through the daily grind of going to the gym.

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But ask him if he enjoys eating the same baked chicken breast with a side of broccoli and he’ll groan at the idea.

“Most people think the gym part is the hard part,” Holt said. “It’s not. The diet is the hard part.”

He even goes as far as to compare the intensity of eating his meals to his weight training.

“If you want to be successful in this sport, you have to treat every time you stick a fork in a chicken breast like it’s your training,” he said.

Holt’s work ethic earned him two top prizes at the Aug. 3 Indianapolis Championships in Novice Classic Physique and in the Open Classic categories.

He’s now turning his attention to the Indiana State Bodybuilding Championships, where, if he wins, he could be crowned Mr. Indiana in his division and qualify for spot in a national competition and earn the right to fight for an International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness pro card.

He’s got high expectations for himself this weekend.

“I’d be very disappointed in myself if I didn’t go to nationals,” Holt said.

Weightlifting has always been a passion of Holt’s ever since he was training for football and wrestling for the Owls.

After high school, he kept at it in the gym and started working with bodybuilders at his gym. He attended his first show in 2017, and that has now evolved into competing in three shows this year.

Three shows is a little much for most competitive bodybuilders, however, and Holt says most only compete in a show a season. But because his desire to achieve his goals is so high, he’s going to try and compete in three.

It has put added strain on his body. Prior to the Indianapolis championships, Holt had been prepping for 18 straight weeks.

At no point during his grueling training regimen has Holt ever thought about quitting, and he says he has his father to thank for his never-quit attitude. He recalls a time during his high school wrestling career where he pinned an opponent in 27 seconds and his dad asked him why he hadn’t gotten the fall in 26.

“He’s my biggest supporter and biggest critic,” Holt said.

Now, one of Holt’s biggest supporters is his coach, Nathan Epler.

Epler, who is a bodybuilder himself, has been training and coaching aspiring competitors for five years. He started coaching Holt in January of this year, and the two have developed into fast friends.

“He definitely had a passion for it,” Epler said of his first impressions of Holt. “He just didn’t really know the path to go on to get where he wanted to go.”

Epler explains having the passion and work ethic to lift and train for multiple hours a day on top of a full-time job is tough to find in most.

“If they have that internal motivation, it really sets them apart,” Epler said.

He, too, says nutrition is the toughest thing for athletes to get right and there’s a lot of misinformation out there that confuses people instead of guide them in the right direction.

To that end, he says the first step anyone can take is to do their own reading and research but cautions them to be wary of fad diets.

The second step, Epler jokes, is to learn how to eat a lot.

“People don’t realize how much food goes into it,” Epler said.

Holt said he eats six meals a day and has two or three of them before he works out. He contends the biggest thing he wish he knew when he was a 130-pound high school wrestler was how to eat right.

Having the right diet plan is crucial for him, but it’s also important no matter the sport.

“Diet is 70% of your battle, and I passed on nutrition in high school,” he said. “Do your own research and figure out a diet. It’s not that hard.”

Holt’s journey continues Saturday at the Indiana State Bodybuilding Championships at the Murat Theatre in Indianapolis.

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