EDMONTON – Fred Hefter was already 70 years old when he walked away with his first bodybuilding win.
Of course, he was the only competitor in the category for men 70 and older.
â€œSo I won first place,â€� Hefter said with a chuckle.
It was about 15 years ago that the retired social worker decided he needed a hobby to whip his five-foot-six, 164-pound body back into shape.
â€œI suddenly began to realize I had got pretty fat,â€� he said recently in Edmonton, where he lives with his partner, Larry.
A friend and trainer spent months urging Hefter to try his hand at bodybuilding. Having dabbled in the sport after college, Hefter finally gave in after months of relentless pestering.
Winning that first competition in Indianapolis, Ind., even by default, was enough motivation to continue with the physically taxing hobby.
â€œIâ€™m envious of all the muscle men,â€� he said. â€œBasically, I wanted to see if I could have a physique like them.â€�
This past weekend, Hefter, now 84, wowed the audience at the northern Alberta Bodybuilding Championships at the Citadelâ€™s Shoctor Theatre. It was his first Canadian competition since relocating to Alberta from the U.S. more than three years ago.
This time around, Hefter had his work cut out for him as he competed against five other contestants in the Grand Masters category for men 50 and older. Easily about 30 years older than his competition, the octogenarian was an audience favourite, earning a standing ovation for his posing technique.
â€œI take it with a light heart,â€� he said.
What Hefter takes seriously, though, is the strenuous training and dieting regime he must follow in the months leading up to a competition. For one hour a day, three days a week, he works with a trainer on a specialized program that builds and defines his core muscle groups. Coupled with the training is a diet Hefter describes as â€œmonotony personified.
â€œYou eat fish, chicken and turkey and two types of vegetables. And thatâ€™s all you eat for about three months. No sugar whatsoever, no milk, no bread. Day in and day out.â€�
The regime intensifies about a week before competition. Hefter was taking in nearly six litres of water per day before flushing it all out with a natural diuretic, which helps define muscles for competition. And of course there is the mandatory deep bronze glow. This time around, Hefter opted for a spray tan â€” his first.
Despite putting his body through such extremes, Hefter doesnâ€™t worry about side effects. In the past 10 years, he has had a few accidents and injuries, but nothing major.
â€œIâ€™ve had good trainers who are concerned about doing what you do safely.â€�
Hefter will likely get back on his training regime in preparation for his next competition after a few months of down time. Until then, heâ€™ll revel in the less restrictive meals he can indulge in.
â€œAfter a contest, we look forward to having a decent meal, like we did on Saturday night,â€� he said with a chuckle. â€œWe went to The Creperie and really had a good meal.â€�
He counts winning gold at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago among his favourite bodybuilding memories. Four years later, he won silver at the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.
When heâ€™s not training for a competition, Hefter dabbles in drama with a local seniors group and volunteers at the Edmonton Pride Centre.
As for his family, Hefter said theyâ€™re very supportive of his unusual hobby.
â€œThey think Iâ€™m sort of nuts, but itâ€™s fine.â€�