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How I Got Started in Bodybuilding

by Robert Cheeke, Vegan Bodybuilder, February 28th 2004

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated with larger than life muscle Gods like He-Man and professional wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. I was always small and skinny. Genetically, my little brothers, my older sister, and I were all tiny. I was often the smallest guy in my class in grade school and at the age of 14, I only weighed 89 pounds.

Since the age of eight, all I ever wanted to do in my life was to become a professional wrestler. I absolutely lived for pro wrestling and was determined to work for the World Wrestling Federation. By age ten, I started wrestling through a program at Oregon State University. I walked into my first Gold's Gym at age 14 and lifted off and on in high school. I picked up wrestling again in high school, and at age 17, I weighed 133 pounds. I always had lots of muscle definition and vascularity but no size at all. I graduated high school weighing 153 pounds. I was so into muscles that my senior picture in the yearbook has me with my shirt off hitting a "most muscular" pose.

After high school, I competed in Bill Phillips' Body-For-LIFE Challenge and gained 19 pounds over 12 weeks. I finished at a solid 176 pounds. The main reason why I experienced gains were because of my meal frequency combining protein, carbs, and water with each meal, number of total meals, grams of protein, calories, supplementation, and intensity & consistency of my workouts.

After I completed the Body-For-LIFE program, I moved back to Oregon and met up with one of my best friends, Jordan Baskerville. He introduced me to my first FLEX Magazine. He showed me images of guys I had never heard of: Shawn Ray, Lee Priest, and others. I decided that bodybuilding would help me get a job with the World Wrestling Federation so I began training again. I got as close as you can get to being hired by the WWF (now WWE). I had phone calls from their corporate office saying they were really interested in hiring me, etc….but at the last minute it didn't work out. Therefore, I decided that I would put wrestling behind me and focus on bodybuilding, my new passion.

I moved to Phoenix, AZ and I met Troy Alves, now IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. Troy was a really nice and outgoing guy and he became my personal trainer. In March, I flew Jordan out from Oregon to Arizona and we had a training session with Troy. The next day we headed to Columbus, OH for the Arnold Classic. We arrived at the airport and met Jay Cutler and Aaron Maddron when we got off the plane. The three-day fitness festival at the 2001 Arnold Classic was perhaps the greatest event I had ever been to. I had the opportunity to meet: Arnold Swartzenegger, Frank Zane, Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Lee Priest, Nasser El Sonbaty, and everyone else I was hoping to meet. Over the three days, Nasser became my favorite pro bodybuilder. He was the most fun person to hang out with, would talk to Jordan and I for a long time, sign many autographs for us, and took many photos with us. Other people I really enjoyed meeting were Mike Matarazzo, Gunter Schlierkamp, Flex Wheeler, and Jay Cutler.

After the Arnold Classic, I decided I wanted to be a bodybuilder too. I told Nasser that he would see me on the big stage in seven years. The next time I saw him at the USA Championships in Las Vegas, he reminded me that I had 6 ½ years left. After the USA Championships, I went to lots of amateur NPC and INBF shows. The next pro show I went to was the 2002 San Francisco Grand Prix. I continue to follow the pros as well as any amateur show that is within driving distance.

I have done well in my short time with bodybuilding, including media exposure in FLEX Magazine and Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness Magazine. After my magazine articles came out about Vegan Bodybuilding, I knew it was time for me to start my own company called Vegan Bodybuilding & Fitness. Everything is going well, I look forward to a bright future in bodybuilding, and hopefully someday I will be able to write to the World Wrestling Federation and ask them, "How do you like me now?"