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  • Rayshon Manley


    Name: Rayshon Manley
    Year of Birth: 1991
    Height: 6`0
    Weight: Fluctuates often between 180-200, currently 193.0
    Birthplace: Akron, Ohio
    Current Residence: Charleston, South Carolina
    Sports: Weight lifting:
    360 lb max bench press
    1300 max incline leg press (2 reps, my favorite sports moment, email me for the video)
    8:37 1.5-mile run
    125 lb dumbbell shrug
    395 lb deadlift
    300 lb weighted ab crunch
    250 lb weighted oblique twist

    Tell us a little about yourself, what you do for a living, what hobbies / interests / passions you have.
    Hi, my name is Rayshon, and I'm a vegan bodybuilder (although I never considered that's what I've been doing, until today.) I am an Aerospace Maintenance Crew Chief in the United States Air Force. I work on the C-17 GlobeMaster III, the Air Force's newest, most dependable and reliable airlifter. It is a large, strategic military cargo transport aircraft, used in missions to provide humanitarian support and disaster relief worldwide like sending troops to war-torn haiti, or providing food and supplies to Hurricane Sandy victims, and has tackled distances long, and destinations global in order to facilitate peacekeeping missions, and the goodwill and fighting spirit of the American people. Although we designed the aircraft here stateside, 8 other countries now possess C-17's as well, purchased from Boeing (who merged with the aircraft's original producer, and former competition, McDonnell Douglass, in 1997). My job on the C-17 consists of a great many things, from launching and recovering aircraft, troubleshooting and maintaining aircraft systems, structures, and components, supervising and performing aircraft inspections for mechanical adequacy, and well beyond, but the long story, made short, is...I'm a grease monkey. I work on airplanes, but I'm a grease monkey nonetheless. No automotive mechanic could ever claim the special type of competency you garner working on aircraft, though, that's for sure. We're an inch shy of rocket science in many aspects, although the people I work with see things like unmounting and dismantling a Pratting & Whitney PW2000 turbofan engine as “just another day”. I am a spoken word artist, which means I do performance poetry (in the past I made a career of it), and an avid reader. Whenever I learn something I'm always hungry to know more. I also love dancing, am a huge geek (I've been programming computer since around age 10, and I type 144 words a minute), and a voracious gamer...doesn't matter what platform, doesn't matter what genre...give it here.

    Why did you become vegan?
    When I finished basic military training, I was, cardiovascularly, more fit than when I'd started, but weaker physically than when I did, and I'd also gained 25 pounds because of all the frequent eating and constant stress. I was unhappy with the way I felt, and even more with the way that I looked, as it was mostly all visceral fat on top of my abdominals. I vowed when I in-processed to my next base that I was going to do whatever had to be done to better myself physically, and so my journey to veganism began. It started as a short romp with what I now know to be intermittent fasting, which then turned into vegetarianism, and after two weeks of feeling that vegetarianism had become a habit was easy enough for me to maintain, to the extent I felt that I could go “all out” from there, I shifted to veganism to facilitate a healthy lifestyle. That decision, besides the one I made when I decided to join the military, was the best I've ever made.

    When and why did you become interested in fitness?
    When I went about losing the weight I knew I had to dedicate myself to exercise as well as a better diet in order to see the kind of results that I'd like to, but I just knew that I would hate it. The being sore, the sweating, the decrease in self-esteem due constantly comparing myself to people who had been in the gym doing what I would attempt to do now for much longer than I had demoralized me to the point I grieved my trip the entire walk to the gym from my dormitory the first time I ever went. I had no knowledge of bodybuilding techniques, workout regimens and routines, or any effective exercises I could use to actually help me reach my goal. To say I didn't do any homework is an understatement, and I knew going in that I would be a small fish in a big, huge, weightlifting pond. But, then...I arrived. For the most part the experience was exactly how I pictured it in my head (probably because I DID so much picturing in the first place), with the except of one thing: I wasn't bothered by the fact that everyone around me was in shape and I wasn't. I fed upon my hunger and determination to look better, and be stronger to drive my learning how to exercise right there on the spot. I instantly, and voraciously began asking people questions, emulated everything I saw the others do, and I gave every exercise my all. I stayed in the gym 4 hours that first day, without even knowing it, and accomplished a total body workout without even knowing, and, to the whole of my surprise... I felt GOOD. The adrenaline rush of staring at a barbell right before you go to move it, the blood flowing to all of your extremities, the eventual soreness...I fell in love with the energy and vibe of the gym.

    Have you come into any conflicts being vegan in the military, and if so how do you deal with it?
    I deal with it constantly. Normally if I ask someone why they don't think they could do it they just tell me that they couldn't give up meat because they love it too much. Well...who honestly doesn't? I did at one point, too. It satisfies, without requiring substitute, the umami tastebud group that every human tongue has, but when it comes to athletic performance veganism cannot be beat. For myself, specifically: Between coworkers or friends and even down to strangers in the gym who ask me what I eat I'm either constantly being called gay when I tell people I'm a vegan, then being asked how I make it through life eating grass all the time, or I'm being asked the famous "Where do you get your protein, because there's absolutely no way plant food has protein in it...I thought only meat can give you that?" from people who are too nutritionally ignorant to understand that any animal considered to be a rich source of protein in the daily omnivorous human diet either eat animals that are vegan, animals who ate OTHER animals that are vegan, or are vegan themselves...it's "Grass-fed beef", not "Beef-fed beef". I simply ask most people whether or not they've ever seen a gorilla before in their life, and if they have ask them how large it was, and when they answer that ask them if they're aware of what it is that they eat. 9 times out of ten they have no clue, and the 1 person who knows is flabberghasted by their on-the-spot realization of the answer. There is too much facilitation of the idea of some type of necessity in regards to the meat-eating, testosterone induced machismo surrounding bodybuilding for most people in the military to ever consider my way of doing things, or even realize that they COULD if they tried. But that's one of the reasons why I love being vegan...having the audacity to say I eat nothing but plant food and can lift over twice my body weight with most of my muscle groups. "How does he DO it?" ...must be the salad. That's all people think we ever eat. I've met one vegetarian, and no other vegan, since joining.

    How would you describe your nutrition program?
    I eat at a dining facility every day, so my nutritional program isn't very much to talk about. I get 150 grams of chocolate Vega Sport protein a day, generally with water and a banana blended in, but aside from that it's whatever vegan items the chow hall is serving that day, and it's usually generic and repeats from day to day, almost like prison. Generally they have bananas, apples, and oranges for fruit, brown rice, cauliflower, broccoli, mixed vegetables, succotash, and mashed potatoes for everything else. I occasionally get my fibrous foods from bread and a soft-pretzel machine there, if it's ever turned on. There are other options available, but this is the norm that I'm used to. The one thing that keeps me sane is that my chow hall has an INCREDIBLE salad bar. It's truly something to smile about. I eat a great, big salad made of spinach greens and other fixings just about every day.

    How would you describe your training program?
    RANDOM. There is not an honest method to my madness YET. As someone who learned everything there is to know about their exercise program from emulating others as opposed to doing research on bodybuilding websites, and the like, I have still not adopted a solid routine. I know what exercises work what muscle groups, and since beginning have done moderate to extensive research on exercise physiology and muscle dimensions to facilitate the tasking of what body parts I'm working for the day, and to prevent overtraining, but as for following a program...I can't say that I do, or ever have.

    What are some common misconceptions about veganism?
    That it's a hard thing to do. Everyone I tell always gives me the “I could never give up meat, I can't go without my milk” type excuse for why veganism must just be impossible except for those of us crazy exceptions that must not be right in the head to abandon eggs, meat, and dairy completely. Once you adapt to it veganism is just as easy as eating however you did before (probably badly.). You adopt the habits you need to maintain it without much thought (like checking ingredient lists on packages for any animal products, for example. I came to do it simply by telling myself “You can't have animal products anymore, so make sure you check for them whenever you buy anything”. ) It's not the grand struggle that people make it out to be, ESPECIALLY not eating meat. Even if you feel you could never do without the umami taste in your mouth, and I'm not mad at you if that's true, there is an overabundance of healthy, vegan substitutes that you can use to “tame the beast”. Anything I hear sounds like an excuse, considering the way I used to eat. 48 ounce steaks all the time like a competitive eater, and everything else. I had a special type of love for meat...Now I'm even more in love with the fact that I've given it up.

    What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with veganism or training?
    Don't quit when you first starts because it feels too hard. Human behavioral studies have shown that it takes 21 days of consistently doing something before it psychologically becomes a habit. It might be tough at first , but keep going. Win the fight for a better you.


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