Sam Felts, 59, of Victoria, TX finished second in the age 50-59 category at the World Natural Bodybuilding Fedaration Pro-Am Mr. Universe contest in Barbados in June. Felts has been bodybuilding for about seven years and turned pro last year after winning seven amateur lifting titles. Felts has also ran 16 marathons and competed in three Texas Water Safaris. JOSH MORGAN/JMORGAN@VICAD.COM
Did You Know?
• The first bodybuilding show was staged in 1891 and billed "The Great Show."
• The show was developed and promoted by Eugene Sandow, who is known as the father of modern bodybuilding.
• Source: bodybuilding.com
Sam Felts was less than confident when he entered a bodybuilding competition for the first time.
The Victoria resident had been seriously training for about a year and decided to give it a go at a show in Austin.
"You're going to get on stage and you're going to go up there in a Speedo and you're going to have a thousand people looking at you critically just saying 'I'm comparing this guy to this other guy over here and this one's got a bigger bicep than this one does,'" Felts recalled. "It was a little intimidating at first, but the experience was well worth it. It's like a lot of things you're kind of apprehensive about. Once you do it, it's like this wasn't so bad."
Felts never stopped bodybuilding and three years in won his first show.
Felts went on to win seven consecutive amateur championships.
He turned pro last year and in his second event, finished second in the 50-59 age division at the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation Pro-Am Universe Contest in Barbados last month.
"I needed a physical goal," Felts said. "I needed something that was going to motivate me to keep pushing. I'm extremely goal-oriented. I've worked out all my life. Unless I have a goal, I have kind of a lackadaisical attitude about it. When I get a goal, it's focus."
Felts was a dedicated runner for years. He completed 16 marathons before turning to canoeing and participating in the Texas Water Safari three times.
But after trying out bodybuilding at the suggestion of former Victoria resident and bodybuilder Marti Boyle, he was hooked.
"I did it one time and I thoroughly enjoyed it," Felts said. "I enjoy the people, the attitude. All the young people there seem to have a very positive outlook toward life. They're can-do people, they're not whiny victims. I just enjoy being around them."
Felts has worked for 25 years at the Seadrift Coke plant, but still tries to spend at least 90 minutes a day working out at Gold's Gym or Pure Fitness & Tanning.
He also plays close attention to his diet and makes sure his body gets enough rest before a competition.
"When I go to the gym, it's like here is another day of opportunity," Felts said. "I'm going to make progress in some way in my life. It gives me a goal and a focus. When I go to the shows, it's really a celebration of life."
Felts stands just over 5-foot-5 and weighs around 140 pounds and is usually the smallest person at competitions.
"It's very subjective," he said. "It's not this finite list of things they're looking for. It's a combination and the overall picture of what kind of muscle development does this person have, what kind of conditioning do they have, what kind of symmetry do they have, does everything fit together well or does it not. Does this guy have a big set of shoulders or does he not. How cut is it.
"Nobody's perfect," he continued. "Everybody up there has flaws. Even the great Arnold Schwarzenegger had flaws. You've got to have more good stuff than bad stuff."
Felts takes polygraph tests and is drug tested before every competition.
He is proud of what he has achieved, but realizes bodybuilding has its detractors.
"Some people would say that it's a narcissistic pursuit," he said. "These folks are very Neanderthalic. I found that to be so far from the truth. Most of the people are very health conscious. They are very positive individuals. They know they have flaws and it's a constant process with them. They are working to the best of their abilities to improve themselves physically."
Felts will turn 60 on July 27 and is aiming to win the 60-69 division at the WNBF's Pro World Championships in Atlantic City, N.J., in November.
Felts is determined to win a world title, but feels bodybuilding has already provided the tools necessary to excel in life.
"It just resonates with me on all kinds of levels," Felts said. "I believe life is a participation sport. I believe you need to get out and move and do things. I believe you need to give it your best shot every day and wake up with a smile on your face and have a positive attitude.
"My ultimate goal," he added, "is to be an 85-year-old man who walks straight and strong and supple and still is vibrant."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or email@example.com, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.