Brennan Gademans was at a crossroads.
Athletic and talented, he excelled on both the gridiron and on the track as football and sprinting were his two passions.
But years of wear and tear and pounding on his legs had done significant damage and finally caught up to him.
“Coming out of high school, I was facing some seriously crippling injuries,” Gademans explained.
“Even to this day, I can’t quite run right.”
In his final year of high school — he graduated from Langley Secondary in 2011 — Gademans was dealing with intense pain in his legs, attempting to cope with the discomfort through a combination of taping and icing to alleviate the pain.
But during a practice, he felt a sharp pain and numbness all through his leg.
An X-ray showed one tibia was cracked, from top to bottom, while the other had a minor stress fracture.
“They just figured it was from the constant pounding and the footwear. Wearing track spikes six days of the week and switching to football cleats, running on turf, running on the hard track,” Gademans explained.
In a given week, he was training 10 to 15 hours per week for his two sports. And now, it was all done.
“My whole life, I have been super active, playing multiple sports and it got to a point where a good year after high school, I wasn’t (doing anything),” Gademans said.
“I was going crazy because of it. I needed to do something with my body, I just needed to use it.”
Gademans hit the gym and began working out.
“I was putting on mass very quickly, blowing past my peers who had been in the gym for longer and who I was learning from,” he said.
“My strength was going through the roof and I started realizing it was a perfect point in my life where my natural testosterone levels were starting to rise, but also I had wicked genetics for it.”
This prompted him to begin training to become a bodybuilder, competing in the physique category.
Bodybuilding has weight classes and the competitors are judged on muscularity, vascularity and conditioning, which is how low their body fat is and how much water they can drain from their bodies, leaving their skin very thin for crisp lines and definition. Bodybuilders also do a dozen poses so the judges can compare the athletes in detail.
In physique, the athletes are grouped into height divisions and the judging is done purely based on aesthetics and stage presence. The competitors do four poses.
“Nice flowing lines running through the physique, tight conditioning and you need to be muscular,” Gademans explained.
“I hate saying this, but it is like you are going for that ultimate beach boy look, basically.
“And it is how you carry yourself on the stage.”
And Gademans brings a natural charisma to the stage, thanks in large part to his acting background, having appeared in some movies as a teenager.
His stage demeanor allows him to connect with the audience — which isn’t necessarily part of the criteria — but definitely helps as a competitor.
“The judges like to see that because it puts on a little show for the people watching,” he said.
“It really helps having that stage experience under my belt.
“I am absolutely very comfortable and it shows on stage. When you are up their posing, and you are supposed to look like its effortless, even though you are clenching everything you got.”
When Gademans began lifting about two and a half years ago, he weighed 175 pounds with 10 per cent body fat. And now? He is 210 pounds with five per cent body fat.
“Lucky for me, my legs were already super built when I started body building so I definitely bring some of the biggest wheels to the stage,” he said.
“But for me it was just putting on and creating that symmetry for my top. I have really filled out my shoulders and my chest and created a nice V taper.”
A V taper refers to how broad a competitors’ shoulders are compared to how narrow their waist is.
Last week (March 14), he competed at the Leigh Brandt Muscle Classic in New Westminster.
Gademans came second in his class — the three classes are based on height: five-foot-eight and shorter, five-foot-nine to five-foot-11 and six-feet and over.
He was in the middle category.
This event was a regional qualifier and with his second-place finish, Gademans does move on to the provincial championships, which will be held in May.
“By nature, I am competitive and of course I was hungry for a win,” he said.
“However, I am very pleased with the physique I brought to the stage. (My) biggest yet and best conditioning to boot.”
This is his third year competing, but it will be the first time Gademans does multiple competitions in a year.
He is hoping to qualify for the Canadian national championships, which will be held in July.
Preparing for each event is a long process.
“I have never put so much effort into anything,” he said.
“I trained hard through high school and I excelled in what I did. I thought I was fully committed until I realized what it took to bring your absolute best to the stage.”
“It is a game of attrition; it is not like you step on the stage and that is the match,” he explained. “The match is being played for 15 weeks leading up to the competition.”
“It is not about who is the strongest (or) who trained the hardest.”
To prepare for a competition, the work begins about four or five months ahead of time. This is when the competitor bulks up, packing on weight.
“Trying to make sure it is a good weight, not just all fat or water, but lean body mass, muscle if possible,” he said.
Gademans got up to 221 pounds before he switched to the cutting phase — dieting and implementing cardio to the routine — a dozen weeks before the competition.
“Forcing your body to shave down only fat by manipulating the amount of carbohydrates in ratio to fat in ratio to protein,” Gademans said.
“Forcing my body to locate those last traces of stubborn fat and it forces the body to use it as energy to fuel through the workouts.”
This stage also requires the competitor to have less calories than the body requires for its given weight.
“It is the mental game that is the hardest part. At this level, you are so tired, so drained, you are not giving your body any energy but you are demanding a lot of energy,” he said.
“It is definitely a mental game at this stage to fight the craving and not be cranky, get through every day because you know it is going to pay off.”
It takes a lot of time and work preparing for each competition, which Gademans doesn’t mind.
Every morning, he does 90 minutes to 120 minutes or cardio work, as well as spending about 14 hours a week working out at what he calls his second home, Langley’s Gold’s Gym.
He juggles all this with his job as a graphic designer.