Bodybuilding isn’t about the trophies, the money, the fanfare, the magazine, the ads, or the accolades. It’s about waking up day in and day out, staring at the man in the mirror, and daring him to be uncomfortable with being good. It’s about reaching for greatness and then having the audacity to be even greater.
When he turned pro at the 2009 National Championships, many bodybuilding fans thought newly-minted IFBB Pro Jeff Long was going to be great. It wasn’t a matter of if, but a matter of when. Fast forward five years into a pro career that has had its up and downs, and gone through its fair share of trials and tribulations, and it appears that Jeff is finally on the verge of turning the corner towards becoming a dominant force. A force in bodybuilding that we all knew he had the potential to become.
Recently, I had a chance to catch up with one of bodybuilding’s true enigmas and you can read it all right here in this Rx Muscle exclusive interview.
Q.) Could you tell us a bit about how you first became interested in bodybuilding?
A.) To be honest, it’s probably the same old story you hear from everyone, but ill tell it. I was about 10 or 11 years old when I first saw Pumping Iron with my dad. I remember, like, half way through the movie, I told my dad I wanted to look like them. And that’s pretty much where it started.
Q.) You started weight training relatively young. Was there someone who encouraged you to pursue it early on or were you just naturally attracted to the gym?
A.) After watching Pumping Iron is when I decided to pick up my first weight. My dad told me if I wanted to look like those guys that I would need to start training as soon as possible, which literally meant the next day. My dad was not a bodybuilder, just someone who enjoyed lifting weights. As soon as my dad showed me a few exercises I became hooked on training.
The best thing about it was every day after school I couldn’t wait to get home to workout with my dad because he was teaching me everything he learned and knew about training. Not many people ever get that quality time with their dad, but I did, and it was awesome! Bodybuilding wasn’t the only thing I was doing as a teen either. I was a wrestler, and damn good one for the seven years I wrestled. I did play football one year, but as much as I love football, I preferred to be a wrestler.
I love the fact that it’s an individual sport and that you can’t blame anyone (team) if you lose your match. If I lost, it was on me. And for me to not lose again I would just have to practice longer and harder, which I did. I think wrestling and bodybuilder are two sports that are pretty much the same in terms of them being individual sports.
Discipline is a must, and you have to have the will to push your body past its limits. As bodybuilders we push our limits in the gym training, and as a wrestler you push your body on the wrestling mat in a 110 degree room.
Q.) Who was the first bodybuilder that you remember seeing who really inspired you?
A.) The movie I saw about bodybuilding was Pumping Iron, and so the first bodybuilder, of course, was Arnold that inspired me. It was the fact that people used to tell him he would never make it as a bodybuilder, and then he went on to win seven Mr. Olympia titles and become the best in the world. After that people said that he would never make it in the movie industry, and he’s become one of the best action stars in Hollywood.
He never listened to anything negative people said because he had his vision and his goals of what he knew he could do. I can relate to this because when I was going to school people would say that I would never amount to anything, but I would always brush it off and tell myself that they will just wait and see where I end up after high school. I will pursue my dreams, and accomplish every one of them no matter what it takes, because I had a vision just like Arnold.
Q.) At point did you begin to seriously consider competing?
A.) I honestly wanted to compete when I was about 17 or 18, but I had terrible stage fright. I’ve always been a very shy person by nature, and even until this day I am, although it may not seem like it when I’m on stage.
I ended up competing in my first show at the age of 20. I finally said f’ it, I’m just going to jump into the show Saturday, which was the NPC Muscle Beach. I had no clue what the NPC stood for or what I needed to do in order to compete in the show, but my family and I actually went and applied that morning and bought the NPC card, too, simple enough.
I remember being a nervous wreck back stage and being the only one with no tan on. When I stepped on stage for pre-judging, I remember hearing people screaming my number saying that I was huge, and I had the show, and so on. And, of course, my family was there screaming for me, too, so that made the jitters kind of disappear.
Once I went back for the finals I stepped on that stage and felt like a king – as if I was the baddest MOFO on stage! At the end, I ended up taking 4th place out of seven or eight guys, which I thought was pretty good. Of course, I was the youngest in the show and I had a number of guys, and some of the judges come up to me saying I had a very bright future in bodybuilding. Since then I’ve never looked back…
Q.) You won your pro card at the 2009 Nationals just one year after finishing 11th in that very same show. What did you during your offseason, or during your prep, that allowed you to make such dramatic improvements in fewer than twelve months?
A.) To be honest, I really never had an offseason after the 2008 season. I went from Jr. Nationals, USA’s and, Nationals in 2008… which was at the end of November. I started an offseason – if you want to call it that – for about two months, then started prep in the beginning of March for the USA’s in 2009. Between USA’s and Nationals where I turned pro, I had I believe 14 months of prep. At that time I met George Farah and the only thing that was really different from the previous prep was that I did a lot less cardio; it was a more carb-based diet.
My training did not change at all, but my body just seemed not to fight me and I just got leaner and harder every single week. The drying out phase the final few days was so easy that I still can’t believe it worked. NO DIURETICS were used in that phase. I literally just drank a ton of water Wednesday night and started loading carbs. Thursday, I cut water down and kept eating carbs. Friday no water and kept eating carbs which was in the form of white rice then dry oats before hitting the stage.
That prep probably was the easiest I’ve ever done. It was very simple, nothing complicated, and my body responded perfectly. It’s funny I remember every single detail of my preps without writing anything down -- from the foods that I eat to the amount of cardio every week and the carb depletion/loading week.
Q.) Let’s jump right into your pro career. After your win at Nationals where you displayed the crisp, clean condition fans and judges had been waiting for, people placed heavy expectations on you heading into the future. Did you feel added pressure to perform well given the fact that you were being viewed as someone who could possibly come in and compete for a win in a pro lineup immediately?
A.) In 2010 I wanted to wait to compete as a Pro so I could let my body rest, since I just went through three straight years of contest preps doing show after show. But that was never an option for me as I got a call in January from my coach saying we have to do the New York Pro. My first reaction was “Really?” And I was told yes, so without any time off I started prep for the New York Pro.
I did feel some pressure, but I don’t think that hindered my prep because when I did Nationals ’09 I was a nervous wreck during that final week making sure my body was on point, texting my coach every hour. Then I was sick all day Thursday, the day before stepping on stage, and still came in dry as the desert. I just never got the time to let my body improve and add just a little bit of size.
Of course when the NY Pro was over, people said I would have won if I looked like I did at Nationals. I called bullshit on that right away! I’m sorry, being 213-215 lbs. against guys in that show, even shredded, I WAS CLEARLY OUTSIZED.
Q.) Thus far we’ve seen you compete over a dozen times in your pro career and have also seen you crack the top ten eight times during that span. In your opinion, what improvements do you still need to make in order to push yourself into the next tier of athletes and bring home your first pro win?
A.) REST, REST, AND MORE REST! That’s been my biggest issue as a pro is never giving myself time off from contest preps. I always end up competing in show after show, no matter how beat up I am. As a Pro I never had a real offseason until right now, and I’m in week seven of holding my weight at 270 lbs. first thing in the morning.
With this break I’m able to eat big and make huge improvements for the 2015 season. With me having this long awaited break my body will respond like crazy when I start prep. Without wanting to sound cocky or arrogant, I know with having this offseason, and the vision I have of what my body will look like next year, I know I will win my first Pro show and step on the Olympia stage as a contender. I have doubters, of course, but I know what I am capable of when I feel confident. And over the past couple of years I really haven’t felt confident on stage because I know what I could look like and I haven’t shown that yet. This rest will help me dramatically.
Q.) No one has ever questioned the level of muscularity that you bring to the stage, but achieving the necessary level of conditioning has been an issue, which has led to a few criticisms being direct toward you at times. Do you feel that you’ve been unfairly criticized over the issue of your conditioning? In your opinion, how close have we come to seeing you at 100% on a pro stage?
A.) I haven’t been 100% on stage yet. I can honestly say that without question. But I have sported some really good packages on stage also. But with what I’ve shown at the Nationals – that’s what they will always compare me to. Over the past few years, I think every show I’ve had striated glutes. It’s just bringing the total package of being not only ripped but full and round, not flat and deflated… like what seems to always happen to me.
I believe that’s my body just saying “fuck you I’m not giving up anymore. I’m tired.” With the way I am, I never listen to my body. I just keep pushing and pushing until I get what I want. I’ve learned now over the past few years as a pro I can’t do that or else the results are unpleasant. The best is yet to come I can promise you and my fans that.
Q.) As some fans might remember, you actually announced your retirement from the sport two years ago. What was it that led you to that decision? Why did you decide to come back?
A.) I honestly just got disappointed in myself and didn’t want to go through another prep and failure. At that time that’s how I felt and that’s what I wanted. It didn’t last long though, maybe three weeks after receiving countless emails from fans telling me not to give up, we love you, I have so much more to give to the sport of bodybuilding and so on... just so many emails from fans of mine, which I didn’t think I had.
It made me feel worthy and appreciated that I inspired so many people. I felt that I had no other option but to get back in the gym and start yet another prep. I can honestly say If I didn’t have such great and loyal fans. who knows if I would have come back, but I did and I don’t regret it for second.
Q.) At this point you’re only 30 years old, which is still very young for bodybuilding. Do you believe that the best of Jeff Long is still yet to come?
A.) Absolutely, I believe that. This offseason will allow me to grow and make the improvements needed to get to the next level in this sport in 2015. The vision I have some say is impossible but nothing is impossible when you want it bad enough and I want it bad. I want that Pro win; I want to be an Olympia contender. I want to be remembered as one of the greats before I step down from competing.
Q.) You’re known for being very active on social media and regularly answering questions from and interacting with your fans. Why do you feel it’s so important to make an effort to reach out make yourself available to people publicly when a number of athletes chose to take another approach?
A.) I feel it’s a must to be interacting with fans on a daily basis because without fans we would not have bodybuilding shows. I feel they show us/myself so much support that it’s the least thing I can do to show my appreciation to them. I know many pros are not active with the fans and I wish they were, but maybe it’s because they feel they aren’t worth it since they wouldn’t be getting paid to do it. Some make excuses about not having time, but it only takes 1-2 minutes to post up and maybe twenty minutes to answer at least a few questions. I enjoy it and hopefully others will start being more active, too.
Q.) When’s the next time fans can expect to see you onstage?
A.) The 2015 Arnold Classic has been floating in my mind, but I won’t make any decision until after Thanksgiving, if I will be heading to Columbus for my first Arnold.
Q.) Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping to support you in your career thus far?
A.) Wow, so many people I can thank, but the most important people in my life have been there since day one – my family, my wife of eight years. My wife has been through everything with me. She never misses my shows no matter where they are at. She is what holds me together mentally when I’m really hurting.
Q.) If someone would like to find out more about you, or contact you for sponsorship and guest posing opportunities, what’s the best way for them to reach you?
A.) Anyone trying to get in contact with me can reach me at my email [email protected] or they can go to my website Jeffmlong.com and email me through there.
Jeff hit the proverbial nail on the head when he said “…you have to have the will to push your body pasts its limits.” In order for Jeff to punch his ticket and achieve his own individual greatness he’s going to have to push himself to do things he’s never done in order to get to a place he’s never been – standing under those unforgiving bright lights, hearing his name announced as the winner on an IFBB stage. And, if he plans to prove his critics and doubters wrong, he’s going to have to channel the audacity to see himself at his best – and then push past his own perceived limits and be even greater.