Jessie Mattingly watched the Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Classic last year when an idea began to swim through his head.
While he watched the Classic, named after the famous movie star and former California governor and the second-largest bodybuilding and fitness competition in the world, Mattingly, who lives in Ottumwa, thought if he were to adhere to a rigorous workout regimen he could participate in the competition in 2013.
“My philosophy is ‘if you’re going to so something, do it really big,’” Mattingly said.
One year later, Mattingly’s light-bulb moment evolved into a concrete reality when he took seventh out of 100 people in the men’s physique competition at the 25th annual Arnold Classic in early March. Remarkably, it was the first competition he had ever been involved in.
“They did a top 15 call out, and when they called my number, I was so excited that I walked out with the biggest smile on my face,” he said. “I heard some of my friends screaming for me and I put my fist in the air to say, ‘I did it.’”
The men’s physique competition, which is only in its third year, is not the same as a bodybuilding competition. The builds of the men who decorate the events are not the same, either.
He said the men’s physique competition is less massive muscles — the typical bodybuilder body — than defined muscles.
It’s the average guy look, Mattingly said, “It’s nothing huge. [It’s] more based on washboard abs and the beach body.”
And this look appeals more to Mattingly than the bodybuilder look.
“I never wanted to get that big,” he said about the bodybuilder look.
But the road to the competition, which took place in Columbus, Ohio, proved to be an arduous one. Mattingly diligently stuck to a workout regimen that started soon after the 2012 Classic and he went on a 12-week diet before the event.
“I trained every day for three hours,” Mattingly said. “Every morning I would do 30 or 40 minutes of cardio on an empty stomach.”
The cardio work is called fasted cardio and is geared to burn stomach fat because no carbohydrates are available to use as energy, Andrew Smith Chicarella, Mattingly’s trainer, who is also from Ottumwa, said.
“Jessie, he’s so mentally strong,” Chicarella said. “He’s hands down the most mentally strong person I’ve ever worked out with.”
Chicarella said he worked out with Mattingly until the final two weeks before the event. At that point, Mattingly was so drained that Chicarella had to assume a new role.
“I was there as more of a motivator to make sure he finished the whole workout,” he said.
“My trainer really pushed me the last two weeks because I was really zoned out,” Mattingly said. “He knew how to help me and help push me.”
Chicarella, however, said Mattingly continued to loyally stick to his regimen despite being physically exhausted.
“Even though he was tired and beat, he was like ‘let’s go, let’s go,’” Chicarella said.
Much of Mattingly’s workout schemes involved running, biking and especially work on the stair treadmill. His diet consisted of lots of fish — he loves tilapia — white rice and an abundance of vegetables (broccoli and spinach were the veggies he consumed most). Fortunately, his hefty fish consumption didn’t lighten his wallet any because his parents own a restaurant in Missouri and they would send him a lot of fish free of charge. As his dieting neared an end, Chicarella said Mattingly cut down on his rice intake and began to consume more vegetables and fish.
Mattingly used another interesting strategy to prepare for the event.
“I’m a bit of a YouTube junkie so I watch a lot of them out [other body builders and men’s physique participants] there,” he said. “I would ask ‘How did he win’ and ‘How do I alter my physique to look better than his?’” Mattingly said he did most of his workouts at Anytime Fitness in Ottumwa, but he also worked out some at the Ottumwa YMCA.
Chicarella said the Classic featured guys from all over the world including places like Brazil, Japan, Tobago, Denmark and Trinidad. He said all the guys were amazed it was Mattingly’s first competition.
“All the guys who competed — even the guys who won — were so impressed with him,” Chicarella said. “I’m so proud of him personally; it takes a lot to do what he did. I think 99 percent of people couldn’t do it. It’s that hard. He’s a great guy and I think he deserves all the success he’s going to have.”
Mattingly said he’s looking to compete in more physique competitions in the future.