Firefighter loses blues, trains to 'look like an action figure'

Asbury man credits divorce, friend for bodybuilding hobby

Sports editor
Ryan Heath found himself "pouting and sulking" after his divorce three years ago, but a fellow firefighter came to his rescue.

"I thought my life was over," the Lake Asbury resident said. "A friend took me aside, and he pretty much said 'I'm going to teach you bodybuilding.' I tried it and fell in love with it."

Today, Heath sees a totally different person when he looks in the mirror, often to a great deal of kidding from his fellow firefighters at the Mayport Fire and Emergency Services department. The 24-hour shifts he works allow him to work out on the job, and part of his routine is to practice posing for bodybuilding competition.

"It's really awkward having to do it [at the station]," Heath said. "I really take a beating."

But the chiding has been well worth the effort, he said.

Heath's first goal was to gain muscle weight before taking on the challenge of losing 30 pounds of flab he accumulated after splitting up with his wife.

"I was 200 pounds of fat," he said. "I was depressed and eating chocolate and drinking beer."

That stopped abruptly when friend and co-worker Ed Namyslowski stepped into the picture.

Namyslowski, a successful bodybuilder who retired from the sport 15 years ago, says Heath had just the right body type to do well in competition.

"He didn't have a lot of muscle, but you can tell by the way his joints were that he could have," Namyslowski said. "He's got small joints and round muscles. That's what you want in bodybuilding."

After five months of bulking up with increased weights, Namyslowski placed Heath on an "ungodly" diet in preparation for a competition still four months away.

"I needed to look like an action figure," Heath said. "I had to give up anything white -- sugar, pasta, you name it. I ate nothing but egg whites, chicken and anything green, six meals a day -- 300 grams of protein and 300 grams of carbs."

Heath's diligence was rewarded with a second-place finish in his first competition, and he has gone on to place high in other shows, including third place in last weekend's Ancient City Bodybuilding Championships at Pedro Menendez High School near St. Augustine.

Contestants are judged in muscle symmetry, the length and quality of their poses, and the quality of their muscle groups.

"It takes three months of hard-core training to get down to 3 percent body fat," Heath said. "And you've got to remain tight all the time [onstage]."

At age 30, Heath has rebuilt other parts of his life as well. He has remarried, and his wife, Tammi, plans to enter her first bodybuilding competition in November.

"Things happen for a reason," he said. "It changed my life. I'm with an absolutely fabulous woman now.", (904) 278-9487, extension 20