Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Conversation with 70's National Amateur bodybuilding champion, Dave Spector. By Dr. Michael Dusa

A Conversation with 70's National Amateur bodybuilding champion, Dave Spector. By Dr. Michael Dusa

MD: Hey Dave! Great to talk to you.

DS: I am very happy to, Michael.

MD: I remember you when I was a early magazine cover showed you with a tremendous side-chest shot. And you were unto a Zane-esque figure. How did you start out?

DS: Thanks Mike. I guess you can say that I started out in bodybuilding in a most indirect way. When I was only eight years old, my father died right in front of me. He was only 38 years old-it was a massive heart attack. Two years prior to this tragedy, my little sister, she was only five years old-well, at this time, doctors still actually made house calls.He gave her penicillin, and she had a bad reaction to it, and she died. My mother, a very strong woman, brought us up on her own, myself and my two brothers. To this day, she lives only ten minutes away from me in Boca Raton, Florida. She's 88 years old, owns her home, takes care of her garden, and works out three times per week with one of my trainers. Sorry for digressing!

MD: All your information is vital, Dave. Carry on as you will.

DS: (laughs) Thanks. I grew up on Long Island, and I was always into sports. When I was 12 years old, my mother bought me a plastic Dan Lurie weight set-you know, the thin bar, the collars that you had to screw on and off. So I started with that. In seventh grade, I was a little chunky and had not yet started with the weights. Well, we had gym class of course and Marvin Goldberg was our gym teacher. I just want to say now that Mr. Goldberg was a very huge influence in my life, and he just passed away last year. So, there was a guy named Steve who was the best wrestler in our entire school. In physical education class there was a wrestling mat- and Steve would regularly kick my ass every day on that mat! But, after about six or eight weeks, I started doing pretty well against him. I ended up joining the wrestling team in high school and college, and ended up a national champion.

MD: Phenomenal! You know, a lot of the legends I've been interviewing seem to have wrestling nestled somewhere in their background. Maybe there is a connection to bodybuilding excellence and that sport. I live close to WWE headquarters...maybe I should go down there and get thrown around for a while....

Legendary Wrestler Dan Gable
DS: (laughs). No, don't do that. I don't think it would end well for you(both laugh). In my senior year of high school, we adopted free-style, Greco Roman wrestling as a category. It was the first year this style was used, and I excelled in it. That Summer, 20 kids were taken as part of the national team, and it was a great, great time for me. I traveled all over the country, and ended up competing at University of Iowa. The very famous and iconic Dan Gable was there, and I won my category for the Greco Roman Nationals-this was for all of America. This was the best Summer of my life.

MD: Dan Gable, yes. Biggest name in wrestling as I know. That is a tremendous achievement Dave.

DS: Thank you. I feel mostly I won in wrestling because of my physical strength. I could bench press 350 pounds at a bodyweight of 177. I was a good student and won the scholar athlete award. I attended Montclair State College and wrestled for them from 1974 to 1976. We became Division 3 national champions. Well, I ended up blowing out my knee, had three or four surgeries on it, and stopped wrestling my junior year. I then transferred to CW Post, and earned my B.S. degree in health education. Overall, I played football and lacross as well, but wrestling was my favorite. Just look at Richard Perillo's kid. Great, great high school wrestler with a tremendous physique.

MD: Richie's son is a prodigy. Rich senior has done a great job in producing one of America's best and brightest. Wish there were more like him...

DS: He is. As I mentioned, my junior high coach was great, actually much better than my high school coach. In high school, I was the one who actually ran the practices, our coach was not really there for us. It's true that in high school, I didn't really have much challenge as far as competition went, not until college in Greco Roman style was I challenged. In this style, its all throws, so my upper body strength really helped me. In high school, we were on our own as far as weight lifting was concerned. I had always lifted just for sports perfomance until the knee injury. In a meet at Lehigh University, I actually split my olecranon (elbow) in two. At this point, I just didn't want my athletic scholarship anymore.

Al Oerter
MD: So then you got into bodybuilding training.

DS: Yes, I did. I was at CW Post and I had built a good physique. I joined Olympic Health Club in Long Island, and it was here that I met and befriended Olympic legend, Alfred (Al) A. Oerter. He was the nicest person. He was 285 pounds when I met him. He could curl 315 pounds for sets of six repetitions. Al is the only athlete to win the same Olympic event (discus) four times in a row (1956, 1960,1964,1968) and setting Olympic records each time. My first bodybuilding contest was actually called "Mr. Jester Street." (laughs) That was the name of the night club it was held in. I didn't even train for it, but I won! It's fair to say that at the time, I really didn't know what I was doing. Still, this lit a spark of enthusiasm in me to pursue competing further. It was fun.

MD: Awesome. I actually remember, I think, seeing Al Oerter competing on the Superstars when I was a kid, and all I remember was his incredibly defined quad muscles.

DS: Al was great. He introduced me to another legendary champ, John Boos. We started going to John's house, he had a gym in his basement. I'll never forget Al bringing me there...John was in the middle of his workout. He was 5'3" but powerfully built, strong as a mammoth. About 205 pounds. He looked at me and just said, "Hey, you, come over here." I came down the stairs and he told me to take my clothes off. I threw a double bicep shot, and he just told me to come back tomorrow to start training with him. His place was great. All hand made equipment. John and Al, they taught me so much. John won the short class in the Mr. World, and is 69 now. Still in great shape.

John Boos, Al Oerter and
Dave Spector
MD: John Boos. Thick as a brick.

DS: We were known as the "Cellar Dwellers." (laughs) Newsday did an article on the three of us and our basement training, and this is how we became known. I miss Al. He was a dear friend and mentor until he passed. He'd tell me, "Look forward, always. The next event is all that matters." He always had a four year plan in winning all those Olympic medals.

MD: You were surrounded with great people. This explains some of your success.

DS: Absolutely. In 1977, the first regular bodybuilding show that I won was the Mr. Apollo. I won the novice division. The same night, there was also the open division being held. Much stiffer competition here. John Boos told me to stay in my sweat suit as long as possible, until just before I go on stage, and to just do 50 push ups to pump up. The guys in this division were HUGE. I disrobed and got in line back stage. Well, who was in line next to me? None other than John Kemper...and he took a look at me and said, "Who the F--K are YOU?" (both laugh). I won the class! I was surprised I beat John. These guys were great. I lost the overall to Ron Teufel.

MD: Man, Kemper was great. Loved that guy. Teufel, strong and one of the thickest, dense guys of his day. Both gone now.

DS: Great people. You know I went to high school with John DeFendis-his brother was also a great wrestler. I competed with John, Mike Torchia, Tom Terwilliger and other greats in the Mr. Metropolitan. As you know, Mike, that was a great show. You won that, and it was like a springboard to the national stage. As far as competing, I think my best showings were in the Mr. New York State and the Mr. Atlantic USA, both big wins for me In the Junior Mr. America, I took second in the tall class to Terry Brooks. He was good, but there was lots of booing from the crowd. After the show, I think he was embarrassed to approach me. Jim Seitzer won the overall. Jim was a very nice guy. He looked great and deserved the win.

MD: I met Jim in California when I was 16 at Gold's. True, he was very nice and even gave me some lifting advice.Are you still in touch with a lot of folks from your old bodybuilding days?

DS: Yes, John Boos, John Defendis and even Mike Ashley, who has a training studio close to me here in Florida.

MD: Dave, you are now a very successful trainer...

DS: Yes, I've done well. In 1979, when I won the New York State show, the emcee of the show was a physical therapist. He convinced me to relocate to Syracuse and help him open five fitness centers. We were ahead of our time with these facilities, as we offered training and also physical rehabilitation. While in Syracuse, and after the Junior America, I was training for the Mr. America, and I badly tore my bicep. I got one of those 'curtain roll' injuries while doing preacher curls-I was going too heavy. Essentially, I lost my symmetry and I gave up bodybuilding competition at this point.

MD: Very bad injury-tough to overcome and occupy the same physical shape you once had.

DS: Exactly. I mean, at the time, I was like a machine. I'd rise at 5 am, from 5:30 to 6:30 I'd train, I'd substitute teach after this from 7 am to 3:30 am, I'd be at Boos' house fro 4-5:30 to train again, and from 6-10 pm I'd manage the gym. At 10 pm I'd prepare my food for the next day. I'd do this every day except of course for the weekends. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing-I loved it.

MD: Dave, please describe a typical day's nutrition.

DS: Sure.

Meal one- Six whole eggs with mushrooms and a little bit of turkey, coffee, then train.

Meal two-Chicken breast and grapefruit.

Meal three- A can of tuna-eaten out of the can, some grapefruit.

Meal four- A piece of fish, a salad.

Meal five-A pound of sliced turkey, rolled up with some lettuce.

Meal six- Not really a meal, but I'd have a tablespoon of peanut butter at night to settle my cravings.

MD: I do the same with the peanut butter. Any secret with the grapefruit?

DS: No. I just like it.

I'd make a pretty cool concoction. I'd take shredded wheat, about a cup of it. A half pound of low fat cottage cheese, three soft boiled eggs and a can of tuna. I'd mix this up and store it in tupperware for consumption the next day.

At the time, I lived with two other guys in an apartment. A few times, my food was gone. I asked my roomates and they swore they hadn't eaten it. I finally discovered that one of the guy's girlfriends, who would stay over at times, had a sleepwalking problem. She'd sleep walk to the fridge, eat my food, and then go back to sleep (both laugh)!

MD: I had college roomates who'd do that. They'd do their sleeping in class, get drunk at our dorm, then eat my food. Didn't end well for them.

DS: Ha!

MD: What was your training like?

DS: My cardio was running twice each week, for two miles, as fast as I could. I did this at a bodyweight of 197. I liked running. In my thirties I ran the Marine Corps marathon. I'd train heavy with the weights with very little rest. I mean, I'd do maybe 25 sets in a workout with NO rest in between sets.

MD: So, how did things progress with your business interests in Syracuse?

DS: Well, the partners eventually split. I took over two of the clubs. In 1982, I saw on TV "Body By Jake," You know, Jake Steinfeld. I'm thinking, I can do this...this guy is just a salesperson. I was hanging out in a bar around this time, about 175 pounds but I was ripped. A fat guy sitting at the bar looked at me and said, "I want to look like you." This guy was known in the area-he owned several car dealerships and had money. I told him I'd train him and gave him my card. Well, three weeks go by and he finally calls me. "I'm a fat shit, please help me." That's exactly what he said. I charged him $50 per session. Remember, this was Syracuse in the early 80's-not a lot of money up there at the time. (laughs) That very night, I made up a brochure with a pic of myself on it. It said, "If Dave can't get you in shape, nobody can.(laughs)" Well, this guy went from 248 pounds of flab to 180 pounds! Remember, this guy was constantly starring in his own car dealership television commercials, and everyone knew and saw him. Since he was wealthy, his circle of influence was people of high net worth. That month I was swarmed with business. Everyone saw how I helped this guy, and I was suddenly working 13 hours per day, everyday. It never stopped. I never had to spend on advertising-I still don't. It's all referrals.

At this point, I told my remaining partner to take the gyms. I opened a studio in downtown Syracuse. We were doing 250 appointments per week. I did open a second location across town, which did ok, but it was hard to be at both.

MD: It's a personality based business, at least, in part.

DS: Yes, it is. I got sick of the snow in Syracuse. They were great people there-there is no phoniness. I'm still close with some of the people there today. I remember one day rather vividly. It was a Monday morning, a very gray, dank day. There was a blanket of snow. My 6:30 am client was a no-show. I decided right there to sell the business and buy a condo on the water in Florida.

MD: (laughs) Many people, I am sure, think of doing the same. Most don't dare...

DS: Right. My mom was already living down there. I moved down and first worked out of a gym, and then opened my own place in central Boca. I was charging $75 per hour and had two trainers working with me. My client built a building close to the water, and I looked at a space he'd had available, it was 400 thousand dollars, which I did not have. But, since I really wanted the space, I got 12 clients to give me 10 thousand dollars each as a pre-pay on their programs with me, and there was my 120 K down payment for the space. I had to do a buildout as well, so the total was about 600K. I have an upscale clientele, I mean some are billionaires. It's all referral. We do a two hour consultation, we do blood work, nutrition programs, the goal setting component is VERY key. Its just me and two other trainers. On average, a client spends $300 per week for three sessions, but they get all quality.
Dave's One on One fitness programs
MD: You'd say bodybuilding has helped you in life?

DS: Bodybuilding helped me a lot. You know, my competitive career was pretty short. The bicep injury decided that for me. But I've learned so much, and continue to learn to this day. I am certified by the NSCA and ACSM. These, to me, are the two very best training credentialing and teaching organizations. I am certified as a personal trainer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist(CSCS), and as an exercise physiologist. One of the smartest people in the country in the fitness industry, Dr. Abbott, has a school that helps you pass the NSCA and ACSM. It's 450 hours of learning to get through his course. It is no-nonsense. You know, we are working with people's insides AND outsides, and, as a bodybuilder and nothing else, I didn't think of this. There are joint limits, people on medications, Beta blockers. There's so much to know. I'd much rather have my present day self train me then my old, bodybuilding self.

MD: That speaks volumes.

DS: It does. I work on HABITS regarding nutrition. You take a guy who is 300 go slowly. I mean, he may have never been in shape in his life. He doesn't even know what it feels like to truly enjoy good health. We focus on short term goals, aimed at the long term.

MD: So, Dave, life is good?

DS: Yes, great. I walk out on my deck, look down on my boat in the marina, I love my work. There's a lot of hours...I am 60 years old today, in fact.

MD: Happy birthday!

DS: Thanks Mike. I am in good shape. I weigh 165 at about 8% body fat. I push the road sled. It's a great work out. I take no medications, but my right knee will eventually have to be replaced. I have a porsche, but don't really live extravagantly. My three brothers and sister, we get together once per year.

MD: Dave, I sense we are winding down here. Before I let you go, some have asked me about a photo of you from back in the day, in it you are trying to pull a train?

DS: (laughs) Oh, yeah. That. Denie Walter, the famous MTI writer and photographer who usually just went by "Denie", he was doing a story called "Dave Spector Trains Lats." We went to a train yard, and I am in top shape, just in shorts. I'm sitting there, pulling a rope affixed to a parked train, Denie is shooting photos. Well, all of a sudden, a cop has a gun pointed right at my head, point blank! He didn't believe we were shooting for a magazine, and he took us to jail. I mean, I am wearing no clothes! Just wearing shorts the whole time! We stood in front of the judge, and Denie paid a $400 dollar fine.

MD: Any photos of you and Denie standing before his honor (laughs)?

DS: No.

MD: Dave, I thank you. You lent a picturesqueness in my mind of what it was like back in the day. You are one of the good guys.

DS: Thanks Mike. I do want to say that life is a journey. There are many ups and downs-for everyone. Don't let the downs get to you, just keep going. Everything will be fine. When I tore my biceps, I thought my life was over. A new door opened, I switched my focus to helping others. Goodness always comes back to you.

Dave Spector's Impressive CV

BS Health Education - Long Island University

Certified - American College of Sports Medicine (HFI)

Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist - NSCA

Certified - National Strength and Conditioning Assn. (Personal Trainer)

Certified Personal Training Specialist - Fitness Institute International (CPTS)

Certified - Institute of Aerobics Research (PFS)

U.S. Weightlifting Federation (USWF) Club Coach

25 Years of personal training experience

1978 - 1st Place Mr. New York State (Bodybuilding)

1980 - 4th Place Mr. USA

National Greco Roman Wrestling Champion

Trained with 4 time Olympic Gold Medalist - Al Oerter

Marine Corps Marathon (3 hrs. 8 min.)

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