SURREY - Thirty years ago, Surrey resident Neal Hamilton took to the stage for the first time ever to showcase his body at the B.C. Bodybuilding Fitness, Physique, Bikini and Figure Championships. Since that time, Hamilton has had a long and storied bodybuilding career, winning titles and competitions all over North America before retiring in 2007.
Now, five years after the fact, Hamilton has come out of retirement to not only take to the stage once more, but to show the youth of today - including his son - what you can do with determination and will.
"Basically what brought me out of retirement was my son, he'll be 18 in September and I wanted him to see what it's like to be a bodybuilder: the competing, the training and the diet, stuff like that," explained Hamilton, noting that his son has expressed an interest in getting into bodybuilding.
Perhaps the most important lesson Hamilton hopes to teach his son though, is that success as a bodybuilder can come without the use of steroids. Unlike some competitors, Hamilton has dedicated his life to being an all-natural bodybuilder, avoiding the use of steroids in favour of naturally building mass and muscle.
It's a method that's allowed the 47-year-old to retain his physique and muscle mass over the years since his retirement and jump right back into the mix without difficulty. And it seems the time off hasn't slowed Hamilton down at all, as he recently walked away with the top spot at the 2012 B.C. Provincial Bodybuilding Championships.
"I wanted to show (my son) and everybody else you don't need steroids to have a great physique and I also want to inspire people my age that it's never too late to get in the best shape of your life," said Hamilton, noting that the competition was a non-tested event.
"So being natural myself, I still won the masters (category) when the majority of the other guys were on steroids."
As for the benefits of being all-natural, Hamilton says longevity is probably the best reason to do it.
"I can stop training for six months and my muscle will stay good and solid for a while because this is dense muscle that's built up," he explained. "But if you do the steroids and then get off them for six months, you just shrink down.
"My muscles, my skeletal muscles and the muscle maturity, that stuff stays with you."
Having proven that he's still got what it takes, Hamilton said he's planning to step back from competition for another two years before trying his hand at the international circuit when he turns 50, at which point he'll be considered a Grandmaster.
"A Grandmaster is for people 50 years and older," he said. "So I'm going to give my body a rest and my goal is to come back at 50-years-old and be a world champion."
When he's not competing, Hamilton is a personal trainer out of Revolution Gym in Langley. Those interested in natural bodybuilding or nutrition advice can contact him at email@example.com.