Pushing the body to the limit
Hafid James signed up to take part in a bodybuilding competition last year as a friendly wager between him and some of his modelling buddies.
But after winning the top prize in the Men's Physique Class at Bermuda's Night of Champions, he opted to take his training to the next level.
“It felt good, winning feels great,” he said. “Anyone that knows me knows I love winning and hate to lose.”
Mr James is now on a quest to become the Island's next male bodybuilding professional and will be venturing to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic later this week for the Central American & Caribbean (CAC) Bodybuilding Championships.
A lot is at stake with this competition, as he flexes his muscles for the chance to win a ‘pro card', which will qualify him as a professional.
“I am pretty much just going to the CAC to do the best I can, that's what I do with anything,” the bodybuilder said.
“If I get the pro card that's the first step for me to better myself. I would have to leave Bermuda because once you get the pro card I am going to meet and be competing against people who have sponsorships and endorsements.
“The other competitors won't have to worry about paying for the supplements and gym fees and that puts me at a huge disadvantage in Bermuda because I have to pay for everything myself.
“My coaches help me anyway they can, but if I take advantage of moving overseas that will be a huge burden off my shoulders and I will see where it takes me.”
Mr James said he was always an athletic child and excelled in sports like basketball and American football in high school.
However, bodybuilding has given him a chance to push his body to new limits and challenges him mentally as well.
“If it was something you mastered easily, it wouldn't intrigue me, but you can learn something new everyday about eating and how your body reacts to food and different training techniques. You can push yourself to see what you can take and to test your willpower.”
The 27-year-old said he felt on top of the world when he placed fourth in the Arnold Amateur Competition 2013.
But he almost considered throwing in the towel after he failed to rank in the recent Emerald Cup contest in Bellevue, Washington.
“That hurt me bad, but it was a learning experience. I realised that any experience, good or bad, is going to help you depending on how you use it.
“When I didn't place part of me said ‘Maybe this isn't for me?' but I couldn't go out like that for sure.
“I just used the experience to talk to the judges and looked at all the pictures of everyone that placed in the top five and I was able to adjust my workout plan to get ready for Night of Champions 2013.”
He learned the judging standard was constantly changing and worked to mould his body into the ‘new look' in time for his latest feat.
But he maintains a lot of a bodybuilder's work is actually done outside the gym.
He probably spends two hours each day, five days a week lifting weights and doing cardio activity and said for real bodybuilders “it's a 24 hour thing”.
“It's not just gym work, it's how you eat and sleep. If you are serious about it it's a lifestyle,” he explained.
Mr James credits much of his success to trainers Ross Caesar, from Seaview Ultimate Fitness Club, and Carmichael Bryan, of Positive Results.
“They always make sure they get me ready and have been a really great help,” he explained. “It's something I am not used to getting, having mentors in the sport willing to give me all the knowledge and make sure I am able to do what I do.”
His brother Shae James and friend Kara Simmons, along with the Bermuda Bodybuilding Federation and Seaview Gym have also been a huge support.
But his work is not over yet and he understands the upcoming CAC will likely be a challenge.
“It's going to be really hard because I am going against the winners from the other Islands, but I am just hoping after going to two additional international competitions and everything I learned from my coaches will give me the advantage.
“CAC is once a year, so people train all year just to get there,” he added.