Interview With Sebastian MacLean
Paul: Can you give us some background about yourself?
Sebastian: Well, let's see... I'm currently 31 years old and I've been involved with the sport of competitive bodybuilding for around 16 years. Starting at age 15, I placed top three in my first show. I went on to become Junior Mr New Brunswick, Junior Mr Atlantic Canada and claimed second at the Junior Canadian Nationals. As a senior I claimed the title of Mr New Brunswick and placed in the top ten at both the Canadians and the World Qualifiers. In the last few years I have been the subject in a film called Facing Goliath. To some degree it covers my journey of competing naturally in mostly non-tested bodybuilding shows. I have also written two books, one called Naturally Massive and The Fat Burn Truth. Both of these books were inspired by articles I had been writing for Musclemag International and American Health and Fitness.
Paul: What got you started with bodybuilding?
Sebastian: It was my father, Mike MacLean, that was my initial inspiration. He didn't know much about bodybuilding, but was known for having an impressive physique as a gymnast and water skiing instructor. His naturally large and lean arms, shoulders and back drew a lot of comments from my buddies. Initially I just wanted to be like my dad.
My dad was principal of my school when I was in the second to third grade. It was a small town and so kids attended from grade one to grade twelve.
One of the older students started showing up with bodybuilding magazines of Arnold Schwarzenegger and others from bodybuildings golden age. He looked up to my dad because of his muscular physique and thought he would be interested in the whole bodybuilding idea.
Now dad did have me and the whole school doing as many as 300 push-ups a day, when I was just seven, as he loved the idea of being in shape and helping others do the same. However, he was only mildly interested in bodybuilding, because he came out of an era that carried a lot of stigma for competitive bodybuilders. At the time he had an old fashioned idea that bodybuilding was for bikers and greasers.
I started seeing the magazines that the older kids brought around and I was amazed, because to me the muscular physiques represented an amplified version of what I saw in my father. By age 10 I was fully aware of Arnold Schwarzenegger and had decided that I would duplicate his career. Dad got me a weight set and we would train together in the woodshed in temperatures as cold as 30 below zero, striving to build our physiques. I kept this up until, at age 14, it struck me that I just might be able to compete.
Paul: What is it about bodybuilding that you love so much?
Sebastian: There are lot of things that I love, but I think the one of the big things is how bodybuilding teaches you that you never have to settle for where you are at any given moment. I had moved from the big city of Toronto to a small country town when I was just 5 years old. My mother was a former professional European ballet dancer. I knew the world had a lot to offer outside of this small country town I wound up growing up in. It was through bodybuilding that I saw I had the ability to fashion myself as I wished, regardless of my circumstances or surroundings. Bodybuilding taught me that setting a goal and taking small steps toward it everyday could take me anywhere I wanted to go in life. Bodybuilding is a just a great visual example of the power we have to achieve the things we put our minds to, even if you start out a scrawny runt like I was in the beginning.
Paul: What adversities have you had to overcome?
Sebastian: Well, I've spelled out a few already I guess, but some of the really challenging stuff came when I decided I wanted to compete. My folks hit hard financial times once they moved away from the big city rat race, but decided they still wanted a simpler life. The work my father was able to find sometimes had our family of five squeezing by on $15,000 a year or less. We couldn't afford oil or electric heat, so I lugged wood on a daily basis to keep the wood furnace stoked. I recall that one year we had to live on about 500 pounds of Makeral fish, as it was being sold on the coast for under 10 cents a pound. This was all we could afford at the time. Now I'm not a picky eater, but 500 pounds of anything get's a bit tired.
When I decided I wanted to compete there was no way for my parent to afford the daily gas expense required for me to get to a gym in the city, let alone the gym membership fee. I wound up taking my hour school bus ride in the morning. Then after school, I would hitchhike to another town, 20 kilometers from my school, where the gym was located. I would do my training and then go eat or do homework in a downtown restaurant. I had to do this because in order to pay for my membership, the owners let me clean the gym bathrooms at the end of the night so they could justify not charging me to train there. Then by ten at night I would hitchhike 40 kilometers home, often in the dead of many a winter snow storm. By the time I got home at night it was close to midnight and I would crash in order to be ready to do it all again the next day. I kept that up all through high school.
I do need to say that when I started this process, around 14 or 15 years of age, I got a lot of encouragement from people in the industry. When I was 14 I went to a seminar put on by Musclemag writer/photographer Gary Bartlett at Gold's Gym. Gary and the gym owners, Brent Blackmore and Pierre Gaudette, were impressed by my development enough to offer me a six month free membership, if I agreed to compete in an upcoming show. That was the push I needed to go to the extremes I wound up taking on in the ensuing years.
Paul: What are your favorite and least favorite exercises?
Sebastian: I'm like most guys. I love nailing chest and biceps. In particular I love bench press and alternate dumbbell curls.
Least favorite would have to be lunges. There is nothing like trying to keep your balance doing a lunge, after a few sets of squats. Not pretty.
Paul: What has been your favorite bodybuilding moment so far?
Sebastian: I have two favorite moments.
Winning my first show was pretty amazing for me. I was 17 and a lightweight in the New Brunswick Bodybuilding Championships, of 1993. I had won my weight class and was facing down a 21 year old guy who looked huge to me. By the end of the night my symmetry won the judges over. That first win was an amazing feeling.
The other favorite moment was watching my dad compete for the first time at age 60. I helped him train and diet and he was in better shape than he had ever been in. Coming full circle like that, after dad had been to all my shows, was a very proud moment for me. He wound up winning a masters title.
Paul: What are your tips for the beginner, intermediate and advanced bodybuilders?
Sebastian: For beginners I advise that they get familiar with exercise form right off the bat and recognize the absolute essential value of diet. Good form causes more rapid growth because of how much more the targeted muscle is effected and good diet provides the necessary elements for ample hormone output, muscle tissue repair and energy utilization.
For intermediates... hopefully these people know their exercise form and have a basic sense of the role food plays in their progress. At this level I find it is common for people to need refinement in their diet and training cycles. Your body will get used to a training pattern if you keep doing the same thing for months at a time. It is best to adjust calorie intake and training structure every few weeks.
For advanced bodybuilders I will often suggest that, if they aren't already, they should keep training logs and cycle their carbohydrate intake in order to achieve increases in natural hormone output. People who have been training for a while can fall into patterns that prevent them from making progress. Even the way you warm up and prep a muscle for a lift can do a lot to increase your lift strength.
Paul: Where do you stand on the use of steroids and supplements?
Sebastian: I have mixed feelings on this issue. I used steroids myself for about 3 months, just prior to my 19 birthday. I wound up walking into the Junior Atlantic Canadians, without even dieting, and winning the overall title. Talk about feeling hooked. I had trained hard and made a lot of sacrifices to get ahead and in one cycle I was able to clean up without even really trying that hard.
My position on the issue has come about as a result of what happened after that win. After that show I had no cash for another cycle and I noticed I didn't care about my training, because I was losing size and waiting until I could get back on the gear. I took off for a summer vacation and when I got back I had lost about 15 pounds more than what I had put on. My natural hormone output had crashed and I was starting out smaller than I had been in years. I started training again, at first thinking I would get a little size back before saucing again. Then I realized that I missed being able to count on the gains I was making. I started remembering what it was like to set a goal and achieve a result that I could keep and grow from, unlike the up and down of steroid cycles.
Ultimately I have concluded that steroids are a matter of choice. In the seventies it was easier to be moderate with steroids and do well. Back then a bodybuilder could get big enough to win Mr. Olympia and still be acceptable in the movie business or other public endeavors with a relatively small amount of steroids. Today a bodybuilder is faced with the reality that the mainstream just can't relate to someone who is 300 pounds of ripped mass and if you want to be a successful pro you don't have a choice. You have to use a lot of juice and marginalize yourself from the mainstream.
I have decided that I want bodybuilding to help me with the development of a number of interests, including film and the health of the public in general. With the advances we have in nutrition and supplementation today, I can get pretty close to developing a physique like those of Arnold's era and that is all I really want in order to still be relatable to the public. I don't fault guys like Sylverser Stallone for using a little juice to get ready for his last hurrah as Rambo. However, if I am training to compete then I am more interested in going as far as I can naturally. Steroids, in today's world of bodybuilding, are largely pointless unless you plan to use insane amounts to get to the top of the pro ranks and that is not the same as it was 20 years ago. I hope that natural bodybuilding becomes more popular, so we have a shot at bringing back the more aesthetic physiques represented in the days of Serge Nubret and Arnold etc.
The thing that really drives me crazy and that I believe kills the sport the most are things like synthol and implant freaks. These just don't fall into any category of genetic ability and only serve to delegitimize the sport further.
Paul: What are your future goals?
Sebastian: I have a few projects on my plate right now. At the moment I am trying to make a number of bodybuilding related materials available on the web. I mentioned my two books Naturally Massive and The Fat Burn Truth... These along with the film Facing Goliath and my Inches Weight Loss program.
Through my film production company, PixaTale Media, I am also working on development of a feature film project, but this is just in the early stages. The dramatic action pic could be a couple years away from theatres yet. In the mean time I am working as a producer on a few documentary projects.
I try not to guess at what is coming up too far down the road, because life is full of surprises. However, I do hope to compete again in the future. In the mean time I have been enjoying judging at a few shows and will continue to help others where I can.
Paul: What is the toughest part about bodybuilding for you?
Sebastian: At this stage in my life the toughest part of bodybuilding is consistency. I find that starting a couple of businesses, having kids and traveling to speak with people about fitness and health issues, means I have to set priorities differently in order to achieve everything I am going after. Now I find myself training to maintain a certain basic level of health and them when a film or fitness project is on the horizon, I set a time period for more intense training. It's not like when I was younger and every day could be about full intensity in the gym, but my years have provided me with the knowledge to get in peak shape when I need to, while staying healthy when other projects on on my plate.
Paul: Is there anything else you would like to say?
Sebastian: Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit with you and the bodybuilding community Paul. I guess in closing I will just say that bodybuilding has become a great foundation for me in a number of areas. I encourage anyone who starts on their bodybuilding journey to look at what lessons are available in the physical process that they can apply to other goals in life. My best to all of you.
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