Show of strength

Nanaimo’s David Gilks wins at the Western Naturals, his first bodybuilding competition.

Nanaimo’s David Gilks flexes during the B.C. Western Naturals bodybuilding event in Kelowna earlier this month. Gilks finished first in his division.

Nanaimo’s David Gilks flexes during the B.C. Western Naturals bodybuilding event in Kelowna earlier this month. Gilks finished first in his division.

You don’t need to be a bodybuilder to build your body, says Nanaimo’s David Gilks.

The fitness centre owner just won his masters’ division at the B.C. Western Naturals bodybuilding competition in Kelowna this month, but it’s not so much the sport that excites him – it’s fitness, as a lifestyle, that makes him impassioned.

“My goal was to try and inspire people…,” he said. “If you don’t have a sport, this could be your sport. You could call it strength training or functional training, call it whatever you like, the body’s going to change and you’re building a body.”

A lot of people can’t run, for example, or can’t play tennis, he said, because their joints won’t co-operate.

“Doctors always recommend it … You’ve got a shoulder problem? Go strength train. You’ve got a knee problem? Go strength train. You’ve got a problem with your back? Go to the gym. They don’t say go for a run or swing a tennis racket. It’s the foundational premise for so many things.”

Gilks, 46, decided to enter his first-ever bodybuilding competition as a personal fitness goal, and didn’t need to radically change his weightlifting routine to train. Basically he stuck to a stricter diet for a couple of weeks and worked with a posing coach leading up to the event.

“My lifestyle allowed me to walk up there with slight changes to behaviour and actually enjoy a real fun weekend…” he said. “All I had to do was drop a little bit of water and get sprayed down with some ghastly fake tan that made me look kind of demonic.”

The spray tan improves the visibility of muscle definition under the stage lights, and whether it helped or not, Gilks left with a trophy and a positive experience.

Not everyone who walks into David Gilks’s Core Essentials fitness centre will be posing in a Speedo in two weeks’ time. And really, that’s not the point.

Gilks grew up on a hobby farm in the Maritimes and helped his father with construction work from a young age. For him, weightlifting is intuitive.

“My body had this rich environment to pull information from,” he said. “It’s like living in a bilingual family; same idea.”

But he recognizes that for so many people in modern society, strength training isn’t intuitive at all. People tend to sit hunched over their desks at their computers for hours, and so even if they become inspired to start exercising, the body movements can feel awkward and the process can be overwhelming.

“Eighty-five per cent just flounder because they have no idea where to start,” said Gilks. “And they’re not going to walk into a gym because there’s people like me wandering around slamming weights on the floor and it’s intimidating.”

It’s unfortunate, he said, because he believes strength training can be fitness as a sport, for anyone, men or women of any age. Gilks proved that age is no barrier, winning a bodybuilding competition just weeks before his 47th birthday, and he’ll try to prove it again in a year’s time, as he’s targeting nationals.

“Getting older is inevitable. The chronological part, you can’t control. Biologically you have a tremendous amount of control. It’s lifestyle choices,” he said. “Strength training is a really neat tool to use and once people have a bit of information it’s pretty empowering.”

TRAINING TALK … Gilks is a former News Bulletin columnist. Many of his health and fitness columns are archived on the Core Essentials website here.