“I think I’m different, mentally different,” Mark Mancini said. “I’m very much a goal-oriented person.”
Mancini’s goal is to stand in front of judges, flex his muscles and finish his first body building competition as a 51-year-old novice.
He’s joining other body builders in the Stewart Fitness second annual Beach Body Tour at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Aug. 3. The event begins at 10 a.m. He will be entering five categories in the 50-plus masters, novice, physique and classic physique classes.
Mancini came to body building late in life, but he hasn’t taken shortcuts.
Mentally, he said, the lone competitive nature started as a wrestler at North Junior High School in Bloomfield, New Jersey. It morphed to an appreciation for team sports as a high school baseball player in Bloomfield and he was a gym rat in his 20s.
He grew up, became a chiropractor in Atlanta, Georgia, and later started his own medical information technology company. He sold the company and planned on a semi-retirement on the Grand Strand in 2015.
Through the years, he said, he would sporadically return the gym. He wasn’t competing or even thinking about competing until four months ago.
“I got married in November and I was uncomfortable with my weight, 200 pounds,” he said as his wife Dr. Doli Biondillo slid a wedding portrait across the counter in their North Myrtle Beach home. “I was snoring and that bothered her. I lost some weight and stopped snoring.”
Mancini started on the road to stage with a simple goal of getting back into shape to live a long and healthy life. He stopped eating sugar and processed flour. He started going back to the gym five days a week. The weight fell off and he noticed his body returning to the shape of his gym rat days.
“I was 50 and I heard about the 50-plus masters classes in body building. I looked at some of the pictures and I thought I could do that,” he smiled. “I didn’t know quite what I was getting into, but I had a goal in mind to compete and see where I stood. That’s all.”
But it wasn’t that simple, he said.
As the Little River Medical Center chief information officer, Mancini reached out to Dr. Raymond Reiser for a lead on a trainer. That’s when Mike Masciarelli came into his life with a focus on diet, changing his metabolism and an emphasis on mentally staying strong while trusting the training would take care of the body.
“It’s strenuous, but also you have no energy. It’s so aching. You’re just trying to pull energy from somewhere,” Mancini said of changing his life of three meals a day to five, drinking more than a gallon of water daily, taking supplements and working with weights targeted at each muscle group.
He knows the judges will be looking at body symmetry in addition to the lack of body fat so the muscle striations pop.
Now he knows he can push through the physical exhaustion.
Each morning he and Masciarelli meet at the North Myrtle Beach Aquatic and Fitness Center for an hour-plus workout with weights and exercises. The workouts begin before sunrise and end in time for him to make it to work where the CEO Pam Davis bought him a small office refrigerator so he can have access to his multiple meals.
“You eat five times a day, 450 calories with each meal. Your body changes and you use the proteins and calories and your metabolism works differently,” he said.
Masciarelli loads weights on a bar as Mancini slides onto the bench one morning in the gym. Mancini’s face contorts as the veins around his temples look life a relief map.
“It’s about fatiguing the muscles. He has to fatigue the muscles to get the striations. He doesn’t like it, but it’s part of the work,” Masciarelli said as he spotted Mancini on the bench. “If he hates it now, he’s really going to hate it leading up to the show. No carbs. He won’t have any energy. Oh he’ll be dragging. But, he’ll be fine.”
Mancini pushed the weights over his head as his arms quivered and he moaned like an injured animal with each set.
“Don’t whine,” Masciarelli teased as he helped set the bar into the nest.
Mancini said he’s about 186 pounds and expects to lose another seven pounds before the competition. Some of the weight loss, he said, should be water as he measures his body fat at less than 10%.
“I’d love to win,” Mancini said relaxing at his North Myrtle Beach home. “But at the same time, I’m doing it to see just how far I can take it in these couple of shows.”
He plans on competing in another show in Charleston two weeks after the Myrtle Beach show.
After that, he smiled, he may not compete again unless it is to mark another milestone like turning 60.
“People would ask me who’s your hero,” Mancini said. “Jack LaLanne. It was always Jack LaLanne. He was the common man who was uncommon.”
Like LaLanne, Mancini rejects the idea of using steroids while focusing on making the body naturally fit with exercise and diet.
“Life is meant to be lived,” he said looking forward to minutes after the Aug. 3 show and eating a pizza while drinking a glass of red wine. “Some times you have to have ice cream. Some times you have to have a cookie.”
While not an expert, the novice admitted, he does have some advice for others wanting to get into competitive body building.
“It’s not just pumping weights and getting big,” he said.
There’s the expense of dietary supplements, more expensive food, and leaning on the family and work support systems. There’s the cramping as body builders go through each required pose for the judges as they hold a smile on their faces.
“Also know that you’re going on stage with very little clothes on and you’re being judged. People are telling you you’re not good enough or you are good,” he said. “Mentally, you have to be able to at the end of the day be OK with that.”