When Jeremy Cagle started lifting weights as a teenager, he was the definition of scrawny.
“When I started when I was 17 or 18 I was 5’10″ and 130 pounds,” Cagle said. “It’s just the type of body and genetics I have.”
The 26-year-old fitness trainer from Decatur is anything but a small fry now.
Cagle just competed in his second bodybuilding competition in April. For the second year in a row, he competed in the Ronnie Coleman Classic in Mesquite. He finished seventh out of 12 contestants in the Novice Lightweight division. The event is a national qualifier.
He said it was an improvement after finishing fifth out of eight contestants the year before.
“I’ve always had a dedicated personality,” Cagle said. “When I get started on something, I have to give 100 percent.”
The process of going from meek to physique changed the way he interacts with the world.
“When I was young, I was very shy,” Cagle said. “I was afraid to try new things and meet new people. Working out has given me confidence. I’m very outgoing now. When I see people I haven’t seen in a while, they don’t even recognize me anymore.”
Cagle wasn’t very athletic when he was young, and he grew up with less than many of his peers had.
“I wasn’t raised like your typical family. We were dirt poor when I was a kid,” Cagle said. “My mom took care of four kids while working at Sonic.”
His mother Laurie Mclean worked hard to raise four kids, mostly on her own. Cagle adopted her work ethic.
The emphasis to get ahead prompted Cagle to enroll in Cates High School, an accelerated learning program. He enrolled as a sophomore in the fall and earned his high school diploma by December of that year. It was just another quest for Cagle.
“When I started my sophomore year, I said I was going to graduate by Christmas,” he said. “Everybody said I couldn’t. Every day I took tests from 8 a.m. to noon, and then I went home and studied for 10 to 12 hours every night.”
As soon as he earned his diploma, he started working for a local dry wall company. He worked there for years before he eventually found his calling as a physical trainer. His humble beginnings helped him appreciate everything a little bit more, including that first car he bought for himself.
“It’s so rewarding when you know you had to work for something yourself to get it, to make it happen,” Cagle said.
Just as Cagle’s life has had some ups and downs, the sport of bodybuilding embraces that spirit.
“I have two sets of wardrobes in my closet,” he said. “My weight fluctuates 40 to 50 pounds when I’m preparing for competition.”
His weight shifts between approximately 160 pounds to 210 pounds during his preparation to compete in bodybuilding.
“During the off-season, you consume a lot more calories and put on extra weight while trying to build muscle,” Cagle said.
The dietary science begins during the weeks leading up to the event. It’s during that time the bodybuilder attempts to lose every bit of fat he can while retaining all the muscle.
“It gets complicated during those final two weeks,” Cagle said. “Just consuming 200 extra calories a day can throw you off. The diet is the hardest part. It’s two different diets; it’s two different workouts.”
His calorie intake varies between 3,000 a day to 8,000 a day, depending on the season.
The bodybuilder even has to dehydrate himself before competing in order to present every muscle to the judges.
“You can’t show off every single muscle fiber if you have a layer of moisture between the skin and the muscle,” he said. “It makes the posing very difficult. It’s easy to cramp up out there.”
Although he admits bodybuilding is not the healthiest sport due to the extremes it puts your body through, he said he is young and plans to continue to get bigger and improve on his performances.
He credits Decatur personal trainer Bob Spalding for his current level.
“Every great trainer has their own personal trainer,” Cagle said. “You need someone from the outside looking in.”
Cagle said people ask him why he competes in the Ronnie Coleman Classic. He said the event is known for having some competitors that use an extra edge to get ahead. But, ever the underdog, Cagle said he is committed to building his body naturally. He continues to earn everything in his life and not take the easy road.