(A mom’s perspective)

Looking now at this fantastic journey which fills my heart and body with so much happiness, actually started with me as a teenager at Spartan health Club many, many, years ago and has lead up to this point many, many, years later where my son has actually repeated my journey.

As a teenager, I was always so focused on being fit and having a great body. Spartan became my second home from the age of 14. I know it’s very unusual for a teenager to actually join a gym at such a young age but exercise was my passion. Here, Mickey Haughton James provided me with the best instructors that anyone could ever ask for – persons like Frederick Smith, Gerald Roache and Carmi Smith.  Being a perfectionist and someone who puts every effort into whatever I am doing, I worked out as if I was actually training for a competition all the time. The instructors saw a drive in me so they were always welcoming, interested in my progress and always ready to give me instructions.  School and gym were my life, even after graduating from High School I continued to train there. I practically went to Spartan twice per day, 7 days a week for training. I eventually began working at Spartan as an aerobic and bodybuilding instructor.  Competitions got my attention when I started receiving continuous requests to enter the various competitions. I was never one to be in the limelight so this was a huge step for me. I entered and represented Spartan and placed 1st in one competition and also second in two other competitions then I migrated to the USA soon after.

My exercise routine continued as I pursued my studies and career. However, looking back, I know that Bodybuilding strengthened not only my body but my mind also.  I thank my Spartan Family always, as the training I received there made me a very strong willed and progressive person, always ready to jump over any hurdle.

Fitness has always been a huge part of my life, as routine as eating, drinking, brushing your teeth. So I have always encouraged my kids, Dennis and Gina, to be the same.  Exercise is great for both mind and body, and they grew up knowing that gym and exercise was a normal life routine.  I would even take them to exercise with me at times. They saw how much I enjoyed exercise. I remember Dennis and I competing with each other about how many push ups and pull ups we could each do.  I often showed him my trophies and a couple bodybuilding poses and sometimes, when we were kidding around, I’d show him some bodybuilding posing routines.  He would say, “Mom what can I do to win a Trophy?” and I would say, “Find a sport that you like and go for it.”  So I believe that constantly being around me in the exercise atmosphere, is one of the contributing factors instilled in Dennis that would later become a reality.

Over the years, as Dennis grew up, he did several sports – tennis, football, swimming, skeet shooting –  he did well at all of them but never stuck to any for too long.  However, in the latter part of high school, I felt that Dennis really needed to have a steady fitness program and something to look forward to, as I felt there was a missing connection in his life. I was actually worried, because Dennis at this point was not a strong, energetic person and I wanted for Dennis to be strong, energetic and fit.  The academics was great, which is good, so now I just had to fix the fitness part of his life. Not only for fitness but also an activity that he would enjoy and look forward to going to. I discussed with him weight training and he said okay. I jumped for joy.

Now at Spartan Health Club, within a very short time, Dennis realized that this was something that he wanted to do EVERYDAY.  Mickey was ecstatic to meet Dennis, as I have been a part of Spartan since I was a teenager. I was also very pleased to know that he was enjoying the gym training.

Within a couple weeks of starting he said “Mommy I cannot do this without a personal trainer”.  I didn’t give in immediately, as I wanted to be certain that this is what he wanted.  Dennis had actually taken interest in reading about the Anatomy of the body which he said enabled him to learn about the various muscles. I said “Dennis I will continue to teach you, and there are instructors at the gym that will guide you and you must also teach yourself by reading etc.”  But Dennis was adamant to have a trainer, so I asked, “Tell me, why do you need a trainer?”  This answer would be the deciding factor. His response was that he is really enjoying the training and wants to have a fulltime Trainer to be there for him during every workout, to assist him and also to enable him to really learn the techniques and the nutrition that is involved in developing his body, as he doesn’t have time to waste. Time well spent. He felt that he had to push harder in this sport, not for competition but because bodybuilding became his passion. (Sounds familiar *smile*). He is definitely my child.

So at this point, Dwight Campbell became Dennis’s Personal Trainer. This arrangement followed all the way through to this day. Dennis has a trait that will take him to success. “He ALWAYS wants to do, whatever he is doing the RIGHT way.” He goes out of his way to get whatever equipment or items he needs to workout the best and proper way.

Dennis learned not only bodybuilding, but also nutrition and, to my surprise, he began cooking after two months of training with Dwight. I was so happy I did not care how messy he left the kitchen or how many pans I had to replace. It’s such a comforting feeling to me to know that he was focused on school, nutrition and fitness and that he took it really seriously.  At this point competing was not in his mind but as Dennis’s body transformed, so did his personality.  Spartan became his second home and he even became more and more versed in cooking and nutrition.  He spent less time on his computer and looked forward to going to the gym and socializing with his new friends. I felt really good.

After graduating from the IB program at Hillel Academy he was accepted to university overseas. He declined.  Dennis was not ready to go away, as he believed that he was not mature enough mentally to go as yet.  He wasn’t ready to jump into the unknown as he would say “nothing happens before the right time”.  So Dennis enrolled in a one year Program at Edna Manley School of Art and Design which included some of the studies that he would be pursuing at University overseas.  At least he would gain some knowledge of what he was going to pursue overseas to be certain that this career was for him. So an extra year of school here enabled him to continue his training which he treated just as you would treat attending school or work- NEVER MISS.  His personality continued to also develop. Due to his training, Dennis became more positive of himself, more outgoing; he became more outspoken and happy. His body continued to transform. Dennis successfully completed the one year Program at Edna Manley School of Art and Design.

Now, Dennis was going on to his third year of training and attended, for the first time, the Jamaica Bodybuilding Annual competition as a guest to support his gym- Spartan and His PT Dwight Campbell at the show.  When Dennis got home I asked him, how he enjoyed watching the contest and he said it was good and he wants to enter next year and also he would like to win a Trophy.  I said, “Hmmmm, really – that’s great Dennis”.  The first thought was wow, that’s fantastic, but is this going to affect his academics at his new University.

Dennis was now at a crossroads, his third year being at Spartan health club trained by Dwight and having to depart to another country. He was both excited and sad during the weeks leading up to his departure. The sadness came from the thought of being away from Spartan, His trainer Dwight (by this point they had become training partners), his new friends and the atmosphere which he was so used to now.

However life has changes, it’s for you to make it good. So Dennis began his first year at University overseas and he actually researched to make sure that whatever University he was going to attend had a very important Criteria which is a well-equipped GYM. Someone asked, “So if the university doesn’t have a gym then what?” He said it HAS to have a Gym. Of course I supported that comment, as again, fitness and health are very, very important aspects of anyone’s life.

So his new journey began at university, as he landed and checked in, Dennis ate and went straight to find the Gym. He stocked up on all his supplements checked out the school menus and available restaurants in the area. Dennis was all set except he would not be able to cook anymore and would have to go in search of his meals.

So Dennis trained and attended school. He found that he was able to work out on his own because of the knowledge he had gained from Dwight. He also had the drive and passion. His mode of transport was walking or taking the Bus which he had to make the best of.  Never missed the Gym and never missed School. That made me very proud.  In March of this year he decided that he would enter the Annual JABBA contest in summer. So, without making the training affect his school he continued to work and workout very hard.  Bear in mind that sometimes he had to go way out of his way to be able to eat properly, as he had to be very careful of his intake. I made sure to provide Dennis with all the supplements required and always had a positive attitude. His drive and effort drove me to be very supportive.

Dennis completed his first year at university in June and we expected him to come home and train fully with Dwight to finish the preparation for the contest in August. However, Dennis pulled a big surprise on us. He decided to also do a full summer semester at the university and still enter the competition.  So we said, ” What?! How are you going to do that and be ready for August? This will be tremendous stress for you”.  He said he WILL accomplish it. So Dennis came to Jamaica for a short One and half week break so that Dwight could have a look at him and know where to continue with the preparation.  In no time Dennis was gone again to begin his summer semester.

During the summer semester, Dennis had a new unexpected challenge.  His residence for summer was far from the gym, the classes were not in the vicinity of the gym and transportation was minimal. However, he dealt with the hurdle and stress each day of attending his classes, going to gym and finding the right foods. Dennis worked hard and trained hard for the summer.  I was able to see his progress through FaceTime Video.  He kept in constant contact with Dwight also. Another challenge he had, was that the summer semester actually finished on the first day of the contest. So he doubled up on his school assignments and completed the semester four days early so that he could be here two days prior to the competition. The night before his flight Dennis had to move everything from his residence into storage and be ready for his flight the following morning.

Yes Dennis made it- completed an extra Semester full time, completed near TWO years of academic work within ONE school Year and trained continuously!!!!!  When he landed he was so relieved, anxious and excited at the same time. Dennis looked great.  I felt really good.

Now it was time to do the finishing touches which involved being in peak condition, specifics of how to train at this point, how many grams of protein, carbs, fats, ounces of water, foods to consume and tanning.  I watched Dennis prepare and just watching him made me anxious, excited and so proud. He accepted all my advice willingly. I was available at his beck and call and so was his sister Gina. His PT Dwight, while prepping for his own competition, also tended to Dennis to make sure all was good. Dennis also received advice from a past Spartanite, Damian Fisher who holds many titles in America.

At this point, the last few days before the competition, there is zero room for mistakes. Everything has to be precise and accurate.

What I appreciated about Dennis was his focus towards his preparation. Dennis goes the long road instead of the short road. He was very organized and prepared for this. He was on time and on target. Again, as I said earlier the specifics how many grams of protein, carbs, fats, ounces of water, foods to consume before and during competition was also key.  It was all about timing.

I was put at ease when I saw Dennis on stage for the first time. His approach was very cool and friendly, his posing routine was done tremendously well for a first timer and he always had a smile on stage. He was ready. He sailed on stage like a natural and the crowd seemed to have never seen this on stage before.  He made the audience get so excited and happy. He was PERFECT!!!

The final night was fantastic. Dennis broke down in tears during his final wait to go on stage. It was two very, very long nights and with all that he had put himself through, the result to him was unknown. He had to keep himself in Peak Condition to go on stage, no it wasn’t easy.  Again, the precise amount of water, carbs etc.   Everything he timed.  That is how very precise Dennis is. No room for error. Dwight would say “Dennis don’t worry, you are ready.”

When Dennis was on stage and realized that he had won, he could not help but fall to the ground and cried for joy. This was the moment he had worked so hard for and yes HE WON!!! This moment was perfect Dennis cried and we all cried for joy, cried because we were so proud of him, cried because he made this happen. Just thinking about all that he had done for the journey to this point made us cry even more.  He really worked hard.

Dennis has set a very good example to youngsters and even elders who would like to get into the sport. Just train hard, the right way, the proper way and your body will transform. He has made a huge impression to everyone who has seen him begin at Spartan and also those who knew him before. Spartan health club and Dwight Campbell his personal trainer have done wonders.  Dennis the once shy, quiet, apprehensive young man, found his comfort and joy with this sport.

DENNIS YOU DESERVE BEING MR. JAMAICA PHYSIQUE UNDER 5’7″. Well done my son.  I will always continue to support him as he moves up the ladder.


Written by: Antoinette Chung (Mom)

Sept 2016.