Taking home titles in Competitive Bodybuilding at 50

Published 3:41 pm Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Darren Champagne is a husband and father of three, the owner of two local businesses and a dedicated bodybuilder who began his journey to becoming a title holder a mere two years ago at the age of 50.

He describes the day that he realized he needed to dramatically change his lifestyle or continue his decline in health.

“I employ a lot of younger guys, who work out and are into fitness. One day I dropped something and found myself breathless after bending to pick it up. That, combined with a dramatic gain in my waist size was a serious signal to get my act together,” he says.

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Champagne had lifted weights before and knew that if he could just get a small part of his tone back, he would be moving in the right direction.

He laughs and says, “I guess you could say that I took a small step and then really took it to the extreme. That is just the way I do things, it is either 110 percent or nothing. I am not advocating everyone go out and get into competitive bodybuilding but, I am advocating getting fit and staying active.”

Two years later, Champagne has three trophies for second place and one trophy for first place which he earned in “The Battle in the Bluff,” in Tunica.

His schedule for contest preparation is grueling and includes being in the gym at 8 a.m. for two hours of cardio and weightlifting, arriving at the office at 10 a.m. to manage his businesses, fitting in two gallons of water and seven small meals a day before ending his day in extra cardio.

“It’s not just about working out. It’s about discipline and turning down pies and cookies at the Fourth of July party. It’s about constant discipline and awareness of yourself and what you are doing with your body. The reward is you get to go on stage, and after seven months of extreme diet control (the average contest preparation time) and a rigid nutritional structure, you feel really good about what you have accomplished.”

He also credits helping others achieve a healthier lifestyle as a perpetual momentum for him to continue his push forward in the sport. “I’ve lived in Picayune for 24 years. Due to others seeing my success, I am now helping them. I enjoy encouraging others who are wanting to live better and longer.”

Champagne credits his comraderie with Lee Peterson, the current Mississippi State Champion in Grand Master’s Over 50 Division, as another source of inspiration. Peterson also lives in Picayune and has a similar story as Champagne’s in that he realized he needed to get to a better place in his health.

“At 49-years-old, I had high blood pressure and never felt well. I was at a low point and I started working out, walking and taking baby steps. Six months later I went to my doctor and he was amazed at how much I had improved. He took me off of all my medications and told me to keep doing whatever I was doing,” says Peterson.

“I use (bodybuilding) as a goal to stay in shape. You will never come out financially ahead in competitive bodybuilding. All you physically bring home is a trophy, but the real prize is feeling good about yourself and inspiring others. My wife is a nurse at a heart hospital and she tells me a lot of people who come in are young kids. They are having heart attacks.”

This weekend the two friends will face each other as competitors in “The 2012 NPC Miss. Bodybuilding Championships,” which will be held in Jackson.

“I may have helped my friend Darren too much,” says Peterson laughing. “But no matter how things turn out we are still happy and close friends.”