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Area man preparing for fitness competition

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For the better part of the past year, area fitness enthusiast Curtis
Schade has counted every calorie he’s consumed, carefully managed
his schedule around lengthy sessions in the gym and spent hours
researching the means to achieve a singular goal. Next month, the
Nashville native will take the stage at a bodybuilding competition in Mis-
sissippi to do exactly that.
Schade plans to join over
130 of the best bodies in the
central United States for the
14th annual Battle on the
Bluff, a Tunica-based fitness
competition regulated by
the world’s largest amateur
bodybuilding committee.
It will be his first-ever ap-
pearance on stage, and the
culmination of an effort
that has required supreme
focus of both his body and
his mind.
“It’s not simply, ‘Lets go
lift some weights and get
bigger.’ There’s some sci-
ence involved in this, be-
lieve it or not,” he said dur-
ing a recent interview. “You
start counting calories, you
start counting what carbs
you eat, you start counting
protein and fats. It infiltrates
everything.”
Weighing in at just over
160 pounds and standing a
modest 5’11” tall, the body
Schade has built is a far cry
from the overwrought behe-
moths who have laid claim
to the term ‘bodybuilder,’
a function of both his natu-
rally wiry genetics and the
minimal time he’s taken to
prepare for the competi-
tion. Those factors exclude
him from the bodybuilding
division of the contest, but
make him a prime candidate
for the physique catego-
ry, where competitors are
classed by height instead of
weight and overall aesthet-
ics are valued over extreme
muscularity and size.
“When you think of com-
peting in bodybuilding, you
think of Arnold Schwar-
zenegger, Ronnie Coleman,
Phil Heath – these huge,
huge dudes. You think, ‘Oh,
that’s bodybuilding.’ No,
there are everyday people
who you walk past everyday
in Walmart who you won’t
even know they’re a body-
builder,” he explained. “My
body is built for physique.
I don’t have a bodybuilder
body.”
Still, armed with a single-
digit body fat percentage
that continues to sink and
an unyielding desire to suc-
ceed, Schade often seems
as though he could win any
competition through sheer
force of will, speaking with
an unbridled enthusiasm
for the minutia of his sport
that conveys competing au-
ras of quiet confidence and
burning passion. Beneath
those layers of complexity,
however, is a humble man
who just wants to become
a better version of himself.
“As far as my physique
goes, I’m confident in it.
It’s more of my behavior,
you know – getting up there
and tripping or walking
the wrong direction. Do-
ing something off the wall
makes me nervous. That’s
part of what I’m trying to
overcome,” he admitted.
“Success, to me, is simply

etting on the stage and not
screwing up.”
Like most people who at-
tempt extraordinary things,
Schade’s journey to that
stage has crossed paths
with any number of op-
portunities to give up, be-
ginning with his very first
foray into pitting brawn
against heavy steel, which
came about as a result of the
US Army veteran’s service
overseas. Prior to shipping
out in 2008, Schade said his
unit had endured weeks
of pre-deployment paper-
work, classroom training
and 6,000 calorie per day
meals that left little time
for physical fitness. By the
time he reached Kuwait
for the first leg of his tour,
the group had a desperate
need to get back into fight-
ing shape, and their squad
leader had a unique solution
to the dilemma.
“He kind of made it man-
datory that we all went to
the gym with him. It was
all new to me – the actual
‘gym scene’ was new to
me,” he recalled. “I was
hooked then. Every week,
I’d get to go in here and lift
something heavier than the
week before. So we did that
every day for about a year.”
S c h a d e ’s a m b i t i o n
proved to be equal parts
blessing and curse: he grew
stronger and more muscu-
lar at a rapid pace, but also
suffered a major setback
in the form of an injured
shoulder while serving in
Iraq.
“That put everything to
a stop. I couldn’t do any-
thing,” he said. “I couldn’t
curl, I couldn’t bench press,
I couldn’t do dips.”
Months of physical ther-
apy followed, continuing
even after he returned to
the United States and con-
tributing to what Schade
calls his ‘backslide’ – body-
building lingo for any period
of inactivity that results in
a loss of muscle or defini-
tion. It would have been an
easy time to quit trying and
start making excuses had
it not occurred around the
same time his wife, Janet,
was becoming increasingly
interested in healthy liv-
ing. When she signed up
for a fitness ‘bootcamp’ at
what is today called Flex
Gym, Schade tagged along
hoping to provide support.
Instead, he received a sec-
ond chance at embracing
his passion.
“It was everything I ex-
pected it was – it was moti-
vating, it was fun, and that
was my key,” he said. “My
foot was back in the door
again.”
What followed were gains
in strength and endurance,
as well as a natural curiosity
about what feats the couple
might be able to accomplish
with their new lifestyle.
When another fitness enthu-
siast invited them to attend
a bodybuilding competition
in Little Rock last summer,
Schade said he had an in-
stant epiphany.
“That was my first expe-
rience with bodybuilding
and physique competing as
opposed to just strength,”
he explained. “I thought,
‘That’s my next adventure
right there.’”
Since then, Schade has
endured countless grueling
workouts and a diet plan
strict enough to make even
the most health-conscious
eater think twice, all in pur-
suit of a singular goal. Break-
fast usually consists of egg
whites, some baby spinach
and a handful of grapes.
Lunch is often a serving
of chicken and more green
vegetables. Snacks are more
of the same, and are about
to become even more re-
strictive as the date of his
debut nears.
“Right now, carbs are
pretty minimal – just enough
to function and think. Food
is no longer a matter of
enjoyment, it’s a matter
of what my body needs to
do what I need to do,” he
explained. “The two weeks
before the show is critical.
The diet is beyond critical.
I’ll lose a great deal of water
the last two weeks and all
that should fall off as long
as I can stick to that diet
and do the procedures like
I’m supposed to. Every-
thing in those two weeks
is leading up to that one
day – those five minutes on
stage.”
That may be, but the
truth is, Schade will have

won or lost long before
he makes the long trip to
Tunica, as the true battle
he’s fighting is one against
those lesser versions of
himself.
“Yes, I’m going to a com-
petition and the point of a
competition is to compete
against the other competi-
tors, but if that’s all you
make it about is being better
than the other guy, you’ll
never be happy,” he said.
“So, I don’t see trying to
compete against everybody
else. I see just trying to com-
pete against myself and do
a little bit better.”