Michael Jordan is fond saying that getting cut from his high school basketball team provided him the motivation to become the Hall of Fame hoopster he’d eventually become.
While Bill Neylon of West Palm Beach would never compare himself to the living legend that is Air Jordan, it can be argued that it was a similar athletic snub — Neylon’s being cut from his New Jersey area high school football team, when the coach told the 5-foot-4, 125-pound teen he “was too small to play football” — that set him on the personal and professional path that he’d follow for the next 50-plus years.
So how did Neylon — who’s now 68 and in better shape than most men half his age — respond to his coach’s assessment?
“I got in the weight room and built up my body.”
By the time he graduated high school, Neylon was a 5-foot-6, 145-pound varsity hockey player.
And, far more importantly, Neylon had become enamored of weight-training, bodybuilding and personal fitness training.
The next five decades saw him gather so much fitness knowledge and develop so many relationships through bodybuilding that he recently published his memoir — “My Journey with the Iron” — which is available on Amazon.com.
In 1974, after Neylon had graduated from Georgia State and was living in Atlanta, he recalls he fell in with a group of “fellow gym rats” who were all considering becoming competitive bodybuilders.
Just one problem — at least in Neylon’s mind: To really reach the heights of the sport, bodybuilders needed to take anabolic steroids.
Back then, steroids weren’t illegal in the U.S. and their negative long-term effects weren’t as well-known as they are today.
But even so, Neylon says “I saw my friends making tremendous gains while taking steroids but I was never tempted to start taking them. There was something about it that didn’t sit right. They were a shortcut — and a potentially dangerous one at that — so I never did them.”
It’s a decision he’s never regretted.
Devoted to fitness
Despite not pursuing his dream of becoming a competitive bodybuilder until later in life, Neylon has always been a disciple of the benefits of weight-training.
“There’s no quicker, more efficient way to transform one’s body than to do it via weight-training,” he says.
Since moving to Palm Beach County in 1986, Neylon has been a fixture on the local fitness and bodybuilding scenes.
He has trained countless clients in his boutique West Palm Beach gym, The Fitness Edge (thefitnessedgefl.com) and he eventually got the competitive bodybuilding bug himself in the mid 1990s.
“Around 30 years ago, I became both a regular competitor and judge in masters bodybuilding contests around the country,” he says.
One thing he was, and still is, adamant about: “I deal only in the world of ‘clean’ bodybuilding.”
In other words, competitors promise to be free of performance-enhancing drugs.
Not that Neylon would have ever needed them. He’s won more bodybuilding trophies than he’s got space to display them.
Over the decades, Neylon has also mentored and coached numerous bodybuilders of all levels.
He counts among his closest friends in bodybuilding such recognizable names as Boyer Coe, Frank Zane, Dave Draper and the late Chris Dickerson.
Neylon — who has an adult son from his first marriage and whose second wife is less of a workout aficionado than he is (“That’s okay — we balance each other out,” he promises) — usually trains around five times a week for no more than an hour.
He’s a big believer in quality over quantity when it comes to working out: “You need to be pushing yourself enough that you’re not able to do for any longer than that. Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time.”
About the only concession he’s made to aging is that “sometimes it takes longer for the connective tissue to recover after a hard workout,” so when that happens, he’ll adjust his next workout accordingly.
Time-tested fitness wisdom
In addition to imparting his expertise in the weight room, Neylon also revels in sharing with his clients and mentees a vast array of fitness and nutrition philosophies. Among them:
1. Becoming fit is a long-term commitment. And as Neylon tells his new clients all the time, even if you don’t see results right away “trust that positive things are still happening. When you begin a new exercise and nutrition plan, your body first changes from the inside out.”
2. Start slowly and build gradually. This relates back to the long-term commitment in that you should view your fitness journey as a marathon, not a sprint.
3. Perform a variety of exercises. As long as you’re not exceeding what you’re realistically capable of doing, ideally you want focus on exercises that increase strength, endurance, balance and/or flexibility.
4. Don’t compare yourself to others. “As long as you’re challenging yourself and improving, that’s all that should matter,” Neylon says. In other words, leave your ego at the door.
5. Never do the same workout twice. “You should always be trying to confuse your muscles,” Neylon counsels. “Varying your workouts also helps you avoid plateaus.”
6. If an exercise movement hurts — stop! Forget the old mantra “no pain, no gain.” Rather, use your brain and avoid needless pain.
7. Prepare your healthy meals and snacks in advance. “By having your food already prepared, you won’t be tempted to grab fast food or junk food when you get hungry,” he says.
8. Have a “cheat” meal once a week. “The weekly ‘cheat’ meal, when you allow yourself to indulge, will help prevent you from feeling deprived,” he says. “It also will give you something to look forward to.”
9. Eat plenty of protein and drink plenty of water. Try to eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight and drink enough water (and other fluids) so that your urine is clear.
10. Be creative and keep an open mind — both in the gym and in the kitchen. Trust that there’s always a workaround. Exercises can be modified to fit your ability level. You can drink, instead of eat, your protein. There’s always another way — as long as you’re willing to adapt.