A young kid in the 80’s, turns the dial on a classic television set, back when you had to adjust the antenna to get better reception, the images he sees would be engraved in his mind for decades:
-Rocky, as he trained intensely in a deserted barn surrounded by mountains of snow.
-Rambo, where Stallone brought conditioning unseen before, he was a walking anatomy chart.
-Conan the Barbarian, seeing Arnold swing a sword back and forth as a warrior displaying biceps the size of a child’s head.
And you didn’t have to grow up in the 80’s to idolize these classic movie characters. A large portion of us have got into physical fitness because we were absolutely shocked and inspired by the physiques of these guys we grew up seeing as heroes. This was definitely the case for Mike Johnson. He grew up idolizing these guys, and was an avid into wrestling fan as a child. I had the pleasure of interviewing this giant originally from Halifax who won his pro card at the Canadian National Championships in 2011. He wasn’t the biggest, but he came in with unmatched condition and symmetry. Let’s hear more from this giant killer from the East on his life and bodybuilding.
Juan: Hey Mike! Give us a bit of info about yourself and your career in bodybuilding
Mike: I started bodybuilding when I was 17 and it became my passion. So much, that for a long time I let it define me. Being a single guy, this was fine. It allowed me to hide from some of life's responsibilities in the gym. Now at 33 I'm married with children and life has caught up to me. Bodybuilding will always be my passion but it will no longer define me. I am, and need to be much more than that. Now I have a clearer vision of complete health and believe that I will grow even more both inside and outside of bodybuilding.
Juan: You've had a very good track record in the amateur show’s you’ve done. What keeps you motivated show after show to keep improving and keep putting in the work to come in better each time?
Mike: I look at the guys that are bigger and better than me. I tell myself that I could be like that in time. Not them, but a better version of me; there are always things to improve on. I'm a realist so when I look in the mirror I have all the motivation I need, room to grow. I always compete with the intention of winning, that's how I give it my all but at the pro level is no shocker when I don't. In time I think I can do much better than I have in my first three pro shows.
Juan: The very few times you have not placed 1st, how do you deal with a lower placing mentally?
Mike: At first I blamed the judges, then I picked apart the competitors that beat me then after shooting my mouth off, I saw pics and videos and usually had to eat crow because I was wrong. So much goes into prep for a show that when it comes time for judgment, emotions are high and it's easy to let emotions get the best of you. It's best to keep quiet until the emotions have settled. Also it's best to ask an impartial source for their professional opinion. I've come to learn that you only win a show because someone better didn't show up that day.
Juan: It's very common in this sport to have nagging pains and injuries, have you ever had to deal with an injury during a prep? And what have you done to work around it in order to look your best?
Mike: There always seems to be something. I feel it's best to never neglect an injury, severity dependent. I believe that if you slow down, you go down. Injuries happen because the weight is too heavy; form is poor, not warmed up, neglecting stretching and other recovery techniques and muscle imbalances. Likely it's a combination of a few of these. What I do is lower the weight and really focus on mind to muscle connection. If a certain exercise causes pain than I opt for one that doesn't in order to stimulate the muscle. Uncomfortable is fine, but pain isn't. I don’t like the idea of pain killers or Advil before a workout due to the fact that it numbs your senses and you could get really hurt. After a workout I like ice.
Juan: You're known as a big family man, which is very respectable in this sport that requires so much time. What strategies do you use to balance your bodybuilding lifestyle and your family? Does it change much while you’re preparing for a show and the offseason?
Mike: Something I'm still working on is the balance. When I prep unscheduled family time is finished, everything now has to be in my plan. I'm very militant so I need routine. Prepping meals ahead of time really frees up time and allows for me to keep family time in my schedule. When the show is over I take some time and chill out on the schedules and food a bit and just do what they want to do.
Juan: What has been your hardest prep out of the shows you've done and why do you feel this way?
Mike: Hands down the prep for my last show, Phoenix Europa 2014. I got sick almost every week starting at 6 weeks out. I wasn't sure they were going to let me fly to Phoenix due to being ill. I was mentally stressed because life seemed to be falling apart and I was financially stressed. Then to not get a good placing made it seem like all that suffering was for nothing. But this is the prep that has taught me the most and challenged me to step up the most. I have changed my life because of what I went through and arose during this prep. Not so much as a bodybuilder but as a man.
Juan: If you could have a conversation between yourself now, and Mike Johnson 10 years ago, what advice would you give yourself?
Mike: Go see a psychiatrist lol... Work on mental health not just physical health. That's my thing now, complete health. I wear a patch that says IronHead. To be an IronHead you need an IronBody and and IronMind. I would tell myself that you can't stand out when your busy trying to fit in and don't discredit yourself, you are more capable then you know.
Juan: Many of us know you're a very successful competitive powerlifter as well, do you feel that it ever gets in the way of your bodybuilding goals?
Mike: If I go full powerlifting mode it sure does but I never do. I train my three lifts, bench, squat and deadlift as a powerlifter when peeping for a powerlifting meet and everything else like a bodybuilder. When I prep for a bodybuilding show I train those three lifts as a bodybuilder. Powerlifting is a lot of fun and much different. It's thought me proper form and helped to give me much needed thickness.
Juan: Many people say you can't turn pro unless you're a mass monster, but how do you stay competitive not playing the mass game like many other bodybuilders?
Mike: Shape and conditioning I guess. It's what won me my pro card. Size is great as long as it's shapely and conditioned otherwise it just likes you didn't put in enough effort. I'm a fan of the 90's era and that's what I strive for I will not sacrifice it for size. Although, I'm still trying to get bigger.
Juan: What advice would you give someone looking to compete for the first time?
Mike: Do the work yourself, read, research, ask questions, and find out why. Do what is logical to you and not what your friend is doing because someone told him to. Learn to pose. It's hard to have a good physique but worthless if you can't display it on stage. Social media is not real world don't get lost in it, use it don't be used by it.
Juan: Well thank you very much Mike for the interview, you have really opened up our eyes on what goes on in the mind of an IFBB Pro trying to lead a family and raise children. This is very encouraging for me and all our readers. What’s next for you and how can we contact you for training or diet services?
Next up could be powerlifting nationals in June depending on if I heal up in time. I got some minor injuries from my last prep and powerlifting meet (knee and shoulder); getting healthy, bigger and injury free is my main priority now. I really want to do the Phoenix Europa again for personal redemption and I really enjoyed my time there with my wife when the show was over. I can be reached for contest prep services on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MJbodybuilder) or email mike.wayne.Johnson@gmail.com
I also have Instagram (@mike_johnson81) and YouTube (MIKEJOHNSONIFBBPRO)
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.