Winston Johnson, 59, is what you might call a late bloomer: someone who the older he gets the more confidently he approaches his life, relationships and goals. Winston is proof that sometimes you just get better with age. In fact, Winston didn’t even begin his current fitness journey until he was nearly 50 years old, proving it’s never too late to get in shape and follow your dreams.
Winston is an easy-to-like kind of guys’ guy. He’s rugged, funny and he’s comfortable in his body; it’s a body he’s worked very hard to earn. Born in Moab, Utah on March 10, 1955 and raised in Colorado he’s always been athletic and as a kid played virtually every sport, but his youthful passion was always wrestling. In fact, he was offered a scholarship at Western State out of high school for wrestling, but decided instead to start a career with the Union Pacific Railroad where he’s worked for years as a welding foreman.
Just because Winston was always interested in sports and worked hard at a physically demanding career doesn’t mean he was always in great shape or had the best of healthy living habits. He was much like the rest of us: he worked long hard hours on the job, started a family and tried to juggle the stresses of life.
Winston came from a large family; he’s one of 13 kids and has eight sisters and four brothers but hard times and hard living also created a strong family history of alcohol addictions, lung disease and cancer. Winston faced these challenges, including life as a single parent to two small children. Life wasn’t easy, but you do what you have to do to make it work. Years ago, Winston gave up drinking.
Around age 50, weighing about 180 -190 pounds at 5 foot 7 inches and as an out of shape middle-aged guy, Winston announced to his grown son that he was going on vacation to Mexico in a couple of months for a friend’s wedding and he needed to hit the gym so he could get his “six-pack back.”
His son laughed at him and said he couldn’t do it. That may sound a bit heartless and cruel, but Winston said it was actually the opposite. His son knew him well and understood this was exactly what he needed at the time – a push in the right direction – a little motivation so to speak. Winston’s son and daughter have been nothing but his best supporters over the years, but his son seemed to know inherently that this kind of response would get under his dad’s skin. Winston does not like to be told he can’t do something.
Hell bent on proving to the world he could get his six-pack back, Winston got busy doing the only thing he knew to do: run and do abdominal work. “I reverted to what I used to do as a young wrestler, we’d run and do core work. So I ran and ran.” He was doing daily runs and then two hours of abdominal work per night, but he wasn’t eating nearly enough and certainly not eating clean. “I didn’t understand the nutrition part, nor did I know how proper supplementation could help me maximize my results,” Winston said.
While Winston got busy working out, he wasn’t doing it correctly, and consequently he lost lean muscle along with excess fat. In the end, he took the vacation – leaner but not with the six-pack he’d envisioned.
After the trip, his friend Becka Morrissey got him interested in competing in bodybuilding while he cheered her on at her first competition. She introduced Winston to her friend Luis Santa, a bodybuilding pro, and it was Luis who saw something special in Winston and encouraged him to eat and train properly. Winston was intrigued and agreed to follow Luis’s plan to the T.
Under the guidance of a seasoned professional, Winston started eating to gain muscle and Luis and his friend Robert Mitchell started training him in the gym. He learned to eat more and to eat better. He learned discipline and how to lean down and develop muscles.
Two years after his son told him he couldn’t get his six-pack back, Winston competed on stage at a lean 138 pounds at the Colorado Natural Championships and took home 2nd place in the Open and 3rd in the Masters. This was nine years ago and it felt very good to prove to himself and everyone else that it’s never too late to be your very best.
When he was 57, Winston changed up his training and nutrition once again thanks to the help from his girlfriend and IFBB Pro Delia-Pashaii McNeil, who finally got him to see how he needed to cut cardio training back even more and vastly increase his protein consumption and overall calories. In 2013, Winston went from competing at 143 pounds to hitting the stage on July 19 at the USA’s at 165 pounds confidently taking 10th place in the Masters.
How does a guy at 57 years old put on 22 pounds of lean muscle naturally in a year? According to Winston, “With a ton of hard work, focused discipline, a 6,500 calorie clean nutrition plan and great supplements. That’s how!” He had to eat (and eat right) and had to put in the hard time at the gym, religiously. “There is no easy way or magic pill,” he said.
For another competition in Pittsburgh, Winston trained daily in the gym for two hours, working on one body part, and he took every third day off to recover. He ate every two and a half hours, not an easy task for a man who travels days at time and works on the railroad. Finding a gym to work out in is even a challenge as he often works days at a time in remote rural areas in Wyoming and Kansas!
Earlier this year, Winston was sidelined by an elbow-shoulder injury, but thankfully he is already back at 100 percent.
What’s ahead for this master of the Masters? He’s not stopping anytime soon and he’s in the best shape of his life. He has forged life-long friendships and has a team of family and friends who believe in him. Winston has his eye on winning his pro card by age 60! He also intends to prove to all the nonbelievers out there that he can gain an amazing additional 20 pounds of lean muscle and step up on stage lean and well defined.
After years of learning to read his body, Winston can finally say he knows his body and how it reacts to nutrition, weights and proper supplementation, but it took years to fine-tune this process.
His friend and mentor Luis Santa first saw the potential 10 years ago and once told Winston, “What I see in you is a champion and if you’ll listen to me I’ll tell you how to do it.” Winston listened, he believed and he worked hard. He’s living proof that some things just get better with age!
By Jackie Classen