“People look at you and look up at your hat that displays, ‘VEGAN” and say, “Oh my God, I didn’t know they could do that.”
–Mad Cowboy author Howard Lyman speaking to bodybuilder Robert Cheeke
From the time he was in kindergarten, Robert Cheeke believed that hard work would transform him from being the scrawniest kid in the class to looking as buff as his favorite cartoon hero, He-Man.
So the five-year-old farm boy who kept a housefly as a pet began flexing his muscles in the mirror every day.
And decades later, as he writes in Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness, “… with my long blond hair, muscles and fake tan — I became my childhood hero, sharing positive messages with people all over the world.”
But success was a LONG time coming. In eighth grade, he stood barely 5 feet tall and didn’t get a growth spurt until well after entering high school. In the meantime, he kept flexing before the mirror each day.
Then, in December, 1995, his animal-loving vegan sister Tanya organized an Animal Rights Week at their high school. Inspired by her commitment, he did more than participate in her efforts.
Robert became a vegetarian. A few months later, he adopted veganism.
Fourteen years of vegan eating and countless workouts later, Robert Cheeke accomplished his dream of looking like He-Man and took 1st place in the INBA Northwestern USA Natural Bodybuilding Championship. How did he do it?
One word: Consistency.
As he puts it:
“I honestly believe that consistency is the most important key to success. I’ve even said that it is the most important word, period.”
Consistency may be his most important word,” but “ambition” and “commitment” aren’t far behind. And there were times when he really needed both. Take the training accident:
“I collapsed under the barbell and was crushed under nearly 300 pounds when I was 21 years old preparing for a bodybuilding competition. My spine has never been the same…”
Having learned his lesson the hard way, he now strongly advises his readers, “Learn how to do the exercises correctly before doing them regularly.”
Robert is deservedly proud of all his athletic achievements. But what he truly treasures about his fitness and fame is the opportunity to alter people’s perceptions of vegans.
An entire chapter of Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness encourages other vegans to follow in his footsteps:
“My body, built by a vegan diet, gives hope and inspiration to vegans and non-vegans alike and speaks volumes for the movement, much louder that I could speak using a megaphone on a street corner… being something other than what others expect you to be… gets them to pause and think differently about veganism.”
I admit I’m not ready for the physical and emotional stress that competitive bodybuilding requires.
But that didn’t stop me from loving the story of a five-year-old dreamer who started flexing in front of the mirror — and flexed every single day until his dream came true!