GAINES AND LOSSES: Chester man struggles, triumphs through fitness

Dr. Rodney Gaines wants you to know that you are a winner. The 1986 Patti LaBelle song, “There’s a Winner in You” is a song he’s used for bodybuilding competitions. For Gaines, the song resonates, marking some of the best and worst times in his life. Battling through illness, obesity, divorce and depression, Gaines has been able to make a wildly successful comeback in the sport of bodybuilding in 2012, marking his 25th year in the sport.

“I looked at one of those muscle magazines and decided I wanted to look like that,” said Gaines. “I took to it naturally and found that I was good at it, and so the rest was history.”

As a kid growing up, Gaines dreamed of roaming the baseball field in the big leagues. After walking onto the baseball team as a sophomore, Gaines realized he couldn’t lift as much and eventually lost passion in the sport. He then decided to compete as a bodybuilder, and first competed in 1987 as a sophomore. In 1995, he won Mr. Virginia.

After great showings in many competitions over the years, Gaines took a hiatus in 2004. After a 2007 marriage and a 2008 divorce, Gaines plummeted into depression and saw the pounds stack on. His health declined as his doctors diagnosed him with pre-diabetes. By the time Gaines decided to make a change, he was 102 pounds heavier than he was at his first bodybuilding competition, maxing out at 250 pounds.

“They wanted to put me on medication for my diabetes,” said Gaines. “I asked them that they let me try to get healthier on my own through diet and exercise because I knew I had been there before.”

In 2009, after being hired at Virginia State, Gaines got down to 198 pounds, but struggled to keep the weight completely off. His weight went up and down. Gaines attributes the weight gain due to travel for work, and eating on the road a lot, getting out of his usual routine.

Gaines started running an hour before work and an hour after work, often times taking laps around Southpark Mall in Colonial Heights late at night.

“I knew that running in the winter months would allow me to compete by the spring,” said Gaines. “So I toughed it out, ice, snow, whatever, and got it done until I lost 90 pounds.”

After the long grind-down to his competition weight of around 165 pounds, Gaines came back in 2012 at a show in Virginia Beach, where he placed third. With that start, Gaines had no idea that at age 45, he’d have arguably the best year of his career. In May, he won two competitions, one in Tucson, Arizona, and the other in Toledo, Ohio.  In June, he regained professional status by winning the lightweight division at competition in Norfolk, Va. Gaines then moved on to compete overseas.

On June 30, Gaines competed in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, placing 5th in the Men’s medium height class, 6th in the Masters class, and 3rd in the fitness division. Most recently, he competed in Hampton, Va. winning the Masters 45-54 age group and placing 3rd in the Men’s short class division.

Gaines passion for bodybuilding may only be matched for his desire to teach and help others achieve their goals.

In January 2012, Gaines was named the president of the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (VAHPERD). Gaines’ holds two positions at Virginia State, as an Associate Professor in Sports Management and is the Head Strength and Conditioning coach in Athletics.

“This is my dream job,” said Gaines. “I’ll be here as long as Virginia State will have me as a professor and coach.”

With his experience on both sides of the fence, Dr. Gaines is starting to do health conferences and speak at them, the first of which will be on August 31 in Virginia Beach.

Part of his strategy is not only physical training, but also spiritual training.

“I believe that most health problems start with stress and low-self esteem,” said Gaines. “Taking that first step towards getting healthy is the biggest, and I encourage everyone to take that step.”

In addition to helping others reach their goals, some of Gaines’ future plans for Gaines includes to run a marathon and participate in a triathlon.

“Life is no picnic, you have to fight the good fight,” said Gaines. “I hope that people hear this story and are inspired. Everyone’s a winner on the inside.

When you see a fit guy running down Route 10 towards Walmart, Gaines says to “give him a honk and a smile.” He’ll know it means hello.

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