“Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. She took the midnight train goin’ anywhere….” (Journey)
Written by Lee Penman
Opening lines from a classic song which could very well describe the early life of one of our favorite bodybuilders, Sheila Bleck. However, despite being a fan favorite and having a very successful career in bodybuilding the fact is that very little is known about the REAL Sheila Bleck. Preferring to stay in the shadows rather than court the spotlight, Sheila has kept herself very private over the years and interviews have been few and far between. In fact her quest for solitude may have led to some people finding her somewhat aloof and unapproachable. As it happens, this is far from the truth. Sheila is just one of those people who prefer to quietly go about their business and keep their private life PRIVATE.
Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that but I decided it was time for Sheila to come out of the shadows for a moment and share some of her story with the readers of RX Muscle. What follows is a very candid interview which travels deep into the true heart of a champion. My intention is that you come away from reading this with a whole new understanding and respect for someone who already commands your admiration and if you do that then I have achieved my goal.
So, without further embellishment, let us begin…..The Sheila Bleck Story…
First of all Sheila, how would you describe your life growing up….your family connections etc?
“When I think about this my mind drifts way back to when I was 3-5 years old. I was sick a lot and felt a lot of fear and emotional stress. My mother was young and unmarried (my sister and I never knew our father) had no child support and worked a lot. This meant that we were tossed around to many babysitters, most of whom abused us. I recall one of them in particular…she was not well mentally and abused us mentally and physically. However, she did want to love and protect us and teach us how to take care of ourselves and rely on no one. She was part of our lives until I was about nine years old.
“Throughout all of this Sherry (my sister) and I were threatened a lot and sexually abused. Our abusers often threatened to take us away from our mother and this was the most damaging threat of all. Our mother was so pretty and nice and every time she would leave for work we would scream and cry and even vomit. I recall one incident to this day…
“I was suffering from nightmares and I remember waking up to my mom wiping me down and then rushing me to the hospital. My next memory is of four or five doctors holding me down. My temperature was sky high, I was screaming and fighting. They had to give me an injection to calm me down.
“Fortunately – and sparing you all the details- my mother asked my grandmother to step in and take care of us. My grandmother, a classic lady, gave us our childhood back, provided us with security and love. Life got better for all of us from that point on….
“My sister and I fought for our own freedom and today we choose to protect our mom and do what we can to make sure she lives her life in peace. We don’t hold her responsible; she did her best in the circumstances. As for anyone else in my blood line, we have long since separated and moved on, no attachments.”
Well, after all that the next question may seem a little flippant but, moving forward, were you always athletic and what made you decide to enter the world of bodybuilding?
“Always athletic? Yes, though I was not a great fan of team sports at school. My sister and I were often accused of not being able to play well with others; however this was not the case it was just that we were always placed with a lot of stuck up caddy girls….I will let you figure out the rest!
“So what drove me to enter the bodybuilding world? Well I have to say that it is one thing to learn to live the lifestyle, it’s another to compete in the sport. I am going to give credit to a man named Jake Grabow for this. He was the only active male bodybuilder in ‘Better Builds Gym’ where it all began for me in terms of moving towards competition. He educated me on eating, posing etc and it was his belief in me that really drove me forward. I was 18 years old and I had never really had anyone believe in me before and I had a lot of respect for him.”
So how did your friends react to your new desire for bodybuilding?
“As it happens most of my friends were guys. They always trained with my sister and me and taught us a lot. Looking back, it was as if they were creating their ‘ultimate girls’!
“At school I recall my gym teacher, Cindy Shultz, telling me one day when we were out jogging that she had a dream I was wearing a blue bikini and competing as a bodybuilder…and I won! She was one person who pushed aside any of my ‘bad behavior’ and helped me to find my self worth. She had faith in me and told me she would help me reach my goals. She also gave me a yearly award for Health and Physical Education….she was the best!
“I remember in 2006 I was back home and training in an old gym when I heard a voice say…’There is only one woman who stands like that’…I turned around and it was Cindy coming towards me with a huge hug. She looked at me and said, ‘I am not surprised you pursued your dream and I am happy to be able to see you again and say I am proud of you.’
“As for my mom? I laugh because I have asked her how she felt about my bodybuilding and she always points to the fact that she bought me my first weight bench when I was twelve. So in her eyes I have always been a bodybuilder, she thinks nothing of it and, as a matter of fact, she shows it off!”
When you talk of your training you always include your sister…has she any desire to compete?
“My sister and I are very close. She is my gift, my gem. She has her own life, her own talents, many of which have yet to be seen. She started boxing competitively at age 19 and did so for 6 years with the USA Amateur Boxing Association. She fought as a welter weight and had ten victories out of ten fights. She has also competed in bodybuilding three times (2004, 2005 and 2007) and took two overall titles and one second place. So she has definitely had her taste of the competitive world. But as to competing again…I can’t speak for her. However, as you and I (and all the RX readers) know it takes a lot to compete in bodybuilding and I would rather her enjoy her physique and pursue her career…but of course I would back her 100% in whatever she chose to do.”
Getting a little more personal….aside from competing you have kept a rather low profile in the sport preferring not to do the usual round of interviews and publicity. Why is this?
“It’s really about sitting down and taking the time to do it in addition to wondering if it is worth my while because really, how many folks are interested in reading about ME?
“Also, I often fear the types of questions I will be asked, or I don’t care for the interviewers persona… but I could tell that you were an ‘old soul’ Leigh. I wanted to make an effort for you.”
Do you think withdrawing from interviews may have led to people getting the wrong impression of you and even considering you somewhat aloof?
“Yes…I guess so. Am I worried about it? No.”
On your Facebook page you describe yourself as ‘structured and set in your ways’…do you think this may be an asset when it comes to bodybuilding?
“It’s not just an asset for bodybuilding; it’s an asset for everything! Time management, work, food preparation, chores, paying bills, free time…you have to structure all this to have a functional life period. You definitely have to be structured to fit in a sport like bodybuilding because that job never stops. How can you be goal orientated for anything if you have no structure?
“I say ‘set in my ways’ because no ‘being’ is going to come into my life and change things. I am a single woman who has lived alone most of her adult years and I have had to depend on myself fully. I don’t have a lot and I have never asked for much. I stay set in my ways so that I don’t lose myself or lose my hopes and dreams. By conducting my life in this way when I have either my sister or a dear friend in need of a helping hand, support, motivation, a place to stay then I can help.
“As for me, as long as I set out every day as I am supposed to, then I know I am always going to be okay. Perhaps it is my safeguard…”
I FINALLY FOUND MY WAY…
“So many people tried to help me on my way,
So little time and there’s so much to say,
There’s no explainin’ all the things that I’ve been through…
But I finally found my way to you.” KISS
There can be no better way to begin this final part in the Sheila Bleck story than by quoting these lyrics from one of her favorite bands, Kiss. And there can be no better way to continue this interview than by looking once again at the unique and straight forward essence of her character…
Y’know Sheila, I find it admirable that you claim to be a “hard ass” when it comes to being
authentic in your life and simply being you. Given that…how would you describe yourself if
you were to give an honest evaluation?
“Oh this isn’t easy to answer… When I said ‘I am a hard ass’ it’s directed at how I have designed my life, to meet my needs and NOT someone else’s needs. My home is quiet…unless I am blaring my rock tunes. If you’re not a rocker, you won’t like it here… and I will not change my ways for you on that!
“My home has no distractions, no alcohol or narcotic drugs and no smoking either in my home or around me. Also no junk food is allowed in my home. That is what I mean when I say I am a hard ass when it comes to me being me… There is a major reason why I am so determined in my ways. Basically, in life, I have been there, done that, seen it or lived it and as a woman today what I have is simple. It is pleasing and no matter what happens everything is going to be all right… because it is all good. My home is my sanctuary. I am a Libra so I always seek balance and beauty in my life.”
What do you think the greatest misconception people have when it comes
to you is?
“I don’t think there is one and that’s part of the issue. Here let me explain…I am a very readable person. If I look unapproachable it is because at that moment in time I may very well be. If you find that I am quiet
then yes I am deep in thought. If I am working out? Then leave me alone, I know you are there. I just need to focus on what I am doing. If it seems I am in a rush then once again yes… I am in a hurry please don’t stop me!!
I am not a total ass! It is just that every day I am on a schedule.
But here is the thing, that I really can’t stand (and something that has followed me throughout my life) people who approach me and say… ‘You know you seem so interesting and I feel drawn to you’ and then they feel the need to ask me a dozen questions that I have heard so many times. Now if I allow this to happen it literally robs me of so much time…time that I can never get back. I feel that all this time is taken from me and what makes it worse is that I did not share the same feelings that they felt they needed to share with me.”
You seem to give so much of your time to the sport, what do you like to do to relax?
“This question is hard for me to answer because I see that I don’t really do anything that is considered ‘relaxing’ when I am not prepping, I am still busting ass. Basically I just keep going until I am tired and burned out… that’s kind of relaxing!
I used to be able to hide out at my mom’s back in Oregon…but living in Florida these past few years, I have no family here. I guess if I had a lover I would be able to answer this question a whole lot easier, as I would like to spend my time outside of work and the gym in a cocoon with them. But for now, regardless of prep, I enjoy my night runs…I also like going to YBOR City to watch movies.”
For your last show you worked with John Romano. How did that association come
about and what changes did he make to your diet and workouts?
“Well, as it happens, it is quite an interesting story….
I met this man face to face at the 2009 Arnold Classic. Quite a moment for me as I never
dreamed I would ever meet this man. I was a silent fan of his work and a huge fan of Shelly Beattie.
I often thought of him as the year went by and then we met again at the 2009 Nationals… which was when we decided to do our leg workout for RX Muscle. After that workout, I was on a total high. A high I had longed for… he made me feel like I could climb mountains. It was on that day I knew he would be very good for my contest prep.
I mentioned to Joel Goldberg about my interest in him being my prep coach for my pro career. I was far too insecure and feared rejection if I asked him myself so Joel stepped in and consulted with Mr. Romano on this subject. By that night I was on the phone with ‘coach’ John Romano. He and I obviously ran off with the idea from there.”
As far as my diet was concerned I went fully on the keto diet. My actual food intake increased and my training was increased…and by this I mean I was doing 2-3 hours of cardio.”
You are known for your posing on stage. Personally I think artistically you have a lot
in common with Diana Dennis. Who would you say had the most influence on your posing routines?
“I was in fact influenced by the pictures in the bodybuilding magazines. You can learn so many things from
a photograph. For example, in my opinion, Lee Labrada is one of the most artistic posers in the history of bodybuilding as far as I am concerned. Not far behind him are Frank Zane, Frances Benaffato and Shawn Ray.
Each of these men knew how to transition from ground up and fall into each pose so eloquently. I also have a few years of modern dance training behind me so I already have the agility, balance, transition skills and knowledge of stage presentation. So, given that, I would simply take a pose from each photograph, stretch into it, learn how to transition into it and then apply it to music. My choreography is really just a journey of self creation.”
You also do choreography for other athletes. How difficult is it coming up with fresh new and exciting routines for other people as well as yourself?
“When it comes to creating new routines for myself it can be really difficult if I have ‘writers block’. Something has to touch me in such a way that it electrifies my soul and makes me want to move…and when that happens I begin creating. It seems there are only so many poses so many moves one can do before it’s all redundant…
However, I recently worked with Melody Spetko for her show in Canada. She needed a routine, so I listened to her music twice and then choreographed the whole thing in two minutes flat. I feel that the finished product, when she interpreted it, came over as articulate, feminine and strong.
In actual fact, when an athlete approaches me to do their posing routine I may very well turn down the offer if the music they choose does not have any impact on me. I am only good with certain sounds. However, if everything works out I look closely at the athlete’s posing style and ask them which poses they would most like to include in their routine. From there I just make it more articulate, teach them how to do transitions, match everything to the music…and it’s done!”
Now that you have qualified for the Olympia what is your game plan in the time you have before the show?
“Not much changes; you just keep riding your wave. For me this time is particularly hard on me mentally. I have consulted with many people and, having said that, I would like to personally say thank you to my coach (John Romano) Joel Goldberg, Mazin Ali, Steve Weinberger and Dave Palumbo.
Competition is not easy folks. It can be a mental minefield. If you allow yourself too much ‘quiet time’ your mind will venture into areas it has no business going and create all kinds of stress and fear within you. So at this point in time it is just me keeping it together mentally and, in the words of my coach…
‘Stick to the plan and just focus, focus, focus. I am here and your image every day is in front of my brain.’
Finally, as far as life in general is concerned if you could be the architect of your future, how would you design that future? Where would you be, what would you be doing and who would you be with?
“Oh wow, this question is WAY too complicated for me. I do know that I want my life to be more peaceful. I love Florida and practically refuse to leave!
My twin sister and I often talk about opening a ‘wellness home’, a healing and mystical place with cool cottage rooms and whisky barrels filled with sweet-pea flowers (which my mother turned me onto) and herbs. Sherry and I have a lot that we would like to do and we are plucking away to bring us closer to our goal every year. I believe we will have it in the next three years.
I would also like to have my mother be a part of this as it would bring our family closer together. As for the others….well I am sure my friends today will still be around and I see a whole lot of smiles in the future!”
So there you have it…the Sheila Bleck story. And let me tell you one thing…at this point in time Sheila is focused, on target, and ready to rock the Olympia. Let the show begin!
Written by Lee Penman
Latest posts by admin (see all)
- Lindsey Vonn Fails to Medal in First Winter Olympics Outing in 8 Years: “I Did the Best I Could” – February 20, 2018
- Top 10 Home Based Exercises for Burning Body Fat – January 29, 2018
- Top 50 Hottest Female Athletes of 2018 – January 18, 2018