Striking a pose -- and the right balance

Thursday, May 27, 2004

It's his trophy ... and he'll cry if he wants to.

Believe it or not, 38-year-old Jeff Renner broke down in tears after defeating over 60 other competitors to win the overall bodybuilding title in the 2000 Show-Me Naturals.

"I was ecstatic," he said. "Yeah, I actually started crying -- I still have the videos and everything."

That may have been the only award the Jackson resident has cried about, but it's certainly not his only accomplishment since he began lifting weights 16 years ago.

Renner has participated in about 35 shows -- generally two per year during the spring. He won the lightweight division of the Mr. Missouri show last year and also claimed titles in his weight, age and overall classes at an April competition in Chicago. He has also raked in three titles at the Caveman Classic, a contest that until a few years ago actually took place in a cave.

"It's really neat to compete in there," Renner said. "It was something different. Now they have the Caveman somewhere else, but they're working to bring it back to the cave."

In May, Renner took first place for the fourth straight year in his weight class at the Heart of America, a professional qualifying competition in Peoria, Ill. He also won the overall title and now has the opportunity to compete in professional National Gym Association shows for cash prizes ranging anywhere from $500 to $5,000.

"I think I can compete with the pros," Renner said. "But of course, it's always going to be tougher for a smaller guy in the lightweight class like me."

Renner, a former Southeast Missouri State University football player, said he's never used steroids but still competes in shows that allow the drug.

"There's a bunch of drugs going on in some shows," he said. "I'm just glad there's another avenue in this drug-free organization. I've been blessed with good genetics to carry me through."

The 5-foot-6, 153-pounder hopes to continue bodybuilding into his 50s, but admits at times it can be a struggle. Renner's schedule includes meals adhering to a strict diet, time at the gym and time with his two children and his wife, Bobbi Jo.

"You have to be disciplined and have the right frame of mind," he said. "It's a lot of hard work, and you have to be able to motivate yourself. Cardio and working out is not that hard at all; the strict diet is what's really tough.

"Then having a family that's understanding," he added. "Juggling time and doing all that is a challenge itself, but my family's really supportive. They really enjoy it. They all went to this last show and got a kick out of it."

Renner plans to open his own minigym within the next couple months in the basement of a hair salon/coffee shop where Bobbi Jo is employed. Named "The Pit," Renner said the gym will serve as a place for people to receive one-on-one bodybuilding training.

"It's for people who are embarrassed to get in the gym where other people watch them," he said. "It's going to be more secluded, private training. You can go to different fitness centers and get a trainer, but it's not one-on-one. This is for people who want somebody to push them. I just want to do what I can to help people out."

Mark Unterreiner is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian. His Spotlight feature appears every Thursday.

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