MARBLE FALLS — Ed Thompson competes 24 hours a day. Well, maybe not exactly, but everything he does, from the sleep he gets to the food he eats affects how well he'll place in his next competition.

"You're in it 24 hours a day," the 70-year-old athlete said.

He described his latest athletic endeavor as his most challenging. This coming from a man who, starting in his 20s, built a competitive tennis career — as an athlete and coach.

"Everything you do during the day is going to affect your next workout. Everything,” he said.

Thompson must be following his 24-hour regime well; on May 28, he earned first place for his age group in the Texas Shredder Classic in Pflugervillle.

"I wanted to win that one," he said.

The Shredder is a National Physique Committee competition. See, at 70 years old, Thompson is a competitive bodybuilder. And he's pretty good at it.

Marble Falls resident Ed Thompson finished eighth at the NPC Team Universe competition July 1-2 in New Jersey. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

His success at the Texas Shredder earned him a spot at the NPC Team Universe competition in New Jersey on July 1-2 where he placed eighth out of contestants from across the country.
Thompson's body doesn't resemble what you’d expect for a man with seven decades behind him. Though while working out at the Marble Falls Athletic Club, fellow members wouldn't realize Thompson is in such tremendous shape because he tends to wear more modest workout attire. But his workout, well, it would likely leave many people half his age crawling toward the exit.

As the contest approached, Thompson headed to the gym seven days a week. He followed a three-day split, concentrating on particular body parts one day followed by others the next and so on.

"So I'll come in and work out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, each workout focusing on different parts of my body," he explained. "Then the second half of the week, I start over, but I'll use different exercises. That way, your body doesn't adapt. If you do the same exercise each time, your body is smart; it tries to find ways to make it easier.

"Plus, you use different exercises to hit the body part from a different angle," Thompson added.

His workouts last three to four hours, which fits into his retiree schedule, though he does work part time at GNC in Marble Falls. On top of that, Thompson works each day on his posing routine, which is part of bodybuilding competitions.

The work out changes depending on the phase of his training. Most recently, he was "cutting" for the competitions. During the cutting phase, he tries to get his body fat down as low as he can while maintaining his physique. It's a delicate balance of diet, exercise and rest.

"(The workout) is 50 percent of it, and 50 percent of it is nutrition," Thompson said.

His diet focuses on salmon, lean beef, chicken and green vegetables. He shuns starches such as bread, potatoes and yellow vegetables, especially during this cutting phase. In the week or two leading up to the Team Universe, Thompson weighed about 190 pounds, but his coach, Dave Goodin, wanted to get him down to about 187 before the New Jersey competition.

While he started focusing on bodybuilding about a year ago, Thompson isn't new to the sport, the weight room and athletic competitions.

Marble Falls bodybuilder Ed Thompson" style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px none; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; height: auto; max-width: 100%; box-shadow: rgba(50, 50, 50, 0.317647) 1px 1px 5px 0px; background: transparent;">Ed Thompson works through his posing routine during the Texas Shredder Classic on May 28 in Pflugerville. Courtesy photo

As a youth, he was under the tutelage of tennis coach Chuck Avil. Avil wasn't one to give kids years to prepare for competition. His philosophy was to work with the kids and coach them to become the best they could be, which also included entering them into competitions as soon as possible. For Thompson, that came about two weeks after his first lesson when Avil entered him in his first tournament.
That was the scenario: Face as much competition as possible. If you lose, go back to practice and work harder, so the next time, you're better.

"He gave you an opportunity to learn from winning and losing," Thompson said.

One of Avil’s most valuable lessons was: You might lose (and you will) but don't like it. Use it to drive yourself to work harder and become better.

It's something Thompson applied as a tennis player and instilled in his athletes when he moved into coaching.

Today, he still follows that lesson as a bodybuilder. He's always looking for ways to get better.

Though he started focusing on bodybuilding about a year ago, it's not his first go-round with the sport. As a young athlete, he learned early the value of strength training. He eventually began competing in bodybuilding in his late teens and 20s, reaching some prestigious milestones.

But the reality was, Thompson could make a living at tennis.

"I don't regret it one bit," he said of his choice to continue tennis as a player and then coach and even heading up training facilities.

But he always thought he left something on the table. Several of the bodybuilders he edged out in competitions went on to winning some of the biggest titles in the sport.

After years of time on the court, his knees eventually succumbed to wear and tear, leading to the replacement of both. He had already competed well into his senior years, but the constant cutting back and forth, moving quickly around the court and stopping and starting strained his artificial knees.

He hung up his racquet.

But Thompson's competitive nature still yearned for release, something to go after.

At 69, he found it with bodybuilding. Thompson was already in pretty good physical shape; it wasn't like he was starting from scratch.

Plus, there was something else.

"I'm blessed," Thompson said. "My parents passed on good genes to me."

But it's not enough to have a good genetic makeup or even talent. Over the years as a tennis player and coach, Thompson witnessed many players with talent who really never broke through.

"It's not always the one with the most talent who becomes the best," he said. “It’s the one who works the hardest. That's the one thing I've always taught."

And practiced himself.

While some people will just "work out," Thompson prefers having a reason, a goal.

“You have to have a goal," he said. "I think that's true of anything you do."

So when he made bodybuilding his primary focus a year ago, he put the Texas Shredder Classic on May 28 on his calendar. It went along with setting a goal, a high but attainable one. Then, he pointed out, he broke down the goal into shorter-term ones, those he could measure. When Thompson accomplished one, he moved on to another — all taking him closer to the Texas Shredder Classic.

He enlisted a good coach with Goodin, who he meets weekly to go over his progress and posing routine. At the Marble Falls Athletic Club, Thompson gets input from one of the trainers.

Then, it's putting in the work.

"I think one of the other big keys is consistency," Thompson said. "If you're trying to get in shape, but you only work out once in awhile and you wonder why you don't make any progress, well, you're not being consistent."

The Texas Shredder Classic win demonstrated that Thompson is on the right path. But he knows it's his path.

Thompson hopes he can inspire others, especially older adults, to take up new challenges, whether physical or otherwise. It has to be something they want, he explained.

"I really believe you can accomplish it," Thompson said. "Now, if you’re older, it might take you a little longer (to achieve physical goals), but you can do it."

The first step is starting.

As the NPC Team Universe approached, Thompson looked at every hour of his day to ensure it edged him closer to his goal. He takes it one rep, one meal and one pose at a time.

It's all about little actions adding up to big accomplishments.

"Discipline, you have to be extremely disciplined," he said. "For me, it's worth it. (Bodybuilding) isn't for everyone, but it is for me. We each have to find our thing."