Wonder if he allows grunting in the gym?

TARPON SPRINGS – Justin Edwards, 35, owner of a Tarpon Springs Snap Fitness and a city resident, will compete in the Gary Udit’s 2016 Teen, Collegiate, and Masters National Championships, July 20 to July 23.

Until the competition, Edward’s lives his life in numbers.

He eats eight meals a day, and works out five days a week. He takes a 45-minute walk every morning before breakfast, and 10 sprints at night.

He then does cardio everyday.

All of this is in preparation for a men’s physique competition held in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

During the July 20 competition, there will be pre-judging which will later be used as the basis for final judging based on symmetry, balance of muscle and proportions, according to Edwards.

“They want to see you through your movement,” Edwards said.

Men’s Physique is a relatively new category to competitions like Gary Udit, created in 2011.

“It gives people the opportunity to compete that can’t, or don’t want to, get that big,” Edwards said. “Men’s physique is based on height, not weight.”

The competition is broken down to three age classes, 35 and over, 40 and over, and 45 and over. Those age classes are then separated into six classes, up to 5-foot-7 inch, 5-foot-8 inch, 5-foot-9 inch, 5-foot-10 inch, 6 foot and over 6 foot.

Edwards didn’t always have such a clear path forward. His road to becoming a championship men’s physique competitor was a long one.

Edwards was born in Louisiana, but never went to the same school every year, until high school. He and his family moved around a lot.

His beginning wasn’t easy.

“In high school I was homeless,” Edwards said. “I ended up being addicted to heroin.”

He was hospitalized and put on methadone, but later had to move again. His insurance couldn’t cover the cost of his medication, and he was forced to find a path to sobriety on his own.

He joined the Marines when he was 19, and when he got out at 21, he and his wife Sarah moved to North Carolina for a new start.

“My parents moved to Florida around the same time,” Edwards said.

It was in Florida that his father had a heart attack. He and his wife then moved to Tarpon Springs to help with his care.

In Tarpon, he worked for the city in the sewer and water department for eight or nine years.

Then when he was 28 years old, Edwards got his first gym membership, and his life started to change.

“That’s when I started,” Edwards said. “I always wanted to lift weights and be like Arnold [Schwarzenegger], like the comic book characters.”

He saw the gym as a fresh start, he said. It was a way to tell his family he was doing well.

“I had lied so much,” he said.

In the beginning, Edwards wasn’t trying to compete, but he started to see results, and fast. He started seeing options.

“There was this long life ahead of me,” he said.

Three years later, when Instagram was really still growing as a popular platform, Edwards connected with a guy on Instagram who competed in men’s physique. He went to one of his competitions to see what it was all about and met the man in person for the first time, who actually cared. He thought that it was something he too could do, so two months later he entered his first competition.

He placed first.

From that point on, he continued to compete. Working on his craft also gave him an excuse to frequent the gym. Edwards said he feels comfortable in his skin, and humble.

“It’s given me direction,” Edwards said. “I was making my own decisions without a clear path.”

Now, seven years later after obtaining his own gym membership, he owns a gym and is still competing. Each little opportunity made itself available at the right time, he said.

“It’s kind of hard to explain,” Edwards said. “None of this was planned. It kind of fell into place.”

Living in Tarpon Springs, also has been a great experience for he, his wife and daughter who will be attending high school in the area.

“I’ve never really had that kind of community,” Edwards said. “I feel like I’m a part of something.”