Athlete Spotlight: Damon Harrington - Mind And Muscle

Damon HarringtonBefore you bitch about how hard your contest prep is going,  you NEED to read this article.

I see it pretty much daily.  People on social media complaining about their “tough life” and how hard contest prep is for them and how miserable they are…

Before you pretend to utter another word let’s just look at Damon Harrington’s schedule and maybe it will sober you up a little bit.  Damon is currently Cardiac registered nurse Crittenton Hospital progressive care & part time at St John’s Oakland.  If you aren’t aware, that’s a pretty demanding career with a lot of pressure and stress.

In addition, Damon has a busy family life with two daughters 22 & 26, a step parent of 11 autistic girl, a 12 year old girl, and a 13 year old Asperger boy.  Now a son who is 9 months old is the latest addition!

This man is a true hero, not for the show’s he won or the perfect physique but because he grinds week in and week out to be an inspiration to his family and friends and to himself.

When did you start competing?

I competed once long ago in a NANBF natural bodybuilding show back in 1999. Won the overall. My first NPC show was 2008 NPC Mid-Michigan in Flint. 3rd LWH. I did not compete again until 2013. Winning the John Simmons Midwest Challenge 40+ masters title and open SHW.

What is your biggest challenge before a show?

Before the 2008 Mid-Michigan I had bronchitis. In 2010 after tracking my difficulty with progress, not gaining muscle, losing muscle in fact, since 2008 & symptoms I was seen & diagnosed with hypogonadism & placed on testosterone replacement therapy in 2011. After which I had hurdles of a significant L4-S1 injury & stage 1 liver disease with fibrosis. So I did not compete again until I was healthy in 2013 but 30 lbs heavier than in 2008!


What do you eat for cheat meals?

Ahhh. Cheat meals. I have a sweet tooth. Ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate, brownies, fresh baked cookies & cake. Once I dial in my diet & get off the frequent sugar the sweet tooth is much controlled. I enjoy a cheeseburger & fries or onion rings, pizza & wings, Chinese, Mexican, a nice steak & garlic mashed potatoes as far as cheat foods go. I currently get one cheat meal per week which is satisfying mentally. And I really am enjoying my prep diet otherwise.

For you which is more valuable in training: intensity or variety?

I believe in training variety being a secondary component to intensity. But variety is very important to me especially now with my age of almost 47 and the wear and tear on my body and joints. I may have in mind that I am going to do one thing this training session but my body has other plans. I may go to a different gym, one that I am not even a member of, just to use certain equipment that day!

But intensity is the greater component to success over variety. I read once were one prep coach talked about trainees/competitors leaving reps in the tank. That resonated within me. Was I doing that? Reality check time. Once I started training with Ken Jackson, I knew I had left reps, even sets in the tank. With Ken I am warming up but also often working up to real work sets. Before I would do 1-2 of what he calls a real work set and be DONE! I now do 3-5 real work sets. I am making progress like never before. We take small nagging injuries & 47 year old joints into account. And we get things done. I am feeling & looking even younger now.

How often do you train each body part?

I started with Ken Jackson at about 36 weeks out on diet & 35 weeks out on training. I was only training 3-4 nights per week with weights and minimal to zero cardio prior. I now train 6 days per week. Legs & Chest twice per week. Calves 2-3 times per week. Abs 2 times per week. Everything else is once per week for full workouts. But I do some touch up’s. Such as 3-4 sets of rear delts on a back day, 3-4 sets of side laterals or front raises on a chest day, some bicep or tricep feeder sets on another day apart from arms for example. I may even do some back detail touch up work or dead lift on my non-back day another day during the week. A lot depends on what I’ve trained with Ken and my RN 12 hour night shifts which are 3-4, rarely 5 per week.

Where do you get your energy and motivation?

Energy & motivation? My physical energy is often derived from my personal motivation mentally. Sleep can be difficult with my 12 hour night shifts, my son Bryce who is 9 months old now & other family obligations. I often train in the morning after a 12 hour night. Other times I hit the gym in the evening after 4-6 hours of sleep. Being healthy for my son and family motivates me on a higher level than even preparing for upcoming competitions. I love bodybuilding but I am training for LIFE! Eating a better diet also contributes to better energy. Learning how to stress less about things that we have no control over or will resolve in time is key as well. I supplement with a quality Vitamin B -complex in the morning & ZMA at night. Also I have been with Nubreed Nutrition since 2013. They make two great pre-workouts. Whiplash is the 400mg caffeine, higher stim one that still provides a great pump & training drive. Undisputed is the lower stim pre-workout, quality pump & training energy as well. Menace is their product that increases oxygen to the red blood cells & muscle. Think of a natural EPO supplement. And my mainstay is HelixBCAA’s intra-workout with 5gm of leucine, HICA, Agmatine & Beta-alanine.

How do you fit in competing with such a busy schedule?

Competing with my busy healthcare profession and family is a challenge. I usually take off from work Wed-Sun the week of competition. It gets tougher the closer I get to the show. There are weeks were I only want to work 1-2 days but 3 is my mandatory minimum. You just get things done training, cardio, meals, family & work wise. Having a great partner like Lidia really makes it all possible. Without here I would fall flat on my face with my meal prep & diet. Plus she keeps the house together & running optimally.

What is your competition record?

My competition record is only three total shows. But I hope to be consistent here on out until I give up the stage. 1999 NANBF overall champ. 2008 NPC Mid-Michigan 3rd LHW. 2013 Simmons Mid-West Challenge 40+ masters overall & open SHW champ. Next up as I switch to classic physique is the Central States this October & The Western Michigan in November. Depending on how I do there Ken will decide if I go to Nationals or shut things down to go back and improve my physique balance. Overall I am at the max weight for my height in classic based on being 226 lbs last time competing as a bodybuilder in 2013 & having added some muscle. So we work on bringing up week points and then have to dial in very hard to make the weight per height restriction for 6’1.

How much longer do you think you’ll compete?

Ken believes that I can make my mark in this new classic physique division, even win IFBB pro status. So this has really opened up the competitive door for me as I no longer have to chase immense bodybuilding size for a 6 footer in my late 40’s. He says that my body is not old & weathered & looks a decade plus younger than my age. So we shall see how far we can take this. I am once again excited about what I can do in this physique sport!


If you know of someone amazing and inspiring like Damon, please share.  It’s great to highlight everyday people who have a passion and drive to compete!  People like Damon are the ones who make this industry great.  It’s not about the genetics or the age or the perfect body, it’s about the grind to be your best and keep pushing each and every day!

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