After a 14-year break, Jim Clark, a father to three, returned to the bodybuilding stage in Tunica at the annual Battle on the Bluff in May. Jim, 38, hadn’t competed since 2005, but it only took him three months to get back into award-winning shape. “I went from the couch to the stage in 90 days and took second place,” he says.

For Jim, it’s less about the end goal and more about the hard work and discipline necessary throughout the process. As a teenager, he joined his high school wrestling team and developed healthy habits and gained knowledge that have stayed with him over the years.

“The wrestling mindset is all about maintaining weight class and manipulating your diet to make weight,” he says. “That hard work and focus on nutrition carried through to everything in my life and instilled a discipline within me to maintain that lifestyle.”

During and after college, Jim competed in bodybuilding but had to take a step back to focus on his family and his career as the Chief Integrator at CoBuilt in Memphis. He has three children: Ella, 13, James, 9, and Wilson, 4. Jim’s return to the stage has required dedication and balance.

“I find myself going through personal trials and needing to find a focus to pull myself through both mentally and physically. I chose this extreme sport and decided to pour myself into the pursuit of it,” Jim says. “There’s no substitute for hard work.”

During contest prep, he maintained a strict diet and exercise regimen that incorporated resources from Next Level Fitness training coaches Cindy and Chris Caudy. Jim was exercising three times a day, with two to three hours of cardio and at least one weight training session. His six meals consisted of lean ground turkey and beef, codfish, baby spinach, and rice, with a breakfast of oatmeal, blueberries, and liquid egg whites for three straight months. He dropped from 20% body fat to 6% in that time.

Post-competition, Jim follows a less stringent diet of clean eating with the overall goal of maintaining muscle mass. He prepares meals ahead of time and cooks for his children separately, allowing them to enjoy classic kid foods like mac and cheese, pizza, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“I don’t let my dietary choice affect my relationships with other people. If my family wants to eat out, I’ll sit at the table and eat my pre-prepared food while they order off the menu,” he says.

For exercise, Jim is on the elliptical every morning at 4 am and fits in a workout at the gym at his office during lunch. Often Jim works out again after hours at ATC Fitness in Germantown, but if he has his kids, he prioritizes cooking them dinner, doing homework together, and spending time watching a movie or catching up.

“To get it all done, you have to make sacrifices, but ultimately I do not want it to affect their life,” he says. “I want my kids to know that you can complete any challenge you set your mind to. It’s just a matter of want. If you want it, you can have it. You just have to work hard to get there. It’s a lesson I learned early on as a wrestler and have carried with me since.”

By India Nikotich. Photo by Tindall Stephens.