Greg Sushinsky was inspired by Steve Reeves and wrote two books about him, Training the Steve Reeves Way and Eating the Steve Reeves Way. Greg is a Natural Bodybuilder, a Cyclist, a Trainer and Advisor as well as an Author. He has been a Powerlifter and a writer for various Bodybuilding, Business and Sports Magazines. I greatly admire Greg as he lives the life and walks the path!
Hercules: Greetings Greg! Thank you for granting us this interview. I am greatly honored as I am enjoying your books and benefiting from your life-work.
Greg: It’s my pleasure. I appreciate your interest and the very kind words.
Hercules: How did you first discover the physical culture movement?
Greg: From my Mom. She exercised, sometimes to the TV shows with Paige Palmer or Jack LaLanne. She also used weights. She was ahead of her time. This was the 1950s and early 1960s so I was really young. I always played sports with my brother and my Dad, but exercise and physical culture was something different, intriguing. I can’t say I really understood it. It took me a few years to even begin to get into it.
Hercules: It became your way of life. What about it drew you in so completely?
Greg: I’ve never thought of it as a way of life, more as a part of life or part of my quest to be a whole person. I’ve never really analyzed why I was so drawn into it, but I think it’s the deeper realm that underlies sports, which I loved so much. Exercise, health, fitness, those things are really the basis for athletics. That’s far better understood today. Also, there’s an artistic, almost spiritual element, though, that maybe ties in with your mythic quest—sort of becoming our own heroes, overcoming our limitations and creating something good, positive and beneficial. It sounds like a cliché, but I guess I’m thinking of the Grecian ideals.
Hercules: When did you first start working out?
Greg: December 16, 1968. That’s the day I started lifting weights. Weird that I remember the date, isn’t it? I actually had been exercising off and on with some calisthenics and isometrics, but I never stuck to it. I played basketball and baseball informally and I was 16 years old, like a lot of guys I wanted to get bigger. So other kids at school were talking about lifting, but I was 5’11” tall and weighed 132 pounds and never thought lifting would be for me. Then I somehow realized—and for me it was out of the blue—that lifting might help me, so off I went. I’ve really never stopped.
Hercules: I’m assuming that Steve Reeves and Vince Gironda were two of your greatest influences. What is it about them that you most admire?
Greg: They have become that. With Steve Reeves, it’s the physique. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have that physique? But also the man. He seemed to live effortlessly up to the demands of having probably the greatest physique ever by being a very good, almost heroic person.
With Vince Gironda, it’s more complicated. He had a terrific physique, but his personality was regarded warily even by those who knew him and admired him. He was sometimes a troubled and troublesome person. Often not a nice guy. Call him a temperamental genius. I admire that he examined just about every aspect of exercise and nutrition in physical culture. His answers to the questions may be significant, but he was one of the few who examined just about everything. That has stuck with me.
Hercules: Which other bodybuilders inspired you?
Greg: Steve Davis, Frank Zane, Serge Nubret, Wilfried Dubbels, all great physiques built on a structure like mine—and Arnold—anybody who bodybuilds has to be influenced by him. And many others I’m neglecting, especially fellow natural bodybuilders, but importantly, guys I met who aren’t household names, some I worked out with, others I just know about. I learn from everybody. But behind the great physiques are sometimes great guys. Steve Davis is a good friend and Wilfried also, as are many others who nobody’s ever heard about.
Hercules: You have competed as both a bodybuilder and a powerlifter. What was it about bodybuilding that won you over?
Greg: Again, I never really thought about it. Something intuitive, I guess, the artistry and possible creative expression. I liked powerlifting a lot, became surprisingly strong and decent at it, but I preferred the combination of aesthetics and athleticism that is my vision of bodybuilding.
Hercules: What were some of the life-lessons you learned while engaged in these extremely challenging endeavors?
Greg: Too many and very difficult to put into words. I learned the positive value of super human effort, which is what it sometimes takes to lift heavy weights or build muscle. I learned to persevere beyond initial failures in ways that I never thought I could. On the negative, I had never before experienced the rampant dishonesty as with lifting and bodybuilding being utterly dominated by drugs. I was naïve, felt hurt, confused. Ultimately, it sharpened my choices for me and I went on.
Hercules: You became a professional writer and covered the bodybuilding field quite extensively. You were published in respectable magazines like Musclemag and Ironman. How did this journey begin?
Greg:I never really covered the bodybuilding field so much as wrote about a niche. I was a struggling writer and wrote and published “The Natural Bodybuilding Training Manual” out of my experience and beliefs as a natural bodybuilder. I sent a copy to Robert Kennedy of MuscleMag, who liked it, and asked me to write an article on natural bodybuilding for his magazine. I was one of the few writers who was writing on real natural training that got in the magazines.
Hercules: What was it like to live that life?
Greg:I really just lived a normal live, didn’t travel to cover contests or anything, I just wrote my training and nutrition pieces for whichever magazines would print them. I was really kind of marginal compared to the big name bodybuilding writers covering the scene.
Hercules:What were some of the high points of this career?
Greg:It was really only part of my writing, not really a career. I went on to write for sports magazines and business publications, which was the bulk of my income for many years. But the high point of the bodybuilding writing was simply getting my stuff in the magazines. Real natural bodybuilding was and is a kind of alternative to regular drug bodybuilding. Not a crusade for me, just providing information on a choice you can make.
Hercules: I read that you have helped train many individuals and are still very active in an advisory capacity. What types of services do you offer to your clients?
Greg: Helping people with their training and nutrition. But now I only offer this by special arrangement, as I became too busy with my regular writing work. I guess the help and information I offer now is mostly through my books and articles.
Hercules: You’ve written quite extensively and have been sharing your wisdom, insights and experience through books. Can you share a little about this journey?
Greg:Whatever else I always wanted to do in life, I always knew I wanted to write and would be a writer. I’m very fortunate, my Mom and Dad were always readers, my brother and sister, too, so I just naturally gravitated to that. My Dad was a teacher so reading and learning was like breathing in my family. Plus I loved reading and writing. My brother and I wrote our own comics, we wrote stories, little newspapers—we were always writing. When I was 14 I submitted some comic book scripts I wrote to a publisher. Though they weren’t accepted, I just kept writing. I later wrote literary stories, got rejections, and eventually wrote a couple of unpublished novels.
These were the days of typewriters and print magazines and just about all the publishing was in New York. But I eventually got into the bodybuilding mags, sports mags and then business publications. Now it’s mostly the internet. Sometimes I write what I have to but I always try to pursue my interests. Writing is a difficult but joyous journey.
Hercules: You have written two e-books about Steve Reeves, Eating the Steve Reeves Way and Training the Steve Reeves Way. Can we expect more books about Steve in the future?
Greg: I think so. I’ll probably write more because I’m so interested in Steve Reeves. Plus others seem interested so that’s an added incentive.
Hercules: Thank you very much, by the way, for your thoughtful In Memoriam to Steve Reeves!
Greg: I think his legacy should be kept alive for succeeding generations. George Helmer has done a lot of that great work already.
Hercules:The description for your book A Timeless Classic Workoutsounds like a clarion call to ditch complexity and return to the simple basics, something that Steve Reeves strongly believed in…
Greg: Timeless is really just a long article available as a digital publication. You’re right, it’s a return to simplicity. Sometimes we over complicate exercise and nutrition in our attempts to do better, so it can be helpful to go back to the beginning and see what we might be missing. You’re also right, Steve Reeves did a lot with what appear to be basic concepts, but he shows the riches to be mined from that.
Hercules: And you’ve written three books about Vince Gironda. Eating the Vince Gironda Way, Training the Vince Gironda Wayand Build your Back the Vince Gironda Way. Are there any more books planned about Vince?
Greg: Possibly. There’s a lot of interest in Vince, but he can be difficult to understand, so many who’ve read my work appreciate my attempts to explain and expand on what he’s done.
Hercules: What is it about Old School bodybuilding that appeals to you?
Greg: I think, despite all kinds of problems with it, there was a purity of heart or a purity of effort to it. People just wanted to improve. There was no pro bodybuilding, no big money for doing it, you had to love it to do it. That part has nearly been lost. But you can still build your own heroic physique.
TO BE CONTINUED
(c) Hercules Invictus