You’re looking at Phil Heath, the six-time Mr. Olympia, who eats a lot of tilapia and works out in a strip-mall gym.
It was a few minutes before midnight when Mr. Olympia, the top bodybuilder in the world, finished his workout at a nondescript gym in a tired strip mall. He lifted one of his 22-inch biceps and flipped the light switch, tapped the alarm panel and turned the key to lock the glass front door.
He hauled out a sturdy black trunk, the kind with shiny metal edges and a buckle for a latch, and opened the trunk to his white Mercedes.
“Mr. Olympia Phil Heath Parking Only,” the sign in front of the car read. “All others will be crushed.”
Heath bent his legs — each thigh about 32 inches around, bigger than his waist — and lifted the black case. Inside was his latest Mr. Olympia trophy. In bodybuilding, it is called the Sandow, and Heath has won the last six, most recently in Las Vegas in September. Arnold Schwarzenegger, still the world’s most famous bodybuilder, won six in a row, too, and then a seventh a few years later. Two men, Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, have won eight.
Heath is 36. He wants 10.
“Barring injury, I’ll smash it,” Heath said during a break in his workout a bit earlier. “I’ll get to 10. The question is: Can I continue to be a better version of myself?”
Heath wriggled the trophy case into his trunk. It barely fit. He shut the lid and drove the dark, empty streets toward home.
Heath is an unlikely Mr. Olympia. He grew up on playgrounds in Seattle playing basketball. His backcourt mate on the 1998 state championship team at Rainier Beach High School was Jamal Crawford, still in the N.B.A. Heath, just 5-foot-9 and a naturally chiseled 175 pounds, got a Division I basketball scholarship at the University of Denver. He majored in business and averaged 1.3 points over four seasons.
Heath looked for another athletic outlet when college ended. He found it in bodybuilding magazines and the university recreation center. Heath beefed up to a chiseled 200 pounds and soon began winning regional bodybuilding competitions.