Manhattan’s own Walter Barr, a personal trainer at Pro Fitness and a wrestling coach, took second place in the 25th annual Anchorage PRO AM Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure and Bikini Championships held recently. It’s a feeling Barr knows well—he’s never finished lower than fourth as a pro in Alaska.
Barr competes six to eight times a year in places all over the country. Traveling is a necessity as there are few competitions close to Kansas. Barr, 48, has been a pro since winning the Mid-America Bodybuilding Championships in Peoria, Ill seven years ago.
In Alaska, 15 pros were flown in from around the world, to compete against one another. The professional champion competes against winners in five amateur divisions, leading to the crowning of an overall winner.
Barr started on this path at the age of 35. He was working out one day—not yet a personal trainer, just a dedicated wrestling coach—when the owner of the local GNC store approached him and asked whether he would like to be sponsored.
“I said ‘no,’ I didn’t even know what it was,” Barr said.
But the owner was persistent and Barr agreed to give it a try. He started in the amateur’s “masters division,” winning just about every time he competed. He knew he had to move to the amateur 18 and up open classes in his weight class just for a chance to turn professional.
“I just never gave up,,” Barr said.
Over the years, preparation has been key to his competitions. Barr said most contestants start training for competition season six months ahead of time, but Barr is always in competition mode.
“I pretend I have a competition every Saturday of my life,” Barr said. “I don’t believe in going up and down on my diet.”
Barr also takes pride in the fact that he is completely drug free, avoiding all steroids to reach his 190-pound, 4.8-percent-body-fat physique. To assess compliance, contestants are put through a polygraph analysis and blood testing before competitions.
“It’s just like the Olympics, if you are busted, if you turn up with drugs in your system, you’re banned for life as a competitor,” Barr said. “This is very, very serious.”
His ultimate goal is to win Natural Mr. Universe. He got a boost in that regard in Alaska, placing above a former Natural Mr. Universe.
“It’s not about the biggest person, it’s about the most conditioned athlete,” Barr said. “The most conditioned and symmetrical athlete.”
When he’s not competing, Barr is dedicated to his clients and area youths. He said when he started he promised himself he would work with kids to promote health and exercise and show them they can enhance their bodies without steroids.
“I work with everyone, I have put together a program to encourage self esteem in children,” Barr said.
Barr also continues to work with local wrestlers. He said most athletes he works with are successful physically and academically, noting that “quite a few have received scholarships.”
Barr said his success and subsequent contributions back to the community wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Doug and Charlene Anspaugh, owners of Pro Fitness. Barr said he has been their personal trainer for the past six years and said they have been his biggest supporters.