REPRINTED © 2000 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas
Updated: Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2000 at 23:25 CST
Ex-Arlington police officer enjoys bodybuilding career
By Anthony Spangler
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
ARLINGTON -- Ronnie Coleman needed more flex time, so he quit his day job.
The three-time Mr. Olympia recently gave up his annual $46,000 Arlington police salary for a six-digit income as a full-time bodybuilder. Coleman said he makes nearly $500,000 a year in prize winnings, endorsements and appearance fees. He also sells workout videos.
"I cried when I left the Police Department," said Coleman, 36, of south Arlington. "Sometimes I really miss doing police work every day. But I was just missing too much time at work to compete and fly to bodybuilding appearances."
But Coleman is shedding no tears over his success in the sport.
His third-consecutive title as Mr. Olympia is a first since Arnold Schwarzenegger won the title six straight times, and seven overall.
"I don't know if I will win it as many times as Arnold, so I'm just going to take it year by year," Coleman said.
Coleman took a month off after winning the 2000 Mr. Olympia title on Oct. 21 to begin training for the Arnold Classic, set for March in Columbus, Ohio. Coleman is the first Mr. Olympia to enter the competition.
Joel Parker, publicist for the International Federation of Bodybuilding, said Coleman's announcement to enter the Classic stunned bodybuilders.
"Ronnie has the greatest physique in the world," Parker said from his Los Angeles office. "The other bodybuilders are very concerned. It is unusual to compete in other contests because of the prestige factor of being Mr. Olympia."
Coleman said he is competing in Ohio because he wants to stay in top shape.
His daily regimen consists of two hours of cardiovascular activity such as running on a treadmill, two hours of weight lifting and six meals. He eats about 600 grams of protein a day -- mostly chicken, steak and supplements. He insists his diet is all natural, although he said he hates vegetables. A regular diet would usually include less than 100 grams of protein daily.
Coleman began working out seriously in 1990 when he joined Metroflex Gym, an Arlington warehouse filled with archaic weight equipment, trophies covered in dust and cobwebs and people who spend more time lifting than socializing. The thump of heavy metal and rap music can be heard outside.
Bench pressing 200-pound dumbbells with each arm, Coleman said body building competitions are like boxing: "If you don't knock out the champion, you're not going to win."
The gym's owner, Brian Dobson, said no one else in the sport is as big as Coleman.
"He's the king," said Dobson, Coleman's first trainer who advertises his gym as the `Home of Mr. Olympia.' "No one else comes even close to Ronnie. I think he's going to stay on top for a long time."
Coleman said he continues to work out at Dobson's gym because people treat him like any other weight lifter.
Gary Guion, a 24-year-old college student home for the holidays, congratulated Coleman on his latest Mr. Olympia win.
"It's amazing to come here and see Ronnie working out and getting bigger," said Guion, a computer science senior at the University of Texas at Austin, who has worked out at the gym with Coleman since 1992. "Everyone used to call this gym a rat hole. Now it's the home of the most muscular man in the world."
Although Coleman ended his 12-year police career two months ago, he will remain an unpaid reserve officer with the department, working two days a month.
When responding to police calls, Coleman seldom was involved in physical confrontations, Lt. Jay Six said.
"He very rarely ever had anybody jack with him," said Six, one of Coleman's supervisors. "Officers with a large physical presence tend to not get into physical confrontations."
Six said Coleman also had a commanding demeanor as an officer.
"He routinely made public appearances at schools and youth organizations and talked about the benefits of good health and exercise, as well as being a good citizen," Six said.
Last month, Coleman was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He joked about once being a 98-pound weakling when he was 5 years old.
Now he is 5 feet, 11 inches tall, 300 pounds with 24-inch biceps and a 58-inch chest.
Born Ronald Bean Coleman in Monroe, La., he was raised by his mother, who worked at a carwash to support her five children.
Coleman earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Grambling State University. He joined the Arlington Police Department in 1989 because "they were the only people hiring."
"I was poor when I was younger," he said. "I'm definitely a long way from that now."
Anthony Spangler, (817) 548-5412
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