Lee Haney is standing proof that if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. When he was six, Haney wanted to grow up to be Hercules, and a few years later, tested his prowess by throwing a boulder over his father’s car. It went through the window.
“That was my first true test of strength, and it didn’t work,” says Haney with a laugh. It wasn’t that much longer that he could easily throw the boulder over the car and probably over a few more as well.
Haney is the first person to win the Mr. Olympia World Bodybuilding Championship eight consecutive times. Arnold Schwarzenegger can only claim seven. Haney was also the youngest Mr. Olympia to retire. At 31, he walked away and started a business educating people on nutrition, motivation, training and sports training while professing his deep Christian faith.
“My record still stands today and that is what drove me to that level of success in body building. I did something no one else has done,” he says. Adding, “Body building is an art, a sport. It’s taking the body to new levels of perfection and symmetry. There’s nothing egotistical about it. You have to create the image of a perfect body.” After his retirement, he and his wife decided to rear their children on the southside of Atlanta, near the airport for traveling and close to family in Spartanburg, S.C.
Today, Haney not only spreads the word of fitness, motivation and doing good when he speaks to groups, he has a variety of businesses aimed at the same purpose. TotaLee Fit Workshop, for instance, provides insights about proper nutrition and offers a hands-on exercise workshop that is perfect for civic organizations, corporations and churches.
He and his certified trainers designed a lifestyle program to help people reach their fitness goals. Professional athletes and coaches call him for goal-specific sports training and nutrition programs while celebrities look for overall fitness training. Want to know if it works? Just ask Evander Holyfield, Gary Sheffield and Steve Harvey. They’re all clients.
He also has a line of supplements designed to aid in everything from detox, to fat burning to age management and weight loss. Haney, along with Steve Harvey, are starting the Lee Haney’s Physique and Fitness Games, a 30-day transformation challenge with up to $2,500 in cash and prizes.
“The saddest thing is to see people die prematurely, especially if it could be prevented,” he says. “I don’t put things in my body that will rob me of my energy and put stress on my internal organs. If you have this knowledge, you must use it.
Haney never wavered in his quest to be Hercules. My parents listened to me and saw I had a natural talent. With a pair of plastic bar bells, he trained from the time he was 11. In high school he won Mr. South Carolina on his second try. In 1979 he won Teen Mr. America; in 1982, he took home the Junior Nationals, the National and World Amateur Championships titles. In 1983 he placed third the first time he tried for the Mr. Olympia title and then starting in 1984, he held the Mr. Olympia title consecutively until 1991.
His religion was another part. “Being a born again Christian plays a role in everything I do. I know God favored me and gave me a gift, and I use it to impact the world for good.”
“Health and fitness is more than jumping around,” he says. “It’s an attitude of doing the right things. I’m an ambassador of goodness and good will. I go from highs to highs. I don’t have room for any lows. Sure, we’ve had trials and it’s not all tiptoeing through the tulips. But every day is a high. I can’t wait to see what’s next for me.”