Interview w/ Talon Thompson - Realtor, Certified Trainer, Physique Competitor, AirBNB Host, Breaking the AGE Cubicle

Please share a bit about your life journey that led you to this moment?

I was very lucky to grow up in a small beach community in British Columbia Canada that was also only an hour to the big city of Vancouver. I believe having access to big city life while maintaining a slightly rural grounding helped me see all sides of life and what it can offer. Being in nature and by the beach, it was normal for me to want to stay in shape and be healthy.
Like many people, I fell into a 9 to 5 office routine. I found the security, the environment and the stability appealing. I kept up with a gym routine, but I can tell you that office snacks are abundant. It was always someone’s birthday and cakes were a weekly occurrence. After 30 years of office work, I was laid off due to a merger.

It was at this point I really delved into fitness in a major way. I obtained certifications as a trainer and took extra education in nutrition and training for those over 40 - all health and anti-aging aspects that are with me today. I broke out of the office cubicle. It was then time to do the same with what I call the age cubicle.

At what age did you decide to explore training for a fitness competition and why?

When I was 49, a good friend of mine who produces physique competitions put forward the idea. His exact words were, “Tal, Let’s get you in the best shape of your life and put you up on stage”. Well, being a very non-competitive person, my first reaction was that this was not for me. However, I came around to the idea and threw myself full speed into it. My reasoning was that I wanted to inspire other people in my age range. I also was interested to see how far I could push myself into an uncomfortable situation. 

I know I was shocked at the time and effort needed to prepare. Can you share about the commitment required to compete? How long do you train and diet? How many hours do you spend in the gym a week and what does the diet required look like?

My first show I had no idea how much time, work and energy it took to prepare, as well as how much it time it would take away from being around family and friends. Athletes generally start full throttle around 3 to 4 months out from a show. That is a huge portion of a year. You do learn to sacrifice and that is where the mind comes into play. Also, your friends start to understand that yes, I can attend that BBQ, however I will be bringing my own food. Yes, I can go see a movie but no I cannot have a handful of your popcorn.

For every athlete, diet is extremely important and not a one size fits all kind of deal. Hiring a good coach that is versed in show prep is essential. One thing that is common is that each meal should provide protein, vegetable, fat and carb. Yes, don’t be afraid of carbs. Removing sugars is also important. This extreme is certainly not for everyone and would not recommend to those who are looking to be healthy. This is strictly for the athlete looking to compete.

Lucky for me, I am good with eating the same things every day. I do this even when not in prep mode. On Saturdays I have what I call a treat meal. I spend all week planning what to cook and or bake on that day. During prep I work closely with my coach, weighing in sometimes up to 3 times a week. Depending on my weight and visually how I look, l still can allow myself a treat meal on the weekend. A good coach will tell you how many grams of protein, carbs and vegetables you should be consuming based on your body and progress.

As for the gym, I work out 6 days per week. Saturdays are usually my day off. I maintain that one hour is all I need to get it done. Any longer and I start to dislike being there. Again, during prep this will fluctuate, and there is the dreaded cardio added into the mix. Make sure you have a good set of headphones to pass the cardio time away.

What is the hardest part of the process for you personally? What do you really enjoy?

The hardest part for me, and something we have not touched on yet, is posing. Naturally I am not coordinated. Therefore, I always leave my posing practice way too late. You would think, since I am not coordinated, I should start way sooner or even practice all year long. I have made a pact with myself to practice my posing routine much sooner going into the next show. It’s so important to get it right to show of your best features to the judge and to show your personality on stage. It needs to look effortless. Audiences eat it up too.

The best thing for me is having people approach me at the gym or just when I am out and about to tell me I have inspired them. That’s why I do this and what I get the most satisfaction from. 3 to 4 weeks from a show, I will have at least one person approach me daily at the gym. I will never forget during my last prep a severely overweight young man came over to me and said, “I see you every day at the gym and because of you I am determined to come daily as well”. That gives me so much joy.

Readers would love to hear what it was like to attend your very first fitness competition? What was it like? Do you have a special memory you can share?

I was nervous as heck. I knew I would be there with all these younger guys backstage with incredible physiques. 

There are hours and hours spent in the holding area before you hit the stage. Lots of time to talk and meet new friends. I had in my head that the guys would all be a bit ‘stuck’ on themselves. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. Yes, they were there to win but on the same token they were helping each other out. 

There is a huge camaraderie in this industry. Many of the young men came over, congratulated me on my physique, and told me they want to be like me when they get to my age. When it was time to walk on stage, all my nerves had vanished. I liken it to acting. You get up there and you feed off the positive energy from backstage and from the audience. 

Now that you have trained for several years and have competed a few times, what do you feel are the biggest positive changes that have come from this journey.

My outlook on life changed drastically. I have a saying “the only possession we have from birth to death is our body, so take care of it”. I get very antsy when I go out in public and see so many seemingly unhealthy people. The number of ailments and problems we have just because we don’t take care of our body is astounding. Of course, some people have underlying issues that contribute to poor health, however a fast majority can be avoided if we only treated our bodies as good as we treat our cars. Would you put the wrong gasoline in your car?

Progress from several years ago
on left to this year on right!

There are a whole range of other positives, everything from clothes fitting better to having more daily energy and to a better sex life. When we look in the mirror and feel good about ourselves it really changes our attitude to life in general. Absolutely it is a casing, and I am not going to say looks are everything, but it’s also the inside of your body that feels better. You can tell things inside are running properly. If you are heathier inside, then it reflects outside.

I know you are passionate about aging and fitness. Can you share a bit of what you most want people to know, something to inspire them (and me personally) to get moving and keep moving?

I do not believe in the aging cycle per se. Society has trained us to accept so many things. We go to school, we get a job, we get married, we have kids, we have grandkids, we retire, we become sickly, we die. Wouldn’t it be nice to remove the sickly part as much as possible? 40 was considered old back in settler days and people didn’t live much past 50. Now we are living well into our 80s and 90s and I want to do that in the best health possible. 

I used to think of my life in 3 chapters. Young, middle aged, old. Now I think of it in paragraphs. Paragraphs of life. Each paragraph unique to the moment in time but not enslaved by that time. 

Images from Tal and Ron's Nanaimo AirBNB

What's next for you? Any plans for the future you'd like to share with readers? 

I had planned to retire from competition after the last show I did. However, two things happened that changed my mind.
  • My partner and I were going to compete together for the first time. Up to this point we had always done separate shows. You may have heard of a little thing called COVID. Unfortunately, my partner was unable to compete after having been sick for a few weeks leading up to the show. Our new plan is to compete together in the May 2023 Vancouver Island Showdown.
  • I met a 72-year-old backstage at my last show. Talk about an inspiration. He looked incredible and was a joy of life. He inspired me to continue.
As you know, I have an idea for a book in my head. It has been twirling around in there for a few years. I really want to get the message out about ‘Breaking the Age Cubicle.”  I am currently brainstorming the chapters and hopefully at some point it will all come together. It would be awesome to contribute positively to society by passing on what I have learned. A book is a great way to do this.