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Surpassing Great Expectations

Our Weekend with Carol and Clarence Bass


This past July (2009), my son Joshua and I (see Success Stories 10 & 11: http://www.cbass.com/success_stories10.htm ) made our way to Albuquerque to spend the weekend with Carol and Clarence Bass. Joshua was about as excited as he could be because he’d read most of Clarence’s books and now he was going to meet “Mr. Ripped” in the flesh. What I found most gratifying was that Clarence seemed as excited as Joshua. They hit it off right away. From the moment Clarence asked, “How much are you weighing these days?” Joshua knew he was in for a weekend filled with advice, instruction, and information; information that he could never get from a book or from his old man. Imagine, spending time with someone who has over 50 years of experience managing training and dietary practices to produce optimal results! That, coupled with Clarence’s encyclopedic knowledge of bodybuilding and its history, made for an incredible, once in a lifetime experience.   

From the moment we arrived at Ripped Enterprises (their office/gym facility), Carol and Clarence made us feel like family. During our tour of the gym, with the staggering array of machines and free weights that Clarence has collected over the years, Clarence said, “We’ll workout Sunday, Joshua. I hope you don’t put me to shame!” Joshua smiled though I could tell he was overwhelmed trying to take in the variety of exercise equipment (Clarence’s gym is not your typical franchise “fitness center”). Not to mention the walls that were strewn with posters and photos (many autographed) of bodybuilding legends such as Cory Everson, Serge Nubret, Tom Platz, Frank Zane, Mike Mentzer, Dorian Yates, and Bill Pearl. Seeing the sheer joy on Joshua’s face brought to mind the scene from Kevin Costner’s film “Field of Dreams” (“Is this heaven?  No it’s Clarence’s gym.”).    

What intrigued me most about our visit, since, unlike Joshua, I am not seeking mega-muscles, was to learn, firsthand, about the way Clarence and Carol orchestrate their healthy eating. While Clarence’s books do an excellent job of describing, in great detail, the specifics of his dietary practices, there’s nothing like watching him prepare his famous Naturally More™ peanut butter sandwiches or his amazingly satisfying breakfast cereal, choc-full of whole grains and frozen fruits and vegetables. Even Joshua, who consumes about as much fuel as a blast furnace, had trouble finishing his breakfast each morning.

At about mid-day on Saturday, we made our way to Clarence’s Concept 2 Rower for a session of intense aerobic interval training. Clarence, as you might know, has competed in online international competition on the Concept 2 and is an elite class for his age. He patiently showed Joshua how to perform the coordinated movements required to row safely and effectively. After a few minutes, Clarence said, “It’s a good thing you’re just learning this, Joshua. If you had a week or so to practice, I’d have no chance against you.”

Clarence, who meticulously documents each of his workouts so he can monitor progress and set realistic goals for himself, performed 5 progressively harder 60 second intervals sandwiched between 90 second bouts of leisure rowing. Each of the minute-long intervals was a little better than the previous one. In other words, the work became harder, not easier, as the workout progressed. Joshua performed the same protocol as Clarence and did very well, although he didn’t pace himself properly—his middle reps were too fast, faster than Clarence—so his last 60 second interval was a bit slower than Clarence’s. I think Clarence was genuinely impressed. He said to me, “You ought to consider getting a Concept 2. Joshua clearly has the ability to become very good at this.”

Carol took Joshua and me on a tour of Albuquerque, even showing us where Clarence was nearly killed some years ago when an absent minded driver turned in front of him as he biked down a hill (Clarence doesn’t bike on the street anymore). When I mentioned how focused and rigorously logical Clarence is, she said, “Well, Clarence is fast-twitch and I’m slow twitch.” I think she was referring to his tendency to continually challenge himself, while she is more easy-going. However, Carol is no slouch when it comes to fitness. She lifts weights and hikes the hills and mountains behind their home several times a week and as Clarence says, “Carol eats even healthier than I do.”         

On Sunday, after a nice hour-long walk with Carol in the pleasant dry heat of Albuquerque, we each ate a Tiger’s Milk Nutrition Bar and drove with Clarence to Ripped Enterprises for a weight training workout. Clarence works the whole body in these sessions. He uses mostly compound movements so he engages as much muscle as possible as efficiently as possible. After a few minutes of warm-up and gentle stretching, Clarence said, “Joshua, you probably won’t need to do these now, but as you get older I think you’ll find that a general warm-up helps get you ready to train mentally and physically and helps prevent injuries.”

Because Joshua has generally used only exercise machines, he was unfamiliar with how to perform exercises such as the dumbbell row and the dumbbell bench press. Clarence had the patience of a saint as he repeatedly showed Joshua how to properly angle his hips and spine to perform the rows safely. Joshua also performed pullovers on Clarence’s vintage Nautilus Pullover Machine—Clarence and Carol flew to Florida in the mid-70s and bought their first Nautilus machine directly from the inventor, Arthur Jones. Perhaps the absolute highlight was when Clarence showed Joshua how to perform cable crossovers in just such a way as to maximize their effectiveness. 

Both Clarence and Joshua worked out with an intensity that goes a long way toward explaining why they both have such impressive physiques. There was no quit in either of them; always trying to squeeze that last ounce of effort from their bodies and minds.  

After the workout, it was time for a well-earned big bowl of Clarence’s post-workout oatmeal. It consisted of Bill Pearl’s Champions Choice High Protein Oatmeal topped with walnuts, mixed berries, and skim milk.

After this feast, we were off to the airport to return to Baltimore armed with new knowledge and memories that will last a lifetime. On the flight home, I reflected on everything we experienced in such a short time. What struck me most is that every moment we spent with Carol and Clarence was devoted to helping Joshua get the utmost from the experience. I know that the insights Joshua acquired with regard to healthy eating, safe, effective training, goal setting, and the importance of critically evaluating every aspect of one’s training will hold him in good stead as he continues to embrace all that a healthy, active lifestyle has to offer.

Thank you Carol and Clarence for an amazing and unforgettable time.      

Kevin Fontaine [Assistant Professor of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Medical School]

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Ripped Enterprises, P.O. Box 51236, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87181-1236 or street address: 528 Chama, N.E., Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108, Phone (505) 266-5858, e-mail:  cncbass@aol.com, FAX:  (505) 266-9123.  Office hours:  Monday-Friday, 8-5, Mountain time.  FAX for international orders: Please check with your local phone book and add the following: 001-505 266-9123

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Copyright © 2009 Clarence and Carol Bass.  All rights reserved.