Local man overcomes life-threatening heart condition, places in body building competition
Nathan Smith was always interested in body building. He considered it a stress reliever, and said that he always had an interest inpursuing it competitively. That is, until receiving a pacemaker derailed his plans.
Smith, a 32-year-old third grade teacher at Whitley Central Intermediate, said that he had to begin living with a pacemaker in 2010 when a condition known as heart block started giving him some serious problems. “My heart would just stop beating,” he said. “When I started passing out I knew something was wrong. The doctors gave me a heart monitor to wear. I wore it one night, and they wanted to put in the pacemaker the next day.”
Smith explained that heart block is something that a person is born with, but may not show up until later on in life. When it began affecting his life in a negative way, eventually forcing him to wear a pacemaker, he said that it was not an easy pill to swallow.
“After getting the pacemaker I got really depressed and overweight,” Smith said. “The doctors told me that I couldn’t pursue body building any longer because of the dangers to my health. I eventually worked myself back into it over the years, though.”
When asked why he decided to take the risk and get back into working out, Smith said that he just felt like something was missing in hislife. “I had lifted weights forever,” he said. “And all of a sudden that was taken away. I had a set of weights at home, so I started there and just worked myself back into it.”
Now that Smith is back into the full swing of working out his body, training to compete in men’s physique competitions, he says that he is getting mixed messages from the doctors that he has talked to. Some are still of the opinion that he is putting his health at risk, but others actually seem to think that the added physical activity could be good for him, even considering his condition.
Regardless of what the doctors are saying, Smith says that he now feels better than before he had the pacemaker put in, and he has even went so far as finally realizing his dream of placing in a men’s physique competition.
He placed eighth in a 2013 competition, followed by another competition in 2014 where he did not place. He admitted that was a tough time for him personally, but he refused to give up. He kept working at it, and just recently he earned a third place finish in the National Physique Committee sanctioned Kentucky Derby Festival Championships in Louisville. This victory, he said, has broadened his horizons and made it possible for him to compete on a national level if he so chooses.
“I would love to,” Smith said when asked if that is the next step for him. “But it would have to be another year or two from now. I’m looking at doing another show in Louisville this November (NPC’s Kentucky Muscle), and I will probably use that to gauge if I should go national in 2016.”
In the mean time, Smith seems happy to just be back doing what he loves, and he wanted to thank those closest to him for their support throughout his difficult journey. “I want to thank my family and friends for their support,” he said. “Especially my wife, Kelsey, and my two children, Taylee and Talon.”
“Another one of the main reasons I continue to do this is for my kids at school. I want to show them that it is important to not give up on your dreams. With enough willpower and determination, you can do whatever you want. Life threw me a major curveball, but you just have to work around it.”