By Andrew Wroblewski
For Bill Leonello, personal health isn’t just a hobby – “it’s a lifestyle.”
At the age of 15, the now-East Northport resident, started lifting weights; at 19 he was competing in bodybuilding competitions. Despite the roadblocks that came along with lifting and competing, he said, Leonello kept at it – he wanted to go against the typical American lifestyle and instead opted to be a “different kind of person.”
Soon, he graduated with a degree in physical education, eventually became a personal trainer and continued competing in bodybuilding competitions.
“I like to see people improve; I don’t want to see them just go through the motions,” he said of his career path.
He eats, sleeps and breaths fitness – and it’s paid off.
Not only is Leonello in fantastic shape, but on June 6, at the age of 60, he claimed the top-overall prize in the men’s over 60-category at the National Physique Committee (NPC) Bev Francis Atlantic States bodybuilding championships in New York City.
“There were a lot of emotions going through me at the competition,” he said, noting that his children, Lysa, Billy and Pete were watching him from the crowd. “I wanted them to be proud of me; they really helped me work hard.”
With their support, Leonello shined; not only did he claim first prize in the over-60 division, he also placed fourth in the over-50 category. Years earlier, when competing in the men’s over-55 category, Leonello also claimed first place.
In this year’s competition, with his years of bodybuilding experience, Leonello said he felt confident backstage as he anxiously awaited the call to step out before the judges.
“I was like a kid on Christmas,” he said. “I’ve done this some many times not that I get more anxious than nervous.”
The competition, which was hosted at Baruch College, was said to be the biggest NPC Atlantic States Championships yet, according to organizer Steve Weinberger. More than 500 entrants traveled to the competitions from approximately 20 states.
In-between his work as a personal trainer – he trains for Sid Jacobson JCC – Leonello will now prepare for two more competitions. A tune-up in Westchester on July 11 will serve as a prefix to the national competition in Pittsburg on July 17.
But – while winning is, of course, a great reward – Leonello said that it would only serve as a small portion of the feeling of accomplishment he feels from just being able to compete in the first place.
“The way I look at it, at this age, I don’t worry about where I place… I think I’ve already won once I step onto the stage, simply because the competition got me in really great shape,” he said.