WHEN you fight fires and save lives at Sydney Airport for a living, being a dual bodybuilding world titleholder comes in handy.
One look at aviation fireman Justin Wessels — and his rippling muscles — is testament to his belief in putting the best version of oneself forward, because you never know what might happen tomorrow.
The Botany local, 44, successfully defended his National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA) World Championship masters division title in Russia in June.
“It takes a lot of meticulous training in the gym when you’re preparing for a bodybuilding competition,” Mr Wessels said.
“It’s certainly a real test of physical and mental wellbeing in terms of the discipline, sacrifice and time it takes.
“I start preparing 12 months in advance then there’s 18 weeks of being super-strict with dieting, and weight training sessions six days a week until I step on stage.
“The mindset is that you can’t control what others do, you have to stick to what you can control, and the chips will fall where they may.”
If that’s not enough, Mr Wessels remains undefeated on home soil after 21 years of competing at a national level, and is also a personal trainer.
“I’m very fortunate I guess with the lifestyle I lead that I enjoy everything that I do,” he said.
“I started doing weights when I was 15, but I never found it a chore. I actually enjoy going to the gym … I’ve got a very physical job where you need to stay fit, lift weights and eat well.
“I’m finding as I’m getting older that having lived that lifestyle for so long I’m benefiting from it, I feel great … if you have enough passion you can achieve that longevity.”
Mr Wessels grew up in Darwin and spent a decade as part of the Northern Territory police force, before joining Airservices Australia’s aviation rescue fire fighting service (ARFFS) at Sydney Airport nine years ago.
ARFFS crews must be able to respond to an aircraft incident at either end of a runway, or any part of the airport movement area, within three minutes.
“Our primary role is fire fighting and rescue, so some people think if there’s not a crash we’re not doing anything,” Mr Wessels said.
“We attend over 2000 calls a year, most are medical incidents, fire alarms, fuel spills and vehicle accidents on and off the airport.
“The camaraderie is great, I work with a great bunch of people — I think they’re quite excited about what I’ve achieved (with bodybuilding) and I’d like to think I have some influence with the guys in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“There is a bit of ribbing that goes on but it’s all in fun and helps with the moral side of things.”
Mr Wessels now has his sights set on next year’s ABBA world championships in Italy.
“I’d love to achieve three in a row, but you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow so you have to live in the moment and take the opportunities as they arise.”