By Vincent Corvino
An Interview With A Viking
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “Viking?” You probably think of a strong and bold warrior who sees life as an opportunity to do battle and incur honor, even if that means going out on his shield.
In earlier articles, I’ve described my lifelong battle to get and stay fit, and the ways in which this fight has become tougher but even more rewarding as I age. One thing I’ve failed to mention is my secret weapon. For the past several years, I’ve had a viking in my corner. If you live in Staten Island, NY, and you know Carl Delin, you also know his nickname, The Viking.
As a MMA grappling silver medalist , avid bodybuilder, bouncer, and professional educator, Carl has given me the kind of advice that’s helped me to physically improve with age. Recently, I conducted a Facebook interview with him, knowing that The Mankipedia‘s readers would be enlightened and entertained by what this unique dude had to say about fitness, fighting, and life in general.
Corvino: How old are you, how long have you been hitting the gym, and who or what first inspired you to do so?
Delin: I’m 41, and I’ve been lifting since I was a teenager. My dad used to bring me to an old school Staten Island gym called Mario Strongs in New Dorp. My father was into the old school bodybuilders like Steve Reeves and John Grimek. I’m of Scandinavian descent, and people called my father The Viking, and I’ve inherited that same nickname. I watched The Incredible Hulk and Pumping Iron as a kid; Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger were my idols.
Corvino: If you were asked to describe your life philosophy in a sentence or two, what would you say?
Delin: That’s a tough one. I guess I’d say, “Stay hungry.” That’s from an old Arnold movie. I’m pretty much philosophically aligned with anything pertaining to Conan the Barbarian or Thor. Add all that to some Buddhism, and that’s me.
Corvino: Why do you think that you’ve been dedicated to elite fitness for such a long time?
Delin: I was a chubby kid and hated it. I always wanted to be muscular. Once, during a basketball game, I had my shirt off and felt embarrassed. I vowed to change that. I was also shy. So, in a way, lifting was a way to improve my confidence.
Corvino: What is your current fitness and nutrition regimen, and how has it changed over the years? Why did you make those changes? What mistakes have you made?
Delin: After turning thirty, I realized it was harder to stay in shape. In my twenties, I would party, mindlessly drink and eat, and my physique would suffer. Alcohol is not good for training. After age thirty, I started a family and started to get generally more serious about life. I didn’t party as much. I trained more. I now lift three or four times a week. I’m also grappling or boxing two or three times a week. I also do some cardio, though I change it up, because it tends to bore me.
Nutrition is very important. A bodybuilder or any athlete needs good complex carbs, lean protein, and lots of water — admittedly, I sometimes neglect the water-thing. Substantial fiber is a must at this age. I do have a good amount of caffeine before a workout, as I’m human and can get lazy. I always consume a post-workout shake and limit bad simple carbs and sugar. Alcohol is for weekends only, and I go for pizza once a week.
Corvino: Why have you gravitated toward Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instead of another martial art or boxing?
Delin: I did Tae Kwon Do as a teenager. It kept me in good shape. I was always a fan of Bruce Lee but also liked hitting the bag and knew a few boxers. I didn’t really want to be a boxer, though I did spar a little. They were tough guys, and I started to cross-train more instead of just lifting. I did Wing Chun Kung Fu for many years and was pretty good at it, but it didn’t mix well with lifting.
I’ve always watched the UFC, and always liked wrestling. In 2004, a guy named Mike Codella was teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the gym. Mike is now a black belt under Renzo Gracie. I think I might have been his first student. I always wanted to try this martial art, as it’s effective in the street and in formal competition. Soon enough, I saw how demanding it was, and I did suffer my share of injuries.
Corvino: You’re a professional educator with a family. Why not stick to a safe gym workout and avoid the risks of a combat sport? What’s in this for you? How does it help you in your other life roles?
Delin: Many guys either do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or are just gym guys. I knew I’d never be a pro bodybuilder, because now it’s all about lots of drugs, and I knew I’d never be a pro fighter, so I like doing a little of each. I lift for my physique and my health and use Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA for self defense, skills, agility, and just to know I’ve got physical advantages over the average person. A combat sport eases stress. Very few things in life are as threatening as getting choked. If you can keep a cool head in that predicament, the stresses of everyday life become pretty easy to handle. This mindset definitely helped me get through being a dean for ten years.
Corvino: Describe your most grueling moments as a martial artist. Why were these moments significant?
Delin: During my first week, I dislocated a finger. I’ve sustained knee, elbow, and neck injuries — nothing too major. You learn that the more strength you use, the more you hurt. Then you learn that power always helps, but technique overcomes strength. But my most grueling moment happened during my first grappling tournament. He was a wrestler, and he was heavy. He mounted me and I couldn’t get out. I finally did but lost on points. This happened again in another tournament. I knew I had to work on technique more and not rely on muscle. Those guys were good and won gold. I won a couple of silvers. I’m proud of that.
My most painful moment happened in BJJ class. I performed a double leg takedown and my ribs landed on my friend’s knee. I couldn’t move for a bit. Getting hit by a boxer is always a humbling experience, as is using four ounce gloves for MMA practice in the cage, but I have some good training partners who want to train and not get the ego involved. That’s the secret. You’ve got to be humble. Ego hurts fighters and makes them quit.
Corvino: I know that you’ve met a few well known martial artists. Who have you met, and how have they contributed to your goals?
Delin: I met Matt Serra. He was a UFC champ. Renzo Gracie is an MMA pioneer and a great guy, and I’m part of his association. Renzo and his cousin, Rickson, really inspired me, and so did Mike Codella, who I call my professor. He’s exactly ten years older than I am. All wrestlers inspire me; they’re really tough. I’ve had great role models and teachers. I’ve been a brown belt for three years. Many guys don’t make it past purple.
Corvino: What fitness-related advice would you give to a young bodybuilder? What advice would you give to bodybuilders who are our age and older?
Delin: Wow, well, unfortunately, bodybuilding and fitness has become a money-making and lying industry based on lots of useless supplements and lots of harmful black-market drugs. Today’s kids have terrible role models in the fitness and entertainment industry. No one wants to work hard anymore and reap the rewards. Lots of young guys juice and don’t even train right.
I see them in the gym trying to lift so heavy, they sacrifice form. Lifting heavy is useless if you’re incorrectly performing the movement and not repping to full failure. That’s why I like to train somewhat like Dorian Yates did. You do a few sets with maximum effort and always try to go heavier but with good form. Guys our age and older must work harder and eat right, otherwise forget it. It’s not going to turn out well. We can’t afford to slack off. If we aren’t serious and disciplined, we will be out of shape, sluggish, and looking and feeling old. And we’ve got to do it all — cardio, weights, and yoga are all necessary.
Corvino: What is great about being your age and being in such great shape?
Delin: It feels great to be in shape at this age, because so many aren’t, and I know that I’m in better shape than lots of young guys and a hell of a lot wiser.
About the Author:
Vincent Corvino’s writing has appeared in several literary journals, among them The Quarterly, New Letters, The Crescent Review and The Blue Moon Review. He is currently the lead singer of the New York City hard rock band, Urbansnake. He is a former student of Zen Buddhist Roshi, Rich Hart, and has trained as a boxer under former WBO Middleweight Champion, Doug Dewitt. He possesses an MA in Education from Columbia University and a Post-Graduate Certificate in School Leadership. He has been an English teacher since 1996.