Feature Article: Custom built

Carolyn Magner | February 01, 2010

Custom built

Truck show competition and bodybuilding draw on similar characteristicscover-story-main

Competing in a bodybuilding contest is a lot like competing in a truck beauty show. It requires extreme planning, discipline and attitude. For East Coast Large Cars owner Richie Acosta, applying a custom approach to building both his truck and his body has paid off not just in trophies but in a lifetime of successful ventures that includes the launch of a n ew  annual truck beauty show.

Owner-operator Acosta, 41, from New Ferry, N.J., drives a prize-winn  ing 2005 custom Peterbilt 379 extended hood. The married father of twin si x-year-old girls has been trucking for 20 years and has competed in body-building competitions for much of that time. He knows firsthand how difficult it can be to combine trucking with good health and fitness but believes it’s a matter of attitude that makes the difference. Bodybuilding is his hobby, but Acosta says trucking is his passion, and he applies his personal philosophy of excellence to both.

Health and fitness

“It’s not easy to eat healthy on the road. It’s a real challenge to figure out what to order and how to make good nutrition decisions,” Acosta says. “Add unpredictable sleep patterns, limited food choices and long, sedentary hours to the day, and it’s not hard to see why truckers struggle with health and fitness.

“I know what it’s like out there and I’ve walked in those same shoes. When a trucker asks me how I manage to keep myself in good enough physical condition to compete in bodybuilding shows, I tell them I don’t do anything that they couldn’t start doing if they had the right information.”

He believes one of his missions is to get that information to them. His healthy habits include a disciplined diet and focus on daily exercise routines adjusted to accommodate his driving schedule.

“Being fit behind the wheel will make you feel better but most importantly will ­tremendously increase energy and focus levels for drivers. I have been trucking and training for many years and have found many ways to make them work together,” he says.

Diet

While there are as many diets out there as custom paint colors, Acosta sticks with a low-sugar, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie diet to keep his weight at its optimum level. He advises truckers to begin by eliminating sugar-loaded desserts and sodas and replacing them with healthy snacks and either water or diet drinks. “Truckers tend to drive all day and then load up on a huge meal at the truckstop buffet. It’s much better to eat five small meals a day to keep hunger at bay and your blood sugar levels constant,” he says. He plans ahead by packing protein shakes, veggies and snacks such as low-sodium nuts in his truck for long trips. He uses a cooler to keep the shakes cold and will include healthy lean meats like turkey or chicken and boiled eggs for protein.

When it comes to ordering from a fast-food or truckstop menu, Acosta has done his homework.

“You can order grilled chicken without the bun, salads without high-calorie dressings and steamed vegetables in most truckstop restaurants. Every fast-food chain has complete food information available online or on request,” he says.

Planning ahead is the most efficient way to eat healthy, and Acosta maps out his meals like he does the miles he’s driving. When he’s not able to train because of his schedule, he cuts back his calories. “I don’t expect truckers battling their weight to become bodybuilders. But I do believe that they can take steps in the right direction. Even something as simple as reading food labels can contribute to better food choices,” he says.

Before he’ll advise a fellow trucker to start a fitness plan, Acosta insists they get a thorough medical checkup. “Once you get checked out by your doc, you can begin adding short walks and light weight-lifting to your daily routine,” he says.

As a competitive bodybuilder, Acosta’s training includes a full two-hour workout seven days a week. When he’s on the road he’ll incorporate a maintenance routine that includes 5 sets of 50 push-ups and 5 sets of 50 sit-ups along with weight-lifting and brisk walking. But for beginners, he urges they start small by walking around the truck and parking farther away from the truckstop. Later, add sit-ups, push-ups and travel with light 5- or 10-lb. weights.

To address the unique health challenges facing truckers, Acosta is in the planning stages of developing a line of food and fitness programs (www.TruckingFit.com) that will be simple for truckers to follow. He’s on a mission to help truckers discover the path to better food and fitness choices, a daunting challenge he says he’s up for.

 

BODYBUILDING

Acosta competed in bodybuilding from 1996-2002 as a lightweight (under 154 pounds) and did very well in over 20 shows. He received various first-place awards, including the New Jersey State award in 1998 and 2002. After a seven year break, he geared up to compete again in 2009 as a lightweight and earned second place in the Brooklyn Grand Prix, first place in the East Coast Championship and fifth place in the Eastern USA championship. In spite of losing points for his tribal-themed tattoos, Acosta continues to rack up the awards.

 

Truck beauty show

It’s hard to imagine Acosta daunted by any kind of challenge. He got involved in customizing when designing his working truck, a black 2005 350-inch-wheelbase Peterbilt with a 625-hp Caterpillar C15 pulling a 1999 Utility reefer. He did the work with Clint Moore, from Kansas City Peterbilt. The aptly named Project 350, a hot rod low-rider, has been a winner on the show-truck circuit.

In June 2009, Acosta launched a new truck beauty show, The East Coast Large Truck Show in Augusta, N.J. Despite a down economy, the show was well attended, and enthusiastic reviews continue to pour in. Anthony Pesce, principal in Elizabeth Truck Center and a presenter for the show, says it’s no surprise to him that Acosta pulled off such a great show.

“I knew it would be a success because anyone who knows Richie knows he doesn’t stop short of perfection. If he sets his sights on something, it’s going to be the best,” Pesce says. “The show was extremely well organized, with great accommodations, an upbeat atmosphere with lots of energy and buzz. His passion for trucking and his ability to make things happen resulted in a phenomenal turnout for the show. We expect this year’s event, June 11-13, to be even bigger. Richie is a truck enthusiast and industry diehard who has as much passion for trucking as [New York Yankees shortstop Derek] Jeter does for baseball.”

Between trucking, organizing truck shows, working on his truck and training for bodybuilding competitions, Acosta still makes ample time for his family. He credits his ability to always put things in a positive light as the key to his success: “Every time I fail, I use those lessons to just get stronger. If things don’t go right or I get knocked down, I get right back up and keep going.”

In fact, he says his workouts give him a sharper focus that helps him succeed as a trucker, truck-show organizer, businessperson and family man. “I’m more energized and sharper after a hard workout than if I had just slept in. Anyone can improve their life if they just get started.”

 

PROJECT 350

Richie Acosta approached Clint Moore of Kansas City Peterbilt in 2004 with the idea of building the most outlaw-looking truck that would still be road legal and workable. He had a cabinet full of files containing everything that would be done to the truck when it came in new. Acosta and Moore took more than a year to design, plan and create the project. They faced a lot of skepticism about the 350-inch wheelbase, but Moore got it done. It was the first truck ever to go on the road with such a long wheelbase and a 36-inch bunk. Because it was so extreme, Acosta had to go with a big drive train 625-hp Caterpillar, heavy-duty 18-speed and high-performance 3.36 rears. The truck was a big hit on the trade show circuit and caused a stir wherever it went.

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