Mel Mills considers himself a digital marketer by day and weightlifter by night.
After years of fitness for personal gains, the web content administrator for Wayne State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recently took it to the next level — but it was done a bit on a lark.
“I applied and forgot about it,” Mills said. “I then got an email telling me I had been hand-selected to compete in this year’s competition for the national Mr. Health and Fitness title. I’ve never competed in anything before, even though I’ve done this actively since 2014.”
While Mills initially took up his three hours per day, five days a week fitness regimen for health reasons, he said, “It really grew into a therapy in some respects, and a passion, to be fit and all the benefits it brings for our lives. I’ll be doing this after the competition because it doesn’t end here.”
The competition’s first round ends May 12, with voters allowed to cast one digital ballot per day (under the Free Daily Vote tab) until it closes. Mills — currently third place in his group — is vying for not only a chance to be featured in Muscle & Fitness magazine but also a $20,000 prize. Mills said he could use all the support possible.
“I feel like a politician (asking for votes),” he joked. “It’s been like a campaign.”
Speaking of support, Mills said he wouldn’t be in this position had it not been for WSU’s Wellness Warriors program and its dietitian-nutritionist Debra Cavender. He said his concept of nutritionists was flawed before meeting Cavender, as he considered it something more necessary for older people or those with diabetes. He made the first appointment and hasn’t looked back since.
“My nutritionist consultations with Debbie completely changed the game for me,” Mills said. “What was also a blessing in disguise is she has a sports background. She was not only able to speak to me on just a nutritional level, but also from the athletic angle. We sat down and developed a plan. The results were mind-blowing. I meet with her every year, including the day after I found out I was going to be in the competition.”
Another Wayne State connection was made after Mills learned his physical therapist, Zubair Fayyaz, had received his doctor of physical therapy from WSU’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.
“I haven’t done this journey without getting banged up a little bit,” Mills said. “I last saw Zubair in 2019, when I messed up some stuff with my lower back; of course, he got me in good shape, but I also learned so much. This was not just a routine physical therapy of, ‘Just do the exercise.’ I soaked up so much from him about things to do, not do, workout and regimen tips, etc. It was a beautiful tie-in between my nutritionist, physical therapist and myself — all Wayne State people.”
If Mills wins the $20,000 grand prize, he said it will help him promote his new book, Faith & Fitness: Stewarding Your Life for The Journey, which he hopes will inspire, equip and impact others to take their health to the next level.
“It will also help fund additional scholarships that I give away through my grandmother’s memorial fund. As a tither, I’ll be donating a portion to my church,” Mills said. “The rest will be invested and used to pay down student loan debt. Oh, and of course: I’m going to have one crazy cheat day.”