Jon Bullet Bales
When you hear the name Bullet Bales, you are likely to think the name was acquired from his service to the United States military as a sergeant serving in the Vietnam during the war. Furthermore, if you knew Bullet, you'd further confirm your belief in his nickname from his unyielding commitment to his “Brothers on the Wall,” for whom he dedicates his training and each race. In actuality, Bullet was the name given to Bales during his surfing days. A friend saw him riding a wave and told him he looked like a bullet coming out of the water.
A lifelong resident of Glendale, California, Bullet was the target of bullying throughout his childhood. These experiences as a punching bag helped him become an observant elementary teacher sensitive to the needs of the bullies and the bullied. The road to a fitness phenom and career elementary teacher did not come in a straight line path.
Instead, there was one experience that would significantly impact upon him. Bullet enlisted in the United States Army and was stationed in Vietnam during the war. Sergeant Bales experiences during the one year of enlistment would change his view of life and inspire a dedication to Vietnam Veterans, which motivates him to this day. Bullet returned to the United States forty pounds lighter, due to a case of Malaria. To rehabilitate himself, he began swimming in a master's swimming program and Senior Olympic swimming competition in 1974. He returned to college and received a teaching credential which afforded him the opportunity to teach elementary students and coach swimming at a senior high level. It was not until later in life that he would become a competitive athlete.
When Bullet was later to visit the Vietnam Memorial Wall, his path and the impact of the war became clear. As he explains, “It all became quite clear to me when I saw the Vietnam Wall. I was to live life to the fullest for my 'Brothers in Arms' that never would have that opportunity. I wanted to push the limits of my physical being and not sit around and let life go by. So I decided to dedicate each race and training for them. I feel that is one of my 'callings' in life and it is to show others that not all Nam Vets who returned came back as druggies, felons, and homeless, and that one of them has a purpose in life.”
He did not begin competing and participating in athletics as a young man but has made his mark in spite of the late start. At the age of 36, Bullet took his swimming to the next level by entering 1980 Nautilus Triathlon on the Island of Hawaii. The initial catalyst to competing in triathlons was the appearance of Tom Warren, a fellow swimmer, in Sports Illustrated. Bullet embraced this challenge and has never looked back. Born in 1944, he continues to compete and break records as a master athlete. There is no doubt that he is pushed to train and compete by the memory of those who left Vietnam in a bodybag. When asked if he has days when he doesn't feel like training, he responds “We all have those days, but I keep going back to the wall. What about those guys that didn't have a chance to grow up? I think of the wall. Get your ... up! You have an obligation.”
His training regimen is an ageless treatise to his “Brothers on the Wall.” Bullet typically trains five days per week. The following reflects his schedule at the beginning of the season:
- Monday-2000 meter swim in the ocean and a run
- Tuesday- speed workout at a track
- Wednesday-treadmill at Zone 1 level and swimming 2000 meters of sprints
- Thursday- swimming 3000 meter pyramids
- Friday is treadmill at Zone 2 and 1000 meter swim for time
- Saturday or Sunday-Is used for the following: triathlons, aquathlons, swimming or running zone 3
When running, he uses a heart rate monitor to train in the 3 zones specifically designed for his profile. These zones were formulated in an exercise physiology lab, combining the results of VO2 max with lactic tolerance levels.
Bullet points out that his training evolves into the season. “I then start 'brick training,' whereby I do 2-3 miles (run, bike, swim) in one workout. I can mix the orders up each day to keep the workouts fresh. I like to practice the transitions from swim to run, or swim to bike and the transition from bike to run. I mostly concentrate on the swim to run getting the wetsuit off and into my running gear.”
Thirty-four years as an elementary teacher may have helped him maintain a youthful mind but there is no doubt that his dedication to training and competition has provided him an ageless appearance. He notes that thirty-plus years of exercise and hard work allows him to hold his head high and dress with the under-fifty crowd. “ How many 50 plus men do you know that have no problem wearing Speedos?” Bullets asks.
His eating habits have also enhanced his physique. Rarely eating desserts and fried foods, Bullet eats what he wants but monitors portions. For example, when eating at a restaurant, he usually eats half of the portion provided. His supplementation includes Fish oil, Arginine, Magnesium, Potassium, Whey Protein, Nitric Oxide, Niacin, Red Bull, protein drinks and bars, and egg whites.
His assessment of our Western societies condition is direct and explicit. “Our society with all of its fast foods and personal computers, in my opinion, is counter productive for aging. With the advent of these, it produces a lazy society full of obese children and adults who don’t seem to care about their health.” Bullet reflects that many will pursue a materialistic path only to work themselves to poor health or death. Instead, he has chosen a path that has rewarded him with vitality and youth and a multitude of medals acquired from competing in over 250 races. Retirement from competition will only occur upon Bullet's demise. Until then, he plans to compete and perform at the highest level possible, disregarding age as a factor.
Listing all of Bullets awards and accomplishments would be an overwhelming venture. However some of his major accomplishments include:
- Finishing the original "Ironman" on the Island of Oahu in 1980.
- Finishing the first "Ironman" on the Island of Hawaii in 1981.
- Swimming the Maui Channel Swim 3 times.
- Winning the Waikiki Rough Water Swim for his age group setting a record 1984.
- Held at one time, 15 Sr. Olympic Swim records.
- Aquathlon All American 2011.
- First in age group US National Aquathlon in 2010
- Second in age group competition for TEAM USA in Beijing in the World Aquathlon Championship.
*More records and information concerning Jon “Bullet” Bales can be seen at athlinks.com
Bullet continues to pursue goals. He wants to stand on the podium for TEAM USA at World’s Aquathlon Championship. Moreover, he wants to run under 25 minutes and swim the 1000 meter portion of the course in under 18 minutes. A competitor must run, swim and run again in an aquathlon. His advice to others who wish to pursue goals is simple. “Set attainable goals for your health. Remember, you have to crawl before you walk. You have to walk before you run.”