Daryl Conant, owner of The Fitness Nut House In Kennebunk, broke his leg in 2020 and thought his days of bodybuilding competition were over. He kept exercising though, to get back into shape, and brought home two first place wins and a second place in the Amateur Athletic Union Mr. Universe bodybuilding and fitness competition. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNK – It was a freak accident and a painful one that Daryl Conant thought would likely end his quest of competing in the Amateur Athletic Union Mr. Universe bodybuilding and fitness event.

Instead, hard work and perseverance paid off, and the 53-year-old bodybuilder came home from Las Vegas after the October competition with a first place in the master’s division in the 50 and older class and took a first the overall master’s class of those in the 40s, 50s and 60 age range. Conant also placed second in the open class that includes all age groups.

This, for a guy who broke his leg back in February 2020.

Conant was skiing with his two sons and brother-in-law over the President’s Day weekend that year when he hit a hole on one of the slopes at Bretton Woods.

“I knew I was in trouble,” said Conant, an avid bodybuilder and longtime owner of The Fitness Nut House in Kennebunk.

He heard a loud pop  – it was the sound of his patella tendon snapping. His right leg was twisted off to the side and behind him, and he said he knew it was bad. His sons maneuvered his leg forward. “I tried to stand up and my foot went sideways,” he said. “I knew my leg was wrecked.”


There he was sitting in the snow on the slopes, in pain. His plan to enter the 2020 competition was in tatters, just like his leg.

Conant had returned to competition in 2019 after several years away from it and came in third in the 50 and older age group and in the open competition that includes all age groups. He had hoped to compete again, but, he said,   with the mishap that smashed two of his leg bones together, that seemed in doubt.

Following surgery, his leg had to be immobilized for eight weeks. “My leg was atrophied,” after immobilization, he said. “I wasn’t sure if I could build it back.”

This is what Daryl Conant’s leg looked like after surgery following a skiing mishap in 2020. He thought his days competing in bodybuilding were finished, but came back strong this fall with two first place wins and a second place in the Amateur Athletic Union Mr. Universe bodybuilding and fitness event. Courtesy Photo

In the midst of this came the pandemic, and the associated worries associated with running a business.

“I came in on crutches,” he said, noting the business was designated essential because of the array of rehab services he offers. “My wife Joy said I was crazy,” to come in so soon after surgery. But she organized folks to help while he was immobilized.

Determined to get better, Conant said working helped, and when he could, he exercised the rest of his body.


“It helped my mental state,” said Conant. “I never got depressed, I kept going.” Once he no longer had to immobilize his leg, he started rehab.

Conant, who was raised in New Hampshire, started weight training at 12 to improve his ability to play baseball. By the time he graduated from high school, he was heavily involved in body building.

“After graduation, a friend said he wanted to play baseball in college,” Conant recalled. ‘I said I wanted to be Mr. Universe.”

After earning a master’s degree in exercise and physiology, Conant worked with the U.S. Olympic Committee in Atlanta and Lillehammer and was a coach for the Olympic Training Center.

He started The Fitness Nut House in 1998, and provides nutrition counseling, cardiac and orthopedic rehab, personal training, and an array of classes at the gym.

Busy with family – the couple has three children – and with running a business, for a while, Conant’s days of competing  fell to the wayside. And there were other reasons he chose not to compete for a time  – the 1990s saw an upturn in the use of anabolic steroids by some, he said – something Conant wanted nothing to do with.


The Amateur Athletic Union halted the competition for a few years, he said, but brought it back in 2015.

As he exercised throughout the remainder of 2020 and into 2021, Conant said he saw improvement in his bad leg and by February, he felt he was strong enough, so he signed on for the October competition. “It gave me the motivation to really go for it,” he said.

By June, his leg was in much better shape, and then came the competition in October – where the judges look for definition, mass and symmetry.

“I was in shock, I was so excited,” at his wins, said Conant.  “I was just so happy to be there. ”

What’s next? Will he compete in 2022?

“I may go for Mr. America next year,” said Conant.

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