Fitness: My journey from stadium to stage
I get asked all the time; “bro, how long have you been lifting for?” The short answer is, I honestly am not exactly sure. Back when I was nine years-old, my dad recognised I had a natural talent for running. Sprinting to be specific. From that point on, he was driving me to the local track at least three times per week, forcing me out the front door to go on 5 mile runs and generally living vicariously through his eldest son! Not that I minded. I loved it. I would train with wrist and ankle weights velcroed to my body and before I was even in high-school I started developing a strong work ethic and drive to compete.
By the time I was 15, I was one of the top ranked sprint-hurdlers in the UK. I lived it, breathed it, and bled for the sport. Without realising it, I had developed an insatiable drive to chase wins like a blood hound. If, on the rare occasion somebody beat me, I would make it my mission to train harder and take him out. It is uncanny how habits formed in your teens really do stick with you throughout your life. I had no idea I had become a competitive machine. I wasn’t always the best (I was always up there), but I always ensured I worked my ass off to close any gaps. I still do this today and I am glad it’s a habit that runs deep.
Roll the clock forward a decade and I found myself a healthy 85kg of lean muscle working as a commercial and fitness model, flying between London, Cape Town, Miami, and mainland Europe shooting many covers for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness. I enjoyed the way I looked but always wanted to get bigger. At that time, I really aspired to be the size of the current men’s physique pros of today but was constantly told that I was getting too big even at 85kg and was forced to keep my weight down. This obviously started to wear a little thin and it really was only a matter of time until the flood gates opened.
So, I was talked into doing my first fitness stage show by my old friend Ben “Abstacker” Handsacker. I competed in the Fitness model category in the Musclemania federation. I remember the prep. It was brutal, but I loved it and I think it was one of the most dedicated preps I have ever done. I would carb cycle three days of zero carbs with one re-feed day. On the zero carb days I would eat eggs for breakfast followed by three rounds of chicken thighs and peas (I didn’t count fibrous carbs). The cardio was through the roof and I use a selection of supplements including creatine, glutamine, bcaa’s, whey, fish oils, L-carnitine and CLA. I think I ended up coming third or fourth, but after that I was hooked.
Unfortunately, soon after this I endured one of the lowest phases of my life, that ultimately made me rely on the gym and training as much mentally as physically. In the space of two years, I lost my mother to a very unexpected double stroke (she was 53), my relationship broke down and daughter was taken from me back to the UK, I lost my job and financial stability, all while I was enduring an emotional and physically abusive relationship. To all extensive purposes, I found myself stripped of everything, at rock bottom in a foreign country, broke and alone. There was literally only one direction from this point. So, after a period of feeling sorry for myself, I set about doing what I wanted to do.
I quit modelling and started bulking. I needed the gym as an emotional release as much as I did to grow, so I found myself there a lot! I remember ordering peptides for the first time. The idea of using a needle scared me, but to hell with it, I did it anyway. I ordered CJC-1295 and GHRP-6 off a random internet site and started my first protocol. I was so set on adding muscle and getting big that I remember using them three times per day. Once in the morning, a post-workout shot and then again before bed. Now I need to add in a disclaimer here. Ordering from random sites is by no means a good idea; you never know exactly what you’re getting and Australian laws are very strict on unscripted compounds; both possessing and definitely importing. Still, on this occasion I got lucky. On other occasions since then, my orders got lost completely or were intercepted at customs and destroyed.
My training routine was so basic back then, but having experimented with many splits since, I am now incorporating the same routine even today. Just a basic push, pull, legs, rest split. For adding mass, I still find this works the best for me. It just makes sense. Even when you do an isolation exercise, you are still using many other muscles antagonistically; so why not just train all those associated muscles together in one session? Then technically they would get three whole rest days, before going again. It was ideal and with the motivation and mental drive I had at that time, I grew very quickly. I remember after 2 months of using those peptides and that protocol, I had managed to add 8kg to the scale and was as lean as when I started. My system was so clean that my body responded beautifully, and I grew and grew and grew. I was now around 93kg, standing at 185cm.
That was a good weight, but I needed more. Much more. Enter PED’s. Now I am not condoning or encouraging their use; far from it. Personally, I think they cause more harm than good. However, at that time, where I needed to grow and achieve, to satisfy my innate drive to compete and win, purely to lift myself mentally; well, they served a purpose. I wanted to become a monster, perhaps to reflect the way I felt inside; beaten down, angry and alone. So, I set about going to the next level. I used a test prop base, coupled with Tren acetate. The gains were great, but the complexity of using PED’s correctly with anti-estrogens and PCT after made it more expensive and more of and exact science, however, at the time I was all in.
My legs were an area I needed to improve. I had good separation, but being naturally ectomorphic, was slender with ridiculously small joints. I suffered from Patelo-femoral syndrome due to going cold turkey on the athletics at 18 and had a lower back injury from a rugby incident in my teens, so squatting was out, and my knees were not great. However, what I learned was that for every problem, there is a solution. I learned that by training volume through my knees on extensions and light lunges; over time my knees strengthened. Don’t get me wrong I worked through discomfort, but that gradually abated to the point where now, at 42, my knees are 95% pain free. I also found that by using the belt squat machine, I could load up much more weight and still squat without putting any stress through my lower back. This was a huge win for me. I gradually built up my strength using predominantly pyramid sets. Now, with increased strength I could load up the weight and really grow. It really was a snowball effect, and the reason bodybuilders grow once they’ve moved past a plateau. To be honest I feel that not performing traditional squats or Olympic lifts to build muscle has benefitted my shape by keeping my external obliques as small as possible, which in turn gives the waist a much smaller look.
My diet has never been amazing. When adding muscle, I have found it really doesn’t need to be. I am sure there are people out there that might disagree, but from my perspective, I rarely measure food and calories during a growth phase. Perhaps that is through experience and understanding what my body likes and dislikes. My method is fairly general. What I do count is protein. Whether you are eating out or cooking from home, everything has a protein value. I tend to shoot for 200-240g protein per day (0.9-1 gram / lb body weight). I keep a running total in my head during the day and always make sure I hit this number. If I was ever unsure of a protein value, I used the app CalorieKing and looked it up. For the remainder of my intake, I just try and eat as much as I can. I am ectomorphic so I find it extremely hard to add fat. This method would work for people of my structure, or even mesomorphs, but endomorphic people might need to monitor their intake a little closer. My protein intake would typically be about 60% animal protein and the rest supplements or nuts and vegetables.
One thing I have always done when trying to add muscle is to train smart. Growing requires you to lift heavy weights, but ego lifting is something I never do. I also have no problem using the smith machine instead of the barbells. I would rather work on hypertrophy and use a little more volume than be the gym hero and keep working towards PR’s each session and end up ripping a tendon off the bone. I am lucky to have never suffered a major injury like that and the net gains after a prolonged period will be greater than somebody who endures an injury or three.
So, roll the clock forward to present day and I have grown to a lean 109kg, won two pro cards, and chasing a third. I am back where I started, using peptides (CJC-1295, GHRP-2 & IGF-1), and loving the ride. I’m Competing at a professional level, I certainly appreciate being able to work with a team of doctors at BIOV8 and acquire clean, potent and more importantly scripted peptides to help me chase my final fitness goals by getting my body to pick up the slack, naturally. It’s pretty good timing now too, considering I’m in my 40’s and the anti-ageing benefits are right on cue. Many doctors will not prescribe HGH, but I find peptides work just as well.
So, I have learned a few things along this journey, but most specifically that everything around you can collapse at any moment but having one consistency in the gym to turn to, you can use that to rebuild and improve life to become better than before. Losses and negatives are part of the synergy of life and without them we would have nothing to measure wins against. The world owes you nothing, but with a strong work ethic and a stubborn refusal to stay beaten down, you can have anything you want. And with that, I need to go and take my IGF-1 and get to the gym. I have a big pull session to do and I’m the only one that can get it done.