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Pumping Iron: Ryan Terry on life as a professional bodybuilder

Ryan Terry is one of the most successful bodybuilders in the world. We chatted to the former plumber about the pursuit of aesthetics, his daily diet, and how to sustain the most punishing of lifestyles

What inspired you to make the move from plumber to bodybuilder?

Bodybuilding was my passion, plumbing was my job and when I found a way to combine my passion and job that’s when I made a move. I always loved doing it. I never saw it as a career until I won my first show and it opened doors for me and I was lucky enough for it to become my career.

What mental attributes make a successful bodybuilder – how do you maintain the dedication?

Consistency, you must be consistent in your training. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle and you have to be able to sustain it 24/7. In order to do that you have to love the sport. You also must have a competitive edge around you as well because this sport is so popular now and the standard is getting better every month. It’s insane how much this sport has progressed in the last five years. Above all though you need to have a competitive edge and you have to be hungry for that win. You also have to be willing to sacrifice a lot to get to the top.

What’s the hardest aspect of being a bodybuilder?

The sacrifices you have to make because it’s a very strict sport and you have to be very dedicated. You have to sacrifice things socially as well. It’s not a normal life you live, so you have to put your next meal and training first which can be difficult at times.

What’s the best thing about it?

How it makes you feel, it’s a great confidence builder. The sport is that big now that I’m very fortunate to travel the world and meet new people every week. I get to talk about something I love and get to do something every day I love (as a job). Obviously, the winning aspect is phenomenal as well and it gives you great satisfaction. When you win, it t helps you to compete more and helps reach your life goals.

What’s the biggest misconception about bodybuilding?

With bodybuilding, no matter what class you go into, it takes time and dedication. It’s a long sport and you can’t do it overnight, you have to put effort in. The biggest misconception is that people think they can do it overnight. I have been doing it for a number of years now and I still have a lot to accomplish.

You’ve polled 4th, 2nd, 6th in Mr Olympia. What is it about your body that makes you so successful?

For me, I concentrate on aesthetics. I have looked at the criteria and have really focused my efforts on bringing aesthetic shape to the division, instead of mass size. A lot of people focus on getting bigger, whereas I focus on conditioning and feeling healthy and I want to bring aesthetics to the stage.

How do you take that final step and win the competition outright?

For me, it’s being hungry enough to push yourself to the limit and refraining yourself from those extra calories. You have to put more effort in the gym when your lacking in energy. Motivation and willpower can only take you so far but genetics is also a factor and plays a big part.

Is there a strong camaraderie with your fellow bodybuilders or do you tend to steer clear of one another?

To be honest, everyone gets on really well. When you’re at the top, you see everyone in the bodybuilding circle on a regular basis. There are situations when people fall out but most of the time we are good friends when we are off stage. Above all though, we are competitors and when we are on stage we are rivals. It’s civilised though!

Can you take us through your average daily diet and why you eat each item?

I eat six meals a day. What I try to do is put a complex carb, essential fat and protein source in each meal. I try to stagger my protein throughout the day, some people try to do that in three meals but my belief is that you can’t absorb past a certain amount of protein per import. For me to get 200g of protein, which my body requires, I break it down into six meals. Firstly, I have oatmeal and I add flaked almonds and USN whey protein. My second meal is a tin of tuna, jacket potato, flack seed oil and vegetables and I will go on like that throughout the rest of the day. So, it might be a chicken breast with rice, peanut butter or just vegetables with whatever meal I’m eating.

Winning the Arnold Classic must have been a special moment. Were you able to hang out with Arnie afterwards?

I spoke to him for a couple of minutes whilst we were on stage. We had a 1-1 with him the day after at a Q and A where he spoke for an hour about his life story, but that was about it.

Whose physique, past or present, do you most admire?

Flex Wheeler back in the 90s. He had perfect genetics, he was very well proportioned and it inspired me that he managed to keep his body in that shape.

Choosing clothes must be difficult – do you have any particular favourite designers or stores?

I’m not that big compared to some bodybuilders so I can fit into most clothes apart from shirts which I don’t find comfortable. Most of the time I’m in Gym Shark gym gear because I train twice a day. Other than that, I like wearing Legend London- they do smart jeans for bodybuilders and I also wear Father Sons jumpers and shirts, which are also more tailored for bodybuilders.

Presumably all your suits must be custom-made?

I would usually buy a suit that’s slightly too big for me and tailor it. I’m always in between sizes though but I’m not at that stage yet when I can’t fit into a suit.

There’s a lot of money involved in modern bodybuilding – do you have a particular earning target or ambitions for when you hit a certain threshold (e.g. buy a Ferrari)?

I’m not a materialistic guy, I’m very happy at where I’m at now. It would be brilliant to buy a family home with my girlfriend when we start having kids and that’s what I have been saving for.

What advice would you give to somebody looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t be disheartened if you get setbacks. This industry is growing, you’re bound to get setbacks. I got so many setbacks but if you want something enough you will work hard for it. Use them setbacks to fuel you. For me, Mr Olympia was quite a setback but I have to use it as fuel for next year and hopefully I can win it.

Are there any ways you envisage professional bodybuilding changing / evolving over the next few years?

I think bodybuilding is going to be pushed out and the golden era of men’s classic physique is going to come back. Even in the last five years there have been big changes. When you look at expos it used to be mass bodybuilders but times have completely changed and all the expos are of fitness athletes, with more retainable healthy looks. All the shows have changed. You have ten people in a bodybuilding class but 100 in a physique class…. I think over the next ten years, there will be even bigger changes.

Ryan Terry is an ambassador for leading sports nutrition brand USN. USN have launched a nationwide search to find the next male and female “Face of USN”. For further details about the campaign or to enter visit faceof.usn.co.uk