FIRST PERSON: From the classroom to the gym, meet the bodybuilder teacher
My parents are Londoners from Dartford area and I didn't have a Welsh speaking background, but I was lucky enough to be put through the Welsh education system growing up in west Wales, and a lot of my friends were first language Welsh.
I went to a rural primary school with only 20 or so children. Later I did my degree at Trinity College, Carmarthen, which was a BA in Education, a three year course.
My major fields were PE and English Literature. My mother writes children's books so I think I inherited that from her, while my father is much more maths and sciences, like my two older brothers.
I taught initially at a school called Ifor Bach in Caerphilly for five years, then went into sport development for four years, upskilling teachers in PE delivery and linking clubs with schools.
I came back into teaching in 2011 and have been at Ysgol Panteg since last September.
PE has always been a passion of mine and is something that I've always enjoyed doing. Growing up in Wales of course I played rugby, to a local standard, and I boxed from an early age. I had a considerable number of fights, which led into bodybuilding in a way.
I had a detached retina in my early 20s which stopped me competing and also a brain discrepancy, and was strongly advised never to do any contact sport again.
But I still had a competitive itch that needed scratching, and that led into bodybuilding which is non-contact but has that discipline and competitiveness which I still crave and which my wife hopes I'll grow out of.
I was 25 when I did my first show, the Welsh Championships run by the Natural Physique Association. That was my first introduction to the hell on earth that is the diet and the monotony of the 24/7 absorption of it all. I won my class, which was middle weight under 78kg.
My second show was in 2009, the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation Championships held in Newport. I won my class there and also took the overall title, as well as an award for 'best legs'!
My most recent show was in September, with the UK Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation Welsh Championships in Port Talbot where I won my class, under 80kg.
It's open to competitive bodybuilders from anywhere as it's a qualifier for the British finals, so there can be up to 18 people per class.
Bodybuilders historically tend to work in an on-season and an off-season, which isn't as laid back as it sounds. During off-season you put on your bulk, up your calories and carbohydrate ratios, and put on an element of fat to help you put on as much muscle as possible.
I tend to do a 12-week 'cut down' period where you get very strict on your diet, you monitor very closely the amount of grams of carbs, weighing food, and take on clean protein such as lean chicken, lots of fish and lean red meat.
You eat every two hours which means eight meals a day, including early morning feeds. Being a teacher you have to prepare your food the night before - I have a range of Tupperware to cart it all around! If you go off somewhere it's like a military operation, you have to take enough food with you to carry you through. There's quite a lot of forethought and planning because every gram counts.
It's all about trying to spark or crank your metabolism up, losing fat but not being catabolic and losing muscle. Beer is definitely off the radar because there is nothing in those calories which you can use.
But I do use a cheat meal or cheat day. When you're getting used to the diet and your metabolism slows down, in order to quicken it up, I have three hours when I throw very dense calories in like ice cream and chocolate, which shocks your system and gets your metabolism going in overdrive, then you go back on the diet. The next day you tend to be lighter, but it doesn't work for everybody, you've got to know your body quite well.
Then closer to the show date you do crazy things like water manipulation. You load up for two days, drinking 16 litres of water a day, then the evening before the show, you cut it out and take lots of vitamin C to force the water out.
You're going for a dry look so your skin is tight around the muscle. You take your carbs down very low, get the glycogen very low then load up again to fill the muscles up.
But you could have dieted for 12 weeks then mess it up in the last hour before the show. Before going on stage, to make your veins more prominent you take on lots of simple sugars and alcohol which can be dangerous. I'm not a big drinker but before my last show I drank half a bottle of vodka before going on stage, which works but knocks you about a bit the next day. You might go on stage and not know whether to sing or pose.
Going out on stage was very alien to me and I wasn't too sure about covering myself in tan and posing in a pair of pants. But it does make you think, 'I better look half decent'.
It is bizarre, there's no two ways about it. The tan brings out definition a bit more because on stage the lights are very bright and that will show up every blemish. With a dark tan the light seeps into it.
Posing is a big part of it. You can be in fantastic condition but you can come flat last if you're terrible at posing. It's also not about strength, I've beaten boys who I know full well are stronger than me.
There is a points system and the panel of judges will award points for muscularity, symmetry, aesthetics and presentation. You also do a routine which is put to music, lasting a minute or so, which is your opportunity to show what your strengths are. I haven't got wide shoulders but I'm quite dense so my routine will play to my strengths.
I get very nervous. When I was playing rugby or boxing you have a game or a fight every weekend or every few weeks. With bodybuilding, you spend 10 minutes on stage, a bit like the X-Factor. When you're on stage you do get that adrenaline rush as with a lot of sports.
My first show was a massive buzz, because you've gone through so much hardship, not just yourself but those around you as well. I'm married with a young child so when you do come through, and I've been lucky enough to win what I've entered, it is a massive relief and sense of achievement.
I was Mr Wales 2005 and 2009, and I'm the current intermediate under 80kg Welsh champion. With me it's always a juggle, I'm not one of these guys who can compete three times a year, I've got to bear in mind my job and family. So I tend to do a year on, year off. I'll take a year out now to make improvements and gain that bit more muscularity and work on weak areas, then I'll do the Welsh Championships again in 2014. After that I want to do the British Championships.
With bodybuilding you are at your best in your mid 40s, with the maturity of the muscle after training for so many years. You can definitely see the difference between guys who have trained for 20 years and those in their 20s. In terms of muscularity I'm in better shape at 33 than I was at 23. People go on bodybuilding until they are 46 or so and still win overall titles.
At the World Championships in Poland where a friend of mine competed there were guys over 60 in phenomenal shape so that is inspirational in itself. You knock it on the head when you feel you can't do it or don't enjoy it any more. I'll always train as much as I can for as long as I can. It's just something that's inherent.
My current schedule of exercises goes like this. On Mondays I tend to work on my legs and quads; Tuesday is chest and triceps; Wednesday I have a break; Thursdays is hamstrings and biceps; then Friday I work on my shoulders. Sometimes I will do intermediate work on weekends such as calves.
I train at the Edge gym in Caerphilly, run by ex-professional bodybuilder Alex Georgiev, who was 'Hawk' on the TV programme Gladiators. He has won countless titles and is an inspiration in the gym. He was probably the reason I competed in the first place. I have a couple of training partners who I train with, because to eke out that last bit in training, partners really help. You can't replicate the atmosphere from a good gym and the camaraderie, you feed off that enthusiasm and healthy competition helps."
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