“Silence is a lesson learned from the many sufferings of life.” – Seneca
From that first visit I made to Temple Gym just after my NABBA British final appearance, I made a promise to myself that if I was going to become a Pro bodybuilder and the best I could be, then Temple Gym was the place I had to train and, if there was any way I could manifest it, to train with Dorian. At the time, and even looking back now, it seems a big goal to aim for; he was Mr Olympia and I was a nobody but a nobody with desire and a plan and commitment! I suppose this is a lesson to all in how goal setting, planning, following through, dedication and commitment can pay off in ways you’d find hard to imagine. The funny thing was, at the time, with youth and ignorance on my side, I never believed I couldn’t make it happen! I had not been worn down by life at that point (it gets harder as you experience more knockbacks in life but you MUST throw those negative thoughts out of your mind!) and so I set about a plan on how I was going to do it.
Naivete of Youth
The naiveté of youth can be a wonderful thing; but even as we go through life and discover not everything is straight-forward and many times things won’t go your way, or, indeed, people will appear to try and slow you down; remember as Marcus Aurelius says, “As you move forward along the path of reason, people will stand in your way. They will never be able to keep you from doing what’s sound, so don’t let them knock out your goodwill for them.”
I lived, at that time, in Swindon; some 1 ½ to 2 hours away from Birmingham town centre and it was often a four hour round trip depending on traffic, 3 and a half hours on a good day; 5 hours on a leg day when I had to stop frequently on the motorway due to my legs cramping!!! So, a four hour round trip. Now a days, I hear people complaining that they have to drive 20-30 minutes to their gym to train!! It’s all about how important something is to you; I currently train at Vicky McCann’s Body Academy was 50 minutes away from my house in the Highlands of Scotland in Faskally, but it’s the best gym around in which to train and to try and get the results I’m after at my age….so I do it, simple.
I also worked full time in an Insurance company at the start of training at Temple so I had to take every single one of my annual leave holidays to enable to train there three times a week, training at weekends as well. It left me with no holidays left for…well, holidays but that was the choice I made. Once again, how important is something to you? Years later and even today, I hear people talk about or comment on ‘how lucky’ I was to have the mentors I had in my life; and they are right, I was lucky but I also worked hard to create the luck to have them near-by to notice me and the dedication and desire for them to think, ‘Now, There’s a young guy who is giving all he can, he maybe could add something to my workouts, even if it’s just his energy’. So, arranging my annual leave with my boss (who thought I was mad but was very happy as it meant he didn’t have to arrange cover for a two or three week absence in a block each year if I had gone abroad like everyone else).
Friends and Relationships
My girlfriend at the time, a lovely girl called Sarah, had a mother who lived in Telford which was just 30-40 minutes away from Birmingham so it meant that we could drive up on a Friday evening after work each week and I could train at Temple Gym on Saturday or Sunday, depending on when Dorian was training; sometimes he would train both days which was awesome and sometimes just a Saturday or a Sunday, in which case I would take the opportunity to train at Jim and Satie’s gym in Shrewsbury, Future Physique. Jim Bolton was a competitive bodybuilder and Satie was his sweetheart girlfriend, she’s still a sweetheart, who I am still friends with after all these years so it allowed me to get known by other top bodybuilders and also get some great training in at a new gym full of Panatta Sport equipment and have a chat with them both. My girlfriend would often come along to train too, but more often than not, she would spend the time with her mother (her father had passed very young), so her mum was very happy to see her every weekend as you can imagine! She even liked me!! So, it was a happy time and a very productive period of training as I watched Dorian and Kenny Brown train whilst I trained, often had a chat with them both after training and also got to see another world class bodybuilder in Jim Bolton and make some lifelong friends in the process. Yes, it was a huge commitment and a huge cost in time, money and effort but I never, ever saw it that way; and looking back it would be right to see thst effort I made as an investment in my own future.
You know, many people used to question why I went to all that trouble to train at Temple, drive all those miles and use my weekends driving, training, eating and sleeping all focused around my goal rather than go out and party or when I was at home why I would then work the doors rather than participate in the ‘club’ scene they were ‘enjoying’. Well, I know, from first-hand experience that many of them often didn’t ‘enjoy’ those nights out, instead got drunk, maybe got into some trouble, maybe got ‘lucky’ and had a one night stand with a girl. Well, I didn’t know about Stoicism then but I did know what I wanted and being the best bodybuilder I could be was my goal; for clubbing? I often hated what I saw in clubs; how men and women behaved when drunk really put me off some people I otherwise thought of as ok people but to see them acting dishonourably, vulgarly, definitely not classy, often I saw them at their very worst sadly. And , as for one night stands? Wasn’t I worth more than that? Was I going to risk my reputation, my virtue the nobility that was part of why people looked up to me for? For the risk of STD’S, getting someone pregnant, knowing I would be letting myself down, my honour, my integrity, my soul?! Why would I spend all my life becoming the very best person I could possibly be to then give it away to someone not worthy of it? No, if I was going to have a relationship with someone it would have to be meaningful and then it also had to be with someone who I valued myself. Anyway, I was in a long term relationship so it didn’t even enter my head back then…..I’ll tell you how easy and how sad it was back then working the clubs, when I would leave the club after my shift, and that’s after several propositions during the night anyway, there would always be at least 3 or 4 girls ready at the fire door where I exited from who would ask me for a ‘ride’ home….well, I think they had more in mind than a drive home! Anyway, it kind of put an uneasy feeling inside of me that both men and women could possibly cheapen sex, what I thought and still think, is something that should be a special union between two souls within a long-term, preferably married, relationship. Maybe, growing up watching those old movies gave me rose tinted views on relationships anyway but I’m glad I behaved the way I did, you see know my wife knows that when she met me, if I was going to enter into a sexual relationship with her then she would know that she was special to me, and I know that she did. Short term gratification is never worth losing the possible glory of long term rewards, never, remember this friends, as Aurelius tells us, “Yes, getting your wish would have been so nice. But isn’t that exactly why pleasure trips us up?! Instead, see if these things might be even nicer – a great soul, freedom, honesty, kindness, saintliness. For there is nothing so pleasing as wisdom itself, when you consider how sure-footed and effortless the works of understanding and knowledge are.”
Have a Plan
Anyway, this was pleasure to me, because I knew it was part of my plan to moving forwards in life, forwards and upwards! I used to look forwards to the weekends as I knew that I would be seeing Dorian train, maybe speak with him and I was also getting very friendly with Kenny (normally going out to eat after their training had finished in the local huge shopping centre in Birmingham centre, jacket potatoes and chicken and vegetables was always the order!! We would always invite Dorian along too but he always ate at home, Debbie preparing his post workout meal and then he went down for a sleep for a couple of hours. I do remember he was sometimes tempted to come along as, as he got to trust me and know me, he wanted to continue our conversations and hang out with us too; but his discipline always won the day as the meals we had in the centre weren’t weighed out as he would have had at home. There was one day, however, that I really thought he was going to come with us! We invited him, as usual, and he said ‘yes, he’d; like to’!! We grabbed our bags and after our usual post workout shakes and chat we were about to head for the door when the phone rang in Temple….the guy who worked reception when Dorian trained answered it and called across, ‘Dorian, it’s Debbie…she says your dinner is ready and will be on the table so get back within ten minutes’!!! Oh yes, Debbie was the gatekeeper alright!! She was his support when even the monastic Dorian Yates’s own discipline would waiver (even though it was just going out for a clean meal with his friends!! She was awesome.
I trained on my own in Temple Gym and only ever spoke to Kenny and Dorian after their workouts and I would travel there three times a week each and every week to make sure I was around to be near them and to watch and learn and not only the training and exercises and intensity but how they carried themselves; they were a few years older than myself and much more advanced in the bodybuilding world so I watched and learned the things that I felt would improve me both as a bodybuilder and as a person; the total seclusion of their zone whilst they trained, the laser like focus and complete and total connection between the two of them while they trained and the effort, the intensity, the energy, the exclusion of everything else in life as soon as they walked down those steps and the burning desire and non-stop work that existed throughout the workout right until the last rep of the last set had been completed and never a second sooner. There was always something to learn and I soaked it up, loving every minute of it; it was everything I had been looking for, the purpose, the mission, the one thing I could dedicate myself to that was mine completely, something inside of me switched on with what I was seeing.
You now there’s a funny quote from Aurelius that rarely every gets mentioned but it’s so true; we have all heard of the great people, the people who have charisma and presence, presence so strong that everybody looks at them when they walk into a room, well Aurelius said it this way, “In short, the straightforward and good person should be like a smelly goat – you know when they are in the room with you!”
I knew, I had a sense of complete confidence and knowledge, that this was the very essence of me….it wasn’t something that I could do, or wanted to do; it simply was me. Whatever it was I had felt, it was my truth, my essence; whatever it was I was going to do with it, I wasn’t sure at that point except that I was going to compete, improve, get bigger, get better and climb the ladder of competitive success until either I reached the top or another path within this same sport opened up. It was time to go to work….
So, I would travel up to Birmingham once or twice each work week and then every weekend; my own training was also evolving as I learned from watching Kenny and Dorian train and back in Swindon I began to implement as much as I could replicating what I had seen. To train heavy duty style, you need a training partner as it is the high intensity techniques at the end of what most trainers would call ‘failure’ that distinguishes it from every other training style and is also what gives it its results; so, I had to ensure I had great training partners otherwise my results would be less than optimum. Now, it is here that I do call myself lucky! I was blessed with the greatest friends and training partners during that time, people that not only were willing to try new things but were willing to go to places physically and mentally that most people just can’t go to. The first real partner I had was a work colleague of mine from the Insurance company I worked for; he wasn’t a hard-core bodybuilder, he wasn’t huge (sorry, Rich!), he wasn’t interested in competing in the slightest but he had something most people do not have, he had heart and he had it in abundance! Training straight from work, we would meet up, often with another friend (Bus) and they would train alongside me and push me to my limits; now, when I say push me to my limits, they were ready to literally see me suffer (maybe that’s why they enjoyed it?!!) and they were completely onside in seeing me develop and grow and at the same time enjoy their own workouts. It wasn’t like many training partners I’ve had since in that with these guys we would often have a laugh but those laughs often only came because I was so damned serious, it broke the ice!
I remember one evening, and we still laugh with each other today about it, when I was training chest and was doing the decline bench press (yes, at the start of his career and when I first saw him train, Dorian would still use the decline press in his chest workout; never the flat bench but the decline was often the first movement of the day). So, I had warmed up and had built my weights up ready for my one working set; I had four plates a side on the bar and it was as heavy as I had ever gone and would ever go in my training. I put my hands on the bar and counted myself in…3…2….1….BOOM!! Rich handed me the bar and down it went and then back up, down again and so forth until I was struggling and needed a slight touch; Rich, as always was right there but at the end of the set something went wrong, the bar slipped out of his hands or out of mine; or I thought he had the bar when he thought I still had it, whatever…..the end result was I relaxed with the bar still in my hands and it came crashing down towards my chest before right at the last moment I was able, with Rich’s assistance to stop it and get it racked! I looked up from the decline bench and said….’Fuc*#ing H*ll Man!!!!’ There was silence and then an absolute scream of laughter as we both realized I was o.k. and my outburst was so unlike me, so out of character, that the whole gym had looked around to see what was going on! Even I was in stitches and forever after, we have the standing joke of ‘FHM’ between us; we just have to say the letters and we start laughing, even today we will write it in messages to each other and although people around us won’t have a clue what we’re talking about, FHM will always bring a smile to our faces. Rich is one of the nicest, smartest, most generous guys you will ever meet and we are still as close today as we ever were. He’s now retired from the Insurance company that he stayed well over 20 years with and is now engaged in charity work.
The next training partner that really stands out in my mind (there were plenty of them but if you know what high intensity training entails then you will understand why I went through so many over the months and years, most people often lasting one session and many not even making it to the end of one session!) was a small, short guy called Steve. Steve also worked for the same company but he was more serious about bodybuilding and had all the clothes and the attitude; indeed, he lasted a lot longer than many guys who thought of themselves as true iron warriors, he had grit. The thing with Steve was that had a habit of copying the things I did; whether it was a mannerism, the things I said and even down to the clothes I wore, including the bandana on my head!! I remember, I often wore a bandana around my head as was the fashion in the bodybuilding world at the time although no one in my town wore one so I was a bit of a novelty in wearing one; although to be fair, I was a bit of a novelty in the town anyway, there weren’t too many people walking around looking the way I did and that was in a suit and tie!!
I had been wearing this bandana for about a week when I turned up to train at our normal time only to find Steve with the same bandana wrapped around his head! What could I say? It was a compliment, if anything, so I acted as though I hadn’t noticed anything but unfortunately the rest of the gym had and had a good chuckle over it, not in a nasty way just good humouredly. Steve gave it his all, and that’s as much as anyone can ask of anyone but he was quite noisy (yes, many of the sounds and grunts he would make were the same noises that came out of my mouth!) and he would scream the place down often not in real agony but just for effect thinking that’s what was expected although thinking he was putting it on a little backfired on us all one evening…..! It was leg day; the biggest day of the week and always nasty, very nasty; we warmed up on a bike for 3 minutes or so and then stretched for a short time before launching into leg extensions and our one working set with forced reps, drop sets and even resisted negatives at the end of it all, our quads were fried after one set. Then we walked (walked isn’t quite the right word, more like waddled or limped holding onto anything we could grab hold of on the way!) to the leg press, we would alternate the leg press and smiths machine squat just as Dorian and Kenny did. We warmed up relatively quickly, our quads weren’t going to get much warmer, and maybe after two warm up sets we were looking at the leg press loaded up with every 50kg and 25kg and 20kg plate in the gym for a set of between 12 and 15 good, deep reps. This was my normal working weight and I went first and ground out around 12 reps with Steve ‘encouraging’ me for another three or four reps. Then, Steve decided he would up the ante and use the same weight I had used; now, Steve normally used a good ¾ plates a side less than me so I told him to drop it and get the form right and stick with his normal weight, maybe increasing by a 10kg plate each side….but, no, he was adamant he was going to use the same weight as I had, maybe it was the bandana giving him a false sense of identity that night but he said he was ‘in’ so ‘in’ he went!
I was stood at the top of the leg press machine just in case he couldn’t lift the weight back up and it dropped on him although there were safety catches but they were set very low to allow a full range of movement. I counted him in and the weight went down under good control and then a blood curdling scream issued from his mouth, from the bottom of his belly to the tonsils at the top of his throat….AAARRRGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! He was in trouble, serious trouble. I grabbed the weight and somehow managed to raise it back up to a point where someone could rack the safety catch on and release the weight off from his legs and we could see what the damage was. He was screaming in agony; I thought he had torn both quad muscles right off the knee cap, everyone crowded around the leg press and we managed to get him out and place him in the recovery position and called for an ambulance. I was feeling terrible, damn, my leg workout was ruined!!!! No, seriously, I was concerned about him and when the paramedics arrived he said he couldn’t move either of his legs nor his waist; the medical guys checked his quads out and said they were fully intact so at least he hadn’t torn or ruptured his quads, they gave him a shot of morphine as he was still screaming constantly and that seemed to do the trick and he quieted down and they put him on a stretcher and off he went in the ambulance, when I would see him next in the gym was unknown, it was unknown if he would ever be able to be back in a gym again the last we saw of him.
I very compassionately carried on with my leg workout and went even more balls to the wall than ever; it’s what he would have wanted I thought!! Even if he didn’t, I did!! Well, the evening went and I got home to eat and relax just as I would normally do after a leg workout but I thought I would call the hospital to see what sort of state Steve was in and ask if there was anything he needed or if I could do anything; strangely, the hospital could find no record of him!! I thought ‘surely he hasn’t died!!’ The receptionist asked around all the wards and they couldn’t find anyone with his name anywhere so I decided to leave it that night and ask in the morning as sometimes it takes a few hours for them to register people to a ward and a bed but the next morning, the same answer was given, ‘no one with that name was admitted last night’…..I wondered if maybe they had taken him to another specialised hospital if he had maybe needed some specialist treatment so was a little worried when I went into work the next day, thinking people would be saying, pointing, ‘there’s the guy that put poor Steve in the hospital last night, he’s an animal!’ But, no one said a word and no one even mentioned his name; strange, I thought. I went through my day and later on went home as it was always a rest day after legs but on my way home as I was driving up the hill towards the village where I lived, I spotted Steve in his work clothes heading for his home on the hill!!
I stopped the car and got out (I’d say ran out but the day after legs I wasn’t running anywhere, barely even walking!) and called Steve over saying how glad he was he was out of hospital and what had happened? He looked at me a little sheepishly and said that he had been taken in and his legs and abdomen checked out and there was nothing wrong with him, they thin he may have pulled an abdominal muscle but there was no visible damage to his abs or his legs so he was free to walk home….he literally had walked home with nothing actually wrong with him! I’m still, not to this day, sure exactly what he felt give on that machine that day but I have to say we were all pleased to hear he was fine and also in stitches that he had made so much of what essentially was nothing at all!! He decided that bodybuilding wasn’t really for him after all and took up Flamenco dancing instead, at which I heard he was very good!!
Hard-core Training Partner
The other really hard-core training partner that I had was a girl called Julie; she was petite, tiny and yet she had the heart of a lioness, and the capacity for taking and inflicting pain (the good sort! Like very few ever had. In fact, many of the women I have trained with over the years, and there has not been many as I haven’ ever had many training partners (for some reason people didn’t want to train with me, except the crazy ones like Simon Bisley, the artist….expect a podcast with Simon very shortly). Anyway, Julie always came to the gym in baggy sweatpants and a ragtop or baggy t-shirt; unlike many of the women who trained then, and today I guess, she wasn’t at the gym to impress anybody but herself, she didn’t want people looking at her or being propositioned by the local gym perv (oh yes, every gym has one, I’m sure you’ll know one at your gym too!! I won’t say who it is at where I train now but knowing him, he’d probably be proud of the title!!). She was there for one thing only, to train hard, sweat blood and guts and improve; so, we trained together for quite a few months and she was brutal, an awesome trainer. I’ve heard it said that women have a great capacity for pain because they have evolved to give birth, which I can imagine is extremely painful; well, whatever it is, you make a big mistake if you write off training with a girl due to her sex; if she’s pushing those weights like she’s insane, trains harder than any guy in the place by far then suggest working out together for a workout or two, and if it works stick with it and it just may be the best training decision you ever make. Remember Billy Payne, who used to train with Dorian as well at times used to train with Paula Bircumshaw regularly as they were both as hard-core as each other! Beasts!!
So, After Rich, Vicky and then Steve I was pretty well stuck on my own; no one wanted to train ‘that’ hard apparently; they all wanted to portray the big bodybuilders but when it came to the training then strangely they all wanted to stick to their own system which was 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps and mainly chest and biceps three times a week. This high intensity stuff was beginning to look like a lonely endeavour!! However, again Rich came to the rescue and whenever he was around, he would always give me a spot, knowing exactly what I needed just not personally wanting to go that extreme himself, that was a blessing to me and he really helped me keep moving forwards at a time when people were thinking I was a freak! My body, also, had trans morphed into a 22-23 stone mass of hard muscle and I was beginning to look like a creature from another planet, even walking down the street in my suit, I remember a friend working on top of a roof seeing me walking down the street and screaming out, ‘You Monster, FREAK!!!!’ And he meant it, in the nicest way possible but I had changed into something that I could no longer hide, it was beginning to become attached to what people associated with me and hence part of my identity, not always the greatest thing when you wish to be taken seriously in business and intellectually as sadly, people mistakenly assume many connotations about bodybuilders and many of them are not positive ones.
Things at Temple, though, were becoming much more positive. The guys were treating me with a lot of respect, the changes they had seen me make in a relatively short period of time had made them sit up and notice me as not just a young up and coming National level bodybuilder but as someone who possibly had the potential to go all the way in the sport, even Dorian had noticed….
I had driven up to Telford on the Friday night, as usual, to my girlfriend’s mother’s house and on the Saturday morning was due to train legs and I knew Dorian was due in to train also. I drove down to Brum on the Saturday morning and warmed up as usual, a little early as Dorian hadn’t turned up yet, I started with leg extensions and one of the regular lads gave me a spot for my working set (you were never short of someone to help you in Temple Gym in those days!). I hobbled away from the leg extension machine and walked over to the smiths machine where I was going to do squats, when Dorian came in and joined Kenny. He looked over and saw me at the smiths machine and said, ‘Hi Paul, shame you’re not doing legs tomorrow, you could have joined us’. I looked up, felt my legs and thought ‘what the hell, I may never get another chance like this’ and replied, ‘If you’re serious, I’ll stop right now and come back tomorrow!’. He smiled and said of course he was serious and so I stopped what I was doing and gathered my gym stuff together and told them I’d be in in the morning, what time did they want me to be there? ‘Around ten or half past ten’ Doz replied and I left the gym partly excited to be training with Dorian and on legs and partly thinking how much had I taken out of my quads today because the last thing I wanted to do was embarrass myself in front of them both!!
“Do you want to train legs tomorrow?”
It’s crazy looking back that I would even worry about the one exercise I had done but I did worry about not living up to whatever expectation Dorian may have had of me so I made sure I did everything I could think of to recover to be fully 100% ready for the following morning; as it turned out, nothing in the world could have prepared me for the following morning so I needn’t have worried about anything, my baptism of fire was set and I was about to not only enter the Lion’s lair, or enter the underworld, or perhaps more accurately metaphorically and literally I was going to n face my Jungian Shadow and train with the beast, only this beast was Dorian Yates the face of Heavy Duty training. This was it……
That’s all for today, everybody, thank you to everyone who has been in touch either through the website or via one of my social media channels, I appreciate you being here.
So, finally, as always a quote from one of the Stoics, this week it is two quotes one leading into the other, from Seneca, “Aren’t you ashamed to reserve for yourself only the remnants of your life and to dedicate to wisdom only that time which can’t be directed to business?” and then to remember this, “The human being is born with an inclination toward virtue.”
See you next week, and don’t forget you have ALWAYS got those three more reps in you, no matter what.