It’s April 14th, I’m sitting in the foyer of Pudsey Civic Hall in Leeds, the venue of the NABBA North East show. Opposite me sits Paul George, he’s got a nose piercing, a goatee beard and blonde Mohican haircut making him stand out from the crowd. He also has one of the most shredded physiques around, a physique that has earned him honours such as British champion and world champion. Paul is a veteran of the sport with more than 25 years of training and competition under his belt and has stood on the same stage as some of the best competitors this country and this sport has to offer. Having recently made the decision not to renew his pro-card with the IFBB Paul is about to embark on three guest posing appearances with NABBA and a competitive outing in Scotland’s Mr. Caledonia contest.
Hi Paul, first up, just how old are you:
How long have you been competing now:
I did my very first show in 1982, which is twenty five years ago.
Have you ever placed last:
Twelfth out of Ten, the first show I ever did I was well out of my depth, I just thought, ah I can have a go at this, but was just so out of my depth. Id been training for six months in the gym and I got to the show and it was an open class.
So how long from that before you had your first win, or a first success where you thought ‘I’ve done really well there’:
Ten years. After being twelfth out of ten I went away and I didn’t compete again for another 10 years.
You have a mean biker appearance, are you as mean as you look, when you speak you actually seem very calm and very mild mannered:
Yes and no. When I was a kid I was really ferocious and really angry, I didn’t really know what I wanted. I was very belligerent and aggressive and I used to fight a lot. But as I kind of got older, you mature into yourself don’t you, but I can still be real nasty and I have a hard streak that is for sure.
Is the training something that helps with that?
It controls it, but also it’s a way of life, I won’t suffer fools gladly. I would put my life on the line for someone and give them everything if I think they’re worth it, but if someone messes me around I aren’t even interested and not even going to open the door. But also that keeps people away and I’m not always a good people person, I am when I know people and I know what I’m talking about but, there’s a lot of idiots out there, so I have all the things that are seen as taboo – I have my nose pierced, I have tattoos, I have a beard and I have a mohican, in a way these are seen as all the aggressive things. So I thought, if I can have all of them then there’s less likelihood of someone coming and having a go at me because if they’re going to have a go at me looking like this then they’re going to have a go at anybody, so in a way it’s just a self defence mechanism.
Are you an actual biker to go along with the appearance?
Oh yes, I’ve had bikes now for thirty years.
And what have you got at the minute?
I’m riding a Triumph Speedmaster at the moment, which is like a sport tourer which is a 900cc bike which has a bit of comfort and a bit of speed so its kind of middle ground. And it’s black and chrome.
Let’s get more into your recent bodybuilding career, in 2004 you won the overall EFBB British championships and earned an IFBB pro card. Would this rank as the highlight of your career so far?
I was actually just talking to someone about this before and I was debating whether it was the best decision that I ever made – or the worst! The reason being because, it’s kind of taken me out of the British bodybuilding scene and elevated me to the American scene, which realistically hasn’t really done me any favours. I’ve not earned any money from it. I’ve probably lost some popularity and ranking and standings just because I can’t afford to pay the £3,000 to £4,000 to go to America and compete every other month, and being 45 and not 25 I’m not going to get up and relocate to America. So, yeah I think on the way up everybody sees it as being the thing that you aim for. But I think realistically, in hindsight when you get it, it’s that thing where you have to be careful what you wish for because its not always as it seems. I would never tell anybody not to try and aim for it but definitely don’t set your stall out for it because it just wont open up that Pandora’s Box of riches.
Is there anything other than when you earned that pro card when you’ve stood back and thought to yourself you’re a hundred percent proud of that?
Yeah, several things actually. When I competed with the WPF and captained the Britain team in Italy, we came I think second or third in the world rankings. I won first in the middleweights and the masters so I came back from Italy with two world titles having captained the team. I’m not really any sort of royalist or anything like that, but when I was stood on stage and they were playing the national anthem the hairs on the back of my neck were stood up. That union jack flag was up and I’m thinking, I’m representing my country you know, there’s twenty two people stood behind me, with twenty two teams. That was just awesome!
What about low points, has there been any times when you have thought is this all worth it?
Yeah last Thursday! (laughs) I was sat in the gym on my arse. We’d tried to train chest and it just wasn’t happening. This last week I’ve had so much energy and been really positive and really focussed, and yet last Thursday I was so on the floor. I couldn’t do anything and was thinking can I do this. And I said that to Tanya (Pauls partner) and she said “you know what, if your going to do that then don’t do it in the first place, you cant get 14 weeks into your diet and then say that because its not fair on me and its not fair on all the people who have been looking forward to coming to see you. And you’re better than that!” I thought, your right! I think it was just a hormonal momentary blip, you know where you get just to the edge, and you know I woke up the next day and it was like somebody had just plugged me back in and I’ve not looked back since but it was just a really really tough day!
For all the other competitors reading this, is that something that you would say regularly happens on a diet or was that just a one-off and how do you deal with these things?
Luckily it’s not a regular occurrence but it isn’t a one-off either. It does happen. I’m very secure in the relationship I’m in, me and Tanya have only been together for two years but she’s really good with me and I think having a secure background and relationship makes the whole contest preparation a lot easier because the other person can’t understand it but if they can just be with you and take some of the pressure away then that makes a massive difference
When you look at a photo of yourself, either now or in the past, is there anything that you look at and you think – I don’t like that?
No, because changes are so slight and so small and it can take a long time to change something that I think, I’m happy where I’m at. It never ends, you just carry on and carry on and there’s no fixed point so even if there’s something I didn’t like I can change it. It might not be this in twenty years but then it’ll be in the next twenty years and that’s how I view it.
Is there anything that you look at and you think here’s where I am now, that’s where I was twenty years ago and you look in the mirror and your really proud of the way that particular muscle looks because you’ve worked hard for that?
Shoulders. I used to hate training shoulders and I think my rear delts now and my back are probably my best points whereas at one point, because I used to play a lot of rugby league my legs and my calves were always good. And it would be nice to have an extra inch on the peak of my arms!
You have stood on stage alongside Ronnie Coleman. How did that feel to share the same stage as the man who was at the absolute pinnacle of the sport?
To be honest, I just approached it like I would do any other show. If you start worrying about other people it just throws you off your game. Having just won the middleweights and taken the overall my confidence was running pretty high and I was just going with the flow. At the time, I never really stopped to think that Ronnie would be there or any of the others. It was only afterwards, when I read the magazines and saw the pictures that I thought ‘Hey! That was me….F****** ‘ell!!!!!’
Its now a few weeks after Paul’s guest posing appearances and return to competition. He came second in the Mr. Caledonia pro-am contest to Masoom Butt. Lets get up to speed with how he felt everything went and see if he enjoyed being back on the stage.
Okay, so second place in a very tough pro-am contest. How did you feel with that result? Was it the return to competition that you had hoped for?
The result was fair. To be honest I was lucky to get second. Having seen the pictures from the show and comparing them to some from the guest spots that I’d done in previous weeks, I have to say that I was probably 5 – 6 lbs too light. I had probably peaked too early and my body had gone catabolic. Backstage, as much as I tried to get a pump it just wasn’t happening. I had no carbs in my system. Yeah I was lean but I had nothing left to take advantage of it. My shape and symmetry got me through but I was flat and hardly any vascularity. I learnt a lot this year, mainly, be realistic in what you can achieve. In fact I remember you asking me a question about how I was going to keep my condition for so long and the answer was – I couldn’t!
Obviously the lead up to that show was your NABBA guest appearances. Did you enjoy being the centre of attention?
I got to the first show with mixed emotions. I was excited and apprehensive at the same time. I felt there was a lot of pressure on me, most of it internal. In a competition you can get beat and that’s fine but as a guest spot you are there to entertain and exhibit and, in my opinion, if you’re not up to scratch you are doing yourself and the public a disservice. Once I got on stage though I loved it! For me it’s what competitive bodybuilding is about, pure unadulterated exhibitionism!
I’d really like to thank NABBA for the invites to their shows. I really enjoyed every one of them and hope that I lived up to people’s expectations. The atmosphere at the shows was fantastic and it was a real pleasant change to find everyone so approachable and friendly.
The audience seemed to really appreciate your physique and your routine, although at the Leeds show you came out wearing a pair of sunglasses, I don’t think the audience realised this but you couldn’t actually see a thing with them on I believe?
Not a bloody thing! It was spur of the moment thing and seemed like a good idea until I hit the stage and the light and I thought ‘oops I’m in trouble here’. I decided to use it to my advantage and dramatically cast them aside mid routine – to stop me falling off the edge of the stage!
You’re famed for your conditioning, having now seen you up close and personal I can appreciate that the conditioning is amazing (shredded is not the word), however for me the most awesome thing about your physique is the amount of individual detail that shows through in each muscle group. It’s not just the fact that your body fat seems as low as possible or that your skin seems as thin as cling film, it’s the amount of muscle detail which shows through this conditioning. Is this something that you train specifically for and that you are conscious of?
To be honest yes I do train for this. I realised round about 1997/98 that I was never going to be huge so if I was going to win I had to have something different to offer. That’s when I consciously decided to find an alternate way of training. It’s not that I do anything magical. It’s just that I’ve found a series of exercises and a way of training that suits me. That, and the fact that I have hardly ever missed a training session or a workout in the last 15 years. It’s all about training smarter not necessarily harder – although my workouts aren’t easy that’s for sure! As you will find out when you come down next month. In fact Tania perversely says that one way of proving that I love her is to make training partners throw up!
Tell us about how you diet for a show, are there any quirks to the Paul George approach to a contest diet or is it the regular turkey, rice and broccoli?
I have to be honest and say I do have a very fast metabolism and it seems the leaner I get the faster it works. This is how I blew it at the Caledonia. Even though I was constantly being nagged I just didn’t eat enough. So it’s pretty much a flapjack a day when I’m prepping. By the same rule this stops me from being a twenty stone monster. Other than that my food is pretty normal fair. No magic, no gimmicks. The only thing that I do is a lot of cardio all the way through my prep. Up to two hours a day. I don’t like to cut my calories too much so I’d rather eat more and walk it off than go around hungry.
Yet another year of competition is now under your belt. What is next for Paul George?
Good question. I was planning to do the PDI Night of Champions and the NABBA Universe in October but have decided against this due to personal reasons and other commitments, which take us into next year and that will be another storey. It’s fair to say there is more to come yet from Paul George – watch this space!
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