Normally, if you are a continental and Commonwealth Games champion in your sport, and you’ve participated in as many as three Olympics, you would be quite satisfied with your career as an athlete.
Andy Turner, a European and Commonwealth Games champion, and three-time Olympian, wasn’t satisfied when he retired as an athlete in 2014 at the age of 34. He did not know how to fill the “massive void” in his life since he loved training.
Not until he took some inspiration from his brother, who is a fitness model.
Four years and 20 kgs of buff later, Turner is a champion bodybuilder and personal trainer. On his bodybuilding debut, just over a year after he began his transformation journey, he was crowned the Miami Pro bodybuilding champion in the over-35 age category.
Earlier this year, Turner even participated in a charity boxing match against another former sprinter, Dwayne Chambers, who is an eight-time British 100m champion.
The Field caught up with Turner recently when he was in India to promote Multifit, a chain of functional gyms.
Excerpts from the conversation...
You went from an athlete to a bodybuilder...and then a boxer! But before athletics, in your childhood, you were also a footballer?
Yeah, I had a passion for football as a young boy and I ended up playing for Notts County [football club]. I also played at Wembley twice, so football was my main thing. Athletics took over a couple of years after that. Notts County let me go as I wasn’t good enough to be a professional footballer. By that time, athletics had already taken over. I was getting better results in athletics, so it made sense to spend more time towards running.
You live in Manchester currently, don’t you? Are you a Red or a Sky Blue?
I moved to Manchester recently, but I was born and raised in Nottingham. I played for Notts County but I always supported Nottingham Forest. So even if I live in Manchester, I still support Nottingham Forest, who are red, so I suppose I’m a Red.
Your campaigns at the Athens and Beijing Olympics were hampered by injuries right before the event started. How did you deal with that?
Injuries are devastating, especially at such an important time. When I went for the Athens Olympics, I didn’t even know if I would be able to race a day before the race. Trying to get your mind off it is very difficult.
In athletics, you know you’re going to get injured. When the inevitable does happen and you do get injured, it’s a blow but you have to just push on and try do everything to keep fit, so that once the injury is healed the recovery time to get back on track is not long.
You’ve got to keep the bigger picture in mind – that there is always going to be another race.
You won the Commonwealth Games gold in your first trip to India, in 2010. That must have been special.
Delhi was a fantastic place. The toughest thing going into the race was that I was the favourite to win it. That extra pressure made it difficult, but to come away with a gold medal was so special. It’s the people of India who were just so absolutely amazing. I got such a good reception.
So when I came back to India on this trip, it’s been a really nice feeling. It’s like coming home, almost, it’s fantastic. During the CWG I did not get time to look around because you live in the Games Village. But this time I’ve been travelling around and I’ve really got to know India and eat real Indian food and meet real Indian people. It’s been such a good experience.
So why did you take to bodybuilding after retiring as an athlete?
When I retired, I had such a massive void in my training. I love training, so even though I didn’t want to run any more I still wanted to be fit for competition. My brother Garry’s a fitness model, so seeing him, I entered a bodybuilding competition over a year after I retired. It gave me a reason to go to the gym and work hard. I was just trying to eat the right food, go to gym twice a day and work really hard. It was a tough experience and very different from what I was used to, but I just enjoyed being able to focus on something again.
What is the difference in the diet between a bodybuilder and an athlete?
As an athlete, you need to be lean. You eat similar types of food, your basics – rice, chicken, vegetables, but when you are a bodybuilder you have to eat a lot more of it. You have to eat about 6,000 calories a day compared to 3,000 calories at the absolute most as an athlete.
In the morning, I have a big bowl of oats or porridge with scoops of protein powder. Two hours later, you have more protein and carbs – a big meal of chicken and rice, then you go to gym. Typically you have 4-5 meals of chicken and rice. I also sometimes blend my chicken, rice and veg into a drink – it’s disgusting but...
And what about your training? How different is it?
As a body builder, you target one particular area of your body every day: chest and triceps, legs, arms. As an athlete, it was primarily legs. I found it really boring at the start. Working on one particular area of your body every day is much more interesting.
Would you be able to switch back to your athlete routine?
No (laughs). I am about 20 kilos heavier now than I was as an athlete, so that would be dangerous. I wouldn’t want to go back either. I am happy the way I am.
Is training at a functional gym really better than at a regular gym?
A functional gym hits areas of your body which usually do not get worked. It makes the workout exciting as well. Personally I’d rather lift a massive tyre than do squats. It’s great that India has so many functional gyms.