Former six-time Mr Olympia Dorian Yates, who made his name from the gritty Temple Gym in Birmingham and now lives in Spain, admits he is a completely different animal from those who like to show off their hard-earned muscle. His wow-factor 20-inch arms and 56-inch chest were not for the public to gaze at.
“Lots of people who do bodybuilding want to walk around in tank top and shorts, because they want to show people what they’ve got – and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Yates, talking at the world premiere of London Real’s documentary, Dorian Yates: Inside the Shadow.
“But I didn’t want to do that because I didn’t care what people thought. I cared what the competition judges thought and what the other athletes thought because they knew what it takes [to build that physique]. But I didn’t care what the general public thought. I purposely kept covered up because I didn’t like people looking at me.”
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Injury curtailed Yates’ career and, despite admitting he found no issues when his 260lbs muscular frame gradually whittled itself down to mere-mortal size, he had a word of advice, not just for gym-rats but all sportsman, about how to deal with the fall from grace when the highs and stardom turn to lows and normality.
“What I realised is that’s it’s not just the fitness industry, it’s anything that requires tunnel vision where your whole identity is tied up in that,” he said.
“I was Mr Olympia and everywhere I went I had to project this image. After some time you start wondering what part of that is really you and which bit you’re doing because it’s your job. So what I realised – and it takes time – is that you’re not going to replace that.
Dorian Yates insists he preferred to keep covered up during his heyday
"But look on the other side. All the things I couldn’t do; I couldn’t spontaneously jump on a plane and say I’m going to go on holiday here or I’m going to do this or that. But now I can, so I started to see the positives in the situation rather than just the negatives.
“But it takes time. It took me a few years. I was doing a good bit of partying – I just wanted to have fun for a while. But eventually that gets old. You cannot replace that [your sporting career] but there is a whole load of possibilities out there as long as you believe it.
“Exercise and fitness will always be part of my life but it does not have to be lifting huge weights; I like yoga, cycling, walking swimming, anything. That really helped me keep positive in the darkest times. All I knew was going to the gym so I kept doing that for a while and eventually I thought I can do this and that. But it does take time. And why would you want to do the same thing your whole life?"