ONE ON ONE WITH RYAN TERRY
MUSCLE INSIDER’s Interview with Britain’s Hottest New Export, IFBB Physique Pro Ryan Terry
Isaac Newton. J.K. Rowling. The Who. Manchester United. Britain has given us many incredible gifts over the years, from incredible rock and pop music to Harry Potter to James Bond. However, what often goes under the radar is its contribution to the bodybuilding scene. The UK has given us legendary IFBB Pros such as Albert Beckles, Bertil Fox, Reg Park, and, of course, six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian “The Shadow” Yates. But most recently, a new kid in town has been making a name for himself, and actually earned the title of the first Men’s Physique pro from the UK. Enter Ryan Terry. Born in 1988 in Great Britain, Ryan got his start as a plumber, and while a noble profession, it wasn’t exactly where his heart lay. He took up modeling and competing in 2010 and never looked back. From humble beginnings to a second-place finish at the 2016 Olympia and a win at the 2017 Arnold Classic, Ryan’s story is unique from the start … and he still has more chapters to write
MUSCLE INSIDER: Let’s talk about your origins a little bit. When and why did you get into training?
RYAN TERRY: I started when I was 14 years old, and the reason for that was because I was always a very sporty kid; my main sports were swimming, gymnastics, and softball at the time. I was very active but developed a problem with my Achilles tendon. What happened was that after I got my foot caught and snapped my Achilles, I was wheelchair-bound for eight weeks. However, I was eating the same food as I did when I was active, so I gained a lot of weight and developed a complex. Once the casts were off, I went to the gym just to lose the weight I’d put on. But after that point, I got addicted, and I’ve been training ever since.
MI: When did the switch flip that made you decide to go the physique route?
RT: I used to be a plumber, so every night after work, I used to train. It was my passion. I loved every minute of it. When I was 20 years old, a few misfortunes happened, and I was looking for a way to gain confidence and a way to push myself. I found the stage because I’ve already trained at bodybuilding gyms in very hardcore environments, but I never wanted to be that big. I got into bodybuilding to be more aesthetic; size wasn’t the goal for me. So at 20, the opportunity came about to compete—it was more of a male beauty pageant than a physique show, really. Physique wasn’t around in 2010, so I went down the modeling route and won Mr. Great Britain out of 1000 competitors. Then I represented Britain in the worlds, which was called Mr. International and held in Indonesia. There were 41 competitors from 41 countries, and I won that too. That’s how I ended up in the industry and getting sponsors. It’s how I went from being a plumber training as a hobby to being a full-time athlete.
MI: What are the differences, if any, between competing in Europe and North America?
RT: In 2010, I was modeling, and it wasn’t really about size; it was just about looks and conditioning. But in 2013, when Men’s Physique came out, it was the perfect opportunity for me to step into more hardcore shape. Even just starting out, it was more about condition than size, and that’s what Europe was about. They’re smaller framed and pose a bit differently. In North America, size counted quite a lot, and the physiques were a lot bigger. So size-wise, I realized I was quite far behind compared to some of the other guys.
Basically, I never wanted to change my outlook on the sport; I always wanted to keep the athletic and health side most important. I wanted to be functional in my training. So I didn’t want to put myself out for two years and become a fat off-season bodybuilder. My goal was to meet the judges’ needs, but over a longer period of time rather than trying to do anything drastic. I didn’t want to ruin my shape by rushing things. I said to myself that I wanted to grow into the class. That was our game plan: to have a break in between every show and grow gradually and aesthetically.
MI: What was it like to win the Arnold Classic?
RT: It’s still a bit surreal. I stepped offstage, and I’ve been working every day. It’s only hit me recently that I won. My goal when I first started in 2013 was to look at things that people hadn’t achieved yet. I wanted to be the first Men’s Physique pro from the UK (which I achieved), be the Arnold Classic European amateur champion (which I got), and to make the move to America. I achieved that, then decided I wanted to break the top five at the Olympia (I placed fourth), and obviously my next goal was to beat top four (I got second my next year). As it turns out, no one has won the Arnold Classic as an amateur and as a pro, so that was my next goal. I managed to achieve that too. My next goal is obviously to win the Olympia.
MI: You had a parasite in the 2016 Arnolds and mentioned this year was a tough prep, including hospitalizations. What happened?
RT: I’ve not competed in a lot of things, maybe 14 or 15 shows in total, and I had a very good run—i.e., never had any problems. The thing with me, though, is that I’m a yes-man. I’ll never say no to my sponsors. Last year, when I was two weeks out from the Arnold Classic and everything was on point, my main sponsor wanted to take me on a tour of South Africa. I told them I was nervous and that I couldn’t really book anything at two weeks out, but they had the last say, and I was thrown out there. I managed to catch one parasite and three bacteria there: Amoeba, Candida, and two others. So I got extremely ill, and I couldn’t get any treatment going into the show. I tried to back out, but there was too much money and expectations involved. Despite everything, I went in, and while backstage, I didn’t realize that sugar aggravated parasites. So there I was pumping up with raisins and sugar, and before I knew it, I was keeled over on the floor. It really knocked my confidence like you wouldn’t believe. I placed fourth, but I could’ve been so much better. I managed to treat that, and then just got back on the plan for the Olympia. I really had a new appreciation for good digestion and good food. My Olympia prep was perfect.
I didn’t want to highlight that, because after the show, it would’ve just sounded like me making a ton of excuses. I didn’t want people to think that I was copping out, so I didn’t tell people what happened until after this past Olympia.
Then this year’s Arnold Classic came around, and I was ready to make amends for last year. The first three or four weeks were brilliant, but then I was hospitalized on New Year’s Day. I had a cyst caused by stress or rich food, or stuff my body hadn’t been used to for a long time. I had flu symptoms, lost my appetite, and kept ignoring it until it spread into my leg and I knew I had to go into hospital. My girlfriend took me into hospital after I collapsed, and all of this happened eight weeks out. It was pretty intense. I saw this as a blessing, because when I came out of hospital, I was three weeks behind prep—it really set me back. So I knew I had to get back in the trenches, train my ass off, eat more clean, and just made me work harder. The last seven weeks were a dream though.
MI: What does you think about your chances in Vegas at the Olympia?
RT: I’ve always been the guy who said, “I hope I can,” but this time I want to go in with confidence—not arrogance, just confidence. I’ve really got to push this year. I was very reserved with how I went into the Olympia last year because I had a parasite at the Arnold, and it really lowered my confidence. I was cautious, did things differently, and wasn’t at my best. So this year I told myself that I had to work hard, beat my all-time best, and be more 3-D. 2017 will be a big year.
I won’t compete again until the Olympia because although I love it, I don’t want to be bagged for the biggest show of the year. I want to go in with my best, and it’s very hard on the body to compete a lot. But also, I’m moving to Florida in June. So that’s going to take a lot of time and energy. I didn’t want to move my whole life to America while I’m lost in prep.
MI: Are you going to keep yourself in physique, or maybe consider bumping yourself up to the Classic Physique category?
RT: I would love to try Classic one day because I was brought up in a body-weight era. My stepdad was a super-heavyweight bodybuilder, and my training partner is an open-class bodybuilder. I’ve always been around it; I just never wanted to look like it. So with Classic, I get the aesthetic physique with the balance of also being bigger and training your legs. I also love the Golden Era posing. But I’m not going to be silly; if I do it, I’m going to grow into it so that I’m not one of the smaller guys onstage. I don’t just want to be a number; I obviously want to be a contender. If I do it in a few years, it’ll only be if I can put the size on.
MI: What are your goals both in and out of the sport?
RT: Basically, I’m going to move to America and give that a go. I’ve got a lot of work prospects, and certain things coming up there that I’m excited about. With the companies I work with, it’s not just about promoting them but also representing them all over the globe. I’ve got a few businesses and properties, always trying to add to my portfolio. I want to make the most of it while I can; I know careers aren’t long in this sport, so I want to have my hand in other ventures that will help me stay around as long as I can. I have to build a name for myself so that I’m known in the industry, but in a different capacity than just as a competitor.
MI: What are your thoughts on social media being the new platform athletes use to promote themselves to find sponsors, photographers, etc.? How important is it to you right now for your brand?
RT: Truthfully, I never really got into social media. When I got into bodybuilding, it was for more my own reasons (the confidence building), so for me to put a topless picture out would’ve been the worst thing for me to do. To be honest, going through the first few years of my career, it’s not that I refused to promote myself, I just didn’t focus that much on it. For me, it was just about competing and training—I never saw this as a business. In the last two years, I’ve got my head around it, and as long as you realize there are pros and cons to social media and balance everything, you’ll be okay. I’ve seen a lot of people and athletes seclude themselves because of it and become reclusive. That, to me, is too far. It’s a good avenue to promote yourself, but there’s a limit.
MI: Final thoughts?
RT: I just want to say thank you to everyone. Obviously, coming in as a foreigner, I really want to say thank you to my North American followers. I came here as an outsider, and it was very hard at first to break into the American competitive scene, but over the years, everyone has been really respectful and supportive of me. I really just want to say thank you to everyone for their feedback and everything.